“On Bzdek” Shortstop Drafting Strategy: The Not Top 15
Last week, I gave you my top 15 shortstops. This week, I was off in the weeds trying to find some value in the remaining pool of shortstops. Not many of the players discussed today are likely to carry your fantasy team for any significant stretch of time, but we search for every advantage we can. In the later rounds of drafts, I typically focus on filling holes in my line-up. So today, instead of a numerical ranking, I broke out the remaining shortstops into various categories. Hopefully this will be a useful article you can reference toward the latter half of your draft. I’ll touch on guys with speed, guys with power, guys with a little bit of speed and power, some up and comers, and finally some boring veterans. We’ll hit each category in that order.
Searching for Steals
Jose Peraza – age 23, CIN
Jose Reyes – age 34, NYM
Chris Owings – age 26, AZ
Eduardo Nunez – age 30, BOS
Hernan Perez – age 26, MIL
Adalberto (f.k.a. Raul) Mondesi – age 22, KC
The value of the stolen base varies highly based on league format. These players have all stolen at least 20 bases in at least one of the last two seasons, meaning they’ve provided some type of value fairly recently.
I’m high on Jose Peraza as a future contributor to stolen bases and batting average due to his above average 85% contact rate. At age 23, he will continue to develop his hit tool and increase his consistency.
Jose Reyes, formerly a top shortstop although that seems like years ago, can still provide fantasy value at age 34. He had quite the 2017, recording 24 steals, 15 home runs, 7 triples, and 25 doubles. Playing time may be an issue, but if Mets’ rookie shortstop Amed Rosario struggles, or if one of Todd Frazier or Asdrubal Cabrera get injured, Reyes will be a useful add off the waiver wire.
Chris Owings stole just 12 bases last year, but it was an injury shortened 97 game season, putting him on pace to reach the 20-steal mark again after swiping 21 in 2016. Owings also hit 12 home runs in 2017, a career high. Perhaps at age 26, Owings is coming into his own. He’s not currently starting per the Diamondbacks’ depth chart, but if he produces like he did last year, he’ll force his way into the lineup and neither Ketel Marte nor Nick Ahmed have the bat to block him.
Eduardo Nunez re-signed with the BoSox this winter. He stole 24 bases in 2017 and 40 in 2016. He’ll fill the utility role for the Sox, but with rookie Rafael Devers at 3B and oft-injured Dustin Pedroia at 2B, Nunez will get enough at bats to steal 20 again.
Hernan Perez seems to have been forgotten after stealing 34 bases in 2016. He’s another utility player without a starting role to start the season, but he did hit 14 and 13 home runs in the last two seasons, so he could be a 15/15 threat entering his age 27 season.
Finally, Adalberto Mondesi. He’s just 22 years old and played 70 games the last two seasons. The results have been bad, including a 4% walk rate, 33% strikeout rate, and .181 batting average. He does bring some speed to the table though, and while he will likely start the season in AAA, if he gets a mid-season call up he could be a cheap option for steals in the second half.
Draft Strategy: Chris Owings is very intriguing because of his 20/20 potential. He’s being drafted at an ADP of 302, so you can get him for practically nothing. I’ll take a flyer on him. I would also take a chance on Jose Peraza because with his great contact skills and speed I believe he will develop into a fantasy asset in the near future. Jose Reyes is old but not going away yet. If the injury bug hits the Mets’ infield, Reyes will be a decent add off the waiver wire. The same can be said for Eduardo Nunez.
Pressing for Power
Paul DeJong – age 24, STL
Tim Beckham – age 28, BAL
Addison Russell – age 24, CHC
Marcus Semien – age 27, OAK
This group of shortstops has reached the 20-home run mark in at least one of the last two seasons. Paul DeJong impressed in 2017 with a 36% hard hit rate and a 43% fly ball rate, supporting his 25 home runs in just 108 games. He’s a good bet to reach 20, maybe even 25 again in 2018, but with a 5% walk rate and 28% strikeout rate, his 2017 batting average of .285 is not repeatable.
In 2017, Tim Beckham hit 22 home runs: 12 with the Rays and 10 with the Orioles, to whom he was traded mid-season. Beckham batted a combined .278 last year, but with a 29% strikeout rate and 6% walk rate, his average is also due for negative regression. On the positive side, Beckham’s hard-hit rate of 39% supports the power, and Beckham increased his contact rate from 65% to 70% year over year. 70% is not great by any means, but it’s a lot better than 65%. His success will depend on keeping that contact rate respectable.
