Tough to Find Consistent Fantasy Performance at Shortstop
In our last stop, second base, I made the point that you can acquire a good batting average hitter from that position. Further, I said you should take each position and “strategize” about which categories you should draft from their slot.
Well, the shortstops make me want to say – forget that.
Shortstops – how do I put this nicely – suck. They are like catchers in the middle of the infield, except catchers are more consistent. Let’s look at last year’s production at SS:
- Two shortstops hit 20-plus HRs;
[caption id="attachment_103399" align="alignright" width="375"] Elvis Andrus could deliver more power and fewer steals this season. Photo Credit: Fast Update[/caption]
- Only one SS scored at least 80 runs;
- Only five reached 70 runs;
- Two recorded 80-plus RBIs;
- Three hit .300 or better (200-plus plate appearances)
- Six others hit .280 or more but no SS was in the .290 - .299 range;
- Three stole 20 or more bases, with 25 being tops;
- Only 16 stole 10 or more bases.
When I prepare my positional analyses, I make lists of that position over the last three seasons in a spreadsheet. I then format the sheet so I can tell at a glance which players performed in the top (and bottom) 15 percent of a category – both Fantasy categories and skill statistics. What I find at SS is that very few repeat those elite levels of performance from one year to the next. Troy Tulowitzki. Elvis Andrus. Ian Desmond. Maybe Carlos Correa this year. But it kind of stops there. And as you saw with Ian Desmond last year, even a top shortstop can have trouble maintaining top levels of performance.
So what do we do?
We forget shortstops and deal with them later in drafts, selecting players with skills and playing the odds. It’s a constant waiver-wire position, especially given the need for a MI on most rosters. So let’s get to the crushing and flushing.
Carlos Correa – When a first rounder appears in this column, it means only bad things. If you’re looking to draft Correa in the first round, make sure you bring your checkbook to the draft, and cool your jets. Correa is a budding superstar, yes. Correa has already demonstrated superior plate skills as well as patience, leadership and poise. But his 22 HRs were aided by an astronomically high 24.2 percent HR/FB ratio. One out of every four fly balls left the park. That won’t happen again, I promise. He actually hits groundballs 49 percent of the time and fly balls 29 percent of the time. His .279 average can climb with more groundballs but the power output won’t keep up. He’s a wonderful player, but I’d take predictable power and a higher average in Round 1 and hope he slips into Round 2. It’s minor and applies to only first round speculation, but in case he’s only the 30th best player this year, I’d FLUSH.
Elvis Andrus – Can you believe he’s just 27 this season? One of the more consistent performers, Andrus appeared to (begin to) reinvent himself last season. Never a power source, Andrus boosted his HR output from two to a modest seven and his RBI total from 41 to 62 in a similar number of at-bats. His days of 42 steals (2013) will probably be limited to the 18-22 range moving forward. But most dramatically, he cut his groundball tendency from 59 percent to 47 percent while his fly ball output rose from 21 percent to 32 percent. An excellent contact hitter, Andrus might be looking to offset declining speed with more power. I like his .258 average to climb to .270 this year while looking for as many as a dozen HRs if this new version of Andrus continues. At SS particularly, I love Andrus as a skilled hitter in either scenario. CRUSH
Xander Bogaerts – He’d be worth a lot of points in Scrabble and is in Fantasy baseball too. My only problem is he kind of re-invented himself too, at the ripe age of 22, last season. Consider: His BABIP soared from .296 (about league average) to an ungodly .372, so kiss his .322 average back to the .280/.290 level. He did that by hitting the ball hard *less* often last year. He also saw his groundball average soar from 38 percent to 53 percent, while fly balls resulted only 26 percent of the time (down from 41 percent in 2014). So his HRs falling from 12 to just seven is no surprise. His RBIs soared from 46 to 81, he scored 84 runs (60 in 2014) and swiped 10 bags. Draft him as a good (not great) batting average source who will knock runners in and score himself pretty often. But his power and steals won’t be anything to write home about. As long as you know that context of Bogaerts as a ground ball guy whose average will fall back to earth it’s a CRUSH. If you’re counting on last year’s value in its same, exact form, I have to FLUSH
Starlin Castro – Last year I was (mildly) crushing on Castro, given both his draft spot and the young, emerging talent on the Cubs. I speculated that young talent may result in a new home for him, and sure enough, the Bronx Bombers came a-calling. While I truly believe a change of scenery is best for him, his ground ball tendencies and a mediocre skill set is enough to make me unexcited about his chances as success – in any park. I’m kinda tired of Starlin being Starlin, which means I’m going to let someone else draft him and he’ll become a bona fide All-Star. FLUSH
Ketel Marte – I love Ketel One. He’s a young shortstop being drafted after 200. Best case: huge value. Worst case: waiver wire. Either way, you can drink good vodka to drown your sorrows or celebrate your brilliance. CRUSH
J.J. Hardy – Yes he’s 33 and it rarely gets better at this phase of a career. But 2015 saw injuries to both shoulders and the always harmful oblique injury. He probably won’t even be drafted and/or ready for the start of the season, but there’s no harm in a waiver wire stash. If health returns he’ll at least be Fantasy-relevant. We’re talking about a SS here, so there is virtually no risk. CRUSH
Alcides Escobar – He’s a Royal, so he swings like a 1970s couple. He’s a pure play for runs and steals. He won’t help your power and his average is ….eh. So if you find yourself drafting players who don’t walk much, grab him for his runs but don’t expect much else. He’s not sexy but it doesn’t mean you don’t have your needs (runs) and develop a CRUSH.
Ian Desmond – I happily drafted Desmond in the second round of deep league last year. That emotion didn’t last long, but I worked around it and he began to return to form in the second half of the season. If that return to his previous skillset continues, he’ll yield huge value (drafted around 100 and still a free agent as of this writing). Look for his average to climb and his power (assuming full season) to flirt with 20 HR. He’s got skills and is worth a shot. CRUSH
Brandon Crawford – He showed a big increase in power output while increasing his ground balls and decreasing his fly balls. He was more patient, which I love, so I think the .256 average goes up a wee bit, but I’d treat 21 HR and 84 RBI as a ceiling because of his new ground ball tendencies. FLUSH
Jung-ho Kang – The Korean import fared well in his first year with the Pirates, posting 15 HRs, 58 RBIs and a solid .287 average. He’s 29 this year, and he has a 50 percent/28 percent GB/FB percentage, so limit your hopes for huge improvement. But his power skills are legit, especially at shortstop. He also has 3B eligibility, so he does provide flexibility as well. He’s getting drafted around 170 in the early going; I’d start to think about him around 150 or 155 because I think he’s a bit unheralded at a terrible offensive position. CRUSH
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