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2020 Fantasy Baseball Primer: Shortstop

by Michael Waterloo | @MichaelWaterloo | Featured Writer
Feb 8, 2020

Lindor leads off Michael Waterloo’s list of the top shortstops heading into 2020.

When I saw the positions I had for the primers, and it started with catcher, I sighed. The position is SO bad that it was like pulling teeth to find 30 players who were worth writing about. But when I saw I also had shortstop, it more than made up for the catcher assignment. 

Shortstop is, by far, the deepest position in fantasy, where there are just a plethora of high-upside, high-floor, and across-the-board producers for fantasy managers. We’ll tier them below to help you out, but the position is so deep that the players in the last tier are still pretty damn good.

Check out our early consensus rankings for 2020 fantasy baseball drafts >>

2019 Recap

Using FanGraphs’ Auction Calculator, I took a look at the top-100 guys for roto leagues last year, and as you may imagine, with how deep and good this position is, there were 12 shortstops who made the list. Guys like Marcus Semien, Tim Anderson, and Jonathan Villar had the biggest jumps of the year at the position. 

Likewise, Manny Machado took a major step back last season, which leads to concerns that maybe he’s a guy who is built for Baltimore and not a place like San Diego. I mention it in the notes, but Machado is one of the hardest players for me to project this upcoming year.

As far as the out-of-nowhere guy who I’m not expecting to repeat his success, I’m looking at Anderson, who somehow led the league in batting average last year, but he had the second-largest gap between his batting average and his expected batting average.

2020 at a Glance

There are three first-round picks here, with Francisco Lindor, Trea Turner, and Alex Bregman. The latter two could be pushed into the early second round, where I’d jump all over them there if they fell to me. 

Similar to first base, you can slot in where you take a shortstop depending on how you’ve drafted early on. You can definitely take one of the big three and get across-the-board production, but if you want to tackle another position and then grab a starter, that works, too. If you do that, the guys in the second and third tier are still near-elite producers for fantasy. 

Shortstop, as if often does, seems to have a ton of young guys who are on the verge of breaking out and climbing tiers. Guys like Gleyber Torres, Fernando Tatis, Jr., and Bo Bichette are knocking on the top tier’s door, while Gavin Lux, Nico Hoerner, and Carter Kieboom can be had late and offer different levels of difference-making for fantasy managers this year.

Grade Legend*

A: A no-doubt stud capable of winning you a category
B: A solid, consistent contributor
C: Won’t lose you the category, but won’t win it, either
D: You can do better here
F: You’re getting NOTHING

(*Grades listed are relative to the position and take positional depth into consideration.)

Tier 1

Player Team Avg HR R RBI SB Notes
Francisco Lindor CLE A- A A A A- The only concern with Lindor is where he will play. He should be in the discussion at 1.5.
Trea Turner WAS A B- A+ B- A+ We haven’t seen the best from Turner yet. He has a Jose Altuve 2017 season in him yet. It’s all about health and position in the lineup.
Alex Bregman HOU A A A+ A+ C+ Bregman is helped out by his home park for home runs. I’d think 30 is a more likely outcome this year than 40-plus again.
Trevor Story COL A- A+ A A- A I’m not ready to trust the average yet, but back-to-back years of being a source of steals has me bought into him in the top tier.

If you want one of these guys, you need to invest a first- or second-round pick in them. They separate themselves from the pack because of the across-the-board production that they offer. Story and Turner take a slight hit in points leagues, and I’d move Turner to Tier 2 in the format. If I have the fifth pick in the draft, I’m taking Lindor, no questions asked. 

Tier 2

Player Team Avg HR R RBI SB Notes
Xander Bogaerts BOS A+ A A A+ C- Steals are the only thing holding Bogaerts back from the top tier. Bogaerts takes a hit for his counting stats with the Mookie Betts trade.
Javier Baez CHC B+ B+ B+ B+ B- Baez more or less repeated his 2018 breakout season. The plate discipline still worries me with his average.
Fernando Tatis, Jr. SD B+ B+ A- B A Tatis could be anything. He could be Javier Baez, or he could be Byron Buxton. We need a larger sample size and his expected stats don’t expect a repeat of last year.

These guys could easily make a leap into the elite, but there are certain aspects of their game that you can pick at to make you bump them down a tier. Look, we are still talking round 3-4 value here, so they’re going to be great. If I have a top-four pick, I’d look at one of these guys in the third round.

Tier 3

Player Team Avg HR R RBI SB Notes
Bo Bichette TOR A- B A- B B+ Bichette is going to be a stud — and 2020 is just the beginning for him. He has the profile to contribute across the board and make a jump into the top tier.
Gleyber Torres NYY B B+ A- A C I’m not sold on Torres’ power breakout. I need to see one more year before I crown him a star.
Carlos Correa HOU B B+ A- A C I’m still waiting for the A-Rod season to happen, but a young guy with back injuries is concerning. We’ll be holding out hope for Correa until 2030.
Marcus Semien OAK B+ A- A+ B+ B Semien was a true, legitimate MVP candidate last year, and his plate discipline is elite. He’s down this far just because of age and his track record of being a replacement-level player.
Jonathan Villar MIA C C+ A C- A+ I’m not investing in the current cost to get Villar. The steals are great, but I don’t want a .260 hitter for the Marlins, who may hit 18 homers.
Manny Machado SD B- B- B B- C+ I just have no idea what to do with Machado this year. He seems like a guy who was made for Baltimore, but we know all of the skills that he has. 

