Last year is officially behind us!
Months after the Dodgers defeated the Rays in the World Series to cap the most unique season Major League Baseball has ever seen, followed by countless offseason moves and meaningless exhibition games, the baseball season has thankfully begun.
Of course, it is impossible to completely put the past behind us. For the Mets and Nationals, they must think that they are still stuck in 2020 as their season-opening series was wiped out due to the COVID virus affecting a host of Washington players. But for everyone else, every hit, home run and strikeout now count. That means we are all checking how our fantasy teams five or six time a not to see how our players are doing on the field.
Gone are the endless updates of our preseason rankings as we prepared for drafts. Now the fun part starts – tracking the players and their performance as the season unfolds. Will the top players perform as expected, or will one of them pull a Christian Yelich or Jose Altuve on us and stink it up all season. With only a handful of games in the books, the Top 25 Shortstop Rankings are basically the same as they were a month ago, but there has been some player movement.
So without further adieu, let’s get to the rankings.
|1||Fernando Tatis Jr.||SD||1|
Already there is already a change to this tier as Corey Seager is now ranked third, forcing Trea Turner and Francisco Lindor down a spot. Heading into the season I wasn’t completely sold on Seager’s 2020 season, thus ranking him sixth and just outside the top tier. Judging a player over 60 games isn’t normally done in a sport that tests you for 162 games.
However, Seager has silenced those doubts. He knocked the cover off the ball throughout spring training and has continued his torrid hitting in Colorado this past weekend. Outside of Seager, the rest of Tier 1 remains unchanged. Hopefully we will get to see Turner and Lindor finally play a game.
Adalberto Mondesi picked the wrong time to suffer an injury. After a excellent spring training, Mondesi suffered a strained right oblique days before the start of the regular season. With Mondesi on the shelf, he can’t help your fantasy team right now and thus tumbled down to 10th in the rankings.
With Seager moving into the Tier 1 group, it led me to reshuffling the players in this group the most. Bo Bichette saw the biggest drop as he went from fifth to eighth in the rankings. My draft rankings had Bichette so high due to his upside for the next three to five years. But drafts are over (for the most part) and we are playing for today. Considering Bichette’s small sample size in his career, I moved proven veterans Xander Bogaerts and Tim Anderson ahead of Bichette.
In just two games, Paul DeJong has nearly matched his home run total from 2020. Hitting only three homers last year, the Cardinals shortstop slugged two dingers Saturday against the Cincinnati Reds. Those two homers are not the reason why DeJong jumped four spots in the rankings to 14th this week. Instead, it is largely due to the fact that he is hitting fourth behind Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt. DeJong will get plenty of RBI opportunities hitting behind them this season, putting him in position to easily surpass the 78 RBI he had in 2019.
Coming in at 15th in the rankings is Willi Castro. I’ve been bullish on him since the rankings first came out and I remain a fan of his. He is hitting third in the Tigers lineup, and while opposing pitchers don’t fear the top of the Detroit lineup, it still puts Castro in position to drive in a lot of runs this season.
There really is no change in the rankings for Tier 4 other than Tommy Edman dropping from 14th to 16th. This is not a knock on Edman. A second baseman who qualifies at shortstop, Edman was bumped down due to DeJong’s rise in the rankings. This group will surely change throughout the season but it is too soon to drop anyone out at this point. But let’s take a look at the players we should carefully watch as the next few weeks unfold.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
With the Rangers in complete rebuild mode, Isiah Kiner-Falefa is one player I expect to move into the Top 25 at some point. He isn’t going to hit a lot of home runs, but he should be able to help your batting average and OBP while also helping in the steals column. Kiner-Falefa came up as a catcher before moving to the left side of the infield. With Elvis Andrus now in Oakland, Kiner-Falefa is now the regular starter and should put up some decent numbers.
Jonathan Villar did not make my Top 25 because of the uncertainty about his playing time. The Mets are set at second base and shortstop and are already overcrowded in the outfield. But if Villar can get four starts or so a week in his utility role, he will provide a big boost to your stolen bases. He’s shown power in the past, but he hit only two homers last year. But if you are looking to add Villar, it is because of his speed, not his power.
Struck by COVID last season, Miguel Rojas didn’t hit the field until mid-August last year. But once he returned, he was outstanding for the surprising Marlins, setting career highs in batting average, OBP and slugging. His .496 slugging percentage was 120 points higher than his career high that he posted in 2019. After a slash line of .304-.392-.496, it would have been easy to rank him somewhere in the top 25. But those numbers are completely out of whack with his career slash line of .265-.319-.358. Perhaps he figured something out last season as he did hit .284 in 2019, but I want to see what he does over the first month before proclaiming moving him into the rankings.
Tampa Bay thrives on having players who can play multiple positions and contribute when called upon. Joey Wendle is one of those players as he can play third, short and second. After an injury-plagued 2019 season, Wendle bounced back to hit .286-.342-.435 last year with eight steals in 50 games. If he continues to swipe bases while mixing in some home runs here and there, he could be a key add in mixed leagues this season and certainly in AL only leagues.
It won’t happen tomorrow nor next week, but it is only a matter of time before the Rays call up Wander Franco to the big leagues. The top prospect in the game, when Franco is called up, he will quickly be added to every team’s roster that already doesn’t have him stashed. Why is Franco considered the top prospect? Probably because of this stat – in 175 career games as a pro, he has made contact 92% of the time while batting .336/.405/.523.