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Shortstops to Target or Avoid at ADP - Fantasy Baseball Draft Analysis

oneil cruz fantasy baseball rankings draft sleepers MLB prospects

When you're growing up playing baseball, every single player wants to play shortstop. You'll never hear a seven-year-old say, "Hey Coach, can I play right field?" Shortstop has been and always will be the sexiest position on the diamond, and that's the case in the fantasy baseball world as well.

Each and every season, the shortstop position is the deepest infield position by a country mile. That hasn't changed here in 2023 either, as we have 13 shortstops within the top 100 ADP and three more that have min picks within the top 100.

To take it even further, 19 have ADPs within the top 200 and 27 within the top 300. Let's look at some shortstops you should target and avoid for your upcoming drafts.

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Shortstop Strategy

When approaching this position in 2023, one must respect the depth and not take it for granted. You can enter a draft with the mindset of waiting on this position due to the depth. However, wait too long, and all the desirable starting options will fly off the board.

Regardless of your league size, I'd recommend grabbing your starting shortstop by pick 100 or so. I'd be with any of the names within the top 100 ADP (13) as my starter, along with Jeremy Pena as well. After that, it begins to drop off a bit.


Shortstops To Target At ADP

Oneil Cruz, Pittsburgh Pirates

While there's still some risk at his ADP, the potential reward with Oneil Cruz makes him awfully enticing around pick 70 or so. In general, Cruz has the upside to vault into the first two rounds of 2023 fantasy baseball drafts. In only 361 plate appearances last season, Cruz racked up 17 home runs, 10 steals, 54 RBI, and 45 runs scored. If you extrapolate those numbers out over 650 plate appearances, you'd have 31 home runs, 18 steals, 97 RBI, and 81 runs scored. All of that as a rookie in a subpar Pittsburgh lineup. But yes, this all came with a few red flags.

What are those red flags? Well, Cruz's 35% strikeout rate and 35.4% whiff rate are the main culprits. But when you move past those, the rest of Cruz's plate discipline metrics aren't that bad. Cruz posted a 79.7% zone contact rate, a 30.5% chase rate, and a 7.5% walk rate, all of which are slightly worse than the league average.

If Cruz is able to cut down the swing and miss a bit while maintaining or improving his contact rates, we could easily see him rise up into the .250-.260 range given his elite blend of power and speed, mainly his 15.5% barrel rate, 91.9 mph AVG EV, and 98th percentile spring speed.

With moderate improvements in his second full season, Cruz realistically could flirt with a .260/85/35/100/20 season, which would return incredible value at his draft slot.

Jeremy Pena, Houston Astros

I'm all about Jeremy Pena this year after pick 100. The former University of Maine star (have to shout out Maine when I can) was floundering through the summer months last season, including a sub-.220 AVG in both July and August. However, he made an adjustment early in September, removing his leg kick for more of a toe tap, and the results were immediate and noticeable.

September: 121 PA, .278/.303/.487, 11 XBH, six HR, .209 ISO

Postseason: 61 PA, .345/.367/.638, nine XBH, four HR, .293 ISO

Overall between the regular season and the postseason, Pena racked up 25 doubles, 26 home runs, and 11 steals in 619 plate appearances, and his hot September and October create plenty of optimism for 2023. He's never going to be a player that lights up his Savant page with red, but Pena posted a 9.7% barrel rate in 2022 as a rookie and pulled the ball 42.6% of the time, which is positive when he's taking aim at the Crawford Boxes in left field for half of his games.

Even in hitting lower in Houston's lineup, Pena has a chance to exceed 150 combined runs and RBI this season with 25-30 home runs, double-digit steals, and a solid AVG to go along with it. If you're in an OBP league, Pena gets slightly dinged due to his lower walk rate.

Oswald Peraza, New York Yankees

Do you know how much I love getting a potential 15/20 player outside the top 250 picks? Yes, Oswald Peraza is a rookie, and we all know nothing is certain about rookies. But given Peraza's blend of skills, minor-league performance, and proximity, he's an absolute steal at his current ADP near pick 300 on average.

After a slow start to the 2022 season that saw him slashing .194/.262/.333 entering play on May 25, Peraza proceeded to crank up the heat and slash .292/.362/.506 with 15 home runs and 26 steals over his final 288 plate appearances leading up to his early-September callup. Overall, Peraza is one of just five prospects to exceed 15 home runs and 25 steals in each of the last two minor league seasons.

With shortstop wide open for the taking, Peraza has a decent chance of grabbing that starting spot and returning plenty of value at his draft slot this season.


