As usual, shortstop is one of the most scarce positions in the game with lots of uncertainty. There are a plethora of young players looking to change that such as Carlos Correa and Corey Seager. Veterans like Starlin Castro and Alcides Escobar provide some value, or you can go with the oft-injured Troy Tulowitzki who could be a monster in Toronto’s offence. The strategy here is to either get one of the top seven players, or wait until the late rounds to add a consistent shortstop (Aybar) or a player with upside (Miller).
- Manny Machado: Machado broke out in a big way. I wrote more about him here. You can make a case for Correa, but Machado’s experience over a full season warrants him to be higher than Correa.
- Carlos Correa: There is a good argument for having Correa at number one. After all, he did hit 22 home runs in half a season. His HR/FB% hovered close to 25%. The power output is unsustainable but he does have 30+ home run power based on his skills and minor league track record. His .279 average was sustainable as his BABIP was right at league average. He has enough speed to steal 20+ bases and Correa struck out at a league average rate. Carlos Correa will be a stud one day; it very well could be next year. Power, speed, contact all mix to make Correa one of the premier shortstops in the league at just 21.
- Troy Tulowitzki: Like Rendon and other injury prone players, Tulowitzki’s value will hinge on his health. His health will scare away many on draft day and that is a great concern. I do think he misses some time, but I think he provides enough value to justify taking him as a top 5 shortstop. His struggles with the Jays can be attributed to his shoulder injury, as well as a below average BABIP. There were some concerning trends with Tulo. He struck out at a rate not seen since his first year in the majors and his walk rate was the lowest of the year. He chased pitches and had an all together more aggressive approach at the plate. On the other hand, his HR/FB% and ISO were both below career average. I think it is realistic for Tulowitzki to bat around .290 and hit 25 home runs. You run the risk of him continuing to decline and/or getting injured. There is also the reward of him being a top SS once again. While he won’t call Coors home, the Rogers center is a good place for batters and in the most potent lineup in the league, Tulowitzki might just have to be above average to accumulate strong counting stats as opposed to simply average.
- Xander Bogaerts: Xander Bogaerts will be one of two things: A lesser version of last season, or he will show his power and emerge as a complete hitter. Bogaerts .320 batting average was largely inflated due to a .372 BABIP. He hit the ball all across the diamond slashing a 34%, 34%, 32% Pull, Center, Opposite across the diamond line respectively. He cut down on his strikeout rate and made solid contact. Bogaerts broke out in a big way. Whether or not he continues this approach will be an interesting aspect. From his numbers in the minors, there is some hidden power potential. At his peak, Xander could very well hit 20 home runs. The BABIP will go down, but he has a history of above average BABIPs in the minors. Xander Bogaerts will have plenty of run scoring and RBI opportunities as well. He is a top option at SS. A .295 average, with 10-15 home runs and solid counting stats are a realistic stat line for Xander.
- Ian Desmond: The best thing Ian Desmond has going for him is that since becoming a full time major leaguer, he has only played fewer than 154 games once and even then it was only 130 games. This gives him a good chance to rack up many counting stats for the Texas Rangers. His .233 average was due to a below career average BABIP. He has struck out close to 30% the past two seasons making his batting average ceiling .250. His power waned slightly but Desmond should still be good for 20 home runs. He stole less than 20 bases for the first time since 2010. At age 30, Desmond’s days of stealing 20+ bases are likely over. Ian Desmond provides a power + speed combo at shortstop. The batting average is ugly though.
- Corey Seager: This is more about potential than what he’s done. The younger brother of Kyle Seager put together a strong performance in his month of major league action. While it is unsustainable production, he has the tools to be an above average shortstop. He struck out at a league average rate and his walk rate was above league average. These are good signs for a young player and shows he has an advanced approach at his age relative to his peers. You can expect Seager to hit 15-20 home runs and bat .270. He doesn’t provide much speed but he will get a fair amount of counting stats. Don’t trust Seager’s 27 games, trust his track record in the minors and overall skillset. He’s gonna be good.
- Francisco Lindor: Lindor exceeded offensive expectations in his first season in the majors. The biggest surprise was his home run output (12) considering he never hit more than six in a single season during the minors. He will likely hit somewhere between 5-10 home runs over the course of a full season. His .348 BABIP is unsustainable but due to his speed, minor league track record, and ability to spread the ball, an above average BABIP is realistic. Lindor may not hit .313, but an average around .270 – .280 is likely. Anything more is icing on the cake. Lastly, Lindor will likely be batting near the top of the lineup on the Indians. This will lead to plenty of run opportunities. Lindor is a top five option at short providing a solid average, lots of runs, and 15-20+ steals.
- Jung Ho-Kang: I went over Kang here. Kang provides more value at short than third thanks to the lack of good fantasy players at shortstop. If he comes back in time for the season or misses minimal time, he could challenge for a top five spot at shortstop.
- Elvis Andrus: The most scarce stat in standard fantasy baseball is stolen bases. Elvis Andrus’s primary fantasy value comes from stolen bases as he has stolen 52 over the past two seasons. He had a below average .283 batting average on balls in play last season making it unlikely he hits below .260 again this year. Andrus also struck out less. The most interesting aspect of Andrus’ 2015 season was the change in approach. He hit groundballs 47% of the time; Andrus has never had a season below 55% in
that category. These groundballs were translated into flyballs so it isn’t too surprising he hit a career high 7 home runs. In addition, Andrus pulled the ball more than ever before instead of going up the middle. 2016 will be an interesting year for the 27-year-old Andrus and whether or not he sticks with this new approach or reverts back to his career norms. Elvis Andrus primarily provides stolen bases, and if he can hit 7 home runs again, he won’t kill you in other categories relative to other shortstops.
