Boy, is there ever a lot of young blood at the top of the shortstop position this year. The top four are all 24 or younger (Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager). According to Fantrax ADP, the only shortstop inside the top 20 that is older than 30 is Zack Cozart. It’s a young man’s position, which makes it easier to dream on the upside of these young guys than to worry about the downside. Not everyone will take a step forward this year, though, but let’s evaluate a few of these options.
The Dude – Marcus Semien
How many shortstops do you think stole 10+ bases while hitting 20+ home runs last season? If you said three, you would be correct. Dang, you’re smart. Those players were Francisco Lindor, Elvis Andrus, and Javier Baez. Well, smarty pants, guess what? Marcus Semien has a shot to be a member of that 20/10 club in 2018.
Semien was a Dude on my list last year, as well. Unfortunately, a fractured wrist limited him to just 85 games. So while that sucked in 2017 for all the Semien owners (hand raised), in 2018 we reap the rewards! Of course, the rewards being a suppressed draft price following a disappointing season. Gotta find a silver lining somehow, right? The truncated season has many fantasy owners forgetting about him, with an ADP of 249 (SS17).
Semien was a bit slow upon his return, but over the second half of the season he posted a .319 wOBA and was 7-of-8 in stolen base attempts. Wrist injuries tend to sap power, and indeed he hit only five homers in July and August combined before hitting another five in September alone. With an entire offseason to come back stronger, the power should be there. Who knows, at 27 years old, perhaps there is still another level of power. I’m not necessarily banking on it, but at this ADP you don’t need it.
Over the back half of 2017, Semien struck out just 21.1% of his trips to the dish while walking at an 8.4% clip – numbers that were consistent with his previous two seasons. He’s never hit for much average, but his above-average walk rate (and lack of other in-house options) makes him a candidate to hit first or second in the order all season, which should lead to plenty of runs scored. I also mentioned that he went 7-of-8 in steal attempts over the second half; he was 12-of-13 over the course of the full season. He’s always had pretty strong success rates (79% for his career), and over the course of a full season he has a shot to steal 15-20. Give him an ISO around .175, and that gives him 20+ homers, as well. There isn’t a ton of batting average upside since he’s such a flyball-heavy hitter in an awful park to hit fly balls (see my Sabermetric Series entry on fly ball BABIP for more on that), but at pick 249, there’s plenty of upside on your investment.
2018 Projection: 625 plate appearances, 90 R, 22 HR, 70 RBI, 17 SB, .250 AVG
The Don’t – Corey Seager
One thing that I’m trying to do in this current climate of depressed stolen bases is to stay away from the flat-footers (not to be confused with flat-Earthers, although I stay away from them, as well) throughout my drafts. Sure, there are exceptions like J.D. Martinez, but at this stage of his career, Corey Seager is no J.D. Martinez. Seager hit just 22 home runs over 145 games last year, and somehow has an ADP of 35? No, thank you.
Don’t get me wrong, Seager is a nice player. I love him in dynasty. He doesn’t strike out a ton, walks enough, and bats in the middle of a loaded lineup. I see where the love is coming from, but with this ADP, you’re already paying for a big bounce back. The elbow that bothered him throughout the 2017 season is still an issue here in Spring Training, making this investment even riskier. How is he supposed to double fist Walkoff Waffles with a balky elbow?
He also lost 3% off his contact rate last year, although perhaps that was in the interest of getting more balls into the air, which he did. His 33.1% FB% was the best of his young career, although if he wants to hit 30 home runs, he’s still going to have to do better than that (or start pulling the ball more). If I have to squint to see my third-round draft pick eclipsing 25 homers while he’s also not stealing me double-digit bases, I’m just not interested in that guy. Turn the page.
2018 Projection: 600 plate appearances, 85 R, 24 HR, 85 RBI, .290 AVG
The Deep League Dude – Ketel Marte
I’ve never had Ketel One vodka, but I imagine it’s delicious. For vodka, anyway. Generally speaking, vodka alone is not great. Give me gin any day of the week over vodka. In any case, there’s no way it’s nearly as delicious as the value you’re getting with Ketel “One” Marte this year! Also, if you read my Course Correction piece on Marte, you’re probably sick of the Ketel One nickname. Let it go, my friend! Get drunk on the value! It’s a party here at the D&D hotel!
The Diamondbacks tinkered with Marte’s swing after he was acquired from the Mariners, and it resulted in more fly balls and more hard contact. This was necessary for Marte to truly be a valuable big leaguer. He still doesn’t have a ton of power, but he is no longer a slap-hitting shortstop who pokes a grounder and tries to beat the throw to first. He’s now a double-digit home run threat, which pairs nicely with his plus speed. He isn’t too likely to start to pull the ball a ton for power, but his all-fields approach and speed should translate to a batting average that can push .300. Speaking of speed, he has yet to translate his tremendous raw foot speed into a lot of stolen bases, but the potential is there.
Marte also made huge adjustments in his plate discipline over the second half of 2017, with a 12.2% BB% and a 13.1% K%. That makes for a 0.93 BB/K ratio, which was good for 10th in MLB over that span, just behind Justin Turner. Unfortunately for Marte, the freshly installed humidor might hurt him more than anyone on the Diamondbacks roster. There’s also the matter of his spot in the lineup, which at the beginning of the season is likely to be … low. Pollock/Peralta/Goldschmidt is a pretty impenetrable trio, but if Marte continues to walk like he did over the second half of 2017, he’ll be forcing the issue sooner than later. Also, I don’t have to convince you of just how much of an injury concern A.J. Pollock is. If he goes down, that is an immediate opportunity for Marte to really see a boost in value via runs scored. There’s a lot of upside here for pick 325, as the 24th shortstop. Drink him up; it’s a Marte par-tay!
Projection: 600 plate appearances, 75 R, 15 HR, 65 RBI, 15 SB, .295 AVG