Could I see owning two of the top 20 shortstops for 2021 fantasy baseball? More like: Can I draft four of them? This post is going to envelope you with so much love you’re going to remember when it was that you were first stung by the Fantasy Baseball Bug. By the way, the Fantasy Baseball Bug is mostly found in North America, struggles to reproduce and inhabits dark basements. Here’s Steamer’s 2021 Fantasy Baseball Projections for Hitters and 2021 Fantasy Baseball Projections for Pitchers. All projections included here are mine, and where I see tiers starting and stopping are included. Anyway, here’s the top 20 shortstops for 2021 fantasy baseball:
NOTE: All 2021 fantasy baseball projections are based on a 162-game season, and will be until we hear definitively there will be less games.
NOTE II: All my rankings are currently available on Patreon for the price of a Starbucks coffee, if you get one of those extra grande frappuccino jobbers. Don’t wait for the rankings to come out over the next month, and get them all now.
NOTE III: Free agents outside the top 100 are not yet written up or projected. They are approximately ranked, obviously subject to change.
7. Xander Bogaerts – This is a new tier. This tier goes from here until Anderson. I call this tier, “My run cuppeth over.” That’s what the phrase should be. Think about it. If your cup runneth over, it means you have so much mead to drink you are most definitely drunk, and how does a drunk person speak? Mangling words? Right? So, they would say my run cuppeth over. It makes sense. This tier, all two guys, were debated by me to squeeze into the top 20 overall, so they’re kinda in the same tier as Mondesi (not Bichette, he was in a tier above Mondesi). Shortstops are stacked, yo! You can’t go wrong with eight, and borderline 12 shortstops. Like, not just wrong wrong, but right right. These guys aren’t just good, they all could be great. They could be top 25 overall bats. This run cuppeth over might lead some fantasy baseball ‘perts to say, “You don’t need a top shortstop because there’s so many of them. Go for a scarcer position!” And that’s how you end up with a 22/5/.280 Realmuto and miss out on a 35/10/.310 Bogaerts. Don’t fall for the position scarcity argument. Draft a top shortstop! It is imperative. As for Bogaerts, I’m inclined (in a Barclaylounger) to ignore 2020, but if you were to take it seriously, he was on pace for 30/20/.305. His track record is long enough to know we’re getting a top shortstop, even if Bobby “Heez Nutz For Bad Pitches” Dalbec is striking out 65% of the time behind him. 2021 Projections: 94/32/88/.302/15 in 591 ABs
8. Tim Anderson – I cannot wait for the end of June to roll around, and Tim Anderson, in his worst MLB year, to demand a trade, because he can’t play for Tony La Russa, who missed the previous game because he fell asleep in his car and when he was woken, he screamed, “Another gin and tonic, Bill!” No idea who Bill is, and this is completely anecdotal. Tim Anderson feels on the cusp of his greatest season, not his worst. Here’s hoping Bill plays Semisonic’s Closing Time early to chase out La Russa. The trends on Anderson, Launch Angle down, fly balls down (obvi), HR/FB% and ground ball rate skyrocketing are not good, but he’s also shown enough in past years for me to trust the 20 homer power that is growing, and a reliable 17-plus-steal guy. The only true question mark is the batting average. If he can continue to exceed BABIP expectations, he could hit .315+. Hard to rely on that, and I’d be more comfortable counting on a .340 BABIP/.280 with a slight uptick in his Launch Angle (from last year). As long as someone wakes Tony from his car prior to every game. 2021 Projections: 109/22/66/.286/24 in 603 ABs
9. Javier Baez – This is a new tier. This tier goes from here until Gleyber. I call this tier, “20/20 Hindsight vs. 2020.” Hindsight is 20/20, but not when looking at 2020. The previous year has some of you so confused as to what to do. I’ve never seen so many buying opportunities based off a random two-month sample, and some absolute head-scratchers. There is clearly differences in my rankings from early ADP in this tier. Baez is getting absolutely buried by people. Doesn’t feel like an early draft season vs. late draft season thing either. Feels like a ‘people overrating a silly season’ thing. Obviously Baez’s previous year was not good — Ks out of control; walks worse than ever; a garbage year, in general. And…who cares? How a guy with a track record this long is being written off as done at 29 years old is one of the sillier things I’ve seen from fantasy baseball this year. I nearly wrote a sleeper post for Javier Baez. His batted ball profile is nearly identical from previous years, except his maxEV actually went up and his Launch Angle. He had a .262 BABIP and he was a .335+ BABIP guy every other full year of his career. He’s about to go 30/12/.275 and people are gonna be like, “Why exactly did I not draft Baez this year? Please tell me I wasn’t dumb enough to be worried about that joke 2020 season.” Yes, a lot of you seem to be that dumb. Hey, your words, not mine! 2021 Projections: 86/33/97/.271/12 in 597 ABs
