Originally written on Fantasy Baseball 365  |  Last updated 12/23/11
Key Stats: No shortstop had more home runs than J.J. Hardy's 30 last season. Troy Tulowitzki had as many home runs, but also had 39 more plate appearances. The way Hardy got to 30 was impressive as he was consistent in the months of June, July, and August with 7 or more home runs in each month. He missed most of April, but finished healthy which means last year could have actually been better. 

Skeptics Say: Hardy hit just 17 long balls in over 770 at-bats in the two seasons before the 2011 campaign, so consistency could be an issue. Keep in mind that last season he more than doubled his HR:FB rate versus the 2010 and 2009 season (his HR:FB rate was second among shortstops to Tulo). He also will not steal more than a base or two next season which is important when considering the speed of the alternatives at the position as we highlighted in the Jhonny Peralta player profile. 

Peer Comparison: I think it's important to compare across positions when doing these profiles because realistically you are doing the same thing in a draft. This is a point in the draft where owners in mixed leagues can make the argument that if they don't have a shortstop yet, the middle round pick is better used on a starting pitcher, outfielder, or power source from the utility spot. That's because people look at Hardy (a top ten shortstop anywhere you look including here) as being a only a slight upgrade to Yunel Escobar or Stephen Drew - guys that are available much later. And that is horrible logic.

Hardy: 76 R 30 HR 80 RBI 0 SB .269 AVG .801 OPS
Escobar: 77 R 11 HR 48 RBI 3 SB .290 AVG .782 OPS
Drew (career best numbers): 91 R 21 HR 67 RBI 10 SB .291 AVG .836 OPS

As far as Hardy versus Escobar, the skeptics can make the same case about Escobar's inconsistencies as they do with Hardy. Escobar was traded by Atlanta two seasons ago because he was a zero at the plate. Last year was a nice bounce back, but not even close to the extent of Hardy.

And in terms of Drew versus Hardy, I pulled out Drew's career best numbers to show that Hardy crushed Drew in two of the five major categories last year. Drew's career best numbers were drawn mainly from 2008, so it's hardly probably he'll approach them coming off of injury next year. 

Tristan Cockcroft ranks Shaun Marcum and Adam Lind ahead of Hardy. If I didn't have a shortstop I would go for Hardy over those two players. The alternatives both later in the draft and eventually in free agency are going to be much more abundant and higher quality than Yunel Escobar or Stephen Drew. 

Lineup Outlook: Another player that Cockcroft is ranking ahead of Hardy is Matt Wieters. Wieters is still only 25 and last year took a huge jump forward as a top 200 player according to the Yahoo player rater. I can see making a case for Wieters ahead of Hardy, but in any case it's good for both players that they are worth taking right after pick 100. The Orioles might be a lock for last place again with their rotation, but from a fantasy standpoint are above average. According to Cockcroft's rankings they have three infielders (Wieters, Hardy, and Mark Reynolds) and two outfielders (Adam Jones and Nick Markakis) worth starting in a twelve team mixed league. 

What They're Saying: CBS Sportstline: #9 Shortstop; Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN.com: #8 Shortstop & #124 Overall; RotoChamp: #115 Overall 

Projection: Orioles fans won't put pressure on the front office to bring up Manny Machado before he's ready as long as Hardy can pick up where he left off last season.
75 R 26 HR 79 RBI 0 SB .272 AVG .806 OPS 
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