The shortstop position has added a lot of power, something that’s been absent for years. There is talent all over the rankings.
Drafting your shortstop used to be a pain. If you missed out on one of the few top guys, you were better off waiting until there were a couple of left. They were the players you drafted for average and maybe benefit from a few RBI and runs throughout the season. That is not the case in 2018.
There were nine 20-home run hitting shortstops last year and 11 in 2016 but just two in 2015. This wasn’t a position you would draft for power. Now, with power up around the league, you can get a 15-home run hitter at every spot in your lineup.
Shortstop is where you would go for speed. Sixteen shortstops stole at least 10 bases last season, 12 in 2016, 17 in 2015 and 16 in 2014. Of the top 30 stolen base guys, five of them were shortstops. If you combined all the outfield spots, they take the cake but shortstops were second in steals among the infield spots.
My top-five shortstops belong in the top five. They were far and away the best hitters at the position. They also stole a few bases in the process. There are a few names between No. 15 and 6 that could compete for a top-five spot. With the speed still available and power increase, this will be a fun position to watch for player rankings.
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Before we get into the thick of things, here are five shortstops that just missed my top 20.
Asdrubal Cabrera (NYM) – Cabrera is listed as the Mets starting second baseman and will have second base, third base and shortstop eligibility this season. The second base position is much deeper, so I felt Cabrera would get more love in my shortstop rankings. He hit .280 with 14 home runs, 59 RBI and 66 runs. He’ll be good as a middle infielder or backup option in standard leagues.
Paul DeJong (STL) – With the starting job in hand, DeJong is ready to break out in the fantasy world. Read my projections here.
Ketel Marte (ARI) – Marte is one of the hitters that will be negatively affected by the installation of the humidor in Chase Field. He hit just five home runs with a .260 average in 73 games. He may hit another five or six this season (he does play 81 games on the road) with a .280 average. Marte is another shortstop that can run and will reach 10 steals in 2018.
Aledmys Diaz (TOR) – The Blue Jays have suffered through Troy Tulowitzki’s injuries enough that they traded for Diaz. While Tulo may still be the starter, Diaz will likely get more than enough playing time. Read Brad Kelly’s outlook here.
Brandon Crawford (SF) – Crawford was one of the few Giants hitters that suffered as a result of the bad offense. He still hit 14 home runs but his other counting stats declined. He also hit just .253 in 144 games. Now with Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen in the mix, Crawford is a sleeper pick with a bounce-back season in the works.
Here are my top-20 shortstops for the 2018 season.
Amed Rosario (NYM) – With a little sample size, it’s hard to gauge where Rosario will fall on the fantasy spectrum. Kelly is in the same situation with his analysis of Rosario. You can read whether he will be a sleeper or bust here.
Tim Beckham (BAL) – Kelly recently wrote about Beckham’s breakout season. Between Tampa Bay and Baltimore, Beckham hit 22 home runs, 62 RBI and .278 in 137 games. The Orioles offense is still solid and Beckham, hitting leadoff, will score a lot of runs with Manny Machado and Adam Jones behind him. He’s a sleeper pick in AL-only and deeper leagues.
Dansby Swanson (ATL) – I wrote a comparison piece between Swanson and Rosario. Even with the moves the Mets made, I still like Swanson more. He had a bigger sample size and can contribute in all facets of the game.
Orlando Arcia (MIL) – Arcia had a great season in his first full year. With what Milwaukee did in the offseason, he has a great shot to be a sleeper pick this season. Kelly even questioned if he can be a top-10 shortstop this season.
Tim Anderson (CWS) – After a 99-game sample in 2016, Anderson had his breakout last season. He hit .257 with 17 home runs, 56 RBI and 72 runs. He also stole 15 bases. While the average was low, he helped owners with double-digit homers and steals. Speed is hard to find so owning any batter that can steal at least 10 bases makes them a little more valuable. The downside is that the White Sox offense as a whole is not good.
Jorge Polanco (MIN) – Polanco may go undrafted in most fantasy leagues this season. After three years with limited playing time, Polanco finally broke out in 2017. In 133 games, he hit 13 home runs, 74 RBI and .256. He also stole 13 bases with 60 runs scored. Polanco had a great second half. If that was prorated for a full season, he would have hit .293 with 23 homers, 18 steals, 85 runs and 95 RBI. That would push him to the top-12. Polanco will be available at the end of your draft.