Next up is Addison Russell. I got some flak for not including Russell in my top 12 shortstops last pre-season when he was coming off a 21-home run, 95 RBI season. But with a batting average of .238 and strikeout rate of 23%, I couldn’t buy in. After a down year in 2017, not much has changed for Russell besides his draft price. He’s still got 20 home run power in a great Cubs lineup, making a repeat of his 2016 season possible.
Marcus Semien crushed 27 home runs in 2016, followed by 10 in 85 games last year. He’s a similar profile to Addison Russel but in a worse line-up and ball park out in Oakland. He’s a few years older but still nicely in his prime at age 27. I don’t see him repeating 27 dingers because his hard-hit percentage was just 30%, but he’s certainly a 20-home run threat and the cheapest reliable source of power at the shortstop position.
Draft Strategy: I’d avoid DeJong; his ADP of 153 is too high considering the other cheaper power options at shortstop available. I like Russell. At an ADP of 250 you’ll have to use one of your last few picks on him, but the line up gives him some stability in terms of counting stats and at age 24 entering his 3rd MLB season, he has some added potential to take a step forward. Beckham and Semien are both even cheaper, and of the two I’d much prefer Semien who has a track record and better plate discipline.
Why Not Speed and Power?
Tim Anderson – age 24, CWS
Orlando Arcia – age 23, MIL
Andrelton Simmons – age 28, LAA
Jorge Polanco – age 24, MIN
Freddy Galvis – age 28, SD
This group has a little speed and a little power, resulting in the potential for a 15-home run, 15 steal season from any of them. Tim Anderson had 17 home runs and 15 steals in 2017, but he walked just 2% of the time and struck out 27%. His contact rate of 72% is below average, so don’t expect any sort of contributions in batting average or on-base percentage.
Orlando Arcia is 23 years old. He played his first full season last year posting 15 home runs and 14 steals, along with a .277/.324/.407 triple slash. His walk rate and strikeout rate are both average coming in at 7% and 18% respectively. He’s got 20/20 potential, making him one of the more exciting shortstops fantasy wise.
Andrelton Simmons recorded 14 home runs and 19 steals for the Angels last season, to go along with a .278 average. He’s got an elite contact rate of 88% and improved his hard-hit rate from 25% to 30% year over year. His strikeout rate is just 10%, and his walk rate is decent at 7%. At age 28, he should be able to sustain his 2017 production.
Jorge Polanco has a similar statistical profile to Simmons, with an 87% contact rate, 28% hard hit rate, 8% walk rate, and 14% strikeout rate. He hit 13 home runs last year and stole 13 bases in 133 games with the Twins. A small sample size, but a lot to like.
Freddy Galvis recorded a 12 homer, 14 steal season in 2017 after recording 20 homers and 17 steals in 2016. He was traded from Philly to San Diego this winter, so another 20-home run season will be more difficult to accomplish.
Draft Strategy: I like Andrelton Simmons the best of this group. He’s a safe pick, and at an ADP of 206 I can get behind the idea of selecting Simmons as my starting shortstop, especially if the opportunity to select a top-tier shortstop doesn’t line up right in the earlier rounds. Arcia and Polanco are both very interesting options due to their youth and the thought that they can build upon solid 2017 seasons. Arcia is being drafted at an ADP of 218, so if you like him, grab him. Polanco is going later at an average pick of 280. I view them as fairly comparable in terms of risk / reward, so I’ll take the cheaper of the two. However, I’m hesitant to draft either one as my starting shortstop due to lack of a track record. If either take a step forward they will both be bargains, but if they take a step back, as young players often do, you’ll be hurting to find a new shortstop.
Gleyber Torres – age 21, NYY
Franklin Barreto – age 22, OAK
Amed Rosario – age 22, NYM
Dansby Swanson – age 24, ATL
Ketel Marte – age 24, AZ
We’ll start with Gleyber Torres since he has the most prospect hype, but as spring training marches on, it seems pretty clear Torres will start the year in triple A. He is just 3/19 this spring, good for a .158 average. The Yankees have no rush to bring him up to the bigs. They traded for Brandon Drury a couple weeks ago who can play second or third, and have another prospect, Miguel Andujar, who is making a strong case to break camp as the Yankees’ starting 3B. Andujar is batting .308 with 4HR in 26 spring training at-bats, he may just have it on lock. In any case, Torres should see the MLB roster in 2018, and I suspect sooner than later. When he does, he’s worth a waiver wire add in most leagues.
