Shortstop. One of the most vital positions in baseball. Throughout the years it has also been one of the most important positions in fantasy baseball, as it has fluctuated from a position with almost no offensive production expected (way back in the pre-Jeter/A-Rod days) to a top-heavy position (when Miguel Tejada and Nomar joined Jeter) to a position which now sports as much depth as any other infield position.
Looking to 2017, the position has enough solid performers that no fantasy team should be lacking a solid contributor. That said, there are certainly better values than others when it comes to selecting your shortstop in this year’s draft.
Our positional avoid series continues with a pair of highly-rated shortstops and one a lot closer to the end of most drafts.Editor's note: Get 50% off any MLB Premium Pass. Draft guide, cheat sheets, 200 days of DFS access, and over 20 premium tools. Dominate your leagues all year long! Sign Up Now!
Potential Overvalued Shortstop Candidates
I’m pairing these two together to start because I feel I need to make the same disclaimer about each young man before I start pointing out why you shouldn’t draft them in 2017. Both Bogaerts and Lindor are two of the brightest stars we have in the entire sport right now. They are the type of players that make watching baseball fun even when it hits its midseason doldrums. They are also both outstanding real-life baseball players. The two combined for 11.0 fWAR in 2016 and were both in the top 30 league wide for fWAR. Lindor was second in all of baseball in fielding runs in 2016, and Bogaerts was no slouch, finishing 14th among shortstops with +4.2 fielding runs.
All that said, both are going about two rounds earlier than I would select either electric young player in 2017. Both players finished in the 40s in the ESPN Player Rater in 2016, and there’s reason to believe they will finish in that range again in 2017 instead of in the 20s where they're being drafted.
Bogaerts finished the higher of the two in 2016 and is being drafted one pick earlier in NFBC this season. Bogaerts posted some awesome numbers in 2016, with 115 R being his best 5x5 category, and posted career highs in HR, SB and RBI. So why the avoidance? For one, the loss of David Ortiz behind Bogaerts in the Red Sox lineup will be very noticeable. I think Mitch Moreland is a fine chap, but there’s no way on earth he’s knocking in 127 runs like Big Papi did last season. Honestly, he might not even reach half that total. That’ll do a number on Bogaerts' R total.
There’s also the matter of Bogaerts’ second half. Bogaerts hit .323 in the first half before hitting .267 in the second half. His SLG dropped 62 points, and his strikeout rate jumped from 14.7% to 20.0%. Bogaerts has relied on a high BABIP throughout his entire career (.338), and while I don’t think that number is set to crater (his pure hit tool is as good as any in baseball), it is scary to know how much of his BA is tied to his BABIP.
Francisco Lindor finished 46th in the ESPN Player Rater in 2016 (five spots behind Bogaerts), and was also a positive contributor in all five classic fantasy categories. Similar to Bogaerts, Lindor set career-highs in R, RBI, HR, and SB, with his BA still over .300 (just over, at .301). Lindor enjoyed perfect health, playing 158 games and nabbing 684 plate appearances. Even with all those career bests, Lindor was the sixth-rated shortstop in 2016. He finished behind Jonathan Villar, Jean Segura, Eduardo Nunez, Xander Bogaerts and Manny Machado. He finished ahead of Corey Seager, Carlos Correa and Trevor Story, three players who may well have even better seasons in 2017. That’s just so much depth at short that I can’t quite rationalize taking a player who has an OPS ceiling of around .850. I realize that five-category players can be undervalued, but mid-to-late third round is mighty early to be taking Lindor and Bogaerts.
Didi Gregorius (21st in RotoBaller SS ranks; ADP of 253 in NFBC)
I probably won’t have as hard of a time selling you on this one. Even before his shoulder injury at this year’s World Baseball Classic (an injury that will keep him out at least the first month), I was way out on Gregorius. His walk rate (3.2%) was the third-worst among qualified hitters in 2016, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. His swing rate on pitches out of the strike zone was 10th worst. While his contact rate remained better than most of his poor plate discipline peers, there are plenty of other holes in his statistical profile that are worrisome for 2017.
Gregorius hit a career-high 20 HR in 2016, and while part of that was moving to the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium, that can’t explain that his HR/FB rate jumped from 6.0% in 2015 to 10.4% in 2016 - both of which came in New York. Neither can a spike in hard hit ball rate, as Gregorius’ rate of 24.5% was less than a percent higher than his career average; a career in which he had never hit more than nine HR in a season prior to last year.
His BA also jumped in 2016 despite a lower line drive rate than any season since his brief rookie stint in 2012. Basically, Gregorius was waving every single statistical red flag he could when it comes to regression in 2017 - and that was before he went and injured his shoulder; an injury that can often linger and affect hitters well after they are “healed.” Gregorius was only being drafted at the tail end of leagues before the injury, so he is probably off most boards at this point. Don’t even bother with him in AL-only leagues. There’s no need to pick him up once he returns from injury. Just stay away in 2017.