Here’s the SS breakdowns column. Unfortunately, circumstances kept me from getting through all of the breakdowns this spring, but I have a long notes column planned for Tuesday.
Francisco Lindor (Indians): I’m fond of all of the top shortstops; there are nine going in the first 10 rounds of Yahoo leagues and I have all of them higher than their Yahoo ADPs (though Corey Seager is practically even). So, there’s a lot for me to pick from for underrateds. Still, I’m starting with Lindor, who is 22nd in Yahoo ADP and ninth in my top 300. Lindor became a big-time power hitter at age 23, finishing with 33 homers and 44 doubles (Cal Ripken Jr., Nomar Garciaparra and Alex Rodriguez are the only other shortstops ever to have 30 homers and 40 doubles in the same year). He didn’t add any strikeouts, either, so there’s no reason he can’t get his average back up from last year’s .273 mark. He’s in an excellent offensive environment, and he’s surrounded by quality hitters. He’s never been hurt. In my book, it doesn’t even take a shortstop boost to make him worthy of a first-round pick; my projection calls for him to be the ninth most productive position player regardless of position.
Alex Bregman (Astros): There’s been some pushback on Bregman’s higher price tag, the concern being that, with no standout category, he’s already being priced at his upside. I’m not buying that. Bregman isn’t at all likely to bust out a 30-homer or 30-steal season, but he can do plenty of everything, assuming that he hits second most of the way for the Astros. A.J. Hinch has thrown something of a monkey-wrench into that scheme by batting Josh Reddick against some righties this spring. Bregman, though, could still get the spot on a full-time basis, even if it’s not his on Opening Day. Bregman showed top-notch contact numbers last year, suggesting that his strikeout rate could continue to decline this year. I have him scoring 100 runs and helping enough everywhere to make him the No. 27 player in my top 300. He’s going 51st in Yahoo.
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Trevor Story (Rockies): While he’s tended to be my second shortstop in drafts, Story is very possibly my favorite pick at any position this year. I was down on him last season after hand surgery because I thought it’d be quite some time before he was 100 percent. That seemed to be the way it worked out, too; he hit .224/.303/.396 in the first half and .254/.314/.520 afterwards. Story has big strikeout issues that aren’t going away, but he’s not in Joey Gallo/Javier Baez territory as a swing-and-miss guy and Coors Field helps paper over some of those troubles. It looks like he’ll get to hit fourth and fifth this year after spending much of last season in the sixth and seventh spots. My projection calls for him to hit 30 homers and approach 100 RBI while also not hurting a team in batting average. He’s 36th in my top 300, compared to 93rd in Yahoo ADP.
Didi Gregorius (Yankees): I don’t know how Gregorius is doing it, but he has 45 homers the last two years, even though his exit velocity on flies and liners was in the bottom 10 percent of the league last season. Only one person below him on that list reached double-figures in homers last year (Jose Reyes with 15). Gregorius hit 25. It’s gotta be that whole left-handed-hitter-in-Yankee-Stadium thing, right? Nope. Gregorius hit .321 with 13 homers on the road, compared to .251 with 12 homers at home. So, even though I can’t explain why he’s this good, I’m skeptical that he’ll keep it up going forward. He’s not a great contact hitter, his power seems to partly be a mirage and he’s not going to be an asset in steals. He’s also likely to hit lower in the Yankee lineup that he did last year. I place him 70 spots lower than his Yahoo ADP of 115.
Marwin Gonzalez (Astros): Gonzalez was a lifetime .257/.298/.389 hitter before busting out at age 28 and performing as one of the AL’s top 20 players last year. The Astros could have responded to that breakthrough by handing him the left-field job this year, but it seems they plan to keep using him as a utilityman, meaning he can’t afford to slip much and expect to remain in the lineup regularly. I’m actually rather optimistic that he’ll remain productive -- he has the highest OPS projection of any shortstop outside of my top 10 -- but I don’t expect him to be much of an asset in average or steals and I don’t see him getting 600 plate appearances. He’ll likely alternate between being useful and useless in mixed leagues.
Paul DeJong (Cardinals): DeJong hit 38 homers in just his third pro season last year, with 25 of those coming in the 108 games after he was promoted to the majors. It was a truly impressive rookie campaign, one that would have been good for ROY honors in many years. DeJong, though, has some plate discipline issues; he fanned 28 percent of the time as a rookie and five times as often as he walked. I don’t think he can keep his average up while doing that. He’s also in a bad park for right-handed power, and he’s probably going to hit sixth or seventh for the Cardinals. I don’t think he’ll repeat Aledmys Diaz’s sophomore follies, but he’s not someone I’d want in a mixed league.
Chris Owings (Diamondbacks): Owings was fading even before suffering the broken finger that ended his 2017 with two months remaining, but he hit .290/.323/.484 with 12 homers and 11 steals in the first half of last year. He’s one of the game’s most efficient basestealers, having gone 59-for-68 since debuting in 2013, and he might up the pace there this year if the Diamondbacks see their run scoring take a downturn with the humidor at Chase Field. That humidor could take a real toll on Owings’ production, too, and largely because he’s not actually a very good regular, he’s not promised a starting job initially. Still, the power and speed can make him a top-10 fantasy shortstop when he’s starting and hitting in the top half of the order.
Jose Peraza (Reds): A bust last year, Peraza went from hitting .324 in 241 at-bats as a rookie to .259 in 487 at-bats last season. Especially frustrating was that he went nearly two months without a steal at one point after collecting 15 in his first 63 games. Peraza has little to offer in the power department and he’s probably never going to walk much, so he needs to hit .290 or better to justify a lineup spot. If he does that, he can steal 30 bases and be plenty valuable for fantasy purposes. If he doesn’t, he’s probably going to find himself replaced by Nick Senzel in June or July. For speed-needy teams, he makes sense as a late MI option.
Orlando Arcia (Brewers): Arcia was an awful hitter for two months as a rookie and for two more months at the beginning of last year, but he turned it around in June and hit .290/.340/.427 with 11 homers and 13 RBI over the final two-thirds of the season. I assumed that’d make him a top-15 shortstop going into this year, but he’s currently being drafted 240th in Yahoo leagues. I’m not expecting a big leap forward, particularly since the Brewers have blocked off the top of their lineup with the Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich acquisitions, but he’s a good enough bet for 15-20 homers and 15-20 steals that I have him 60 spots higher than his Yahoo ADP.
Aledmervis Diarte (Blue Jays): As a fantasy prognosticator, I wish the Jays had just acquired one of Aledmys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte, giving me someone to recommend as a solid fantasy option while Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis are on the DL this year. Really, though, they were smart to get both, even if it means that neither seems like a particularly good bet for 400 at-bats at the moment. I like Solarte better as a player; he’s a more reliable hitter and he’s the better defender. Diaz would seem to have more upside, based solely on his .300/.369/.510 line as a rookie for the Cardinals in 2016, but that looks like something of a fluke now. I’d be happy with either player rounding out an AL-only roster, and I’d expect one of the two to be of use in mixed leagues at times this season.