The Dynasty Guru’s Top 50 Dynasty Shortstops, Nos. 21-50
Congratulations on surviving another off-season. Now that the new year is upon us, it’s time to spend the next month traveling across the positional landscape, labeling players with numbers that correspond to their value. It’s the very definition of freedom. A ton of hard work was put into these rankings, and will continue to be put in as we bring you just an ungodly amount of information over the next month. We hope you enjoy the product we’ve created, and if you’d like to show appreciation for that work you can do so through this link, or via the donate button on in the upper right-hand corner of the homepage. All donations are truly appreciated.
The list continues with the guy who manned the middle of the infield for the World Series competing Royals:
21) Alcides Escobar, Kansas City Royals (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 27)
Escobar continues to get no love in fantasy circles despite finishing last season ranked as the fifth most productive fantasy shortstop in ESPN leagues last year. With very little power Escobar’s fantasy value is tied to his ability to hit for average and steal bases which he was able to do last year batting .285 with 31 steals. The steals are his most bankable asset now having stolen more than 20 bases in each of his last four seasons. Escobar has been a batting average roller coaster despite his low strikeout rate however his line drive rate has been trending in the right direction over the last three seasons. Roster resource predicts Escobar will bat leadoff for the Royals next year which should provide him an added fantasy boost adding runs to steals and batting average as possible strengths in 2015.
22) Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 9)
Andrus batted .263 and scored 72 runs last season, both of which were career lows. He figures to cross the plate a few more times in 2015 if a Rangers lineup that was decimated by injuries can get healthy but the devaluation is mostly due to his dwindling stolen base potential. His 27 steals were good enough to rank in the top 15 in baseball but he was thrown out more than any player in the American League and his speed score is not much better than league average. At least you don’t owe him $120 million through 2022.
23) Brad Miller, Seattle Mariners (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 14)
A popular sleeper entering 2014, almost nobody in baseball had a worse start to his season than Miller. Through May, he was batting .158/.234/.250 but posted a decent .265/.326/.447 from June on. The traits that made him a target last year are still present but struggles against same-side pitching, an unexpected spike in his strikeout rate, and a lurking Chris Taylor may limit his opportunity going forward.
24) Erick Aybar, Los Angeles Angels (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 22)
Aybar is a remarkably consistent, if boring asset who contributes in all five standard 5×5 categories. Hitting behind Trout and Pujols, he was a sneaky source of RBI in 2014 and figures to be in a similar position this season. If you want to fade him because if his age, we get it, but don’t be surprised if he finishes inside the top-12 shortstops yet again.
25) Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta Braves (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 15)
There is no current player whose YouTube reel you’d rather watch but unless he can recapture whatever led to 2013’s second half power outburst, Simmons brings very little to our game. Single-digit steals, a .250-ish batting average, and underwhelming run and RBI totals are on the way in what figures to be a poor Braves lineup.
26) Jed Lowrie, Houston Astros (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 19)
Lowrie’s BABIP fell almost 40 points and the result was a dip in his batting average from a career-high .290 in 2013 to .248 in 2014. The 2014 version is closer to the real Lowrie and while we can live with a .250-.260 average, a power outage sunk his value. A return to Houston should boost a 3.2 percent HR/FB rate that was 14th lowest among qualified hitters. A bounceback to the low teens in homers isn’t out of the question, assuming a third straight season of relatively full health.
27) Wilmer Flores, New York Mets (Age: 23. Previous Rank: NR)
Unless Sandy Alderson wakes up from his hibernation soon, Flores looks like he’ll be the Mets’ opening day starter at the six. Regardless of his defensive limitations, Flores can flat out hit. Over 162 Triple-A games in the past two seasons, Flores batted .321 with 28 home runs. A .275 average with 12-15 homers in a full season of major league at-bats is a reasonable projection.
28) Jung Ho Kang, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 27, Previous Rank: NR)
Kang hit .356/.459/.730 with 40 long balls in Korea last year and joins the Pirates, who have only Jordy Mercer standing between him and an everyday assignment. The Korean league is offense-happy, parks are generally small, and the talent level is mediocre, so you obviously have to take those numbers with a grain of MSG. Kang won’t steal any bases but does possess enough raw power to reach double-digit homers if he can adjust to major league pitching.
29) Daniel Robertson, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 21, Previous Rank: NR)
Robertson had a big year in High-A Stockton, slashing .310/.402/.471 with 15 homers before holding his own in the Arizona Fall League and being traded to Tampa Bay. The Rays have great depth on the farm at shortstop and though many scouts doubted Robertson’s ability to stick long-term, he alleviated some of those concerns in 2014. Robertson will never be a fantasy star but he should provide a high floor and arrive relatively soon.
