Happy February, Razzball friends, as we are now happily just eight weeks away from Opening Day. We’ve covered catchers and third basemen over the last couple of weeks, so today we continue our clockwise tour around the diamond and take a look at the current state of the shortstop position. As I will continue to repeat each week, I feel that an overall familiarity with each position as draft season ramps up is crucially important to one’s preparation. The more familiar you are with the player pool and how it’s being perceived by the fantasy community, the better. The more you know about the overall landscape, the easier it will be to home in on individual players you want to target, and to develop any position-related draft strategies that make sense for your individual league — whether it’s a 10-team mixed redraft points league, a 15-team draft & hold, or a 12-team AL-only dynasty.
Checking in at shortstop immediately after the top-heavy third base position, it likely won’t surprise anyone to find a world of difference in terms of depth. To make sure I wasn’t imagining things, I came up with this simple piece of concrete research to illustrate the point: while there are a grand total of eight players who qualify at third base being drafted in the top 140 (according to current NFBC ADP), that number more than doubles, to seventeen, when it comes to shortstop-eligible players. The 16th and 17th ranked shortstops are Amed Rosario (overall ADP #125) and Nico Hoerner (#139), both of whom I love at this price in the right league.
After that, we get a bevy of guys, some of whom I’m more interested in others, but most of whom I think have either a decent floor or some true upside: Javier Baez (I’ve faded him so far but maybe the new Detroit dimensions give him a tiny bump up?), Thairo Estrada, Jorge Mateo, Bryson Stott, CJ Abrams, Luis Urias, Adalberto Mondesi, Ezequiel Tovar, and Ha-Seong Kim. I have Estrada on a couple teams; even though I worry he may regress this year compared to his breakout 2022, I like the potential value here. Mateo could fall off the map this year, but the steals potential alone makes this a decent place to draft him for my money (and, while it’s unlikely I’ll have any shares, one could make the same argument for Mondesi). Stott and Urias could provide decent counting stats this late even without much improvement from last year, and both Tovar and Abrams could break out and rocket up ADP lists with solid springs. Kim I’ve also drafted in multiple leagues already (love the SS/3B eligibility); I think he’ll find his way to at bats even in a crowded Padres infield, and could improve on last year’s offensive numbers as he grows more comfortable in the MLB environment. (Personally, I’m drafting him over Cronenworth, who is being drafted 70-75 spots higher but who I think is more likely to completely fall off a cliff and lose playing time, and has a less desirable 1B/2B dual eligibility as far as I’m concerned).
Okay, so that takes us just outside the top 250 for shortstop choices (Kim’s ADP is 263), but what about after that? This is a deep league column, after all, and I normally like to check in on some players outside the top 300, 400, 500, and even 600 to find a handful of guys that could be ultra-late targets. Turns out there’s a mini cliff here… the next shortstop being drafted after Kim goes about 100 picks later. (It’s the Nationals’ Luis Garcia, by the way… an uninspired fantasy option indeed, at a point where I’d much rather be taking a flier on an undervalued starter, saves dart throw, etc.) Yes, that’s where this position gets weird, as I see it: once you get to the bottom of the fantasy barrel, I’m actually finding fewer options I like at short than I did at third, and even catcher for that matter. I will highlight a few here anyway, but with them comes the caveat that these are true escape hatches for me – regardless of what my league looks like, I hopefully will have grabbed a couple of shortstop options from the bountiful tiers above before getting to this point in any draft or auction.
Oswald Peraza. Okay, it’s even weirder than I realized: there is not a single shortstop-eligible player being drafted between Garcia at #361 and #434 overall, at which point we get to Peraza. Peraza could certainly shoot up draft boards with a solid spring and/or if it continues to look more likely that he’ll open the season as the Yankees everyday shortstop. He had a very impressive if tiny cup of coffee at the end of the year, and would look to provide a moderate power/speed combo of counting stats. I grabbed him in one draft and hold league, and can absolutely see making a small investment in an AL-only or similarly deep league… but it’s hard to imagine there’s much to see here in shallower leagues given all of the other solid options at the position.
Elvis Andrus. The only other shortstop with and ADP in the 400s (#456) is Andrus, who remains unsigned as I write this. As with Peraza, I have exactly one share of Andrus as a back-up, back-up SS in a draft and hold league… but even if he ends up with a relatively favorable landing spot and somehow continues the career resurgence he had with the White Sox late in 2022, I think we all know there’s no high ceiling here. Steamer predicts 10 HR/11 SBs and a .241 average/.301 OBP, which is right in line with what Andrus is at this point: a deep league fallback option.
I’m quickly going to acknowledge that at this point in a draft, we hit upon a group of prospect options – Anthony Volpe #503, Elly De La Cruz #548, the injured Royce Lewis #553, Bryce Turang #561, and (much) later Livan Soto #734 and Maikel Garcia #740 (both of whom I have one ultra-late draft and hold share of). I’m not usually one to stock up on rookie lottery tickets at this point in re-draft leagues, especially at a stacked position, but do check out what our prospect expert Itch has to say about these guys if you do want to throw a dart or two and need to familiarize yourself with what’s out there.
I’m going to hold my breath and come up with two more very deep league options, starting with Joey Wendle (ADP #513, also qualifies at 2B and 3B). I’m not exactly sure what’s going on in the Marlins infield at this point, and I’m not entirely sure they do either. A few weeks ago I actually giggled a bit watching old friend Krispie Young discussing the situation on MLB network, trying to temper his obvious disgust at how many guys would basically be playing out of position if things stack up the way it looks like they might. At any rate, it looks like Wendle will likely be on the strong side of a platoon, and play regularly against righties. With his multiple eligibility, a little pop, decent speed, and likely a not-hurtful average, I can think of worse things to do with a pick this late.
Dylan Moore (#576, also qualifies at OF) will have the honor of closing this post, and I actually kind of like him at the end of a deep draft, especially of course if you’re chasing a little late speed. (Note: the Mariners also signed him to a 3-year deal about an hour after I wrote this blurb, so at least we know he’s a legitimate part of their plans going forward). He had core muscle surgery when the season ended, so we’ll see how that plays into things, but I’d give him a definite bump in daily transaction or deep-roster best ball leagues, and feel there could be some value this late (he had 21 steals in just 205 at bats in 2022). Let’s not forget he also manages to knock one out of the park from time to time; Steamer projects 9 homers and 18 steals in 315 plate appearances. I agree that a 10/20 season isn’t out of the question, and if he can do it largely against lefties in 300 – 250 at bats, even better, as the fewer at bats might actually help mitigate what will no doubt be a ghastly average (.208 for his MLB career).