- Ketel Marte: Ketel Marte is another young shortstop who may very well could end up in the top five. He’s highly unlikely, but the top ten is a good possibility. Marte hit .283 with an inflated BABIP. Steamer projects him for .269 which is fair considering his minor league stats. Steamer is conservative so a .280 average is within the realm of possibility. Amonst shorststops with at a minimum of 240 plate appearances, Marte had the third highest walk rate. Ketel gets a small boost in OBP leagues. He’s not a power hitter; owners will be lucky to get five home runs out of him. Marte provides the majority of his value through fantasy baseball’s most scarce stat: stolen bases. Marte stole 8 in 57 games putting him at a 20-25 stolen base pace over a full season. He stole many bases in the minors and his success rate was in league average territory. If Marte gets the green light, he could swipe anywhere from 20-30 bases while providing a decent average and a healthy number of runs.
- Marcus Semien: Semien enjoyed a breakout season coming over from the White Sox to the Oakland Athletics. His fifteen home runs were no fluke as the power has always been there. He posted a similar ISO and HR/FB% with the White Sox. Semien cut down on his strikeout rate. The swinging strike percentage remained realtively the same, however he struck out less looking. At 25, future growth in this department is likely. Semien also stole 11 bases making him a power + speed threat. He won’t kill you in the batting average department, and provides plenty pop for a shortstop in addition to his ten plus stolen bases.
- Brandon Crawford: Crawford’s power came ou
t of nowhere. He never had more than 10 home runs in any season major or minor leading up to this season. His HR/FB% at 16.2% was more than double his career HR/FB% from 2011-2014. Crawford very well could hit 15 home runs, but it is safer to project 10 based on his career thus far. His average will hover around .250 while providing a stolen base here and there.
- Addison Russell: Another young shortstop, Russell has the potential to be a top five fantasy shortstop. Russell struggled making contact as he struck out 28% of the time he was up to bat. His minor league track record indicates he should strikeout much less and with another year of growth, it is likely he continues to make gains in this department. His first half strikeout percentage was 31% and it dropped six percentage points in the second half. In addition, Russell hit 13 home runs showcasing his power. Depending on how much he improves, Russell could see plenty of run scoring opportunities if he bats atop the dangerous Cubs lineup. The uncertainty affects his ranking and overall value. Russell is also in line for some positive regression. Addisson Russell is a decent option at short and not many shortstops have the upside he has.
- Jose Reyes: The issue with Reyes is that we do not know just when he will enter the lineup. As a result, owners will have to draft a stop gap until he comes back. Reyes will be playing at Coors which should be enough to get interested. Reyes has the capability of batting .300 with his move to Colorado. Last season, his BABIP was slightly below his career mark. A return to batting .290 is likely with the potential to bat higher. Reyes will hit 5-10 home runs while stealing at least 15-20 bases. Reyes’s value will be dependent on his suspension length so plan for another shortstop.
- Alcides Escobar: If you are in an OBP league, Escobar with his career
4.1% walk rate is not someone you want to be drafting. A career .262 hitter who can steal 20 bases, Escobar will likely be batting at the top of the Royals lineup giving him a shot at 70 or more runs.
- Starlin Castro: Starlin is a member of the Yankees after an offseason trade. The steals are gone, and the walk rate is low. He is a good bet to hit 10-15 home runs with a .270 average. Castro will be an average shortstop.
- Eugenio Suarez: Suarez will be playing mostly at third this season however he has shortstop eligibility. He enjoyed a big year batting .280 largely due to an above baseline .341 BABIP. His 13 home runs don’t see too crazy. He’s 24, and a .167 ISO isn’t too high. Throughout the season, he rarely made soft contact. Only seven batters had a better soft contact percentage than Eugenio. Suarez’s walk rate was also lower than his 2014 season with the Tigers and his minor league numbers. Suarez will see some regression in the batting average department in addition to the power numbers. Over the full course of a season, Suarez is capable of hitting 15 home runs with a decent average (.260), RBIs, and runs.
- Brad Miller: The best aspect of owning Miller will be that he can be used in multiple positions (2B, OF). Miller is a late round power + speed player who could leap into the top ten. He has hit 21 home runs over the past two years while stealing 17 bases. Miller hits the ball all over the field. He cut down on his strikeout rate but his swinging strike percentage increased. Now a member of the Tampa Bay Rays, Miller should have a line similar to last season with potentially more runs and/or RBIs.
- Erick Aybar: Consistency, that’s what you get with Aybar. Five straight seasons of an average of .270 or higher, seven straight seasons of double digit steals and Aybar has averaged 6 home runs the past four years. Moving to Atlanta will hurt his run totals as well as RBIs but he should be able to challenge for 70 runs and 40 RBIs. It’s not much, but Aybar is what Aybar is.
- Jean Segura: Maybe the move the Arizona will bring back the Segura that dominated in 2013. Two years after his career season, Segura has yet to find any success similar. There are some playing time issues as Nick Ahmed has short locked up due to his defensive prowess leaving Segura battling Chris Owings at second base. Segura’s main value comes from speed as he has stolen 45 bases over the past two seasons. He’s good for five home runs while batting .260. He doesn’t walk, and his strikeout rate went up last season. Segura offers speed and not much else.
This concludes the shortstop rankings. Looking over my rankings, I am surprised just how many young shortstops there are. From Lindor to Ketel Marte, shortstop could become less of a barren landscape than before. Troy Tulowitzki is the most intriguing option due to his all star level skills and being in the Toronto lineup. Drafting him with Aybar is a very real possibility for myself. Shortstop will be an interesting position over the season as there are many young stars looking to make an impact along with veterans who provide good value.