Another day, another set of pre-season Fantasy Baseball rankings from Pitcher List, because it’s February and you can already smell the green grass. We’ve already gone over the Top 20 Catchers, Top 20 First Basemen, and Top 20 Second Basemen, and because we are not going by the scorecard, today we’re featuring the shortstops a.k.a. the best players on your little league team. There are surprisingly a decent amount of backup options to be had outside of the first two tiers, though grabbing that comfortable upside early may be a wise strategy in your drafts. Worst case scenario, there are some players with intriguing upside that can help you dance along the wire until you find someone who sticks. Lets jump right into the Top 20 Shortstops For 2016.
TIER 1: The Young-Adult Poster Child
1. Carlos Correa (Houston Astros) – The question about Correa isn’t if he’s the best shortstop in fantasy – that’s pretty easy given that he slugged 22 HRs and swiped 14 bags in just 99 games last season – it’s if he’s worth grabbing in the first round of your draft. It’s a tough question to answer, and it revolves around your draft plan. Keep in mind, drafting is more than saying “I like these guys, I don’t like these guys.” It’s about understanding who you’ll be able to get in which rounds, and knowing that if you’re planning on getting a pitcher in the 5th round, maybe you can’t pick up that mid-round sleeper you were aiming to get. While I may not elect to go after someone like Dee Gordon, for example, Correa could be a great option early as he expresses one of the biggest drop offs from first round production to whomever you select deeper in the draft. I wouldn’t be surprised if he found his way on a few of my teams this season.
TIER 2: The Stable Before The Journey
2. Troy Tulowitzki (Toronto Blue Jays) – I know he gets hurt. I know H2H leagues hate him and roto leagues love him. Let’s throw all that out the door and recognize that Tulo somehow didn’t lose value after getting traded from Coors field. Call me crazy, but I see a very productive year in the making for the Jays’ newly acquired SS. Toronto’s offense is unbelievably stacked, allowing Tulo to not only be a near lock for 100 Runs given 140 games, but also have a chance to continue putting up great RBI totals and smashing gopherballs in a home run friendly AL Beast. Don’t forget, when he’s hurt, you also get the added production of the guy you replace him with – who could end up being a high upside player like Trea Turner if the stars align.
3. Corey Seager (Los Angeles Dodgers) – I know he hasn’t had much time on the field yet, but this is the #1 prospect in baseball who will have full playing time for the Dodgers this season and has the tools to make a huge splash at a very thin position. We’re talking 20-25 HRs with a great average plus high Run and RBI production as he hits in the #2 spot in LA. I see Seager having the highest upside outside of Correa, and he could return 2nd round value at a big discount. Meanwhile, his floor seems to be elevated as well, making him a prime target in drafts. Go get him.
4. Francisco Lindor (Cleveland Indians) – I don’t see all too much of a difference between Bogaerts and Lindor, though Francisco did flash more upside last season, accruing more HRs and SBs in nearly 60 fewer games. Sure, the HR/FB rate of 13.0% will come down, and when he’s hitting only 28.7% flyballs you can’t expect more than 15 HRs, let alone 10, but he has better base stealing ability and should eclipse 20 bags for the year. Throw in an average that can hover around .300 and you have a stable producer at the shortest of stops.
5. Xander Bogaerts (Boston Red Sox) – People are banking on Bogaerts’ upside to kick into full gear this season, but after two seasons of poor HR/FB rates, I find it difficult to get all too excited. Fortunately, he cut his strikeout rate in 2015, allowing him to secure a better average, though that .320 mark should fall with his .370 BABIP – especially when he had a poor 21.0% soft contact rate. Xander’s minor league numbers do hint at more power, however I believe his two MLB seasons are more realistic to what we can expect.
TIER 3: The Search For Salvation
6. Ian Desmond (Free Agent) – Regardless of where he ends up, Desmond’s ability upside to hint of a 20/20 campaign instantly makes him a desirable asset. Sadly, there are a few holes in his swing leading to back-to-back 28%+ K rate seasons, which will keep his average much lower than you’d like. Still, his second half of 2015 showed signs of Desmond returning to his Top 3 abilities, slashing .262/.331.446 and going 12/8 over his final 72 games. Desmond may be a tough pill to swallow at times, but at the end of the day you can’t deny his upside that far exceeds the players below him.
7. Jung Ho Kang (Pittsburgh Pirates) – Fun fact: In his final 53 games, Kang slugged 11 HRs while slashing .310/.364/.548. That’s some serious stuff coming from a guy currently being selected in the 15th round or so. Don’t forget, Kang smashed 40 HRs in the KBO, so his power isn’t an aberration. Jung Ho will be getting a full season under his belt now that the Pirates dealt Neil Walker…if the projection of him returning before the start of the season is on target. Make sure he hasn’t endured any setbacks before drafting him, and I’m willing to take the chance for Kang to be a productive SS at his current ADP.
8. Jhonny Peralta (St. Louis Cardinals) – Say what you want about Peralta (I elect to focus on the H in his name that seems more lost than Paris Hilton in an AP Calculus class), he gives you steady production out of SS. He’s hit 21 and 17 HRs in the past two seasons while holding averages that don’t make you swear at your life choices. Now, there is some fear that Peralta’s poor second half will carry over into the 2016 season, though I’m willing to bet on his history over a small sample size.
