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Daily Fantasy Strategy: Shortstop

Heath explores the shortstop position for MLB DFS purposes.

MLB: Spring Training-Cleveland Indians at Los Angeles Angels Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In the books so far are:

Catchers

First Base

Second Base

And we have Spring Training box scores to review! Who else is getting excited for meaningful baseball? Before we get there, though, let’s get through these DFS overviews. Shortstop has become an impact position and is not to be ignored.

Shortstops Slash Like Second Basemen

2B in 2017: .263/.329/.409

SS in 2017: .260/.315/.407

Fairly similar, eh? Second basemen had a higher OBP and stole more bases in 2017 (485 to 424). However, there were 18 shortstops who stole 10 or more bases, compared to 15 second basemen. So shortstops were more concentrated with regard to speed.

Young Power!

In the second base DFS overview, we established that the keystone is the only position in baseball that has not improved its ISO numbers over the last two years. Shortstops made a big jump in 2016 and continued to rise last season. With guys like Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, and Corey Seager all on the upswing of their careers, this surge in power should continue. Javier Baez, Didi Gregorius, and Trevor Story are all legitimate threats for 25+ home runs as well.

Lindor’s minuscule 12.9% strikeout rate last year compares favorably to any of the elite guys. Trea Turner (17.9%), Corey Seager (21.4%), and Carlos Correa (19.1%) all trailed Lindor considerably in 2017. Lindor also hit eight more home runs than any other shortstop last year, all while chipping in 15 steals (tied for seventh at his position). If I pay up for a shortstop in 2018, I will be searching for reasons not to roster Lindor.

The Splits

Top 10 Shortstops vs. LHP in 2017 (sorted by ISO)

Name PA BB% K% OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA wRC+
Name PA BB% K% OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA wRC+
Trevor Story 150 11.30% 33.30% 0.38 0.654 1.034 0.353 0.42 145
Pat Valaika 83 6.00% 25.30% 0.333 0.605 0.939 0.316 0.389 125
Paul DeJong 88 9.10% 33.00% 0.352 0.6 0.952 0.313 0.392 144
Zack Cozart 115 12.20% 13.90% 0.426 0.633 1.059 0.296 0.44 172
Johan Camargo 76 5.30% 19.70% 0.434 0.694 1.129 0.292 0.464 190
Javier Baez 133 6.00% 25.60% 0.353 0.581 0.934 0.266 0.378 132
Jose Reyes 135 8.90% 16.30% 0.343 0.5 0.843 0.233 0.355 122
Francisco Lindor 244 8.20% 13.10% 0.362 0.529 0.891 0.224 0.376 134
Carlos Correa 105 11.40% 11.40% 0.457 0.609 1.066 0.217 0.445 187
Elvis Andrus 155 6.50% 14.20% 0.342 0.503 0.845 0.21 0.357 119
Corey Seager 190 8.40% 22.60% 0.389 0.527 0.916 0.201 0.389 144

A pretty interesting table. FYI, the Ahmed/Amed brothers were removed. Nick Ahmed is a speedy, glove-first guy who only had 53 PA against southpaws last season. Factor in limited playing time and the humidor, and there aren’t many reasons to consider Ahmed anyway. Amed Rosario only had 38 PA against southpaws in 2017. Sure, he was 17% above average (117 wRC+) as a hitter, but the small sample size and inability to draw a walk (1.8% walk rate last year) mean we can leave Rosario for our crazy GPP lineups, most likely. He’s also slated to hit ninth, according to RosterResource. Again, crazy GPP lineups.

Story is a known commodity. Yes, he oozes power. He also oozes strikeouts. Thankfully, gone are the days when FanDuel would grant negative points for whiffs.

Two Rockies in the top two? Pat Valaika keeps popping up in my research. Probably because he plays so many positions...but also because he flashed some power in limited duty last season. He should be the Rockies’ primary sub in the infield in 2018, and has a chance to log more consistent time at first base if Ryan McMahon stumbles out of the gate (and the Rockies don’t bring back Mark Reynolds). Either way, he’ll be a viable Colorado option on the days he plays. Valaika had a staggering 50.4% fly ball rate last year, something we like to see in the thin air of Coors.

Paul DeJong looks like the knockoff version of Trevor Story against southpaws. Less powerful, sure—but when he gets a park boost against a southpaw, that’s something to pay attention to if you want some pop on a tournament team.

If you don’t want to pay up for Lindor or Correa, Zack Cozart looks like a safe bet with that shiny 13.9% strikeout rate and healthy 12.2% walk rate. Ian Kinsler, another Angels addition this offseason, appeared as a potential cash game option when I discussed the keystone. Perhaps I’ll just have Angels stacks every day in 2018...Cozart is slated to hit sixth in the order, but I could see him vaulting Kole Calhoun and Albert Pujols at times due to ineptitude and/or injuries.

