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Finding Value at SS

Unlike in the past, fantasy owners can find value at shortstop. There is a six-round divide between the upper echelon of SS and the next tier. In early NFBC drafts, players with speed have moved up draft boards. While Manny Machado and Jean Segura qualify at SS in 2017, this article will use the NFBC ADP at SS.

The Early Rounds

Carlos CorreaHou16.54
Corey SeagerLAD19.17
Jonathan VillarMil21.13
Xander BogaertsBos27.17
Francisco LindorCle30.42
Trevor StoryCol30.79

Most of the elite shortstops are leaving the board in the second round. Carlos Correa's ability to post a 20/20 season has owners taking him early. He increased his hard contact from 32.9% in 2015 to 37.2% last year, and he posted above-average exit velocity in 21 weeks. While he whiffed more often (21.1% K%), his growing patience (11.4% BB%) should help in OBP leagues. Correa posted 64 RBI in his 339 AB's when he hit cleanup for the Astros. 

Owners can draft Corey Seager at pick #19, but batting second will hurt his RBI chances when compared to Correa. Seager made hard-contact 39.7% of the time, even though he owned a 46.3% GB%. Steamer projects Seager to hit 22 home runs with 87 R and 79 RBI. Seager is a valuable keeper-league asset, but Steamer projects his BABIP to fall from .355 in 2016 to .319 in 2017. Seager will want to continue to hit line drives (24.3% LD%) while he tries to hit more fly balls (29.3% FB%). 

Jonathan Villar's 62 SB and 19 HR have moved him into the second round. He drew more walks (11.6% BB%) last season, and he increased his ISO to .171 with more power in the second half. Even though his ability to keep the ball on the ground (55.6% GB%) helps him reach first, his ground ball tilt and a 19.6% HR/FB illustrates the danger of paying for last season's home run total. Steamer projects 52 SB with a .255 batting average. 

Xander Bogaerts, Francisco Lindor, and Trevor Story are going between 27.17-30.79. If owners want a chance at one of the top six, it looks like that they will have to pay second/third-round prices.

Second to None - 2B Value

Xander Bogaerts increased his walk-percentage (8.1%) and his hard-contact rate (30.6%). Even though his fly-ball rate (34.9%) increased, his infield fly-ball percentage (17.8%) also increased. Bogaerts posted an average fly-ball distance of 287.54 feet (117th in MLB) last year, and Steamer projects 17 HR and 9 SB in 2017. The second round inflation on Bogaerts could steer owners in another direction at pick #27. 

Francisco Lindor provides a nice mix of power, speed, and average. Lindor continues to draw more walks (8.3%) while limiting his strikeouts (12.9%). The Indians added Edwin Encarnacion to a team that scored the fifth-most runs in the majors, and Steamer projects Lindor to score 79 R with 15 HR, 78 RBI, and 19 SB, which provides all-around value. Lindor is a gem in keeper leagues, but the second round price tag could scare owners away in one-year leagues if they would rather draft an ace or a slugger. 

Trevor Story led the majors in average fly-ball distance (327.37') before his injury. He whiffs (31.3% K%) quite often, but his ability to create hard contract (44.9%) plays well in Coors Field, where he hit 16 of his 27 homers. His strikeouts may hurt in points leagues, but owners looking for power at SS can take a risk on Story. While his projected .260 batting average may not help teams, Steamer's projections of 24 HR with 80 RBI and 13 SB.could be conservative if he accumulates 568 AB. According to Baseball Savant, Story's 8% Barrels/PA was the 14th best in the majors last year. Even though drafting Story comes with risk, owners could profit if he delivers a 30 HR/15 SB season.

Fantasy Baseball SS Rankings

Rounds 8-12

Those owners that choose to wait on SS can find more cost-effective options in rounds 8-12. 

