Make the Case: Who is the Shortstop Sleeper to Target in Fantasy Baseball Drafts?

Cubs Addison Russell

In this round of “Make the Case” Ben Rolfe and I pick our favorite shortstop sleeper option currently being take outside the top 15 at the position that can challenge for a spot in the top 10. While there are a few names that could make sense, two players stand out above the rest for us.


Addison Russell (KR)

It is really easy to write off Addison Russell who has frustrated fantasy baseball owner overs the past couple seasons. It seems like most owners are as he is currently the 24th SS off the board and player 216 overall. That said, he is just 24 years old and approaching his prime.
Just look back to 2016, when Russell hit 21 homers with 95 RBI. Russell was on pace to hit 18 homers and 81 RBI in 2017 assuming he got 600 plate appearances. An injury plagued season limited him to 385 at bats. Assuming he can approach 600 plate appearances again he can easily bounce back in 2018.
The average is a big question mark as Russell has issues hitting above .240. Fangraphs has him projected for around .250 which would be an improvement on past seasons. Russell will need to cut down on the strikeout rate and improve his walk rate to approach .270 which would be necessary to reach the upper tier at the position.

The good news for Russell is that his defense is so good that it will keep in the lineups most days and help him avoid the late game substitution. That said, if he continues to struggle with the average there isn’t a clear path to a top 5 spot in the batting order. He can approach 600 at bats but anything north of there doesn’t seem likely without a move to a more advantageous spot. The batting order has an impact on Russell’s run and RBI potential as well.
Im happy to take a shot on Russell later in drafts knowing that I can likely replace him on the waiver wire if he battles injuries or really strugles early.

Orioles Tim Beckham

Evan Habeeb – USA TODAY Sports

Tim Beckham (BR)

Never in the past five years would I have thought I would be making the case for Tim Beckham as a top 10 SS but here we are and I legitimately believe he has the talent and opportunity to do it. In 2017 the former number one overall pick finally put together the seasons he had threatened in 2015 (9 HRs in 223 PAs) and 2016 (5 HRs in 215 PAs).

It is easy to forget that Beckham is only 28 and actually right in the peak of his career so to suddenly see a 22 HR season is not as shocking as it first seemed. What is perhaps more surprising is the 0.278 batting average he showed last year and that is largely due to hitting over 0.300 with the Orioles in the second half of the year. The question is was that some kind of change the Orioles coaching staff made him make or was it just simply a lucky half season. In 29 games in August he hit close to 0.400 before hitting below 0.200 in September however he was injured in September so maybe that explains the downturn. The good August was due to a reduction in strikeout rate from 30% to 18% and if he can make even part of that reduction a season long trend there is no reason Beckham cannot be a 0.260 hitter with 20+ HR potential in the power friendly surrounds of Baltimore.

The other thing here is that Beckham is slated to lead off for the Orioles and if he can be semi-successful at getting on base 90 runs is not out of the question. With leading off comes the possibilities that he starts to run a bit a bit more and then we have the potential for a guy who can hit 20 home runs and steal 10-15 bases. It is gambling on upside but it is possible for a player of his pedigree to put all of this together. Right now he is going outside the top 20 shortstops so really you can get him so late as a bench player that he essentially becomes a free gamble at the back end of 10 or 12 team drafts and he is a gamble I am going to take a lot this season.

Let us know which SS options you are targeting late in upcoming drafts on twitter @60ftpodcast

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