“On Bzdek” Shortstop Rankings and Draft Strategy: The Top 15
This week, I’m giving you my top 15 shortstops. I found this more difficult than expected, as there are a lot of young, talented players who are shortstop eligible. The top 4 guys below are being drafted inside the top 20. Some generate value from speed, some from power, and some from a mix of both. The setting of your league could really shift around how the top 4 are ranked, so I tried to add some of that perspective in each analysis below. With that said, we’ll start things off from the top:
1. Trea Turner, WAS
Last year, I was skeptical on Turner heading into the draft. He struggled in a cup of coffee in 2015, then was off the charts good in 73 games in 2016. One year later, and I’m ready to buy in. Turner stole 33 bags in 2016 and 46 bags in 98 games in 2017. While most of his value comes from that speed, the reason he’s the #1 shortstop is because he’s proven the ability to hit for average, get on base, and hit for enough power that he won’t be a detriment to the home run category. This cannot be said for other notable speedsters Billy Hamilton and Dee Gordon, who both lack power and in Hamilton’s case, lack the batting average ability. If Turner can stay healthy for a full season, 15 home runs and 60+ steals is not out of the question.
Draft Strategy: I love Turner as a top 5 pick in a 5×5 rotisserie league. I would even slate him as high as 4 overall because the potential payoff is huge. In leagues with non-standard scoring categories that devalue the stolen base, Turner would drop several slots in favor of the power bats to follow.
2. Francisco Lindor, CLE
Last year at this time, I thought Lindor had a great chance of reaching 20 home runs in the near future. Well, I was right, but Lindor totally exceeded my expectations by crushing 33 home runs after hitting 15 in 2016. The jump in homers came from Lindor increasing his fly ball percentage by 14%, from 28% to 42%. This also explains the drop in batting average, which went from .301 in 2016 to .273 in 2017. I think most of us would trade 18 home runs for 28 points in batting average. Lindor maintained steady walk rates and strikeout rates year over year. He’s an elite hitter, that’s for sure. If he continues to take a fly ball approach, the power will stick. If not, I think we’ll see the average creep back up. I wouldn’t put it past Lindor to keep the power and bring the average up anyway, as he has elite contact skills, and at age 24 is only getting better. Oh yeah, he can run a base too, stealing 15 and 19 bags in 2017 and 2016, respectively.
Draft Strategy: Lindor has all the tools to be a 5-category fantasy shortstop. At an ADP of 20, Lindor is undervalued.
3. Manny Machado, BAL
Machado played exclusively third base in 2017, but reports are that he will be stationed at shortstop for the Orioles in 2018, so he should gain SS eligibility very quickly. He hit 33 home runs in 2017 after hitting 37 and 35 the prior two seasons. His 40% hard hit rate and 42% fly ball rate further support that Machado is a safe bet for power. However, Machado’s value is a bit low entering this year after posting a batting average of .259 last season. The batting average, a career low, was coupled with a career low BABIP of .265. The BABIP should positively regress toward Machado’s career .301 BABIP, and bring the batting average up with it. At just 25 years old, Machado’s best years are still in front of him.
Draft Strategy: Machado stands out among shortstops because of his power ceiling and I believe the batting average will rebound. At an ADP of 18, you can’t go wrong selecting Manny.
4. Carlos Correa, HOU
Correa, like Turner, had a shortened 2017 due to injury. In 109 games, Correa triple slashed .315/.391/.550 with 24 home runs. The kid can flat out rake, hitting the ball hard 40% of the time. He’s projected for 30 home runs, and while I think that is attainable, Correa’s 32% fly ball rate doesn’t suggest a high power ceiling. Correa’s also got a great eye, walking at an 11% clip. He is a mature hitter for being just 24 years old. He’s slated to bat clean-up for the Astros behind Springer, Bregman and Altuve, so he’s sure to rack up the RBIs. The only thing lacking in his game is speed.
Draft Strategy: In on-base percentage leagues, Correa would easily be the #1 shortstop. In a standard 5×5, the lack of speed or huge power upside makes me caution against paying the price of a 14th overall pick. Still, he’s a tremendous player who won’t disappoint.