Marcus Semien (OAK) – Semien had a down season last year. He played in just 85 games and didn’t provide much for his fantasy owners. In the prior season, Semien hit 27 homers, 75 RBI and .238. He can also steal, recording at least 10 steals in each of his last three seasons. With a full season ahead of him, Semien will hit 20 home runs and .250. Not bad for your backup shortstop.
Zack Cozart (LAA) – Both Kelly and Gavin Tramps wrote about Cozart this offseason. Kelly asked if we should believe in the breakout he had last season. Tramps called Cozart the player no one wants. He will transition to third base but will have shortstop eligibility in most leagues. With the Angels current lineup, he will definitely move up in ADP during drafts.
Addison Russell (CHC) – I think Russell is one of the worst offensive shortstops in the league. He has a career 24.9 strikeout rate, 8.4 walk rate, 40.9 groundball rate, 38.4 fly ball rate and 13.2 swinging strike rate. Despite all that, he still plays for the Cubs and has a great lineup around him and can drive in a few runs. I wouldn’t want him as my starting shortstop. As a middle infielder in Roto leagues, he’ll help in the counting stats.
Eduardo Nunez (BOS) – The Red Sox recently brought back Nunez after having a good 2017 campaign. Between Boston and San Francisco, he stole 24 bases with a .313 average, 12 home runs and 58 RBI. As of now, Nunez is slotted as the team’s starting second base while Dustin Pedroia recovers. Nunez will play all over the infield this season, making him the ultimate utility player.
Andrelton Simmons (LAA) – The Angels starting shortstop, Simmons had his best hitting season. In 158 games, he hit 14 home runs, 69 RBI and .278. For someone who had a combined 35 home runs before that season, the 14 homers was a surprise. Kelly asked if it was a mirage or here to stay. As I said with Cozart, the Angels have improved their lineup and the whole team should be able to contribute for fantasy owners.
Xander Bogaerts (BOS) – Bogaerts benefits from having a good offense around him. He doesn’t walk much, 8.8 percent, and strikes out enough, 18.3 percent. He also hits ground balls almost 50 percent of his at-bats. He hit 10 home runs, 62 RBI and .273 in 148 games. Tramps called Bogaerts the worst fantasy shortstop. I wouldn’t go that far because he hit over .270 and stole 15 bases but struggled in the second half. He will be fine in AL-only leagues. I would rather have 15 other shortstops before drafting Bogaerts in a mixed league.
Didi Gregorius (NYY) – Gregorius had his best hitting season. He hit 25 home runs, 87 RBI and .287 in 136 games. He could have reached 90 RBI if he played a full season. The loss of Starlin Castro may hurt him some in the field, but having Giancarlo Stanton in the middle of the lineup helps the whole team. While 20 home runs may not happen again, he can get on base and score runs. He has a lot of value in the 13th round.
Trevor Story (COL) – Story had a good power-hitting season but his batting average took a hit. He hit .238 with 24 home runs and 82 RBI. With like many power hitters, the batting average usually suffers. The Rockies have a great lineup and Story should be able to hit close to 30 home runs again but don’t be surprised if he hits .240 this season.
Jean Segura (SEA) – Segura was underrated last season and will be underrated this season. He hit double-digit home runs and stole 22 bases in 125 games. If he can play a full season, then Segura could hit 12-plus home runs and steal close to 30 bases. That and Dee Gordon hitting ahead of him in the lineup will help his fantasy value.
I asked if Elvis Andrus was overvalued in rankings back in November. He had his best power-hitting season by far while maintaining a good average and speed. Is this something we can expect from the 29-year-old?
I may have jumped the gun when I said he was being overvalued. Andrus hit 20 home runs, 88 RBI and .297 with 25 steals and 100 runs. He hit 35 total home runs from 2009 to 2016 so his 20 homers was a bit of a surprise.
Andrus keeps his strikeout rate low but he doesn’t walk much either. He had just a 31.5 fly ball rate but turned that to an 11.6 percent HR/FB rate. Andrus swung at a lot of pitches, 47.1 swing rate, but made a lot of contact in the process, 81.9 contact rate.
