by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
There is definitely a bright future ahead at shortstop, with Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor and Corey Seager arriving in 2015 and a long list of potentially future All-Stars right behind them (including J.P. Crawford, Orlando Arcia, Trea Turner and Tim Anderson). Two years from now it’s extremely possible that we are looking at the spot as one of the deepest in the league, but that doesn’t hold true today. The arrival time of the new rookies is unknown and the top of the rankings (click here to view our current Top 15) are littered with questions:
- Will Lindor/Seager suffer from a sophomore slump?
- Will Troy Tulowitzki stay healthy?
- How big of a regression will Xander Bogaerts face?
With that in mind, finding a few options with upside late in your draft makes a lot of sense (especially if you simply want to plug the gap until one of the current top prospects arrives). Who are the best candidates? Here are a few names that could provide value based on their current ADP:
Zack Cozart – Cincinnati Reds
Current ADP – 413.98
It is easy to forget about Cozart, who was breaking out in ’15 before his season was ultimately ended in June by a knee injury. While Eugenio Suarez performed well in his absence, thanks to the trade of Todd Frazier there is room on the infield for both to open the season with a job. There is some risk that the injury helps to limit him, as well as the likelihood that he isn’t quite as good as he showed in ’15 (9 HR in 214 PA), but that doesn’t mean he should be overlooked.
There is reason to believe in the power surge, as he was hitting the ball in the air more (42.2%) and his 12.9% HR/FB is hardly unreasonable (courtesy of a 267.428 average distance on non-groundballs). His average may never be tremendous (19.3% line drive rate, 11.4% IFFB%), but as long as he hits .250-.260 there is enough power to make him a solid option.
Marcus Semien – Oakland A’s
Current ADP – 250.49
We took an in-depth look at him early in February (click here to view), but the bottom line is that owners can’t let his defensive deficiencies overshadow his offensive upside. As it is he hit .257 with 15 HR and 11 SB last season, making him one of just three shortstops who hit 15 or more home runs to go along with more than 6 stolen bases. With the power/speed being for real and the potential for an improvement in his strikeout rate (22.0% in ’15 despite a 9.0% SwStr% and 26.0% O-Swing%) and BABIP (.312 despite a 23.1% line drive rate), he’s a great buy.
Eduardo Escobar – Minnesota Twins
Current ADP – 363.63
The fact that he’s 27-years old alone could indicate breakout potential to some, but besides that pure speculation there is actually marks in the numbers to excite us:
- 30+ doubles in back-to-back seasons
- More upside in his average (line drive rate was sabotaged by a 10.3% mark in April)
- Improved strikeouts late in the year (15.9% and 16.1% over the final two months)
He’s locked into the starting role and is coming off a year where he hit .262 with 12 HR. Any further growth, which seems likely, would put him into the conversation as a Top 10 option.
J.J. Hardy – Baltimore Orioles
Current ADP – 438.62
He’s not a sexy name and is not the player he once was, but at this type of price there is reason to take the gamble. Sure he’s hit just 17 HR over the past two seasons, but look at these average distance on non-groundball numbers:
- 2015 (Full Year) – 267.728
- From July 1, 2015 Forward – 273.218
Playing in Baltimore those numbers indicate more than 8 HR. As a bridge to another option and at little-to-no cost, he’s worth the gamble.
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Heat Maps, STATS
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