10. Dansby Swanson – I’ve been downloading a jpg off a dial-up connection for about four years. The jpg is of Dansby with “Top 15 overall hitter” written in Geocities-sparkle font. I’m still paying fees to GoDaddy for my website, Dansbyisthebestshortstop dot com. I’ve been pushing this Swanson since he was a Swanfetus. I love him! Last year doesn’t look like it makes any sense, though. Ks up, BABIP insane, a 30/20 pace and HardHit% less than the previous year. Still love him, and am drafting him higher than most, but the 30/20 year doesn’t feel as close as I’d like. 2021 Projections: 79/25/84/.258/12 in 577 ABs
11. Corey Seager – Polar opposite of the 1st two guys in this tier. Seager took the next step last year, appizzarently. Um, maybe…? Of course, all his stats look like they went in the right direction. He became an Exit Velocity King and we are all merely peasants (of course, the Exit Velocity King still prays to the Greek God of Hard Contact, Nick Castellanos). All of these things can be true and we can be skeptical. What if last year were 162 games, and I told you to sell Seager two months in and he tanked? In May/June of a different year, he hit 15 homers and ~.325 in 55 games. That year? 2016. Did it lead to an insane 2017? No. 2018? Not really. 2019? Nope. It did lead to him being a top 30 overall pick in 2017, and a lot of people being disappointed. Maybe this is the breakout. All I’m saying is I can’t tell either way, and preach a bit of abstinence from risk this early. Plus, he steals no bases. Love the enthusiasm of those out there drafting him top 25 overall, but maybe you curb that enthusiasm, Larry. 2021 Projections: 92/24/86/.296/3 in 595 ABs
12. Marcus Semien – Signed with the the Jays. Was it the Jays’ turn already? This offseason’s free agent signings go: Mets, Padres, Jays, Jays, Padres, Mets–Hmm, maybe someone yelled goose, and the Padres and Mets heard duck, and the Jays had to goose Semien when they were suppose to duck him. This is a solid landing spot for Semien as long as he’s more 2019 and less 2020. Can the entire world be more 2019 and less 2020? Please. Last year, his K% went up to early-career numbers, and he looked more like the .235 hitter he was early on in his career vs. the .280+ hitter he seemed to grow into two years ago. Guess it should’ve been expected if Semien were to grow into something, the next logical step is Semien bursting. 2021 Projections: 88/26/71/.249/12 in 573 ABs
13. Gleyber Torres – Well, I totally nailed last year telling you to avoid Gleyber. *blows knuckles, wipes knuckles on shirt, sees I just wiped ketchup on shirt* Damn, that’ll teach me to be full of myself after a large fry. So, now we’ve seen one 38-homer season and one 3-homer season, which came when he faced basically the Orioles every game. What’s next? Do you see a pattern? The numerical sequence goes 38, 3…? What? Back to his 24-homer rookie year numbers? His other numbers aren’t remotely similar from year-to-year. You have a better chance of guessing Willem Dafoe’s lines in The Lighthouse. Not saying I would completely dismiss Torres from drafts, but if you have a firm grasp on what he will do in 2021, you are a better liar to yourself than I. 2021 Projections: 83/25/90/.272/5 in 556 ABs
14. Tommy Edman – This is a new tier. This tier goes from here until Didi. I call this tier, “Last broken Pringle.” You ever reach your hand down the Pringles can, get your hand stuck for like four hours, then have your significant other cut the can open and your hand is still holding the last broken Pringle? That’s this tier. This is a huge drop-off from the previous tier. That doesn’t mean this tier is bad or unwanted, but it’s absolutely worth noting that this tier is way off from the previous. I could see when I’m doing my top 500 having Gleyber in the top 80 overall, and Edman after the top 100. This is also the last tier I could see convincing myself is a shortstop and not a middle infidel. The last broken Pringle. By the way, you’re only a true Pringles head if you’re still wearing the cut can like a sleeve of armor. As for Edman, already went over him in the top 20 2nd basemen for 2021 fantasy baseball.
