Other than outfield, shortstop was the place to look if you needed speed, as eight of the twenty-two players who swiped twenty or more bags in 2018 played that position. There was also plenty of power, with eight players mashing over twenty home runs and four (if you count Javier Baez – 65 games at SS) achieving at least that in both categories (honorable mention – Trea Turner with 19 home runs and 43 steals):
Read on for a couple under the radar performances at the position along with a few you may want to avoid in your keeper and redraft leagues.
As always, if you have a player you would like profiled or have a question about, feel free to post in the comment section or reach out to me on Twitter @hedenson18 with that or any other questions. We will be working our way around the diamond so you can submit your player requests in advance.
- Aledmys Diaz
Diaz turned a few heads with his strong second half in 2018, smashing ten home runs and slashing .290/.333/.523 in his last 60 games. He hit the ball much harder in 2018, posting large increases in both his Hard% (+8.3%) Average Exit Velocity (+4.2 MPH) and Barrel% (+4.3%) when compared to 2017. His numbers in these areas mirrored (and mostly exceeded) what he did during his successful 2016 MLB season with the Cardinals, and his expected statistics eclipsed his actual production as well (.266 XBA/.322 WOBA/.446 XSLG).
Despite generating stronger contact and hitting more line drives this season (+ 1.5% LD% in 2018), Diaz still posted a low BABIP (.269). While I do not think this number will get anywhere close to the .312 mark he posted in 2016 due to a lack of speed and disinclination to walk (5.1% BB% in 2018), I could see Diaz getting that number closer to the .282 range he posted in 2017 in coming seasons.
His power (11th most HR by a SS) makes him an interesting option at the position, especially if he can continue to generate similar quality contact in 2019. Diaz will always have his rough patches to work through, but if he can maintain some of the improvements he posted in 2018 he could be a steal.
- Willy Adames
Adames had a solid MLB debut, slamming ten home runs with a .278/.346/.406 line. He struggled with strikeouts, fanning 29.4% of the time, though he got better in that area as the season went on (26.8% K% in second half). His power (16.9% HR/FB%) was nice to see, but he will need to improve in a few areas if he is going to be a consistent threat (30.4% FB%, Average Exit Velocity 86.5 MPH, Launch Angle 8.6˚).
Despite his above average speed, Adames will need to improve his batted ball profile if he is going to support anything near the BABIP (.378) he generated this season, especially in regards to his LD% (17.5%). His above average walk rate (9.6%) is nice to see in such a young player, and given that he routinely walked at a high level in the minors, he could jump a bit more in this area. For a 23-year-old Adames did well in 2018, and though he could struggle a bit during his second go-round in the big leagues, he is an interesting up and coming bat to watch in dynasty or keeper leagues.
- Dansby Swanson
Let us start with the areas that Swanson improved in during the 2018 campaign. His ISO jumped from an abysmal .092 in 2017 to .157 in 2018, placing him right in the middle of the pack for shortstops. Jumps in his FB% (+8.2%) Hard% (+6.3%) and Launch Angle (+4.5˚) helped spur his power increase overall, and he posted a career high 10.4% HR/FB% as well. Aaaannd….that is about it for the positives.
Swanson hit fewer line drives (-3.3%), walked less (-2.4%), and took some steps back in regards to plate discipline (+2.4% SwStr%, +9.3% O-Swing%). His OPS+ for the season was 12 points below league average (88), and his expected performance based on contact was even lower than what he generated for the season (.238 AVG/.304 OBP/.395 SLG; .221 XBA/.293 WOBA/.352 XSLG).
He also had wrist surgery this past week, and while he should be ready to go by spring training, that adds another reason to doubt Swanson for 2019. Right now I am struggling to see how Swanson can become a reliable fantasy shortstop next year and beyond. Improving his LD% and approach at the plate would be a great place to start, but even with those changes, I am not sure he does enough to move the needle over other options that could provide the same production from the waiver wire during the season.
Simmons ended up posting a solid line for the season, slashing .292/.337/.417 for the year with eleven home runs and ten steals. He tailed off significantly after a strong first half, however, slumping to a .263/.288/.381 line after the All Star Break. His ISO took a hit overall (.125), especially in the second half (.117) making it more likely the .143 mark he posted in 2017 represents his ceiling in that area.
If Simmon’s power continues to dip he loses any value he has as a lower to middle end SS. Double digit power and speed, even at lower levels, is enough to provide ample value at the shortstop position (or middle infield); dipping back to his previous production levels (he averaged 5 home runs from 2014-2016) however, is not.
In general, while Simmons has been a steady bat at the position, he lacks the ability to jump much above his recent production. If faced with owning Simmons (29) or rolling the dice on a younger bat with the potential to stand out, even if only in one category, I would encourage owners to take the risk and leave Simmons to someone else.