Arguably the most enjoyable aspect of fantasy baseball draft season is trying to identify which players will break out. The emergence of a low-cost gamble as a core contributor can make the difference between a championship season and another year as an also-ran.
Today, I'm here to talk about some potential shortstop sleepers and breakout candidates. We all know about the studs at this position, but there are some intriguing players who won’t break the bank for you in drafts this year.
Shortstop Breakout Candidates
Addison Russell, Chicago Cubs (ADP: 135)
Thus far in his major league career, Russell has been a slightly below-average hitter. It’s important to remember, however, that he only turned 23 in January. There were also plenty of encouraging signs in his sophomore season. Russell improved his walk rate while slashing his strikeout rate by six percentage points. He hit for more power, made better contact, and was a better baserunner than he had been as a rookie. Despite primarily batting in the lower third of the Cubs’ lineup, Russell managed to knock in 95 runs.
Russell still has some warts. He’s not great at making contact, and he hits a lot of infield flies. But he’s held his own in the big leagues at an age when most players are still figuring out Double-A. With the glut of young talent at shortstop right now, it would be easy – and foolish – to forget about him.
Dansby Swanson, Atlanta Braves (ADP: 186)
Acquired in the Shelby Miller trade last season, the 2015 top overall pick jumped from High-A to the majors and immediately set about making that deal look even more like a complete fleecing for the Braves. Swanson hit .302/.361/.442 with three homers, three stolen bases, and 37 R+RBI in 38 games after being promoted to the big leagues. His .383 BABIP was a touch on the high side, but his speed and quality of contact did support an above-average mark. Even with some regression, Swanson should hit for a decent average and reach double digits in both HR and SB in his first full season. Atlanta’s offense should be better this season as well, which could make him an asset in runs scored.
Players like Swanson often don’t get a lot of love from fantasy owners, but there’s value in a player who can do a little bit of everything.
Tyler Saladino, Chicago White Sox (ADP: 438)
Brett Lawrie’s release has opened the door for Saladino to grab the starting job at second base. The 27-year-old acquitted himself well in that role last season after Lawrie went on the shelf, hitting .282 with eight homers and 11 stolen bases in only 319 plate appearances. While uber-prospect Yoan Moncada looms, he likely needs more seasoning in the minors. The White Sox, in the early stages of a teardown, have no real reason to rush him. Besides, Saladino has been great so far in spring training, hitting over .400 with a couple of homers.
Saladino carries eligibility at both middle infield positions, and he can also be plugged in at third base in Yahoo leagues. Intriguingly, he’s also taken on work behind the plate this spring. Given his negligible cost, he’s a name to keep in mind in deep and AL-only formats – with mixed-league relevance also on the table.