Scanning the menu of six-spot fantasy options in the junior circuit.
Once one of the weakest positions on the fantasy diamond, shortstop is becoming a viable place to spend your fantasy dollars in the American League. The 10 best AL shortstops in 2016 earned $224, which was $30 higher than in 2015 and $34 higher than in 2014. The earning potential at short looks even better in 2017, with a new class of young studs poised to redefine the position for years to come.
Based on position eligibility entering 2016, two of the Top 10 AL shortstops in 2016 are now in the National League while a third shortstop remains in the league but loses eligibility. Ian Desmond was the only shortstop-eligible player in the AL to earn $30 or more, but he’ll spend 2017 manning first base for the Colorado Rockies. Eduardo Nunez was an afterthought in AL-only auctions last year but still managed to earn $23 before being shipped to the Giants in late July. Jose Ramirez started 2016 with shortstop/second base eligibility. He ended it as a third baseman/outfielder, earning $29 on his way to a World Series appearance for Cleveland.
A primer on how the Player Forecast Manager and PECOTA projections can guide you before, during, and after drafts and auctions this spring.
Before the Auction
The advice below is designed primarily for mono league, auction formats. However, the same principles apply for mixed league formats as well.
For fantasy players, the unveiling of PECOTA means the simultaneous unveiling of the PFM, our Player Forecast Manager. One of the most versatile valuation tools in the industry, the PFM allows you to customize valuation based on your league’s format. This is particularly useful if you are not playing in a “standard” 5x5 Roto format, as most “expert” commentary (including mine) focuses almost entirely on 5x5, Rotisserie valuations.
Scanning the menu of hot-corner fantasy options in the junior circuit.
Entering 2017, the relative strength or weakness of third base in the AL depends on whether Manny Machado is used as a shortstop or as a third baseman. Including Machado, third base was the second-best position in the infield in 2016. If you exclude Machado, third base was the second worst position behind catcher. In 2016, Josh Donaldson and Jose Ramirez led third basemen in earnings at $29 apiece. Of the duo, Donaldson is more likely to maintain his value this year. Donaldson dropped from $37 in AL-only in 2015 but his real-life value is consistent. He is one of five players who has produced a TAv of .305 or higher every year since 2013; the other four are Mike Trout, Freddie Freeman, Paul Goldschmidt, and Miguel Cabrera. No matter what Donaldson’s fantasy stats look like, you’re locking yourself into a great player who will likely produce near $30 of stats at a minimum.
The battle for second best fantasy third baseman in the AL in 2017 is likely to be a three-way tussle among Evan Longoria, Kyle Seager, and Todd Frazier. After years of being overpriced, Longoria was finally a slight bargain, earning $22 to his average $18 salary in the expert mono leagues. Longoria’s ceiling is limited because of his lack of contributions in stolen bases and batting average. Despite offering vastly different earning profiles, Seager and Frazier are both likely to cost in the mid-$20s in AL-only. Frazier’s 40 home runs and 15 steals would have had his fantasy managers salivating if not for the terrible batting average. Seager is an amazing player in real life (his WARP was second best among AL hitters behind Mike Trout) but like Longoria is limited in fantasy because of the lack of steals and AVG.
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Scanning the menu of keystone options in the junior circuit.
In 2016, 23 hitters earned $25 or more in AL-only leagues, according to my 2016 valuations. Eight of those hitters were second basemen, and there were more $25+ earners at second than there were at any other position.
Table 1: 2016 10 Best Hitters by Position, AL-only
An overview of the fantasy options at this position in the junior circuit.
For some, $30 in fantasy earnings is the rarified air that makes a player elite. By this admittedly arbitrary standard, first base in the AL is not the place to shop if you are looking for an elite player. Miguel Cabrera ($30) was the only first baseman who reached this threshold in 2016. Edwin Encarnacion finished second at $26. Chris Davis exemplifies the challenge power hitters face in fantasy. His 38 home runs, 99 runs, and 84 RBI were worth $21, but his one steal and .221 batting average pushed him all the way back to $15. Cabrera and Jose Abreu were the only Top 10 AL first basemen to hit higher than .269 and provide more than one dollar of earnings from AVG, while no AL first baseman stole more than nine bases. It is difficult for three category players to earn more than $30, particularly if one of those categories isn’t stolen bases.
The expert market treaded conservatively at the position, with only one relative shot-in-the-dark based on prior performance. Table One lists the 10 most expensive AL first basemen in 2016, based on their average salaries in the CBS, LABR, and Tout Wars AL-only leagues. Position eligibility in Table One is based on each player’s status at the beginning of last season.