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After catcher, shortstop is generally considered the weakest offensive position in fantasy baseball. While an influx of young talent has bolstered the top end of the position, it can still be hard to find appealing options after the studs are gone.

In deeper leagues, especially AL or NL-only leagues, getting value out of late round middle infielders can give you a big leg up against the competition.

In this article we'll look at five shortstops that are being slept on late in drafts. Average draft position (ADP) is based on NFBC ADP as of 03/12/2018.

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Deeper Sleepers at Shortstop

Marcus Semien - OAK – 228th Overall

The only player in this article going higher than pick 300, Semien is being overlooked in standard and deep leagues. He was a 2016 breakout, with 27 home runs and 10 steals in 621 plate appearances. A wrist injury cost him nearly three months of the 2017 season, but he still produced double digit steals and home runs in 386 plate appearances last year. This production paced out to about 15.5 home runs and 18.7 steals in 600 plate appearances. Pacing numbers out is an imperfect measure, but in this circumstance is demonstrates the value a healthy Semien can provide. His 2017 performance still took a hit compared to 2016, especially in the power department. In 2016 he had a .197 ISO, but in 2017 it dropped to .149. This power drop may have been the result of his wrist injury, or it may have been a normalization of his HR/FB ratio. Semien had a 14.7% HR/FB rate in 2016, which reverted to 9.2% in 2017. If 2016 is his power ceiling, then 2017 looks like Semien’s power floor.

Although the wrist injury sidelined Semien for 81 days, it was the only time he’d ever been on the disabled list in the majors. Semien had over 600 plate appearances the two seasons prior to 2017. Even though he missed almost half the season with an injury, Semien is not a major injury risk. He’s also projected to hit lead off for the Athletics, which will increase his plate appearances and runs scored. What's so appealing about Semien is that he's a guaranteed contributor when healthy with the potential for more. This is a player with three straight seasons of double digit home runs and steals, has shown 25-20 upside, and is going around the 20th round of a 12 team mixed league. He offers great value at that price.

Ketel Marte - ARZ – 345th Overall

With Brandon Drury gone Marte looks like the Diamondbacks starting second baseman. Marte has been a fantasy sleeper since his days with the Mariners, and he’s bounced between the majors and the minors over the last three seasons. This may have caused fantasy owners to become fatigued with Marte, but he’s still only 24 years old and has flashed the potential to be a multi-category contributor at the major league level. Marte can swipe bags, with two seasons of 20 or more steals in the minors. He also had 11 steals in 466 plate appearances in 2016. He only had three steals in 255 plate appearances last season, but as a team the Diamondbacks stole the seventh most bases in the majors. Marte has the ability and the Diamondbacks are willing to run, and with every day playing time he should get the chance to steal.

Marte can be more than just a cheap speed source. In 2017 he had a 28.2% hard contact rate, and while that’s below league average it was a 6.7% increase over his 2016 rate. He also had a 34.2% flyball rate in 2017, up 8.0% from 2017. Marte is not on the precipice of a power explosion, but he could push for double digit home runs if he gets enough plate appearances. The increase in hard contact should help his BABIP, which was .290 last season and .314 for his career. It’s not unreasonable for a player with Marte’s speed and above average 83.1% career contact rate to have a BABIP considerably above .300. There’s room for batting average growth with Marte. Even if his batting average doesn’t rise he’s still a great player to have in OBP leagues since he had an 11.4% walk rate last season. There is a lot to like about Marte’s progression, even if he has been a little slow to put it all together.

Franklin Barreto - OAK– 456th Overall

Making his debut last June, the top prospect saw the power surge and thought he’d give it a try. The result was just 14 hits and 33 strikeouts in 76 plate appearances. The long ball has never been Barreto’s game, and all selling out for power got him was two home runs and a .155 ISO. In between his two major league call ups Barreto dominated Triple-A pitching, with a .290 average, 15 home runs, and 15 steals in 510 plate appearances. In 2016 Barreto hit 10 home runs and swiped 30 bags in Double-A. He has shown the ability to be a five-category contributor at the high minors over the past two seasons. He will be in the majors at some point this season, and if he ditches the power heavy approach for his minor league approach he should see better production in the majors.

Another factor in Barreto’s favor is the malleability of Oakland’s lineup. Khris Davis is their only projected starter to have over 500 plate appearances in each of the last two seasons. The Athletics have questions of health or performance at multiple spots across the diamond. Barreto is already off to a good spring training with a 1.022 OPS in 32 plate appearances as of writing this. Even if he doesn’t crack the opening day roster, Barreto could conceivably force his way to the majors with another strong Triple-A performance. He is a great option for owners looking to get top prospect upside without paying top prospect price.

Matt Duffy - TB – 458th Overall

Matt Duffy’s Achilles heel throughout his career has been his Achilles heel. After missing almost half of 2016 and all of 2017 due to surgery on his Achilles Duffy’s breakout 2015 campaign is just a distant memory. He’s currently projected to be the Rays starting third baseman and bat second, but he’ll be shortstop-eligible in some leagues. His health concerns got more than priced into his draft cost. If he stays healthy, Duffy could be in line for around 600 plate appearances. The last time he got that many plate appearances he put up a .295 average with 12 home runs and 12 steals. A full repeat isn’t a guarantee, but it’s not out of the question either, especially since the Rays have no one to push him for playing time at third.

There is a chance that his injuries have affected his speed, making double digit steals a question mark. Something that should persevere is Duffy’s contact skills. He has a stellar 84.0% contact rate for his career and just a 15.6% strikeout rate. This gives him a nice batting average floor with the possibility to contribute in other categories. Duffy doesn’t have superstar upside, but at his current draft price he’s essentially free. He offers guaranteed playing time and the opportunity to be a five-category contributor after pick 450.

Aledmys Diaz - TOR – 478th Overall

Diaz crashed back down to earth after a 2016 breakout with the Cardinals. In 2016 he hit .300 with 17 home runs and a .210 ISO in 460 plate appearances. Everything went south for Diaz in 2017 and he hit .259 with 7 home runs and a .133 ISO in 301 plate appearances. His struggles culminated with a demotion to Triple-A in late June, and he didn't return to the majors until late September. The move to Toronto could help Diaz regain his 2016 form. Instead of competing for playing time in the Cardinals crowded infield, only the health of Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis stand between him and regular playing time. Tulowitzki isn’t expected to be ready for Opening Day, which makes Diaz the de facto starting shortstop for the Blue Jays.

There is no way to sugarcoat Diaz's 2017 performance. He took a step back in several important metrics when it comes to evaluating hitters. His contact rate dropped by 4.4%. He more than halved his walk rate, which fell to 4.3%. His paltry 23.6% hard contact rate was a near 8% drop from 2016. Despite these alarming trends there are a few glimmers of hope. His 79.0% contact rate was still above league average, as was his 14.0% strikeout rate. His .282 BABIP and 7.7% HR/FB rate could point to some bad luck that exacerbated his poor 2017. Chances are Diaz will never be the player he was in 2016 again, but if he can regain some of the skills which led to his breakout he’ll be a nice value at his current draft price.  Don't rely on him as a starting shortstop, but he's a low-risk bench stash.


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