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State of the Position - Shortstop

Brian Creagh previews the state of the shortstop position

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

In 2015, no other position received a more impactful talent infusion than shortstop. Both the American League and National League are laden with future superstars and the future of the position looks bright. The AL Rookie of the Year (Carlos Correa) and its runner-up (Fransico Lindor) were shortstops, and the player some are considering the best future fantasy player at the position comes from the National League (Corey Seager). Add in recent top prospects in Xander Bogaerts and Addison Russell, plus a top international signing, Jung-Ho Kang, and the depth of this position becomes scary good.

If we look back at the results from 2015, the season totals would lead you to believe the position had a down year. Of the players listed above, only Bogaerts and Russell earned enough PAs to be qualified, and only 4 qualified players earned a wRC+ greater than 100. This just shows the spark of life that this rookie class provides and how all owners need to alter their approach to this position.

Strategy

For the past few seasons, shortsop was treated similarly as the catcher position - pay up for the top 1 or 2 options, or sit and wait and take what's left at the end of the draft. The new-found depth at the position will change this. At every stage of the draft, there is legitimate value to be found at the shortstop position, and there is upside worth paying for at any time. Starting with Correa in the first round, Seager in the next few rounds, or Addison Russell in the middle stages of the draft; you could roll the dice with any of these young shortstops earlier than their projected ADP and still profit.

There is also the argument to be made that with so many flashy toys just added to the position, that sitting and waiting on veterans coming off of a down year is the best approach. Maybe it finally makes sense to buy into Troy Tulowitzki since 120 games of him in Round 3 or 4 isn't a terrible proposition. Elvis Andrus and Ian Desmond are two other players still in their prime and come with a pedigree of being a Top 10 producer at the position. They aren't costing much at this point and could prove to be the wisest bet if many of these rookies hit a Sophomore Slump.

The position is so deep this year, or at least so tightly packed in the middle, that I think the best approach is to play more by need than by value. If your top pick is Chris Davis, Anthony Rizzo, or Kris Bryant, and you're concerned about AVG, then reaching for a Xander Boagerts makes a lot of sense. If you're short on power later in the draft, waiting on Brandon Crawford, or Jhonny Peralta is a solid play. In other words, use the depth of the position to fill in needs. Don't necessarily target upside or the best overall "value". Understand who the top plays are for each category in your league, and take one of them near their ADP.

Breakout Candidates

It will be tough to top last year's breakout class, but there are still some intriguing names of players who could have big season and provide huge value as sleepers. My favorite might be Ketel Marte of the Mariners who should bat lead-off, swipe 20+ bags with a decent AVG and a minimal price tag. Another favorite breakout candidate in the fantasy community is Trea Turner of the Washington Nationals. The Nationals decision to let Desmond walk says a lot about their confidence in Turner and how ready he is to take the starting job over. A few other names worth keeping an eye on are Chris Owings in Arizona, Marcus Semien in Oakland, and Trevor Story in Colorado. Semien is the only player with a starting job in his sights and I like him simply because I believe his 2015 was overshadowed by the big prospects mentioned earlier. A 15 HR/15 SB season is a realistic output and nothing is standing in his way. Owings and Story will need more to break their way for playing time to occur, but I'm willing to bet against Nick Ahmed and Jose Reyes' health. Both of these players have sneaky HR/SB combos that could produce with enough time (their future offensive environments are also a huge plus).

Prospects

When you promote Addison Russel, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Ketel Marte, Xander Boagerts, and Corey Seager in a short time-frame it is understandable that the top of the minor leagues is thin with talent. But, a new wave of offensive talent is in the low-minors and worth keeping an eye on in keeper leagues. The Big 3 from the 2015 draft are all SS with Alex Bregman, Brendan Rodgers, and Dansby Swanson. I like all 3 of them in dynasty formats, but would give a slight edge to Rodgers thanks to his offensive abilities. Tim Anderson and JP Crawford are two speedsters who could be ready for full-time gig in 2017. They are consensus Top-20 fantasy prospects and should go in the first round of any rookie dynasty draft. Some other names worth mentioning include Franklin Barreto (I have him as a Top 10 prospect for fantasy), Gleyber Torres, Orlando Arcia, Nick Gordon and Jorge Mateo. Barreto is the only one with enough pop to develop into a fantasy star, but all of these players could easily develop into fantasy starters in standard leagues.