The Dynasty Guru’s Top 50 Dynasty League Shortstops, Nos. 1-20
It’s the time of the year where we offer congratulations to those of you brave dynasty league owners that survived the offseason. The greatness that 2016 will surely offer is upon us and that means we’ll be spending the next six weeks moving our way through the positional landscape, offering thoughts on the respective values of roughly 700 players throughout the process.
We sincerely hope that you enjoy the countless hours of hard work that went into these rankings and continue to support The Dynasty Guru by showing your appreciation through this link or via the splendid ‘donate’ button located on the upper right-hand corner of the homepage. Donations of any size are greatly appreciated.
Players are ranked where they played 20 or more games at during the 2015 season at their highest position on the defensive spectrum, e.g. Chris Davis played 30 games in the outfield, meaning he’s an outfielder for our purposes. We can’t assume that a player will have eligibility at a position in the future (so no Hanley Ramirez at 1b for these rankings) or that a player will lose eligibility at a position in the future. This should clear things up for all non-Javier Baez/Jurickson Profar players, and we’ll do our best to explain where those players are ranked when the time comes. All DH types, such as Evan Gattis and David Ortiz, appear on the 1B rankings, as we will not be doing a UTIL rankings list.
Let’s kick off our shortstop rankings with a look at a player who is poised to be a perennial top-five overall dynasty option for years to come:
1) Carlos Correa, Houston Astros, (Age: 21, Previous Rank: 6)
Correa is the very reason why we tend to put irrationally high expectations on prospects. His first taste of the big leagues was much sweeter than his first taste of beer. What Correa accomplished in his debut campaign was absurdly stunning. Tantalizingly awesome. Unrealistically transcendent. I could do this until I run out adverbs and adjectives, but I’ll step off while I can.
There have been just 19 times since 1871 that a player at the age of 20 or younger put up an OPS+ of 130 or better in 400 or more plate appearances. One of those seasons belongs to Correa, who raked for a glorious 132 OPS+ in 432 trips to the plate. Take a look at the other names on the list, you’ll see a collection of Hall of Famers; Mantle, Teddy Ballgame, Junior, Hornsby, and so on. The only other shortstop in the selected company is Alex Rodriguez.
Even taking the 21-year old with the first overall pick in a dynasty draft would not be as outrageous as it may sound as Correa possesses the talent to be the second coming of A-Rod.
2) Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox (Age: 23, Previous Rank 3)
After a disappointing 2014 season, the Aruba native’s career got back on the track, slashing a respectable .320/.355/.421 with seven dingers in 654 plate appearances. Even though his prodigious power has not transformed into over-the-fence fashion yet, he did unleash 35 two-baggers last year, more than any other shortstop. It won’t be surprising if some of those doubles start clearing the wall in the near future, possibly as soon as 2016. His home park helps him in that cause as well. Additionally, he showed potential of double-digit steals annually, swiping 10 bags in 12 attempts. The youthful power that is dominating the game overshadows him, but keep in mind that Bogaerts is still one of the youngest regulars in the big leagues.
3) Troy Tulowitzki, Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 1)
A .260 average, 100 wRC+, 17 home runs, 77 runs, and 70 RBI. All of these figures he put up in 2015 were Tulo for his standard. As he steps further into the wrong side of 30, Tulowitzki’s vulnerability to injuries only gets more concerning. Leaving Coors Field won’t do him any favours, either. But even if his 2015 numbers become the new standard, he’d still be one of the best offensive shortstops in the game. In addition, hitting in front of the heart of Toronto’s murderer’s row lineup will help him score a boatload of runs. Even past-his-heyday Tulowitzki is a pretty darn good player–if he manages to stay healthy.
4) Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 10)
After spending his age-21 season as one of the youngest players in Triple-A, the younger brother of Seattle’s third baseman hit .337/.425/.561 in his 27-game September cameo. While repeating that line seems to be a tall order, above-average offensive numbers right away aren’t out of picture in 2016, with the potential to be a phenomenal batman. The question is whether he can stay at the position for the long-term. His bat could make him a top five at third base, too. The younger Seager possesses one of the sexiest fantasy prospect profiles.
5) Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians (Age 22, Previous Rank: 12)
In his first season in The Show, the eighth overall pick of the 2011 Draft put up better offensive numbers than most of us would’ve imagined. In fact, his .482 SLG and .169 ISO bested his previous career high at any level. That’s not something you usually see. So, while it’s common sense to assume his production will go down, it shouldn’t plummet all the way down to mediocre territory. He doesn’t possess as sexy of an offensive upside as Correa and Seager, but Lindor will likely be an above-average bat at the premium position for the years to come, with 20 or more stolen bases potential. Moreover, his minor league numbers suggests that he’ll start drawing more walks sooner rather than later, which makes him a more valuable asset in OBP leagues. And, as you know, there’s absolutely zero concern about the ability to stick at the six-spot.
