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Late-Round Shortstops - Fantasy Baseball Draft Values and Targets

Welcome officially to the 2023 fantasy baseball season! Late-round picks in fantasy baseball can often be the difference between a mediocre team and a championship contender. While it's easy to get caught up in the excitement of selecting big-name players early in the draft, finding those hidden gems in the later rounds is equally essential. As a fantasy manager, it's crucial to do your due diligence and research these overlooked players' statistics, injury history, and current team situation. While taking a chance on a player based on a hunch or a cool name may seem appealing, making informed decisions that increase your chances of success is the wiser strategy. With careful consideration and some luck, these late-round picks could be the key to unlocking your team's full potential.

Today, we're looking at some late-round shortstops for you to consider drafting in your season-long leagues this season. Are their ADPs undervalued? Will they make significant fantasy contributions and become a priority late-round draft target? Read on to see our take.

Our editors have hand-picked these specific MLB players for your draft prep enjoyment. Usually 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 2023 Draft Kit. Be sure to subscribe today to start reading all of our in-depth 2023 player outlooks and many other premium articles and tools including Team Sync, the Live Draft Sync assistant, Custom Rankings Service, and so much more – available exclusively in our 2023 Draft Kit.

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball lineup tools and weekly lineup resources:

 

Nico Hoerner, Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs shortstop Nico Hoerner had a sneaky good year in 2022, his first full season in the majors. He hit .281, homered 10 times, and collected 115 RBI plus runs over 135 games. Hoerner wasn't afraid to run the bases, swiping 20 bags with a sprint speed in the 92nd percentile. However, he doesn't possess the power to go with his speed. Hoerner hit just three homers before this season, and it'll be difficult for him to sustain his total from 2022, as he owns a career 2.1% barrel rate.

The 25-year-old knows how to handle the bat, as he struck out just 11% of the time while posting a 14.2% whiff rate this year and owns a career 13.1% strikeout rate. Although, Hoerner never hits the ball hard (87.2 MPH average exit velocity in 2022), and a 6.6% fly ball spike this season is worrisome for a player of his skill set.

His .270 xBA looks nice, but if his 2023 average is in that ballpark, based on where he's being drafted (140 ADP), he'll need to steal around 25 bases with double-digit long balls, something fantasy managers shouldn't count on him doing. And while Hoerner's expected to lead off for the Cubs, Steamer projects the former first-rounder for just 74 runs and 58 RBI. Managers are better off waiting for Thairo Estrada (184 ADP) or the still-promising Bryson Stott (221 ADP).

-- Spencer Seguin - RotoBaller

 

Luis Urias, Milwaukee Brewers

Milwaukee Brewers infielder Luis Urias took a step back from a respectable 2021 season in 2022, slashing .239/.335/.404 with 16 home runs and 47 RBI in 472 plate appearances. The 25-year-old hit the ball in the air more than ever, raising his launch angle to a career-high 18 degrees.

Unfortunately, he did not hit the ball as hard as he did in 2021, with an average exit velocity and hard-hit rate in the bottom 25 percent of baseball. Consequently, his HR/FB% dropped from 16.9% to 11.9%. He also did not see as much playing time, despite playing second base, third base, and shortstop.

Urias is currently being drafted at pick 249 overall, putting him squarely in the middle infielder/corner infielder range. Urias' role with the team will play a large part in determining his fantasy value, but it would not be inconceivable for him to hit 20 HR with 65 runs scored and 65 RBI if he can see consistent playing time. This possibility, coupled with his multi-position eligibility, makes him well worth a late-round pick.

-- Connelly Doan - RotoBaller

 

Javier Baez, Detroit Tigers

Detroit Tigers shortstop Javier Baez had his worst full season in 2022, slashing .238/.278/.393 with 17 HRs, 64 runs, and 64 RBI. Although he improved his strikeout rate by 8.7% (24.9%) from a year ago, he did himself no favors by chasing pitches at an alarming 47.5% rate (1st percentile) and swung at just 68.0% of pitches in the zone compared to his career mark of 72.9%.

Baez wasn't hitting the ball hard either, posting an 8.0% barrel rate (52nd-percentile), 87.9 MPH average exit velocity (31st-percentile), and a .378 xSLG, with a move to Comerica Park only making things worse.

The 30-year-old has lived off of high BABIPs in the big leagues (career .328 BABIP), but it regressed to a more average .292 in 2022. Also, Baez's HR/FB came down to Earth with a 12.3% mark which barely compares to his career rate of 19.5%. He was still running a bit, swiping nine bases, but was nowhere close to the 18 he stole in '21, and he posted his worst sprint speed to date (66th percentile).

Baez has a chance to bounce back if luck is on his side again, but fantasy managers shouldn't count on that. Steamer is penning him for a .241 average, 22 home runs, 10 stolen bases, 73 RBI, and 71 runs next season, which is not worth his 160 ADP.

-- Spencer Seguin - RotoBaller

 

Ezequiel Tovar, Colorado Rockies

If not for an upper leg injury in June, shortstop Ezequiel Tovar may have pushed the Colorado Rockies to potentially open space for him at the midseason trade deadline in 2022. Instead, after hitting 13 home runs and stealing 17 bases in just 66 Double-A games before his injury, Tovar played just five games once he was healthy in Triple-A before Colorado brought him up for a brief trial to end the season.

While his overall line didn't blow anyone away, he flashed impressive raw power, with 87.5% of his contact classified as medium- or hard-hit. Tovar's defense has significantly improved in his minor league time, giving him a chance to stick at shortstop and provide fantasy managers with a guy that can give double-digit homers and steals from the back end of the draft.

-- Benjamin Chase - RotoBaller

 

CJ Abrams, Washington Nationals

One of the significant returns for the Washington Nationals in the trade for Juan Soto, shortstop CJ Abrams is primed for a big year at the plate. The former top-10 prospect made his MLB debut with the San Diego Padres in 2022 before joining Washington at the deadline. Although his first year in the big leagues was nothing special from an offensive standpoint–managing a measly .604 OPS across 302 plate appearances–his defense and speed made up for it.

His sprint speed ranked in the 91st percentile in 2022 and was one of the things that most impressed scouts before making his debut. It's fair to boil his offensive struggles during his rookie campaign down to first-year jitters, as not all can produce at the level of Julio Rodriguez or Michael Harris II.

The 22-year-old's pure hitting ability did not simply disappear overnight, and the player who slashed 331/.385/.511, logged 42 extra-base hits, and stole 42 bases across three levels in the minor leagues is looking to break out in the bigs in 2023.

ATC projects Abrams to bat .256, reaching base at a .295 clip, and slug .365 with seven home runs, 48 RBI, and 16 stolen bags. His ADP of 271 is fair, but as he enters his sophomore season, the shortstop could be a potential sleeper candidate in fantasy leagues this year.

-- Lauren Amour - RotoBaller



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