Previous articles in this series:
There are a lot of bad fantasy shortstops. Here are five of them.
Elvis Andrus, Rangers
At the premium positions, there are always going to be players whose real-life value outweighs their fantasy value. Elvis Andrus fits this bill perfectly. The 26-year-old is one of the premier defensive shortstops in the game, which gives him a reputation that will oversell his fantasy value in some circles. According to early ADP data, he’s being taken somewhere around the 10th round in 12-team drafts. While he will provide some value—mostly in stolen bases—there are better ways to approach the shortstop position.
Offensively, Andrus has been trending in the wrong direction almost across the board. After batting .286 in 2012, his AVG fell to .271 the following season, and then again to .263 last year. Some of it was due to his lowest BABIP since his rookie year, but it’s not that simple. For one thing, it still stood at .305, which is only nine points lower than his career mark. He’s also watched his strikeout rate rise in each of the last three seasons, while his walk-rate has been falling since 2011. He’s also been watching his power drop, with his average fly-ball distance decreasing the last three years. In 2014, his average distance ranked 297th among the 298 players who qualified. While his 27 stolen bases were the 4th most among shortstops, it was a steep drop from the 42 he swiped in 2013. He also did so less efficiently than ever, finishing the year with a career-worst 64 percent stolen-base success rate. When you put it all together, you have a player with at least a three-year downward trajectory in multiple areas of the game.
Instead of waiting an extra round or two, you can address your shortstop position by grabbing Starlin Castro, who should produce significantly more value. You could also wait a while longer, where some intriguing names will be waiting. If you’re a fan of taking chances on youth, Xander Bogaerts has a good chance at a bounce-back year. If you’d rather have more of a sure thing, Jimmy Rollins has been one of the steadiest performers for years. If you want stolen bases from your shorstop, Alcides Escobar is being taken 40 slots after Andrus right now, and will steal a similar number of bases while also having a chance at putting up a similar overall stat line. Andrus is a solid player to take closer to the middle or end of the draft, but based on where he’s going now, you’re better off going in a different direction at shortstop. —Matt Collins
Chris Owings, Diamondbacks
Introductory disclaimer: I like Owings quite a bit as a long-term fantasy asset. Bret Sayre pegged him as a top-15 option in dynasty formats yesterday, and I wholeheartedly agree. But a couple things form an unholy alliance to work against him as a young hitter worthy of 2015 investment: His recovery from October shoulder surgery and his highly aggressive approach.
After a strong start to his rookie campaign in which he hit .277/.313/.458 through his first 238 plate appearances last season it looked like Owings was well on his way to the kind of smooth big league transition scouts had become optimistic about. Last winter, after all, Owings received 6+ potential hit and 5 potential power grades from Jason Parks (RIP). But a strained labrum knocked him out of action for the next two months, and when he returned briefly in September he looked like a shell of himself at the dish. The unsuccessful cameo at season’s end preluded surgery on his left labrum, and there are already rumblings that his Spring Training debut will be delayed as a rehabs.
It’s not an injury to take lightly if you’re banking on a player to produce in the power department, and Owings’ 15-20-home-run potential is one of his main draws as a draft day target. Front shoulder injuries limit extension, eating into a hitter’s ability to turn and drive through the point of contact with authority. The potential for a slower return of his power stroke should be factored into draft day pricing.
Beyond the shoulder issue, it’s also fair to question just how much of his power is ready to play over the course of a full season. As I noted in this week’s Adjuster Owings is an extremely aggressive hitter, as his 3.7 percent career minor-league walk rate in over 2,200 plate appearances can attest. Major-league pitchers adapt quickly, and right-handers were dramatically ramping up their breaking ball usage before he went down last summer.
Between the health concerns and my general skittishness towards an aggressive hitters in his second run through big league pitching Owings is a guy I’ll be approaching with caution on draft day. If he does indeed flounder out of the gate he may very well end up on the other end of the spectrum as an intriguing candidate to target for a mid-season buy-low. But for the time being he’s a “wait and see,” and not someone I’m comfortable paying for at his current ADP of 245. —Wilson Karaman
Danny Santana, Twins
I was prepared to crank up the indignation machine on behalf of Javier Baez’s ridiculous ADP when a few slots below his name I noticed Danny Santana. While Baez is a significant over-reach this year, particularly for re-draft leagues, I can understand why fantasy teams might try for him in the hopes of a 25-home-run/15-steal season. The fascination with Santana based on his profile is an utter mystery.
