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“On Bzdek” The Short End of the Shortstops

It’s time to talk about shortstops. We’ll start at the bottom and make our way to the top. Today I will be presenting tiers four through six of my shortstop rankings. Let’s get started with tier six.

 

Tier 6 – The Not So Relevent

Andreltron Simmons
Simmons, shortstop for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, posted a .281/.324/.366 triple slash in 2016, while stealing 10 basis on 11 attempts. This was Simmons’ best year, and entering his age 27 season, there is no reason to believe an offensive breakout is coming.

Chris Owings
Owings makes the list because he stole 21 basis in 2016. He didn’t do much else to make him fantasy relevant and his playing time is in question with the Ketel Marte trade. Owings played some outfield in addition to shortstop last year, so he could work his way into some additional at bats. If you’re in dire need for steals he’s worth monitoring.

Alcides Escobar
Escobar posted a triple slash of .261/.292/.350, which is right in line with his career numbers. If you owned any shares of Escobar at all throughout his career, it was because he can run. Escobar stole 17 bases the last two seasons, and posted a couple of 30+ steal seasons in his mid-twenties. Now age 30, Escobar should still be able to steal, but his career triple slash of .262/.297/.345 leaves much to be desired.

Ketel Marte
Marte is a switch-hitting shortstop who was traded from Seattle to Arizona in the Jean Segura trade. In 119 games with the Mariners last year, Marte stole 11 bags in 16 attempts while hitting .259. Marte is only 23 years-old. In the minors and in 2015 with the Mariners his BB% was in the 8% to 10% range and his K% was 14% to 17% range. In 2016, the BB% dropped to 3.9% and the K% rose to 18.0%. I think these are areas Marte can improve going forward, and if he can get on-base a bit more he can potentially steal 20 bases on day. He’s a deep sleeper in most leagues, but someone I will be keeping an eye on.

Jhonny Peralta
In an injury shortened 2016 season Peralta managed 8 home runs in 82 games. The 34-year-old veteran always had some pop in his bat, and if he can stay healthy I see no reason why a 20 home run season isn’t reachable, with 70 or so RBI. He won’t help your team much in average or steals, and there are a lot of younger options out there with higher upside. He’s only an option in deep leagues at this point.

Freddy Galvis
Galvis had a career year at age 26 for the Phillies in 2016. He knocked 20 home runs and swiped 17 bags. The home runs seem to be an anomaly, as his home run to fly ball rate was 12.5% in 2016, way up from 4.5% in 2015 and his career average of 8.1%; and Galvis didn’t hit the ball any harder in 2016 than previous years. Galvis’ 17 stolen bases are also well above his historic numbers of 10, 1, 1, and 0 from 2015 through 2012, respectively. With regression apparent, I would avoid Galvis for 2017.

 

Tier 6 players won’t have much fantasy relevance in 2017. The player with the most upside from this group is Ketel Marte. The move to Arizona should give him a slight boost in his stats, and he’s got the hitting profile to contribute some batting average in the future, perhaps as soon as 2017.

 

Tier 5 – Players You Might Actually Draft 

Tim Anderson
Anderson was a rookie for the White Sox in 2016. In 99 games he stole 10 bases and hit 9 home runs while posting a .283 batting average, respectable numbers for any rookie. Anderson’s scouting report shows 65 grade speed and 50 grade power, so I think he could contribute in these two categories going forward. One concern from his 2016 campaign is the .375 BABIP, which is sure to regress. Anderson could provide double-digit steals and home runs in 2016, but likely won’t contribute in many other areas. He will end up somewhere around 10 homers, 20 steals, and .265 average line in 2017, which can be useful in deeper leagues.

Asdrubal Cabrera
At age 31, Cabrera will be entering his 11th MLB season. He’s had some ups and downs throughout his career. Last year with the Mets was one of his better offensive seasons. Cabrera’s triple slash was .280/.336/.474, to go along with 23 home runs and 30 doubles. Without any notable changes to his batted ball profile, I expect Cabrera to regress a little bit in the average and power, but he should still be useful in deeper league formats. Something like .265/.320/.440 can be expected with 15+ homers.

