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2021 Fantasy Value First Looks: Shortstop

The baseball offseason may officially begin with the end of the World Series but the projections offseason began last Thursday night with the release of the first Steamer projections for 2021. Created and maintained by mathematics teacher Jared Cross and his former students, Steamer remains the industry standard for non-aggregated projection systems, as well as forming the basis for many popular projection systems like RazzBall and Depth Charts.

Projections systems aren't perfect. If they were, we'd all be like Biff in Back to the Future II. Every year, different systems perform differently, in regards to accuracy and do better in some years better than others. Some do better with hitters, some with pitchers, and not just overall but within each category. Projections may not be perfect predictions (although, this guy...) but they can provide reasonable starting points, with Steamer consistently providing some of the best.

Last time out, we looked at first and second base, translating Steamer projections into fantasy dollars and weighing the results. There weren't any big-time shakeups at first base, with Vladimir Guerrero coming in at #2 representing the biggest surprise. Second base brought a little controversy, as Steamer made the case for Nick Madrigal being top-six at the position. But if you thought Madrigal was polarizing, then a certain shortstop's projections might blow your fantasy circuits. Welcome to the Thunderdome.

 

Methodology

*If you've already read part one on 1B and 2B, thank you! Please skip ahead to p. 243 (Shortstops) to avoid rereading.

As mentioned, I converted  Steamer projections into fantasy dollars using a basic z-score method. As a refresher, z-scores is a popular statistical method for converting the totality of a player's scored categories, into a single number, by putting home runs, stolen bases, etc,  on a level playing field for comparison's sake. This is done by going category by category, calculating how each player's total compares to the rest of the league. Hitting 50 home runs may sound like a lot but not if everyone in the league hit at least 45 HR.

To calculate a z-score, you take the player's stat, subtract the average of the player pool, and then divide by the standard deviation of the player pool. For example, Steamer projects Freddie Freeman to hit 33 home runs, with the average of the player pool being 16.7 HR, with a standard deviation of 10.0.

(33 - 16.7)/10 = 1.6 z

A 0.0 z-score is equal to the league average, so Freeman's 1.6 z-score is saying that his 33 home runs are 1.6 standard deviations above the league average. This method is applied to each category (although the method is different for ratio stats) and each z-score is added together. This total z-score is then divided by the total z-scores in the player pool greater than zero and converted to dollars by dividing it by the total amount of fantasy dollars you have allocated for hitters or pitchers, using your chosen split.

This isn't the only valuation system and I'm not saying it's the best but it is reliable and widely used, much like Steamer. We're not trying to set these valuations and projections in stone, we just want to use them as an early and reliable touchstone as we dive into draft season. So, disagree! Whether in regards to playing time or talent rates, I'll be disagreeing plenty. But at least we'll be starting from a point of reasonableness.

 

Player Pool Caveats

When calculating z-scores, the player pool used is of major importance, with the pool getting watered down the bigger it gets. If you add 100 players who average 2 HR to a pool where the averages is 17 HR, the overall average is obviously going drop. For this exercise, I used a 150 PA minimum and a 12-team standard 5x5 roto league.

Feel free to quibble with the number; you should. I myself use a much more targeted player pool when making my own valuations, curated specifically for fantasy purposes. Pablo Sandoval is projected to hit seven home runs in 153 plate-appearances but do I really want him in my pool of players to be evaluated considering he has a massive negative fantasy value and won't be rostered?

But once again, I'm going for more of a neutral look in these valuations, so the player pool is set at a flat 150 PA, a total of 377 players. Just so you see how much player pool size can change valuations, moving to a 250 PA min leaves you with 305 batters (and the pool only loses eight players that were drafted in the top-430 of the 2 Early mock drafts). Ronald Acuna's top value jumps from $47 to $63; player pool matters.

The last caveat is about catchers, whom I treat as their own separate entity from the general player pool. We can get more into this when we get to them but the values for the other positions are being done without the dumpster fire of catching stats dragging everything down. This has a similar effect as limiting the pool by plate-appearances. For reference, Acuna's value with catchers in the pool is about two dollars lower than without.

Finally, a note about disagreeing and how to adjust. Projections are essentially made up of two building blocks. The playing time components (PA, IP) and the talent-rates, which is each projected stat divided by your chosen denominator (HR/PA, K/batter faced, etc). So keep in mind you might only be disagreeing with the overall value because of one or the other, not necessarily both, parts of the projection.

