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2016 In Review: Shortstop (SS) Breakouts

What Appears In This Article? hide

Our review of the 2016 fantasy baseball season continues with a look at some of the breakout performances at shortstop.

 

Breakout Shortstops in 2016

Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers

Seager was an obvious preseason candidate for the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2016. He’ll win that going away, of course. What most didn’t expect was that he’d put up an MVP-caliber campaign at the tender age of 22. After all, despite hitting .337/.425/.561 after a late-season callup in 2015, he’d been more good than great at Triple-A earlier that summer.

Seager has run a .360 BABIP in his 800 major-league plate appearances. That’s a high number, and for most hitters it would be unsustainable. Not this guy. Seager hits the ball hard, runs well, and – most importantly for a high BABIP – hardly ever pops up. That profile probably sounds familiar to some of you:

Player LD% GB% FB% IFFB% HR/FB% Pull% Cent% Oppo% Soft% Med% Hard%
Seager 24% 47% 29% 2% 18% 37% 36% 27% 13% 46% 41%
Joey Votto 26% 42% 33% 1% 19% 35% 34% 31% 12% 52% 37%

 

Obviously, we can’t ignore that Votto has produced the above numbers over the course of a decade, while Seager has just a year and change on his resume. Seager also can’t touch Votto as far as plate discipline goes. Then again, few can. The fact that it’s even a rough comparison is high praise, considering Seager’s age and positional value.

Seager’s ADP in 2016 was 65, fifth among shortstops. Next season, he’ll likely require a first-round pick.

Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies

Had he stayed healthy, Story might have seriously challenged Seager for top rookie honors. The 23 year old captured the hearts of fantasy owners with a 10-homer April and never looked back, hitting .272/.341/.567 with 27 bombs, 139 R+RBI, and eight stolen bases in just 97 games before tearing a ligament in his thumb.

Like many Rockies, Story had a pronounced home/road split. He posted a fantastic 1.086 OPS at home, and a much less impressive .747 elsewhere. Not terribly surprising, and not difficult to manage around if one is so inclined. More concerning for his outlook in 2017 and beyond is the 31.3% whiff rate. Only eight other batters with at least 400 plate appearances posted a strikeout rate of 30 percent or above. Their combined batting average: .226. Story runs well and hits the snot out of the ball when he makes contact, and playing half of his games at Coors certainly helps the ol’ BABIP. But some regression in batting average should probably be baked into his 2017 draft cost.

Regardless, Story belongs in the conversation of elite fantasy shortstops solely on the basis of his mix of power and speed, plus the boost he receives from the thin air in Denver.

Jonathan Villar, Milwaukee Brewers

In contrast to Seager and Story, virtually no one expected much of anything from Villar in 2016. In fact, many figured he’d serve as a placeholder until top prospect Orlando Arcia was promoted. Arcia eventually did get called up and force Villar to third base, but by then Villar had entrenched himself atop the Brewers lineup. He finished the season with fantastic numbers: .285/.369/.457, 19 homers, 92 runs, and a league-leading 62 stolen bases.

Villar was probably on a lot of championship rosters in 2016, but what about next season? There are some reasons to be skeptical. First, Villar strikes out quite a bit. He regularly ran K rates above 25 percent throughout the minor leagues, and that’s carried over to MLB. Even for a guy with his speed, that’s going to make it tough to hit for average. And sure enough, a look at Villar’s track record bears this out. He never hit above .280 in the minors despite the high BABIP one would expect from a fast guy who predominantly hits the ball on the ground.

That’s another big question mark. Villar did show some pop as a prospect, reaching double digits in the homer column multiple times. However, expecting him to approach 20 again seems overly optimistic. In order to do that, he had to post a 19.6 HR/FB%, which is generally the mark you see from elite power hitters. Villar did add 44 feet to his average flyball distance from 2015 to 2016, but research has shown that hitters who make huge year-to-year gains tend to give a lot of those gains back in year three.

Finally, the area where Villar produces the most value – baserunning. Villar attempted to steal 80 times last season. That’s more than six entire teams. Obviously, he’s got the green light. But players who swipe bags at that volume usually don’t repeat the feat the next year.  In the last quarter-century, a player has stolen 60 bases or more 26 times. On average, their total dropped by 19 the following season.

Villar should still be a hot commodity in drafts next spring. Speed is scarcer – and thus, more valuable – than ever, so even factoring in likely regression across the board, he ought to retain a good amount of value.


Check out RotoBaller's entire fantasy baseball waiver wire pickups and sleepers list, updated daily!




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