Shortstop Rankings for 2017

Shortstop, once the second biggest wasteland, is now an area full of riches! There’s 7 players who you can take in standard 12 team leagues within the first three rounds. After that, there are many players in the second tier who can be a fine addition to round out your roster.

Before I begin, here are the OBP risers and fallers for shortstops. SS OBP

Machado is not on the chart because Steamer does not consider him a SS. He’s projected for a .294 batting average and .355 OBP by them. Correa is argubaly the top dog in OBP leagues as his OBP is projected for .358. Jonathan Villar and Danny Espinosa are tow players who get big boosts in OBP leagues. Addison Russell is another, making him an even more intriguing player in OBP leagues. Speedsters Jose Peraza and Tim Anderson both have poor walk rates.

Tier 1

  1. Manny Machado (3B/SS, Baltimore Orioles): Arguably the biggest wildcard in the 3B Big Four, Machado’s value this season might just hinge on stolen bases. He’s averaged 36 HR over the past two years with a .290 batting average and strong counting stats. He stole 20 bases in 2015 but had a goose egg last year. Machado saw an uptick in strikeout rate thanks to a higher swinging strike percentage and a greater swing percentage at pitches outside the zone. Machado needs to show these improvements from 2015 will stick. Despite this, Machado is in line for another strong season with the Orioles.
  1. Carlos Correa (SS, Houston Astros): One of the games few five category producers, Correa had a solid sophomore season finishing with a .274 batting average to go along with 20 HR and 13 steals. Correa certainly has the talent to be the top fantasy player. He hasn’t reached the maturation of his power and contact ability. Despite a higher strikeout rate, Correa showed improvement getting it back to 2015 levels while keeping his improved patience. Based on Statcast xStats, Correa should have had a higher average and slugging. Correa will continue improving and will likely justify that first or second round draft pick. He’s a player with an already high floor and a ceiling matched by few in the game. I do think Correa gets to the 30 HR mark with a .290 average with a bunch of steals.
  1. Jonathan Villar (2B/3B/SS, Milwaukee Brewers): Villar came out of nowhere to become arguably the fantasy MVP of 2016. Villar’s 62 SB were 15 more than second place Starling Marte; this is the main area of Villar’s value. Villar has the profile of a player who can sustain an above average BABIP thanks to his total field approach and speed. He does tend to strikeout a lot, something that will keep him from being a .300 hitter. With a lower BABIP and all those strikeouts, Villar’s batting average will be closer to .270 than the .285 he put up. That combined with 15/45 should make Villar one of the better second fantasy players this season.

    Villar
    Names Shown For Those Players Projected For 10 or More HR and 30 or More SB
  1. Corey Seager (SS, Los Angeles Dodgers): The NL rookie of the year had an incredible season and showcased his full bag of tricks. While Seager should still be a top 5 SS in 2017, Seager did benefit from a .355 batting average on balls in play. On a more positive note, the power is sustainable and his infield flyball rate was only 2.1%!
  1. Trevor Story (SS, Colorado Rockies): The best part about Story is that he plays in Colorado which means Coors field for home games! Story had a strikeout problem which I do believe will not be as big of an issue due to a swinging strike rate that was high but does not suggest something over 30%. Story’s a power + speed threat with 30/10 being a realistic target for Story. His ISO approaching .300 will surely go down. Stanton has a career .273 ISO and is generally heralded as the strongest hitter in the game. What that means is that Story will hit likely hit 30 HR in a full season as opposed to him getting there in nearly 100 games. Story’s a top five SS this season. It wouldn’t surprise me if he finishes first.
  1. Francisco Lindor (SS, Cleveland Indians): Over two seasons, Lindor has amassed 27 home runs, 31 stolen bases, in addition to a .306 batting average. In 2016, Lindor improved his walk and strikeout rate while also proving his showing his power from 2015 wasn’t a fluke. I’d expect more of the same from Lindor.

  1. Xander Bogaerts (SS, Boston Red Sox): Bogaerts put his strong ability to make contact with the power he showed in the minors together. The result was the best offensive season of his career. The biggest issue with the Red Sox shortstop is the popups which were the second highest in the league last year. Whether you get the 2015 version with a high batting average and little pop or the 2016 version with a lower batting average and more pop will come down to his decision to hit more grounders or flyballs. The way he can merge the two together is to cut down on the popups, something that hasn’t improved in three years.