Eduardo NunezSF119.79
Addison RussellChC135.13
Aledmys DiazStL146.25
Troy TulowitzkiTor148.25
Brad MillerTB153.88
Elvis AndrusTex160.5
Tim AndersonCWS173.46
Dansby SwansonAtl188.54

Eduardo Nunez can reward owners that wait on speed. He makes consistent contact, and he raised his hard-contact percentage to 27.8% with 16 HR. While Steamer projects a drop to 11 HR, Nunez can can add 25 steals at the 8/9 swing. 

Addison Russell's 21 HR and 95 RBI move him up the NFBC boards. For more on Russell, read this article. There are stronger options in this group, but hitting fifth in a strong Cubs lineup could provide another step forward in 2017.

Owners can draft Jose Peraza's 30-35 steals at 138.29. In his debut with the Reds, Peraza hit line drives 27.5% of the time, and he kept the ball on the ground (43.5% GB%). While he does not offer Nunez's home run totals, more walks (2.7%) would help his cause.

Elite Options at 3B

Aledmys Diaz hit 13 of his 17 HR in the first half when he posted a 33% Hard%. He pulled all of his HR in 2016, and he drove in 39 runs and scored 40 R when he hit second in the order last season. He crushed RHP with a .941 OPS and a .237 ISO. His Steamer projections are similar to to Russell's with a higher batting average. (16 HR, 64 RBI, and 72 R)

Troy Tulowitzki and Brad Miller both offer power options at SS. Owners should plan around Tulowitzki's injury history, but a 40.3% FB%, 34.2 Hard%, and the Rogers Centre keep 20 HR in play. Miller will not return to 30 HR, as his 20.4% HR/FB is higher than his career HR/FB (13.4%), but he should hit 20 HR in 2017. 

Elvis Andrus and Tim Anderson offer valuable speed in the double-digit rounds. Andrus makes consistent contact, which supports his career .335 OBP. Steamer projects 24 SB with 75 R and 69 RBI. While Anderson offers more upside in keeper leagues, his low walk rate (3%) and strikeout percentage (27.1%) limit his OBP. (.306 last year) for 2017. Anderson is projected for 22 SB, 70 R and 59 RBI, which has him moving up NFBC draft boards. Anderson's speed and upside provide value in the 11th round. 

The price tag on Dansby Swanson could be inflated in redraft leagues if he only posts a .259 batting average with 13 HR and 58 RBI. In keeper leagues, he is well worth the long-term investment. He showed patience (9% BB%) in his debut, and a stronger lineup should help, as the Braves posted the third-best OPS (.774) in the second-half of 2016. 

MI Slots between picks 200-300

Three more SS provide value. Those owners that pass over Addison Russell earlier can draft Marcus Semien (202.75). His strikeout rate (22.4%) and walk rate (8.2 %) are similar to Russell's numbers. Although his 14.7% HR/FB last year may fall closer to 9% HR/FB from the previous three seasons, Steamer projects him to hit 20 homers. Owners should know that Semien had below average exit velocity in 15 weeks last season.

Didi Gregorius (241.71) and Brandon Crawford (243.88) offer similar power numbers. Gregorius hit 11 of his 20 homers at Yankee Stadium. His below-average exit velocity and low fly-ball distance (259.52 feet) do not support a repeat of last year's power numbers. He did improve his hard contact (27.5%) in the second half, and Steamer projects 15 HR and 67 RBI in 2017.

Crawford's home run totals decreased, as his HR/FB dropped from 16.2% in 2015 to 7.5% in 2016, which is closer to his career average of 8.1% HR/FB. He hit more fly balls (36.1%) last season with an average distance of 287.63' (116th). The increase in hard contact (35.2%) and above-average exit velocity in 14 weeks illustrate that Crawford is capable of 13 HR.

The Strategy

Selecting one of the big six SS in the second round provides a strong starting SS option for fantasy lineups. Trevor Story and Carlos Correa could provide the most power in 2017, while Jonathan Villar will provide elite speed. Those owners that wait until later can also find value in Eduardo Nunez and Tim Anderson. I will own several shares of Trevor Story at his current price to see if can reach his upside, and I will own several shares of Tim Anderson if I wait until the 10th/11th round to draft a starting SS.

Fantasy Baseball SS Value NFBC ADP