Digging for Diamonds: Underowned Shortstop Prospects
Shortstop is certainly one of the most important positions to keep stocked as a dynasty league owner. I love shortstop prospects, almost to a fault. Other owners in leagues that I play in have joked that I should look into joining an all SS dynasty league because of my roster being continuously filled with them, particularly on the minor league side. There are many reasons why I do this, starting with the fact that many shortstop prospects will end up moving to other positions down the line and establish eligibility at other fantasy positions (like Addison Russell this year), and because the ones that do end up sticking at short can almost always be used as trade chips, even as minor leaguers, as they climb the ladder. This is especially true in deeper leagues, where there’s almost always somebody looking to upgrade from the (pre-2015) Zack Cosart experience. Once shortstop prospects reach Double-A, it’s often too late to grab them cheaply in dynasty leagues, so you’re often left scouring the lower levels in search of help. Even prospects just getting their first taste of full-season ball like Jorge Mateo, Amed Rosario and Ozhaino Albies are almost assuredly gone in your league.
Let’s take a look at three shortstop prospects that should be owned in more leagues than they currently are:
Alex Blandino, Cincinnati Reds (Owned in One Percent of CBS Leagues)
Blandino was rated the 29th best dynasty league signee over the winter by our overlord Bret Sayre, and the former Stanford Cardinal has certainly enjoyed the pitcher’s paradise known as the Florida State League in the first few months of the 2015 season. Blandino has posted a .311/.394/.433 line in his first 209 plate appearances, chipping in four home runs and five steals (albeit in 12 attempts), good for an impressive wRC+ of 154. Our own Greg Wellemeyer profiled Blandino before the year, and outlined possible reasons that may necessitate a move from short in the future, but reports have been generally positive regarding Blandino’s ability to stick at short, where he’s played every game in the field since signing last June. Blandino has walked just about as much as he’s struck out at Daytona in the early going, and he’s had one of the most impressive starts to the minor league season for a shortstop when keeping in mind both park and league contexts. If Blandino keeps hitting, he could move quickly through the Reds system, and there’s certainly not much ahead of him on the organizational depth chart, especially once Zack Cosart reverts back to being Zack Cosart, which should happen just about any day now.
Gavin Cecchini, New York Mets (Owned in One Percent of CBS Leagues)
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The former 12th overall pick in the 2012 draft has been slow to develop with the bat in his minor league career, but his defensive chops and baseball instincts have never been in question. The younger Cecchini brother secured a $2.3 million bonus upon signing with the Mets, and has shown good plate discipline at every level of full season ball, which has carried over to his first full year of Double-A ball as a 21-year old. Cecchini has walked twelve times and struck out only fifteen times in his first 168 plate appearances of the year. Cecchini has shown more pop in 2015, as evidenced by his .157 ISO mark, which would be a career high. His .320 batting average is currently tied for eighth in the Eastern League, and his 144 wRC+ ranks behind only the red-hot Trevor Story among shortstops in the league, and puts him in the top-five among all shortstops at the Double-A level.
Yu-Cheng Chang, Cleveland Indians (Owned in Zero Percent of CBS Leagues)
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The Indians signed Chang out of Taiwan in 2013 for $500,000 and he impressed with the bat in the AZL in 2014, putting up a .986 OPS in 42 games and showing good plate discipline, walking 18 times against 28 strikeouts in 181 plate appearances. At first glance, Chang’s .241/.311/.368 line in 2015 appears to be nothing special, but that’s why it’s always important to understand the age of a prospect in relation to league context. Chang is getting his first taste of the Midwest League in his age-19 season, and is holding his own after a rough first month that saw him hit for a .596 OPS and no home runs. In May, Chang put up a much improved .708 OPS number with four home runs and two steals, as the weather (slightly) warmed up across the Midwest. More notably from a fantasy aspect, after splitting his 2014 season at the complex level between third base and short, the 6’1″ 175 pound Chang has played every game in the field at the six-spot in 2015. Chang certainly is a prospect to monitor closely in the near future, especially if the power continues to develop and the Indians keep him at shortstop.
J.J. Jansons is a contributor to The Dynasty Guru. Be one of the first to follow him (literally) on Twitter, where you can request future topics to be covered here at TDG. Follow @jansons_jj