Jeremy Maw – March 18, 2021
Welcome to the shortstop breakdown. Similar to last year, this is an absolutely loaded position. There are currently 12 players ranked inside the top 100. In a standard, 5×5, 12 team league, you can feel confident about getting a very good player.
Even after the top 12, there are guys like Carlos Correa, Didi Gregorius, Dansby Swanson, Paul DeJong, and Wander Franco who can all be targeted late in drafts at extreme value. There are certain situations where drafting three or more shortstops could make sense, where you may need to fill a middle infield position and/or utility.
To stay consistent with the Fantasy Baseball Draft Targets – First base and Fantasy Baseball Draft Targets – Second Base, we will use the NFBC ADP as a measuring tool. In addition, the stats projected are from Derek Carty’s THE BAT model, which are displayed on Fangraphs.com. Let’s dive into it.
Fernando Tatis Jr. (SDP) – ADP 2
Trea Turner (WSH) – ADP 7
Trevor Story (COL) – ADP 12
If you are lucky enough to select second in your MLB draft, this is a no-brainer. Assuming Ronald Acuna is selected first overall, Fernando Tatis Jr. is the perfect pillar to start building a fantasy team around. This 22-year-old silenced any critics calling for a sophomore slump last season, continuing his highlight-reel career for the Padres. He is as entertaining as talented and although his actions are not welcomed by all, he brings a different level of swagger to a traditionally slow and boring sport (not my words).
Let’s get into his stats. Last season, Tatis proved his fantasy value by exceling at multiple categories. With 17 homeruns and 11 stolen bases in just 59 games, there is room for a potential 30-30 season in 2021. The electrifying shortstop made strides from his rookie campaign by reducing his K% from 29.6 to 23.7. In addition, the BB rate increased from 8.1% to 10.5%. Another category which saw improvement, was his batted ball rate. Soft contact dropped from 21.1% to just 7.9%. Meanwhile, the hard contact rate jumped 41.9% to 54.9%.
This is an elite tier. Tatis is the obvious choice. Trea Turner and Trevor Story are no slouches either though. While Turner does not poses the power the other two hold, the stolen base category should not need to be addressed the rest of the draft. Trevor Story takes a bit of a hit after losing Nolan Arenado. However, he is still a threat for 30 HR’s, 100 RBI’s, 25 SB, and a respectable average around the .280 mark. After all, he still plays at Coors Field and is a large trading chip for the Rockies later in the season.
Francisco Lindor – ADP 18
Adalberto Mondesi – ADP 24
Bo Bichette – ADP 25
Xander Bogaerts – ADP 34
Corey Seager – ADP 35
Tim Anderson – ADP 44
Gleyber Torres – ADP 66
Javier Baez – ADP 73
If you do not get the opportunity to snag one of the top tiered shortstops, do not fear. There are plenty to choose from in the third to sixth rounds of fantasy drafts. In this group, Tim Anderson is a great option. He is actually getting a lot of negative outlook from fantasy sites this year. Being labelled as a player to “avoid in drafts” along with a major reduction in projection models.
Building in regression from a .322 average is expected. The BB% is a concern. However, given Tim Anderson has produced at an elite level over the past two years, while the Chicago White Sox have also been turning the corner as one of the best young teams in the league, is not a coincidence. Numbers from 2016-2018 can be thrown out the window because this is an entirely different lineup. Hitting leadoff, the shortstop should have no issue approaching 90 runs and at least 20 stolen bases. The power is not massive, but he will hit at least 20 bombs. The last category to discuss is what we can project for a batting average. I am a glass half-full kind of guy. As long as the BABIP can stay high (above .370), there is no reason to indicate an average less than .300. Similar to Tatis, Anderson has all the confidence needed to go out and preform each at bat.
Dansby Swanson – ADP 109
Carlos Correa – ADP 121
Marcus Semien – ADP 127
Didi Gregorius – ADP 160
It’s about time we talk about a Blue Jay! One of the busiest teams during the offseason, Toronto has bolstered their lineup and surrounded the young talent with savvy veterans. Considering the hype around Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette, signing Marcus Semien was a bit of a surprise. That being said, the 30-year-old infielder is slated to hit at the top of a loaded lineup. What is more intriguing is the shift from one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in Oakland to a favourable stadium for hitters. Not only is Toronto a great place for sluggers, but the entire AL East will prove to be beneficial for offensive statistics.
As you can tell from the below images, on the left, Oakland Ring Central Coliseum has one of the largest foul ball territory, in the league. This leads to a lot of pop-ups ending up as “outs” instead of going into the bleachers. On the right, Toronto is highlighted as a much more narrow foul territory. In addition, a dome, which helps the ball carry when closed.
Semien is coming off a pretty forgettable season. Batting an ugly .223 average with seven homeruns, 28 RBI’s, and four stolen bases. Not exactly MVP caliber numbers like 2019 (third in AL MVP voting). Given COVID and a bizarre year for everyone, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and erase 2020 completely – I’ve done that for myself. As mentioned, 2019 was very good. At a 127 ADP, Semien hitting anything close to 33 HR, 123 RBI’s, 10 SB, and a .285 average would result in the steal of the draft. Hitting behind, or in front, of guys like; George Springer, Bo Bichette, Vlad Gurrero and Teoscar Hernandez, with the park upgrade, and factoring in his personality of willingness to always be better, lock Semien in with confidence ahead of 2021.
Even Lower Tier
Chris Taylor (LAD) – ADP 233
Paul DeJong (StL) – ADP 234
Wander Franco (TB) – ADP 320
Miguel Rojas (MIA) – ADP 503
An extra tier – only because I really, really want to talk about Wander Franco. Every year, the MLB world becomes infatuated with a young, generational talent coming up to the big leagues. Any and every reputable top prospects list has Franco listed at No. 1 with a bullet. What is really unfortunate, is he happens to play for the most boring team in the league. Not only that, but we all know what the Rays are going to do here. Wait a year or two and trade him for parts. I digress. Wander Franco is set to make his MLB debut this season and is already being projected for a conservative .288/.348/.447 slash line.
“Franco became the first 80 FV prospect of the Future Value era at FanGraphs, the best prospect on the planet, and the best I’ve evaluated during my tenure here at the site.”Eric Longenhagen
Of course, drafting a rookie always carries some risk. Especially one who has not faced big-league pitching and had minor injury concerns recently. However, at his current ADP, the risk is completely mitigated by the immense upside. Simply put, out of any player to ever “take a shot on” in the later rounds of a draft, Franco should be considered at the top of the list. He is a switch-hitter who should have no issue transitioning to the MLB and is the odds on early favorite for rookie of the year.
My oh my. If there is one position to not worry about come draft season, this is it. Throughout the entirety of the draft, feel confident knowing you will grab a solid player. It appears quite straight forward in the first couple of rounds. After that, draft around your team needs. Similar to the discussion around second base. There are players to target who have power, speed, and/or average.
In addition, do not be too scared to take a shot on guys who are coming off rough seasons. 2020 was a pretty unique year. Consider that when you look at guys like Javier Baez, Carlos Correa, and Marcus Semien. We have seen these guys absolute tear the cover off the ball and they will shoot your team up the standings based on draft value.
Finally, draft Wander Franco. The kid is 19 years old. Depending on how dialed in your league is, you will want to be on him sooner rather than later. If he does not pan out for fantasy purposes, the lost draft equity will not hurt your roster, whatsoever.