Today I present my 2019 shortstop rankings. One thing that stuck out to me as I was preparing these rankings was the amount of talent in the shortstop pool. There are 6 shortstops inside the top 23 ADP which makes me wonder: if Carlos Correa and Corey Seager stayed healthy last year, there might even be 7 or 8 guys within that range. The other thing I noticed is there are several shortstops with 2B or 3B eligibility. I admit that when I write rankings, I tend to gain a little more admiration for some of the players I write about, however, if the opportunity arises I would seriously consider drafting Bregman to slot at third base, Peraza to slot at second base, and one of Lindor, Turner, or Story to play short. Anyway, without further rambling, here are the rankings.
1) Francisco Lindor, CLE (SS) – 4 ADP
Lindor took a huge step forward from 2016 to 2017 in terms of power, going from 15 home runs to 33. The trend continued in 2018 as Lindor hit 38 home runs, backed by a 41.6% hard hit rate. He boosted his value further in 2018 by stealing 25 bases (a career high) and eclipsing the 20-steal mark for the first time in his career. Additionally Lindor sports a great contact rate of 84.1%, above average walk rate of 9.4%, and an above average strikeout rate of 14.4%. There is no doubt Lindor is a top fantasy player. Now, he did pick up a calf injury in early February that will cause him to miss spring training and put opening day in question? This could result in a slow start, as well as a decrease in stolen bases, should the calf injury linger into the season. If Lindor was 30 years old I would be worried, but at age 25 my overall concern is minimal. Draft Strategy: Lindor is the 4th batter off the board on average, and I think that is right where I would select him. Monitor the status of his calf, but if his stock starts to fall without any additional news of a setback, you will be getting a bargain.
2) Trea Turner, WSH (SS) – 10 ADP
If you are looking for speed early, Turner is a great target. He’s swiped 46 and 43 bases the last two seasons respectively, and showed some pop as well with 11 homers in 2017 (447 PAs) and 19 homers last year (740 PAs). Turner also raised his walk rate each of the last two seasons, topping out at a 9.3% clip last year and giving Turner a nice SB floor, proving he is able to get on base regularly. Turner also increased his hard-hit rate from 26.7% to 31.5%. If this trend continues, and it should as Turner is just 25 years old, there could be some more power yet to come. Draft Strategy: At an ADP of 10, Turner is fairly priced. He’s got a high stolen base floor, and some power upside. I’d consider drafting him as high as 5 especially in rotisserie leagues where the SBs can accumulate.
3) Alex Bregman, HOU (3B, SS) – 13 ADP
Bregman had a career 2018 producing 31 home runs, 103 RBI, 105 runs, a .286 batting average, and 10 stolen bases. There is more to like about Bregman than his production in the standard 5 fantasy stat categories. Bregman walks more than he strikes out, with a 13.6% walk rate to a 12.1% strikeout rate. He also has elite contact skills evidenced by an 88.5% contact rate. He hits the ball hard 35% of the time and in the air 43% of the time, so he should continue to be a 30-home run threat moving forward. He does pull the ball a lot, 48.4% last year, but his batted ball skills tell me that if this becomes a problem (via the shift) Bregman has the ability to alter his approach and minimize the impact. Draft Strategy: Bregman has all the tools to deliver a top 10 fantasy baseball season. He’s someone I will be targeting, and while his ADP is 13, I’d consider taking him as high as 5 depending on league setup. That might sound high considering there is a lot of first round talent with proven consistency, but that is how much I like Bregman’s skills. Don’t be afraid to reach for a player you really like.
4) Trevor Story, COL (SS) – 23 ADP
I was out on Story last year mainly due to his then career strikeout rate of 33%. However, in 2018, Story cut his strikeout rate down to 25.6%, a 9% decrease from 2017. He also boosted his contact rate 7% (70.4% to 77.4% from 2017 to 2018), all while increasing his hard-hit rate from 40.3% to 44.5%. There is a ton to like in his year over year changes in profile and that is a big reason why I am changing my tune on Story. Of course, I would be remiss if Story’s 37 home runs, 27 stolen bases, and .291 batting average didn’t also catch my attention. I think the power and speed are repeatable in 2019, and while Story’s metrics support a batting average around .270, he will benefit from the Coors Field boost. Draft Strategy: At an ADP of 23, count me in.
