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Fantasy Baseball Draft Rankings, Tiers & Strategy: Shortstops (2023)

Jan 30, 2023
Fantasy Baseball Draft Rankings, Tiers & Strategy: Shortstops (2023)

With apologies to Green Day … welcome to paradise.

Shortstop is fantasy baseball’s land of plenty. The position has a well-populated galaxy of stars. Even after the first 10 shortstops come off the board in drafts, there are still plenty of good ones left.

Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit

Fantasy Baseball Draft Rankings, Tiers & Strategy

Whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it at the SS position. Power? Check. Speed? Check. Batting average? Check. And there are plenty of shortstops who provide multi-category goodness.

Unless you play in a giant league with more than 15 teams, you should be able to get your hands on at least one high-quality shortstop without reaching. If you’re required to fill a 2B/SS middle infield position, double-dipping at shortstop is strongly encouraged. You can grab a star such as Bo Bichette early, then plug a solid performer like, say, Amed Rosario into the MI position.

Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy: Shortstops

All of my leagues have the MI position, and it’s a mortal lock that I’ll be rostering two shortstops in those leagues. But I won’t necessarily roster one of the top shortstops. With the position being so deep, I’m willing to wait a while on shortstops and use my early-round picks to address positions at which the talent is far more scarce.

Shortstop Trea Turner is the consensus 1.01, according to FantasyPros ADP data sourced from three different platforms, but I would prefer to spend the 1.01 on third baseman Jose Ramirez. Talent is scarce at third base, so I like the idea of grabbing the lone mega-star at third base and getting my first shortstop a little later. It’s a good way to leverage the ample depth at the SS position.

Let’s plunge headfirst into the shortstop tiers. In addition to the rankings and tiers themselves, I’ll offer a few words about some of the players from each tier.

(Please note that these rankings are limited to players who appeared in at least 20 games at second base or played more games there than at any other position.)

Fantasy Baseball Draft Rankings: Shortstop

Fantasy Baseball Shortstop Tiers & Draft Advice

Tier 1

Turner is such a difference-maker in our little game — and in the real game for that matter. He has a career .302 batting average and hasn’t posted a BA lower than .298 since 2018. Turner doesn’t have huge power, but he bopped 21 home runs last year, and that’s a reasonable projection for 2023. Speed is a big part of Turner’s appeal. He hasn’t stolen 40 bases in a season since 2018, but his 27 steals last year were the fewest he’s delivered in any full season. If 27 stolen bases is the floor … not bad. The move from Los Angeles to Philadelphia shouldn’t have much of an impact as far as park affects, and Turner should be good for 100-plus runs batting at the top of a strong Phillies lineup.

An established five-category stud, Bo Bichette has led the American League in hits in each of the last two seasons. He’s posted batting averages in the .290s in each of the last two seasons, and he’s delivered 38 stolen bases over that span. Batting in between George Springer and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the Toronto lineup, Bichette has a good chance to be a 100 run/100 RBI man. The Statcast numbers say Bichette mashes the ball, and the eyeballs agree. One small knock on Bichette is that with a groundball rate close to 50%, his power potential might be limited. But Bichette is just now entering his age-25 season, and we probably shouldn’t bet against such a talented hitter making an adjustment that fully unlocks his power.

I’ll admit that it’s somewhat aspirational to include Bobby Witt Jr. on Tier 1, but I’m smitten with a player who ripped 30 home runs and stole 20 bases in his age-22 season. Witt basically gives you the Trea Turner starter kit. Witt’s batting average isn’t likely to be anywhere near as high as Turner’s but Witt offers more power potential. I don’t expect Witt to outperform Turner this year, but as talented as Witt is, would you be completely shocked if he did?

Tier 2

It’s apt that Fernando Tatis Jr. and Francisco Lindor have a tier to themselves. Call this the high-risk, high-reward tier.

Tatis is unquestionably the biggest wild card in fantasy baseball. In 2021, he mashed an NL-leading 42 home runs in only 130 games, adding 99 runs, 97 RBI and 25 steals while batting .282 — all at the age of 22. His 2022 season was a complete washout due to injuries and an 80-game PED suspension, which he’ll continue serving through the first half of April. In the offseason, Tatis had labrum surgery and a pair of wrist surgeries. The 2021 performance says Tatis has MVP-level upside, but the downside is obvious after the 2022 debacle. Tatis could go anywhere from the early second round to the late third in a 12-team draft, but I suspect that in most drafts, some brave sailor will follow the siren’s song in the second round. Risk-averse drafters will decline to steer their ship toward the rocks.

Lindor is far less risky than Tatis but probably doesn’t offer as much potential upside. A perennial all-star during his years in Cleveland, Lindor simply stopped hitting when he joined the Mets in 2021 and was just another guy. He emerged from his slumber last season, batting .270 with 26 home runs, 107 RBI and 16 stolen bases. It seems as if Lindor is mostly back, but be careful: His xBA last year was only .254, and Citi Field is a notoriously pitcher-friendly park.

