If you are playing in a league with us and you haven’t begun your fantasy baseball research for 2014, you have fallen behind. Soon fantasy baseball writers will release their ranking lists [How to Choose a Ranking List] for each position, going anywhere from 10 to 25 deep. But before we get to rankings, we need to study the positions as a whole, looking for trends or changes, or anything else that will help us prepare for the upcoming season.
So in the next few weeks we will be surveying each position, pulling back and taking a bird’s eye view of each place on the diamond. We’ve already looked at catcher, first base, second base, and third base. Today, we go to the men who start the double play, the shortstops.
History of the Shortstop Position
Remember when Alex Rodriguez played shortstop? His power at the position was a reason his name is atop the 2000’s leaderboard. From 2000-2009 Miguel Tejada is second to A-Rod’s 435 homers with 251, and no other shortstop has even 200 for the decade, nor did any shortstop – even Cal Ripkin, Jr. – ever have 200 in the ’90s. I share this as a reminder that power has never been a factor for the shortstop position in terms of fantasy play.
Yet this is what makes some of today’s shortstops so intriguing. As a result we all chase after shortstops like a bunch of catnip-addled felines who aren’t sure if the mouse they are chasing is the real or wind-up variety, all with the hopes of getting 20+ or even 10+ homers from the position.
I have no idea how I stumbled into a kitty metaphor and I swear I’m not one of those weirdos who watch cat videos on Youtube all day. OK, here’s just one.
Nay, fantasy shortstops are typically drafted for their speed. In fact, stolen bases are the very reason many owners drafted Elvis Andrus, Alcides Escobar (who had a league-worst .259 OBP, btw), Everth Cabrera, Jose Reyes, Ian Desmond and Jean Segura. In the case of Reyes, owners were disappointed with a measly 15 swipes, but with Desmond and Segura they were greeted pleasantly with 20 and 12 home runs, respectively.
Shortstop has always been a difficult fantasy position to draft for, so let’s look at some high level strategies to perhaps provide a framework as you are researching 2014’s draft.
Fantasy Strategies at Shortstop
OPTION #1: Get a guy quick.
If you are intent on getting a top-tier shortstop it will cost. For years owners have drafted Troy Tulowitski in the 1st round, hoping upon hope that he’d play a full season. He never did and he sadly probably never will. Likewise, the mercurial Hanley Ramirez has been a high round target. I’ll point you to this article if you are deciding who you’d rather have between those two.
I recently reached for Ian Desmond in an industry mock draft in order to get a power / speed balance and immediately regretted the decision. It’s OK to this this in a mock draft, but when we all are drafting for real in 2014, you need to take a serious look at the math. To pass up a sure bet from the 1B, 3B, or OF position is difficult to do if you get burned on a risky shortstop. If you burn 2nd round value on Tulo and he goes down again to injury, you’ll be punching yourself in the face because you didn’t draft a more bankable option like Adam Jones.
That brings us to our next option.
OPTION #2: Get a one category guy.
You can pass on shortstops in the first few rounds. You’ll pass out on the big names, but we’ve established that they carry warning flags. Instead, you can draft a one category guy.
In fact, this is pretty common as we alluded to when we mentioned the speedsters. Everth Cabrera will see his stock drop to an all time low as a result of the Biogenesis suspension, yet he’ll net you 40 steals easily. Why not give it a shot, knowing you can get him on the cheap? Getting a huge amount of steals from your shortstop frees you up to grab power guys earlier in the draft.
In fact, I’ve completely punted the shortstop position on for many of my teams. I’d draft a SS absolutely last, then I’d treat the guy as a fungible asset. I had no reservation cutting him loose early in the season to quickly grab a guy from the waiver wire who came out of the season hot. It’s a pain in the butt to know you’ll have to constantly try and upgrade a position from the waiver wire, but the reality is that you’ll typically have at least one position like that anyway.
What you DON’T want to do is reach for a mediocre guy.
Just don’t panic if you miss on one of the top guys. I’ve seen too many owners loose their melon when they saw the first 5-6 shortstops fly off the board. In response they proceed to draft a mediocre guy much too early. Don’t. If you miss out on an elite guy, make sure you draft the best talent available regardless of position. Then grab a one cat guy in the late rounds.
The Future of the Shortstop Position
All is not lost with the position. We have a better chance of spotting Sasquatch in the wild than we have of seeing Tulo play a full seeing, but we hold out hope anyway. But outside of that hope there are also some very intriguing and Talented young shortstops on the horizon.
Despite Jurickson Profar‘s rough first season, he absolutely has the goods. If Texas trade a middle infielder this offseason we may get to see those goods on display more regularly.
Likewise, Xander Bogaerts is an absolute talent. He’ll get enough at bats in the 2014 Red Sox lineup to be fantasy relevant. Of course, he’s long gone in dynasty leagues.
In the near term, Jonathan Villar should be a good source of late round stolen bases. He won’t hit much, but it always good to have a young sleeper in your hip pocket when you go into draft day. At the shortstop position that’s more important than ever.