Dokken’s Dudes & Dont’s: Best and Worst Values at Shortstop
Moving on from second base and stopping just short of third, we have the most valuable defensive position in the game. Do we care about defense? Hell no! When we’re talking Dudes or Don’ts, it doesn’t matter if they’re butchers in the field. We just want dingers. Shortstop is as deep this year as it’s ever been, so if you miss out on the high-end names, you’ll be able to find adequate help at any point in your mixed league draft. That’s enough preamble. On to the Dude!!
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Shortstop Dudes and Don’t’s
The Dude – Jorge Polanco
After going 13/13/.256 over 133 games in 2017, Jorge Polanco became one of my favorite middle infield sleepers last season. He rewarded me with an 80-game PED suspension. Thanks a lot, Jorge. Well, the Twins saw enough out of him over the second half of the season to give him a 5-year, $25.75 million extension this spring. Across his 77 games in the second half, Polanco slashed .288/.345/.427 with six homers and seven steals. If you simply double his numbers to make for a full season (knowing full well that playing Sim City: The Extrapolation Chamber is the most dangerous game this side of Russian roulette) you get 666 demonic plate appearances over 154 games with 12 HR, 14 SB, 76 R, and 84 RBI.
With the Twins signing the likes of Nelson Cruz and CJ Cron, Polanco makes a lot more sense at the top of the order in 2019 than he does as their three-hitter. Because of that, I would expect a lot more runs than 76 and probably a lot fewer RBI than 84. There is also the fact that Polanco was thrown out a lot over the second half, going just 7-14 in stolen base attempts. He might be closer to 15 steals than 20 over the course of a season, realistically. Being only 25, he could improve his technique, but it’s safer to project him down.
He scorched 26% line drives and toned down the fly balls, which helped his BABIP jump back up to .345 from .278 in 2017. He’s also a very good contact hitter at 85%. If he can focus on spraying line drives to all fields instead of trying to pull the ball in the air for power, he can repeat a .280-.290 average. Put that atop a lineup that could be among the best in the American League, drizzle a little power and speed over the top, get yourself some whipped cream and cordial cherries, and you have yourself a kinky bargain at SS19/ADP233.
Projection: 650 Plate Appearances, 15 HR, 100 R, 70 RBI, 15 SB, .285 AVG
The Don’t – Chris Taylor
I was in a real Don’t-ing mood with Chris Taylor last year as well, although he didn’t quite make my list. While he did have a return to earth after his breakout 21/17/.288 2017 season, he didn’t kill you with 17/9/.254. He was able to hit for an acceptable average despite a huge jump in K% from 25% to 29.5%, but only because of a .345 BABIP. Is he able to hit 27.5% line drives again? That stat isn’t sticky at all from year to year, so I’m dubious. They don’t call me Ol’ Dubious Dokken for nothing. ODD. You know me.
Taylor is just 28 but saw his contact rate dip a whopping 5.1% to 71.2%. I’d expect a bit of a rebound, but I’m not sure it’s enough to get him back to being a .280 hitter. If he’s only getting on base at a .330-ish clip, that isn’t likely to cut it as a leadoff hitter in LA. With the addition of the speedier A.J. Pollock, Taylor could find himself all the way down at the bottom half of the order. He has scored 85 runs for two straight seasons, which is a big part of his value. Taylor isn’t a burner either, and with fewer times on base, could struggle to steal double-digit bases for a second straight season.
There is also the fear of getting Dodgered, which means he might get platooned for no real reason. The Dodgers are loaded with talent, but Taylor is versatile enough to weasel his way into playing time by playing various positions. Still, I don’t have a good feeling about him getting 600-plus plate appearances again. Taylor’s skill set is not one that is hard to find later in drafts. You don’t have to pay the sticker price of SS12/ADP 176 for his services. There is more downside than upside here. Wear Chuck Taylors, avoid Chris Taylors.
Projection: 575 plate appearances, 18 HR, 70 R, 65 RBI, 7 SB, .250 AVG
The Deep League Dude – Ketel Marte
Do you have deja vu? What about au jus? The latter is much more delicious, but we’re not talking about tasty french dip sandwiches here. Unfortunately. However, if you’re feeling like you’ve read this already, it’s because Ketel Marte was my Deep League Dude last year! Despite having a solid year and actually finishing close to my projections in most categories (he failed in average and steals), he wasn’t especially valuable. Thusly, he’s cheap again, and I’m doubling down.
Marte is actually shifting to center field in 2019, meaning you will shortly be able to deploy him at second base, shortstop, or the outfield. That’s handy dandy in deep leagues, which is, of course, the topic at hand. Just 24 last year, Marte was able to improve his contact rate, O-Swing%, strikeout rate, and ISO. His impressive 54:79 BB:K ratio was extra handy dandy for those in points and OBP formats.
Unless he increases his launch angle it’s hard to see him hitting for much more power. He’s got the speed to steal more bases though, so there’s upside there. What vexes me the most is his consistently uninspiring average. He has hit .259, .260, and .260 over the last three seasons. His batted ball profile and foot speed suggest he should hit for a much higher average. He should be earning BABIP’s closer to .320-.330 rather than .282-.290, where he’s been for the previous two years. Will this be the year it happens? Who knows. But I’m sure interested in paying the price and finding out.
The Diamondbacks lineup has taken a turn for the worse as they decide to rebuild. While that’s not great for their fans, it gives Marte the opportunity to move to the leadoff spot. That is obviously good news for his runs scored potential, as last year he batted mostly 5-7 in the lineup. At SS20/ADP262, you can wait until the late rounds of your mixed league drafts to nab him as your upside middle infielder. If he doesn’t pan out this year, I’ll probably have to write about him as a Dude again in 2020. So you should be pulling for him too so you don’t have to read about him here again.
Projection: 650 Plate Appearances, 15 HR, 90 R, 65 RBI, 10 SB, .280 AVG
Are you down with Dokken’s Dudes and Don’ts? For more great rankings, strategy, and analysis check out the 2019 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit. We’ll be adding more content from now right up until Opening Day!
Nathan Dokken is a member of the FSWA and has had his work featured in numerous books and magazines. He has also appeared on many podcasts and radio shows and hosts the Nasty Cast and Fantrax Dynasty Baseball podcasts. His written work can be found exclusively at Fantrax HQ, and his personal thoughts and opinions can be found on Twitter @NathanDokken.
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