Derek Jeter: A fantasy owner's appreciation

It's Derek Jeter Day on Sunday at Yankee Stadium, as the New York Yankees are set to retire his No. 2 jersey and honor him with a plaque in Monument Park.

Jeter's accomplishments are seemingly endless, with five World Series rings, the 1996 American League Rookie of the Year award, All-Star Game MVP and World Series MVP honors (both in 2000), five Silver Slugger awards, five Gold Glove awards and 3,465 career hits, which ranks sixth in baseball history.

In fantasy baseball, however, one word summed up the Derek Jeter package: consistency.

Never at any stage of his career was Jeter hailed as the best player in fantasy baseball, but his ability to return second- to third-round value annually was unrivaled. He was as true a fit for the definition of "safe early-round pick" as you'll find.

During the final 14 years of Jeter's career -- those for which we have available Player Rater data -- he managed a top-50 finish on six occasions (2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2012), a top-25 finish on three occasions (2002, 2006 and 2009) and a top-10 finish twice (2006 and 2009).

Using my player valuation system, which closely mimics our Player Rater, in order to extend Jeter's historical exploits further back, he managed a top-100 finish in 15 of his 20 seasons, a top-50 finish in nine and a top-25 finish in four. In only five of Jeter's big league campaigns did he finish outside the top 100 players: 1995, during which he appeared in just 15 games; 2003, during which he was limited to 119 games after suffering a shoulder injury on Opening Day; 2008, when he narrowly missed the cut; 2013, in which injuries limited him to 17 games; and 2014, his age-40 and final season.

Jeter wound up averaging $19.61 in annual Rotisserie 5x5 earnings from 1996 to 2012, never exceeding $30.69 (2006) or finishing beneath $10.22 (2003) in a single year during that 17-year span. Though he would routinely be outperformed statistically by fellow shortstops Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra, Miguel Tejada, Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki, not one of those seven other shortstops managed nearly as lengthy a span of top-five shortstop seasons as Jeter. Each would dominate for a half-decade or so. Jeter had a stronghold on the position for a good 15 seasons.

What's more, Jeter's performance in two specific categories stood out: batting average, as his .310 career mark ranked 15th among players with at least 3,000 plate appearances during the "Rotisserie era" (1980-present), and runs scored, as his 1,923 ranked fourth during that same span. The latter, in fact, might cement Jeter's status as the player who most hammered home the importance of that fifth hitting category in Rotisserie leagues. Remember that the original rule set was 4x4, excluding runs scored, with many leagues adding it as a fifth category in the 1990s.

Critique Jeter for his defense if you wish, but it doesn't weigh in the vast majority of fantasy baseball leagues. Roll your eyes at his .350 career batting average on balls in play, 15th-highest in history among players with at least 3,000 plate appearances. but it's a testament to his ability with the bat that he managed a whopping eight seasons during which his batting average contribution ranked among the 10 most impactful in the game. (To explain, this counts not only Jeter's batting average itself, but the volume in terms of at-bats and how that impacted your fantasy team.)

His was a career practically guaranteed to earn him a first-ballot ticket to the Hall of Fame, in addition to his uniform number retirement. While Jeter might never have gotten quite the hoopla in fantasy as he did on the diamond, his consistent greatness would earn him a similar nod for our purposes.

More Derek Jeter facts:

  • He's one of five players during the Rotisserie era with at least 250 career home runs and 350 stolen bases, along with Bobby Abreu, Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds and Rickey Henderson.

  • If we expand that to all time, Jeter is one of only seven players to do it, with Joe Morgan and Bobby Bonds joining the list.

  • Jeter and Willie Mays are the only players in history with at least 250 career home runs and 250 stolen bases with a .300-plus batting average.

  • Jeter and Luke Appling are the only shortstops in history to play at least 100 games at the position, bat at least .300 and qualify for the batting title in at least 12 seasons.
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