Tier 2

  1. Jean Segura (2B, Seattle Mariners): The move from Arizona to Seattle will certainly hurt Segura as he’s in a more pitcher friendly environment. The good news is that Segura’s revamped swing will be a constant as he travels across the country. Segura’s .319 average was aided by a generous BABIP and his HR/FB% doesn’t suggest a repeat of 20 home runs. I think it’s fair to expect something in between his 2015 and 2016 seasons. With that new swing, I’m curious to see if he can reach the 20 HR plateau again (I think he’ll come close). Lastly, Segura’s still got some nice wheels too as shown by his 33 stolen bases last year.
  1. Elvis Andrus (SS, Texas Rangers): Two years ago, Andrus made some minor mechanical and approach changes. It manifested into more flyballs, a greater percentage of balls pulled, and harder hit balls. He also made a concerted effort to swing more often. All of this shows a different and better Andrus. In 2016, his BABIP was higher than his career average. Instead of hitting .302, I believe Andrus will be somewhere in that .285-.290 range. With 15 home runs over the past two seasons, Andrus is in that 5-10 range in addition to his annual 25 stolen bases. The 2015-2016 version of Andrus isn’t a world beater by any means, rather a marketed improvement over what he once was.
  1. Jose Peraza (2B, Cincinnati Reds): Speed is the name of the game for Peraza. In 72 games last season, Peraza stole 21 bases. Peraza’s batting average was inflated in part due to 27.5% line drive rate. He did show an ability to make contact as shown by an elite 94% zone contact rate. He did a good job making contact in the minors as well. I can see him end up around that .270-.280 mark. That should be sufficient to get him to challenge for 35 stolen bases if not more. Batting either first or second, Peraza will score plenty of runs.
  1. Addison Russell (SS, Chicago Cubs): 2017 is a big year for Russell because it will be his third year in the majors and he needs to improve. It’s easy to look at the strikeout percentage decreasing however his swinging strikeout rate remained in line with 2015. He hits a lot of popups thus limiting his batting average. The 21 home runs were a welcome addition; it’s an area of sustainable play based on a solid .179 ISO and his minor-league track record. Russell is a big beneficiary of the Cubs potent lineup where he could bat anywhere. Shortstop looks is deeper than usual so it might be worthwhile to take a stab at a potential lottery ticket depending on ADP. Russell needs to work on improving his batting average. If he can make such strides, he can be a top five fantasy SS.
  1. Troy Tulowitzki (SS, Toronto Blue Jays): Tulowitzki, by some dark magic, has appeared in 128, and 131 games over the past two seasons. He had a terrible start to the season but made up for it with a monster June and July. Tulo should have a slightly higher BABIP making it realistic that he can enter that .270ish batting average range. The mid 20s power is legit. I’ll be keeping an eye on his first couple months. During the second half, Tulowitzki’s strikeout, walk, and batted ball rates were closer to his Rockies days than what he’s done so far with the Jays. Perhaps he found his old approach back or maybe it’s just small sample noise. Either way, a better batting average should yield some additional counting stats. He’s no longer that fantasy MVP candidate but he is a serviceable short stop.
  1. Eduardo Nunez (3B/SS, San Francisco Giants): Biggest reason for Nunez’s breakout last season? Playing time. His .145 ISO was fairly consistent with his career and his .288 batting average was a tad higher than it likely should have been. He might not get 50 steal attempts in San Francisco though, an area where much of his value comes from. Nunez is a decent hitter with decent pop and the speed to swipe 25-30 bags.
  1. Aledmys Diaz (2B/SS, St. Louis Cardinals): It was quite the breakout season for the 26 year old Diaz who posted 17 home runs in addition to hitting .300. The BABIP might have been a tad high but nothing screams he’s gonna have a bad 2017. I don’t think he bats .300, likely something slightly lower. Diaz could use improvement in his infield flyball percentage and continue to improve. He’s also a good candidate for line drive regression; a 15.6% line drive percentage is pretty poor and based on his ability, it’ll be closer to league average (21%).
  1. Brad Miller (1B/SS, Tampa Bay Rays): I went over Miller in greater detail here. He’s a fine late round choice to see whether or not his power is repeatable or not.
  1. Marcus Semien (SS, Oakland Athletics): Since coming over from the White Sox, Semien has made a name for himself as a power hitting SS. He has hit 42 home runs over the past two seasons with half as many stolen bases (21). I do think Semien will have a higher batting average next season thanks to a better line drive rate; 17.7% is below league average. HR SB 1516
  1. Matt Duffy (3B/SS, Tampa Bay Rays): Duffy reminds me of his former teammate Joe Panik but with more speed. He’s stolen 20 bases over the past two years to go along with 17 home runs. Duffy’s batting average was low partly due to a .290 BABIP. As a hitter who loves to go opposite way, rarely pops up, has above average speed. and owns an above average strikeout rate, Duffy fits the profile on someone who’s BABIP should be over .300. Capability to get a combined 20 HR+SB are there (if not more) as well as a batting average bounce-back is there for Duffy. The biggest question mark is playing time. He’s currently blocked at third by Evan Longoria whose defensive game has been waning. If he does get into the starting lineup, I do believe Duffy will be a sneaky player, a sleeper if you will. If Duffy was not injured, he’d be right before Diaz.
  1. Dansby Swanson (SS, Atlanta Braves): Swanson was electric in his first 38 games. He showed many of the characteristics that made him one of the top prospects in the game. Swanson’s BABIP was egregiously high, something that won’t happen again this season (highly unlikely). Swanson was adept at drawing walks, illustrating the patience he has shown at the minor league level. I wouldn’t count on Swanson being an impact player in his first full season. He’ll reward owners in the future. He is a borderline starter in OBP leagues.
  1. Brandon Crawford (SS, San Francisco Giants): Considering he had double his career HR/FB% in 2016, it should have come as no surprise that Crawford wouldn’t come close to the 20 mark again. I think we’ll see a similar story play out with his batting average. Crawford benefitted from a .322 BABIP, the highest of his career. Given the position’s depth, you can find better options than Crawford in standard 12 team leagues. He has been a sneaky source of RBIs over the past two seasons though.