For example, Andres Gimenez is projected to be a below-replacement player but that's much more about his playing time than his projected talent. If he were to get 600 PA instead of his currently projected 421 PA, his line would be, 14 HR - 65 R - 64 RBI - 33 SB - .247 AVG, and his fantasy value would jump to $11.9, coming in as the #13 shortstop, just ahead of Marcus Semien.

 

Shortstop

According to Steamer, 2021 is going to be another year of shortstop dominance. Four of the top-six overall hitters come from the position and eight of the top-30. Who's leading the pack won't come as much surprise many, with Fernando Tatis Jr. coming in as the number-two player overall, with a value of $47.1. As well he should if reaching what Steamer projects:

677 PA - 39 HR - 109 R - 99 RBI - 26 SB - .286 AVG

However, after getting past the obvious number-one, is pretty damning proof that Jared Cross is going full heel-turn, trying to burn down fantasy Twitter with shortstop number two.

Name all_pos adp adp_rank stm_rank $ val pa hr r rbi sb avg
Fernando Tatis Jr. SS 3.2 1 1 47.1 677 39 109 99 26 .285
Adalberto Mondesi SS 35.2 7 2 42.5 646 21 84 78 54 .257
Trea Turner SS 6.7 2 3 41.0 688 23 100 77 34 .286
Trevor Story SS 9.6 3 4 40.0 672 35 103 98 25 .275
Francisco Lindor SS 17.2 4 5 34.6 682 33 103 93 19 .277
Bo Bichette SS 22.7 5 6 32.4 673 24 97 82 23 .282
Corey Seager SS 44.1 8 7 26.5 645 31 95 97 3 .295
Tim Anderson SS 48.7 9 8 22.9 664 23 86 79 17 .276
Xander Bogaerts SS 30.9 6 9 21.2 649 26 89 94 8 .279
Gleyber Torres SS 63.9 10 10 18.5 625 32 86 95 6 .268
Javier Baez SS 81.2 11 11 17.2 646 30 81 96 12 .255
Jorge Polanco SS 244 20 12 14.1 670 19 90 78 9 .272
Marcus Semien SS 138 15 13 11.2 687 24 94 73 11 .252
Tommy Edman 2B,3B,SS,OF 183 18 14 11.1 634 15 76 65 16 .267
Carlos Correa SS 122 13 15 8.9 622 27 80 86 2 .262
Paul DeJong SS 266 22 16 8.2 644 28 80 86 6 .249
David Fletcher 2B,3B,SS 244 21 17 5.7 666 8 80 59 8 .279
Jake Cronenworth 1B,2B,SS 141 16 18 5.5 603 11 68 65 11 .273
Didi Gregorius SS 149 17 19 4.9 566 21 67 75 7 .260
Andrelton Simmons SS - 20 4.7 590 11 66 62 9 .278
Dansby Swanson SS 106 12 21 3.9 646 20 79 71 10 .246
Willi Castro 3B,SS 328 29 22 1.8 534 14 62 60 9 .268
Elvis Andrus SS 378 38 23 1.4 545 12 58 57 16 .255
Nico Hoerner 2B,SS 346 34 24 0.9 499 10 58 55 11 .274
Miguel Rojas SS 373 37 25 0.8 592 11 63 55 10 .268
Jose Iglesias SS 340 31 26 0.1 539 11 57 58 7 .277
Chris Taylor 2B,SS,OF 221 19 27 -0.6 605 17 72 70 8 .245
Mauricio Dubon 2B,SS,OF 300 26 28 -1.0 498 13 54 55 10 .266
Orlando Arcia SS - 29 -1.9 545 16 60 62 8 .254
Isiah Kiner-Falefa 3B,SS 332 30 30 -2.0 577 8 59 53 14 .257
J.P. Crawford SS 389 39 31 -2.2 671 14 78 59 12 .238
Willy Adames SS 267 23 32 -3.3 539 18 61 63 6 .249
Niko Goodrum 2B,SS 344 32 33 -3.4 612 17 68 63 14 .228
Nick Ahmed SS 365 35 34 -4.5 593 17 63 66 7 .242
Andres Gimenez 2B,3B,SS 283 24 35 -4.8 421 10 46 45 17 .247
Luis Urias 2B,3B,SS 372 36 36 -6.6 566 13 62 59 6 .248
Amed Rosario SS 317 28 37 -6.8 378 10 43 42 10 .269
Erik Gonzalez 3B,SS - 38 -7.8 512 10 52 50 9 .253
Jonathan Villar 2B,SS 135 14 39 -7.8 324 8 40 32 17 .253
Brandon Crawford SS 409 40 40 -9.3 563 14 58 59 5 .242
Kevin Newman 2B,SS 345 33 41 -9.7 383 6 42 35 9 .274
Tyler Wade 2B,SS - 42 -10.7 437 9 48 43 13 .236
Joey Wendle 2B,3B,SS 298 25 43 -11.6 377 7 40 38 10 .257
Jose Garcia SS 416 41 44 -13.3 449 9 44 45 8 .243
Wander Franco SS 179.7 45 -18.6 348 7 35 33 7 .241

 

Good god! That's Adalberto Mondesi's music! If Mondesi wasn't the most polarizing player in fantasy before, he's certainly going to be if more projections like Steamer come in for him.