Corey Seager actually makes 11 men on this list, not 10. But he was next in line according to ISO and he’s the sneaky one due to being the only left-handed hitter (against LHPs) on the list. Seager had eight home runs against southpaws last year, trailing only Lindor (11), Story (10), and Baez (9). Lefty-on-lefty is a split I aim to use more of in 2018, as most DFSers feel much safer in the righty-versus-lefty split (which drives up ownership). Be contrarian without being stupid, right?

Top 10 Shortstops vs. RHP in 2018 (sorted by ISO)

Name PA BB% K% OBP SLG ISO wOBA wRC+
Name PA BB% K% OBP SLG ISO wOBA wRC+
Pat Valaika 112 1.80% 28.60% 0.248 0.481 0.245 0.301 67
Carlos Correa 376 10.90% 21.30% 0.372 0.533 0.239 0.38 142
Zack Cozart 392 12.20% 15.80% 0.372 0.524 0.238 0.378 132
Francisco Lindor 479 8.40% 12.70% 0.324 0.493 0.236 0.341 110
Paul DeJong 355 3.70% 26.80% 0.318 0.516 0.231 0.351 117
Didi Gregorius 415 4.60% 11.30% 0.325 0.523 0.228 0.354 120
Trea Turner 344 6.40% 18.30% 0.346 0.491 0.195 0.355 116
Javier Baez 375 5.90% 29.30% 0.304 0.443 0.186 0.307 85
Chris Owings 294 4.40% 22.80% 0.305 0.455 0.182 0.321 90
Addison Russell 283 5.70% 23.30% 0.279 0.408 0.177 0.29 74

Holy Pat Valaika! Okay, let’s not get carried away. Against right-handed pitching Valaika posted a miserable 67 wRC+ and struck out 28.6% of the time. His best split was at home against southpaws, as his walk rate was a palatable 7.5% and he slashed .270/.325/.595 with a .316 ISO. If Valaika gets the start against a southpaw at home, he makes for a solid option if he is cheaper than most of the other Coors bats. Against right-handed pitchers in Coors, Valaika’s walk rate plummets to a nearly nonexistent 1.6%, the worst of any of his splits. However, the .373 ISO and 38.1% hard contact rate at home against right-handers were the best of any of Valaika’s splits. This reads like a guy that has a “grip-it-and-rip-it” mentality when facing a right-handed pitcher at home. Plan your DFS lineups accordingly.

Hey, this just in: Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor are good. #analysis

There’s that Cozart guy again. Why are we not targeting him in season-long leagues? Cozart is a defensive wizard who has morphed from contact hitter to contact guy with power. He will play third base for the Halos, but if he retains shortstop eligibility on DFS sites I will be all over him in 2018.

I really like Didi Gregorius in DFS. You know what you’re getting. He won’t walk much, but he doesn’t strikeout much and plays in a loaded lineup. We get more points for hits and home runs, last I checked. Gregorius gets his dingers against right-handed pitching (22 of 25 last year) and by pulling the ball (41.7% pull percentage vs. RHPs). With that short right field porch in Yankee Stadium, Gregorius is a great play whenever the Yanks face a righty at home.

Not so fast! Gregorius actually fared better against right-handers on the road last year. He had a .350 BA and hit 12 HRs on the road in 2017, compared to a .235 BA and 10 HRs vs. right-handed pitching at home. I’ll put money on a BA rebound for Gregorius at home this year. I’ll use him in DFS frequently and I just drafted him in Round 7 (pick 99) of The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational.

Addison Russell is still only 24 years old and has posted a .179 ISO in each of the last two seasons. Unfortunately for us, the walk rate fell by almost two percent last year (7.5%), but the line drive rate has improved over the course of Russell’s career, culminating in a healthy 23.0% rate in 2017. If Russell can raise his fly ball rate to 2015 levels (40.7%) and lower that career 40.9% ground ball rate, we might have something here. After all, he did hit the ball harder than ever in 2017 (32.2% hard) and made far less soft contact than the year prior (13.8% compared to 23.7%). Color me intrigued.

Chris Owings has made a living by raking at Coors (.887 OPS, .223 ISO). His performance on the road (.590 OPS, .124 ISO) is concerning, though—especially if Arizona’s humidor has the desired effect on offensive output. Owings and the other Arizona guys (with the exception of Goldschmidt) are players I’ll be shying away from to start 2018. I’ll be using all the Taijuan Walker, though.

Next up: Third Base!