Jedd Gyorko
Gyorko hit 30 homers in 2016 in only 128 games, 23 of which came in July or later. He had a strong second half but only posted 9 doubles on the season. Expect the home runs and doubles to level out in 2017, and Gyorko doesn’t bring much speed, average, or on-base skills to the table.

Jose Reyes (value pick)
Reyes was re-united with the Mets in 2016. His game was always built on his speed. In 60 games with the Mets he swiped 9 bags on 11 attempts, so he’s still got it. Reyes also hit 8 homers and posted a .267/.326/.443 triple slash – not bad. It would not be unreasonable to project Reyes for a 10 homer 25 steal season in 2017. Reyes will be 34 this season and has had his fair share of injury history. However, after missing much of 2016, his legs might be a feeling a little fresher than a typical 34-year-old. He should share playing time with David Wright until Wright inevitably hits the DL. Given how late you can draft him (if he even gets drafted in your league), Reyes is sure to outperform his cost on draft day.

Javier Baez
One of the two young Cubs middle infielders, Baez will be playing mostly second base this year but remains shortstop eligible in most leagues because he started 25 games at shortstop in 2016. Baez triple slash in 2016 was .273/.314/.423. He doesn’t walk much (3.3% BB rate in 2016) and strikes out at a decent clip (24% K rate in 2016), thus I wouldn’t expect much improvement in the average or on-base categories for 2017, but I think he could reach 20 home runs if he plays a full season and could steal 15 bags as well, which is useful in all fantasy formats. Baez gets an extra bump to his value due to his 2b/3b/ss position eligibility.

Dansby Swanson (value pick)
Dansby Swanson, most notable for being the blue-chip prospect sent to Atlanta in a package for Shelby Miller, is likely to be the starting shortstop for the Braves on Opening Day 2017. He had a cup of coffee with the Braves last September and did well, posting a triple slash of .302/.361/.442 in 38 games, fueling the hype train that I have boarded. What can we expect from him in 2017 though? Well, as a prospect he was given a very well-rounded grade outlook by the scouts, with hit tool, run tool, arm tool, and field tool all in the 55-60 range (based on the 20-80 scouting scale). In the minor leagues, which only includes 127 games, Swanson hit for average and got on base at above average levels. He also provided a few steals and the occasional home run. The scouting report and minor league performance is right in line with his 2016 debut. Swanson’s ability to contribute in different ways makes his floor rather high for a rookie. While he hit in the bottom third of the Brave’s batting order, he could work himself into the one or two hole with a good spring. He’s a definite guy to target in dynasty or keeper leagues, and worth the gamble in re-drafts as well.

Photogenic Swanson slides into home.

Photogenic Swanson slides into home.

The guys I like the most in tier 4 are Swanson and Reyes. Swanson is on more people’s radars and is going around pick 170 in drafts so far. While I am optimistic about Swanson, I don’t expect him to blow me out of the water in 2017, and possibly not ever in his career, but I do think he can be a steady bat for years to come. This might be more useful for the Braves than for your fantasy team, but there is certainly value in consistency. If he cements a spot in the top of the batting order his value will only increase. It’s kind of surprising to me that Reyes is going so late in drafts. A guy with his skill set, even at his age, usually garners more respect. Perhaps his off the field issues are pushing his value down, but if you are a cut-throat fantasy player you must consider him in the late rounds for your deeper leagues.

