Last week we discussed the ugly, top-heavy mess that is the third base position, and this week we’ll move on the still top-heavy, but much less messy, world of shortstop. As I mentioned last week, for now we’ll look through a medium lens when it comes to roster construction and who to target; there will be plenty of deep-league talk as the season gets closer but for now I am basing most of my thoughts on my 15-team mixed leagues that have already drafted.
Like third base, I feel that approaching the shortstop position warrants some planning ahead this year, but basically for the exact opposite reason. While 3B provides a few studs followed by a lot of potential disappointment, the shortstop pool is swimming with value from top to bottom. It’s really just a matter of how much you want to spend in terms of allocating your draft picks or auction dollars, and how you envision constructing your perfect roster. I’ve already seen several teams double up on shortstops early for a super sexy SS/MI combo (Bichette/Bogaerts in one case, Turner/Lindor in another), and might have tried this myself if I’d had a draft pick high enough to get one of the top 3 shortstop studs.
I’ve been a little all over the place in terms of drafting shortstops this year, so it’s a good time to take a step back and once again look at the position from a broader perspective. In at least a couple of my drafts, I felt like I’d gone back to a simpler time in our past, when giant, communal buffets of food were a thing. There was so much to choose from that, instead of ending up with a solid cut of meat and a surprisingly tasty vegetable dish, I panicked and loaded up on cold, tasteless pasta salad and a few stale muffins. Time to re-group and survey the overall spread before reaching for the first thing that catches my eye… and with that, a few of my thoughts on specific players.
Trevor Story. I’ve drafted him once already, and it may be my only share. I can’t decide if he’s going to end up being a bargain at his current overall NFBC ADP (#40), or if he’s going to be one of my bigger mistakes at that cost given all of the tempting choices still on the board when I drafted him. Even if he lands in an unfavorable hitters’ park, though, I’m optimistic that he’ll be more of a medium overpay than a complete bust. As disappointing as his .251 average was last year (after seasons of .291, .294, and .289), he still went 24/20, and Steamer projects even better (27/20) for this year. The ceiling may not be what it once was, especially assuming he’s playing outside of Colorado of course, but for fantasy purposes the floor is still pretty solid.
Tim Anderson (NFBC ADP #35), Francisco Lindor (#49), Corey Seager (#77). I don’t mind Anderson or Lindor in a vacuum, but all three in this group feel too expensive at their current prices for my personal taste: if I don’t get a shortstop in the first three rounds, I’ll probably turn my attention to other positions until at least round six. If I had to pick from this tier, I’d rather go with the excitement/youth/upside of Wander Franco (#54), but won’t feel the need to reach for anyone at this point given the options to follow.
Javier Baez (#64). Well, I was going to lump Baez in with the above group, until I took another look at his numbers from last year. He ran more than I realized; dude almost went 30/20! (31 HRs and 18 SBs). I know not to assume that what a guy did last year is what he’ll do this year — especially a guy who was playing for a contract, got said contract, and is now changing teams again among other things. But… it’s also hard not to think about what he did in terms of plate discipline last September, mostly because it was so shocking to see (10 walks that month, after previous monthly totals of 1, 5, 6, 3, and 3). Add it all up and I’m 100% on board taking Baez if he’s available at the right time and price.
Jorge Polanco. Polanco was one of my top targets at any position going into drafting season, and somehow I still own him nowhere. Polanco went in the 6th round of both of my first two 15-team drafts, which is right in line with his #83 ADP, but I wasn’t willing to reach for him in the 5th since I knew there would be solid options later in the draft. Yet another reminder that it’s worth paying attention to ADP, but not to let it dictate your draft or keep you from taking who you want because you feel like you’re ‘overpaying’… (repeats mantra in head) use ADP as a tool to know when to get what you want, not to help you decide what you want. Next time I’ll take him a round early if I need to: if he does close to what he did last year and also gets a little BABIP luck (BABIP was .292 and .282 the last two seasons, after being .345/.328 in 2018 and 2019), he’s suddenly a solid 5-category player.
(Quick plug at this point for Rudy’s amazing draft room; those of you who already use it know how much it helps with when to pull the trigger on your draft targets by constantly updating your likelihood of getting a certain player in the upcoming round(s)!)
