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Shortstop - The Under-Appreciated Glamour Boys of '19


Shortstop has long been a position comprised of the nobles and the bastards. People would flock towards the highborn and turn a frigidly cold shoulder to anyone else. Fantasy managers were basically elitists in the purest definition of the word in regard to shortstops. It is time to start spreading the love and realize that regular shortstops are performing well enough to garner your attention. No one is saying to avoid the upper-echelon, just to broaden your perspective.

The elite still exists in the form of Francisco Lindor, Trea Turner, and Trevor Story. There is even another tier of players with shortstop eligibility in Alex Bregman, Javier Baez, and Manny Machado. The general strategy is that if you didn't get one of the elite players, your backup option would be to get Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts, Corey Seager, at the very least.

Things have changed in 2018 and the position is deeper than it has ever been. This has allowed smart fantasy manager to focus on other positions in the draft and still get a shortstop that is beneficial to their team. There is no longer a rush to jump back in on the market of Correa, Bogaerts, and Seager, unless you are fascinated with having a player based on their name — not recommended. While these three players have the benefit of better offenses, it isn't enough to discount other rising shortstops. In the end, your team just needs stats, and the following players can be serviceable in that aspect.

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The Rising Crop of Shortstops

Jorge Polanco (SS, MIN)

I may be biased, but Polanco has a special place atop this list. Thankfully, he was often overlooked in this year’s drafts due to an abbreviated 2018 season caused by a drug suspension. When he returned, he put up numbers similar to other higher ranked shortstops, and he continues the trend thus far this season. Polanco has hit three homers with a .415/.467/.755 slash line. While the slash line will regress, his walk (8%) and strikeout (15%) rates are consistent with his performance in the latter half of 2018. He also has a 13.3% barrel rate, which is the best of this group, including Bogaerts, Correa, and Seager.

In the movies, sometimes there is a stunt double brought in to serve as the actual person at times. If there were a double needed for Bogaerts, Polanco would be more than serviceable. In the second half last year, he nearly matched Bogaerts with six homers, 37 RBI, four stolen bases, and a .293 batting average. The tremendous difference is that in drafts this year, Bogaerts had an ADP OF 45 while Polanco sat at 204. For this reason, he is on 10 of my 16 leagues. Polanco will have even better stats in 2019 with a full year on the field as well as an improved Twins lineup. Batting second in the lineup, he will rack up plenty of runs as well.

 

Tim Anderson (SS, CWS)

Anderson came up as a power and speed prospect. While the swing-and-miss is a part of his game, the previous description remains accurate. Thus far he has hit four homers, stole six bases, and carries an unsustainable .424 batting average. He also has 12 runs and 12 RBI. One thing Anderson does not do well is take walks. To further that point, he has hit more homers (four) than he has earned a free pass to first (one). Assuming you don’t own him in an OBP league, Anderson is still very valuable particularly with his speed, an asset that is always in high demand.

While he plays for a team with a poor offense, it affords him more job security and subsequently more time at the plate. Therefore, his statistical count is quite reliable and might secure him a second straight 20 homer/20 stolen base season. Anderson is playing better than a few of the more premier guys. Nothing is guaranteed to last. However, in only 61 plate appearances, he has shown that he can provide adequate stats given that he has a career .264 batting average to support his primary assets. If he maintains the passion as he does with his boisterous bat flips, he might even outperform his expectations.

 

Freddy Galvis (SS, TOR)

There might be few hotter bats in the league right now than Freddy Galvis. He leads the list with five homers and is second only to Bogaerts in exit velocity at 90mph. Galvis also has provided 10 runs, 11 RBI, and a .338 average thus far; unfortunately, he is a career .248 hitter. However, he seems to be taking quite well to the grip-it-and-rip-it style in Toronto which has led to the best start of his big league career, with nearly two weeks left in the month. The next best start was in 2017 when he hit three homers and had a .271 batting average with the Phillies through the month of April. Of course, hitting coaches have changed for the Blue Jays but it seems to be the same mentality Galvis is taking at the plate which has led to not only five homers but a career-worst 15% swinging strike rate.

Wild swinging aside, the question is whether his great start is sustainable. It would not be the first time that players have resurrected their careers upon their arrival to Toronto, even at age 29. However, this success can last only so long. While it won’t remain elite, Galvis proves that you don’t have to draft a shortstop early to get quality production. Another undervalued quality of Galvis is his recent ironman streak, which came to an end at an impressive 328 games. He is known for his defensive prowess, which should keep him on the field if the hitting wanes a little. If the bat remains hot, the Jays will find a way to keep him in the lineup even when stud prospect Bo Bichette is brought up later this year.

 

Marcus Semien (SS, OAK)

Every year, Marcus Semien is the forgotten shortstop that is taken at the end of drafts as an afterthought. However, he has provided double-digit homers and steals for the last four years. He’s gotten the process started again this year with three bombs and one theft of a base. Semien has the best plate discipline of the group this year, and his stats are consistent with his performance in 2018. He has a 25 percent chase and seven percent swinging strike rates, while also making contact with 93 percent of pitches in the zone. That has helped him achieve a career-best 12% walk and strikeout rates.

Semien has batted in five different spots in the lineup this year but he’s been in the top third most often, which puts him ahead of extreme power hitters in Matt Chapman, Khris Davis, and Matt Olson (when he returns). One thing he will need to improve upon is his 52% ground-ball rate. An improvement in this area will help him eclipse the 52 extra-base hits in 2018. Instead of paying a lot in drafts to acquire a player reliant on speed, Semien brings some pop and speed to go with a decent batting average (career .251).

 

Tim Beckham (SS, SEA)

Tim Beckham has received a lot of buzz to start the 2019 season. Maybe it is the excitement of playing in the first games of the 2019 MLB season in Japan. Alternatively, it is the possibility that the first-overall-pick talent that he possesses has finally come to fruition. Regardless, the facts are that he is performing quite well in a new environment with the Mariners. It might seem odd that he would perform better in Seattle than the hitter-friendly Camden Yards; however, the atmosphere and caliber of league-mates in his new squad is drastically improved.

Beckham wasted no time filling the stat sheet this season with 14 runs, four dingers, and a stolen base. While one steal isn’t impressive on its own, it states a lot that he’s already attempted three steals thus far. He aims to use his wheels and could easily eclipse his season-best of six stolen bases in 2017. His plate discipline still leaves a bit to be desired as his strikeout rate is inflated to 25%. It is nice to see that he’s made a five percent improvement in his chase rate which should help improve his mediocre 74% contact rate. Beckham has spent most of his time batting in the sixth spot which should provide ample RBI opportunities hitting behind Mitch Haniger, Domingo Santana, and Edwin Encarnacion.

 

Final Note

For clarity's sake, the point of this article is not to state that these guys are better players than Bogaerts, Correa, or Seager. The intent was two-fold. First, during the draft, the focus could be better put on the needs of the team instead of grabbing one of the last name-brand shortstops. The performance of these guys through the first three weeks of the season is better than the guys you drafted much higher.

Second, if you need to make a trade with one of your more well-known shortstops to plug a hole elsewhere on your roster, the position is deep enough to support such a move. Value can be had at any time. Don't get attached to the name; know the stats and how they can best benefit your roster.

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