Filling my shortstop position has been quite similar to my tight end strategy in football in previous years: I am either getting one of the top couple of guys, or I am waiting until the majority of my other positions are filled to find solid shortstop sleepers.
Just as the tight end group in the NFL has exploded with young, consistent and top-tier talent like Jordan Reed, Tyler Eifert and Gary Barnidge, the shortstop-eligible pool is now as deep at the top as it has been in recent years.
Between Carlos Correa, Manny Machado, Miguel Sano, Xander Bogaerts and Corey Seager, five of the top six ranked players at the position are 23 years old or younger. This tidal wave of young talent has caused a shift in what you might call a “sleeper” for the position as a whole.
The majority of the time, you look for sleepers that are younger players ready to break out. On the contrary, I am seeing the shortstop sleepers are the older veterans who are being severely under-valued as opposed to their younger counterparts.
Let’s dig in and see the shortstop sleepers you need to be targeting.
Mixed League Sleepers
Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants
Last season, Crawford had 21 home runs and 84 runs batted in with an OPS of .782. Those numbers are good for second, first and first, respectively, among shortstops. Now, because of the youth movement at the position, Crawford is ranked as the 15th highest player with shortstop eligibility. Early ADP has him drafted around 148th player off the board, or after the unreliable Elvis Andrus.
The argument against Crawford is that 2015 may have been an outlier year and he is due for regression. I think this is more of a breakout year with signs of things to come. Crawford is 29 years old now so it would seem he would be past that kind of breakout year that 26- or 27-year olds typically have. However, he did not break into the majors until his age-24 season and last year was just his fourth full year.
Crawford will not help in the stolen base department, but the kind of power he can provide from the shortstop position is rare and valuable. You can always find some cheap steals with a fourth or fifth outfielder, but 20-plus home run power will not be lying around on the waiver wire.
Alcides Escobar, Kansas City Royals
If you have read anything I have written before, you know that I am a devout Value-Based Drafter. One thing that I have noticed in the past few seasons with my Dynamic Value-Based Drafting strategy is that I end up on the short end of runs scored. It just seems like in general, finding someone who scores a ton of runs (outside of the elite overall players) is more difficult than any other category.
Escobar is an elite run-scorer for the shortstop group. He has been in the Top 5 in the category the past two seasons, averaging 75 runs a year. The Royals have an elite offense that gives Escobar plenty of opportunity to score. He also is dependable in that offense, playing 158 or more games four of the past five seasons.
Escobar’s other statistics are not quite as strong, but nothing is awful. He has never really hit for power, but as pointed out with Crawford, not many shortstops do accomplish that. His stolen bases went from a career high to a near career low last year, and I think he regresses back up to the 23-25 steal range. He has broken the .285 batting average mark twice in the past four seasons, so you could be buying quite high on a guy being drafted as the 21stt shortstop and 248th player overall.
Starlin Castro, New York Yankees
Normally, I am a stats-only guy. I tend to stick to trends and projections as my bottom line for evaluating Fantasy prospects. However, I just have a feeling about Castro as a strong sleeper. Yes, I know he will probably be playing second base, but in all of my leagues he is still shortstop eligible at this point.
I think the move to New York will boost his confidence and motivation. He had been the hot, young prospect with the Cubs when he hit 14 home runs and stole 25 bases as a 22-year old. Now with the influx of young talent in that lineup, he was kind of an afterthought.
Let us not forget, he is just now entering his age-26 season. I think he will breakout toward the 15 home run and 20-plus steal range while scoring 70 runs in a high powered offense.
Deep League Sleepers
AL-Only League Sleeper
Andrelton Simmons, Los Angeles Angels
This is a situational type sleeper rather than someone who seems to just break out. Simmons had 17 bombs and 76 runs his first full season in the majors, but has severely tailed off offensively since. His batting average did have an uptick last season as well as posting a solid OBP of .321.
What really has me liking Simmons is where he is slotted in the leadoff spot in front of Kole Calhoun, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. That is a much stronger middle of the lineup than what Simmons had in Atlanta, and I think it will lead to more stolen base attempts and run-scoring chances.
He also leaves one of the worst power ballparks in Atlanta, so I think he can flirt with double-digit home runs. Simmons is currently the 14th drafted shortstop from the American League, so if he can get near these numbers again, then that would be great value.
NL-Only League Sleeper
Erick Aybar, Atlanta Braves
As I said with Alcides Escobar, sometimes runs scored can be hard to come by. Aybar has never had fewer than 67 runs in his seven full major league seasons. He scored 74 or more in both of the last two seasons while averaging almost 20 stolen bases a year.
Aybar has also hit .270-plus each of the last six seasons. Aybar is the type of guy who will not have any eye-popping stats, but he will be consistent enough to not be a detriment to your team. Coming off the board as the 18th National League shortstop, that is some serious value.
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