15. Didi Gregorius – Re-signed with the Phils. Phils check notes, see they were “Okay, not great” last year, then re-sign everyone like it’s a “Let’s run it back” thunder clap from above. Not fair to lay this at Didi’s feet. I do like him, and think the re-signing was smart, especially after the Phils did nothing else. If Phils are paying scouts to look at other teams, they should retrain them. The Gregorius D.I.D. is always underrated, and as long as his contract doesn’t cause mo’ money/mo’ problems, he should be near where he always is, 16-ish Launch Angle, 41% FB rate, 25-ish homers and a “won’t kill ya” average. 2021 Projections: 73/25/84/.271/6 in 512 ABs
16. Carlos Correa – This is a new tier. This tier goes from here until DeJong. I call this tier, “Brainwashing For Dummies.” I recently bought a Brainwashing For Dummies book and I wanna try some of the techniques. Hope you don’t mind. You don’t? Wow, this book is great! This tier is filled with guys you can practice the art of self-deception and brainwash yourself into thinking are great. I’d be careful, because if you draft one, you might be telling yourself, “This guy is awesome, and I must kill the Queen.” As for Correa, I’ve said this before — And that’s me quoting me! P to the erhaps! For what it’s Werth! — but Correa feels like the type of guy who can hype himself up by being a villain and feeding off the bad energy from the Cheaty Cheaty Bang Bang Scandal, having himself a great season, because no one watching wants it. Also, that’s a fiction, and he hasn’t done anything remotely close to his Steamer projections every year. They say: 27+ homers every year and every year he barely hits 20. As they say to the last place finishers in the World’s Jigsaw Puzzle Competition, you kinda have to put it together at some point. 2021 Projections: 72/24/83/.268/2 in 533 ABs
17. Paul DeJong – Colonel Mustard hit three homers last year with a candlestick in the bedroom, while he put you to sleep. That three-homer season was obviously nothing, you tell yourself as you remind yourself to put some fabric softener in when you wash your brain. You tell yourself this is nonsense, DeJong had a HardHit% and Launch Angle that should equate to 30 homers. DeJong can steal bases you tell yourself, as you slowly swing a watch on a chain in front of your face. He also hit .285 one year, you say, after not blinking for five minutes like a brainwashed zombie. 2021 Projections: 84/28/75/.241/4 in 566 ABs
18. Jorge Polanco – This is a new tier. This tier goes from here until Dubon. I call this tier, “Michael hollers, ‘Just look over your shoulder, honey!'” It should be noted, the tier name is also the chorus for a new Busta Rhymes song. This tier is middle infidels, and guys who should be looking over their shoulder so they’re not replaced in shallower leagues. This is also the end of the road for shortstops, and more middle infidels or UTIL guys in shallower leagues. As for Polanco, already gave you my Jorge Polanco sleeper. It was written while getting the shakes from not drinking enough Shamrock Shakes. 2021 Projections: 83/23/74/.272/8 in 572 ABs
21. Isiah Kiner-Falefa – In my dream world, Anthony DiscoFriesSclafani, Nick Castellanos, The Greek God of Hard Contact, and Israeli Diner-Falafel would all be on the same team, but I’m also writing this on an empty stomach 12 days into the Whole 30, and cheeburger, cheeburger, cheeburger! It’s wrong to dismiss IKF as IDGAF. He has surprising speed (to me, at least), could get into 10 homers, and made some adjustments, that could lead him to a repeat of his .280+ average vs. regressing to his humdrum .238. 2021 Projections: 78/8/61/.283/18 in 569 ABs
22. Ha-Seong Kim – Here’s what I said this offseason, “Signed with the Padres. We’re all making the same mistake we make every year with players, especially hitters, coming from the KBO. The pitchers in the KBO are not great. Dan Straily went there and looked like Dan All-Starily. Was that Dan Straily pitching or did Jacob deGrom pitch via Zoom on his days off in his place? Let’s grab a random pitcher, say, Jose Urena. He’d go to the KBO and be a 12 K/9 pitcher. I’m not exaggerating. Straily went from a 6.5 K/9 in the majors to 9.5 in Korea. So, Ha-Seong Kim’s KBO stats look great — 30/23/.306 — but Jung Ho Kang hit 40 homers in Korea one year. KBO is about the same competition level of Double-A. Stop getting roped into the “KBO hitter coming to the majors” narrative. Maybe Ha-Seong Kim sneaks into 15+ homers and 15+ steals, but a superstar, he is not.” And that’s me quoting me! 2021 Projections: 62/17/58/.254/15 in 519 ABs
23. Willy Adames – He’s a flip-flop of the Israeli Diner-Falafel, projecting out to 18/8 vs. 8/18, i.e., Willy rolls on Shabbos. 2021 Projections: 58/18/72/.253/8 in 489 ABs
