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Deeper Draft Sleepers - Shortstop

In shallow or even standard fantasy baseball leagues, there is a common tenet that the end of drafts is for taking chances. Since there is normally not much difference between a player that gets selected at the end of a draft and a player who is left for waivers, taking a large, figurative swing on a high-risk player can be smart. If the risk doesn't pay off, a comparable replacement can be had in free agency.

The same thing is not the case in deeper leagues. Depending on the level of depth, owners in some leagues will see nothing but scraps on waivers following the draft. This means that swinging and missing on a risky player could leave a complete void in your lineup that you won't be able to fill adequately without making a trade.

Trading with other owners can be fun but it can also be hell. That's why deeper draft owners need to try and find reliable pieces to bank on late in the process. At shortstop, there are a few deeper draft sleepers that stand out as guys worth circling, with a deep sleeper defined as anyone projected to go outside the top 300 players. Let's look at three players that could give you reliable production at the position for relative pennies on draft day.

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Andrelton Simmons, Los Angeles Angels

416 ADP in NFBC

Due to his historic defense, only injuries tend to keep Simmons out of the lineup. Unfortunately, that was the case last year, as an ankle injury limited him to just 103 games after he played in at least 145 games in five of the previous six years.

When healthy, Simmons is a near shoo-in for double-digit home runs and steals. Rarely wasting an at-bat, Simmons has never had above an 11.5% K-rate as a professional, even during his time in the minors. That batting eye hasn't directly translated to plate discipline, though, as the man loves to swing away and has never posted above a 7.3% walk-rate in the majors.

Season Team G PA HR R RBI SB AVG BB% K%
2010 Braves (R) 62 269 2 36 26 18 0.276 5.9% 5.2%
2011 Braves (A+) 131 570 1 69 52 26 0.311 5.1% 7.5%
2012 Braves (AA) 44 203 3 29 21 10 0.293 9.9% 9.9%
2012 Braves 49 182 3 17 19 1 0.289 6.6% 11.5%
2013 Braves 157 658 17 76 59 6 0.248 6.1% 8.4%
2014 Braves 146 576 7 44 46 4 0.244 5.6% 10.4%
2015 Braves 147 583 4 60 44 5 0.265 6.7% 8.2%
2016 Angels 124 483 4 48 44 10 0.281 5.8% 7.9%
2017 Angels 158 647 14 77 69 19 0.278 7.3% 10.4%
2018 Angels 146 600 11 68 75 10 0.292 5.8% 7.3%
2019 Angels 103 424 7 47 40 10 0.264 5.7% 8.7%

Prior to last year's injury-shortened season, Simmons has been a reliable, everyday player who puts the ball in play a lot, and offers a nice power-speed combo for fantasy players.

With the lengthening of the Los Angeles lineup thanks to the addition of Anthony Rendon, Simmons could be a counting-stat darling this year. His rate stats will never compare to the elites at the position, but a healthy Simmons is a four-category contributor who should be available very late in drafts.

 

Nick Ahmed, Arizona Diamondbacks

431 ADP

Ahmed stays in the Arizona lineup every day for his defense but over the last two seasons, he's gotten better and better at the plate. As he's carved out an everyday role at SS, Ahmed set career-highs in Hard%, Brl%, xwOBA, and walk-rate in 2019, breaking the highs he had just reached in 2018.

His actual production has been splendid, as well. He was one of only five players at the position to finish with at least 75 runs, 75 RBI, 15 HR, and eight steals. Arbitrary cutoffs or not, Ahmed had comparable counting stats to many established stars being drafted far ahead of him.

It would be nice to see Ahmed improve his batting eye to go along with his increased production. Though he nearly set a career-high last year in zone-contact percentage, his zone swing-rate hasn't deviated much over the course of his career, nor has his chase-rate or chase-contact percentage. While the latter both saw vast improvements from 2018 to 2019 it wasn't anything out of the ordinary compared to earlier in his career when he was a much less impactful hitter.

Still in his prime, Ahmed's career is trending in the right direction and it wouldn't be outlandish to see his hitting improvements continue as he ages into his 30s. There are flashier players to find in fantasy and ones who can fill up certain categories more, but few shortstops have become as safe as Ahmed when it comes to not hurting fantasy owners in standard 5x5.

If we raise the bar of our previous four-category comparison to having a .250 or better batting average, Ahmed stays and just three others remain (losing DeJong). He'll never be a top-four player at SS but he may be the best value of anyone being drafted after pick 400.

 

Johan Camargo, Atlanta Braves

617 ADP

After a breakout 2018, Camargo was relegated to the bench for Atlanta in 2019 and split his time between seven different positions, even though he spent most of his time at shortstop, third base, and the outfield. That relegation has seemingly come to an end, with Camargo currently projected as the Braves' starting third baseman in 2020.

A switch-hitter, the young Panamanian showed virtually no platoon-split in his 524 PA in 2018, posting an .806 OPS overall and showing more power against left-handed pitching. The 2018 season also showed Camargo's proclivity for not wasting at-bats, producing weak contact on just 1.9% of his chances. He doesn't offer an elite batted-ball profile but did make solid contact more often than not and had a higher average exit velocity than the average hitter in 2018, with a 9.7% walk-rate.

There are a few things playing against Camargo. For one, third base is pretty much the only lineup spot up for grabs in Atlanta right now, as every other position is squarely accounted for. He also has potential competition from Austin Riley and Yangervis Solarte, who could both challenge him if they make the big league roster or get called up during the season.

Riley was especially terrible as a rookie last year but offers great upside and potential power, posting 44.6 hard-hit percentage in nearly 300 at-bats. However, Riley is being drafted more than 300 picks ahead of Carmago and currently lacks eligibility anywhere beside OF in most leagues.

 

Conclusion

As stated in the opening, deep-league owners can't afford to completely whiff on draft picks for starters. There simply won't be anything on waivers or in free agency to replace a worthless pickup. A long bench can help alleviate such worry, but that depends on league settings and is often out of an individual owner's control.

While other owners scramble to grab big names or highly touted rookies late, it may be wise to grab one of these boring veterans that may deliver superior production.

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