The shortstop position has grown in talent over the last couple of seasons. With consistent veterans and youngsters on the rise, there is no scarcity anymore.
In years past, drafting a shortstop was the bane of every fantasy owner’s existence. The position was so shallow it was either all or nothing. There was a handful that would get drafted too early and then the rest. That has changed entering this season. The talent pool is a lot deeper.
I never like to reach for a player just to fill a position. So, I was always stuck with the bottom tier players as my starter. Safe to say that I didn’t win those years. Now, it is okay to draft a shortstop earlier than before.
Shortstops are now hitting for power, contact, and speed. There were 11 players with at least 20 home runs and 15 with at least 10 steals. In addition, of batters with at least 450 at-bats, nine of them had an average of at least .275. Some of the shortstops qualified for all three stats. Finding that kind of consistency is difficult.
While the numbers look nice, that’s from a collective in the position. When drafting, there are a definite 11 players I would like to have on my team. After that, things get a little questionable. There are some I would be okay with as my middle infielder or backup. If you get one of those players, you undoubtedly need a second option.
I will be doing one post for each position. It doesn’t help the readers to reference four or five different posts when trying to develop their own rankings. This year, I will be doing tier rankings for the positions. It’s easier to see what players rank where all in one post.
Each tier for each position will be different. Depending on the position, you may have one or two guys or five or six guys in Tier 1. The lower tiers will be grouped with multiple levels of talent, but they have one thing in common, they have little value in most leagues.
I have 20 shortstops broken up into five tiers. The top two tiers have three players each, meaning the top of the position is for the elite players. There are seven ranked inside my top 50. The next closest is ranked No. 123. Like I said, it’s a big drop off, but not season-ending.
The five shortstops listed here are waiting for the season to launch themselves into the top 15. Some need more playing time while others need to continue their success from last year. They are better off as your No. 2 option.
Zack Cozart (CIN) – In a down season for the Reds, Cozart was one of the few bright spots. He hit a career-high 16 home runs with 50 RBI and .252 average in just 121 games. His ratio stats could use some improvement but could be worth stashing as a late-round pick.
Tim Anderson (CWS) – Anderson didn’t play a full season, but in the time he was with the White Sox, he was great. In 99 games, he nine home runs, 30 RBI, and .283. In a full season with Double-A Birmingham, he hit five homers, 46 RBI, and .312. Anderson isn’t much of a power hitter, but he will get on base frequently and score and drive in runs. My colleague Brad Kelly calls him a breakout candidate.
Alcides Escobar (KC) – Escobar benefits from being healthy and being around a good team. He played in 162 games in two of the last three seasons. In 2016, he hit seven home runs, 55 RBI, and .261. He also stole 17 bases. Escobar isn’t the flashiest player but he can put up solid numbers as a middle infielder or starter in AL-only leagues.
Jose Peraza (CIN) – Peraza has a huge boost in his fantasy value this season. While he will be the Reds second baseman after Brandon Phillips trade, he still has shortstop eligibility. He didn’t play a full season either, just 72 games, but he was flying. Peraza had 78 hits, 21 steals, and a .324/.352/.411 line. I expect more hits and steals with a .315 average this season. He’s one of my breakout stars for this season.
Marcus Semien (OAK) – Semien had his breakout season last year. In 159 games, he hit 27 home runs, 75 RBI, and .238. He also stole 10 bases. While the average leaves a lot to be desired, the home run increase is nice to see. He had the power, 23 doubles and seven triples in 2015, Semien just turned them into homers. Kelly questions if we should believe his 2016 performance. I think we can, to an extent. I expect a decline in home runs while his average gets back to the .250 level.
This tier features three shortstops with long track records of being good enough. Fantasy owners are waiting for the fourth option to have the season he’s been hyped to have. These four are good middle infield options in standard or starters in AL or NL-only leagues.
Didi Gregorius (NYY) – I wrote about Gregorius being a potential top-10 shortstop this season. He, like many others I already mentioned, had a power breakout. I think hitting Yankee Stadium helped greatly. His previous career high was nine in the year before. If Gregorius can hit another 20 home runs with 10 steals and a .280 average, he’ll be a star.
Brandon Crawford (SF) – Kelly recently wrote about Crawford being overlooked. Looking at his numbers, it’s easy to see why. He played in 155 games and hit 11 triples, 12 home runs, 84 RBI, and .275. The triples can easily turn into home runs this season, bringing him closer to a second 20-home run season. He is average across the board but that can help you in all five categories.
Dansby Swanson (ATL) – I did an expose on Swanson in December. He made a big impact in a short amount of time. In 38 games, he hit three homers, 17 RBI, and .302/.361/.442. He stole three bases, too. Over 162 games, he would hit 13 HR/72 RBI/13 SB/.302. He will be a prospect everyone reaches for this season.