646 PA: 21 HR - 84 R - 78 RBI - 54 SB - .257 AVG

That is a big-time line. Mondesi is a distant second to Tatis at the position but is the number-three (!) overall hitter at $42.5. Overall. Adalberto...Mondesi! Go ahead, JB:

via GIPHY

In case you were wondering where Mondesi's 21 HR and 54 SB put him in terms of the top projected power/speed specialists:

Name hr+sb
Adalberto Mondesi 75
Ronald Acuna Jr. 70
Fernando Tatis Jr. 65
Trevor Story 60
Trea Turner 57

Do you believe? The first thing you're asked to believe is whether Mondesi will finally play a full season and reach the 646 PA Steamer calls for, as the talent rates projected aren't anything outrageous when compared to his previous performances:

Season PA hr/pa r/pa rbi/pa sb att/pa sb/att wOBA
2016 149 .013 .107 .087 .067 .900 .226
2017 60 .017 .067 .050 .117 .714 .204
2018 291 .048 .162 .127 .134 .821 .341
2019 443 .020 .131 .140 .113 .860 .298
2020 233 .026 .142 .094 .137 .750 .300
Steamer 646 .033 .130 .121 .108 .771 .314

Steamer believes in his power and Mondesi did see modest gains in his exit velocities and hard-hit rate. His average EV was up from 88.8 mph to 90.6 mph, his fly balls/line drives rose from 92.6 mph to 94.5 mph, and he posted a career-high 39.1% hard-hit rate. But his batting average has continued to trend down, and while his wOBA stayed steady from 2019, his xwOBA took a 35-point hit. In fact, his x-stats, in general, are moving the wrong way:

Season PA wOBA xwOBA BA xBA SLG xSLG wOBAcon xwOBAcon
2016 149 .226 .235 .185 .185 .281 .292 .306 .334
2017 60 .204 .285 .170 .239 .245 .374 .302 .473
2018 291 .341 .336 .276 .260 .498 .488 .452 .448
2019 443 .298 .290 .263 .238 .424 .393 .408 .398
2020 233 .300 .255 .256 .208 .416 .348 .409 .341
Steamer 646 .314 - .257 - .437 - - -

If Mondesi ends up with something near what Steamer is projecting, he can be a league winner. For the actual stats but also for the draft-day flexibility he provides. And I really want to talk myself into Mondesi. I want to ignore the quickly declining xBA and the big drops that his xwOBA, xwOBAcon, and xSLG saw from 2019 to 2020, and just believe that he'll out-run them all. And also ignore the guaranteed ice-cold streaks sure to come and only think about the months he burns it all down.

Is his 33 ADP going to be too rich for me? Probably. But I also know that I'll have at least one team where I try to start Turner/Story, ace, Mondesi, and hope for the best. Now that I think about it, just add my man Randy Arozarena and Zach Plesac to that mix and we'd be cooking with gas and getting all hot.

Somewhere in New York City, Nick Mariano roams restlessly, unable to shake that Trevor Story has been out-projected by a son of Raul, even though Story just keeps being amazing, year in and year out:

Season PA HR R RBI SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
2016 415 27 67 72 8 .272 .341 .567 .380 122
2017 555 24 68 82 7 .239 .308 .457 .323 82
2018 656 37 88 108 27 .291 .348 .567 .384 128
2019 656 35 111 85 23 .294 .363 .554 .380 121
2020 259 11 41 28 15 .289 .355 .519 .370 117
Steamer 672 35 103 98 25 .275 .346 .527 .368 115

He's not the sexiest pick and is going to feel like a consolation prize for drafters who were hoping that guys like Trea Turner and Jose Ramirez would drop outside of the top-10. But a five-category stud is a consolation prize that I think I'll be able to suffer through.