This is an interesting tier, as we have some high upside guys (Bichette, Torres) who could join the first or second tier next year. We also have some veterans with upside (Semien, Machado) who are hard to figure out. Then we have two guys (Correa, Villar) who you have to decide if they are worth the risk to invest in. I’m likely taking Bichette out of anyone in this tier, and I’ll just avoid the rest of the guys unless they fall to a spot where the value is too good to pass up. 

Tier 4

Player Team Avg HR R RBI SB Notes
Adalberto Mondesi KC C- D+ A- B- A+ He was a bust for me last year, and he’ll be a bust for me again. The steals are beautiful, but his terrible plate discipline makes him close to an empty steals source.
Jorge Polanco MIN B+ B- A- C+ C- Polanco was a late-round target of mine last year, and I like him again this year in that loaded lineup. No competition for playing time, either.
Tim Anderson CHW B+ C+ B- C- B+ I have to give Anderson a B+ because he won the batting title last year, but there’s zero chance he repeats that feat.
Corey Seager LAD B+ B+ A- B+ D+ Get ready for all of the Corey Seager sleeper articles you’re about to read. He’s a prime target for a monster bounce-back year.
Elvis Andrus TEX B C C+ C A It was a good rebound season for Andrus last year, and you’ll take the 30-plus steals at this point in the draft.

If you’ve still waited to get a shortstop, this is the last chance to get a guy who you can feel comfortable about. Or, if you took one of the high-upside guys early, it’s not a bad idea to pair them with one of the boring-yet-productive players here. Mondesi is the only one that I’m totally out on, as I won’t pay the price it takes to get him for steals only. Seager is a guy who I will probably have multiple shares of as his current price. 

Tier 5

Player Team Avg HR R RBI SB Notes
Didi Gregorius PHI C- B B B- C Leaving  Yankee Stadium will hurt Gregorius, but he’s going to another good hitter’s ballpark and a great lineup itself. Good option if you wait. 
Gavin Lux LAD B- B- B- B- B- For dynasty leagues, Lux would be in the first tier. For right now, he settles in here as his role is unclear. He could be a league-winner.
Nico Hoerner CHC B+ C C+ C+ C+ Like Lux, it’s hard to project Hoerner for 2020. If he gets the starting second base job, he would be a good high-floor guy.
Kevin Newman PIT A- C- C+ C+ B- Newman is a solid source for average and steals, but that’s about it. Nice player, but entering his age-26 season, so he is what he is, essentially.
Lourdes Gurriel TOR B+ B C+ C+ C- Gurriel is a hard player to figure out. He’s had some hot stretches, but the poor plate discipline holds him back a bit. He’s kind of underrated late in drafts.
Amed Rosario NYM B+ C- B C+ A- We are still waiting for — and holding out hope for — that big stolen base season for Rosario. It’s close.
Jean Segura PHI B C B- C+ C My fear came to reality last year when Segura’s steals went down with the Phillies. With new management, will they go back up? I think 15 is the ceiling.
Paul DeJong STL C- A- B B- C- DeJong’s numbers from 2019 are very frontloaded, and he absolutely kills you in batting average.
Carter Kieboom WAS C- C- C C D+ It’s more of a long-term play, but there’s huge upside here with Kieboom having the third base job to lose. 

There is some upside here, but you have to be able to be patient with guys like Lux, Hoerner, and Kieboom if they don’t provide immediate returns. The rest of the group are more middle-infield types who will still be valuable pieces to your team, but you can target them based on needs.

Tier 6

Player Team Avg HR R RBI SB Notes
Willy Adames TB C B- C+ C+ C- I’m lower than most on Adames, but if one player on this list could go all Semien on us, it’s him.
Andrelton Simmons LAA B- C+ C+ C+ C+ There’s nothing attractive at all with Simmons, but he’s the definition of an accumulator who could finish as a top-12 option at the position just by volume.
Dansby Swanson ATL C C+ C+ C- C FanGraphs did a deep dive into Swanson, and it shows that he could put together a breakout season. Worth a late-round gamble. 

I wrote in his note that Adames could be the next Semien, and it wouldn’t surprise me. There is some upside there, but he’s just a guy to me. Simmons and Swanson are guys who you can fill your middle infield hole with in the last round, or you can pick them off the waiver wire in case an injury hits your shortstop.

2020 Fantasy Baseball Primer: Catcher
2020 Fantasy Baseball Primer: First Base

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Michael Waterloo is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Michael, check out his archive and follow him @MichaelWaterloo.

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