9. Brandon Crawford (San Francisco Giants) – I’ll be straight with you guys. Aren’t you always straight? Straight as Bill Clinton, yes, but that’s not the point. The point is I trust discount sushi more than Crawford eclipsing 20 HRs in 2016. His HR/FB in 2015 was a staggering 16.2% when his previous career high was 7.0%. When paired with trends of hitting fewer flyballs (42.0% to 33.5%) and more grounders (37.9% to 47.7%), I don’t see Crawford suddenly becoming a stable power bat. However, it’s not all bad news for Brandon. His .256 average should rise as a 32.6% hard contact rate should dictate a BABIP higher than .294, especially as those groundballs increase. Still, you’re going to be paying a price that dictates 20 HR power and you’re going to end up disappointed when June arrives. Then in September you’ll warn your friends to even speak his name. Best. Summer. Ever.
10. Ketel Marte (Seattle Mariners) – I’m sure many of you are unaware of Marte and I’ll give you the quick lowdown: Marte is a 22-year-old who has a history of stealing bags effectively, and stole 8 in just 57 games in his rookie season. I see that rate rising in 2016, making a 25 SB season very reachable with upside for more, on top of a .280+ average that will keep you satisfied. He won’t hit much more than 5 HRs though, and his spot at the bottom of the Mariners’ lineup will not do him any favors. Still, he’ll be a dependable speed/average guy at a thin position, and you’re going to pleased with the results.
11. Jose Reyes (Colorado Rockies) – Reyes would be creeping up this list if it weren’t for his off-field issues that have an inevitable suspension looming over him as we begin the 2016 season. We won’t know until his trial starts April 4th, but with people suggesting 80 games could be the end result I don’t want to go near it. That’s complete dead weight on your team for an extended period of time (no DL spot for suspended players!), which will do you a lot of harm. Now, we don’t know exactly how long he’ll be suspended for (or if he will be at all, but that seems more far-fetched than that stupid “hoverboard” kickstarter. I mean, seriously.), and when he’s playing he’s easily in the second tier. Given a full year, he could easily top 30 SBs with a boatload of runs and an improved HR rate in Coors, which means 15/30 is completely attainable. Too bad he’s not as nice off the field.
12. Jean Segura (Arizona Diamondbacks) – I originally had Segura lower, but with the move to Arizona I think Segura can take a step forward and inch closer to his breakout 2013 season. He’ll be sandwiched between AJ Pollock and Paul Goldschmidt, providing ample opportunity to boost both his Runs and RBI totals, with a little more HR upside coming from the beneficial the properties of Chase Field. Additionally, I see Segura’s average rising above .260 given his speed and groundball skill sets mixed with his stubbornness to strike out (14.0% career rate). Sign me up!
13. Elvis Andrus (Texas Rangers) – You’re probably wondering why Andrus is ranked below Marte despite having a similar skill set. Pretty simple: a lower average and lower SB upside. Andrus hits slightly higher in the lineup so he gets the benefit of a few more counting stats, though the upside isn’t as strong. It’s a heartbreak of the hotel variety, though rostering Elvis isn’t all too bad. Just kinda boring.
15. Marcus Semien (Oakland Athletics) – There are minor rumblings that Semien will have trouble staying on the field due to his fielding issues, but ignore them as he’ll be the starting guy at short and you can expect double digits of both HRs and steals, with upside to touch 20 HRs in Oakland. He’ll need to cut his strikeout rate a bit if he expects to raise his average above .260, and you’ll probably forget that his 6 HRs and 3 steals by the end of May are actually productive. But hey, what did you think this was? Outfielders?
16. Alcides Escobar (Kansas City Royals) – I was a bit shocked to see that Escobar only had 17 stolen bases last season following a season of 31 steals. He’s been the staple of “good average, good steals, no power” for a while, though his time may be coming to an end. I expect his average rise from last season given that a .286 BABIP with his batted ball profile and speed is lower than it should be, but he simply didn’t run as often as he used to and that should scare you. It sure as bananas scares me. That’s a saying, right?
TIER 4: Begging For An Oasis
18. Alexei Ramirez (San Diego Padres) – Think of Brian Dozier’s ability at 2B, then think of someone doing that with about 25% less production and a lot more distaste. BLAMO! There’s Alexei. His speed is trending downward (30, 21, 17 steals the past three seasons), while hitting fewer flyballs = fewer HRs. His abysmal .264 BABIP should rise a little this year, though a 24.2% soft contact rate suggests luck wasn’t the biggest factor. His best days are behind him, though you may be able to squeeze out a little more juice for your team. That sounded a little…odd. Sorry about that.
19. Asdrubal Cabrera (New York Mets) – Just like most options down here, Asdrubal has a starting job, which means he’ll give you a decent amount of counting stats, and he has decent pop and should hit double digits in 2016. You really don’t want to be relying on Cabrera though. I’d go chase upside elsewhere before settling down with him.
20. Trea Turner (Washington Nationals) – Unless you’re in an ultra deep league, you’ve already filled your SS spot and at this point are just looking for intriguing options to possibly stash through the year. Turner fits the bill, featuring 70 grade speed and the ability to make contact through his minor league career. It may be a moment before he becomes a starter for the Nats, but when he does I expect at the very least Top 15 if not hint hinting at Top 10 ability as he swipes base after base. The rookie also has a fair share of pop in his bat, and could hit 10 dingers in a full season, giving him intriguing upside that isn’t normally found on the wire. You don’t have to draft him, but know his name and watch out for the Nationals giving him the call, especially if your guy hits the DL. Cough Tulo Cough.