Tier 3

  1. Javi Baez (2B/3B/SS, Chicago Cubs): Baez has a lot of potential but he hasn’t lived up to it yet in his short MLB stint so far (222 games). Baez cut down on his strikeout rate by six percentage points but he still had a very high swinging strike rate and outside the zone swing rate. There is upside here due to his minor-league track record and multi-position eligibility. In 142 games spanning only 450 plate appearances, Baez managed to hit .273 with 14 HR and 12 SB. I think he showed a sufficient skillset to make me believe he can be a .255 hitter who can go 15/10 as a floor. 24 years old with 759 career plate appearances, it’d be worth a late round flier to see if Baez has another level.
  1. Tim Anderson (SS, Chicago White Sox): Anderson’s primary fantasy asset is his speed as he stole 21 bases across AAA and the MLB in 2016 and 49 in AA in 2015. Anderson struggles to make contact as shown by his 27% strikeout rate in the majors. The strikeouts have been an issue for him in the minors as well. He doesn’t walk nor does he hit for power. If the batting average isn’t there, then the steals aren’t either.
  1. Jedd Gyroko (1B/2B/3B/SS, St. Louis Cardinals): Given a full season, I do get the impression Gyorko can hit 20 home runs. The reason why I think he won’t hit 30? His HR/FB% was well above his career mark and his Isolated Power looks to be high for someone of his calibre. I see him like Marcus Semien without the steals. Given his multi-position eligibility, Gyorko is a fine bench bat as well as a player who you can take a chance on to see if the power surge is real and if he has an extra level.
  1. Didi Gregorius (SS, New York Yankees): Gregorius has been a pretty good shortstop since coming over from Arizona where he was flat out terrible. Over the past two seasons, Gregorius has hit .270. I wouldn’t bet on Gregorius reaching the 20 HR mark again but given his track record, he’s in that 12-18 range. He’ll get the job done. Didi would have been a tad higher if not for his injury.
  1. Asdrubel Cabrera (SS, New York Mets): Cabrera will hit fewer than 23 home runs because he benefited from a HR/FB% about 5 points higher than his career average. He also had the highest batting average of his career since hitting .309 in 2009 in Cleveland. Unless he gets a big BABIP boost, Cabrera will be more of a .260 hitter than .280. With the sheer depth of SS, Cabrera should be owned in deep leagues.
  1. Jose Reyes (3B/SS, New York Mets): In 66 games, Reyes put up a good line. The problem is that Reyes showed a power level not seen since 2008 making it more likely the increase in home runs was due to something other than his skills. He struck out way more than he’s ever done and the pop-ups remain an issue. At the end of the day, Reyes is capable of going 10/20. The batting average will likely hinge on how big of an issue the strikeouts are and whether he gets a BABIP boost.
  1. Orlando Arica (SS, Milwaukee Brewers): Arcia had a mediocre start to his MLB career. He’s only 22 and will likely improve. Ability to steal 20+ bases is certainly there. There might be some growing pains for Arcia. He has enough upside to take a flier on him late in the draft.

Others To Consider

  • Alcides Escobar (SS, Kansas City Royals): Escobar is a known quantity; .260 hitter with the ability to swipe 15-20 bases. No power, and no ability to take a walk.
  • Zack Cozart (SS, Cincinatti Reds): In three of his four seasons in which Cozart has made it to 500 plate appearances, he has between 12-16 HR. Batting average is generally around .250.
  • Jhonny Peralta (3B/SS, St. Louis Cardinals): Take everything I said about Cozart above, minus the steals, plus add a few points for batting average. Oh and there’s no guarantee of playing time.
  • Jorge Polanco (2B/3B/SS, Minnesota Twins): Likely won’t kill your batting average, capable of hitting 5-10 HR with 10 SB.
  • Danny Espinosa (SS, Los Angeles Angels): Cheap source of power. Will kill your batting average.

This concludes the top 25 shortstops. If you miss out on one of the top 7, there are plenty of players with intriguing upside available later in the draft in addition to veterans with decent track records.

 

Stats from: FanGraphs, Baseball Savant

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