26. Willi Castro – “From Willy Adames to Willi Castro, My Journey Through Different Names For My Johnson” by Grey Albright. That should make for a nice Google search. Any hoo! Castro could make an interesting pick up at some point in the season even in shallower leagues, if he connects the dots and is healthy. Last year was nice — 6 HRs, .349 — but on the back of a .448 BABIP and 20.7% HR/FB, when he posted under 10% rates in the minors. Not sold yet for the shallowest of leagues, but take a look-see at my Willi in deeper ones or maybe as a last round UTIL. 2021 Projections: 64/15/61/.246/15 in 552 ABs
28. Nick Ahmed – Hey, look, it’s Dr. Nick! “Hi, everybody!” Dr. Nick gets a bad rap. “Instead of chewing gum, chew bacon!” I know, Dr. Nick! If you see Ahmed’s projected stats of 18/7/.255 and can’t see essentially Willy Adames, you should get your eyes checked. “I can help you!” No thanks, Dr. Nick! 2021 Projections: 61/18/68/.253/7 in 555 ABs
29. Andrelton Simmons – Signed with the Twins. Andrelton showed up at the signing announcement wearing a Stars jersey, and when he heard he was playing for the Twins, he said, “I have twins: Nanu Nanu,” then after a beat, “That’s their names.” Andrelton is a glove first, average second, steals third, power fourth, RBIs fifth, runs sixth shortstop. To not put too fine a point on it. 2021 Projections: 59/8/64/.281/9 in 538 ABs
30. Orlando Arcia – He actually (Arcially?) had a solid season (59 games) for him when just peeling away batted ball profile numbers. Best season of career by a decent amount. If I had any faith that it would stick or his upside was anything more than a good two months from a great shortstop (think 20/8), I might’ve wrote a sleeper post for him. He’s only 26 years old, and I could see the late flyer, but if you need to say, “Arcia later,” it’s no big whoop. 2021 Projections: 56/18/64/.251/7 in 502 ABs
32. Jose Iglesias – This is a new tier. This tier goes from here until Rosario. I call this tier, “A ha’penny.” The song Christmas Is Coming goes, “If you haven’t a full penny, a ha’penny will do, and if you haven’t a ha’penny, then God bless you!” Yeah, okay, but what the eff is a ha’penny? Is that on a cryptocurrency exchange? I can’t do shizz with a ha’penny. A penny and five dollars ain’t even getting me a cup of coffee. I’m walking up to Starbucks with a thousand ha’pennies jingle-jangling in my pockets like I’m going to the laundromat, and a homeless person is gonna be like, “Can you spare any change?” and here I am sounding like Santa’s sleigh bells–Any hoo! This tier is fine for deep leagues, but pretty useless in 12-team and shallower. As for Iglesias, here’s what I said when he signed with the Angels, “On a more somber note, wonder what the Heaven’s Gate guy would’ve thought about the Angels trading for Raisel Iglesias and Jose Iglesias. That’s gotta be a sign, right? No? Well, he would’ve thought it was. Side note: the phrase “what in the holy eff” was invented for the HBO Max Heaven’s Gate documentary. As for Jose Iglesias, I’ve already drafted him in one 2021 league. Yes, I’ve already drafted a 2021 fantasy baseball league, I’ll try to go over it later this week. It was super late when I went to Iglesias, but I was hoping he could save my batting average’s soul. He’s a high contact, nothing else guy.” And that’s me quoting me! 2021 Projections: 64/8/68/.283/6 in 472 ABs
34. Miguel Rojas – I’d be almost jazzed about Rojas if it wasn’t for Jazz. Some of the guys in this tier could be in a sub-tier, “Hey, not bad if they give them 600 ABs, but you can’t seriously give this guy 600 ABs, right?” But a ha’penny will do. 2021 Projections: 56/9/51/.281/10 in 437 ABs
38. Amed Rosario – Here’s what I said this offseason after his trade to Cleveland, “Might be the biggest value change of anyone. Well, except Yu Chang. I said that time may Chang me, but Yu Chang time… He had his value obliterated. Rosario went from an afterthought, who shouldn’t have been drafted prior to this trade, to being an interesting late MI. MI crazy? I don’t think so. In two 500+ AB seasons, he was rosterable in 12-team leagues, and moves to a better ballpark. Not saying he will be Lindor lite, but he might be Andres Gimenez drafted later. Call him Andres 300 ADP.” And that’s me quoting me! UPDATE: With the addition of Cesar Hernandez on the Indians, Rosario is in the same shituation as he was on the Mets. 2021 Projections: 36/7/47/.256/13 in 310 ABs
39. Wander Franco – This is a new tier. This tier goes from here until Tejeda. I call this tier, “Hey, the minors, whatever happened there?” This tier is a late upside tier of guys who might be up in April or not at all. My guess is they’ll be varying ETAs of August/September and high on the 2022 target list, but with the minor leagues such a question mark, who knows. As for Wander, already gave you my Wander Franco fantasy. It was written while dining underwater. 2021 Projections: 19/4/16/.291/4 in 110 ABs
