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“On Bzdek” The Big Short: 2017 Shortstop Rankings

Shortstop is very deep heading into 2017. The current crop is talented and young. Correa, Seager, Lindor, Story, Machado and Bogaerts are all 24 years old or younger, and each with very bright futures ahead of them. While the shortstop position is deep, there is a drop off in talent after the second tier, so I would not plan on drafting a shortstop outside the top two tiers. If you do miss out, the third tier has some serviceable options that will contribute in one or two categories, but don’t expect elite or well-rounded production that you should from the top two tiers. Let’s start with tier three and work our way towards the top.

 

Tier 3

Troy Tulowitzki
We all know the deal with Tulo – historically a great talent that has trouble staying healthy. Tulo has not played more than 131 games since 2011, when he played 143 with the Rockies. Now 31, there’s really no reason to believe Tulo will finally be able to put together a 150+ game campaign, so if you are drafting him make sure you have a backup plan. With that out of the way, I expect Tulo’s production to remain consistent with his 2016 output – 20+ homers and 70 runs / RBIs. The one area Tulo can improve is the batting average. After a dismal start (.169 average in April), Tulo ended the season with a .254 average. He hit .269 in the second half, and a .265 average is certainly attainable. While 31 is not nearly old enough to write off a player with Tulo’s talent, he will not be able to reproduce the numbers he put up playing in Coors in his prime. I would avoid Tulo and the headache he brings.

Eduardo Nunez
After several seasons in a part-time playing role, the 29-year-old Nunez earned himself 141 games last year with the Twins in 2016. Much of Nunez’s fantasy value came from speed. nunezNunez stole 40 bags in 2016, besting his previous career high of 22 back in 2011. He was also caught stealing 10 times for an 80% success rate. Nunez’s average is respectable and should be in the .270 to .280 range in 2017. He is a late bloomer, so I am cautious about his ability to repeat his 2016 season and will avoid him on draft day. If you’re looking for steals in the later rounds of the draft, Elvis Andrus is a safer bet and going at a much cheaper price. Jose Peraza is also a cheaper alternative for stolen bases.

Brad Miller
Brad Miller is currently 1B and SS eligible in most leagues, however the Rays have announced that Miller will be the team’s starting second basemen on opening day. Miller took part of the power surge in 2016, hitting 30 home runs and 29 doubles for a .482 slugging percentage. Other than that, his average and OBP decreased from 2015 to 2016, likely due to decreased BB% and increased K%. While his hard hit % increased, so did his soft hit %. It appears Miller tried to hit for more power and it paid off at the expense of some average and on base percentage, a trade-off most players would make. I like Miller for his position flexibility, but in a weak Rays line up, runs and RBI will be hard to come by. At Miller’s current ADP of 170, he’s a bargain. There are not a lot of multi-eligible position players available that late in drafts that can play a 30-home run season.

Elvis Andrus
Andrus is a steady yet unspectacular option at shortstop. Consistency on the base paths is Andrus’ biggest asset. He stole 20+ bases every season in his 8-year career, including 24 in 2016. At age 28 he is a safe bet to repeat another 20+ steals. Andrus hit .302 in 2016, the highest batting average of his career, on the back of a .333 BABIP. Expect regression toward his career average which is still adequate at .274. Andrus can also pop a few homers, but likely won’t exceed double digits. In deep leagues, Andrus is a decent option if you’re looking to add some safe speed to your team. In shallow leagues, I would avoid drafting Andrus as my starting shortstop due to the lack of upside, though he makes a great backup in the event your starter gets injured.

Aledmys Diaz
As a 26-year-old rookie with the Cardinals, Diaz triple slashed an impressive .300/.369/.510 in 111 games last season. He walked at a 9% clip and struck out at a 13% clip, both above average rates. Diaz’ contact rate of 83.4% is also above average, so there is a strong likelihood he can produce strong batting average and on base percentage in 2017. Unfortunately, the slugging is likely to regress. Diaz does not hit the ball hard enough with enough consistency to maintain the .510 slugging percentage from 2016. Diaz hit 17 home runs last season, and the projections have him right in that same high teens ballpark over a full slate of games in 2017. I think that’s right where he belongs, and there is a lot of value in a shortstop with a solid average and OBP with double digit pop. Diaz provides good value at his current draft position in the 130 range.

 

Tier 2

Jean Segura
Segura’s career has been up and down. He broke out with 44 steals in 2013, then struggled in 2014 and 2015, though still posted 20 and 25 steals in those two seasons. After being traded to Arizona, Segura broke out again, posting a .319/.368/.499 triple slash to go along with 33 steals. Looking at Segura’s batted ball profile over the last four seasons, there are a couple of things that jump out at me. In 2013 and 2016, Segura’s two best seasons, his hard hit % was 27.6% and 29.7%, respectively, up significantly from the 21.1% and 19.7% hard hit percentage he posted during 2014 and 2015. Segura’s other batted ball stats fluctuated minimally except for BABIP, which was a career high .353 in 2016, and explains the increase in average. Additionally, in 2016 Segura pulled the ball at a 31.4% clip, which when combined with his improved hard hit % in 2016 explains the boost in slugging percentage. Segura also posted a 33.7% pull rate in 2014, however, perhaps due to not hitting the ball quite so hard, his bottom line numbers did not improve. It also helped that in 2016 Segura played in hitter friendly Chase Field. The move to Seattle’s less hitter friendly environment will roll back the expectations a bit, but the Mariner line up is good enough to minimize the impact of the change of scenery. At an average draft position around 60, that is a very reasonable price to pay for a legitimate power/speed combo in a great line up.

