Don’t be a “Rankings Wimp”: Shortstop Buys and Sells

We’ve been swamped here at the Fantasy Assembly with our dynasty rankings.  Here’s the deal – rankings are awesome!  We wouldn’t put so much effort into them if they weren’t.  Still, if you want to win your leagues – you need to be more than a “rankings wimp” (censored from what it’s better known as).

I have been participating in ranking every position, but I don’t dogmatically live by anyone’s rankings.  I won’t even do that with my own ranks.  There are other things to consider about rankings.  First of all, tens of thousands of fantasy players come to FA for fantasy advice.  With that in mind, I do my best to remove personal biases, to lean on my conservative projections rather than my speculations, and to value safety over volatility since we are projecting the next five years.  Since we have such a large audience, I do my absolute best not to be reckless in my analysis.

Back to the real world of fantasy baseball (irony intended), I believe you will win leagues with more frequency, and get more long and short-term value, if you make calculated gambles with your trades.  For example, I would definitely trade a player I rank higher for a player I rank lower if I am chasing upside or additional pieces.  You will see what I mean below.

Buys

Trevor Story

I wrote a short blurb about him in our dynasty rankings.  I wanted to rank him higher, but the injury, strikeouts, and Brendan Rodgers being on the rise made me a bit gun-shy (cowardly).  Dynasty ranks are projected over five years so there were safer, more projectable options.   But for 2017 only – He is my favorite behind only Seager and Correa  (Machado too if you count him).   I am targeting him everywhere – even points leagues.

Maybe the owner is concerned with his obscene 31.3% K percentage.  People sometimes forget that strikeouts don’t matter in standard roto or categories league.  He will probably strikeout too much to bat .272 again; although with Coors Field, you never know.

If he had qualified, his absurd .296 ISO would have trailed only David Ortiz in all of the bigs.   He also stole 8 bases to go along with his 27 bombs in the mere 97 games that he was on the field.  Those numbers would extrapolate to roughly 45 homers and 14 steals in 162 games.

I wouldn’t project him quite that kindly on the power side.  I think 35-16 is pretty likely if he stays on the field all year though – just think more .250 on the average.   More speed isn’t out of the question, either, as he averaged just shy of 20 swipes per year in the minors.  He’s less stable than the other shortstop staples, but you can argue that he has bigger upside than even the very best.  

Drop a line to the Story owner to see if he is worried about the strikeouts, the injury, or anything else.  Maybe he’s annoyed that Story wasn’t around for the playoff run.  If your team can stomach the potential volatility I think he is well worth trading for.  

Trade idea:  Xander Bogaerts for Story and Tyler Glasnow, Corey Seager for Story and James Paxton or Kevin Gausman.

Francisco Lindor

It’s no secret that Lindor has been great since he broke into the bigs in 2015.  He is often mentioned in the elite grouping of young stud shortstops.  It feels like he is ranked at the back-end of that on other fantasy sites and in most leagues, though.   

Here are his numbers for his first 2 years in the league:

G AB AVG HR R RBI
99 390 0.313 12 50 51
158 604 0.301 15 99 78

That’s equally balanced and exceptional.  Here’s something to add onto those stats; his BABIP dropped .24 points from 2015 ( .09 points from combined MLB/minor league average).  It dropped even though both his line drive and hard hit percentages went up about 2%.  His batting average may regress up as a result.

It is also worth reminding you that he just finished his age 22 season and is yet to grow into his body.  He may develop 20 HR power as he matures. After all, he had 15 this year.  Throw in a little HR/FB% luck and that might get him to 20.  He probably also has the highest likelihood of swiping 20 bags out of the young studs at the position.  Not sure if he can quite get to 20-20, but I would certainly not be shocked.

The Indians were World Series runners-up and their lineup figures to be pretty good again next year, so the counting stats should be there.  I also love that he is arguably the best defensive shortstop in baseball.  We know he’s not going to lose eligibility or have mental issues at the plate over defensive woes a la 2014 Xander Bogaerts.

My projection system puts Lindor’s 2017 as the following in 157 games:

AVG HR R RBI SB
0.309 18 95 75 21

Trade ideas:  Xander Bogaerts for Lindor (and another piece if you can get it), Kyle Seager for Lindor and Eduardo Rodriguez.

