Throughout this series, I've written about how the end of the juiced ball era has helped to restore disparity across positions, with home runs again being the domain of first base while smaller, more agile middle infielders struggle to keep up.
It's especially true at second base, but to a degree, it's true at shortstop as well. The position doesn't dominate the early rounds like it has in recent years, and some of its staples have indeed seen their power numbers decline.
But not everything's going back to the way it was 6-10 years ago, and one change that appears to have staying power is the amount of offense to be found at shortstop. Maybe not as much offense. Maybe not the most offense. But what it lost last year wasn't entire conduits of production. Those conduits just got a little weaker.
Position Strategy: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP
What I'm trying to say is it's still deep, and it's deep in a way that allows you to focus on shallower positions early, like second base, third base and the outfield. Particularly if you play in a 12-team league with no additional middle infield spot to fill, there are plenty of shortstops to go around, with few substantive drop-offs in between. However tense the drafting has gotten at those other positions, shortstop remains a leisurely stroll.
But there is a danger to waiting too long -- not so much in the shallower format I just described, but in a standard Rotisserie league that requires a third middle infielder or something deeper than a 12-teamer, there will eventually come a drop-off. It is swift, and it is severe. And if you're on the wrong side of it, may God have mercy on your soul
Nobody needs to be starting Isiah Kiner-Falefa in the Year of Our Lord 2023.
|2023 ADP||2022 PPG||2022 BA||2022 HR|
Corey Seager TEX SS
Despite what ADP says, Trea Turner doesn't need to go No. 1 overall, for all the reasons I laid out in the opening. Me personally, I rank him sixth, which probably means I'm not getting him. But I'll be fine with any of the similarly capable outfielders (or one third baseman, Jose Ramirez) that I take instead. Yes, it's much more important to fill those positions early.
Not long after Turner is when shortstop begins to congeal into a homogenous blob. I'm leaving Bobby Witt out of it is because he'll more likely be drafted as a third baseman, and as I said in that position preview, he's being slightly overvalued in 5x5 leagues (and incredibly overvalued in points leagues). Fernando Tatis of course has monstrous upside that might make him worth the premium, but you'll be without him for at least a month. Plus, he'll be coming back from two major surgeries and a PED suspension, which adds some uncertainty to his profile, to say the least. The biggest problem with taking him, though, is that unless you're lucky enough to pair him with Ramirez, you're basically punting at third base. Maybe by some miracle, Nolan Arenado will slip to you in Round 3.
Drafting Bo Bichette comes with the same concern, and I'm not even sure he's such a standout anymore. He wasn't for the first five months last year, then was bailed out by an incredible September. He's more on equal footing with Francisco Lindor and Corey Seager, I think, particularly if you buy into the theory that Seager will be the biggest beneficiary of the shift ban. It's not like we haven't seen him hit .300 before.
|2023 ADP||2022 PPG||2022 BA||2022 HR|
Xander Bogaerts SD SS
Willy Adames MIL SS
Carlos Correa MIN SS
But wait, what about these guys? Is Lindor that much better than Dansby Swanson, who actually had the higher combined home run and stolen base total last year? What about Xander Bogaerts or Tim Anderson, two early-round staples of the past? And what about Oneil Cruz, who has as much upside as any shortstop not named Tatis or Turner?
I'd say that each is less likely than Lindor or Seager to live up to his best-case scenario -- Bogaerts and Anderson being two of the aforementioned shortstops whose power doesn't play the same in a post-juiced ball world and Cruz being an unfinished product with major strikeout concerns -- but it's true that the delineation isn't crystal clear. It's why, unless I can get someone like Seager at a particularly good price, I'm more likely to select my shortstop from this group.
As you can see, there's still a fairly wide range in ADP, so I wouldn't concern myself especially with which one I get. Maybe in 5x5 leagues, I'd try a little harder for the upside of Cruz, not being so fearful of his strikeouts. Maybe I'd try a little harder for Wander Franco in a points league, where his superlative plate discipline makes up for his power shortcomings. But basically, I'm good with anyone through Carlos Correa, and I find that he and Willy Adames are the shortstops I most often draft.
In terms of upside, Amed Rosario and Nico Hoerner don't even compare. They're competent enough to mention, particularly since their high contact rates and moderate steals totals help them in both scoring formats, but you've done something wrong if either winds up being your starting shortstop.
|2023 ADP||2022 PPG||2022 BA||2022 OPS|
Aaaaand ... this is the point where you realize you messed up. All the sure things at shortstop make for an unusually short list of sleepers, and for some of these, it's a stretch to even call them that. (Who actually wants to take a chance on Adalberto Mondesi again? Did CJ Abrams show us anything as a rookie? You get the idea.)
You may still be OK if you go with Javier Baez or Ezequiel Tovar. In fact, I'll take either's upside over Amed Rosario and Nico Hoerner from the previous group. Baez had a tough first year in Detroit, but he finished strong and will have the benefit of a closer outfield fence this year. Tovar I think is the real prize, though. He doesn't seem to have any competition for the job in Colorado after getting his feet wet late last year, and did I mention it's Colorado, that BABIP-boosting paradise where any competent hitter has a chance of batting .300? Yeah, I think it'll go well.
The Yankees duo of Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe is legitimately exciting as well, but I don't trust manager Aaron Boone to handle it right with Isiah Kiner-Falefa still in the fold. He'll presumably also want to find at-bats for DJ LeMahieu still. Between the two, Peraza has the better chance of contributing from the get-go since he's already gotten a taste.
|2023 ADP||2022 SB||2023 hope||Also eligible|
Thairo Estrada SF 2B
Jorge Mateo BAL SS
Bryson Stott PHI SS
Ha-seong Kim SD SS
Elvis Andrus CHW SS
Isiah Kiner-Falefa NYY SS
Suffice it to say there's no shortage of speed here, but some of it's coming from ugly sources like Jorge Mateo, who almost certainly won't be getting everyday at-bats this year, and Elvis Andrus, who still hasn't signed with a team yet. If it's not a player I mentioned in a previous section, it's not one you should be terribly eager to draft. Thairo Estrada and Bryson Stott have the best chance of proving me wrong, but if you're drafting either of them, it's more likely for second base.