Heading into draft season, understanding positional depth and statistical scarcities should be integral to your preparation. This season, you’ve undoubtedly read about how shortstop is one of the deepest positions and for this reason, you may find fellow drafters prioritizing other positions over the infield captain.
Considering you can target the likes of Corey Seager, Bobby Witt Jr., and Carlos Correa, in the 12 to 15 range, it might be tempting to wait. Though, despite being deep, shortstops are going to fly off the draft board. Based on 2022 NFBC ADP, the top-15 shortstops will be drafted before pick 100.
Data from 1-1-22 through 2-10-22
For a 15-team league, you can see the urgency to lock up a shortstop in the earlier rounds of the draft. For those who insist on taking the “see who falls” approach in your league, there is risk that you miss a top-shortstop entirely. If that happens, we’ve got you covered with my top-5 shortstop sleepers for 2022:
2022 (MLB): .262 AVG, 25 HR, 73 RBI, 5 SB
NFBC ADP: 131
Adames is becoming a popular sleeper pick, and for good reason. Following a trade from Tampa the former top-prospect flourished in an everyday role with Milwaukee. His historical home and away splits have been well documented so the move only opened the floodgates. Over 99 games with the Brew Crew he hit .285/.366/.521 with 20 home runs and four stolen bases while posting career best strikeout rate (25.4%), walk rate (11.4%), and max exit velocity (112.5 mph).
There wasn’t much that could slow Adames’ scorching hot pace, that is, until a leg injury hit in late-August that derailed his second half. While it’s tempting to extrapolate his success over a fully healthy 162-game season, we should rein in our expectations a bit. His post-trade breakout was fueled by a .349 BABIP and with a career strikeout rate just south of 30% we should anticipate some pace regression.
Even with some batting average correction, Adames has increased his walk rate for three straight seasons and his growing power was already becoming plenty valuable. Currently penciled in atop the Brewers lineup, Adames will be given every opportunity to flourish once again and there is a ton of upside if it all comes together.
2022 (MLB): .282 AVG, 11 HR, 57 RBI, 13 SB
NFBC ADP: 161
Perhaps safer than Adames, albeit much less exciting, is the steady contributor Amed Rosario. The headliner of the Guardians historic trade that sent Francisco Lindor to the Mets, Rosario is not elite in any particular category, rather is reliant on his hit tool and speed to produce fantasy value.
Rosario’s plate discipline is right around league average across the board and although it was a career high, his walk rate in 2021 was only 5.3% (league average 8.7%). This is unfortunate since Rosario produces one of the leagues highest sprint speeds and just getting on-base at a higher clip would unlock some of his stolen base upside. He was a perfect 13 for 13 when he did attempt to swipe a bag, and notably he hit .309 during the second half of 2021 and posted a career high 43.5% hard-hit rate.
Undoubtedly, there is added pressure in being the guy to replace Lindor so hopefully he will be more comfortable during his season year with Cleveland. Just now entering the prime of his career, there is some sneaky optimism heading into 2022. A relatively safe projection is .270+ batting average with 10-15 homers, and 15-20 stolen bases. He won’t win you any leagues but he’s consistently on the field and will contribute to multiple categories while in your lineup.
2022 (AA, AAA, MLB): .288 AVG, 18 HR, 50 RBI, 19 SB
NFBC ADP: 213
Oh, you wanted more upside? Here you go.
If you’re unfamiliar with the 6’7” Oneil Cruz, it’s time to get acquainted. The Pirates top prospect possesses 80 grade raw power and 60 grade speed (per FanGraphs) and has put the league on notice after an electric season at Double-A and eventually making his MLB debut.
His size raises some immediate questions as to whether he can stick at shortstop long-term and whether he will hit enough to play every day. The latter is the burning question at the moment, but provided his hit tool doesn’t become an Achilles heel, his power will play anywhere and you’ll want it in your lineup. Strikeouts are a big part of his game already but he’s found a way to stay under 30% for most of his minor league career.
Cruz had only a brief stop at Triple-A before getting called up, so there’s a chance he starts the season in Indianapolis. If that happens, he is the perfect hitter to stash. However, there is really no one blocking him in Pittsburgh, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him crack the opening day roster either. Cruz has tremendous upside relative to his ADP, just don’t go crazy in case he needs some MLB seasoning before blossoming.
2022 (AAA): .287 AVG, 10 HR, 19 RBI, 5 SB
NFBC ADP: 474
Thanks to the (likely) departure of Carlos Correa, the Astros have a void to fill at shortstop. The possibility exists that they address the opening in free agency upon conclusion of the lockout, but if not, a viable in-house option is Jeremy Peña. The 24-year-old was added to the 40-man roster in November and currently sits first in line for the opening day gig.
Peña has always been heralded by scouts for his plus-defense and hit tool, but he’s vaulted himself onto fantasy radars after displaying added in-game power during 2021. He’s a career .291 hitter in the minors and has flashed some speed as well. His ultimate upside remains unclear, but if it all comes together he could be a nice contributor across all categories.
He’s off of draft radars except for the deepest of leagues, but he’s one to keep an eye on, especially if he gets named the starter. Sometimes all that’s needed is an opportunity, and Peña may have just that.
2022 (A+, AA, AAA): .299 AVG, 16 HR, 49 RBI, 10 SB
NFBC ADP: 473
Another deep-league name to keep an eye on is Bryson Stott. The 24-year-old lefty has carved up minor league competition thus far; hitting .297 with a strikeout rate of only 21.6% and an impressive 13.1% walk rate for his career. Stott’s days in the minor leagues appear numbered and it’s expected that the Phillies give him an opportunity early in the season.
His output from 2021 is very much what to expect over the course of a MLB season, and while his growing power and decent speed is nice to see, his carrying tool will be his ability to hit. Scouts suggest he may move to second base or possibly bounce around the field defensively while keeping him in the lineup consistently.
Currently, SS and 2B are occupied by Didi Gregorius and Jean Segura, both of which may be on the move or relegated to utility roles sooner than later, which will open a spot for Stott to slide in. Even in the deepest of leagues he is still a wait-and-see until he gets the call.
Photos from Icon Sportswire| Adapted by Shawn Palmer (@PalmerGuyBoston on twitter)