When you think of the top shortstops in baseball, you automatically think of Fernando Tatis Jr. first, then probably Bo Bichette, Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, and Corey Seager – when he is healthy. Perhaps we need to add two names to that list.
First, let’s talk about Polanco. While he has seen most of his playing time at second base this season thanks to the Twins adding Andrelton Simmons in the offseason to play short, he still has played in 30 games at short this season, making him more than eligible to be at short in fantasy leagues next season.
Polanco got a taste of the majors in 2014 as a 20-year-old, playing in five games, and then in four games in 2015 before seeing solid playing time in 2016 by appearing in 69 games and getting 245 at-bats. He didn’t set the world on fire in those at-bats, slashing .282-.332-.424 with four homers and 27 RBI. However, in 2017 Polanco hit 13 homers and drove in 74.
In March of 2018, Polanco received an 80-game suspension after testing positive for Stanozolol. When he returned from the suspension, he played in 77 games and slashed .288-.345-.427 – all career highs. He then put up a 22 homer, 79 RBI season in 2019 while slashing .295-.356-.485. Last season was horrible for Polanco, but that could be said of a lot of players. But 2021 has seen a whole different player at the plate for the Twins.
This season he is slashing .272-.332-.491, with that slugging percentage on pace to be the best of his career. He already has established a career-high in home runs with 24 and his 76 RBI is only three shy of his career-best. What is the key to Polanco’s success this season? It’s not due to a significant reduction in strikeouts, as his 17.5% strikeout rate is in line with his career rate of 16.5%. And his walk rate of 7.7% is basically the same as his career rate.
In the case of Polanco, he is not hitting the ball on the ground as much and has become much more of a pull hitter. His career fly ball percentage is 27.2%, but this year it is 32.7%. Meanwhile, his ground ball percentage of 31.6% is two points lower than his career average. Meanwhile, his pull percentage of 42.6% is nearly 10 full points higher than his career average of 32.8% and his opposite-field percentage of 12.2% is 5.5% lower than his career average.
Polanco is also hitting the ball harder, with an average exit velocity of 88.2 (compared to his career average of 87.0) and a hard-hit percentage of 36.3%, nearly a full three percentage points better than his career average. This all equals up to an ISO of .220 (.168 is his career average) and a home run percentage of 4.7%, while his career average is 2.8%. Polanco has been able to add more power without sacrificing hit batting average or increase his strikeout rate.
Over the last month, he has been outstanding. In his last 25 games, Polanco is slashing .293-.343-626 with 18 runs scored, nine home runs, and 25 RBI. For the season, his RBI total ranks sixth among fantasy eligible shortstops (Manny Machado still is a shortstop in Yahoo and ranks first with 84 RBI) while his home run total ranks fifth and his slugging percentage ranks seventh.
Like Polanco, Swanson has been a beast over the last month, slashing .361-.411-.660 in his last 26 games. He has also scored 23 runs, slammed eight homers, driven in 28, and swiped three bases. After a horrible April in which he slashed .189-.267-.316 and 31 strikeouts in 95 at-bats, Swanson has hit no fewer than five homers and driven in no fewer than 13 runs in each month since. In July he slugged .596 and had a .944 OPS and has followed that this month with a .581 slugging percentage and .981 OPS.
During each of his full seasons in the majors, Swanson has improved his production at the plate, setting new career highs in average and OPS in each season since 2017. While his .267 batting average is seven points lower than his career-high .274 mark last year, his .494 OPS is 20 points higher than his career-best .464 mark last year.
Like Polanco, Swanson is pulling the ball more this season than he has in the past. Sporting a career pull percentage of 28.8%, he is now pulling the ball 32.1% of the time while going to the opposite field only 15.4% of the time compared to 18.9% during his career. His ground ball percentage is 1.2% lower than his career average and his hard-hit percentage (45.3%) is five points higher than his career average. These adjustments have helped Polanco and Swanson have outstanding seasons and put themselves into the conversation of who are the top hitting shortstops in baseball.
Before we talk about other players, let’s take a look at the rankings.
|1||Fernando Tatis Jr.||SD||1|
I talked about Nicky Lopez of the Royals last week in the Second Baseman Rankings, but I just wanted to touch base with him here as well. If you need speed on your fantasy team, Lopez is likely to still be available in your league. Over the past 15 games, he has eight steals while also producing a .357-.429-.429 slash line. No, he is not going to provide you power, but with steals always being in demand, Lopez would be a great add right now.
While Polanco and Swanson have been outstanding the past month, so too has Wander Franco. The top prospect in baseball entering the season, Franco is now showing everyone the skills that elevated him to that spot. In his last 25 games entering the weekend, Franco is slashing .319-.385-.553 with three homers, 19 RBI, and 26 runs scored. The chances of you being able to add him to your roster are slim to none, but if you are in redraft leagues, Franco is obviously going to be a high pick next year and be mentioned among the top shortstops in baseball soon.
Ketel Marte, Corey Seager, and Jazz Chisholm are back in the rankings this week. The only thing that has kept them out of the rankings is the fact that all three have been unable to stay healthy. Marte has seen more time on the injured list this season than at shortstop. But when playing, he has been terrific for the Diamondbacks. In only 60 games, Marte has 35 runs scored, eight homers, and 34 RBI while slashing .350-.402-.561. Over the past 24 games, he has four homers and 13 RBI while slashing .318-.375-.568.
Seager has been limited to 62 games this year but is finally healthy and producing for the Dodgers. In his last 25 games, he has 11 RBI and 16 runs scored and is slashing .283-.358-.446. The only disappointment with him right now is his two home runs in 92 at-bats. Recently back from the injured list, Chisholm is rostered in only 59 percent of Yahoo leagues and 53 percent of ESPN leagues. Like Lopez, Chisholm will give you steals. Unlike Lopez, he can also provide some pop. In the last two weeks, he has three homers, seven RBI, and five steals. If he is available, go and get him.