2017 Fantasy Baseball Shortstop Preview: The 27 Club

by Tyler Thompson
2017 Fantasy Baseball Shortstop Preview

No, this isn't another article about how crazy the list of deceased 27 year old musicians there are. This is the shortstop preview of the 2017 fantasy baseball season. However, the youth movement at the shortstop position can provide that same amount of craziness (for baseball fans anyway).

Eighteen out of the top 25 ranked shortstops on FantasyPros are under the age of 27. A position that used to be scarce is now abundant with fresh talent.

Perhaps now it isn't as necessary to snag that elite shortstop early in the draft. You can get your young, up-and-coming shortstop at any point in the draft. These guys range anywhere from 10-30 HR and 5-45 SB. No matter how your draft turns out, just know that there's a shortstop that fits the construct of your team's roster. That hasn't been the case at the position for a long time!

Now, which young players are for real and which ones are fool's gold that are still living off their minor league glory? That and much more below in the shortstop preview.

2017 Fantasy Baseball Shortstop Preview

Just how valuable is Manny Machado?

Last season, I was all over Machado early in the first round for his potential at shortstop eligibility. Of course, this was when it wasn't recognized that shortstop was such a deep position. However, I profited largely off being able to use Machado at SS about a month into the season in 2016.

This season, he is still a first round pick so it's not like I am making anything other than an obvious point here. But, I wanted to take a second to show how valuable he is as a shortstop. Machado hit 37 HR last season in Baltimore. Outside of Machado, there were seven third basemen who hit 30+ HR. There was only one shortstop who hit 30 HR. That player, Brad Miller, had only hit 21 HR in his two previous seasons combined.

In a fantasy baseball world where everyone is looking for an edge in power, having a guy like Machado that can hit ~10 HR more than the next best shortstop is incredibly valuable. Considering he also gives you the flexibility to draft either SS/3B later in drafts as needed, the value with Machado runs far past his counting stats.

Who ya got: Carlos Correa or Corey Seager?

This seems like a dumb question - having either of these guys will be a great fill-in early in drafts at shortstop. However, just for fun, let's do a 'Tale of the Tape'.

The major plus of Seager's game is his consistency. His batting average and run production were above average in every month but one last season (April). That's a very valuable trait in a fantasy baseball player, especially in a week-by-week league. His average will hover around 0.300 too.

Correa provides a much better profile for season-long leagues. Although he is a streaky player, by the end he will have just as much power and more steals than his counterpart. The supporting cast is better in Houston, especially considering how often Jose Altuve gets on base in front of him. The ballpark factor also favors Correa.

The verdict for me is to take the upside with Correa. Sure, consistency is nice to have, but Correa can give your roster that spark that puts you over the top in a league. This was very close though and probably not that much effect between picking either guy.

Can Trevor Story repeat his 2016 production over a full season?

Story was the talk of the town until his injury last season. Through 97 games, he hit 0.272 with 27 HR, 67 R, 72 RBI, and 8 SB. That easily outproduced value last season for those who took a chance on him late in drafts. The question now is if he can carry those rates into the 2017 season.

Starting with the power, if you are asking me if he will bomb 45 dingers next year, I will laugh at you. He didn't show this much power in the minors. However, in Coors Field we trust and that can certainly bump a guy up. The floor is 25 HR, but I am expecting between 28-34 HR for Story next season.

Now, with the stolen bases, I certainly believe that he can repeat his pace from 2016. That puts him at 13-14 SB and that's a good floor in my eyes. On the other hand, I'm not buying his 0.272 AVG sticking through next season. That strikeout rate is just too absurd and his BABIP must decline despite his home park. Anywhere between 0.245 and 0.260 is where I have his average next year.

Still though, let's not overthink this: a Colorado shortstop that can go 0.255 with 30 HR, 15 SB, and a full season's worth of run production in that lineup. If that's not worthy of a top 5 shortstop pick, I don't know what is. In fact, dare I say he becomes a value pick in the third or fourth round. Just draft high average guys at other positions to balance him out.

Will shortstops provide the best draft day value for stolen bases?

