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2017 Fantasy Baseball: Shortstop - NL Only - Rankings

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It's time to turn our attention towards the only league managers with specific positional rankings for AL & NL only formats. After covering American League shortstops yesterday, we jump back to the senior circuit to discuss their shortstop options.

Division Series - Chicago Cubs v San Francisco Giants- Game Three Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Welcome back only leaguer friends. We’re not quite half way through this AL & NL only league ranking series, but we’re getting there. I hope you’re enjoying the content and format thus far. If you’ve missed any of our previous entries, please feel free to take a couple of minutes to review positions that interest you. So far we’ve covered:

What comes below will be both 5x5 (batting average) & 5x5 (on-base percentage) rankings, along with a player I am targeting and avoiding. We'll continue this process through both the American League & National League, going position-by-position. I hope you enjoy it.

Reminder: For the purpose of these posts, we are using the traditional 20-games played the prior season to determine draft-day eligibility.

5X5 BA Rankings  | 5X5 OBP Rankings

Rank Player Team Rank Player Team
Rank Player Team Rank Player Team
1 Jonathan Villar MIL 1 Jonathan Villar MIL
2 Corey Seager LAD 2 Corey Seager LAD
3 Trevor Story COL 3 Trevor Story COL
4 Eduardo Nunez SF 4 Eduardo Nunez SF
5 Jose Peraza CIN 5 Aledmys Diaz STL
6 Aledmys Diaz STL 6 Dansby Swanson ATL
7 Javier Baez CHC 7 Jose Peraza CIN
8 Asdrubal Cabrera NYM 8 Javier Baez CHC
9 Brandon Crawford SF 9 Brandon Crawford SF
10 Dansby Swanson ATL 10 Addison Russell CHC
11 Addison Russell CHC 11 Brandon Crawford SF
12 Christopher Owings ARI 12 Asdrubal Cabrera NYM
13 Orlando Arcia MIL 13 Jedd Gyorko STL
14 Zack Cozart CIN 14 Sean Rodriguez ATL
15 Jedd Gyorko STL 15 Christopher Owings ARI

My initial take away from the National League’s shortstop pool is that it’s not nearly as deep as it’s American League cousin. While players such as Jonathan Villar, Corey Seager and Trevor Story are all projected to produce at near-elite to elite levels, the track record is relatively small for each player which opens the projection up for more variance. Options certainly exist after these names, however, with names such as Brad Miller and Marcus Semien occupying the 12th & 13th spot in the AL rankings, we find names such as Orlando Arcia and Zack Cozart on the NL list.

TARGET:

Brandon Crawford: The Giant’s shortstop was a target for me entering 2016 drafts as the power spike we saw in 2015 appeared to be backed by full skill support. After hitting a previous career high 10 home runs in 2014, Crawford smashed his way to 21 home runs over 143 games in 2015. While Crawford was unable to completely repeat his power breakout in 2016, the underlying skills point towards at least a 2016 power repeat with room for growth. In fact, despite hitting 9 home runs fewer in 2016, Crawford’s rotisserie value was nearly identical year-over-year. This was the function of an improve batting average/on-base percentage and slightly more at-bats, along with overall player pool production. Crawford was able to improve his contact rate to 79%, while also improving his walk rate to 9% last season. Using the Hard% found at FanGraphs we see Crawford actually hit more balls hard in 2016 than in 2015 (35.2% vs 33.2%). I also like what I see with the Statcast data, with above league average metrics in Average Distance (225.50 vs 218.07 league average), Average Generated Velocity (2.16 MPH vs 1.45 MPH league average) & Average Launch Angle (11.93 degrees vs 9.97 degrees league average). The major power difference between 2015 and 2016 was simply a correction of Crawford’s HR/FB rate. For his career, Crawford has an 8.1% HR/FB rate. In 2015 that number spiked to 16.2% and in 2016 it fell back to 7.5%. Crawford’s home ballpark is one of the toughest to consistently hit home runs in, so there’s a chance he does not approach a low-end double digit HR/FB rate again, however, the skills under the hood point towards the potential that one more power burst could lurk inside. The price to find out is quite low making Crawford an NL shortstop I’m willing to invest in this season.

Honorable mentions: Trevor Story & Dansby Swanson

AVOID:

Addison Russell: The perfect mixture for an overpriced asset in 2017: Young top-end prospect, on an elite team, with a following of big-name industry supporters. This isn’t to say that I’m not a believer in Russell’s ability and long-term outlook, rather, I am avoiding Russell in 2017 based on the size of the step forward I expect him to take versus the price it will cost to roster. At this point I don’t see a huge step forward in the batting average category as Russell is still working on his ability to make contact. After being sub-70% in 2015, Russell improved slightly to 74% last season. The sub-par contact isn’t my only red flag, as even when contact is made, Russell is below league average in Hard% with a 29.3% mark. Statcast confirms this data point, showing Russell’s Average Generated Velocity at 0.40 MPH last season. Russell’s .179 ISO last season is still above the league average ISO for shortstops in 2016 (.145) and the ability to elevate the ball has already been displayed during his short MLB career. This should create a safe home run floor for the youngster. If Russell were to go for less in draft or auction than I expect, the potential upside is definitely there with this exciting young player. That said, the perfect mixture I mentioned above, will likely price out any potential upside without amassing far too much risk, making Russell a player I will likely wait until 2018 or beyond to acquire in redraft formats.

“Honorable” mentions: Eduardo Nunez & Zack Cozart

That does it for National League shortstops. Next, we will move to the hot corner in the American League. Please leave any questions, comments or other fantasy baseball related banter in the comments below. You can also follow me on Twitter using the icon at the top of the article and feel free to ask questions there as well.