41. Jeter Downs – Here’s what Prospect Itch said, “The primary return for Mookie Betts, Downs has a lot to live up to, but when you’re named Jeter because Derek, you’ve probably been facing wild expectations your whole life. This Jeter appealed to the Red Sox partly due to a sizzling finish in 2019 that saw him slash .333/.429/.688 in AA. That line represented just 12 games but reflected the growth Downs exhibited throughout that season, when he stole 23 bases and hit 19 home runs across 107 games in high A. The only tool that’s not plus is defense, which is just fine for our purposes, and Grey’s laugh sounds like a pod of porpoises.” Not cool, man. 2021 Projections: 18/2/16/.242/3 in 98 ABs
42. Jose Garcia – Here’s what Prospect Itch said previously, “Though he didn’t hit in his 2020 debut, Jose Garcia remains a true five-tool talent who’s already plus defensively at short. He might wind up a four-tool big leaguer if he can’t make more contact going forward, but I think it would be shortsighted to put much stock in his struggles after jumping straight from high A to the show. Speaking of which, can someone show me how to poison Grey?” Hey, what is going on here? I don’t have a ton of faith in Garcia for 2021. Dude’s like 12, but upside glimmers brightly when someone might have a starting job out of camp. UPDATE: Reds seem like they want anyone but Garcia to play short for them, so taking that hint, I moved him down and removed some projections. I didn’t add the Kyles, Farmer and Holder, the Reds’ backup options, because I prefer a Kyle Holder held me down while a Kyle Farmer ran a tractor over my foot. 2021 Projections: 21/5/26/.231/8 in 248 ABs
43. Anderson Tejeda – He saw time in the majors last year (23 games) and was relatively productive (3 HRs, 4 SBs, .253). The average is high there, but he can contribute power/speed, and is the type who is better for fantasy than real life. (Though, his glove seems to be okay, so maybe he’s good for real baseball too. I don’t know real baseball, is that weird? I am a robot fantasy baseball ‘pert. Domo arigato.) My biggest problem with Tejeda is he seems a year away, even after being up. 2021 Projections: 11/4/14/.219/3 in 91 ABs
44. Kevin Newman – This is a new tier. This tier goes from here until the end of the list. I call this tier, “Urine on a snowflake.” We’re all special snowflakes. Every shortstop has it’s tiny hexagonal ice crystal points, broadly determined by light, heat, humidity and playing time. These snowflakes have a tinge of yellow. As for Newman, already went over him in the top 20 2nd basemen for 2021 fantasy baseball.
45. Elvis Andrus – Rangers have moved on from Elvis for tending to their shortstop duties, but like every decision the Rangers have seemed to make in the last 20 years, and remind me strongly of their treatment of Michael Young, Elvis Andrus is slotted to play 3rd for them. Rangers move on like you in 11th grade when you were deemed a Stage 5 Clinger by your ex. It was unfair, if you ask me, you had every right to show up at her house screaming, “But we won Best Macarena’ing Couple at the Junior Prom!” UPDATE: Traded to the A’s. That really makes my previous blurb for him dated, literally and figuratively. The Rangers moved on from Andrus. Dot dot dot. Onto Khris Davis! Yup, Khris Davis and Joey Gallo in the same lineup, as the Rangers throw out everything anyone’s learned about lineup construction from the last 25 years. Any hoo! Solid landing spot for Andrus. Oh, it doesn’t make him better for fantasy, but now he at least will be playing near-everyday. 2021 Projections: 58/10/57/.248/11 in 445 ABs
46. J.P. Crawford – There is a certain class of player that is only rosterable in deep league, and the more they play, the less valuable they are. When your hunger for someone else and anger at who you have reach its pinnacle, it’s hanger. A lot of the guys in this tier are hangers. Joan P. Crawford gives bad hanger vibes. 2021 Projections: 68/10/48/.232/11 in 486 ABs
47. Brandon Crawford – This is the final year in Crawford’s six-year deal, so I’d expect a big year. Think: garbage/hot garbage/lukewarm garbage/surprisingly terrible garbage/more garbage. The Lukewarm Garbage is really where his value lies. 2021 Projections: 54/12/61/.234/4 in 507 ABs
48. Erik Gonzalez – There’s reports that the Pirates are bringing back their 1979 championship anthem, We Are Family, so it’s not weird when they ask their players to pay rent for their clubhouse locker, and do their own laundry. 2021 Projections: 47/11/51/.237/10 in 488 ABs