Trevor Story
Story was a bit of a sleeper heading into 2016. Many of us were intrigued by the new Colorado shortstop, and Story intrigued us even more hitting 10 home runs in the month of April. He came back to earth in May and June, hitting 4 and 5 home runs in those months, then heated back up with 8 homers in July before a torn UCL in his thumb ended his season. Story showed more than just power in his rookie campaign. He hit for a respectable .272 average, though he struck out at a 31.3% rate which is cause for concern. Among players with 400 at bats in 2016, no player with a strike out rate above 29% hit higher than .247. Story could cut down the strikeouts a couple of percentage points based on his minor-league K-rates, and the Coors effect will also serve to inflate the average, but I still expect some regression there. Story also stole 8 bags last year; however, he was caught 5 times, so don’t rely on him for double-digit steals. Story’s stock is high heading into 2017. He is currently being drafted as the 7th shortstop off the board somewhere in the mid-30s. There is a lot to like about him and the ballpark where he plays his home games. He should be able to be near the lead for shortstops in home run and RBI totals. Usually, a small sample size of 99 games would make me shy away, but Coors Field makes me a buyer on draft day.

Trevor Story

Trevor Story

 

 

Tier 1b – Bogaerts or Lindor?

Francisco Lindor
Only 23 years old, Lindor is another young shortstop with a bright future. In almost two full seasons Lindor has hit for a .306/.358/.435/ triple slash, and was 19 for 24 on stolen base attempts in 2016. Lindor had 15 home runs in 2016. With an average hard hit percentage of 27.5%, the 15 home runs may be replicated but don’t expect any large increases for 2017.  Lindor’s power has trended upwards so he could certainly cross the 20 home run line in the next 2 or 3 years. Lindor relies on his strong contact (83.7%) and speed. He’s a safe bet for a .300 average, 18 steals, and 90+ runs hitting atop a strong Indians line up. Lindor is currently being drafted in the mid to late 20s, just slightly ahead of Bogaerts. I prefer Bogaerts myself for 2017 but I would be content with Lindor at that price.

Xander Bogaerts
Bogaerts, like Lindor, is a young shortstop who should provide a strong batting average in 2017. Bogarts hit .294 and .320 in 2016 and 2015, respectively. He also got on base at a .356 and .356 clip during the last two seasons. Bogaerts stole a career high 13 bases in 2016 while being caught 4 times. He doesn’t quite have the speed that Lindor has, but he should be good for double-digit steals. Bogaerts recently stated his goal to steal 20 bases in the up-coming season. A lofty goal, but with the loss of Big Papi to the Red Sox lineup they may need to create offense on the base paths a little more this year. I’m not betting on 20 steals but it’s good to hear he plans on being aggressive. One area Bogaerts has the edge over Lindor is power; Bogaerts hit 21 home runs in 2016. Bogaerts hits the ball slightly harder than Lindor (30.6% vs 27.5% for Lindor) and hits more fly balls (34.9% vs Lindor’s 28.4%). Not huge differences but enough for 3-5 home additional homers, and hitting in Fenway another 20-home run season is not a stretch. In the end, you can’t go wrong with either Lindor or Bogaerts.

Tier 1b – The Speedsters I Don’t Fully Trust

Trea Turner
Trea Turner, set to start shortstop for the Nationals this season, is a very interesting player for 2017. As a prospect, Turner was known for his plus speed and not so much his power or hit tool. He had a cup of coffee in 2015 with the Nationals and struggled. In 2016, he was a mid-season call up and did nothing but rake, posting a .342/.370/.567 triple slash with 33 steals and 13 home runs in only 72 games. This pace is unsustainable, so the real question is how much regression should we expect? The big surprise with Turner was the power. In 2016 Turners HR/AB was 4.23%, way up from 1.81% and 1.60% rates at AAA Syracuse, so that should certainly regress. Batting average will also regress based on a BABIP of .388, however Turner’s blazing speed should make this regression less harsh. Speaking of speed, you can count on Turner for steals in 2017, especially with National’s manager Dusty Baker who is known to give the green light to his players. After accounting for regression, as well as the general risk of the small sample size and sophomore slump due to pitchers adjusting to him, Turner will be overvalued on draft day. In a re-draft league, I would avoid paying the top 15 pick he will likely cost. In keeper or dynasty leagues, Turner may be worth the gamble.

