Every year since shortstop first emerged as the most dominant position in Fantasy Baseball, I've thought to myself "it can't possibly get better than this." And every year, it has.
Maybe it's because teams are willing to accept a lower standard for infield defense in the era of launch angles and true outcomes. Maybe it's something else entirely. The why isn't as important for our purposes as what we do about it. And to that, I say we wait.
Position Strategy: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP
If third base is the position where you can't afford to wait this year, shortstop is the position where you almost certainly can. The list of studs (my interpretation, anyway) is 13 names long, spanning from Picks 1-85 by ADP, which means that everyone in a 12-team league gets to have one.
OK, that's not necessarily true. Fernando Tatis is also eligible in the outfield. Trea Turner, Marcus Semien, Javier Baez and Jorge Polanco are all also eligible at second base. Some of those players will be drafted to play those positions instead. Say that they all do, though. Eight is still a strong number, and there are also Jazz Chisholm, Willy Adames and Bobby Witt looking to join the stud ranks.
Bottom line is you almost have to try to get left out at shortstop, and because some of the best it has to offer remain accessible for the first 90 picks or so (with some attractive fallbacks going thereafter), there's actually downside to filling the position too soon. You don't want to mess around and wind up being the only one without a stud there, but you also don't want to take the plunge until it's actually a priority to do so.
|2022 ADP||2021 PPG||2021 BA||2021 HR|
Xander Bogaerts BOS SS
Wander Franco TB SS
Corey Seager TEX SS
Carlos Correa HOU SS
Jorge Polanco MIN 2B
Having said that, you shouldn't hesitate to take Fernando Tatis first overall. Sure, he has the tricky shoulder that landed him on the IL twice, but he still appeared in 130 games and put up breathtaking numbers. He's potentially top-five in both home runs and stolen bases, and the only other player you can say that about (Ronald Acuna) is recovering from a torn ACL.
The shortstop surplus also isn't a reason to shy away from Trea Turner or Bo Bichette in Round 1. Just look at their point-per-game averages. Players who produced like that are so scarce that you have to capitalize on your opportunities to take them and trust the positions to work themselves out. It helps that Tatis and Turner are both dual-eligible.
After those three, though, it's like rolling a 10-sided die. I have my preferences, but they're subtle and shouldn't amount to more than a round's difference in the draft, as far as I'm concerned. I suspect I'll have a lot of Corey Seager, just because of how late he's going comparatively. He was my pick to win NL MVP last year, and while injuries made it an impossibility, he came on strong late. Conversely, I expect to have no shares of Francisco Lindor, whose struggles last year I suspect had more to do with the new ball than the pressure of playing in New York or whatever.
I should acknowledge that Marcus Semien stood out from the crowd last year, but he was one of the biggest overachievers by Statcast data and is now in a much worse situation in Texas. He's more likely drafted as a second baseman anyway.
|2022 ADP||2021 PPG||2021 BA||2021 HR|
Jake Cronenworth SD 2B
Willy Adames MIL SS
Brendan Rodgers COL 2B
As previously mentioned, Jazz Chisholm, Bobby Witt and Willy Adames are the three from this group with the best chance of joining the studs at the position. Witt is arguably the top prospect in baseball and a potential five-category threat from the get-go. It's not clear he'll have a job on opening day, but he should soon afterward. Adames was basically Xander Bogaerts from the time he joined the Brewers last May, and if you look at the home/away splits from his years with the Rays, it's clear Tropicana Field was bringing him down.
Those two are my preferred fallback options if I miss out on the previous group, with Dansby Swanson being sort of a last-ditch emergency play. I don't put much stock in Chisholm, personally, since he's strikeout-prone and had little to contribute after April last season, but a big breakout is possible.
Even if you really drop the ball and have to settle for Jake Cronenworth or Chris Taylor, whether at shortstop or second base, it could work out just fine. Both should deliver 20-25 homers. Cronenworth has more batting average potential than he showed last year, and Taylor is good for a dozen steals or so. I do like the upside of Brendan Rodgers, a former top prospect who finally emerged as a full-time player last year, but making him my primary shortstop is a bigger risk than I'd prefer to take.
|2022 ADP||2021 PPG||2021 BA||2021 OPS|
Eugenio Suarez CIN 3B
Brandon Crawford SF SS
Luis Urias MIL SS
Gavin Lux LAD SS
Kyle Farmer CIN SS
The downside to having so many high-end performers at the position is that there isn't much opportunity for new talent to emerge. There are still only 30 shortstop jobs available in the major leagues, after all. It's why you can't let the depth at shortstop lull you into a complete state of recklessness. Eventually, the talent drops off a cliff.
The most exciting name here is far and away Oneil Cruz, a 6-foot-7 unicorn with a spectacular set of tools. He can send balls into orbit, capturing the Pirates record for hardest-hit ball in only two games, and was also a competent base-stealer in the minors. Whether he's ready to stand in against major-league pitchers (or if his size will prove prohibitive at the highest level), remains to be seen.
Eugenio Suarez (third base), Luis Urias (second base) and Gavin Lux (second base) are more likely to be drafted at other positions, and you can read more about them in those strategy guides. I'd like to highlight Brandon Crawford's point-per-game average, though, which was up there with some of the studs' -- better than Tim Anderson's, even. It was an out-of-character performance for the 35-year-old, and his power production declined precipitously in the second half. Still, in an emergency scenario, it's not a terrible idea to roll the dice on a follow-up performance.
|2022 ADP||2021 SB||2022 hope||Also eligible|
Andres Gimenez CLE SS
Isiah Kiner-Falefa TEX SS
Jonathan Villar NYM 3B
David Fletcher LAA 2B
No infield position offers more base-stealers than shortstop -- and that's even with Adalberto Mondesi shifting over to third base. All three of the first-rounders are here, as are most of the "studs" mentioned at the top of the article. In fact, Corey Seager's and Carlos Correa's lack of steals might explain why they're among the latest drafted from that group, though the same can't be said for Xander Bogaerts.
The player who deserves special distinction here, though, is Nicky Lopez, a late-round steals specialist who also specializes in something else. After hitting .296 over his minor-league career, he finally broke through with that kind of production in the majors last year, batting .300 overall and .334 from June 13 on. He looks like the player we once envisioned Nick Madrigal becoming and brings more to the table than outfielder Myles Straw, another steals specialist who tends to go about 100 picks earlier.