Up the Middle: Loading Up on Shortstops
I recently finished reading Joe Morgan’s autobiography A Life in Baseball. I really enjoyed it as he’s one of my favorite players and the book was written in a very honest, straightforward manner. One of my favorite parts of the book was when he discussed the “diamond within the diamond” and how important good defensive play is to building a winning team, especially at the positions of catcher, middle infield, and centerfield. That book was written two decades ago about a player who played four decades ago, and yet that principle still holds true. No matter how solid prospects start out at the shortstop position, there are many factors along the way, including the defensive ability mentioned above, that can determine whether that player will actually end up at shortstop in the major leagues.
Due to the fact that shortstop is still a very defensive position along with second base, the two positions can supply loads of value if you can find a player who is an offensive stud there as well. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to write about middle infield in the first place. But there is also the catch that the guy who you’ve projected as your dynasty league shortstop of the future ends up as a corner infielder. So what do I do as a dynasty owner? I load up on shortstop prospects and play the numbers game.
There are lots of reasons players switch positions. At shortstop, defensive ability is one of the biggest reasons players who start out there eventually shift somewhere else. Maybe they “outgrow” the position, or their offensive ability is better served somewhere else on the diamond. Another reason can be that they are simply blocked by a more proven star who occupies the position at the major league level already. There are several recent examples of these scenarios like Billy Hamilton, Jurickson Profar, Xander Bogaerts, and Manny Machado. Even big, bad Miguel Sano was a shortstop when he came out of the Dominican. Could some of these guys wind up back at the shortstop position? Sure. But some of them won’t.
There’s more to this strategy of loading up at shortstop than just trying to find somebody who can actually stick at the position. The best athletes tend to play short, due to the range and athletic ability required just to handle the position. So it’s natural that a lot of the best athletes have the SS next to their name coming out of the gate. I figure it can’t hurt to load up on guys who are considered the best athletes on their teams. Also, as I mentioned before, finding a shortstop who pans out on the offensive side of the ball is pretty rare in fantasy, so by loading up at the position I can sometimes find myself with an extra piece that has a lot of trade value to a team that has a farm composed mostly pitchers or some other less valuable position.
I won’t fuel any speculative fires since I certainly don’t scout these guys myself, but just as an example, I’m not counting on Carlos Correa to stay a shortstop forever, while I do think Francisco Lindor’s defensive prowess can keep him there long term. By the way, you can put in your two cents about Lindor over at Ben Carsley’s latest edition of Prospect Smackdown! Meanwhile, Corey Seager is probably a good bet to move off of short, while I like the chances of Raul Adalberto Mondesi sticking there, despite how far away he is. The point? I own most of these players, and I can jump off of the positional bridge with them when we get there. It’s kind of the same way I roll in Monolopy – I don’t buy a lot of properties, but when I do, I build mad hotels on that shizz. So what’s your strategy? Do you spread the wealth or do you load up on one spot in the depth chart? If so, which position? Have a safe and happy New Year!