 

Tier 4 – The Best Of The Bottom Half

Sir Didi Gregorius
Yes, Didi is knighted, according to his twitter. Didi has been in the league since 2012, however he’s only been a full-time starter the last two seasons. Didi improved his hitting across the board from 2015 to 2016, notably developing some power. His slugging percentage jumped from .370 to .447 as Didi hit 20 home runs for the first time in his career. Another reason for the power increase was Didi hitting more fly balls. His ground ball to fly ball ratio went from 1.31 to 0.99 from 2015 to 2016. As a lefty in Yankee Stadium, the right field porch can be very friendly if you develop the stroke for it, and I think Didi can repeat 20 home runs. The biggest knock on Didi is his .304 on-base percentage, which is due to a 3.2 BB%. While this normally alarms me, Didi is a good bad ball hitter.  So while he doesn’t take many walks, he can still manage some hits if pitchers are not throwing him strikes.

Didi Gregorius

Didi Gregorius

 Marcus Semien (value pick)
Semien’s 2016 was highlighted by hitting 27 home runs, besting his previous career high of 15. Semien’s batted ball profile was quite consistent from 2015 to 2016, except he hit slightly more fly balls at the cost of hitting fewer line drives. This accounts for some of the increased power but doesn’t explain the 86% increase. I think Semien’s power will regress, but he should still be good for 20 dingers. The .238 batting average and .300 on-base percentage were poor and they really hold him back from being a top fantasy shortstop. Semien did hit .257 in 2015, and with a career low BABIP in 2016 of .268 I expect the average to cross .250 again next season.

Marcus Semien

Marcus Semien

 

Jose Paraza
Peraza has garnered a lot of discussion this off-season after batting .324 and stealing 21 bases in 72 games last season. The three biggest questions about Peraza this off-season have been his playing time, his stolen base success rate, and his BABIP. Peraza’s playing time is less a question mark with Brandon Phillips accepting a trade to the Braves, so that takes care of that concern. Peraza was caught stealing 10 times last season, for a success rate of 67%. Not bad, but not exactly in line with the game’s elite base stealers. In fact, he had the worst success rate for any player with greater than 20 steals in 2016. Still, I don’t expect the Reds to hold him back from running unless his success rate declines, and considering his 70-grade speed as a prospect I’ll take my chances. The last concern was Peraza’s .361 BABIP. This will regress, as will Peraza’s .324 average, but he should manage a batting average in the .275 – .300 range. Unfortunately, the secret is out on Peraza. Unless I am in dire needs for steals, I wouldn’t reach too high for him on draft day, but if he is available after the first 100 or so picks scoop him up.

Addison Russell
21 homers and 95 RBI last year in his second MLB season. He will be only 23 years old and the power is very promising. The batting average at .238 is holding him back right now, but his BABIP was .277, down from a .324 BABIP in 2015, so I expect the batting average to creep up a few points this year. Another positive note for Russell is his on-base percentage of .321 last year was league average. Considering this, and the young age, and surrounded by a great Cubs lineup, there is a lot to like about Russell in keeper or dynasty leagues. For 2017 however, Russell projects to have a season similar to Marcus Semien, who can be had nearly 100 picks later.

 

The biggest surprise to me when I put together this third tier was how similar Addison Russell and Marcus Semien are. Aside from being a few years apart in age, both have 20 home run power, strike out at a 22% clip, and have questionable batting averages, however Russell is going 100 picks higher than Semien. Granted, Russell is in a much better line up that will drive some counting stats, but at the end of the day I think their run and RBI totals will be reasonably close.

 

That sums up tiers four through six. I hope you enjoyed the read. I will be back next week with tiers one through three.

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Major League Fantasy Football 2017 League Openings

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Our guests this week are Ron Shandler, and Bilal Chaudry. Ron is FSTA Hall of Famer, and one of the pioneers of fantasy baseball. You can find his work at ronshandler.com. Bilal is a veteran owner in Major League Fantasy Baseball leagues and frequent radio guest.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

 

I've been playing fantasy baseball for 14 years. I am also an auditor and CPA, where I analyze information on a daily basis. Combined, my passion for fantasy baseball and analytical background create a unique perspective for analyzing and writing about fantasy baseball.

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