Jazz Chisholm Jr. (#76): this feels a little early until we see him tame the Ks on a more consistent basis, but given the power/speed combo at least you know that there’s a decent chance he’ll put up a seemingly effortless 20/20, which obviously is a nice boon for any fantasy team.
Bobby Witt Jr. (#92). I likely won’t end up with Witt on a team because I find I tend to be more rookie risk-adverse than many of my peers, but he could well end up being a fine value if not an outright steal here.
Willy Adames (#136), Chris Taylor (#143). Adames and Taylor seem to have landed as my ‘middle ground’ for when I pass on the elite shortstops, miss out on Polanco, but want to grab someone before I get to Nicky Lopez (see below). I’ll be honest; drafting Taylor is a letdown. The floor isn’t crazy high, the ceiling isn’t crazy high, and he never even has a starting job. I’m encouraged by his pre-lockout deal to return to the Dodgers, though, in terms of both opportunity and potential production level, and I’m going to hope that he has one more year of hitting more homers and stealing more bases than it seems like he should in him. Meanwhile, I was thrilled to get Adames at pick #159 in a mid-December draft, but get the feeling he may be on the rise in the eyes of drafters — just one data point, but in my last draft he went at #116, a full 20 spots ahead of his ADP.
Gleyber Torres (#153). I’ve never been leading the bandwagon here, but already own a share for 2022. Am I getting my hopes up that we’ll see anything close to 2019? Big No. But I feel like everyone is so focused on his (albeit noteworthy) power outage, that some are forgetting to consider what he could/might do, rather than what he did do, and realizing that he could still be valuable at this cost. For what it’s worth, Steamer projections are incredibly optimistic on Gleyber (23 HR/14 SB).
Luis Urias (#162), Amed Rosario (also #162!?) Had both of these guys targeted and thought I’d have at least a share or two of each by now. Instead, zero on both fronts. They’ve both been drafted higher than I expected based on ADP, and while I love them both at #162, I haven’t been willing to reach much earlier for either. I suspect they are both getting more sleeper hype out there in the (gasp!) fantasy universe outside of Razzball than I realized, so I may have to revisit my initial thoughts on both to decide whether they are worth moving up on my draft sheet. I am super attracted to Urias’ 2B/SS/3B triple eligibility, but given that even if he has a breakout season it likely won’t involve more than 5 or 6 steals, I’m hesitant to entrust him with starting at short for me in a 15-team league. I feel like I will grab Rosario at some point before draft season is over, even if it’s a round or two earlier than I’d hoped, but I know in my head that it should be as a MI rather than as my starting shortstop. I’m optimistically envisioning a 15/15 season with a sneakily helpful .275-.280 average.
Nicky Lopez (#227). Here’s one of the problems with passing on a premier shortstop early: you can’t forget to actually draft a halfway decent one later one. This proved to be harder than I thought it’d be for me, given that, during the rounds where I knew I should finally be pulling the SS trigger, there were lots of other things to distract me, most notably intriguing starting pitchers and potential closer bargains. This is how I ended up with Lopez as my starting shortstop in one league. (Hangs head and removes ‘fantasy analyst’ cap dejectedly). I believe Grey even referenced how ridiculous it would be to put yourself in the position of waiting this long at short and ending up with Lopez starting for your team in his Top 20 Shortstops post. Lopez had a strong second half last year (including an absolutely ridiculous August: .317 AVG/.366 OBP, with 10 steals), and he definitely has some sleeper buzz and appeal going into 2022. In the most aggressive Lopez ranking I’ve seen, Justin Mason over at Rotographs has him at shortstop #19, ahead of the likes of Dansby, Luis Urias, and Gleyber. This seems particularly curious given the fact that Steamer and THE BAT both hate Nicky in terms of projections, giving him a low average and 13 or 14 steals on the year. At any rate, I love him as a late middle infield (or AL-only) option and, but am indeed feeling a bit queasy about counting on him as a mixed-league starter.
With the ridiculous myriad of choices at all price points this year (in one of my drafts, there was at least one SS taken in each of the first 11 rounds!), this post could have gone on forever (and yes, I know that it already feels like it has after that novel on Nicky Lopez, of all people). If you have anyone that you think is particularly overdrafted, underdrafted, or is generally worth discussing, feel free to drop a thought in the notes!