It’s been a good time to be an MLB shortstop, given the overall depth of the position and the historical off-season we’ve had thus far. Marquee free agent shortstops Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, Dansby Swanson, and Carlos Correa inked deals totaling around a billion dollars. Despite two failed physicals, Carlos Correa still made out like a bandit. Scott Boras and the rest of Boras Corp. were the real winners this offseason! While we’re prepping for our upcoming drafts, here’s a preview of shortstops and their fantasy relevance around the league:
Blue Jays: Bo Bichette just turned 25. His torrid end of 2022 is on a lot of our minds. A five-tool player, he’ll cost you a top 25 pick. I expect Bichette to surpass his season-high 25 stolen bases in 2021.
Orioles: Gunnar Henderson/Jorge Mateo – AL ROY favorite, projections have him at .275, 20 HR/15 SB. Currently has SS/3B eligibility in Yahoo. Will likely cost you a top 80 pick. Best utilized as a 3B this year given the depth of SS and the lack of 3B depth. Mateo has speed, but is looking like a one-trick pony at this point.
Rays: Wander Franco – He’s finally healthy and recovered from the myriad of injuries he dealt with last year. One of the few players who can hit .300 in a given season, he’s only 22. Although 2022 was a disappointing year, it’s worth noting Franco ranked in the 85th max EV percentile while striking out only 9.6% of the time. A dark-horse MVP pick!
Red Sox: Christian Arroyo/Enrique Hernandez/Adalberto Mondesi – Adalberto Mondesi is already hurt to begin 2o23 (no surprise there), so he’s crossed off of my draft list. Arroyo could be a sneaky-good player for deep leagues, with 6 HRs/5 SBs in 280 AB’s last year. Son recently wrote an article on him https://razzball.com/one-mans-trash-am-i-a-believer-in-christian/
Yankees: Anthony Volpe/Oswald Peraza – IKF doesn’t have much fantasy value unless one of your stat categories includes DRS. There’s some chatter of him going to the Dodgers for some pitching. In past years, I wouldn’t expect Volpe to make the team out of spring training, but with the new draft pick compensation, Volpe may get a middle infield spot out of camp. The Yanks are also impressed with Peraza. Either player would make a nice end-game pick and over the next few weeks should see their ADP rise.
Guardians: Amed Rosario/Andres Gimenez – Amed Rosario feels like a younger, healthier Tim Anderson. He should surpass his 2022 total of 18 steals. A nice pick if you decide to punt SS and focus on other positions. Andres Gimenez is definitely more expensive this year; but I’d be ok with paying full price for him, given how weak the second base pool is this year. His .353 BABIP is likely unsustainable, and he likely loses about .20 off of his batting average, Gimenez should run into a couple more homers as he enters his prime.
Royals: Bobby Witt Jr./Maikel Garcia – Bobby Witt had a rookie-of-the-year worthy season last year and has all the tools required for a top-20 pick. However, Witt’s top-2o ADP feels a bit too rich for me this year. A talented player for sure, but the sub .300 OBP has me concerned, at least for redraft purposes. Maikel Garcia should be on your watchlist for dynasty/keeper leagues. He’s getting looks at third base and may overtake Nicky Lopez for the utility gig to start the year. He’s showing more power and had a tremendous 2022 Minor League slash of .285 11 HRs/61/39 SBs.
White Sox: Tim Anderson – Will likely rebound after his injury-plagued season, but the years of injuries make him seem somewhat older than his listed age 0f 29. Everything could do right for the ChiSox lineup if he, Eloy, Vaughn, and Moncada all stay healthy, but the speed will fall off a cliff one of these years and I don’t want to be the one holding the bag when there are so many other solid options at the position.
Twins: Carlos Correa – After all of the offseason drama, Correa is back with the Twins. In a keeper league, I wouldn’t feel too good about owning him, but the good news for redraft leagues is that his ADP is finally reasonable and is roughly the #17 shortstop off the board, which feels about right for a guy with a solid hit tool, in a solid lineup, and for a player that will not contribute to the steals department.
Angels: Luis Rengifo – Our resident Angels fan Coolwhip wrote a nice piece on Rengifo earlier this offseason. Renfigo won’t be on many 12-team mixers, but if you’re in deep league that makes weekly moves, put swiss-army knife Rengifo on your watch list. Rengifo Is Fo’ Real – Luis Rengifo – Razzball Fantasy Baseball
Astros: Jeremy Pena – One of the “better in real life guys.” Pena’s second-half plate discipline wasn’t and pitchers capitalized on his free-swinging tendencies. While there’s potential to score plenty of runs in a loaded Astros lineup, Pena will assuredly bat at the bottom of the order.
Mariners: JP Crawford – It feels like we’ve been waiting for Crawford to break out for years. JP has enjoyed a nice Spring and has lowered his K% rate every year since 2019. While his average should easily rebound from last year’s .243, unfortunately, he doesn’t hit the ball hard enough and should be relegated to an endgame MI pick.
Rangers: Corey Seager/Marcus Semien – Seager stands to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the shift being banned this year and from early draft ADP, it looks like drafters have noticed. While Semien may never replicate his career season in his walk year with the Jays, Semien rebounded from his awful first half last year. He’s 32 this year, so the wheels may slow down sometime soon. He’s still a solid player if you utilize him at second base. Both Seager and Semien should be more comfortable in their second years with the Rangers.
