2018 Outlook: An elite defender who until 2017 provided very little with the bat and, in fact, was largely a liability in mixed fantasy leagues, Simmons finally picked up the offensive pace and put himself back on our radar. His contact skills are elite -- his 90.1 percent rate during the past five seasons was third-best in the majors. Plus, after he seemed to pound the ball constantly into the ground in previous years, he finally showed some loft, with his average launch angle nearly doubling (albeit only to 7.5 degrees). Still, Simmons batted .263/.317/398 in the season's second half, so even with those improvements he's only a marginal mixed-league pick. Consider him a low-risk, but low-reward, selection.
2018 Outlook: While many other middle infielders have been beefing up their power games, Russell's wheels have merely been spinning throughout his three big-league seasons. Though plantar fasciitis cost him 41 games, his 2017 numbers otherwise looked spot-on to his 2016 contributions, making it difficult to project further growth in this, his age-24 season. Russell did post .274/.324/.516 slash rates in 31 games after the All-Star break, during which time his DL stint occurred, so perhaps there's a hint of growth worth monitoring in spring training. For now, he's more of a dynasty-league pick in the early-to-mid rounds, and a late-round, middle-infield type in mixed redraft formats.
2018 Outlook: Anderson is a player with significantly more value in Rotisserie than points-based or sabermetrically inclined fantasy leagues, as he couples good speed with decent pop but brings little else to the table. He's one of the most free-swinging hitters in baseball, which is to his detriment in the latter scoring formats. His 2.1 percent walk rate last season was lowest in the majors, and he showed a troubling tendency to chase breaking balls low and away and out of the strike zone. Anderson is capable enough against left-handed pitchers (.321/.333/.478 rates in 2017) to provide double-digit homers and steals yet again, but he's likely to be a streaky performer better used when the matchups are right.
2018 Outlook: Peraza is slated to open the season as the Reds' starting shortstop, but there's a good chance he doesn't end the campaign in that role. Top prospect Nick Senzel will likely force Cincinnati's hand, with Peraza the most likely to make way and give up playing time. If Peraza can bolster his poor on-base skills early on in the season, however, it could prompt the Reds to delay Senzel's arrival to the big leagues. In addition to being allergic to walks, Peraza's pop-up rates have been above league average, while his infield-hit rates are just a little above the norm, which isn't ideal for someone relying on speed. His 46 percent career groundball rate is also a little low, considering his lack of power. When he does get on base, Peraza is a threat to run, giving him fantasy allure. While playing, Peraza will be a cheap source of steals since his price will be depressed. Just be ready to look elsewhere for bags in the likely event Peraza is moved to a utility role later in the season.
2018 Outlook: Cozart set career highs in home runs (24) and runs scored (80) and matched his personal best in RBIs (63) despite making two trips to the DL last season, coupling those with his already great defense, then decided to sign with one of the few teams that had a better defensive shortstop: The Los Angeles Angels. He'll slide to third base, accordingly, adding in-season eligibility there to his fantasy ledger, but the chances of a repeat of his hitting stats aren't great in the more pitching-friendly Angel Stadium. Cozart's career-high .312 BABIP suggests his batting average will tumble, perhaps closer to his .272 second-half mark, which would make him mere middle-infield material in mixed leagues.
2018 Outlook: Semien missed roughly half the season recovering from wrist surgery, but when he played, he was a worthwhile fantasy option. However, the ways in which he produced his value shifted somewhat. His 25-point gain in on-base percentage was offset by a 37-point drop in slugging. He fell from hitting one homer every 23 plate appearances in 2016 to one every 38.6 last season, but his stolen base rate nearly doubled, as he stole one bag every 32.2 plate appearances after stealing one every 62.1 the year before. He should remain a strong enough power-speed contributor this season, albeit with a lower batting average, and he could back some power with improved wrist strength following an offseason of rest. The combination of power and speed at the position should be valuable -- and potentially underrated -- heading into the season.
2018 Outlook: Rosario showed a good enough glove to stick in the majors as a rookie, but the bat clearly needs some work. Despite occasional flashes of power, Rosario's season at the plate was mostly defined by soft contact on the ground and a poor 3:49 BB:K over 46 games. But how critical can you be of a 21-year-old shortstop playing just a quarter of a season? Rosario had strong performances at Double-A (.341/.392/.481 in 54 games to finish 2016) and Triple-A (.328/.367/.466 to open 2017) and should not be written off after a poor start. Rosario also dealt with a finger injury in the second half of his time in the bigs, so it's hard to say if we were seeing Rosario at his best. In single-season mixed leagues, the risk that he doesn't figure it out fast enough may be too great, but Rosario's youth, speed and minor-league pedigree make him a worthwhile target in NL-only formats.
2018 Outlook: Considered one of the top contenders for National League Rookie of the Year honors entering last season, Swanson parlayed a solid spring into the No. 2 spot in the Braves' lineup, then promptly flopped once the games began to count, batting .213/.287/.312 with six home runs and two stolen bases through four months. Following a brief stint back in the minors, he showed subtle changes in terms of plate discipline, batting .268 with a .360 on-base percentage and 12.7 percent walk rate -- but just as before, his performance in the other categories was rather empty. Swanson needs to get either greater lift on the ball or to boost his hard-contact rate -- or, preferably, both -- to fully break through at the big league level, but he has shown no signs of either yet. He's just 24 years old, young enough to carve out an All-Star's career, so dynasty managers shouldn't give up their patience yet, but he's only a speculative mixed-league middle infielder in redraft formats.