Troy Tulowitzki (TOR) – The injury bug has been the downfall to Tulo’s fantasy value. He hasn’t played 140 or more games since 2011. Not being on the field for a full season does not help your fantasy team. In a full year with the Blue Jays, he posted a 24 HR/79 RBI/.254 line. He still has power but 11 seasons can take a toll. He’s my No. 12 shortstop as a hopeful pick.
The five shortstops here are a great combination of power and speed. Those are the kinds of players I like having, those that can contribute in multiple categories.
Elvis Andrus (TEX) – Andrus posted a .302 average, the first time he hit over .300 in his career. His power and steals stayed the same despite playing in 13 fewer games. If Andrus plays in another 158 games like in 2015, then his average will likely drop back to .265. Kelly questions if he is a candidate for regression and I agree with him. I project seven home runs, 62 RBI and 23 steals in the process.
Brad Miller (TB) – Miller will be the Rays starting first baseman, but will not receive eligibility until after his 10th game. You won’t want to draft him there because there are better options there. He will be a solid shortstop pick. He hit a ridiculous 30 home runs, 81 RBI, and .243. Matt Duffy will be the Rays shortstop, but I won’t be drafting him as a starter.
Aledmys Diaz (STL) – Diaz is another shortstop that broke out in 2016. He hit 17 home runs, 65 RBI, and .300. Kelly questioned if 2016 will be a fluke or if it was just the beginning. I think it will be the latter. Diaz, like Crawford, will be overlooked on draft day.
Addison Russell (CHC) – Russell lies along the power-hitting shortstop group. He hit 21 homers with just five steals and a .238 average. In the middle of a star-studded lineup with benefit Russell’s performance. I am hoping he can hit closer .250 with home runs in the upper teens. As a 13th round pick, he’s a solid starting option.
Jean Segura (SEA) – I wrote about Diaz being a sleeper pick this season. That was before the blockbuster trade that sent him to Seattle. Segura played the majority of 2016 at second base but he will be the Mariners shortstop because of a guy named Robinson Cano.
These three options have bright futures. They just need a little more seasoning to move up into the top tier.
Trevor Story (COL) – Story’s amazing rookie season was cut short. He started the season as the Rockies shortstop while Jose Reyes was dealing with his off-the-field issues. Story hit seven homers in his first 27 at-bats. He finished with 27 home runs, 72 RBI, and .272 in 97 games. Story wasn’t even set to play last year before the Reyes stuff happened. He adjusted well and showed some good plate discipline. I would like to have him on my team, but I’m not reaching for him.
Jonathan Villar (MIL) – Villar took being a power and speed guy to a new level. His 19 home runs are nice, but his league-leading 62 steals are even better. That kind of power jump, though, can be fluky. I expect a regression to the mean, around 11 or 12 home runs. I do think the speed remains, which will boost his value greatly. Don’t be the guy to reach for a 60-steal guy when there are solid 20 to 30-steal players available.
Francisco Lindor (CLE) – While looking at Lindor’s stats, it’s amazing to see how many one or two-year players made this list. His 15 home runs, 99 runs, 19 steals, and .301 average in 158 games were among the best for sophomore hitters. With the addition of Edwin Encarnacion, Lindor and the rest of the Indians lineup will have great 2017 seasons. Lindor is a top-22 pick in re-draft leagues.
The shortstops in tier 1 are in here for a reason. They proved that they can produce in multiple categories and have a high likelihood to do it again. You should not hesitate to draft anyone here.
Corey Seager (LAD) – I wrote about Seager and if he’s the No. 1 shortstop this season. To answer that, I don’t think he is. Don’t get me wrong, he had a great season, but the other two put up great numbers across the board. The only knock I have is his low RBI total. If he can get closer to 90 while keeping the same performance elsewhere, he’ll be at the top for next year.
Xander Bogaerts (BOS) – Bogaerts looked like a disappointment after his first two seasons. That’s a horrible thing to say because he was just 21 at the time, but that’s how baseball works. Many thought the team called him up too early but he proved them wrong last season when he put it all together. In 157 games, he hit 21 HR/89 RBI/.294. He also stole 13 bases. While the loss of David Ortiz hurts the lineup, the team is young enough to rebound. He is a great second-round pick.
Carlos Correa (HOU) – Correa had a great season overall, but his performance was a tale of two halves. In the first 85 games, he hit .26 with 14 home runs and 55 RBI. In the final 68, he hit .292 with six homers and 41 RBI. The drop off in power is worrisome, but at least he was hitting. I think Correa will post something close to his 2015 season. The additions the Houston front office made should help, too.
If you look at the shortstop position just a few seasons ago, you would have a hard time coming up with a list of eight names you would be okay drafting. Now, that list goes 10 to 12 deep. The position is rich with young talent that will be on this list for years to come.
Be careful though. Just because there are a lot of options doesn’t mean you should waste a first round pick. You will have good shortstops in rounds three and four.