5) Manny Machado, SD (3B, SS) – 13 ADP
Machado’s new home in San Diego is a lot less friendly than Camden Yards, his old stomping grounds. The power hitting right-hander has turned in 4 straight 30 home run seasons, reaching the 35 mark once and the 37 mark twice. 37 may be a stretch in the litter box that is Petco Park, but 30+ homers is still expected considering Machado’s 38% hard hit rate and 42% fly ball rate. In addition, Machado has above average plate discipline with a 9.9% walk rate and 14.7% strikeout rate. Draft Strategy: Machado is another elite bat but comes with an elite price tag on draft day. He’s not a bad investment but I like other shortstops more at this point.
6) Javier Baez, CHC (2B, 3B, SS) – 15 ADP
Baez is coming off a career season that included 34 home runs, a .290 average, 100+ runs/RBI, and 21 steals. Very similar to the output from Alex Bregman who I discussed above and they also have the same ADP of 15. That’s about where the similarities end though. Unlike Bregman, Baez has below average walk rate at 4.5%, below average strikeout rate at 25.9%, and a below average contact rate at 68.5%. In addition, Baez is more of a line drive hitter with a fly ball rate of 32.3%, compared to Bregman’s 43.4% fly ball rate in 2018. Baez was able to hit some of those line drives out of the park last year, but in the long run I see some risk in the approach as it relates to the home run output. Those line drive home runs from 2018 may turn into doubles in 2019. While not the worst scenario, it’s something to consider when you are drafting top end talent. Draft Strategy: I’m fading Baez this year as the 15 ADP is too high considering his poor plate skills. Additionally, given that Bregman is going at the same ADP, if I had to choose between the two, I would much rather pick the profile of Bregman over the profile of Baez.
7) Xander Bogaerts, BOS (SS) – 51 ADP
The power returned for Bogaerts last season as he hit a career high 23 home runs while batting .288. He also increased his hard-hit rate to 37.9%, up from 31.4% in 2017, and his fly ball rate from 30.5% to 35.6%. These changes support the 20+ power being real. Bogaerts did miss some time in 2018, playing only 136 games. A full season should yield 25+ home runs, 8-12 steals, a solid batting average, and strong counting stats hitting toward the top of the Red Sox lineup. Draft Strategy: Bogaerts has a high floor batting in a great Boston lineup, and I see some upside from his career high 23 home runs last year. At an ADP of 51, Bogaerts is adequately priced. I wouldn’t mind drafting him, but I’m not keen on reaching for him either.
8) Corey Seager, LAD (SS) – 79 ADP
Seager played just 26 games in 2018 after being shut down in April due to a torn UCL that resulted in Tommy John surgery for the shortstop. Then, in August, he had surgery on his hip to repair a torn labrum and shave a misshaped bone. The good news is, Seager is back to performing baseball activities and is expected to be ready for opening day. In 2017, Seager hit 22 home runs with a .295 batting average, supported by a 44.0% hard hit rate, 10.9% walk rate, and 21.4% strikeout rate. Projecting 2019 is a bit difficult, but something around 25-30 home runs with a .275 batting average sounds reasonable. Draft Strategy: The health is the big risk and concern. I am more worried about the hip than the elbow, but players have successfully rebounded from torn hip labrum surgeries before, so I am a little more bullish on Seager. Given he’s a talented young player entering his age 25 season, the upside is definitely still there. He presents a good value at an ADP of 79.
9) Carlos Correa, HOU (SS) – 44 ADP
Correa has turned in 110 and 109 game seasons the last two years due to injury. At age 24, that itself is a concern. The injuries, which were back and core related, seem to have impacted Correa’s 2018 when he was on the field as his batting average dipped to .239 and his hard-hit rate dipped from 39.5% in 2017 to 28.8% in 2018. Heading into 2019 Correa appears to be 100% healthy, and if that is the case, I think we can expect 25-30 home runs and a .275 batting average with all the Runs and RBIs that come with hitting clean up for the Houston Astros. Draft Strategy: Similar to Seager, there is a lot of upside in a highly talented player entering his prime, but also health risk that comes with back injury. At an ADP of 44, I would rather take a risk on Corey Seager who is similarly young, talented, and coming off an injury plagued 2018, but going 30-some picks later.
10) Gleyber Torres, NYY (2B, SS) – 59 ADP
Gleyber was a highly touted prospect heading into 2018 and he did not disappoint, smacking 24 home runs in 484 plate appearances, supported by a 38.4% hard hit rate and a 42.7% fly ball rate. Accounting for pitchers adjusting to Torres in his second season, he should be able to replicate another 20+ home run season, albeit in about 100 more plate appearances. Torres also posted a below average contact rate of 70% which leads me to believe there may not be a lot of upside from the .271 batting average Torres posted in 2018. I’ll also be monitoring Torres’ walk-rate closely in 2019. Torres posted an 8.7% walk rate in his rookie campaign, slightly above average, but promising for a rookie. If Torres can maintain this rate in his sophomore campaign that would be great. If it regresses to the 5%-6% range, it will be cause for concern. Draft strategy: Overall, Torres is a talented young player. There are some positives and negatives from his 2018 campaign. The sample size being just 484 plate appearances comes with some risk, however that is somewhat reduced playing in a stacked Yankee lineup where the counting stats should be boosted. At the end of the day the ADP of 59 seems a bit high and I won’t have many shares of Torres.
