Shortstop probably isn’t the first position you think about when you start planning your draft strategy. It might not be the premier position, but it’s deeper and more talented than it has been in some time. You can absolutely find solid production at short. In this week’s Adjuster, we’ll look at players you should specifically target (or avoid) in OBP or points leagues.
As a group, shortstops hit .262/.319/.407 in 2016. The position brings the potential for more power than it has in the past few seasons. Unfortunately, if you play in an OBP format the potential for additional value is sparse. Only four of the 30 players in our tiered rankings added value by moving to an OBP format. The three “big” earners are listed below. Outside of those individuals, you’re basically trying to lose as little value as possible.
Carlos Correa, HOU – No shortstop added more value last season by moving to an OBP format than Correa. He’s only 22, and he’s already bumped his walk rate above 10 percent (11.4). His minor-league track record suggests this rate should stick. Correa’s BABIP might come down from .328, but his approach gives him a good chance to repeat a top five performance in OBP at the position. He might have failed to live up to unrealistic expectations last season, but drafting him in this format mitigates some risk in at least one category. Standard: Five Stars, OBP: High-Five Stars
Jonathan Villar, MIL – Villar was the most valuable shortstop in fantasy last season. In OBP leagues, he was worth even more. His 11.8 percent walk rate was the highest of his career, but it’s not too out of place with what he did in the minors. Some owners might be nervous about his .373 BABIP, but in limited playing time in 2013 and 2015 he kept it at .360 or above. Another factor that should keep his OBP up is that he led the position in pitches per plate appearance (4.17). The approach is solid, and his OBP should be as well in 2017. Standard: Low-Five Stars, OBP: Five Stars
Addison Russell, CHN – Owners who draft Russell know they’re likely going to be saddled with a low batting average. Thankfully, you play in an OBP league so the risk is diminished. His OBP in 2016 was right around league average for the position, which is more than can be said for his batting average. His 9.2 percent walk rate should help keep his OBP up, and he also got hit by the second most pitches (12) among shortstops. The deficiencies in his game are evident, but they’re easier to deal with in this format. Standard: Three Stars, OBP: Low-Four Stars
Others: Trevor Story was the only other shortstop who provided additional value in OBP leagues (it was minimal). There’s a lot of swing and miss in his game, but his walk rate is solid. Troy Tulowitzki’s batting average tumbled in 2016. His OBP declined as well, as his walk rate hovered just under 8 percent. You’re not going to get added value from him in OBP formats, but he won’t cost you a significant amount of value. Aledmys Diaz finished top three in OBP among all shortstops with at least 100 PA. The only reason he didn’t return more significant value is because he also had the sixth best batting average at the position.
Jean Segura, SEA – Segura was the second most valuable shortstop in fantasy baseball last season, but he gave just over three dollars of value back in OBP leagues. This might seem surprising, since he was near the top of the leaderboard in OBP at the position (.368). His average was so high (.319) it suppressed any added value, and his 5.6 percent walk rate should give owners pause that he can repeat those on base achievements. It’s also a pretty safe bet that he’ll see a decline in BABIP in 2017. Standard: Four Stars, OBP: Low-Four Stars
Tim Anderson, CHA – Anderson’s speed is an attractive asset in the current fantasy climate. If you draft him in an OBP league, just know you’re taking on some additional risk when compared to standard league owners. He has a solid track record of hitting for a nice average, but beyond that his on base skills are suspect. There’s a lot of swing and miss in his game, and he’s never shown the ability to draw many walks. Standard: Three Stars, OBP: Two Stars
Alcides Escobar, KCR – A player who becomes known for swinging at the first pitch probably doesn’t have a great approach for OBP formats. Escobar saw the second fewest pitches per plate appearance among shortstops in 2016. He’s finished with an OBP under .300 in three of the last four seasons, and his walk rate has been under 6.0 percent for six straight years. That’s not a recipe for success in this category. Standard: Two Stars, OBP: High-One Star
Didi Gregorius, NYY – Gregorius was the only shortstop to see fewer pitches per plate appearance than Escobar last year. You would think Gregorius’ solid whiff rate would prop up his OBP, but it hasn’t translated into success by this measure. A major issue is his 3.2 percent walk rate. He’s shown the ability to have a solid batting average, but that’s the extent of his on base skills. Standard: Two Stars, OBP: One Star
Others: Last season Freddy Galvis produced a 4.0 percent walk rate and a strikeout rate over 20 percent. He’s never had an OBP higher than .302, which means you should probably look at other options in his tier. There are plenty of questions regarding Eduardo Nunez’s ability to repeat his performance from last year. He’s racked up a batting average above .280 in back-to-back seasons. Given his approach, this makes Nunez unlikely to give you additional value with a format change. Chris Owings is going on three straight seasons with a walk rate under 5.0 percent.