6) Addison Russell, Chicago Cubs (Age 22, Previous Rank: 7)
Like Kris Bryant, his colleague on the left side of the Cubs’ infield, Russell made it to Wrigley after spending the first couple of weeks in Iowa. In that manner, modern day Ray Kinsella would answer his dad’s question: “No, this is Iowa, where the Cubs hold their mega prospects down until the club gains an extra year of control on them.”
The numbers Russell produced in 2015 were unspectacular, if not mediocre. But take a deep breath and think about this: since 1901, there have been only 34 player seasons in which a middle infielder had 90 or better OPS+ in 500 or more plate appearances. Many of them went on to have Hall of Fame caliber careers, or at least very good ones. Russell’s 2015 seems to be the dawn of another great one.
7) Ian Desmond, Free Agent (Age: 30, Previous Rank 2)
Coming off of three consecutive 20-20 seasons, Desmond’s production saw a precipitous drop in his contract year. If you take a close look at his career numbers, you’d notice that it’s been trending downward since his breakout 2012. His inability to make contact is especially concerning. Over the last couple of years, Desmond’s 28.7 percent strikeout rate ranks third-highest–behind only Chris Carter and Chris Davis–among players with at least 1000 plate appearances over that time frame. He doesn’t draw enough to walks to compensate for the pile of whiffs, as his 0.25 BB/K ranks as the sixth-lowest. There’s still a chance of his bat getting back to at least that of a 2014-level, in which case would be sufficient contribution from the premium position.
8) Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 42)
His offensive production has bettered in each of his five seasons in the big leagues. His breakout 2015 season earned the former UCLA Bruin a six-year extension that keeps him in San Francisco for the prime phase of his career. While it may be unfair to expect Crawford to have another 20-homer campaign, there’s a decent chance he’ll settle as a solid-hitting shortstop who scores and drives in more than 70 runs, smashes 15 or so long balls to go with a non-disastrous average for the next few years. That kind of production from your shortstop is something you should appreciate.
9) Jung Ho Kang, PIttsburgh Pirates (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 28)
I know he didn’t play shortstop full-time, but here’s an interesting fact: only Pirates shortstops who ever posted a higher single season OPS+ (minimum 400 plate appearances) than Kang’s 124 in 2015: Honus Wagner (11 times) and Arky Vaughan (8 times). So, in some sense, Kang has accomplished something only a pair of Hall of Famers did before. Sadly, his stellar campaign was cut short by Chris Coghlan’s vicious slide.
While it’s hard to see him repeating the .344 BABIP that he had in his rookie season, envisioning him to be a top-10 shortstop once again is not irrational, with the reports of Kang recovering more quickly than expected.
10) Jose Reyes, Colorado Rockies (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 5)
His days of stealing 60 bases yearly are far behind in the rearview mirror. He’s had various injuries over the past several years and missed a significant amount of playing time. Yet he remains a solid offensive shortstop when he’s healthy and still has the capability of swiping 30 bags and posting a good enough average to make him a top-10 fantasy shortstop. Additionally, Denver’s thin air could help Reyes regain some production. It’s also important to remember that he could face a suspension following the incident that took place in Hawaii in late October.
11) J.P. Crawford, Philadelphia Phillies (Age: 21, Previous Rank: 18)
Crawford has a real chance of being the MLB’s top prospect on some lists this offseason, so you may be wondering why he’s only ranked 11th among shortstops. Crawford’s a bit like Francisco Lindor, in that he has a better real life profile than fantasy profile. The 21-year old plays great defense and features an excellent bat, but his power and speed are only average. That’s not to say he’ll carry an empty batting average, but Crawford’s best power season may only be 15 home runs. Still, a peak-Crawford campaign could approach 15/15 territory along with a good average, which makes him a very intriguing dynasty asset, albeit one that doesn’t feature the sky-high upside of the other young shortstops ahead of him.
12) Jhonny Peralta, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 13)
After being largely criticized for their signing of Peralta, St. Louis worked some of their patented #CardinalsDevilMagic on him, causing him to have arguably the best season of his career in 2014. While 2015 wasn’t as great, a .275 batting average and 17 home runs for a shortstop is nothing to sneeze at. He may see a bit of a decrease in batting average next season and that, along with his age, will keep Peralta from ranking higher. Still, the 33-year old doesn’t rely on speed for his value, so it’s not hard to imagine Peralta continuing to be a starting fantasy shortstop for several more years.
13) Trea Turner, Washington Nationals (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 44)
Not only does Turner have his very own rule named after him, but he also became a top shortstop prospect this past year. Turner has a standout tool in his elite speed, and his bat isn’t far behind. In addition, scouts have become more confident in Turner’s power after he hit nine home runs across three levels this year in 143 games, including one in 44 plate appearances in the major leagues. Turner is currently ‘blocked’ by Stephen Drew and Danny Espinosa’s facial hair, but it shouldn’t take much for the 21-year old to move past those two and grab the everyday shortstop job. A ceiling of a 10 or more home runs with 30 or more stolen bases with a near .300 batting average isn’t out of the question, and may not be too far away either.