Short answer: absolutely! That value won't come in the form of Jonathan Villar, who is consistently being drafted in the first three rounds.

However, the other speedy shortstops are going in the mid-to-late rounds. I will be publishing a 'Stolen Base Targets' article in the coming days. I identify 23 mid-to-late round targets for steals. Of those 23, six of them had shortstop eligibility: Jose Ramirez, Eduardo Nunez, Elvis Andrus, Tim Anderson, Jose Peraza, and Ketel Marte.

This list of names was pretty impressive to me. This could definitely play a part in strategy - you could plan to take a speedy shortstop outside the first 9 rounds. This would allow you to fade the top 10 shortstops and address heavy power in the early rounds. Something to ponder!

Player on the Rise

Aledmys Diaz, St. Louis Cardinals

Diaz busted onto the 2016 scene when Jhonny Peralta suffered an injury to his thumb in Spring Training. He took the job and ran with it, eventually forcing Peralta into a part-time player. However, I suppose not many people are buying his 2016 numbers considering his 12th round ADP.

Don't miss this opportunity to buy low. He's a 20-10 power-speed threat who can hit for average. He hits in the two-hole for a winning ball club who just signed a great leadoff hitter in Dexter Fowler. Guys like Matt Carpenter and Stephen Piscotty are batting behind him. Diaz should walked into 90+ R/RBI this season if he continues his steady hitting from 2016.

The way I see it, he's a poor man's Xander Bogaerts or Francisco Lindor. The big difference is that you can draft Diaz at least eight rounds later.

Player on the Decline

Troy Tulowitzki, Toronto Blue Jays

Remember when Tulo used to be so valuable because of his position? I mean, he used to be getting the Trevor Story love. Now he's just barely in the top 10 among shortstops. What's the deal?

Well, as we all know, injuries have been killer for Tulo in his career. The turf up in Toronto doesn't help that cause. Even so, we used to say 'well, if he gets you 25 HR in the 120 games he plays, he is worth the pick'. But, as mentioned before, the depth at the position doesn't allow that reasoning.

You can get guys with similar profiles to his later in drafts. Jung-ho Kang is battling legal issues right now, but expectations are that he plays. He certainly can provide the stats Tulo gives you. Shoot, even Asdrubal Cabrera put up a 0.280/0.336/0.474 slash line last year, much better than Tulo. Usually I would pounce on the discount, but I am afraid that I am out on Tulowitzki this season.

Player on the Horizon

Jorge Polanco, Minnesota Twins

Polanco should be thrown into the fire in what should be a rebuilding year for the Twins. RosterResource has him as the two-hole hitter sandwiched between Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer. Can he take advantage of this situation and be fantasy relevant?

The young shortstop is certainly a double digit power-steal threat with an average hovering 0.275. Where he could really improve his fantasy value is in the stolen base department. If you look at his skillset, he actually doesn't differ much from Eduardo Nunez, a breakout shortstop last season that they traded to San Francisco. Nunez didn't run all that much in previous seasons, then all of a sudden Minnesota started giving everyone the green light.

Polanco could be given that same confidence on the basepaths, especially with a patient Mauer batting behind him. Right now, Polanco could be compared to Dansby Swanson or Javier Baez, both of whom are drafted within the top 20 shortstops. However, should Polanco add to his steal total, he could be that last round flier that sneakily helps you win a category.

Player to Avoid

Addison Russell, Chicago Cubs

He was my 'Player on the Rise' in last year's version of my shortstop preview. Now, after seeing what Russell is, I have to avoid him for 2017. However, according to his current draft value, it doesn't look like he disappointed other owners as much.

I know he's young and there's time for him to develop, but he isn't going from a 0.238 average to 0.280 overnight. Even the Steamer projections have him around 0.247, which is very reasonable. He will continue to bat toward the end of the Chicago batting order as well.

He's a fascinating young player and I enjoy watching him play, but I have to pass on him in the fantasy world. How much better do we expect him to be compared to guys like Marcus Semien and Brad Miller? Both are going a few rounds later and I would rather go that route.

Be sure to check out the rest of the 2017 Fantasy Baseball Position Previews.

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