Braves: Vaughn Grissom – Some rumblings out of Braves camp say Grissom may start the season in the Minors; but is looking good in Spring Training. Given the overall weakness of the second base position, Grissom looks to be a top-10 second baseman when we look back on these ranks at the end of the year.
Marlins: Jon Berti – It’s looking like Berti will be platooned, so he’s risky for weekly leagues, but if a full-time spot opens up somewhere, Berti will hit the ground running and help those desperate for steals.
Mets: Francisco Lindor – Lindor’s in one of the best lineups and will be in a prime position for extra at-bats to accumulate some great fantasy stats. The new pickoff rules should give him a few extra bags and looks to have a typical year contributing to all hitting categories.
Nationals: Luis Garcia/CJ Abrams – The Nationals lineup is a wasteland and Garcia will do you no favors in an OBP league (he walked 2.9 % of the time) and often struggles with breaking balls. I’m more excited for CJ Abrams, who should hit near the top of the Nats lineup and has better contact skills and plate discipline. CJ Abrams reminds me of a young Dee Gordon.
Phillies: Trea Turner/Bryson Stott – Treat Urner’s in the running for the #1 overall pick this year. A roto owner’s dream, gotta love the move to hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park and the familiarity of the NL East. Bryson Stott looks to build off of his rookie year and be an endgame 2B or middle infield pick.
Brewers: Willy Adames/Luis Urias – Willy’s got a big stick, and Miller Park is one of the best places to hit. Adames’ barrel % and K% have both trended in the right direction the past three years and he’s entering his age 27 season. Adames is a great consolation prize if you miss out on the top-end shortstops. Luis Urias had an injury-marred season last year. I’m willing to chalk his last year up to some bad luck. Don’t forget, he was one of Grey’s sleepers last year.
Cardinals: Brendan Donovan/Masyn Winn – Brendan Donovan saw some Rookie of the Year love last year and looks to build upon his strong freshman year. While his average exit velocity leaves much to be desired, his whiff % and chase % were 90th percentile or higher – this type of plate discipline is very rare, especially among rookies. Donovan seems to be yet another Cardinal who excels in 2-strike counts and produces a strong AVG/OBP. He’s a nice pick after ADP 200 to stabilize your roto batting average. Masyn Winn’s been overshadowed (rightfully so) by phenom Jordan Walker. With the Cards with an enviable positional player logjam, Winn likely makes his debut later in the season.
Cubs: Dansby Swanson – Chicago’s prized free agent acquisition, we likely saw Swanson’s career year last year. Still, Swanson should be a solid bet for a .260 average, with around 25 homers and 15 steals, with his batting average seemingly particularly BABIP-dependent (his 2022 BABIP was .348 compared to his .297 2021 BABIP).
Pirates: Oneil Cruz – We know Cruz has LOUD tools, between setting Statcast records in the batter’s box and in the field. Oneil Cruz is one of the biggest boom-or-bust players for 2023. Right now Cruz is projected to go 20/20 with around a .245 average and around a 27-30% K rate. Oneil Cruz is a small launch angle tweak from being a top 30 fantasy asset (and that may be modest). If I don’t draft him, I’m definitely keeping a close eye on him and that launch angle early in the season.
Reds: Elly De La Cruz – The Reds currently don’t have anyone fantasy relevant at the Major League level, so I’m mentioning Elly De La Cruz. It’s doubtful he makes the team out of Spring Training, but Elly’s someone to keep an eye on for a possible midseason promotion. He’ll have to cut down on his 30%+ strikeout rate but had one of the best Minor League seasons this past year.
Dodgers: Miguel Rojas – The loss of Trea Turner and Gavin Lux surely sting, but if any team can navigate the loss of two productive middle infielders, it’s the Dodgers. My money isn’t on Rojas lasting the year as the Dodgers starting shortstop and he’s definitely not fantasy-relevant. Look for the Dodgers to deal from their pitching depth to acquire a new shortstop.
Giants: Thairo Estrada/Brandon Crawford – Brandon Crawford looks done for fantasy purposes, but Thairo Estrada’s interesting. He’s coming off of a .260 14HR/21 SB season. He should be the Giants leadoff man. Think of him as a poor man’s Andres Gimenez. He’s a guy who (like Oniel Cruz, is a small launch angle tweak from fantasy greatness). If you’ve been hibernating this offseason, Grey gave you a Thairo Estrada sleeper https://razzball.com/thairo-estrada-2023-fantasy-baseball-sleeper/
Padres: Fernando Tatis Jr./Xander Bogaerts – FTJ is the ultimate risk-reward player. We know the PED and injury history, but Fernando is young and so far (as of this piece) looks totally healthy in Spring Training. While FTJ is due to return on 4/20, a .275, 30/15 season isn’t totally out of the realm of possibilities. Allegedly the shoulder is 100%. I’m not worried about the slow Spring and I’m buying this year. Xander Bogaerts disappointed a lot of BoSox fans but falls into a fantasy-friendly environment. The batting average might slip a bit due to an adjustment to the NL and being out of Fenway, but the counting stats will be there in a loaded Friars lineup. Ultimately, Xander seems more of a “better in real life” than a fantasy player.
Rockies: Ezequiel Tovar – Tovar is one of my favorite picks after 200 ADP. A solid young middle infielder with strong Minor League stats, with a hit tool to go .260 25/15 and would fit nicely in the middle of the lineup…yet runs the risk of being platooned, batted 9th, and benched every couple of days for no explicable reason. Rockies gonna Rockie!
Have a great week and stay tuned for the second base edition next week!