Jonathan Villar
Villar played his first season in Milwaukee in 2016 after three years in Houston. In Houston, Villar was always a fantasy sleeper that never quite put it together. The change of scenery to Milwaukee must have helped, as did the guaranteed playing time. Villar led the National League in stolen bases in 2016 with 62, while smacking 19 homers (career high), 38 doubles, and posting a triple slash of .285/.369/.457.  Villar will be only 26 years old in 2017; still in his prime. The one concern with Villar is he strikes out a ton – 174 times in 2016, good for a K% of 25.6%. This could bring the batting average down a few points, but Villar did walk at an above average clip of 11.6% too, which is somewhat comforting. The speed is for real, and I have no reason to believe he won’t be able to run free with the Brewers in ’17. The power is more of a question mark. Villar did hit the ball harder in 2016 (hard hit percentage of 35.1%) than he did before in his career. His HR/FB in 2016 was near 20%, which is what you expect out of great home run hitters, not exactly how I would describe Villar. Still, if he keeps hitting the ball hard, I think 12-15 home runs is a reasonable expectation. Villar projects for 12 homers, 50 steals, and a .270 average. He’s being drafted around pick 30 in most drafts, which is great value for the projections, especially if you consider that Turner’s projections are similar and he’s going a whole 15 -20 picks ahead of Villar. If you’re deciding between the two, Villar is the better value in re-drafts.

 

Tier 1a – The Young Bucks

Corey Seager

Corey Seager

Corey Seager
Seager burst onto the scene in 2015 with a strong playoff performance. He followed it up with a terrific rookie season earning himself the rookie of the year award. He was a top prospect who is living up to the hype. In 2016 Seager posted a triple slash of .308/.365/512, including 26 home runs and 105 runs scored. He walked at a 7.9% clip and struck out at 19.4%, both league average and very solid for a rookie. Seager’s batted ball profile is awesome. He hits the ball hard nearly 40% of the time while making soft contact only 13%; both are on the higher end of the scale. With most rookies, I expect some regression, but Seager’s batted ball profile makes me think otherwise. If Seager can increase his fly ball %, which currently sits at 29%, to around 35%, I think he can be a 30-home run threat. It’s not a huge jump for such a talented young player. Seager is going around pick 17 in drafts. I would jump on Seager in any league and I would even consider reaching a few picks for him in keeper or dynasty leagues.

 

Carlos Correa

Carlos Correa

Carlos Correa
Rookie of the year in 2015, Correa was a top 10 pick in the 2016 drafts. After posting a .274/.361/.451 triple slash Correa remains in the top tier. Correa regressed in power from his rookie season, hitting only 20 home runs in 2016 after 22 home runs in 99 games during 2015. Correa’s hard hit percentage in 2016 was 37.2% which is great. He should be good for another 20+ home run season, and if he can boost his fly ball percentage up a few ticks from the 27.4% in 2016 he could get back to being a top 10 again. Besides power, pencil Correa in for 90+ RBIs hitting in a loaded Houston line up, and 10+ steals as he stole 13 and 14 bases the last two seasons. Correa is currently being drafted around pick 18, just after Corey Seager. Either one is an  awesome option. In re-draft leagues, I give Correa the slight nod due to the Houston lineup, the edge in steals, as well as having a 60 or so additional games under his belt that give us a larger sample to analyze. In a dynasty or keeper league I’ll give the nod to Seager right now, but it’s really a toss-up.

 

 

Tier Machado

Manny Machado
That’s right, Machado is a beast that deserves his own tier. At only 24 years of age and coming off his best season at the plate in which he hit 37 homers and 40 doubles, good for a triple slash of .294/.343/.533. His 2016 numbers are improved from 2015, where he triple slashed a .284/.359/.502, hitting 35 dingers. He hits in a great ballpark at Camden Yards, and in a great division for hitters in the AL East. The only area Machado lacks in is steals. He stole 20 bases in 28 attempts in 2015 and then went 0 for 3 in 2016. That’s fine with me, I’ll take the consistent power and average at the cost of some steals, and who knows he could chip in with 5-7 steals in 2017. Machado’s average draft position of 8th overall, which is reasonable considering the other very talented players ahead of him. If he is somehow available after the 8th spot in your draft he’s a no brainer.

Manny Machado

Manny Machado

 

That wraps up my shortstop rankings for 2017. With such an impressive young group of guys it’s tough to go wrong with any one of them. It will be fun to watch these players develop before our eyes over the next decade.

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Major League Fantasy Football 2017 League Openings

(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday March 26th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #80 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. This week we will discuss players in the draft going for nice bargains.

Our guest this week is Steve Hamilton. Steve is a writer, and editor with majorleaguefantasysports.com focusing on baseball. His articles publish every Saturday.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday April 2nd, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #81 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. OPENING DAY SPECIAL! We will discuss some of the days events as well as relevant fantasy baseball updates.

Our guests this week are Ron Shandler, and Bilal Chaudry. Ron is FSTA Hall of Famer, and one of the pioneers of fantasy baseball. You can find his work at ronshandler.com. Bilal is a veteran owner in Major League Fantasy Baseball leagues and frequent radio guest.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

 

I am a fantasy baseball enthusiast. I joined my first league in 2004 and haven't stopped playing. I am also an auditor and CPA at a midsize public accounting firm where I analyze information every day. Combined, my passion for baseball and my analytical background create a unique perspective to analyzing fantasy baseball.

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