2018 Outlook: Marte displayed some encouraging skills growth in 2017, as he made more contact and did an excellent job of accepting walks while hitting down in the lineup. The increased time on base didn't translate into more steals, however, with Marte attempting just four all season at the major-league level. Two years ago, Marte attempted 34 steals between Triple-A and the majors, but he just hasn't been involved much as a baserunner in Arizona. Such is the penalty speedsters that hit in front of the pitcher pay, especially with two outs, as managers don't want the pitcher to lead off the next inning when at all possible. Marte, who is slated to open the season as the team's primary second baseman, has plenty of speed, so if he is given a chance to showcase his newfound discipline near the top of the lineup, he could quickly become a nice source of steals on the cheap. He made some promising changes to his swing while in the minors last year and showed the type of promise he had as a rookie in 2015.
2018 Outlook: Finally healthy and given regular at-bats in 2017, Beckham broke out in a big way. His 22 home runs tied him with Corey Seager for sixth among shortstops -- pretty solid company. Beckham even managed a respectable batting average despite a horrid 29 percent strikeout rate. Among qualified shortstops, only Colorado's Trevor Story (34.4 percent) struck out more often. Beckham's .278 average was carried in large part by a .365 BABIP; that said, he has maintained a .344 BABIP through the first 289 games of his career. He shouldn't be expected to maintain a mark this good, a full 44 points above the league-average BABIP, but that's a good sign that Beckham can continue to be a force whenever he does manage to make contact, and at shortstop, that will play well even if his average dips a bit in 2018.
2018 Outlook: Primarily a third baseman during his first two full seasons with San Diego, Solarte operated as an everyday utility man for much of 2017, logging at least 40 innings at all four infield spots. The added positional eligibility didn't make Solarte much more enticing of a fantasy option, however, with a 31-point crash in batting average from the season prior limiting the impact of his otherwise serviceable counting stats. While Solarte excels at making contact and should raise his average if last seasonís career-worst .258 BABIP proves to be an outlier, his unremarkable hard-contact rates suggest he will never be anything more than a below-average-to-neutral asset in terms of slugging. Following an offseason trade to Toronto, Solarte faces a more arduous path to regular playing time, and he will head into the regular season as mainly an insurance option behind historically injury prone middle infielders Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis.
2018 Outlook: Crawford's on-base skills have been stable the past several seasons. In 2015, he enjoyed a spike in HR/FB, resulting in a career-high 21 homers. In 2016, his BABIP was aided by Lady Luck, as he rendered a career-best .275 average. Last season, his contact, walk and hard-hit rates were in sync with his normal level without the benefit of good fortune. The truth is, he was the same player as in the previous two campaigns, and in this renaissance era of shortstops, Crawford's production is rather pedestrian. He rarely runs, and when he did attempt to steal last season, he was caught more frequently than he succeeded. On the plus side, his glove assures that he will be in the lineup when healthy, which helps in deeper leagues in which at-bats are currency. Mixed leaguers should look for more upside, while NL-only managers should consider Crawford because his cost will reflect his deficiencies.
2018 Outlook: Galvis appeared in all 162 games last season, putting up playable numbers for a middle infielder. However, he very much fits the glove-first profile, which leaves him with minimal fantasy value for an everyday player. His home run total fell from a fluky 20 in 2016 to just 12 last year, and his 25.5 percent hard-hit rate ranked 10th-worst among qualified batters. An offseason trade to the Padres should depress his power numbers even further, though it should help keep him as an everyday starter, which is enough to give him appeal in deeper leagues. He has produced double-digit steals in each of the past three years and double-digit homers in each of the past two, and his .245 career batting average means he isn't a total black hole. His .287 career OBP hurts his value significantly in leagues using that stat, however.
2018 Outlook: Owings was in the process of riding the league-wide power wave when he was hit by a pitch while squaring to bunt in late July. Owings missed the rest of the season because of a fractured finger, which eventually required two surgeries to repair. At the time of the incident, he was having a normal season, save for an elevated HR/FB mark, along with hitting more flyballs. The result was 12 homers, just three fewer than he'd smacked in his 1,411 plate appearances coming into the season. Before the power spike, Owings' primary fantasy asset was speed, as he's a tidy 59-for-68 over his career as a base stealer. In the field, Owings can handle both the infield and outfield, though he's a below-average defender everywhere. Owings has been cleared for baseball activities, so he is on track to be ready for Opening Day. He appears set to begin 2018 in a super-utility role, though the trade of Brandon Drury could open up more time for him at second base.
2018 Outlook: What seemed like an eternity when we were awaiting Crawford's arrival as the Phillies' starting shortstop, has finally reached its conclusion: The gig is his come Opening Day. He got off to a dreadful start for Triple-A Lehigh Valley in 2017, batting .194 in 57 first-half games, at which point some were beginning to give up on his hopes for a productive big league career, but a .281/.384/.529 second half in 70 games got him back on track, even earning him a look with the big club in September, where he held his own (.356 OBP). Crawford should provide a handful of stolen bases with a hint of pop, things that could make him a viable middle infielder in larger mixed leagues. He might struggle to handle lefties initially, however, and could be a batting-average liability, meaning that he's more appealing in rotisserie than points-based leagues.