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State of the Position: Shortstop

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Heath surveys the shortstop position with a fantasy baseball slant.

MLB: Washington Nationals at New York Mets Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Shortstop is stacked.

Whereas catchers, first basemen, and second basemen all get dicey after about nine solid options, shortstop is DEEP. For reference, our No. 17 shortstop was a 20/20 player last year (Tim Anderson). And down in the 20s you can find names like Jorge Polanco, Willy Adames, and Marcus Semien. It really is chock full of solid middle infield types. So if you play in a league with a MI slot, you’ll have plenty of options to fill the void.

BASIC STATS

.255/.314/.409 triple slash

7.2% walk rate, 20.0% strikeout rate, .153 ISO

.312 wOBA, 95 wRC+

Shortstop were the speediest position in all of baseball last year, as 491 bags were swiped by shortstop-eligible players. Second basemen (432) came in a distant second, and these two middle infield positions dominated the rest of the infield. Both MI spots checked in with 20% strikeout rates, but shortstops had the superior power numbers. Those at the keystone managed only a .141 ISO. So a macro-level take appears to be that the shortstop position overall is more powerful and more speedy than the keystone. We’ll chat about depth in a few ticks, but it seems like my MI slot may be filled by a shortstop in 2019—not a second baseman.

THE ELITE: Trea Turner and Alex Bregman

Turner quietly popped 19 home runs a year ago, and has the tools to chip in a 20/50 season while hitting first or second in the Washington Nationals lineup. I think he is a steal towards the end of Round 1 in 2019, and I am comfortable beginning my draft with Turner after Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, and Jose Ramirez, J.D. Martinez, and Nolan Arenado are off the board. Turner’s 19 home runs are supported by his slightly better 8.3 degree launch angle from 2018, up from the previous year’s 6.9 degrees. It’s not a great mark, but coupled with his high amount of batted ball events, it’s tolerable. For reference, Turner had 534 batted balls in 2018, bested only by Jose Peraza, Francisco Lindor, and Nick Markakis. Given Lindor’s calf injury, who do you think the most likely to repeat is among that group of four?

Alex Bregman was ranked aggressively by our Fake Teams writers, checking in as our No. 2 shortstop behind Lindor. And I suppose Lindor’s recent calf strain vaults Bregman to our No. 1 spot by default. I view Bregman as a sum-of-all-the-parts guy. You can scope out Baseball Savant and see that Bregman does everything well—he is above-average in exit velocity, hard hit %, sprint speed, xWOBA, xBA, and xSLG. With a 16.9 degree launch angle and above average 7.6% barrel%, Bregman is a better bet for power than Turner. He’ll probably only chip in double-digit steals in the 10-20 range, though (depending on how much Houston asks him to run).

Manny Machado is the honorable mention here. I’m buying him as an elite pick in Round 2 of 12-team drafts, but it would be nice to know his landing spot before drafts get a little more serious. A great park could vault him into Round 1, while a poor hitting environment and/or poor team context might keep him where he is or drop him down a bit.

THE SLEEPER: Jorge Polanco

I selected Polanco as my target in our staff post. He gave us six homers and seven steals across 77 games a year ago, while slashing .288/.345/.427. He is currently slated to leadoff for the Twins, and from atop this perch in the lineup he should utilize his 28.4 ft/sec sprint speed. His above average chase rate and contact rate are going to help, too. I think Polanco is in for a career year in Minnesota.

THE GUY TO AVOID: Adalberto Mondesi

This is mainly to put myself and my fellow Fake Teams writers out into public with our aversion to Mondesi at his current ADP. Per NFBC data, Mondesi is being drafted at pick 40, which is INSANE. I much prefer Xander Bogaerts nine picks later, as well as Jean Segura around pick 70. Pick 40 is a steep price to pay for a guy with Mondesi’s downside—why not tab a guy like Jonathan Villar around pick 80 if you want a risky middle infield type? I don’t love either player, but the main difference is a 40-pick discrepancy in ADP. And heck, Villar qualifies as a shortstop in most leagues, except for those who require 20 games. I just don’t get the love for Mondesi.

THE PROSPECTS: Fernando Tatis Jr., Brendan Rodgers, and Bo Bichette

This is the holy trinity of shortstop prospects for 2019, with Royce Lewis, Carter Kieboom, and others expected in 2020 and beyond. Tatis Jr. is the guy for me if I have to pick one. He has the best mix of floor and upside, and is a candidate to one day join the coveted 30-30 club. We shall see! For now, if you want more on prospects, hearken back to Zack’s Top 20 MLB Prospects: Shortstops.

I believe we call that a wrap, folks. Shortstops are finally over, which means next week we move over to the hot corner. Let’s just say the Anthony Rendon propaganda will be out in full force...but come back around on Monday to get into that goodness.

As always, tell us who we missed or who you want to hear more about, so we can make it happen.