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Later-Round Shortstops - Targets and Avoids

Once you reach the later rounds of drafts, you start thinking about upside fliers that can provide a great return on value. These are the rounds to take risks on more unknown commodities like prospects, forgotten-about veterans, players returning from injuries or players that have previously showed promise but haven't put it all together yet. Knowing about the deeper player pool can help you be more flexible throughout the draft, especially if you can identify someone you like and plan your earlier picks around that.

Today we are looking at some late-round shortstops who need to be considered. Do we think they are draft targets, or players to avoid? Are their ADPs undervalued? Will they make significant fantasy contributions and be one of your later-round draft sleepers? Read on to see our take.

Our editors have hand-picked these specific MLB players for your draft prep enjoyment. Normally only available to Premium subscribers, the five outlooks below are meant to give you a taste of the in-depth analysis you receive with our industry-leading 2019 Draft Guide. Be sure to subscribe today and start reading all 400+ of our 2019 player outlooks, and many other premium articles and tools, available exclusively in our 2019 Draft Guide.

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Lourdes Gurriel Jr. - SS/2B, Toronto Blue Jays

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. won't be much more than a solid source of batting average in 2019. The 25-year-old had a good rookie season for the Blue Jays, hitting .281 in 65 games. What really caught people’s attention was the Cuban's production in the month of June. He was red-hot, hitting .423/.648/.1.086, and in the process set a rookie record with 11 multi-hit games in a row.

However, a big problem for Gurriel Jr. is his plate discipline, walking only nine times all season. He swung at 39.3 % of pitches thrown outside the zone and swung at 53% of all pitches he faced, not a recipe for success. A .326 BABIP helped bolster his overall stats in 2018 but is likely to subject him to regression this upcoming season. On a positive note, in a small 71 AB sample size against lefties, the middle infielder had an encouraging .310 AVG with a .826 OPS.

He definitely has upside and will see a lot of playing time, provided he can stay healthy. However, his numbers show that his June hot streak may be an outlier, and in a sub-par Blue Jays lineup, he won’t have the opportunity to excel in many counting stats. His ADP of 221 seems fair, especially considering his dual eligibility at 2B/SS in some leagues.

--Ben Holmes - RotoBaller

 

Joey Wendle - SS/2B/3B/OF, Tampa Bay Rays

In 139 games in 2018, Joey Wendle slashed .300/.354/.435 with seven home runs and 16 stolen bases. After earning 11% of American League rookie of the year votes (fourth behind Ohtani, Andujar, and Torres), he is set to return as a main contributor for the Rays offense. His .353 BABIP may seem high but was partially aided by a solid 37% hard-contact rate. He’s also projected to hit in the three spot in the Rays lineup in 2019.

It's likely not well-known that the Rays posted the third-best batting average in 2018 and managed 16th in runs scored (ninth after the All-Star break). You can expect the seven home runs to be improved as his historical statistics in the minors have shown a higher ISO than he managed in 2018. At a current ADP of 204, he certainly offers batting average consistency over some 2B being drafted in front of him (Schoop, Moncada, Dozier, Odor to name a few).

Expect him to build on the 62 runs and 61 RBI with a consistent top-of-the-order spot. Even if Kevin Cash moves Wendle around a bit, he hit either leadoff, third, fifth, sixth in 77% of games played in 2018. There is major upside for owners that select him in the late rounds of their drafts.

--Zach Alexander - RotoBaller

 

Eduardo Escobar - SS/3B, Arizona Diamondbacks

For years Eduardo Escobar was an unremarkable utility infielder. That changed in 2017 when he hit over 20 HR for the first time in his career, a feat which he repeated in 2018. Following a trade from Minnesota to Arizona, Escobar signed a three-year contract extension with Diamondbacks. He will likely serve as the Diamondbacks’ everyday 3B and hit second, in front of Peralta, Souza and Lamb.

The Escobar of the past two years has reinvented himself from a groundball hitter into a flyball hitter with a four-degree change in Launch Angle (14.3 degrees in 2015-16 compared to 18.2 degrees in 2017-18). Escobar does not hit flyballs very hard (89.8 mph Exit Velocity on flyballs in 2018), so he does not have much margin for error. That is, with only modest regression in either his FB% or reduction in either Exit Velocity or Launch Angle, he could see his HR/FB drop back into the single digits. Since he is not a SB threat, such regression would threaten his fantasy relevance.

Qualifying at both 3B and SS, Escobar represents a useful bench player in most formats; however, given the historically high depth at those two positions, he is only a starter in deeper leagues. As a player whose ADP projects outside the top 200, he does not need to be targeted before the very end of drafts in standard leagues.

--RotoBaller Staff

 

Ketel Marte - SS/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks

As a whole, Ketel Marte’s 2018 was lackluster. There were poor numbers in most categories, though he did manage to crack 104 wRC+ on the year. It would have been a lost season altogether except that Marte rebounded in the second half when he put up an .841 OPS.

With the glut of talented shortstops, Marte figures to be an afterthought in most 8-12 team leagues. His current draft spot of 234 ADP means he should be available at the end of most drafts, and he’s worth that price in many leagues. There is some reason to believe in the growth of Martes’s second half.

For starters, Marte was still only 24 years old last year, and his 2018 batted-ball profile was the best of his career. He was striking the ball even better in the second half when he dropped his ground-ball rate to near his career low while keeping his hard-hit rate at a career high. Marte’s dual-eligibility at second base and shortstop make him an intriguing late-round flier.

--David Emerick - RotoBaller

 

Jorge Polanco - SS, Minnesota Twins

Minnesota Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco enters 2019 as the presumptive starter at the position. The 25-year-old spent the first 80 games on the shelf in 2018 thanks to getting caught with a banned substance in his blood during the offseason. Polanco entered that campaign as a popular late-round shortstop sleeper after he slashed .293/.359/.511 with 10 home runs, seven steals, 43 runs batted, and a .218 ISO in during the second half of 2017. In fact, his 129 wRC+ was good for second among shortstops, only behind Francisco Lindor’s 140.

Polanco made his presence felt down the stretch in 2018, particularly between September and October. Over the final 27 games of the season, the native Dominican slashed .310/.361/.460 with three homers and three steals, adding tremendous value off of the bench or as an injury replacement. Overall, a .288/.345/.427 with six homers and seven steals isn’t much to write home about, but that late-season stretch showed that the shortstop has plenty of juice. Entering his sixth year, Polanco has a tantalizing mix of power and speed with above-average plate awareness and contact skills. He’s also smart and has shown an ability to adjust, leading to improvements in swing percentages, hard contact, and the spread of contact.

He’s grown each season as a hitter, and you could squint and see how further improvements could lead to a 20/20 season. But if you pay for the projections, there’s still plenty of room for value. Due to the lost time and last season’s pedestrian counting stats, Polanco is expected to be somewhere between the 24th and 28th shortstop off the board and between 220 and 250 overall. However, his statistical projections like him to be closer to the 14th or 15th shortstop, and around the 165th best hitter. But if you think Polanco improves at all over his 14/14 .272/.332/.419 projection, draft him in the top-12 shortstop territory.

--Sean Scampton - RotoBaller

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