Typically, the top of the shortstop position has carried a premium tag in fantasy baseball because of a lack of depth and a scarcity of elite options. But the position looks better than ever in 2017, with seven SS-eligible players being selected inside the top 50 in average Yahoo drafts this spring.
Baltimore’s Manny Machado is the consensus top choice in this SS-eligible crowd, but there’s an immediate quandary as far as who deserves to come off the board next at the position. Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts and Francisco Lindor are all going between picks No. 18 and No. 28 overall in Yahoo drafts and, as it so happens, Yahoo’s four fantasy baseball experts all have a different shortstop following Machado in their rankings. We’ve asked each expert to stump for their No. 2 shortstop of choice. I’ll kick things off in this four-way face-off:
Funston backs Bogaerts: Among the four shortstops up for this debate, Bogaerts was the best of the roto bunch in ’16, as he rode a boost in power to No. 34 overall in the Yahoo game. The increase in home runs should have been expected as his talent profile and minor league track record suggested a future of high batting averages complete with plenty of pop. In fact, the career-high 13 stolen bases in ’16 might have been more surprising than his 21 home runs. And, with David Ortiz no longer following him in the batting order, Bogaerts believes he’ll have more opportunities to run in ’17. There’s a realistic chance that Bogaerts could join teammate Mookie Betts in the 20/20 club this season. But even if he doesn’t quite make it, we are talking about a rising 24-year-old star with batting title talent hitting in the middle of one of the elite offenses in MLB. No doubt, X marks the top spot in this debate.
Dalton Del Don lends his support for Seager: There are no wrong answers here, as all four of these options are legitimate future Hall of Fame candidates (this is obviously premature but also not an exaggeration). The cop out answer is to recommend taking whomever falls furthest in your draft, and I’m admittedly fighting an uphill battle right now since Seager is dealing with an oblique injury. Having said that, he’s still the No. 2 shortstop on my board, as he’s expected to be ready for Opening Day.
Seager just finished a season in which he went .308-105-26-72 at age 22, easily winning the NL Rookie of the Year award, and he’ll be batting second or third in a lineup that figures to be among the National League leaders in runs scored. He was the only middle infielder in baseball who hit .300 with at least 25 homers and 100 runs scored. Again, he’s 22 years old. Seager owns a career .312 batting average over 725 at bats (BA and runs scored are two of the most underrated fantasy cats and areas in which he’s a major contributor), supported by a hard-hit rate that ranked in the top-15 last season. Seager can flat-out rake. Go get him.
Andy Behrens bangs the drum for Lindor: At the risk of undermining my argument right here at the start, I’d like to mention that we’re debating the merits of four terrific shortstops, each of them 24 or younger, who deserve consideration in the first two rounds of your draft. I’d be happy to own any of them. These guys all occupy the same tier.
That said, if you give me first choice from this group, I’m taking the player most likely to finish as a five-category fantasy asset in 2017: Francisco Lindor. He’s just 23 and coming off a year in which he went 15/19, scored 99 runs, drove in 78 and slashed .301/.358/.435. Lindor has opened his career with back-to-back .300 seasons, and it’s not much of a stretch to imagine a few 20/20 campaigns. We know Seager won’t run (plus he’s currently injured), Correa won’t help in AVG and Bogaerts hasn’t yet emerged as a base-stealer. There are zero holes in Lindor’s fantasy game. We’ve already seen him do it all, and his career is just getting started. Lindor is a face-of-MLB caliber player, an emerging superstar with a stellar postseason already on his resume. He’s my guy anywhere in Round 2.
Scott Pianowski champions the Correa cause: Hang on a second, Behrens, how do we know Correa won’t help in average? His career average is .276. Last year in the F&F League (a fair representation of a standard mixer), the second-best team average was .275. And improvement is always in play for a young, talented player, like you applied to your man, Lindor.
And heck, if anyone has pedigree in this discussion, it’s Correa. He was the first overall pick in his draft class back in 2012. Correa expectations were so sky-high last year, his .274-76-20-96-13 return was actually seen as a minor disappointment.
Bottom line, there’s no wrong answer with any of these guys. But sometimes it turns into a game of process of elimination. Seager is dinged this spring, and I don’t take injured players unless I’m compensated for that move. He’s out (I like how Dalton conveniently ignores stolen bases, like this is a hybrid 4×5 argument). Lindor has been terrific since hitting Cleveland, but his production level crushes what he did in the minors, which makes me a little suspicious, and he probably doesn’t have the power upside of Correa and Seager. Bogaerts collapsed in last year’s second half, and his lofty BABIP is a curious case, since he pops up a lot and doesn’t have snappy hard-hit rates. I’ll hang my hat in Houston.