While it might be unexpected, shortstop is one of the deeper positions from a fantasy perspective as we enter the 2019 season. That doesn’t mean we can, or should, ignore it, but you don’t need to reach either. This depth also travels down to filling out your middle infield position.
While it’s hard to quibble with the fact that the Cardinals Paul DeJong is the 19th shortstop currently coming off the board in NFBC leagues, personally I have him 20th, he is a good value at his current price. The fact that you can get him winth a ADP of 190 should be kept in mind while constructing your team.
What is it that we like about DeJong? And if we like him, why are we alright with waiting until the 190th pick to draft the shortstop?
Let’s get the downside out of the way first. At this point, unless we see a greater change to his approach or plate skills, it appears that his batting average is capped between .250 and .255. While we did see him improve his contact rate from 70% to 72% last season along with bringing his walk rate up from 4% to 7%, he hasn’t shown signs of doing much more. In fact, each of the projection models that are found on Fangraphs are expecting to see his average fall into that range this season.
The good thing is since it is the power you are drafting him for, his average serves to limit his value while also not being a complete liability. Seeing DeJong strike out about 25% of the time is something that will continue.
However, over the past two seasons it really hasn’t held him back as he hit .285 with 25 HR and 65 RBI in 108 games in his rookie season. A .349 BABIP is the likely cause for that and last season he bounced back down to a more reasonable. 241 average in 115 games while hitting 19 HR and driving in 68 runs.
It really was two different seasons for him in ’18, as his campaign was interrupted by a fractured hand in May which helps him to fly somewhat under the radar entering this season.
There is no denying his power ability, metrics and his 44% fly ball rate certainly helps to project sustained success. After a 20% home run to fly ball rate in 2017, the drop to 14% last season, we can blame the hand for part of this, allows for some improvement. With a 19.1 degree launch angle, why shouldn’t we expect 30 HR? With health, some slight, natural improvements and consistent playing time (which shouldn’t be a problem), it is a very reasonable, if slightly aggressive, expectation.
The one thing to be careful about is that it wouldn’t be surprising to see DeJong’s value rise this spring. Currently Roster Resource has him penciled in as the number two hitter between Matt Carpenter and Paul Goldschmidt while there is also chatter that the shortstop might be batting third this season. Either way he projects to be very involved in a successful offense for the Cardinals.
That means the DeJong is firmly planted on my radar, especially based on his price, as we enter the 2019 season. It would not be surprising to see the St. Louis shortstop surpass his current rank either. Those are the players to target in your drafts.