The Rangers success will depend on the health of their star player Adrian Beltre and the performance of Joey Gallo and others. Andrus is slated to hit second in the lineup, giving him opportunities to score another 100 runs.
Andrus is in the prime of his career and will be worth a sixth-round pick. I don’t expect another 20 home runs but something more like 13 with a .282 average and 23 steals.
Corey Seager is six years younger than his brother Kyle Seager but is already a better hitter than him. The younger Seager hit 22 home runs, 77 RBI and .295 in 145 games last season. If he added speed to his game, he would likely be No. 3 in my rankings. But that doesn’t seem to be coming anytime soon.
Seager showed off his great plate discipline with a 12.1 swinging strike rate, 29.1 O-Swing rate and 10.9 walk rate. He also made improvements to his ground ball and fly ball rates. Three of the five National League West parks rank in the top 15 for home runs. Though, Chase Field may drop out of the top 20 by season’s end.
Seager will have no problem hitting this season, regardless of the park. The former Rookie of the Year will cost you a third-round pick at best. That’s not a spot I would like to draft a shortstop, but with the talent he has, Seager may be worth it.
Seager will turn 24 years old at the end of April. He had a great season already but the future is so bright for the Dodgers shortstop. With the Dodgers current lineup, he could hit another 25 home runs and .292 with 85 RBI this season.
Carlos Correa missed a lot of time last season but still put up great numbers. In just 109 games, he hit 24 home runs and .315 with 84 RBI and 82 runs scored. The way the Astros played last season, he would have reached 30 HR/95 RBI/95 R over a full season.
In just three seasons, Correa has made great strides in his performance at the plate. He lowered his strikeout rate to below 20 percent while raising his walk rate to 11 percent. Correa maintained a 20-percent line drive rate as his ground ball and fly ball rates improved.
The only negative to his 2017 season is that he just stopped running. After stealing a combined 27 bases in his first two seasons, Correa stole only two last year. Looking that the two players ranked ahead of him and some of the others below him, I wouldn’t blame you if you passed on Correa.
The Astros didn’t make many moves this offseason but they didn’t need to. With Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and George Springer at the top of the lineup, Correa will make up for his lack of speed with power and contact.
If he stays healthy this season, he could hit close to 30 home runs with a .295 average and 92 runs and 101 RBI, making him worth a second-round pick.
Trea Turner also missed a lot of time last season. He missed 10 games in April and 51 between June and August. Despite that, he still lit up the stat sheets and got fantasy owners reader for a better 2018.
In just 98 games, Turner hit 11 home runs and .284 with 45 RBI and 75 runs. Yet, the most surprising stat is that he stole 46 bases. That’s about one steal every two games. If he played a full season, there’s no doubt that he could get close to 80 this season.
If you pair his speed with the potential to hit 20 home runs, drive in 80 runs and score another 100 himself, Turner is a first-round pick. That’s the reason why Billy Hamilton, despite is great speed, will never be ranked this highly. He doesn’t provide anything outside of his speed.
The Nationals as a whole will also benefit from a full season of Turner and the return of Adam Eaton to the top of the order. There’s also Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper rounding out the top of the order.
Turner is a once-in-a-lifetime player and should not be passed on in drafts.
Some people have Francisco Lindor as the No. 2 shortstop this season. Though, after the performance he put on in the second half, I think Lindor will carry that over for a full season of excitement.
In the first half, Lindor finished with a .252 average, 14 home runs, 43 RBI and just four steals. Things changed after the All-Star break. Lindor hit .298 with 19 homers, 46 RBI and 11 steals. If you prorate his second half, he would have finished with close to 40 home runs, 100 RBI and 22 steals.
The Indians added power-hitting first baseman Yonder Alonso to an already-stacked lineup. With Jose Ramirez and Edwin Encarnacion hitting third and fourth, respectively, Lindor will get on base and score a lot of runs.
While he doesn’t have the same speed as Turner, his power and contact put him in the top spot in my rankings. I wouldn’t argue if you drafted Turner before Lindor. Either one will be a lock as a top-three shortstop and top-10 hitter this season.
The shortstop position has gotten a lot younger and more talented. With 30-home run hitters or 60-steal runners, you can lock up a category or two with just one player. Even if you go a different direction at the start of your draft, guys like Andrus or Cozart will be available later.
I wouldn’t be surprised if three of the top five finish as a top-10 hitter.