14) Brendan Rodgers, Colorado Rockies (Age: 19, Previous Rank: NR)
The third overall pick in the 2015 draft, Rodgers could have the most offensive upside in the entire draft class. Rodgers features a plus bat and plus power–a rare combination for a shortstop. Even better, the 19-year old hopes to eventually call Coors Field home. His ETA is farther away than anyone else ranked above him, but the overall package is very exciting. Rodgers has been compared to Troy Tulowitzki, and although that’s a bit optimistic, most fantasy owners would be perfectly happy with Rodgers being a slightly lesser version of Tulo. It’s worth mentioning that Rodgers isn’t a lock to stick at shortstop, but the bat would certainly play at third base.
15) Starlin Castro, New York Yankees (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 4)
It looks like Starlin Castro is on the Elvis Andrus Aging Curve™, having his best seasons as a 20-22 year old and regressing after that. Castro still has some value, but he’s no longer the exciting young shortstop that he once was. Castro’s apparent 20 or more stolen base speed has given way to just nine stolen bases over the past two seasons, and his power is unlikely to eclipse 15 home runs, even with the move to Yankee Stadium. Castro has the talent to hit .290, and if he can, there’s still something to be excited about. Unless his speed returns in the Bronx, Castro’s upside is limited. His imminent move to second base shouldn’t hurt his value much—the fantasy landscape at second isn’t much better than at shortstop—but it also won’t help. At this point, one of Castro’s biggest selling points is his age, which will somehow still be just 26 as he enters 2016.
16) Orlando Arcia, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 49)
Arcia is in the J.P. Crawford/Francisco Lindor mold, as his real life value is better than his fantasy value. But, Arcia has a special hit tool and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him hit .300. He probably won’t knock out more than ten home runs in a season, but he could consistently steal 25 bags. The overall profile isn’t too flashy, but it could still be quite valuable. Arcia isn’t far away from the majors, either, and has a chance to reach the big leagues late in 2016.
17) Ketel Marte, Seattle Mariners (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
Marte seems like Orlando Arcia-lite, as he has about the same speed upside, but less power and average. Marte may hit .300 in his best seasons, and could also steal 25 or more bases consistently. His home run power is unlikely to ever reach double digits, but there’s still a lot to like overall about the 22-year old. Marte should be the Mariners’ starting shortstop going into this season (after hitting .283/.351/.402 in 57 games last season), and his speed/average combination will make him a solid fantasy shortstop. He posted a career best walk rate of just under ten percent in the big leagues in 2015, and although it could be unsustainable, if Marte can keep that rate up, he will likely see his stolen base totals go up a bit.
18) Tim Anderson, Chicago White Sox (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 10)
Tim ‘Upside’ Anderson had quite the 2015 season at Double-A, stealing 49 bases along with a .312 batting average–but only hitting five home runs and walking just 24 times all year. While his power upside isn’t quite as high as once hoped, Anderson’s overall upside is still very exciting. Although Anderson could reach the majors as soon as 2016, he’s still a risky player due to a low walk rate and high strikeout rate that could catch up to him at the highest level. In addition, there’s a chance that Anderson moves to center field. That said, the upside for Anderson is immense, as he could hit 15 home runs and steal 40 bases along with a solid average. Anderson’s ultimate upside may depend on his plate discipline.
19) Marcus Semien, Oakland Athletics (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 26, 2B)
Although Semien led the major leagues in errors at 35 (the next closest was Ian Desmond at 27), he showed off some intriguing fantasy value. Semien probably won’t help owners in average, but his power/speed combination is very valuable. It looks like the 25-year old could have a 15/15 season if everything breaks right, but a 15/10 season is certainly nothing to complain about from a shortstop. Semien’s better defensively than his 35 errors indicate, so he may be able to stay at shortstop in the long-term, but, as is the case with Starlin Castro, his value won’t take a very big hit if he moves over to second base.
20) Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies (Age: 23, Previous Rank: NR)
Story was a very exciting prospect after being drafted by the Rockies in 2011, but his value dropped precipitously after a poor 2014 season. But Trevor’s story took a turn for the better last year with a huge bounce back season. Now, he appears to be on the cusp of the big leagues. Story could end up hitting 20 home runs in his prime, and possibly more thanks to his home park. Fifteen stolen bases is within reach as well. Story’s double-digit walk rate streak also died in his 61 games at Triple-A, where he walked in just under six percent of the time. Story’s blocked right now in the Rockies infield, with Jose Reyes at shortstop, Nolan Arenado at third base, and alleged All-Star D.J. LeMahieu at second base, so it will be interesting to see how the Rockies find playing time for him over the next two seasons.
Commentary by Kazuto Yamazaki and Ben Diamond