Shortstop is an interesting position from a points league standpoint. You’re not going to get the positive contributions you’ll find at other positions. However, they did earn the second-best strikeout rate for any position in 2016 (trailing only second basemen). A few players could be counting stats monsters, but in most cases the name of the game is retaining as much value as possible.
Francisco Lindor, CLE – There’s a lot to love about Lindor from a fantasy perspective. That love extends to his 12.9 percent whiff rate if you play in a points league. He’s in a good lineup, and he’ll provide solid counting stats in most categories. He’s a safe bet to retain more of his value than any other player in the top two tiers, and his 30 doubles were good enough for a top-10 finish at the position. Standard: Five Stars, Points: High-Five Stars
Jean Segura, SEA – Any owner would have been happy to have Segura last season. This is especially true of points league owners. Segura smacked 20 home runs, and led all shortstops with 41 doubles. He accomplished all of that with a top-10 strikeout rate at the position (14.6 percent). Segura has the potential to be the best shortstop in this format, but it’s more than fair to want to see him produce like this again before making a big investment. Standard: Four Stars, Points: Five Stars
Asdrubal Cabrera, NYM – If Cabrera’s power holds, then he is a pretty safe play in this format. He’s carrying a 17.4 percent strikeout rate for his career, and he’s going on six straight seasons of double-digit home runs. Cabrera finished in the top 10 among shortstops by homers and doubles. Standard: Three Stars, Points: High-Three Stars
Aledmys Diaz, STL – Most owners are aware that Diaz’s production tapered off after a hot start. That fact, combined with concerns about his playing time, will cause some to cool on him prior to draft day. However, in points leagues he has a solid foundation. A 13 percent strikeout rate and double-digit extra base hit rate are always desirable. He might fail to post similar numbers, but he’s one of only a few shortstops to flash that kind of profile. Standard: Two Stars, Points: Low-Three Stars
Others: If you’re in a points league, you’re probably looking to accumulate points. Manny Machado will get you points. He led the position in homeruns, and finished second in doubles with 40. Elvis Andrus boasted the best strikeout rate among shortstops last season (12.3 percent). His extra base hit rate was a tick above Lindor, and Andrus finished the year with 31 doubles. If there’s one thing Didi Gregorius it good at it’s not striking out. Couple that with 20 home runs and 32 doubles, and you have a nice points league combination. If you need a late round pick in the one-star tier give Zack Cozart a look. He’s going to get regular playing time, and he’s going to post a better than average whiff rate.
Jonathan Villar, MIL – Villar did a lot of things right last season. However, that production came along with a 25.6 percent strikeout rate. If he repeats his production from a year ago, he’s still worth grabbing early. However, if those numbers come down, then the strikeouts could start to really drain on his value. Villar’s never had a whiff rate below 22.7 percent, so just be aware that you’re bringing some additional risk to your roster by selecting him. Standard: Five Stars, Points: Four Stars
Javier Baez, CHN – It’s not going to surprise anyone to hear that Baez swing and misses at a lot of pitches. On the plus side, he dropped his whiff rate to 24 percent in 2016. However, in this format, he just hasn’t posted the kind of counting stats needed to offset that negative value. Standard: Three Stars, Points: Two Stars
Tim Anderson, CHA – Anderson has struck out in bunches at every level he’s played at. That didn’t change when he hit the majors last season. Over 99 games he racked up a 27.1 percent whiff rate, which was the second worst rate among shortstops. The power is limited, although he could provide a solid supply of doubles and triples. All those strikeouts are going to hurt, and his counting stats production is limited. You can find better options at his tier. Standard: Three Stars, Points: Two Stars
Dansby Swanson, ATL – Swanson looks primed to become a regular big-leaguer starter in 2016, but you shouldn’t have the same expectations for him on your fantasy roster. Over 38 games in the majors he struck out 23.4 percent of the time. His minor-league track record suggests this number could come down, but it’s risky. The lineup isn’t going to do his counting stats any favors. Standard: Three Stars, Points: Two Stars
Others: Concerns about Addison Russell’s production extend to points leagues. He’s got a high strikeout rate for the position, and he doesn’t offer the same extra base hit potential as other shortstops with similar whiff rates. Trevor Story is a high-risk, high-reward play here. If he’s hitting 40+ home runs, then you’ll be doing alright. If that total drops too far, then his over 30 percent strikeout rate is going to be a problem. Jedd Gyorko did connect on 30 home runs in 2016. However, his extra base hit rate remained under 10 percent. This was partly due to the fact he only tallied nine doubles. If the home run total comes down, he loses a lot of his value.