30) Didi Gregorius, New York Yankees (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 37)
If you can hide Gregorius against lefties, he’s a pretty nice player. Sporting a career .262/.332/.411 line against righties in over 500 plate appearances, he has shown some over-the-fence power that should be enhanced by the short porch in the Bronx. The Yankees would be wise to platoon him but their only option is Brendan Ryan, so you may have to live with Didi’s 22 wRC+ against southpaws.
31) Danny Santana, Minnesota Twins (Age: 24, Previous Rank: NR)
When Santana was called up in early May, he was hitting .268 with four steals in his first taste of Triple-A. Speed-hungry fantasy owners who made the pickup were rewarded with a shocking .319 batting average, 70 runs scored, and 20 steals in only 101 games. Santana’s .405 BABIP was the highest for any batter with 400+ plate appearances since 1996, so the batting average clearly won’t hold, but he does have the potential to tally enough runs and steals to make an impact if he can keep his spot atop the Twins’ batting order.
32) Raul Adalberto Mondesi, Kansas City Royals (Age: 19, Previous Rank: 25)
Mondesi was the youngest player in the Carolina League last season by almost two full years. That excuses some of his ugly .211/.256/.354 line but it’s hard to get over that performance no matter the context. Mondesi possesses all the tools necessary to get back on track but he’s a boom or bust prospect whose glove and speed will play but bat may not.
33) Chris Taylor, Seattle Mariners (Age: 24, Previous Rank: NR)
Taylor lit up Triple-A in the first half of the year and the Mariners called him up shortly after the All-Star break to be their almost-everyday shortstop. Despite striking out more than a quarter of the time, he hit .287 over 151 big league plate appearances. Taylor’s next major league home run will be his first but he has the speed to swipe 25-30 bases with a full complement of at-bats. Keep an eye on the Miller-Taylor battle in the spring, as they could flip flop on this list depending on how it plays out.
34) Franklin Barreto, Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 19, Previous Rank: NR)
Barreto has yet to play in a full-season league but his performance in the Northwest League surely caught the attention of dynasty leaguers. His hit and speed tools both rate as potential 60 grades that, if realized, would result in a top of the order hitter who can make a significant three-category impact. He is several years away from the majors and may have to move from short to second but Barreto could shoot up this list with another strong performance in 2015.
35) Asdrubal Cabrera, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 16)
Cabrera offers a little something in each counting category but his batting average has settled in the .240 range due to weak contact and an increasing fly ball rate. There is plenty of downside risk as he approaches 30 and the modest power and speed continue to deteriorate. However, barring a resurgent Hak-Ju Lee there’s not much competition for at-bats in Tampa.
36) Nick Gordon, Minnesota Twins (Age: 19, Previous Rank: NR)
Taken fourth overall in the 2014 draft, Gordon doesn’t have the high ceiling offensive profile that historically belies a high school middle infielder taken in the top five. He should hit for a .280-.290 batting average, but doesn’t offer the same elite speed on the basepaths as his half-brother, Dee. Nick should be able to reach lower double digit home run totals, just don’t expect huge power.
37) Alen Hanson, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 24)
Hanson’s bat didn’t take a step forward during his second taste of Double-A in 2014, posting a 111 wRC+ line, adding 11 home runs and 25 steals. It’s starting to look like the ISO numbers that Hanson has posted the last two years (a .162 clip in 2014 and a .163 mark in High-A in 2013) might be a better indication of his power, not the .219 he clubbed during his breakout 2012 season at Low-A ball.
38) Jonathan Villar, Houston Astros (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 23)
Villar struggled through 2014, posting a .209/.267/.354 slash line in 87 games that earned him a trip back to Triple-A and put his role within the organization in question. Jed Lowrie was brought in to be the starter as a free agent during the winter and with Carlos Correa on the way soon, Villar will have to carve out a utility role should he remain in Houston.
39) Jordy Mercer, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 43)
Mercer improved his power output in 2014, going from eight home runs in 2013 to 12, but it came at the expense of his batting average and on base numbers. An awful first two months of the season led to his OPS slipping back under league average, finishing at .693. The Pirates imported Jung-Ho Kang from Korea this offseason and gave him a four-year deal to provide middle infield depth. Mercer needs to hit like he did in the second half of 2014 (.753 OPS) and 2013 (.772 OPS in 365 PA) to keep the everyday job.
40) Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
Francisco Lindor, ranked 11th on our list, will likely push Ramirez to a utility role as soon as 2015, but he has shown an ability to hit for average (.306/.355/.411 career) and steal bases at every level of the minors, swiping 38 at Double-A in 2013 and 29 between Triple-A and the majors in 2014. He could prove to be a valuable depth piece in deep leagues if the Indians do indeed deploy him in a utility role with somewhat regular at-bats and there is a chance that he keeps the job and pushes Lindor’s clock back a bit.
41) Adeiny Hechavarria, Miami Marlins (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 48)
Hechavarria rode a .323 BABIP in 2014 to post the best line of his major league career, a .276/.308/.356 showing. He is not a prolific base stealer, swiping seven bags in 12 attempts in 2014. Unless new double play partner Dee Gordon inspires more running, Hechavarria needs to take another step forward with the bat to gain mixed league relevance.
42) Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 42)
Crawford has steadily improved with the bat as he’s gained experience, improving his ISO, OPS, and home run totals in each of his four big league seasons. Crawford hit 10 home runs and added 5 steals in 2014, and appears to have locked down the job in San Francisco for the next few years, making himself a steady deeper league option.
43) Everth Cabrera, Free Agent (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 12)
If Cabrera can actually stay on the field instead of finding his way into jail cells and Biogenesis clinics in between DL stints, he can be one of the best sources for stolen bases of any middle infielder. His poor hitting in 2014 (.272 OBP) in addition to his legal troubles led to him to be non-tendered by the Padres in December. Unfortunately for him, his inability to use actual wheels without marijuana and then resisting arrest afterwards may prohibit him from displaying his on a major league field anytime soon.
44) Trea Turner, San Diego Padres/Washington Nationals (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
The 13th-overall pick in the 2014 draft, Turner will reportedly find his way to Washington as a PTBNL in the Wil Myers trade. The former NC State Wolfpack member should be a fast riser through the minors, clubbing his way to a .854 OPS across two levels after being drafted, including a .976 OPS with 14 steals in 46 games at Low-A in the Midwest League. If Ian Desmond departs as a free agent after the 2015 season, Turner could find himself in Washington as the starter shortly thereafter.
45) Willy Adames, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 19, Previous Rank: NR)
The Tigers sent Adames to the Rays as part of the David Price trade in July, and that didn’t slow him down in his first year of minor league ball stateside. Adames certainly didn’t look overmatched in the Midwest League, hitting for a .271/.353/.429 line with 41 extra base hits (19 doubles, 14 triples and eight home runs) in 125 games, despite being one of the youngest players in the league.
46) Josh Rutledge, Los Angeles Angels (Age: 26, Previous Rank: NR)
Rutledge owners everywhere wept when he was sent packing from Coors Field in December, forced to take his .628 career OPS away from Coors to Los Angeles in 2015. Rutledge will have a chance to compete for the Halos open second base job in the spring, an opportunity that he wasn’t likely to have in Colorado, but he will have to show he can hit without altitude and play good enough defensive to warrant an everyday job.
47) Zack Cozart, Cincinnati Reds (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 29)
Cozart should have a starting job in 2015, and that’s about the only good thing you can say about his fantasy profile. His OPS declined for the fourth year in a row to a horrific .568 in 2014, with his power evaporating, hitting only four home runs after reaching double digits in the two seasons prior.
48) Yunel Escobar, Washington Nationals (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 33)
Escobar has been sent packing twice already this offseason, once from the Rays to the A’s in the Ben Zobrist trade and again from the A’s to the Nats in the Tyler Clippard trade. He is slated to play second base for the Nationals and will bring his lackluster decent batting average/little to no power or speed combo to a good Nationals lineup, giving him plenty of time to discuss eyeblack jackassery with Bryce Harper.
49) Orlando Arcia, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: 20, Previous Rank: 50)
The younger Arcia brother started slowly as a teenager in the Florida State League, but turned it on late, hitting .309/.352/.422 in the second half, adding 31 steals in 42 attempts for the season. Orlando doesn’t have anywhere close to the power of Oswaldo, however his glovework is big league caliber. His bat will get a big test in 2015, with an assignment to Double-A likely for the Brewers top prospect.
50) Jorge Mateo, New York Yankees (Age: 20, Previous Rank: NR)
Mateo has appeared on numerous Yankees top 10 prospect lists this winter, despite suffering through a broken finger that limited him to 15 games in 2014. Scouts have given his speed an 80 grade from the right handed batter’s box, and Mateo used his athleticism to swipe 49 bags in 64 games at the complex level in 2013. Mateo may be the shortstop of the future for the Yankees, but the future is at least four or five years down the line.
Commentary by Greg Wellemeyer and JJ Jansons