Jamey Carroll: The Game Shortstop Du Jour

Anyone who plays FanGraphs: The Game in the shortstop category can attest to this fact: It is hard to find good production at shortstop. Actually, given the budget constraints of The Game and the quickly-adapting pricing algorithm, it’s hard to find good production anywhere.

The technique I have been employing is to start stars (typically $8 or up) against terrible competition (i.e. bad pitchers or the Cubs lineup) and then start regression candidates (typically $3 to $5) when there is no obvious winner among the stars matchups. I am proud to report this method has produced one of the better outfielders and starting pitchers — at least among the FanGraphs super secret Writer’s League.

In his FanGraphs: The Game strategies piece for RotoGraphs, Zach Sanders suggests players avoid starting anybody on bad matchup days. My approach goes counter to that; I say regression possibilities always leave room for a good matchup (the notable exception being starting pitching — some days, there really is no good play to make).

So where does Twins infielder Jamey Carroll fit in all this? Well, he’s the unlikely regression candidate that I’m going to ride to the finish line.

Due to a lack of foresight on my part — and a little aggressiveness with my autopick setting — I have nearly shot my shortstop budget. But when recently playing with the fancy new leaderboard filters, I stumbled on this fact:

And yes, I misspelled “Jamey.”

Fellow FanGraphs writer Brandon Warne backed up these findings with a fan scouting report on Carroll:

Despite his generally weak bat, he’s worked counts well, provided some very key hits, and certainly has passed the eye test all across the infield.

In short: Worth every damn penny to keep Alexi Casilla out of the lineup as often as possible

So why do I think Carroll can bring my shortstop — which started the season with an embarrassing amount of negative WAR — to the winner’s circle? First of all. He has started August hot:

He may only have 21 PA in August so far, but it looks like he’s beginning to make up for his frigid July. And remember — the league average for shortstops is .299 wOBA and 84 wRC+. I’m not looking for anything over 100 wRC+ or .315 wOBA from Carroll.

If he nets me something close to his 2010 and 2011 numbers (104 wRC+ and .325ish wOBA), then that’s straight gravy. He’s only $5 in The Game right now, so I can match him with Derek Jeter or Asdrubal Cabrera once a week and assemble a nice, late-season run.

So he’s hot right now, yes, that’s great. But hot streaks start and end suddenly. What else makes me like him? Well, in the most recent rendition of the De-Lucker, Carroll appeared poised for a 34 point wOBA regression. He has already made up 11 points of that regression, so there’s possibly another 20 wOBA points of regression (though likely less, given how little of the season is left) coming.

As I found in that tweet from earlier, Carroll’s plate discipline has been astounding this season. For a singles hitter like him, being 50 points beneath your previous four seasons’ BABIP can have a dramatic impact on production. This could be aging, sure, but realize that Carroll has already matched his doubles total from 2011 — his best year with a bat — and also has six steals already in his pocket. If he’s aging, he is hiding it like the Witch of the Waste.

So props to the Minnesota Twins. They may have a miserable team in 2012, but they acquired one heck of a bargain with Jamey Carroll. He’s got 1.5 WAR through 390 PA, which prorates to 2.3 WAR with 600 PA. If he just stops his regression right now, he’ll be well worth his not-even $3 million contract.

So here’s hoping for a hot finish for Carroll and for me!

*tinkling glasses*

Bradley writes for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. Follow him on Twitter @BradleyWoodrum.

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As a Dodger fan, this does not surprise me. With the miserable lineup they ran out there last year, besides Kemp, he was about the only one you could count on. A cheap underrated utility IF.