First off, I’m not a fan of the term shortstop busts. With that said, this article will cover shortstops to consider fading in 2021. When looking at the shortstop position, it’s full of talent and several guys that provide power and speed. Even riskier players like Adalberto Mondesi and Javier Baez have massive upside and potential. Last time we covered 2021 shortstop sleepers, and that list ended up longer than shortstops to consider fading. Reasons to consider fading these shortstops include plate discipline, outlier seasons, high ADP, and more. We’ll dive into their ADP, surface stats, and underlying metrics to analyze what to expect with these shortstops in 2021.
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Shortstops to Consider Fading – Risky Profiles & Questions
Adalberto Mondesi, SS, Kansas City Royals
NFBC ADP: 18.96, 5th SS
Earlier in the offseason, I wrote up a deep dive into Adalberto Mondesi here. In that piece, I laid out reasons for optimism and concern. As we know, he’s streaky and rocks a risky profile, particularly in the plate discipline department. Throughout the past three seasons (2018-2020), only Jorge Alfaro holds a higher swinging-strike rate than Adalberto Mondesi. He chases a ton with a 39.6% O-Swing% during 2018-2020, while the league average chase rate hovers around 30-31%.
For context, Mondesi’s chase rate ties him with Austin Riley and Amed Rosario over the past three seasons. Amongst hitters with a minimum of 950 plate appearances over the past three seasons (2018-2020), Mondesi swings the 6th most in the zone with a 79.3% Z-Swing% between Khris Davis and Jonathan Schoop. Meanwhile, Mondesi also ranks second to last with a 64.3% Contact% during that span in front of Joey Gallo. Yikes.
— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) August 9, 2020
Even though the risky plate discipline makes him one of the top shortstops to consider fading, Adalberto Mondesi provides ridiculous per plate appearance stolen bases. Thankfully, he displays enough home run power to help us stomach the riskiness as well. Mondesi’s power numbers show up with increases in average exit velocity on FB/LD, hard-hit rate, and maximum exit velocity. Granted, it’s a small sample, but what if Mondesi is an outlier or improves his plate discipline moving forward? Depending on your first-round pick and roster construction, Mondesi provides the upside that’s worth the risk. However, given more reasons for concern than optimism, he also falls on the list of shortstops to consider fading. It honestly pains me to write Mondesi here, but I’ll acknowledge the risks and question marks.
Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs
NFBC ADP: 69.63, 10th SS
Next up on the shortstops to consider fading, you guessed it, Javier Baez. What if I told you that we had a hitter who recorded a higher chase rate than Adalberto Mondesi? Would you lump him into a similar category, or do we need more information? More often than not, it’s the latter – research more and find more information.
With that said, Baez looked like one of the more consistent power/speed threats from 2017-2019, with a better batting average than Mondesi. However, Baez provides and displays more power and home run potential than Mondesi. Unfortunately, Baez experienced his worst season in 2020 with eight home runs, 27 runs, 24 RBI, and three steals. He paired that with a .203 batting average, 3% walk rate, and 31.9% strikeout in 235 plate appearances.
By now, we know that Javier Baez openly mentioned the lack of in-game video contributed to his 2020 struggles. In a Mining the News article, Jeff Zimmerman noted that Baez typically made adjustments in the game via video and expressed frustration. When we pace out his 2020 counting stats for 575 plate appearances (his 2017-2019 average for PA), Baez paces for 19 home runs, 66 runs, 58 RBI, and seven steals. The lack of video is a reason to consider tossing out 2020 for Baez since he typically averaged 28 home runs, 88 runs, 90 RBI, and 14 steals.
However, similar to Mondesi, Baez produces with risky plate discipline. Over the past four seasons, Baez ranked 4th with a 44.3% O-Swing% and 3rd behind Modesi with an 18.6% swinging-strike rate. Meanwhile, Baez recorded hard-hit rates above 40% from 2018-2020 while also ranking highly in average exit velocity on FB/LD. Below we’ll list his average exit velocity on FB/LD.
- 2020: 94.9 mph average exit velocity on FB/LD (No. 36)
- 2019: 96.1 mph average exit velocity on FB/LD (No. 19)
- 2018: 96.8 mph average exit velocity on FB/LD (No. 8)
- 2017: 94 mph average exit velocity on FB/LD (No. 47)
We noticed a decrease in Baez’s average exit velocity on FB/LD in 2020 compared to 2018-2019. A couple of reasons for the decline – the lack of in-game video and the small sample in the 2020 shortened season. Similar to Mondesi, Baez displays the risky plate discipline but continues to produce. One main difference involves their ADP since Baez goes over 50 picks after Mondesi. With that said, it’s understandable that Baez ends up in the group of shortstops to consider fading. Although it’s a fair ADP, I like other shortstops going around Baez.
