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Young Shortstops are Playing for Keeps

Fantasy Baseball SS Tiers

Last year, several young players joined the upper echelon of the SS ranks, and we expect at least one more name, Corey Seager, to join the top 10 Shortstops in 2016. Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, and Addison Russell elevated the SS position in 2015, and keeper league owners are holding onto all three SS's in anticipation for their bright futures.

Correa's World

In a standard points league on CBS and ESPN, Carlos Correa is 27% better than the second-ranked SS if he hits 22 HR's and drives in 90 runs, and Correa will score 100 points more than the second-ranked SS, Correa walked 9% of the time in 2015, and he had a 24% HR/FB rate. Even though his HR/FB should regress a bit in 2016, Correa's combination of power and speed at SS places him in a tier of his own, especially if he can steal 84% of his SB attempts again. H2H owners loved watching Correa dominate 67% of his weeks, and he only failed to help out his H2H for one week out of 18 weeks with Houston. While owners may not want to choose Correa over Trout, Donaldson, and Kershaw, he will earn top-SS money for years to come. If you own him in a keeper league, just sit back and enjoy the show.

Fantasy Baseball SS Rankings

Second Tier

While Correa is in a tier of his own, only 20-40 points separate five SS's in the second tier. Corey Seager leads the charge in keeper leagues, even though one-year owners may want to target Brandon Crawford for his consistency. Corey Seager will be 7% more valuable than the average SS in an 18-team points league, and Seager will be 5% more valuable than an average SS in a 14-team league. Seager walked 7% of the time, but he made contact 83% of the time, even though he 53% of the balls he made contact with ended up on the ground. Seager does not offer the speed of Correa, but he dominated 5 out of 6 weeks for H2H owners, and his power potential should lead to 16-20 HR's this year. NFBC owners are drafting Seager at #55

Brandon Crawford also offers 20 HR power at pick #172, and he dominated 48% of his weeks for H2H owners. Crawford will score 100 points less than Correa, but he will be 3% more valuable than the average SS in a 14-team league, but his value increases in deeper leagues. Crawford is 8% more valuable in an 18-team league, and his ability to hit 15-20 homers in 2016 will help points league owners and H2H owners. Crawford provides wonderful value in the 12th round in shallow leagues and the 9th round in deeper leagues.

Those owners in keeper leagues will want to bypass Crawford in favor of Xander Bogaerts and Francisco Lindor. Both players are projected to score within 10 points of Troy Tulowitzki's totals, and both SS's offer tremendous upside. MLB Network's Top 10 program named Lindor the top SS in MLB, which includes defensive metrics.

Xander Bogaerts enjoyed a strong 2015, but his .372 BABIP should lead to a BA dip in 2016. Keeper league owners will note that Bogaerts made more contact, 84% of the time last year, and he successfully stole 83% of his SB attempts. Bogaerts is an average SS in a 14-team league, but he provides 3% more value in an 18-team league. NFBC owners are taking Bogaerts at #63 overall.

Francisco Lindor lands in the same neighborhood as Bogaerts at pick #62, which will place him as a league average SS in a 14-team league and 3% better than an average SS in an 18-team league. Scouts praised Lindor for his defense and his speed in the minors. Lindor's BA should see a dip because of a .348 BABIP in 2015, but his SB totals should increase to 20. H2H owners will prefer Lindor over Bogaerts because Lindor dominated 71% of his weeks compared to Bogaerts' 33%. Lindor should score at least 400 points in leagues that reward two points for a 2B, and he could score over 500 points in leagues that reward 4-5 points for each double.

Troy Tulowitzki is leaving the board at #51, but one-year owners could make a profit if he slips deeper in drafts. Tulowitzki's contact fell to 77% in 2015, and he only hit 17 homers in 486 AB's. He is 1% better than the average SS in a 14-team league, and like Bogaerts and Lindor, he is 3% better in an 18-team league. Can he stay healthy? Will he raise his 12% HR/FB rate this year? Even though he may hit 20 HR's in 2016, owners are choosing him based off of his name rather than his value, especially since he only dominated 44% of his weeks for H2H owners.

Middle Tiers

The SS position bunches up in the middle tier with five more SS. Jose Reyes, Andrelton Simmons, Addison Russell, Marcus Semien, and Alcides Escobar fill this middle tier. Reyes starts the tier at league average, and Escobar finishes the tier at 7% below league average in a 14-team league, and 4.6% below league average  in an 18-team league. Owners that wait on the middle tier will sacrifice 50 points, but owners will be able to wait on their tier for four-six rounds after the second tier.

Addison Russell may have disappointed some keeper league owners by not posting statistics similar to Lindor or Correa in 2015, but Russell will offer good value if shallow-league owners can wait until the tenth round to draft him. Russell struck out too often in 2015, about once a game, and his contact rate fell to 70%. Russell contributed 13 HR's in Chicago, and he should hit 15 more in 2016. His inconsistency hurt H2H league owners, but he will only cost points-league owners 4-5% of value at pick #135.

Jose Reyes provides average-SS production in an 18-team league, but he costs owners 3% of value in a 14-team league. NFBC owners are drafting him at #136, just behind Russell, but one-year owners that need speed may turn to Reyes. He successfully stole 80% of his bases last year, and he should provide 20-25 more SB's in 2016. Keeper-league owners will want to stay away from Reyes' declining health.

Marcus Semien provides the best value in this tier, especially at pick #252. Owners can draft Semien between the 14th-18th rounds. Semien will reach double-digit HR's and double-digit SB's in 2016, especially if he improves on his 76% contact rate. With Semien on their teams, points-league owners will only lose 4-6% at the SS position. Semien could also gain more value if he can improve his SB success rate, which was only 69% in 2015.

Late Rounds

The last SS tier in an 18-team league includes Eugenio Suarez, Ian Desmond, and Asdrubal Cabrera. This tier represents another 40-50 point drop, and owners will sacrifice 7-10% worth of value at SS when compared to an average SS.

Asdrubal Cabrera's consistency will help owners that take risks at other positions. Cabrera dominated 48% of his weeks for H2H owners, and owners can draft him ten rounds later than Jose Reyes. Cabrera's 15 HR's and 80% contact rate will keep him in the lineup, and he even steals a handful of bases.

Eugenio Suarez offers power and speed an pick #290. Suarez's low SB%, 54% last year, will hurt him, but he has the power to hit 15 HR's late in the draft. Risky-owners should turn to Suarez and hope for more power and speed in 2016.

Blind Comparison

We often overvalue scarcity at SS, which helps in deeper leagues, but some SS are being drafted too highly in 2016. Compare the statistics of the following players:

A: .255, 16 HR, 65 RBI, and 7 SB
B: .280, 10 HR, 69 RBI, and 11 SB
C: .260, 16 HR, 72 RBI, and 8 SB

Which one would you rather own? Now consider that player A is taken at #283, player B at #63, and player C at #135. If H2H owners can sacrifice some BA, they will earn close to the same amount of HR's, RBI, and SB's with player A for a much cheaper price in 2016.