This is the fifth edition of a continuing series. If you missed the previous rounds, last week’s post on third basemen also has links to the other positions. Yesterday, we reviewed what happened in 2016 including the surprising discovery that Corey Seager’s lack of stolen bases put him a full tier behind the top of the class.
As a reminder, these rankings represent my first reactions rather than a truly rigorous approach. I’ve used an absolutely objective technique called mental math to compile the lists. I’m assuming a standard 5×5 format.
The purpose of this exercise is two-fold: to get an early start on 2017 rankings and to crowdsource missing or misranked players. That’s where you come in. Let your thoughts and feelings be known in the comments. As we’ve done in previous editions, we’ll break this into digestible chunks.
Give me a second here before you run to the comments. The top seven shortstops were impossible to rank. I’m not going to argue too hard for any one guy in the top seven. They’re all capable of first round quality numbers.
I think about value in relation to the entire roster. Knowing I need steals at shortstop, it’s hard to list Machado first after a zero steal season. His reliability and superior power help to overcome his baserunning outage. For what it’s worth, you can expect almost the same numbers from Seager, they’re just packaged in a (slightly) riskier box. I do like Machado’s dual eligibility. It’ll give you more options in the middle rounds.
Since a proven track record led me to select Machado as the first shortstop, I decided to remain consistent by tabbing Bogaerts second. Given the massive run production associated with the Red Sox lineup, his five category mix is quite valuable. That said, I originally had him ranked seventh among shortstops because his power and speed are so much more constrained than the other stars at the position.
Correa supposedly played through injury, especially in the second half. While he let down owners who picked him early in the first round, he still had a strong season. A modest rebound in power will put him at 30 home runs and 100 RBI. No shortstop drove in 100 runs this season.
I want to rank Story and Villar higher, but the risk! Oh, the risk. Players who steal 60 bases often don’t repeat the feat. In fact, they usually steeply regress. If you think about classic sports video games where you have a finite number of attribute points to create a player, I liken Villar to Carlos Gomez with a few points moved from power to speed. His home run total would look very fluky at a neutral home park.
Story was on pace for over 40 home runs. Everybody remembers his crazy April, but he also went on a similar nine homer binge right before landing on the disabled list. One surge is a fluke. Two homer surges in four months looks real. With the help of Coors, a perfect storm of fortune could put Story atop the 2017 leaderboard. He even runs as much as Bogaerts. Since home runs are slightly devalued in today’s game, I’ll conservatively list him after Villar. It feels wrong. Personally, I’m giving serious thought to Story over Machado. That’s without even considering the opportunity cost of picking Story later than Machado.
I have Lindor seventh entirely due to expected run production. He “only” tallied 177 runs plus RBI in what looked like a best case scenario for Indians run production. I expect Cleveland’s offense to regress, even if Michael Brantley is back. Like Bogaerts, Lindor’s five category stat line is extremely valuable. He’s a potential steal.
The drop from seventh to eighth shortstop is daunting. The next four guys include three upside plays and a rapidly declining veteran. For those who are curious, Alex Bregman would rank eighth. I went with Diaz over Peraza and Swanson due to what I perceive as a high floor. Peraza’s ability to push 60 steals could make Diaz’s inclusion here look foolish. Similarly, Swanson is expected to have a useful lineup role. Diaz probably should hit first or second, but that doesn’t mean he will.
The plunge continues. The top of this cohort includes several flawed but still good players. Russell doesn’t run much, but he can binge on home runs. He also batted fifth for a chunk of 2016. Andrus is the speed-oriented alternative with Semien offering a blend of the two. If Semien was batting fifth in the Cubs lineup, he would rank 11th.
Maybe Miller can repeat his 30 home run season. He has some very lefty friendly parks in the AL East to help him. I have my doubts. Similarly, I worry about Reyes’ ability to handle a full workload. He was at his best in 2016. Usually we hem and haw about rust when a player misses a big chunk of time. In Reyes’ case, the late start may have helped.
What is there to say about the rest of the guys here. Baez is the most interesting. His World Series flop showed us all we need to know about his downside. If I’m desperate for stolen bases in the mid-late rounds, Nunez’s utility might convince me to pull the trigger in place of Andrus. It appears the Giants have a large role in mind for him. Try to avoid relying on him as a starter.
Cabrera had his second best offensive season. I’m not signing up for a full repeat. Still, you could do much worse than Cabrera’s solid power and contact skills in leagues with a middle infield slot.
Anderson showed surprising Cell-fueled power in his debut, and he didn’t run nearly as much as expected. A 15 homer, 25 stolen base season with some otherwise painful supporting numbers is still quite valuable at this price. With so many other young players drawing attention at shortstop, Anderson may fly under the radar.
Duffy, Owings, and Polanco are the other guys I’d actively target if I have to select somebody after Anderson.
Woof goes the dog. Maybe Hechavarria can be useful in a Galvis kind of way. Nah, I take that back.
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