Big Board's Picks: Shortstop

This week at Harper Wallbanger, I'm sorting through the Big Board for 12-team 5x5 leagues to find the must-draft and must-avoid players at each position. Next up is Shortstops!


The Shortstop renaissance is here! After a first-tier full of can't-go-wrong players such as Machado, Correa, Story, and Villar, there is a dropoff to a still-exciting middle tier that includes Russell and Diaz. Unfortunately, I've found that drafters are valuing most of the high-end options fairly accurately this year, so I'm leaving shortstop as a position where I'll wait and see what draft position I have before formulating a plan. If a guy falls to me, so be it, otherwise there are great options in the mid-to-late rounds. There is a ton more power at this position than there was just a couple of years ago, and while that is exciting, keep in mind that if you take an all-pop, no-speed shortstop, you're going to have to fill in those steals elsewhere, possibly by taking a more SB-focused approach in the outfield than you're used to. All that said, let us get to the picks, where I have an underappreciated A's player (classic), a potential breakout speedster, and a "one of these things is not like the others" bust-candidate from the top tier.

TARGET: Marcus Semien
613 PA, 20 HR, 74 R, 69 RBI, 10 SB, .247 AVG

Semien is the classic type of player that gets overlooked in fantasy. Plays for a bad team? Check. Contributes in (almost) every category, doesn't dominate any of them? Check. Meh batting average? Check. In my opinion, he's actually been undervalued for a few years running. The '16 version of Semien was new-and-improved, as he cut his popup rate and increased his flyball rate on the way to a 27 HR season. The .268 BABIP dragged down his AVG, which should improve this year. I believe the only reason we aren't talking about Semien as a big breakout from last year is his low batting average (well, that, and the juiced ball). That means a bargain for savvy owners like you. 

When to target: Round 17. What a deal.

Risk profile: Medium.

TARGET: Tim Anderson
616 PA, 12 HR, 71 R, 55 RBI, 21 SB, .266 AVG

Anderson is the sort of player I wouldn't want on my real baseball team, but in fantasy, he's gold. Sure, he only walked 3% of the time last year, and he BABIP'ed his way to a higher AVG than he deserved. He also showed a surprising bit of pop with a .150 ISO and 9 HR's, which is unusual for the speedy shortstop archetype that we might peg him for. He put up 49 SB's at AA just two years ago, and posted a 7.0 SPD score in the majors last year, so this 21 SB projection might even be conservative. As the ink dries on Anderson's newly-signed six year extension with the White Sox, he might have a bit more heat in drafts, but he should still be a good deal.

When to target: I am conflicted because he should be gettable in Round 17 according to ADP's on ESPN/Yahoo/CBS, which would be a steal. But at NFBC he's going 3 rounds earlier than that - it's a format that tends to incentivize drafting breakout players. I could see taking him earlier if you want to be extra sure you get him.

Risk profile: Medium.

Bonus, deep target: Jorge Polanco

No big spiel here, I just wanted to kick in Jorge Polanco as a guy to throw on your watch list, or roster in deep leagues. He's not being drafted in standard leagues for now, but it seems he has a lock on the Twins shortstop job, and should put up a nice 10 HR/10 SB season with a .270ish AVG and good R/RBI totals out of the #2 spot in their lineup. Even though that won't win you any category, it won't lose you any category either, and there's upside beyond that. 

AVOID: Xander Bogaerts
639 PA, 16 HR, 79 R, 76 RBI, 9 SB, .291 AVG

Based on ADP, drafters this year seem to think you can close your eyes and throw a dart at Correa, Seager, Lindor, Villar, Story, and Bogaerts, and you'll come away with a top-30 fantasy player. Hey, why are we throwing darts at these guys? Seems dangerous. Anyway, one of these things is not like the others, and it's our strangely-named friend Xander. I will go ahead and say that this is splitting hairs a bit, but Bogaerts is solidly the worst of that group from a fantasy perspective. He contributes well in every category, and ultimately should have a similar line to Francisco Lindor, but with less steals. He may offer a bit less risk than the others, but it seems like the upside is ultimately capped, barring a significant skills improvement.

Risk profile: Low.