2016 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers: Shortstop
Three of the most exciting draft picks are at shortstop this year – Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor and Corey Seager. Add to the mix Jung-ho Kang and the four rookies topped the OPS list for shortstops last year. Several players lose SS eligibility including Ben Zobrist, Hanley Ramirez, Yunel Escobar, Odubel Herrera and Jed Lowrie. Former first round fantasy studs Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Reyes will be more affordable this year and could still offer great value if they can stay healthy. By finishing in the top three again last season, Elvis Andrus continues to be the most consistent shortstop. He has averaged over 600 at-bats in each of the last six years and has never finished outside of the top ten. He will be a reliable yet unexciting draft pick.
The following players have all demonstrated skills suggesting they will outperform their draft position.
Ignore the league-leading 35 errors (unless it is a scoring category in your league), Marcus Semien is a useful shortstop to own with the potential to take a leap forward. In 2015, he hit 15 home runs and stole 11 bases. Only six other shortstops reached double-figures in both categories, so he is already starting from a solid base of production. Up to the end of July, the 25-year-old had a .659 OPS but improved significantly with a .830 OPS in the final two months. If he could extend the form of those final two months over an entire season, you would be looking at 22 home runs, 72 RBI, 85 runs and 10 stolen bases with a .285 AVG. That would make him a top three shortstop.
The Mariners’ shortstop production line keeps rolling along. Ketel Marte hit .317 in 67 games split between Double-A and Triple-A last year before earning a call-up at the end of July. He had showed impressive patience (21 BB/32 SO) in the minors and was installed into the leadoff spot in Seattle. The 22-year-old thrived as the everyday shortstop, slashing .283/.351/.402 in 57 games with two home runs, three triples and eight stolen bases. The acquisition of Nori Aoki could bump Marte from the leadoff spot and obviously, his value will take a hit if he is not batting ahead of Kyle Seager, Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz. Only six shortstops posted an offensive WAR greater than Marte in his time in the big leagues. The potential for growth deserves your consideration.
The Korean star made an understandably slow start to his career in the majors. It changed after the All-Star break as the only shortstops with a higher OPS than the hard-hitting Jung-ho Kang were Corey Seager and Francisco Lindor. In those 197 at-bats, he hit .310 with 11 home runs. His season was abruptly halted by a torn knee ligament and fractured tibia sustained in a collision at second base. The 28-year-old is expected to start the season on the DL with the hope of only missing one month. A quicker than expected recovery coupled with his lower profile compared to the other rookie shortstops could make Kang one of the bargains of the draft.
The imminent return of Zack Cozart had jeopardized Eugenio Suarez’s playing time but Todd Frazier’s departure to the White Sox will shift Suarez over to third base. The 24-year-old hit 13 home runs in his 97 game stint in the big leagues last year with a .280/.315/.446 slash line. The Venezuelan will be one of the key elements of the Reds’ rebuilding plans and if he can replicate the patient approach that he demonstrated in the minors, he could be the next Todd Frazier.