FANTASY PLAYS: Shortstop position youthful in fantasy
The 2017 crop of fantasy shortstops can't really be summed up in your typical terms like ''stacked,'' ''terrible,'' ''shallow'' or ''deep.''
It's a true mixed bag - a handful of studs, some late-round sleepers, the usual assortment of defensive specialists with little power, and scattered head-scratchers like Freddy Galvis, who hit as many home runs in 2016 (20) as he did in his previous three seasons combined.
If you're looking for a singular theme to tie this position together, it is ''youth.'' According to National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) average draft position (ADP) data, the top six shortstops being drafted were born in 1991 or later. Of the top 15, four shortstops were born in 1994. This is a very young group with electric potential and intriguing combinations of speed and power.
Astros shortstop Carlos Correa, 22, encapsulates this group perfectly. He has 20-plus home runs in each of his last two seasons, averaged 13.5 stolen bases in that span, and is hitting .276 over 252 major league games. And he's not that much greater of an option than Boston's Xander Bogaerts (.294, 21 home runs, 13 steals last season), Cleveland's Francisco Lindor (2016: .301, 15 HR, 19 SB), and even Chicago's Tim Anderson (.283 average, nine home runs, 10 steals in just 99 games last year).
While Correa is the top shortstop off the board, a very strong case for No. 1 can be made for Milwaukee's Jonathan Villar, who hit .285 with 19 home runs and 62 stolen bases last season. VIilar flashed power in the minors, with seasons of 14 and 11 home runs at ages 20 and 21, respectively. The speed is never going to be questioned, and while Villar's batting average fluctuated and was relatively uninspiring in the minors (.262 over 2,180 at-bats), he was a young player being bounced from the minors to the majors with infrequent at-bats. His extremely high .373 BABIP last season suggests a drop in 2017, but that number was right in line with his 2015 mark (.360), so maybe this is just who Villar is - a speedster who uses his wheels to get on base and is flashing developing power. If you believe that, then drafters taking Correa ahead of Villar are making a big mistake.
Look out for the old man in the sea of youth.
Jose Reyes, 33, quietly hit eight home runs and stole nine bases in just 60 games last year. That put him on pace for over 20 in each category in a full season (which isn't exactly an easy thing for Reyes, who has played 150 games just twice since 2008). But Reyes had a crazy 2016, serving an extended suspension, being released by the Rockies and picked up by the Mets in June, and playing third base for the first time in his career. With a normal offseason and full spring training, Reyes - the 20th shortstop being taken in drafts - could give a fantasy owner a hefty return on very little risk.
- If you can live with a batting average that could be anywhere from .240 to .265, Marcus Semien packs a lot of power (he had 27 home runs last year), offers some speed (10 or more steals the last two years), and is just 26 years old, so one can hope for some continued growth.
- Keep an eye on Ketel Marte in Arizona. There's very little power here, but he can steal 40 bases and flirt with a .300 average with regular at-bats.
- Jedd Gyorko has shortstop eligibility but probably won't see many at-bats from the position. The 30-homer power is real, and there's room to grow in batting average, based on consistently high numbers (.318 minor league average in 359 games) in the minors.
- Alen Hanson isn't going to blow the doors off any offensive categories, but he's shown flashes of power in the minors and has 25-steal potential. The question is his role on the Pirates, which may depend on if troubled third baseman Jung-Ho Kang serves a lengthy suspension for a DUI.
- Gleyber Torres is the New York shortstop everyone is drooling over, but Mets prospect Amed Rosario hits for average, has decent speed, and there's a case to be made that the 21-year-old may be developing a bit of a power stroke. Rosario is probably owned in most dynasty leagues already, but it's worth checking just in case.
NANDO'S TOP 12 SHORTSTOPS
1. Jonathan Villar - Brewers
2. Carlos Correa - Astros
3. Corey Seager - Dodgers
4. Trevor Story - Rockies
5. Xander Bogaerts - Red Sox
6. Addison Russell - Cubs
7. Francisco Lindor - Indians
8. Jedd Gyorko - Cardinals
9. Tim Anderson - White Sox
10. Troy Tulowitzki - Blue Jays
11. Marcus Semien - Athletics
12. Elvis Andrus - Rangers
This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com .