5. Corey Seager, LAD
In his two plus seasons with the Dodgers, Seager has averaged a triple slash of .305/.374/.502 to go along with 22 and 26 home runs in 2017 and 2016, respectively. While the power numbers don’t pop off the page, the hard hit rate does come in at 44%. Like Correa, Seager knows how to rake, but needs to hit more fly balls to take the next step in the power department. Seager and Correa also share another thing in common with an 11% walk rate. Seager does strike out a couple ticks more than Correa at 21% vs 19%, but there’s enough similarities that make me wonder why Seager is being drafted at an average pick of 33 and Correa at an average pick of 14. Seager is projected to hit second for the Dodgers, so should rack up plenty of runs in 2018.
Draft Strategy: At an ADP of 33, Seager is a great value considering the high price of the four shortstops above him. It would be a good strategy to target him.
6. Alex Bregman
Bregman comes in at 6th on my shortstop rankings. He’s another youngster turning 24 in a few weeks. The top six guys listed so far are all under 26 years of age as of the publishing of this article. I think that’s pretty amazing. In his first full season Bregman hit 19 homers, stole 17 bases, and posted a .284/.352/.475 triple slash. The power should continue to develop as Bregman gets older. He hits the ball hard enough (33% hard hit rate) and in the air enough (40% fly ball rate) that he should have no trouble hitting 20+ home runs in 2018. His plate discipline and contact skills are both above average. The skillset is there and should only get better. Batting at the top of the Houston line up will pad his counting stats.
Draft Strategy: I have Bregman ranked behind Seager, but it could easily be flip-flopped. Bregman is a great value at an ADP of 43, and the added speed element boosts his value in 5×5 leagues.
7. Elvis Andrus
Andrus is just 29 years old and will be playing his 10th major league season this year. He’s stolen 21 bases or more in every year of his career. Andrus hit 20 home runs in 2017, which came as a big surprise since his previous career high was 8. Andrus was also a doubles machine last year, posting a career high 44 doubles. Unfortunately for Andrus, I don’t think the power will stick because he only increased his hard hit percentage and fly ball rates slightly from his career norms, while his home runs per fly ball rate doubled from 6% to 12%.
Draft Strategy: I liked Andrus in the past because he was a consistent stolen base threat that sort of flew under the radar and was not overly expensive on draft day. That’s no longer the case. Andrus’s ADP is 63 because people are expecting another 20 home run season. I’m not convinced, so I’m going to pass.
8. Jean Segura
Segura’s career has had its ups and downs, but I think he’s finally settling into his skill set out in Seattle. Segura posted a .300/.349/.427 triple slash in his first season with the Mariners to go along with 80 runs and 22 steals in an injury shortened 125 game season. Segura will be playing his age 28 season this year and figures to bat in the 2-hole, behind Dee Gordon and in front of Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz. He’s sure to score his fair share of runs, and he’s got 15 home run power if he can stay healthy all season.
Draft Strategy: Segura provides a similar skill set to Elvis Andrus, but is being drafted a round later, making Segura a better value on draft day.
9. Xander Bogaerts
Bogaerts dropped a few pegs from prior year rankings after an underwhelming 2017. He hit just 10 home runs after hitting 21 in 2016, and he batted just .273 after hitting .294 and .320 in 2016 and 2015, respectively. Entering his age 25 season, I think we’ll see both the power and batting average increase in 2018. Don’t expect anything out of this world, but 15 home runs and a .290ish average is reasonable. The addition of JD Martinez should help boost Bogaerts’s stats as well. The Red Sox line up lacked a middle of the order presence after the retirement of Big Papi, and that coincided with a career low swing rate of 42% from Bogaerts. I suspect pitchers were able to work outside the zone more comfortably against Bogaerts, who typically batted 3rd, knowing the guy on deck wasn’t going to make them pay if they walked him. With a big bopper back in the clean-up spot, if Bogaerts bats third, he’ll see pitches to hit this year.
Draft Strategy: The ceiling isn’t all that high, but Bogaerts can provide a lot of runs, a good batting average, and 10-15 home runs and steals. He’s a safe pick at an ADP of 74, but he’s not a shortstop I will be targeting.
