Arguably the hardest part of fantasy drafts is deciding where to make sacrifices. It’s impossible to draft an elite player at every position and picking the best spots for trade-offs is imperative. At each position, there are players that go later than their peers that could end up producing at a similar level. Nailing down those later-round ADP jackpots can be the driving force behind a league-winning roster.
Of course, there is a reason why players that could provide value better than their draft position have fallen to where they are. There may be injury or playing time risks, or the players could be coming off of down 2022 campaigns. Most of the time, they simply haven’t performed as consistently as the top names at their position. Despite the red flags, these shortstops have the ability to outproduce their ADPs and allow earlier picks to be put to better use.
The season is not here yet, but why not get a head start and jump in a Fantrax Classic Draft contest? Get a jump on the season with a Best Ball league or maybe a Draft and Hold. Or put some green on the line with a new season-long league to try and conquer. There’s no better time than now to get your baseball on!
Exploiting Shortstop ADP in 2023
Note: The NFBC ADPs listed are from March 1st through the publish date.
Shortstop is home to some of the biggest stars in baseball. There are 13 shortstops being drafted inside in the top-100, including four in the top-20. As one would expect, most of the top names at this position provide power and speed, led by five-category star Trea Turner. Surprisingly, even after the first 100 picks, there are still some strong shortstops available. While they may not have the same upside, a few of these names will be safer options than a high-risk player such as Oneil Cruz.
Cruz has the makings of a potential superstar based on tools alone. I’m not necessarily out on him at his current ADP of 61.3, but he’s one of the highest-risk players being taken in the top-100. He tears the cover off the ball, posting an elite barrel rate and exit velocities. Cruz’s hardest-hit ball went 122.4mph off the bat, nearly three miles per hour faster than any other during the 2022 season. Astonishingly, the 6-foot-7 shortstop also finished in the 98th percentile in sprint speed.
The 24-year-old knocked 17 homers with 10 steals in just 361 plate appearances. However, a brutal 34.9% strikeout rate kept his slash line at a lackluster .233/.294/.450. If Cruz can cut that down to under 30%, it would still be too high, but it would be tolerable enough for his tools to shine through. Otherwise, his strikeout rate puts a hard cap on his potential, no matter how electric those tools are. Cruz could realistically have a 30-30 campaign in 2023, but the range of outcomes is incredibly wide. If you intend to take any other low-floor, high-ceiling players, there are other shortstops that make more sense later in the draft.
Wander Franco – ADP: 79.4
Wander Franco is on the opposite end of the spectrum compared to Cruz. Franco is much safer but, despite having some elite tools, he doesn’t have the same power/speed upside. He’s slashed .282/.337/.439 with 13 home runs and 10 steals through 652 MLB plate appearances and is just entering his age-22 season. Injuries limited him to 83 games in 2022 but a healthy 2023 could be the breakout everyone’s been waiting for. There’s not a big gap between the two shortstops but the round or two difference is enough to adjust your roster build for.
One of the few holes in Franco’s game is his poor performance against right-handed pitching. He’s registered a career .718 OPS against righties compared to a .926 mark against lefties. The switch-hitter doubled in his only career righty-on-righty plate appearance. Beyond that, it’s just a question of how much power and speed he can provide. The 22-year-old has never totaled 20 homers or 20 steals in a single season during his professional career. His hard-hit and barrel rates are low but his hit tool is good enough that it wouldn’t be surprising to see improvements in those categories.
Franco was considered a generational prospect as he dominated his way through the Rays’ minor-league system. A big part of his value comes from his elite plate discipline. Last season, he walked in 7.6% of his plate appearances while posting a minuscule 9.6% strikeout rate. At the very least, Franco has a high floor with a solid average and runs scored. Adding above-average power or speed could vault him into superstar status and his fantasy value would match his real-life value.
Jeremy Pena – ADP: 111.5
After a solid rookie campaign, Jeremy Pena exploded in the postseason. He knocked four homers with a 1.005 OPS while earning both the ALCS and World Series MVPs. In the regular season, he slashed .253/.289/.426 with 44 extra-base hits (22 home runs) and 11 steals. Pena feasted against lefties, going deep seven times with a .822 OPS through 154 plate appearances. Despite all that, he’s being drafted as the 14th shortstop, speaking to the depth of the position this season.
While Pena provides power and speed, his OPS will be capped unless he can improve his OBP. He had one of the worst walk rates in baseball last season while striking out in 24.2% of his plate appearances. The 25-year-old posted whiff rates over 40% against both breaking and offspeed pitches and did most of his damage against fastballs. He posted a decent 9.7% barrel rate but the rest of his batted-ball data was a bit underwhelming, including a 36.7% hard-hit rate.
Pena picked things up down the stretch, slashing .290/.313/.484 with 11 extra-base hits over his final 31 games. Houston is dealing with some injuries to begin the season so he should maintain a spot near the top of the lineup, at least in the short term. If he can build off of his final two months of 2022, Pena has the potential to become a five-category contributor. If not, he should still provide power, speed, and solid counting stats while not being one of the high-end shortstops available.
Carlos Correa – ADP: 116.2
Finally, the player that Pena replaced in Houston: Carlos Correa. After an eventful offseason, Correa landed back in Minnesota on a six-year deal. He found immediate success in his first season outside of Houston, slashing .291/.366/.467 with 22 home runs and 24 doubles. The 28-year-old crushed lefties with a .945 OPS and 2o extra-base hits through just 160 plate appearances. Correa really settled in at the end of the 2022 season. He slashed .361/.23/.585 over his final 37 games.
With a Savant page that’s almost entirely red, it’s hard to find many holes in Correa’s game. Being in Minnesota, he has a much lower floor for runs + RBI. After totaling 196 in 2021, he racked up just 134 with the Twins in 2022. Hitting near the top of the order helps but he’ll need his teammates, specifically Byron Buxton, to stay healthy and perform alongside him. Correa has some injury concerns himself, which led to his chaotic offseason. However, he’s missed just 42 games over the last three seasons.
Correa hasn’t stolen a base since 2019, capping his fantasy upside. Instead, he offers a solid floor as a four-category contributor that should pop 20-25 home runs. He’ll continue doing most of his damage against fastballs. Correa posted an expected batting average of .302 against fastballs in each of the last two seasons but took a big step back against offspeed and breaking pitches in 2022. He recorded xBAs over .280 against those pitches in 2021 but under .245 in 2022. While Correa may not be the sexiest pick at this high-end position, he’s been fairly consistent throughout his career and should outperform his ADP as the 15th shortstop.
2023 Steamer Projections
Some extra options later include Nico Hoerner, Javier Baez, and Ezequiel Tovar. Hoerner has a safe batting average floor and he found his power last season, knocking 10 homers with 20 steals. Baez is coming off of an abysmal first season with Detroit in which he posted a .671 OPS. The discount is heavy but you’re gambling on a big bounce back. Tovar flew through the Rockies system and is now set to be the everyday shortstop at age 21. He could post a 15-homer, 20-steal season while playing at Coors Field.
For more great analysis check out the 2023 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit!