I spent most of the latest installment of FanRag Fantasy Baseball catching up on all of the deals from the Winter Meetings and the days that followed. While Marcell Ozuna was the biggest name to move (excluding the Giancarlo Stanton deal and Shohei Ohtani signing, which occurred just before the meetings), much of the comings and goings involved relievers.
I also embarked upon an overview of the third base landscape — a position with so many interesting players that I will need to follow up with another discussion on the next show. One player I focused on was Travis Shaw. Despite a massive breakout in 2017, he could be overlooked in 2018 drafts. One illustration of this is how voters in a Twitter poll compared him with Alex Bregman. As the results show, Bregman beat Shaw in a landslide, even though Shaw outearned his Astros counterpart in standard Roto and CBS points formats this past season.
Poll: Which 3B would you target first in a Roto draft for 2018, Alex Bregman or Travis Shaw?
— Al Melchior (@almelchiorBB) December 16, 2017
Yes, Bregman is younger and will be shortstop eligible in the vast majority of leagues. It is completely reasonable to rank Bregman ahead of Shaw, but it’s not as if the third-year player is without risk. Can we be sure he can equal this season’s 17 steals? Is he due for regression after an 8.5 percentage point drop in strikeout rate? Will flyball tendencies hurt his BABIP and overall batting average?
Shaw’s gains may be hard to maintain as well, but as this graphic shows, he backed up an increase in power with a higher hard contact rate (as noted by the increased width of the line and in the accompanying tooltip). He also showed stronger plate discipline. Perhaps most notable was the increased ground ball rate that coincided with Shaw’s uptick in power. If he hits fewer grounders in 2018, Shaw could actually be even more productive as a source of home runs.
The discussion of third basemen will continue in the next episode, and will feature players like Nick Castellanos, Rafael Devers and Maikel Franco. In the meantime, here’s the latest episode, in case you didn’t catch it live on FNTSY Radio.