10. Didi Gregorius
Sir Didi hit a career high 25 home runs last season, making it back to back seasons with at least 20 home runs. He’s got the Yankee stadium stroke down pat, so expect another 20+ homer campaign as Didi enters his age 28 season. Didi accumulated 87 RBIs batting clean-up in 2017. He won’t be batting clean-up in 2018, but the Yankee lineup only got better in the off-season so I have no concerns with his ability to accumulate counting stats.
Draft Strategy: Didi won’t provide stolen bases, but should be a good source of everything else. At an ADP of 105, he’s a solid value.
11. Marwin Gonzalez
I covered Marwin in my second base rankings, so check them out if you want the details. The short story is, I think the 2017 breakout is sustainable with something along the lines of 20 home runs and a .280 batting average. He’s in a great line up in Houston and has eligibility at every position except catcher.
Draft Strategy: I’ll be targeting him as a super utility in most of my leagues, especially the deeper ones where it’s harder to find a replacement for injured players. His ADP is currently 137, down two picks from 139 last week, so other people must be buying into him too.
12. Chris Taylor
I also covered Chris Taylor in my second base rankings last week. Summed up, I like him as a player and hitting atop the Dodgers line up is a great spot to be in, but not at his current ADP of 112.
Draft Strategy: Taylor’s ADP has actually increased two spots from 110 last week to 112 this week, so people must be taking my advice. If he continues to fall I might pick up a share or two, but as long as Gonzalez is going 20+ picks later I’d rather have Gonzalez.
13. Trevor Story
Story is defined by his huge power potential and his huge strikeout rate. In 2016, Story hit 27 home runs in an injury shortened rookie season, 10 of which came before the calendar turned to May. In 2017, Story didn’t match the high expectations for home runs, but still managed 24 to go along with 82 RBIs. At just 25 years old, the power isn’t going anywhere and should only trend upward. The big question mark is the strikeouts. With a career K-rate of 33%, the batting average could get painful for fantasy owners. On the bright side, playing in Coors field should mask some of that by boosting Story’s BABIP, and he should be able to provide solid RBI numbers playing home games in Colorado.
Draft Strategy: At an average draft position of 112, I’m going to pass. The floor is too low considering that Story’s main strength is power, which there seems to be a surplus of in the MLB right now.
14. Javier Baez
Baez’ BB% and K% are both below average, but he still managed a .273 batting average with 23 homers and 10 steals in 2017. I’m don’t think his batting average has much room to grow, but he could certainly keep the power trend going as he enters his age 25 season. His hard hit % and fly ball % are both above average and trending more towards what we see from power hitters. Playing in a great Cubs lineup will also help the counting stats.
Draft Strategy: I like the idea of taking a chance on Baez in the middle rounds of a draft because of the power growth, but he’s not someone I am actively targeting. His ADP is currently 123.
15. Zack Cozart
Cozart had by far his best season in 2017, a contract year with the Cincinnati Reds. He posted 24 home runs and a triple slash of .297/.385/.548, all career highs and well above Cozart’s career averages. At age 32, the breakout is peculiar. The only notable change Cozart made in 2017 was to be more patient at the plate. His swing rate decreased from 47% to 41%, and his walk rate increased from 7% to 12%. Good changes to be sure, but not enough for me to buy into Cozart repeating his 2017 season. The move from Cincinnati to Anaheim won’t help his power numbers either. I expect regression, but if Cozart can maintain his patience at the plate, he may not regress as much as the projections suggest.
Draft Strategy: Cozart will regress and his ceiling isn’t all that high, however, with an ADP of 230 he’s practically free. I’m willing to take a flyer on him in the late rounds; perhaps there is more to his 2017 than meets the eye.
That’s all for this week. Thanks for reading and feel free to drop a comment or question below. I’ll be back next week with the next batch of shortstops.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Thursday March 1st, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #102 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.
Our guest this week is Kyle Klinker. Kyle has been an owner in MLFS baseball, and basketball leagues for over 5 years. He also has a couple of championships under his belt over that span in some tough leagues. We loving refer to him as “The Red Rocket.”