Reviewing 2016 Pod’s Picks & Pans: Shortstop

For some reason, I never published a Pod’s Picks and Pans for third base. Perhaps to save myself some extra embarrassment? These haven’t exactly gone so well this year. Putting myself back in the face of potential ridicule, let’s take a look back at my Pod’s Picks & Pans at shortstop. Yesterday, we published the shortstop rankings and dollar values, which the actual rankings are taken from.

Pod’s Picks: Shortstop
PLAYER Mike Preseason Rank Consensus Preseason Rank Actual Rank
Zack Cozart 8 31 22
Corey Seager 2 5 4
Jean Segura 10 20 2

It was surprising to me, and to you, to see that Zack Cozart was my eighth ranked shortstop. To be so bullish, you had to believe in the power spike he displayed in just 194 at-bats in 2015. It was power he had never shown before. I mostly believed in it, though obviously figured some regression into my projection. Sure enough, he held onto most of his gains, as his HR/FB rate finished at the second highest mark of his career, as did his ISO. Unfortunately, he missed time to injury once again and ended up with just 508 plate appearances. I doubt a full healthy season that resulted in 650 plate appearances would have pushed him into top 10 shortstop territory, but my ranking would have looked a lot better if he didn’t miss that time. So technically I was right from a performance perspective, but was too optimistic about his health cooperating. And since everyone was homering, even 20 long balls from a shortstop isn’t a big deal anymore.

It’s pretty ridiculous that I missed on Corey Seager. I was so bullish on him and he still outperformed my projection. Yet, he finished fourth in the rankings, versus second in mine! He essentially performed exactly how you would have expected after his cup of coffee in 2015, with just minor regression all around. His BABIP predictably slipped, but his line drive heavy, pop-up avoiding, batted ball profile supports an inflated mark. The crazy thing is that he hit 26 homers with a sub-30% fly ball rate. While he’s going to give up BABIP, an increased fly ball rate could push him over the 30-homer hump.

Jean Segura! While he wasn’t ranked with the shortstops, his dollar value would have placed him second. Of course, that would have pushed the other two guys above down another spot. Hey, I actually got one closer than the consensus for a change. My relative optimism stemmed from my projection accounting for his spot atop the Diamondbacks order, which he held all year. But naturally, no one saw this coming. While he showed a bit of pop in 2013, he pushed his HR/FB rate to a new career high, more than doubling his mark from 2014 and 2015, all the while bumping up his fly ball rate. His fly ball exit velocity surged from 83.4 mph to 90.5, which is an enormous jump, validating the power spike. That’s not to say it’s repeatable, but it does suggest he wasn’t necessarily benefiting from wall scrapers. With a career high BABIP as well, he’ll be an interesting man to project for 2017.

Pod’s Pans: Shortstop
PLAYER Mike Preseason Rank Consensus Preseason Rank Actual Rank
Xander Bogaerts 4 2 3
Troy Tulowitzki 6 3 18
Addison Russell 19 11 16

You all know I thought Bogaerts was significantly overvalued this year and you could refresh your memory as I reviewed my full Pod Projection yesterday. While a ranking of four seemed like I was close to the pack, there was actually a large gap between my third ranking guy and my fourth. So even though Bogaerts technically finished between my rank and the consensus, I have to give this one to the consensus. I was way off here as I underestimated his power and figured he would be less inclined to steal bases. The elite Red Sox offense also really helped, of course.

For the first time, Troy Tulowitzki carried not just playing time risk thanks to his ever fragile body, but also performance risk. He was playing his first full year on a new team and even though the Rogers Centre is a clear hitter’s park, it still didn’t measure up to Coors Field, especially on the BABIP inflation side. Not surprisingly, Tulo posted the second lowest wOBA of his career, and lowest since 2008. His BABIP plummeted to a new career low, and he accumulated just 544 plate appearances. He has only recorded more than 600 plate appearances three times in his entire career. The power was actually fine, but somehow he managed to score just 54 runs, which hampered his value. At age 32, this is probably his new level post-Coors.

Heading into the season, Addison Russell was your standard top prospect who fantasy owners expected big growth from and paid for it. But, being slated to him at the bottom of the order, even a good one like the Cubs, typically makes earning excessive fantasy value a challenge. He actually ended up hitting fifth 200 times, but the majority of his plate appearances came batting sixth through eighth. Somehow, he was still able to knock in 95 runs. His power also jumped to greater heights than I expected, while he cut down on his strikeout rate significantly. And yet with all this growth, he still barely ranked better than my pessimistic 19 ranking. That’s because his BABIP cratered as all those pop-ups caught up with him, and his spot at the batting of the order ate into his runs scored total. Overall, this is an intriguing skill set, but once again, where he hits in the lineup will be a key driver of his fantasy value.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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