Other Shortstops With Good ADPs

Ezequiel Tovar, Colorado Rockies

Just as I mentioned with Peraza above, it's not often that you can grab a player with the potential to go 15/20 outside of the top 200 picks. When you combine the last two minor league seasons, Tovar has hit .300 on the nose with 45 doubles, 29 home runs, and 41 stolen bases in 175 games. With his blend of contact skills, power, and speed, Tovar could settle in as a hitter that exceeds 15 home runs and 20 steals annually while hitting in the vicinity of .280 or so. That all could begin this season.

Willy Adames, Milwaukee Brewers

Compared to most shortstops within the top 100 ADP, Willy Adames isn't nearly as flashy, but the production has certainly been there. Since being traded from Tampa Bay to Milwaukee in May 2021, Adames ranks first in home runs, fourth in RBI, eighth in runs scored, fourth in slugging, first in ISO, seventh in wOBA, and ninth in wRC+ among shortstops with at least 500 plate appearances. While he probably won't help (or hurt) you in the AVG and OBP departments, Adames is as rock-solid as they come in the HR, RBI, and R departments.

Anthony Volpe, New York Yankees

As a Red Sox fan, it pains me to recommend two Yankees here, but it must be done. Volpe is one of the 10 best fantasy prospects in the game right now and has been excelling this Spring. Through games on March 13, Volpe is slashing .321/.424/.679 in 10 games with four doubles, two home runs, and three steals. Peraza is still the projected shortstop to open the season, but it's looking like Volpe will be up very early in the season.


Shortstops To Avoid At ADP

Tim Anderson, Chicago White Sox

In general, I'm a fan of Tim Anderson. But what I'm not a fan of is his ADP this season. When Anderson has been on the field, more often than not, he's been a top-100 caliber player. And that's how he's being drafted this season, in the 85-100 range of most drafts. However, it's the whole staying on the field part that has been troublesome for Anderson. Over the last four seasons, Anderson has played in just 68.5% of the White Sox's games and hasn't exceeded 125 games played since way back in 2018.

Outside of the durability issue, Anderson's power diminished last season with only six home runs, a .395 SLG, and a .094 ISO over 351 plate appearances. Part of that could be due to being hurt on and off all season, but his massive ground ball rates aren't helping either. In each of the last three seasons, Anderson has posted a ground ball rate above 55%, while his barrel rate has plummeted from 10.1% to 5.8%.

With all the other options around him at this position, there's too much risk for me to select Anderson with a top-100 pick this season.

Javier Baez, Detroit Tigers

When it comes to Javier Baez, the combination of profile volatility, performance inconsistency, and the options going several rounds later than him have made me pass on him every single time in my 2023 drafts. In 590 plate appearances last season, Baez was still able to muster 17 home runs and nine steals, but he was at 10 and four, respectively, entering August. And when his 17 homers and nine steals come with 64 runs, 67 RBI, and a lowly .238/.278/.393 slash line, the profile does more harm than good to your fantasy teams.

Beyond the surface stats, Baez struggled mightily against right-handed pitching last season, slashing .217/.262/.356. He was able to slash an impressive .301/.326/.507 against southpaws, but he only faced them in 24.4% of his plate appearances. On top of that, Baez still chases at an astronomically high 47.5% rate to go along with a 35.8% whiff rate and 4.2% walk rate. His quality of contact metrics also took a nosedive in 2022, with his barrel rate dropping from 13.4% to 8%, his AVG EV from 90.1 to 87.9 mph, and his hard-hit rate from 45.2% to 38%.

When you get into Baez's ADP range in your drafts, hopefully you already have your starting shortstop secured. And instead of taking on his risky and frustrating profile, I'd much rather wait for several rounds and take someone like Tovar, Peraza, or Bryson Stott instead.


Other Shortstops I'm Generally Avoiding at ADP

Amed Rosario, Cleveland Guardians

There's nothing necessarily wrong with Rosario, but it all comes down to the draft day price and other options available to you. Rosario has been going off the board around pick 125 or so in most drafts, and that's just a bit too high for my liking, given the options you can get several rounds later, like Thairo Estrada or the young guys I mentioned above.

Adalberto Mondesi, Boston Red Sox

Yes, even at ADP 250, I'm still not going near Mondesi with a 10-foot pole. It's already been reported that Mondesi won't be ready for the start of the season, and who knows when he'll even debut this season. And once he debuts, how long until he's on the IL again? How much will he even play when he's healthy? Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora and company have already hinted that Mondesi won't be an everyday regular this season in an effort to try and keep him healthy. In my mind, that means maybe four starts per week? We've seen what he's capable of when he goes on one of his random hot streaks, but the durability and approach are too poor for me to even consider around pick 250.

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