February 11, 2016
Dynasty League Positional Rankings
Top 50 Shortstops
Previous articles in this series:
We, at Baseball Prospectus, have been talking about shortstops for a while now (three days and change to be exact, depending on when you are reading this) and the party continues to rage on. Yet before we rage, we shall calibrate—since rankings aren’t useful without knowing what you’re reading. The list you are about to read here presupposes a 16-team standard (read: 5x5 roto) dynasty format, in which there are no contracts/salaries, players can be kept forever, and owners have minor-league farm systems in which to hoard prospects. So feel free to adjust this as necessary for your individual league, whether it’s moving non-elite prospects without 2016 ETAs down if you don’t have separate farm teams or moving lower-risk, lower-reward players up in deeper mixed or -only formats.
This position is full of bright, young stars at the top—which is a great thing since almost the entire old guard at the six-spot is trending downwards. There is also a ton of minor league depth at the position, and it doesn’t seem like too many of them are going to move off before they get to the majors (at least for now). This could lead to a roto resurgence in another 2-3 years that could slide the position up from the bottom of the non-catcher scale for our rankings. That hasn’t been done in a long, long time. Overall, it’s still a strong position for speed, but with this youth comes power that we aren’t used to seeing outside of the occasional Tulo or Hardy the last few years. It’s a wonderful time to be alive.
So without any further ado, we’ll get to the ultra-obvious name at the top of this list.
1) Carlos Correa, Houston Astros
The new kid with the million-dollar smile fully exploded into the fantasy consciousness in 2015, by being the best fantasy shortstop in the majors on dollar-per-game basis—which is skyrocketing him up to first-round status in redraft leagues. Of course, he also couldn’t legally buy a drink five months ago, making him one of the ultra-elite assets in dynasty leagues today.
2) Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox
3) Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers
Before there was Seager, there was Bogaerts. Heading into the 2014 season, the Aruban native was an elite, elite prospect who had passed the smell test at the major league level in a glimpse the season prior, including some post-season experience as a 21-year-old. There were whispers that he’d need to move off the position that had grown into yells at times. Now, despite a step back and a step forward, Bogaerts is a 23-year-old who already has a top-five season at the position under his belt. We certainly get very excited about players like Seager, and for good reason, but let’s not just assume he’s great right off the bat. Or that he’s in a better position to succeed in 2016 than Bogaerts was in 2014.
4) Addison Russell, Chicago Cubs
It’s not uncommon for 21-year-olds to be overmatched in their first taste of the big leagues, and for the first 60 games or so of his 2015 debut, Russell certainly was at the plate. However, after the All-Star break, his power ticked up and his strikeouts ticked down—which is exactly the type of in-season improvement you want to see. Russell may never be a .300 hitter, but he can be a .280 guy that hits 20-25 homers, and he can do it as soon as 2016.
5) Troy Tulowitzki, Toronto Blue Jays
I don’t believe the decline is in full effect yet, but I have concerns that once the decline phase really hits with Tulowitzki, it will happen quickly and brutally. After all, players don’t get less injury-prone as they advance into their 30s.
6) Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians
If you think Lindor is a .300 hitter with 20/20 ability, this ranking is really low—so you can presume that I don’t believe that type of upside is in his future. He’s as much of a lock to stay at the position as anyone on this list, but .280 with 10-12 homers and 15-20 steals is more realistic. And the fact that someone this young with major-league experience and that potential checks in outside the top five is a testament to those who made it, not a black mark on Lindor himself.
7) Jung-ho Kang, Pittsburgh Pirates
8) J.P. Crawford, Philadelphia Phillies
9) Brendan Rodgers, Colorado Rockies
The second half of 2015 saw a big step forward for Kang before he was sent flying into 2016 by Chris Coghlan in September. Realistically, he’s not the hitter with a .913 OPS that he was after the break, as there will be secondary adjustments made by pitchers, but he’s better than I thought he’d be when he came over. Crawford v Rodgers is a really interesting exercise in floor versus ceiling—and there’s no question at all which has more of what. Crawford could be up this year and he a top-10 shortstop annually. Rodgers could be up in 3-4 years and be the best fantasy shortstop in the game.
10) Ian Desmond, Free Agent
The longer it takes for Desmond to sign, the tougher it is to rank him here. Either way, his style of play (read: diminishing contact ability and soon-to-be diminishing speed) has a specific useful life—which puts even more emphasis on his landing spot.
11) Tim Anderson, Chicago White Sox
12) Trea Turner, Washington Nationals
13) Jose Reyes, Colorado Rockies
Here, it’s speed of the past versus speed of the future. Both Anderson and Turner could contribute more than 40 steals annually once they reach the majors (and for both, it could be later this year). Anderson has more upside, Turner is safer—but both are legit top-20 fantasy prospects. Reyes is a wildcard because what he gains from being at Coors, he loses for his inexcusable off-field actions, which could draw a lengthy suspension this year. The trade market won’t likely resolve itself until the suspension is announced, but there’s some room for arbitrage here given the dearth of news on the subject recently.
14) Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants
15) Dansby Swanson, Atlanta Braves
16) Alex Bregman, Houston Astros
17) Ketel Marte, Seattle Mariners
18) Starlin Castro, New York Yankees
The breakout was mostly real in the power department last year, and Crawford can ride that to 15-20 homer expectations for the next few seasons. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with a whole lot else though. Swanson and Bregman are very similar prospects, but Swanson is more likely to stick at shortstop, which is as good of a tiebreaker as any. They both project to hit for high averages and mediocre power. Marte is a strong bet to carry good batting averages and speed totals in Seattle, and he did more than just hint at it this year. This is the year he becomes the default of the speed-only shortstop, rather than either the 19th or 27th players on this list. I am definitely not ready to throw in the towel yet on Castro, the Yankees’ newest second baseman. He finished extremely strong in 2015, which doesn’t mean a whole lot, but he’s also still just 25 years old and is a three-time All-Star with almost 1,000 hits.
19) Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers
Andrus without a positive batting average or 30 steals is just not a very fun player. It’s not too late for him to get one of those two back, but betting on both returning is not something I’m compelled to do.
20) Franklin Barreto, Oakland Athletics
21) Jorge Mateo, New York Yankees
22) Jhonny Peralta, St Louis Cardinals
23) Marcus Semien, Oakland Athletics
24) Jean Segura, Arizona Diamomdbacks
25) Gleyber Torres, Chicago Cubs
26) Orlando Arcia, Milwaukee Brewers
Like that time you took your daughter to see the last Twilight movie, Peralta sticks out like a sore thumb among these kids. He can still hit and there’s no impediment to playing time—plus, as a non-speed guy, he’ll age more gracefully than his contemporaries. Barreto probably isn’t a shortstop in the end, but he’s a bat capable of making tons of contact and running into some homers and steals. Mateo could be the next Billy Hamilton, either in a positive or negative way (depending on what you think about Billy Hamilton). Torres may have more pop in his bat than anyone in this tier, and Arcia is finding himself to be quite the trade chip this off-season. That said, he’s unlikely to be more than a decent average and 25 steals, even with playing time being close to imminent. Semien and Segura both have their flaws (if you could take Segura’s defense and Semien’s offense, you’d have a star-level player), but they also have their categorical contributions and Segura could bounce back in the desert.
27) Alcides Escobar, Kansas City Royals
28) Asdrubal Cabrera, New York Mets
29) Willy Adames, Tampa Bay Rays
30) Brad Miller, Tampa Bay Rays
31) Erick Aybar, Atlanta Braves
32) Wilmer Flores, New York Mets
33) Jedd Gyorko, St Louis Cardinals
The underbelly shows. Escobar is Andrus with a little less of everything. Cabrera and Flores will compete for playing time in Queens, but realistically it’s only a matter of time before a David Wright injury opens up a spot for each of them. It’s going to be a bad year to be a Gyorko owner in 2016, given that he’ll be playing a utility role, but he showed enough last year to make his a future worth waiting on as a 20-homer middle infielder once the playing time comes back.
34) Raul Mondesi, Kansas City Royals
35) Ozhaino Albies, Atlanta Braves
36) Didi Gregorius, New York Yankees
37) Nick Gordon, Minnesota Twins
38) Daniel Robertson, Tampa Bay Rays
39) Chris Owings, Arizona Diamondbacks
40) Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies
41) Gilbert Lara, Milwaukee Brewers
And we continue to have a bunch more prospects here. Mondesi and Albies could be speed-first roto options even if they are better real-life players. Albies is further away, but he has a better chance to hit for average. Gordon falls into a similar boat, but with slightly less speed and a little more pop. Story and Owings could each be 15/15 options in the NL West if things shake right for them, but the latter won’t get a chance until the Rockies move the albatross that is Jose Reyes’ contract and Owings is likely looking at 400-450 at-bats this year. Lara still has serious upside with his power, but it will be a long ways before he’s a useful contributor.
42) Eugenio Suarez, Cincinnati Reds
43) Wilmer Difo, Washington Nationals
44) J.J. Hardy, Baltimore Orioles
45) Andrelton Simmons, Los Angeles Angels
46) Javier Guerra, San Diego Padres
47) Jose Iglesias, Detroit Tigers
48) Gavin Cecchini, New York Mets
49) Alexei Ramirez, San Diego Padres
50) Ruddy Giron, San Diego Padres
If you’re getting too excited about anyone in this tier, you should probably stop. Suarez will get playing time in a friendly park, but if everything works out, he’ll be usable in mixed leagues. Difo has a slew of players ahead of him on the depth chart, but would be capable of hitting .270-plus with 25-30 steals at peak if he could find his way into a lineup, any lineup. Simmons and Iglesias still are bad hitters, but they’ll play because they are magic in the field.
Bret Sayre is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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