As far as enjoyment from a product standpoint, watching the young shortstops that have swept through the league is as good as it gets. I was young, but it reminds me of when Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Nomar Garciaparra were running the middle of the diamond.
From a Fantasy standpoint, shortstop is deeper than it has been in recent years, but there is still a steep drop off after the studs.
Here is an early look at the shortstop tiers for the 2017 Fantasy Baseball season.
*Note, we are going with 5×5 category rankings.
When Manny Machado received shortstop eligibility to go along with his third base eligibility in 2016, he became arguably the most valuable asset in Fantasy. Machado showed that his breakout 2015 campaign was for real – not that there was much doubt with the minor-league pedigree that he had – as he pretty much matched his home run total and slash line. The disappointing part to his season, though, was that he went from 20 steals in 2015 to zero in 2016. It’s not even like he tried, either, as he had just three attempts. Had Machado come close to the 20 steals, we may be talking about the first overall pick in Fantasy for 2017. So what was the difference? Well, in 2015, Machado hit in six different spots in the batting order, and he stole a base from each of those with 12 of them coming from the leadoff spot. In 2016, Machado hit in the three-hole in 114 games, making it less likely that he was going to steal with Chris Davis at the dish and Mark Trumbo on deck the majority of the time. Machado is still worth an early-to-mid-first-round pick, even without the speed factor … We often hype up prospects too much, setting them up to fail. Corey Seager backed up the hype on his way to the National League Rookie of the Year honors. Steamer has Seager regressing slightly next year, but mainly with his average, which is expected with his .355 BABIP from a season ago. Seager should be an early second-round pick in drafts … We missed big with Carlos Correa in 2016. It’s not that he was bad, but he didn’t return the mid-first-round pick that he cost. We probably should have seen his power coming down from his 24.2 percent home run to fly ball ratio with his 32.9 percent hard hit rate in 2015. It normalized in 2016 at 16.5 percent with a 37.2 percent hard hit rate. The 24.2 over a full season last year would have given Correa the seventh-best ratio in baseball with pure power hitters Trumbo, Davis, Nelson Cruz, Khris Davis, Ryan Braun and surprisingly Yasmany Tomas. Correa is on a short list of players you’d want to build your real-life team around, and he’s still only 22 years old. If your league mates think that he was a major letdown last year, take advantage of it by taking him in the second round of your drafts.
If I can’t get one of the Top 3 shortstops, I’m fine taking Francisco Lindor in Round 2 of drafts. After this tier, it gets risky, so burning a pick here to lock up short is fine. Lindor gets it done all around. His walk rate increased from his rookie year and his strikeout rate decreased. He also maintained a .301 average even with his BABIP dropping by .24 from 2015 to 2016. With speed, 15-to-20 homer power and barely missing any games, Lindor has a safe floor and a high ceiling … I’m expecting the entire Red Sox offense to regress this year, which includes Xander Bogaerts. Bogaerts was one of the top players in Fantasy through the first half of the season, but he suffered a second-half slump. I expect a season somewhere between his first-half output and his second-half output … I was the biggest Trevor Story detractor last year. After his seven-homer first week, I said sell, sell, sell because it was obviously unsustainable and Jose Reyes loomed. Well, I was wrong. This year, Story is a target of mine if I miss out on the other top options at the position. Story is the last guy I truly want to target before I shift my strategy to wait. Sure, he’s going to be up and down throughout the season, but with the Coors Field factor, how can you not want a piece of his bat?
If there is anyone that is a bigger boom-or-bust candidate this year than Jonathan Villar, please point him out. Speed is lacking this year, so I’m fine with taking him in the Round 6 or Round 7 area, but I think that’ll be later than he goes come draft time. I’ll let someone else risk an early-round pick on him. I talked about Jean Segura in the Second Base Tiers Preview. I love me some Addison Russell. Similar to 2016, he gets left in the dust when talking about Lindor, Correa and Seager. Yes, homers were flying off the bat of everyone last year, but a 21-homer season is nothing to scoff at. What is, however, was his .238 average. His 9.2 walk rate was the third-best among shortstops last year, which is encouraging. If he can sustain his power, raise his average even to .255 (Steamer has him at .247) and hit higher in the lineup, Russell has breakout written all over him … Aledmys Diaz Wally Pipped Jhonny Peralta last year. I didn’t quite by the power breakout compared to his minor- league numbers, but he sustained his home run pace ever after returning from his month-long injury … Troy Tulowitzki is just a guy. Mind you, the ballpark, division and lineup help him out, but don’t make the mistake of seeing his name and thinking that he’s going to reverse the clock. The injuries and age have caught up to him.
At this point, I want to gamble on upside. That’s coveted prospect Orlando Arcia. We don’t really know what he is right now, but if he bombs, that’s OK. Someone will be there waiting on the waiver wire … Eduardo Nunez saw his numbers take a hit when we went to San Francisco. Yeah, I’m fading him this year. I’ll take the track record of him being average over his hot 2016 first half … Jose Peraza has the upside that you want, too, but it mainly comes as a source of steals. Here’s hoping he gets the playing time he needs from Bryan Price … Dansby Swanson is going to be the face of the Braves soon, but his Fantasy impact may not be felt until 2018 … We’ve seen the act before from Brad Miller. Last year, the hot streaks were nice, but I’m not risking more than a middle-infield spot on Miller … If you need power late, you could do worse than Marcus Semien, who seemed like a two outcome player last season … that 2015 season from Brandon Crawford was fun, wasn’t it?
These guys are who they are. Didi Gregorius is a waiver wire player that you can pick up if your starter gets injured. He will surprisingly be a Top 5 shortstop for a two-week stretch, but shouldn’t be owned outside of AL-only or deeper leagues … If you need speed late, Elvis Andrus can help, but just a reminder that his stolen base totals have decreased the past four seasons … Similar to Andrus, about all Jose Reyes offers is speed … We’ve seen this before from Asdrubal Cabrera. His last month and a half looked good, but outside of a middle infield option, I’ll fade him in 2017.