J.J. Hardy disappointed his fantasy owners in 2014 with a lack of R, HR, and RBI in 141 games played. Hardy has always had excellent power for a shortstop, and I think he has been perennially underrated as both a real and fantasy baseball player. Hardy is such an excellent defensive shortstop that he has kept Manny Machado, a premier defender, over at third base and earned a three-year extension with the Baltimore Orioles to remain at the 6 position.
J.J. Hardy only hit nine home runs this season, which was a letdown for owners who drafted him for his rare middle infield power. In 2007, 2008, 2011, 2012, and 2013, Hardy hit at least 22 homers in those five seasons and hit a career high of 30 HR in 2011. Almost any other shortstop with that type of power usually gets drafted a lot higher than what J.J. Hardy will be going for.
The SS position is starved for power. Only Ian Desmond, Jhonny Peralta, and Troy Tulowitzki hit over 20 home runs in 2014 and only two more shortstops even hit at least 15 homers . J.J. Hardy plays in hitter-friendly Camden Yards, hits in a loaded lineup, plays in the AL East, and he is guaranteed at-bats. If you pair those facts with his career low 5.6% HR/FB% rate, then I would have to think that J.J. Hardy is a very strong candidate to rebound in the power department.
Hardy also battled a few nagging injuries in 2014 for the first time in his Baltimore tenure. While injury problems may only get worse with age, Hardy mentioned during the 2014 season that some of his injury issues could have affected his power. Even though J.J. Hardy is currently 32, I am going to trust his track record that has seen him hit for pretty serious power in five seasons since 2007.
Besides Hardy’s home run ability, he offers solid run producing ability and a chance to be a top 5 RBI producer among shortstops in Baltimore’s high-octane offense. I really think J.J. Hardy could score 60-70 runs, 20-25 homers, and drive in 70-80 RBI’s in 2015.
One downside of J.J. Hardy is that he will not offer you any speed on the base paths. He has eight steals in a Major League career that spans back to 2005. He has stolen two bases in four seasons with the Orioles. Luckily, he is surrounded by great hitters in Baltimore to bring him home.
Also, J.J. Hardy offers a very mediocre slash line, but that is the norm for the shortstop position. Unless you own Troy Tulowitzki and his MVP level slash line, then Hardy’s slash line will not lag terribly far behind his competitors. In fact, Hardy may get drafted later than he should because of his lack of speed and lack of ability to hit for a high average.
There is a very realistic chance that J.J. Hardy falls outside the top 15 drafted shortstops in 2015 because he is 32 years old, saw his home run total drop to nine, and did not offer any valuable production in 2014. In fact, he was completely droppable last season. However, I think Hardy owners in 2015 could be rewarded if the elite fielding SS can return to his ways from his three seasons in Baltimore.