Franklin Barreto had a 25-game cup of coffee with the A’s last year, batting .197 and striking out at a 43% rate. Those are gaudy numbers, but 25 games aren’t enough to make any meaningful conclusions. He’s shown some pop in the minors and is certainly worth monitoring during 2018. He may start in AAA but should still get the call to the bigs in 2018.
Amed Rosario had equally gaudy plate discipline in his 46-game stint with the Metropolitans in 2017, recording a 2% walk rate and a 29% strikeout rate. He did give us 4 home runs and 7 steals though. At just 22 years old, there is a lot of opportunity for Rosario to develop.
Dansby Swanson disappointed in 2017 after a nice 38 game stint in 2016. He doesn’t have much power or speed, and doesn’t project to be very helpful in batting average. He should improve from his 2017 numbers, but at the end of the day there are many shortstops that are more intriguing for your fantasy team.
Ketel Marte is primed to see consistent playing time in 2018 with the trade of Brandon Drury opening up the second base spot for Marte. He’s got great contact skills and some speed. He walked at a 11% rate last season while striking out at a 15% rate. There isn’t much power to his game, but if he can contribute with speed and batting average he can be useful.
Draft Strategy: Ketel Marte could contribute the most in terms of fantasy value in 2018, and that’s because he has a clear path to playing time and some MLB experience under his belt. I will not be drafting Torres or Barreto except in leagues where I can stash them in a reserve spot, however I will be monitoring both closely for mid-season call ups as both can provide fantasy value rather quickly.
Wily Old Veterans
Troy Tulowitzki – age 33, TOR
Aledmys Diaz – age 27, TOR
Yangervis Solarte – age 30, TOR
Jordy Mercer – age 31, PIT
Brandon Crawford – age 31, SF
Asdrubal Cabrera – age 32, NYM
This is your veteran group. Some are definitely more interesting than others, but sometimes it’s the boring players that quietly fill a role your team needs. I’ll start with Troy Tulowitzki, who hasn’t played more than 131 games in a season since 2011. He’s already come down with a bone spur in his heel during spring training and is not expected to be ready for opening day. When Tulo has been healthy, he hasn’t been very good. Case in point: his 2017 triple slash of .249/.300/.378.
With Tulo out, that gives an opportunity to Aledmys Diaz. Aledmys doesn’t quite fit the veteran category as he’s only played parts of two MLB seasons, but he’s 27 and Tulo gave me a great lead-in. In Diaz’s rookie season in 2016, he posted an impressive .300/.369/.510 triple slash in 111 games. Many were excited about him, including myself. His 14% strikeout rate and 9% walk rate were both solid. 2017 was not so kind with Diaz increasing his O-Swing rate from 28% to 39%. He was swinging at junk resulting in a huge decrease in walk rate to 4%, and an ensuing dip in his triple slash which ended up at .259/.290/.392. He only played 79 games though, with April being his worst month in terms of batting average, hitting just .217. I’m not sure Diaz had enough time for his numbers to rebound from his bad April. He’ll get an opportunity to prove the Cardinals wrong for trading him to start 2018.
While we are on the Blue Jays, I’ll hit Yangervis Solarte next, who the Jays also acquired in the off-season. Solarte hit 18 home runs last year and 14 the year before, both while calling his home the palatial Petco Park. He projects to be a backup, but with Tulo already hurt and the oft injured Devon Travis at second base, he’ll get his fair share of at-bats. I think 20 home runs is a possibility here.
Jordy Mercer, Brandon Crawford, and Asdrubal Cabrera are all similar players. All are good for 12-17 home runs, not many steals, and unimpressive batting averages in the .250 – .260 range. They’re not players you want to target.
Draft Strategy: I’ll roll the dice on the upside of Aledmys Diaz. He’s got youth on his side, a change of scenery, and he’s practically free at an ADP of 483.
That wraps up today’s article. Thanks for reading and if you have any questions or thoughts to share, feel free to drop a comment below.
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