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Tiered Shortstop Rankings Analysis

Brian Creagh digs deeper into the projections to find the implied tiers in shortstop rankings.

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Colorado Rockies Russell Lansford-USA TODAY Sports

We’ll keep shortstop week going with my favorite article of the week—implied tiers analysis. If you missed this same article from Catcher Week, I would recommend giving the overview a quick read. The concept remains the same: using a relatively vanilla projection model (Steamer) we discern the implied tiers where production makes a big drop from one player to the next. Furthermore, looking at current ADP values (via FanGraphs) we discover where it may be advantageous to take a shortstop in drafts.

For each position, we will only rank as many players as are typically owned in your standard 5x5, 12-man league. For shortstop, this means approximately 23 players. So without further ado, here are the implied tiers for shorstop:

Again, a few explanations—zSUM is the sum of all a player’s z-scores for each of the 5 categories. It is not the be-all and end-all definition of a player’s value, because a player’s worth to a team is dependent to the construction of that specific team (i.e. Billy Hamilton doesn’t mean as much to a team that already has Dee Gordon). It is an excellent approximation of a player’s general value compared to the rest of the position and a helpful metric for organizing similar expected output.

Tiers are represented by the solid black line and were generated subjectively by looking at both zSUM and current ADP. The double black line beneath Marcus Semien represents the average production at the position—players above the line are “above-average” and players below the line are “below-average”. It is my goal to leave every draft with an above-average player at each position, so having this break-even point in mind is extremely helpful.

Next we need to compare this zSUM metric to where each player is currently being drafted. If we can wait a round or two and get the same production as an earlier pick, we are setting ourselves up for success. The graph below plots each player’s zSUM vs. their current ADP with a trend line running through the scatter plot. A simple way of interpreting the chart is: players above the line represent good value, while players below the line represent poor value at their current ADP.

(click image to zoom)


Observations

Marcus Semien is going very underdrafted. With production slightly better than Didi Gregorius, Semien is going 120 picks later in drafts! I’ve seen some buzz growing around Semien and expect his 231 ADP (according to NFBC drafts) to creep up, but there’s a lot of buffer between his current price and break-even value.

I’m fascinated by the big three at the top of the position - Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, and Francisco Lindor. Correa’s Steamer projections are across only 592 plate appearances compared to Lindor’s 662 and Trea Turner’s 632. I rank them Turner, Correa, and Lindor but don’t hate any of them at their current ADP levels. I’ve talked myself into Turner being a Top 5 pick in standard formats and kicking the tires on him at the 4th spot in The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational.

Elvis Andrus is incredibly polarizing for me. On the one hand, his 24+ stolen bases for the past five years and ~.300 batting average for the past two give him such a solid floor. On the other hand, his run and runs batted in production has been all over the place:

Steamer is pessimistic on Andrus for 2018, but I prefer him to Xander Bogaerts and like him late in Round 5.

Trevor Story is where I try to draw the line for the position. I want Story or anyone rated higher, or else I panic. I like Semien as a late pick but would hate to rely on him in standard 12-team formats. I reach for Story in Round 9 if I don’t have a shortstop at that point in the draft.

Jean Segura and Javier Baez are the two players I’m staying away from. I haven’t seen them at a price I find worthwhile in any early drafts. Segura is interesting if you think the changes in his GB/FB ratio are sustainable and he’s going to be closer to a .300 average versus his projected .270 range. I’m on the more pessimistic side and sitting out on paying for Segura.

If you have any questions or comments or just want to chat further about your league, please don’t hesitate to reach out on Twitter @BrianCreagh or via email bcreagh119@gmail.com.