Top Five Ways To Improve At Shortstop
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Has the shortstop position turned into the worst lineup spot to fill in all of Fantasy baseball? Yes, it certainly has surpassed catchers and second basemen due to a lack of quality and injury concerns from top to bottom. When healthy, Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez, Ian Desmond and Jose Reyes are four extremely valuable Fantasy assets. Unfortunately, Ramirez and Reyes are hurt once again this season and Desmond is struggling at the dish. After these four the position things really start to get ugly. If you play in a mono or deep mixed league you could be fighting for scraps. There is a good chance that shortstop is an empty spot in your lineup, one you garner very little positive value from. You should honestly be happy with a player that gets regular at-bats and can hit above .250. Everything else he provides is gravy.
[caption id="attachment_92621" align="alignright" width="300" class=" "] If you need to upgrade at shortstop, an unproven commodity with high upside like Xander Bogaerts could be your answer. Photo Credit: Keith Allison[/caption]
It was not always like this. Remember the 2000s, with Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Tejada, Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Jeter dominating Fantasy leagues for a solid stretch of time? The production they provided was an absolute game-changer for the position. Throughout the history of the game, those players would be considered outliers. Shortstops were typically known for their defense; anything they did with the bat was considered a bonus. We may again experience a shortstop renaissance with offensive-minded players like Xander Bogaerts and Addison Russell in the majors, as well as Corey Seager and Carlos Correa knocking at the door. Right now, though, it is still a dark time full of weak bats.
You need to upgrade at shortstop. How can you do that after we just talked about the complete lack of options at the position? Let’s run through all five of your options:
- Trade for an established shortstop talent
This route is going to cost you because there are so few of them out there. You need to make sure you are giving the other owner a clear upgrade at another position or filling multiple needs in his lineup. Buyer beware if you are giving up an arm and a leg for Troy Tulowitzki. Yes, he is an elite talent, but his injury history suggests you will be without him for at least a month at some point this season. Instead, you may want to aim your sights a little lower, targeting someone like Starlin Castro or even Elvis Andrus. Neither is going to wow you, but they’ll play everyday and won’t kill your batting average. Take some of your depth and use it to bring some consistency to your shortstop. Plugging in someone like Castro will at least put your mind at ease that you’re getting double-digit HRs and SBs. Ian Desmond fits into this category as well and because of his slow start, he might be had at a discount. He has gone at least 20 HRs / 20 SBs in each of the past three seasons and has been one of the most consistent shortstops in Fantasy.
- Trade for a player that is not yet established
If you cannot get a Tulowitzki or a Castro, perhaps you can turn to a younger, more unproven commodity such as Xander Bogaerts. The 22-year-old has game-changing offensive potential, the majority of which is untapped at the moment. After looking advanced beyond his years in the playoffs back in 2013, his regular season debut last year did not quite live up to expectations. He batted .240 with 12 HRs, 46 RBIs and 60 Runs. That year of seasoning and the Red Sox’ retooled lineup could lead to a nice year from Bogaerts. He is still a year or two away from a big breakout, but you can do a lot worse at shortstop (and you probably are). Addison Russell is also an unproven player that is starting to perform well after a rough debut. He has zero MLB experience prior to this season and remains a likely up and down Fantasy asset all year long. Still, if you can grab him on the cheap in a redraft league, his upside is worth all the risks. In a keeper or dynasty format, this option is definitely going to be the toughest to pull off. Top prospects are treated like gold and prying one away is often times not worth the haul you need to part with.
- Buy low on an injured or underperforming player
Ian Desmond would be the first candidate here. Obviously, he is already an established talent and we’ve already discussed his abilities, but there is a chance that an owner has grown frustrated with him after a slow month. It is worth checking in on. J.J. Hardy has yet to play a game this year, so he is either sitting in someone’s DL spot or on your waiver wire. While the power dropped off last year, a healthy Hardy is a threat for 20 HRs and 75 RBIs in the middle of the Orioles lineup. Depending on how the Hardy owners current SS is performing may dictate how cheaply you can grab him. Alexei Ramirez has really struggled out of the gate with an average below .200 and zero HRs or SBs. He has a track record of double-digit HRs and SBs year in and year out, along with a bunch of runs and a solid average. His BABIP is a lowly .235 at the moment and we can expect the production to pick up as that normalizes. Ben Zobrist has long been a reliable contributor at multiple positions, but he struggled before being placed on the DL by Oakland. Like Hardy, that makes him a potential buy low candidate, especially from an impatient owner.
- Hit the waiver wire
The waiver wire is very league dependent obviously, but there could be some quality options available to you. Your best bet for a pick-up is Marcus Semien, who is playing well for the A’s. His double-digit pop and solid speed makes him a strong middle of the road option this season. Danny Santana is having a rough start after a breakout 2014, but he is capable of providing you with Runs and Stolen Bases if he can turn things around. Odubel Herrera is off to a solid start and could give you very similar stats, as can Jose Iglesias. Power is almost nonexistent here but at least you are getting at-bats and contribution in a couple categories. Asdrubel Cabrera should give you some pop, but might not have too much to offer elsewhere. He is crawling out of the gate and that means he might be swimming in your free agent pool.
- Speculate and stash
Can’t find the right trade partner? No one halfway decent on your waiver wire? It is time to tolerate what you have and speculate on the future of the position. There is a great chance in a deep league that Corey Seager is already rostered, but he makes for an excellent pick-up if he’s out there. It is rumored that Carlos Correa could be joining the Astros within the next few weeks and his offensive upside makes him an immediate speculative add. While Francisco Lindor is not a future stud despite his top prospect status, he should eventually hit for average, mediocre power and swipe 20-plus bases. There is a solid chance that he makes his debut in the next few months, making him a desperation stash. If Chris Owings can earn back regular at-bats, he is a player you are going to want to own. The skill set is not going to blow you away, but double-digit HRs and SBs are certainly attainable for the young Diamondback. The same can be said for Brad Miller of the Mariners. He is currently seeing time as a utility player, but it is a long season. He has the profile of a useable asset with additional playing time.
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