11) Jean Segura, PHI (SS) – 65 ADP
Segura was traded to the Phillies this winter, marking the fourth team Segura has played for in the last five years. This is a bit of a surprise as Segura is a quality player in his prime years. In any event, the move from Seattle to Philly is a positive one for Segura’s fantasy value. Segura has been a 10-home run, 20 steal guy the last two years. I expect similar contributions in 2019, with perhaps a few additional home runs in the new home park. Segura has also hit .300 the last two years, which seems supportable based on an elite contact rate of 88.4%. Segura doesn’t walk much, just 5.1%, but makes up for it with his contact skills. Draft Strategy: I like Segura a lot, however he seems overpriced at an ADP of 65. He profiles similarly to Jose Peraza, who can be had for a significantly cheaper price.
12) Jose Peraza, CIN (2B, SS) – 109 ADP
I was high on Peraza entering last season and he didn’t disappoint, stealing 23 bases with a .288 average and 14 home runs to boot. Peraza increased his contact rate from 85.4% to 87.7%, which is phenomenal. He also hit the ball harder, increasing his hard-hit rate from 21.4% to 29.5%. Peraza doesn’t walk much, around 4%, but his contact rate and speed should see him both replicate the strong batting average and get on base enough times to steal another 20 bases. The hard-hit rate increase is also promising. It not only shows some power potential, but also demonstrates Peraza is improving at hitting MLB pitching. Peraza started 2018 hitting toward the bottom of the Reds order, but finished the season at the top. I expect a full season batting leadoff which will provide a boost to his counting stats. Draft strategy: At an ADP of 109, I don’t think this draft position takes into account the potential upside hitting atop the Reds lineup for a full season or the power potential shown by 14 home runs and an increased hard-hit rate. Peraza is a guy I am targeting.
13) Raul Adalberto Mondesi, KC (2B, SS) – 79 ADP
When I did my second base rankings two weeks ago, Mondesi was going at an ADP of 66. As of today, his ADP has dropped significantly to 79. It seems that the fantasy community is showing similar concerns that I have over his sub-par 67.0% contact rate and 3.8% walk rate. It’s also worth noting that in Mondesi’s 75 game sample from 2018, 8 of his 14 home runs and 14 of his 32 steals came in the month of September, after rosters expanded and the talent pool diluted. All that said, there is certainly value here for stolen bases. If Mondesi can put together a 14 HR, 40 SB season, even while batting .240, that would be more than useful especially in a 5×5 format. Draft strategy: Mondesi is a high-risk, high reward player. His ADP seems to be dropping. If that trend continues, you may be able to get him at a more reasonable price point. He profiles closely to Jonathan Villar who has a lot of stolen base potential, some pop, and a lot of risk. I can see a strong case for passing on Mondesi and drafting Villar a round or two later.
14) Jonathan Villar, BAL (2B, SS) – 103 ADP
Villar has had a volatile past three seasons. In 2016, he helped win fantasy leagues with a 20-home run, 62-steal season. He followed it up in 2017 with a bust-worthy 11 home runs and 23 steals. 2018 saw Villar landing in the middle, with 14 home runs and 35 steals in a season split between the Brewers and the Orioles. He’s tough to predict, but the projections have him in line with a repeat of his 2018 season. Draft strategy: Villar is not the type of player I like to target, but he’s in a good hitters’ park and has a high ceiling. He provides a similar upside as Mondesi, and at about 20 picks cheaper. However, if you’re looking for a high floor option at this point in your draft, I would suggest Jose Peraza discussed above.
That’s all for this week. Thanks for reading and feel free to drop a comment below with any questions or disagreements. Next week I will be back with the rest of the shortstop rankings.
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Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Cole Freel live on Sunday February 24th, 2019 from 8-9:45pm EST for episode #140 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. You can listen live on blogtalk, majorleaguefantasysports.com, or download the podcast on I-Tunes or any Android podcast app. This week we will break down the N.L. West.
Our guests this week is are Kyle Klinker, and Bilal Chaudry. Both Kyle and Bilal are veteran owners in Major League Fantasy Baseball leagues and have won several titles between the two of them.