2020 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Five No. 1 contenders for shortstop with star potential
Bargain shortstops who could become No. 1 at the position for 2021? Here are five candidates.
As part of my series looking for potential No. 1 contenders at each position for the 2020 Fantasy season, one thing that has stood out is how different each position is for this exercise. First base was surprisingly difficult — there just aren't that many players outside of the top 12 at the position with real potential to join the elite tier. Third base had a similar problem for opposite reasons; there's no shortage of talent at the position, but the upper echelon is so hard to break into, given how strong it is.
Shortstop is a lot more like third base. In fact, shortstop might just be the deepest position in the game at this point. You can reasonably expect to see four shortstop eligible players drafted in the first round in most leagues, with potentially as many as 10 off the board by the end of the fourth, and 23 inside the top 150. It's a deep position, stacked with elite talent, up-and-coming youngsters, and even older guys with plenty of juice left in the tank.
That makes these picks a bit more of a long shot to break into the elite tier, since the elite tier is basically the elite tier of the entire dang draft. Either way, there's plenty of potential lurking later in the shortstop ranks, and for this position, we're picking only players being drafted consistently outside of the top-100 on average:
Tim Anderson SS
CHW Chi. White Sox • #7 • Age: 26
People are skeptical of Anderson's chances of repeating his 2019, when he finished as the No. 62 player in just 123 games, but he might have a better chance than you think. Sure, he isn't going to sustain his .399 BABIP, but there were real improvements in Anderson's game: He struck out just 21.0% of the time, a career low, to go along with a career-high 77.0% contact rate; his average exit velocity and hard-hit rate both jumped to career-high rates; and Anderson started hitting the ball to all fields more. Add it all up, and he had an expected batting average via Statcast of .294, one of the highest marks in the league. No, it's not .335, but in this instance, it seems like there is probably too much over-correction based on the unsustainable BABIP. Only two players had 25 homers and 25 steals last season, but if Anderson hangs on to those gains he made last season, it's not out of the question he could join them while hitting at the top of an improved White Sox lineup.
Corey Seager SS
LAD L.A. Dodgers • #5 • Age: 25
You don't have to go too far back in history to find Corey Seager being treated as an elite option at shortstop, and he played like one for much of last season after a slow start. That slow start — which I'm willing to chalk up to offseason recovery from hip and elbow surgeries — extended through May 4, when he was hitting .232/.326/.360 with just two homers in 35 games. From that point on, Seager hit .288/.341/.530 with 17 homers and 36 doubles — a 28-homer, 59 (!!!) double pace, with 104 runs and 126 RBI. Seager still needs to optimize his swing to take advantage of his raw power, but if he does manage to do that, another leap is well within the realm of possibility. He still looks a lot like a pre-power-breakout Freddie Freeman, who didn't have his first 30-homer season until the age of 26.
Elvis Andrus SS
TEX Texas • #1 • Age: 31
The question here is whether, after rediscovering his wheels in 2019, the bat will follow in 2020. Andrus stole a whopping 31 bases, and that was mostly enough to push him into the top 50 among hitters. However, the bat has taken a clear step back since an injury-riddled 2018, and if he's just an aging steals specialist, there's not much reason to invest in Andrus beyond his going price. However, he hit .299/.348/.457 between 2016 and 2017, and if he gets back to that point while stealing 30-ish bases, you're probably looking at an elite option at shortstop — he was No. 1 in 2017.
ATL Atlanta • #7 • Age: 26
When he strained his quad on July 4, Swanson was on pace for a 32-homer season with 13 steals, 107 runs, and 105 RBI, so the question is how much of his struggles from that point on were related to that injury and the subsequent heel injury that landed him on the IL? The underlying batted-ball metrics back up what should have been a breakout season for the former top prospect, so let's hope the injury gods are on his side this time around.
Luis Urias 2B
MIL Milwaukee • #2 • Age: 22
Urias has been largely overmatched in his time in the majors, and a wrist injury suffered during winter ball has mostly scared off the sleeper hounds who might have been interested in buying low. That's OK -- more Urias for me. He's one of my top targets in the reserve rounds of pretty much every draft I do, and I think he could form one of the best middle infields in baseball for the next decade next to Keston Hiura. Urias is a career .308 hitter in the minors who has started to get the most out of his plus hit tool since reaching the upper minors. After hitting just eight homers in 344 games through Double-A, he has 28 in 196 games at Triple-A. Sure, Triple-A had the juiced ball last season, but that was with the same ball they used in the majors last season, so I'm not sure that's a great reason to write it off entirely. Hiura never had more than 13 homers in a season until hitting 38 between Triple-A and the majors in 2019, so there's some precedent. Urias won't be as good as Hiura, but there's the potential for .300 homers and possibly 20 homers and 10 steals playing half his games in Miller Park in an excellent Brewers lineup. He's expected to play in games as soon as this week, and could be ready for opening day.
So which sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which undervalued first baseman can help you win a championship? Visit SportsLine now to get rankings for every single position, all from the model that called Kenta Maeda's huge breakout last season, and find out.
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