It is time to round out the infield with the Sleepers and Busts at the shortstop position. With the Winter Meetings now over, the dominoes have started to fall. In terms of free agency, the top starting pitchers have landed spots, while most of the impact hitters have yet to sign. We have also seen a fair number of trades, many involving players with significant Fantasy implications. Quick summary so far: The Diamondbacks are all-in and the Mariners seem to have been involved in every other transaction.
In previous weeks, the So-Called Fantasy Experts have ranked catchers, first basemen, second basemen, and third basemen. The position that we ranked this week, shortstop, has been relatively unscathed from the offseason transactions, but things can obviously change in a hurry.
Youth will be served at shortstop in 2016. Four of the top seven ranked shortstops will be aged 23 or younger when Spring Training opens up next year.
There was decent consensus on the first couple tiers, but after that the deviation in the rankings was quite drastic. The drop-off in expected production is quite steep and the mediocre talent was ranked differently depending on the value that is placed for speed, power, batting average, or some combination of all of them.
The position overall is not brimming with early round talent, but as always, there are numerous overvalued and undervalued opportunities. Make sure you are on the right side of the ledger and this week’s article should help you achieve that. Previously, we have discussed sleepers and busts at first base, second base, and third base. Now, let’s unveil the 2016 shortstop sleepers and busts.
2016 Shortstop Preview: Sleepers and Busts
Ketel Marte, Seattle Mariners
Ketel Marte impressed during his two month stint as the everyday shortstop and leadoff hitter for the Mariners. He wrestled the shortstop gig away from Brad Miller in early August and never looked back. Now, with Miller in Tampa, Marte has the starting position locked up. With all the new additions and the revamped lineup, it is not clear where Marte will hit in the order. That being said, his strengths appear to his speed and ability to make contact. Given what we have seen from the 22-year old in both the minors and his rookie campaign in the majors, a .300 average along with 25 steals is not out of the question. Despite the lack of power and run production, those numbers will still play quite well given the dearth of elite hitting talent throughout the shortstop position. Don’t be sleeping on the speedster from Seattle too long, as he has a great shot to outperform his draft position.
Chris Owings, Arizona Diamondbacks
Chris Owings had a disappointing 2015 season, especially when you consider what he accomplished in just over half a season the year prior. He still seems to posses the power/speed combination that stands out well amongst middle infielders. He should carry both second base and shortstop eligibility heading into 2016. Owings had an impressive batted ball profile last year, ranking second amongst all qualified middle infielders with respect to line drive rate and ranking 11th in terms of hard hit rate. His main issue last year was his plate discipline, he can’t maintain a strikeout rate north of 26-percent and expect to be in the lineup everyday. There is hope as he sustained a strikeout rate closer to 20-percent over his last two years in the minors and during his inaugural season with the Diamondbacks. Owings will be picked very late in drafts, if at all, and remember he hits in a solid lineup and he plays half of his games in a great hitters park. If you sleep on this Snake you will regret it.
Brad Miller, Tampa Bay Rays
After his trade out of Seattle, Brad Miller will now ply his coveted power/speed abilities at the Trop as the Rays everyday shortstop. Miller never quite got a full season’s worth of plate appearances in any of his three years in Seattle. Last year, he came close with just under 500 plate appearances and rewarded them with 11 home runs and 13 stolen bases, along with an workable batting average of .258. With a full year of being the undisputed starter, Miller has a great shot of having a 15/15 season, something no shortstop accomplished in 2015. If everything falls into place in 2016, Miller very well could be knocking on the door of the Top 10 at the shortstop position, which is nowhere near where he will be drafted. Sleeping on Brad Miller means sleeping on upside. His name sounds boring, but his Fantasy production will provide nothing but excitement.
Jose Reyes, Colorado Rockies
Last year, Reyes had a down season, especially when you look at his batted ball profile. He had his second lowest hard hit rate of his career in addition to his highest soft hit rate. On the bright side, he now gets to play half of his games at Coors, but the upgrade isn’t that material considering he played his home games at Rogers Centre over the past two and half years. A full compliment of games is never a safe bet for the oft injured Reyes, further decreasing his expected value. Also, this year he will have to contend with an MLB investigation into his off the field activities, with the result likely being in the balance for a while. Given his age and production decline over the past few years, there is a decent chance that Reyes posts a stat line closer to the other shortstops that have speed combined with a touch of power. Players such as Jean Segura, Alcides Escobar, and even Ketel Marte will all go multiple rounds after Reyes and have essentially the same stats. Just say no to the aging Rockie as the risks clearly outweigh the reward, especially at his expected draft ranking.
Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers
Elvis Andrus always seems to be overrated to me. He doesn’t really do anything that stands out and his production seems to be in decline. Between 2010 and 2013, Andrus averaged 90 runs, 33 stolen bases, and a .275 batting average. While over the past two seasons, he has averaged 70 runs, 26 stolen bases, and a .260 batting average. Last year, he seemed to slightly change his approach at the plate. His career high of seven home runs was accompanied by a career high in both fly ball rate and pull rate. I do not see this as a positive development for the slap hitting Andrus. On a positive note, his strongpoint appears to be his durability as he has played at least 145 games every year since he broke in with the Rangers in 2009. Similar to Jose Reyes, I think you can get nearly identical production from a number of players much later in your draft. Be patient and let this Ranger pass you by.
Outside of the top few hitters, shortstop is not the position that will carry your Fantasy team. Many owners will use the shortstop slot to fill out a team need, with speed being the likely target. As always, do not fall for name value and make sure you seek out the best return focusing on the statistics and not the name on the back of the jersey. Be sure to check back next week when we look at sleepers and busts in the outfield.
Data courtesy of www.fangraphs.com
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