Shortstop is a position that has had the same two at the top for the last few years, Troy Tulowitzki and Hanley Ramirez.
You have had Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins mixed in there, and now Ian Desmond, but Tulo and HanRam have been consistently drafted high every year since they entered the league.
Now you can debate all you want if they should be drafted that high this year, considering their injury history, but that is not why we are here.
At some point the players mentioned above were what we consider “breakout shortstops.” What is a breakout exactly?
Well, I define it as somebody who is being drafted no higher than in the middle rounds this season, but will be a top-round pick the next season.
It is hard to find these players at this position, because players like Tulo and HanRam don’t come along very often. You might find some guys with good talent, but to find the elite of the elite, in all of Fantasy Baseball at shortstop is a lot less likely to happen than a lot of the other positions. This is due to their skill set.
Shortstop is a defensive position mainly, so most that play there are not power hitters, meaning unless they steal 50-plus bases, they are not going to be very valuable for your Fantasy team.
3 Fantasy Baseball Breakout Shortstops
After the first few shortstops this year, it is a popular opinion that they are generally all the same and you can wait. Well you can, but when you do, I would grab one of the three breakout shortstops mentioned below and reap the benefits.
Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs
I really like Baez to turn into one of the best power hitting shortstops in a long time. He definitely has the power, as proven by his amazing minor league power stats, 80 home runs in 333 games. He even showed some of that last year after being called up blasting nine home runs in 52 games.
Baez has some speed as well, stealing a total of 65 bases in his minor league career. I expect that to diminish throughout his early career, as we do with a lot of power hitters in baseball.
In order to break through to become one of the elite, he absolutely needs have better plate discipline. Hit strikeout rate increased at every level in the minors and peaked at a ridiculously bad 41.5% last season in 52 games with the Cubs. That and a 6.6% walk rate, led to a horrific .169 batting average.
Maybe I’m a year early here, but if the young phenom can get his batting average to even .250, I expect him to hit 30+ home runs easy. I think he gets a least close to that average this season, which propels him directly to the top of the food chain in 2016 as the arrow pointing up mixed with the potential will be too much for owners to pass up.
Jung Ho Kang, Pittsburgh Pirates
Kang is unknown to most baseball fans, but he definitely should not be. If you are not aware, he belted 40 home runs, while slashing .356/.459/.739 and hitting 117 RBI in 117 games last season in Korea. Yes, this does not mean he will do the same here, in fact I would bet you any sum of money with plenty of odds in your favor that he never repeats those stats here. However, if the scouting reports that I read are true, and at this point that is really all we have to go on, then this guy is for real.
The only thing that is going to hold him back this season, will be for him to prove to manager Clint Hurdle that he can be an every day player. Unless he has an amazing spring, and he already is having a good start hitting .333 and a home run in his first week, he will open the season as a utility player for the Pirates. Even if he does do well this spring, Hurdle might choose to bring him along slowly. Want more proof that he is going to be a utility player, read this quote from Clint Hurdle tweeted out by Pirates beat reporter Bill Brink.
“He said he was comfortable and ready to go over there.” ~ Hurdle on Kang at third base.
— Bill Brink (@BrinkPG) March 9, 2015
This is holding down his draft value a ton, as he is going on average 270th. I’d grab him late, as a second shortstop, and hold onto him knowing eventually he will get his chance to overtake incumbent starter Jordy Mercer. When he does he should prove that he is one of the best and propel himself to the top of the draft boards in 2016.
Chris Owings, Arizona Diamondbacks
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A much different player than the two listed above, being more of a power/speed combo player rather than a pure power hitter, but he is not getting drafted in most leagues, 330th on average and that is a mistake. I guess it is to be expected since he struggled some last year splitting time with Didi Gregorious, and was easily forgotten about. He still was not bad though, hitting .261 with six home runs and stealing eight bases in 332 at bats. It does not project to be that great over the course of a full season, but his minor league numbers in 2013 were something worth noting. He hit .330, hit 12 home runs, scored 104 times and stole 20 bases. All of that in just 125 games.
His power nor his speed will be elite by itself, but both should improve and now that Gregorius is out of the picture in Arizona, an 18/25 season with a near .285 average is not out of the realm of possibilities for Owings. Those are nearing Ian Desmond type numbers from 2014 (actually a better average) and look where that is getting him drafted this season, 29th overall.
Javier Baez Photo Credit: Tyrone Mitchell
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