Sells

Xander Bogaerts

I feel like he is viewed as the 1A/1B to Corey Seager, and sometimes even to Manny Machado for those that rank Manny as a shortstop.  Let me first make a distinction, I like and trust Xander a lot.  I just think he is closer to the back of the grouping of top echelon shortstop studs than he is to the front.  He started out on fire in 2016 after a solid 2015.   His 2nd half really troubled me, though.  

Below are his 2nd half numbers:

ISO AVG OBP SLG
0.159 0.253 0.317 0.412

He did all of this with 11 bombs and just 2 steals.  He is not a natural speedster so I don’t think the 20/20 season is coming given that he’s never stolen 20 bases at any level.  I do think a bit more power is coming as evidenced by 11 homers in just 72 games and the fact that he hit more fly balls in 2016 (9.1% increase from 2015).  His second half pace would give him roughly 25 homers if we were to play in all 162 games.

But as you can see, the power came at the expense of the average.   Many fantasy analysts and players believe he can challenge for a batting title while increasing the power.  I think it’s pretty unlikely and the steals are only going to go down as the seasons go on.  

He did this with a .290 BABIP, which is a bit low for him.  On the other hand, it’s not like it was some insane, outlier BABIP where we could call it a huge fluke bound for positive regression.   The batted ball profile also tells us that he hits about 20% line drives.   This number and the fact that he’s not a crazy speedster make me think that the BABIP is within a normal range.  On top of all that, the increase in fly balls will drive improved power, but sap his BABIP correspondingly.  

If you can’t get a great deal for Xander, then hang tight.  I think he’s really safe.   He is either going to have a lower average with some extra power or vice versa.  The ceiling is just not quite as high as some of his contemporaries.

Trade ideas:  Bogaerts for Corey Seager, Bogaerts for Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, or Francisco Lindor (plus a piece if you can get it), Xander for Trea Turner.

J.P. Crawford

This is tough for me because I am a big fan of his, but he is currently ranked as #1 shortstop prospect and #2 overall prospect on mlb.com.  I think he’s going to be a great major leaguer because of his glove work and he may even develop into a kind of Francisco Lindor “lite” within a few years.  That prediction however, is based on my eye test of watching him rather than any of his statistics.  

Below are his stats in 87 games at AAA in 2016:

AVG OBP ISO SB HR
0.244 0.328 0.071 7 4

Again, I like the contact skills and plate discipline as both his K% and BB% are above average (15.3% and 10.9% respectively).  I also expect his glove will keep him in the lineup of the rebuilding Phillies, but he does not appear to be a ready-made fantasy star like Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, and some of the other talents we’ve seen lately.   He only has 25 home runs over the course of his entire four years in the minors.   

He also has some speed, having stolen 62 bases over that same minor league career.  There’s a caveat to that, though, as he was also caught 31 times.  So again, he does not seem to be a clear-cut burner like Trea Turner, for example.    

His career minor league stats show promise in certain areas with a.372 OBP, but he was clearly overmatched at AAA.  It’s also going to take some time for him to grow into his body so he can even give you below average power at the position.  The contact and walk skills will help him a bit in points leagues, but not enough to carry his lack of power and medium to bad average.

Trade idea:  JP Crawford for any prospect in the MLB.com top-15 – maybe Josh Bell or Jose De Leon.

*****

Thanks for reading, and I hope you take some of these thoughts under consideration.  I’m obsessed with rankings (especially ours), but don’t forget to take some risks.  Some of these risks may not align with our rankings, or even your own. That’s fine!  It’s ideal even as it makes your league mates more likely to accept a trade.  They may look at a rankings chart and assume they’re getting the better of a deal.

Remember, ”safe” teams usually don’t win.  They generally finish in the top 5, but they usually can’t compete with the teams that hit on a few lottery tickets and/or a few big trades.  Take stock of the values of certain names in your league and try to capitalize on it.  It’s a cliché in fantasy baseball, but pay for stats and not names.  Supplement this cliché by also paying for high ceilings and not just low floors.

Happy trading and talk to you all again soon!

 

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Mike Sheehan
Comedian, Powerlifter, and most importantly a Cum Laude graduate of the fantasy baseball school of hard knocks. Double major in points and categories with a minor in roto. Happy to be doing my Postgraduate work here at the Fantasy Assembly.