With your NCAA tournament bracket now busted due to the rash of upsets this weekend, you can turn your attention back to baseball. In fact, why was your attention even turned away from baseball? With less than two weeks until the start of the regular season, spring training starts to take on a little bit of importance. OK, who am I kidding? We don’t need spring training to know who the top shortstops are, especially in 12-team mixed leagues.
However, there are plenty of 16-, 18- and 20-team leagues and thus a much larger player pool you need to dip into. Additionally, many deep leagues still require a middle infielder in addition to needing a starting shortstop. Depth is critical in deep leagues, and finding that gem late in the draft can be the difference between winning and losing a league.
With players locked into battles for a starting job, the spring training stats we overlook could help determine if Nico Hoerner earns the starting job with the Chicago Cubs or starts the season in the minor leagues. Or maybe a player you are tracking as a sleeper is having a horrible spring and doesn’t deserve to be on your watch list right now.
With no real games being played, the Top 25 shortstop rankings are in the same order as they were a month ago. The list is here to serve as a refresher, but let’s also look at some players who are not ranked but could provide some key depth in deep leagues. Remember, the ages listed for players are as of Opening Day.
|1||Fernando Tatis Jr.||SD||22|
Spring training stats can be taken with a grain of salt, but there are a few players who are showing they could start the regular season ranked higher than where they are now. Corey Seager is making it look like anyone who is doubting his 2020 season is being foolish. In his first 33 spring at bats, Seager is hitting .394 with five homers and 12 RBI while posting a 1.322 OPS. Willi Castro, who some may think is ranked too high at 15, is hitting .333 with 3 dingers, 10 RBI and has a 1.068 OPS. With Castro also having eligibility at third base, his No. 15 ranking may be too low as he provides the versatility so many fantasy owners crave.
Then there is Andres Gimenez. I was not sure where to rank him due to Amed Rosario also coming to Cleveland in the Francisco Lindor trade. But Gimenez took over the starting spot last year with the Mets and this spring is hitting .345 with two home runs and eight RBI while posting a 1.077 OPS. Meanwhile, Rosario is starting to get playing time at other positions, suggesting the Indians believe Gimenez is their man at shortstop.
TWO TO WATCH
What about the players who are not listed above but could provide some depth or even more this season? Injuries are always a concern and having a list of players ready to snatch off the waiver wire is always needed. One player I’m targeting who has plenty of upside is the previously mentioned Nico Hoerner, who has shortstop eligibility this year in Yahoo and ESPN leagues. The 23-year-old Hoerner is battling David Bote for the second base job and is having a strong spring so far with a .375 average and four RBI in 24 at bats and has a 1.069 OPS.
Arizona’s Nick Ahmed is not an elite hitter as his .266 batting average last season was a career high. But he can hit with power. As the starting shortstop for the D-Backs in 2018, he hit 16 homers and drove in 70 runs and then topped that in 2019 with 19 round trippers and 82 RBI. His walk rate has improved in recent years, meaning he could also give you close to 10 steals.
BEST OF THE REST
Jose Iglesias is a player who shouldn’t be forgotten. Do I think he is going to match his career high slash line of .373-.400-.556 that he had with Baltimore last season? No. But can he match his .288-.318-.407 slash line from 2019 with the Reds? Yes. And in deep leagues, you may need to count on Iglesias and his ability to at least match his 2019 season.
Mauricio Dubon will spend most of the season in center field for the Giants, but he is eligible at shortstop and second base in Yahoo leagues and is coming a decent season in which he had a .274-.337-.389 slash line. Meanwhile, there is starting shortstop Brandon Crawford. No longer the hitter he once was, he will hit 13 to 15 homers and drive in close to 60 runs.
If defense counted in fantasy baseball, Andrelton Simmons would be a top 10 shortstop. Defense doesn’t matter, however, meaning Simmons is left to fill out a roster. The new Twins shortstop isn’t horrible at the plate. In fact, he hit a career-high .297 last season for the Angels. However, he also failed to hit a home run and drove in only 10 runs in 118 at-bats. But over the course of a typical season he will hit around .270 and give you 10 homers and 65 RBI.