Over the next couple of weeks at Harper Wallbanger, I'm sorting through the Big Board for 12-team 5x5 leagues to find the must-draft and must-avoid players at each position. Let's keep it rolling with shortstop.
STATE OF THE POSITION
The Shortstop renaissance continues! The first couple of tiers feature fantasy giants such as Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, and Francisco Lindor (plus Machado after the first couple weeks of this season). The dropoff is less stark this year, as Bregman, Seager, Andrus, Segura, and Bogaerts are all perfectly good options in the early-mid rounds. It's still a position where values can be had late, especially since people tend to reach for those early round guys. There is a ton more power at this position than there was just a couple of years ago, and while that is exciting, keep in mind that if you take an all-pop, no-speed shortstop, you're going to have to fill in those steals elsewhere, possibly by taking a more SB-focused approach in the outfield than you're used to. All that said, let us get to the picks, where I have an underappreciated A's player (classic), a late-season breakout from last year, and a '17 breakout who might find playing time difficult to come by this time around.
TARGET: Marcus Semien
620 PA, 21 HR, 85 R, 75 RBI, 13 SB, .250 AVG
You know what, I recommended him last year too, but I don't care. He got injured, so it doesn't count! Semien is the classic type of player that gets overlooked in fantasy. Plays for a bad team? Check. Contributes in (almost) every category, doesn't dominate any of them? Check. Meh batting average? Check. In my opinion, he's actually been undervalued for a few years running. The new-and-improved '16 version of Semien didn't really show up last year, as he played through a wrist injury and missed considerable time with it as well. The BABIP did rebound, as expected, which is good to see. This projected line is a very reasonable, attainable statline for Marcus, and as we saw in '16, there is further upside to be potentially found in the HR's.
When to target: He's a 13th round value, going late enough to be grabbed in Round 19 in all formats!
Risk profile: Low.
TARGET: Tim Beckham
640 PA, 22 HR, 85 R, 75 RBI, 5 SB, .260 AVG
This was originally a spot reserved for Jorge Polanco, but he blew it by getting slapped with the 80g steroids ban earlier this week. So onward, to Tim Beckham! This is a guy that I just kept not believing in during the '17 season, and he kept defying me, especially with his unbelievable run in August (.394 AVG, 6 HR). I wonder if the Rays regret that trade... Anyway, in a lineup full of terrible OBPs, the O's seem inclined to install Beckham's decent OBP and speed (he doesn't really get SB's, but he can run) in the leadoff spot, which is good for his R production. The BABIP skill seems real after two seasons of .349+ BABIP and a .355 xBABIP last season, so the .260 AVG projection may even be a bit conservative. It's unlikely Beckham wins your league for you, but he can be a solid mid-round value despite going at the very end of standard drafts.
When to target: Grab him by Round 17 in ESPN, and possibly a couple rounds later in other formats.
Risk profile: Medium.
AVOID: Marwin Gonzalez
517 PA, 20 HR, 67 R, 72 RBI, 8 SB, .275 AVG
Marwin had a huge 2017, and we'll always be able to look on that fondly. He was the perfect fantasy player in many ways, basically free on the waiver wire for half the season, eligible at every position, and putting up solid all around production (.300/23hr/8sb). But from a playing time standpoint, he's an extremely risky proposition this year, even with Yuli Gurriel's hamate injury. The Astros have a number of 1B/DH types (Gurriel, Gattis, White, Reed, J.D. Davis), and by all accounts they prefer to give Derek Fisher/Jake Marisnick reps in LF. So that drops Marwin into the super-utility role, where he might play a few times a week when other guys rest. Beyond that, there are significant reasons to doubt his power breakout based on the statcast data, so summing this all together, it's just too risky to count on with a middle-round pick.
Risk profile: High.