Santana had an excellent season in 2014, but it came from virtually out of nowhere (he wasn’t regarded as a top prospect in any serious circles) and was driven by an absurd .405 BABIP. Santana is only the fourth player since 1978 to put up a .400 BABIP or greater in 400 or more plate appearances (the others were Manny Ramirez, Joey Votto, and the immortal Jose Hernandez). Even if Santana manages to put up something on the order of a 350 BABIP in 2015, this would shave four dollars off of his mono-league value (assuming that he didn’t lose any RBI or stolen bases as a result).
The more significant problem with Santana as an end of the eighth/beginning of the ninth round pick in 15-team leagues is that he is being taken ahead of some proven (albeit non-exciting) commodities with the same statistical profile. Santana is the eighth highest shortstop being taken right now in NFBC drafts. On average, he is behind drafted ahead of Elvis Andrus, Jean Segura, Ben Zobrist, Jimmy Rollins, Alcides Escobar, and Jhonny Peralta. Even if you believe that players like Andrus and Segura have plateaued and their 2014 was the new normal, it still doesn’t make sense that everyone is pushing all their chips in on Santana like his out-of-nowhere campaign is going to lead to a 15 home run, 30 steal season. It’s more likely that even if Santana does hold onto he job that he is going to hit .270 with five home runs and 20-25 steals. There is still some value in this projection, but chasing Santana like he will reproduce a prorated version of 2014 is folly. —Mike Gianella
Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta Braves
The critical reader may scold me for advocating that fantasy owners avoid a shortstop currently being drafted 17th overall at the position; however, it’s imperative that people value Andrelton Simmons properly. He’s only 25 years old, made the jump from Double-A to the big leagues, and is a wizard with the leather at short. He’ll get drafted in most leagues. Simmons is also a career .252 hitter with an on-base percentage under .300—not to mention he actually got markedly worse last year. The name recognition is there, but the .244/.286/.331 slash line with only seven homers is also there. The Braves signed him to a $58 million extension and his playing time is guaranteed. He also was the 22nd-ranked fantasy shortstop in 2014.
Simmons was a ground-ball machine, which stunted his batting average and his power production. A guy with no power and low run totals must steal bases to be valuable in any sense. Simmons only stole four bases. He only stole six the year before. Thus, to entertain drafting Simmons in most mixed leagues, owners would have to believe the power from 2013 is bound to return or his batting average is somehow misleading when it comes to future performance. I’m not sure there’s a strong argument for either at the moment. His walk rate declined, his strikeout rate increased, his ground-ball rate increased, his ISO decreased, and his swinging-strike rate increased.
Anyone drafting Simmons assumes that he’ll naturally improve as he ages, which isn’t really a defensible argument unless the tools have flashed in the past. They didn’t in 2014 and they rarely did in 2013. He’s brilliant defensively and will receive ample opportunity to figure it out at the plate. I plan on letting someone else gamble on that low-upside return that features plenty of risk. —J.P. Breen
Ben Zobrist, Athletics
I'm not about to predict a great decline from Zobrist now that he's in Oakland, because the reality is his park and lineup sucked in Tampa Bay, too. This is a prediction that Zobrist gets overdrafted because his real life value outstrips his fantasy value, as it has the last couple years. When he hit for power (20-plus homers in three out of four seasons from 2009-2012), he was undervalued, but with that power settling in towards the lower double digits, he's being overvalued. He's a useful guy who can slot in anywhere and not hurt you, grabbing 10 homers, 10 steals, and batting .270, but the reality is that you can find that guy elsewhere (like Erick Aybar).
While this is an "avoid" piece, this isn't an all out affront against Zobrist. He's extremely useful, but the likelihood is that you'll have to overpay to get him relative to other guys who can approximate, if not replicate his value. If you look at our tiers article, he is reasonably grouped in the three-star category thanks to his reliability and across-the-board production. If you look at the guys surrounding him however, there are several that are ranked below him (i.e. Jimmy Rollins) who can easily be expected to provide more bang for your buck, especially if you're not focused on batting average. —Craig Goldstein