Francisco Lindor has seen a pretty big drop in 2021 after residing comfortably in the top-10 of ADP in 2020. Besides performance, the biggest question with Lindor is whether he'll be playing in Cleveland in 2021, or elsewhere. The Indians aren't expected to be in the mix when Lindor cashes in on free agency after the 2021 season, so the question is whether they'll trade him this winter or keep him around and settle for the compensatory draft pick after he rejects a qualifying offer.

Our final legacy shortstop only trails Lindor in value slightly, with Bo Bichette leveling up in fantasyland, with a projection that fills up all five categories.

673 PA: 24 HR - 97 R - 82 RBI - 23 SB - .282 AVG

The Blue Jays are one the most exciting, young offenses in baseball and Bichette will be batting at the top of it. Being followed by Cavan Biggio, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Teoscar Hernandez, the run total feels a little light. A knee injury limited him to 128 PA in 2020 but his .291 xBA was up 17-points from 2019, his .523 xSLG was up nearly 50-points, and his xwOBA and xwOBAcon were both nearly the same as the year prior. Bichette is for real and if he gets a full season in, I'm pretty confident he earns his top-25 price.

With a top-5o ADP, it looks like 2020 was enough for everyone to finally start believing in Tim Anderson. It's time to officially forget about the Anderson who had a .257 AVG in 2017, and .240 AVG in 2018. Anderson won the batting title in 2019 with a .335 AVG and a .296 xBA that was in the top-9% of baseball.

In 2020, Anderson posted a .322 AVG (second in the AL only to D.J. LeMahieu's .364) with a .293 xBA that was in the top-9%. His barrel-rate virtually doubled to 10.1% Brl% and his wOBA, xwOBA, and xwOBAcon all rose from 2019. The new hit-stick is for real.

The biggest worry for the 2021 White Sox is trying to stop new manager Tony La Russa from sucking the fun out of Anderson in order to replenish his diminishing life force.

More 2020 Fantasy Baseball Advice

                                                                                  




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Fantasy Football Bounce-Back Candidates You Must Have in 2024 - Fantasy Football Sleepers

The term "sleeper" gets thrown around a lot these days in fantasy circles. Aside from being a popular fantasy gaming app, a sleeper in fantasy football is a player currently undervalued at their draft price -- particularly with the expectation they will vastly outplay their ADP. While these targets are typically a late-round choice, sleepers... Read More


Caleb Williams - Fantasy Football Rankings, College FB, NFL Rookies, Draft Sleepers

2024 NFL Outlook - Top Offensive Rookie of the Year Candidates

Now that the 2024 NFL Draft is behind us, everyone has had an opportunity to get excited about their favorite team's new players and we start anticipating their rookie seasons. The draft was quite heavy with offensive players at the top -- 25 of the first 34 picks play on the offensive side of the... Read More


Who Is The Overall WR1? 2024 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings Analysis

Fantasy football is a 365-day pursuit at RotoBaller! As early best ball drafts are already getting underway, we're putting together our early rankings for 2024 fantasy football. RotoBaller's David Rispoli highlights our latest Wide Receiver rankings for 2024. Who is your overall WR1 for the upcoming season? Our 2024 rankings might surprise you! Win MORE... Read More


Justin Fields - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

Backup Quarterbacks To Stash in Superflex Leagues - 2024 Fantasy Football Analysis

Backup quarterback: The best job in all of sports. The fans love their unseen potential as they relax on the sideline and collect checks, free from menacing pass rushers and downhill middle linebackers. When the starter struggles, fans clamor for QB2. It's also a position not often given a second thought in fantasy football, at... Read More


Bucky Irving - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

Fantasy Football Rookie Spotlight: Bucky Irving

There were questions about where Oregon running back Bucky Irving would go in the 2024 NFL Draft. He was a smaller back -- sitting 5-foot-10, 190 pounds -- but he was a player who put up big numbers in his final two seasons with the Ducks. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers eventually took a chance on Irving in the fourth... Read More


Fantasy Football Rookie Tight Ends You Must Have in 2024

With the draft and schedule release behind us, it’s time to try and pick out some potential sleepers and stashes we may be looking to add to our fantasy rosters this year. One position that historically underwhelms from a fantasy perspective during rookie campaigns is tight end. But, we saw Detroit rookie Sam LaPorta make... Read More


Kyren Williams - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

Early Fantasy Football ADP Analysis For FFPC Leagues: Running Backs

It is never too early to check on fantasy football Average Draft Position reports. High-stakes competitors have already started drafting in seasonal formats on the Fantasy Football Players Championship (FFPC) platform. In this feature, I focus specifically on early ADP trends at running back. I have highlighted 10 notable RBs to consider from completed early... Read More