Finding Fantasy Value: 2015 MLB Draft Shortstops
Every year the MLB Draft happens always with little fanfare in comparison to its contemporaries the NFL and NBA. There is no month long hype train on major outlets and rather than have the first round picks stats barrage you nonstop until draft day, a la Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston, you actually have to search for the stats and vitals of first round baseball players. While the MLB Network has done a good job pushing the draft more than ever before we often still don’t know what to make of some of these players and how relevant they may be down the road for fantasy.
With Harold Reynolds throwing hall-of-fame comps on every first round pick (I personally heard Tony Gwynn and Don Mattingly before putting the TV on mute) it can be even more muddied as to what we should realistically expect. The aim for this article is to break down all seven shortstops that went in the top 30 picks and let you know whether they hold fantasy value. I will be using a five tier scale of value with the options being none, low, moderate, high, and extreme. Hopefully this makes planning for your personal fantasy team a bit easier without having to do all the digging.
1st Pick, Arizona Diamondbacks, Dansby Swanson, SS, Vanderbilt University-
Swanson made his presence felt in a big way for the Commodores this year becoming just the second Vandy player ever to win the Division 1 player of the year award. His defense is solid enough that he projects to stay at shortstop in the major leagues. This past year as a 21-year-old Junior he was able to slash an extremely productive .350/.442/.661 with 15 home runs and 23 doubles. His power broke out in a big way this year and his strikeout’s never got out of control—he totaled 47 through 65 games.
Swanson figures to be a quick riser since his bat and defense are polished from three college seasons in the SEC. Arizona is in need of a real shortstop and Nick Ahmed shouldn’t prove to be an immovable obstacle. Based on what he has done in college expecting him to approach 15/15 season is not unrealistic and the ceiling remains there for even more. His average may struggle at times but I do not see him being any worse than a .260 hitter in the big leagues.
Fantasy Value: Moderate/High
2nd Pick, Houston Astros, Alex Bregman, SS, LSU-
With two picks in the top five selections the Astros were going not for team need but for best player available just like they should. With the Selection of the LSU’s Bregman they find themselves with a player who like Swanson should move quickly however they lack a place to put him. By all accounts his defense is passable but likely will play better at second base than it will at shortstop. The Astros have both second and short covered for the next 10 plus years with some pretty good players named Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa.
They can find a place for him later or flip him for some other assets but most scouts agree that the bat should play in the major leagues. Bregman was a .300 hitter every season for LSU and showed the ability to put the bat on the ball with frequency while displaying moderate power. He slashed .312/.406/.534 while striking out only 21 times in 63 games. He was able to clobber 9 home runs and contribute by far a career high 37 stolen bases. Bregman’s high contact rate should carry him to the majors quickly but his power ceiling is limited and his steals may not show themselves to this degree. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him develop into a above average second baseman with 10 home runs and 15 steals annually while batting .270-.280.
Fantasy Value: Moderate
3rd Pick, Colorado Rockies, Brendan Rodgers, SS, Lake Mary HS, Florida-
The real fantasy gem of the draft was undoubtedly Rodgers who is at 18-years-old admittedly more projection than he is results. Over 25 games in HS this season he batted .360 with 8 home runs but more importantly he flashed some extreme athleticism. When watching video on each of these top three selections Rodgers swing mechanics and bat speed stood out to me right away. Keith Law had him pegged as the best player in the draft and even referred to him as “Diet Tulo”.
It is no surprise he was grabbed by the Rockies here as they are clearly in a transitional mode right now trying to decide whether or not to blow it up and trade Troy Tulowitzki and or Carlos Gonzalez. This provides a hint to me that they are more likely to do so and Rodgers is the heir apparent. He will take a much longer period of time to develop but most scouts believe he can stay at shortstop. There are some out there that think he will fill out and move to the hot corner but he looks by far athletic enough to me to stay there. It is hard to say what numbers to project for him since he has not tested himself vs elite competition but his value for fantasy is undoubtedly the highest of this group.
Fantasy Value: High/Extreme
10th Pick, Philadelphia Phillies, Cornelius Randolph, SS, Griffin HS, Georgia-
The Phillies were aggressive with this selection here but it was clear they became infatuated with his bat after seeing the type of season he had in 2015. Georgia has been a notorious hotbed for top prospects in the last few years with Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows being the most well-known duo to come out (Swanson is from Georgia too) so Randolph’s .528 batting average against other Georgia preps is not lost on the Phillies. Currently there is more hit tool than power with Randolph but with his frame 6’2”, 205lbs we should see that develop.
The 18-year-old will be a bit of a project but that is just the type of player for the rebuilding Phillies to take. Most scouts agree that he will end up either at the hot corner or in a corner outfield spot so do not count on him to stay at short. The bat is advanced enough that he should be relevant despite the change. While it appears he is blocked by Maikel Franco right now in 3-4 years when he is up Franco could be at first base or Randolph could be patrolling the outfield. The Phillies have no shortage of holes that need to be filled.
Fantasy Value: Moderate/High
19th Pick, Pittsburgh Pirates, Kevin Newman, SS, Arizona-
Newman falls to the Pirates at 19th overall and I don’t think the club could be much happier. As a surefire bet to stick at shortstop Newman is 21-years-old and may be the first of this group to reach the major leagues. He provides not only excellent defense but the best hit tool of this group with an unrivaled ability to make contact. Newman slashed .391/.441/.481 this year and has batted over .300 every year at Arizona and over .375 during both summers spent with the Falmouth Commodores of the Cape Cod League.
Chris Mitchell at Fangraphs has pointed out time and time again that prospects who can make a ton of contact and not strikeout tend to be very safe bets to be major league regulars. Newman struck out just eight times in 32 games this year and never struck out more than 20 times in a season since his freshman year. He may not be the biggest offensive threat but Jung-ho Kang, Jordy Mercer, and Alen Hanson are no sure bets to stay the position so it may be his in short order. With no home runs in his collegiate career temper your offensive expectations but he could be a .300 hitter.
Fantasy Value: Low/Moderate
20th Pick, Oakland Athletics, Richie Martin, SS, Florida-
Oakland continued to add to its stable of middle infielders with this selection of the high ceiling and low floor Martin. Martin enjoyed success at Florida where he slashed .292/.404/.424 this past season while hitting five home runs and stealing 20 bases. The consensus among scouts is that the athleticism and potential is off the charts both offensively and defensively but he remains a very raw specimen. Martin’s defense will likely be refined enough where his glove makes an impact but his hit tool is enough of a question that scouts worry he will be overmatched as he reaches the high minors.
Fantasy Value: Low
30th Pick, New York Yankees, Kyle Holder, SS, UCSD-
You may look at Holder’s slash line from last year of .348/.418/.482 and ask why are you so low on his bat? The reason is that this damage was done in the West Coast Conference not the Pac-10 or SEC and this pick cannot be mistaken for anything other than a glove first selection. Holder is certainly a wizard with the glove but unless you play in a linear weights league you can keep him strictly off your radar.
Fantasy Value: None/Low