Jonathan Villar, 2B/SS, Free Agent
NFBC ADP: 146.07, 16th SS
Currently, Jonathan Villar is a free agent after playing with the Marlins and Blue Jays via trade in 2020. Last season, Villar struggled with two home runs, 13 runs, 15 RBI, and 16 steals with a .232 batting average. Although his 16 steals ranked second behind Adalberto Mondesi in 2020, his other counting stats and batting average made us cringe. In his two best seasons (2016 and 2019), Villar produced well partly due to volume, where he totaled 679 and 713 plate appearances. Regardless, Villar consistently proved that he’s still a threat on the bases and averaged 40 steals from 2016-2019.
In 2020, Jonathan Villar recorded his highest O-Swing% of 36.8%, up from 30.8% in 2018 and 2019. He made less contact overall with a 70.9% Contact% in 2020 compared to 74.9% in 2019, both of which finished below the league average. Villar’s swinging-strike rate also increased to 14.8% in 2020 from 12.3% in 2019. However, he typically hovered around 13.5% in 2017 and 2018, which possibly evens out over a full season. We never like seeing an increase in chase rate with a decrease in contact rate, but it’s a relatively small 2020 sample.
Although we don’t rely on Villar for power or home runs, he finished with career lows in hard-hit data across the board in 2020. Villar currently holds a 149.09 NFBC ADP as the 16th shortstop off the board. Hopefully, we find out where Villar signs soon, but rumors are swirling that he could return to the Orioles. If that’s the case, then we should remove Villar as one of the shortstops to consider fading given the hitter-friendly park and potential for a high volume of plate appearances once again.
Jake Cronenworth, 1B/2B/SS, San Diego Padres
NFBC ADP: 165.63, 18th SS
First, let’s mention that Jake Cronenworth holds the positional flexibility that’s valuable in any league. In 2020, Cronenworth finished with four home runs, 26 runs, 20 RBI, and three steals in 193 plate appearances with a triple slash of .285/.354/.477. Cronenworth’s minor league strikeout and walk rates fell in line with his 9.4% walk rate and a 15.6% strikeout rate in 2020. When looking at his Statcast page, Cronenworth’s profile is all red, meaning it backs up his 2020 breakout. Cronenworth finished with a 10.5% barrel rate (70th percentile), 42.7% hard-hit rate (68th percentile), and a 91.5 mph average exit velocity on FB/LD (No. 111) between David Peralta and Yuli Gurriel.
So why should we consider fading Cronenworth since the underlying metrics look positive? According to Roster Resource, he projects to come off the bench with Fernando Tatis Jr. locked at shortstop and Ha-seong Kim at second base. It’s still early, and Cronenworth likely finds an everyday spot as a utility player for the Padres. With that said, his NFBC ADP currently sits at 159.74 as the 18th shortstop behind Ha-seong Kim. I’d take Andres Gimenez going about 15 picks later, oh, and Gimenez also happens to fall on my list of shortstop sleepers. Although we heard rumblings about Gimenez starting in the minors, I still believe in his skills. However, if we receive confirmations, then I’ll adjust my thought process. Given his breakout 2020 season, I expect someone to like Cronenworth more and draft him before I prefer.
Ha-seong Kim, SS, San Diego Padres
NFBC ADP: 153.59, 17th SS
Kudos to fellow FantraxHQ writer Dave Swan for mentioning Ha-seong Kim as a name to know in the KBO in early December as a guy to monitor. Dave notes that he could provide the power/speed combination that fantasy managers want. In the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO), Ha-seong Kim averaged 24 home runs and 28 steals in 2019 and 2020. He also boasted relatively even double-digit walk and strikeout rates.
At this point, you might wonder why he lands here as one of the shortstops to consider fading. It’s partly due to the unknown and inexperience in MLB. He currently holds a 157.96 NFBC ADP as the 17th shortstop in between Villar and Cronenworth. His BAT X projections have him with 18 home runs, 72 runs, 69 RBI, and 12 steals with a .248 batting average. I’d rather wait and see what Ha-seong Kim brings and grab Paul DeJong almost 50 picks later. Overall, we have a plethora of shortstops, and my analysis may change as we inch closer to the 2021 season. Or maybe Dave will talk me into cutting him off of this list.
For more great rankings, strategy, and analysis check out the 2021 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit. We’ll be adding more content from now right up until Opening Day!
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