Tier 3

Wander Franco is an interesting case. He’ll have just turned 22 when the season begins, but he’s a highly advanced hitter with a beautiful line drive stroke and the pitch selectivity of a 10-year veteran. Injuries limited Franco to 83 games last season, so he didn’t offer much in the way of counting stats. And frankly, the counting stats are the only concern with Franco. With his advanced approach, he seems destined to be a perennial .300 hitter and contender for batting titles, but he hasn’t shown us much power, and it’s not clear whether he’ll be a 12-steal guy or a 25-steal guy. I’m not quite sure where this ride is going, but I’m eager to buy a ticket to find out.

Tim Anderson has batted over .300 in each of the last four seasons, and he’s posted hit rates of 35% or better in all four seasons. The question is whether he’ll be able to maintain an elevated hit rate and continue to provide stolen base help as he ages. Anderson turns 30 in June and played only 79 games last year due to injuries.

Oneil Cruz, the Pirates’ 6-foot-7, 220-pound shortstop, is a Statcast deity who posted a 100th percentile max exit velocity last year and was also in the 98th percentile for sprint speed and the 97th percentile for arm strength. A shortstop’s arm strength means nothing in the fantasy game, of course, but it illustrates what an athletic marvel this kid is. Cruz has 30/30 potential. The problem he must conquer is the alarming level of swing-and-miss in his game. Cruz whiffed 126 times in 361 plate appearances last season and batted .233. He might be a drain on your team batting average while he tries to figure out big-league pitching.

There will be a temptation to overpay for Dansby Swanson after his career season in 2022. He posted career highs in batting average (.277), runs (99), RBI (97) and stolen bases (18) while maintaining the home run pop that had emerged in 2021. A 35% hit rate accounts for the batting average boost and might not be sustainable, and the Statcast numbers suggest that Swanson is probably maxed out on power. We may eventually look back on 2022 as a career year for Swanson.

Tier 4

Willy Adames had a big-time power breakout in 2022, hitting 31 homers and driving in 98 runs. But Adames sold out for the power gains, as his average fell to a career-low .238. If he can just keep the average around .250 and maintain the power, we’re in business.

Carlos Correa‘s offseason world tour eventually led back to Minnesota after concerns about his ankle scuttled potential big-money signings with the Giants and then the Mets. Oddly, the concerns were about the lingering effects of an injury Correa sustained way back in 2014. I’m not sure there’s much for fantasy gamers to be worried about, because Correa isn’t a base stealer anyway. He’s never going to be the big star we were expecting him to be when he first broke into the majors, but Correa is still a talented hitter who’ll give you a good batting average and 20-25 home runs.

The Astros got nice rookie numbers from Jeremy Pena — 22 HRs, 63 RBI, 72 runs, 11 SBs — but the youngster’s methodology at the plate is concerning. Pena is a serious chaser. He struck out 135 times while drawing only 22 walks. The power and speed is enticing, but Pena might struggle to match last year’s tolerable .253 batting average.

Tier 5

C.J. Abrams, the sixth overall pick in the 2019 amateur draft, is expected to be the regular shortstop for the Nationals this year and bat near the top of the order. It might take a while for him to hit his stride as a hitter, but the real allure is speed. Abrams could give you 15-20 stolen bases this season and more in the years to come.

Trea Turner‘s arrival in Philadelphia pushes Bryson Stott over to second base, but he’ll have shortstop eligibility in this year’s drafts. Stott hit double digits in homers and steals in 127 games with the Phillies and is an intriguing growth stock.

It’s a shame that Adalberto Mondesi is made of glass. He’s played just 50 games over the last two years, and he’s never played more than 102 games in a season. In the Covid-shortened 2020 season, Mondesi stayed healthy and stole 24 bases in 59 games. No other player had more than 16 steals that year. Mondesi even has a little bit of pop in his bat, but his undisciplined plate approach has produced a lifetime .244 batting average. Mondesi is now with the Red Sox. He’ll give you steals by the bushel for as long as he’s healthy, but it seems inevitable he’ll join Trevor Story on Boston’s IL before long.

Tier 6

Rockies prospect Ezequiel Tovar seems ready to take over as the everyday shortstop in Colorado and offers an intriguing blend of speed and power. But Tovar won’t turn 22 until August and has only 35 MLB plate appearances under his belt, so expect growing pains.

Will the Yankees give 22-year-old Oswald Peraza a chance to be their everyday shortstop? With regular at-bats, Peraza could be a nice late-round source of speed.

After an out-of-nowhere 24-HR season in 2021, Brandon Crawford cleared the fences just nine times in 2022. His average also fell from .298 in 2021 to .231 in 2022. He’s a better hitter than that.231 BA, but with the 2021 power surge looking like a fluke, and with zero speed on tap, there’s little reason to draft the 36-year-old Crawford.

I’ve rostered Dylan Moore in a couple of leagues, and I’ve vowed never to roster him again. Moore provides stolen bases and the occasional home run, but all the o-fers add up and will torpedo your team batting average.

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