The Dynasty Guru’s Top 50 Dynasty League Shortstops, Nos. 21-50
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.
As we move to the second portion of our shortstop rankings, we start with a prospect whose timeline was likely moved up with his involvement in one of the offseason’s largest blockbusters:
21) Dansby Swanson, Atlanta Braves (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NA)
The number one-overall pick from 2015’s Rule 4 draft, Swanson is more than a polished college bat: he arguably has the best head of hair in baseball. With his draft pedigree and his involvement in a high-profile trade from Arizona to Atlanta, Swanson has garnered a lot of attention this offseason and this might inflate his price, but Swanson has above-average tools across the board and appears to be a lock for the middle infield. Don’t be afraid to buy him and own him even after he signs that inevitable Head & Shoulders endorsement.
22) Alex Bregman, Houston Astros (Age: 21, Previous Rank: NA)
The number two-overall pick from 2015’s Rule 4 draft, Bregman unfortunately does not have very special hair. Besides that, he brings a hit tool with as much, if not more, polish than Swanson’s, hitting .294/.366/.415 and walking as much as he struck out in 66 games across two lower minor league levels. He should rocket through the minors and could be in the majors by 2017. He might not stick at short, as Houston has that position kind of filled for now, but his bat should contribute no matter where he ends up on the diamond.
23) Jorge Mateo, New York Yankees (Age: 20, Previous Rank: NR)
Mateo is the owner of a 80-grade run tool, which as a shortstop prospect with a developing glove, makes him a highly intriguing dynasty league asset, despite his aggressive plate approach. Don’t be surprised to see Billy Hamilton comps placed on Mateo as he rockets up prospect rankings, along with lots of the same hype (and questions). If Mateo can stick in the infield, speed like that becomes a game changer. If Mateo can can continue to build on the adjustments from last year, then he should be able to take a huge step forward in these rankings next winter, but will face a huge test both offensively and defensively in 2016, as he works his way from High-A to a potential run at Double-A.
24) Franklin Barreto, Oakland Athletics (Age: 20, Previous Rank: 34)
It’s entirely possible, likely even, that Barreto will move down the defensive spectrum and lose shortstop eligibility early into his major league career. That’s the bad news. The good news is the bad news stops there. Regardless of where he ends up, or when he ends up there, Barreto projects to be useful on a contending team. He should hit for average and provide 15-20 stolen bases and 10-15 homers, which is useful at any position. But it would be great at shortstop, wouldn’t it?
25) Brad Miller, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 23)
The Rays are collecting former Mariner shortstops like they’re Pokemon, but where last year’s Nick Franklin was a Metapod, there’s hope that Miller could be a level 19 Magikarp. Outside of another trade or free agency signing, there is very little risk of Miller losing playing time or shortstop eligibility in Tampa, unless the Rays decide to platoon him (he had a 42 wRC+ against lefties last year compared to 125 wRC+ against righties). Has he splashed around enough that he can level up to string of 15-homerun/15-steal seasons?
26) Erick Aybar, Atlanta Braves (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 24)
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… wait. Crap. The Angels traded him, so copying and pasting last year’s writeup won’t fly. In Atlanta, Aybar’s runs and RBI will dip a bit, as he’ll still provide a little bit of value everywhere but probably not much more than that. In deep leagues, that’s pretty useful, and he should be cheap.
27a) Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 22)
Andrus’ batting average, on-base-percentage, runs and steals all (once again) hit career-lows in his age-26 season in 2015, even as the rest of the Rangers lineup heated up around him. On the bright side, he hit a career high seven homers, and his 25 steals were even more valuable in 2015 given the overall decline in speed across the league, and his BABIP was .283, well below his previous career-low .305 BABIP. He’s the type of player for whom regression to the mean should actually mean improvement. Just don’t say “it can’t get worse,” because Andrus now has a three-year track record of proving that wrong.
28) Gleyber Torres, Chicago Cubs (Age: 19, Previous Rank: NR)
Young shortstop prospects with unique names are notoriously unpredictable (just look all over this list) but there are a few things you can count on with Torres. His hit tool can carry him even if his strikeout rate remains around 20 percent. Torres may outgrow the position down the line, but it won’t keep him from 20-stolen base upside wherever he ends up. And by the time he finally makes it to the majors, you will be sick and tired of the Cubs having so many intriguing middle infield prospects.
29) Wilmer Flores, New York Mets (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 27)
Flores’ glove at short was supposed to make him the LOLMets-iest of them all. He did get to participate in the saddest LOLMets moment in recent memory as he was left on-field despite (false) reports that he had been traded in the middle of a game. Outside of that, though, he had a productive season, mashing 16 home runs and keeping his average above .260. The Mets added the next guy on this list, putting his 2016 playing time up in the air (at least until Wright is injured and Cabrera moves to third). The long-term upside is still 20 homers and a .275 average, but without a clear path to 2016 playing time, Flores is just a BRBMet.
30) Asdrubal Cabrera, (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 35)
The hope for Cabrera at this stage in his career is that his power won’t be sapped by Citi Field and the Mets’ troubles keeping their lineup healthy will allow him to add positional eligibility, making him a great add to any contender’s bench. Cabrera had been a lock for 15 home runs and 10 steals since the 2012 season, but the steals took a dip last year and could disappear completely under Terry Collins. With a goose egg in one category and a park that could suppress his average power, there’s reason to exercise caution while still expecting a productive player.
31) Jose Iglesias, Detroit Tigers (Age: 26, Previous Rank: NA)
Iglesias did not strike out at all in 2014, and only struck out 44 times in 2015. The difference is in 2014 he played 0 games, and in 2015 he played 120. He makes contact all the time, and a lot of the time the ball gets through and he gets on base–which is good because he mostly stops at first and doesn’t run much once he gets there. Single-category contributors are dangerous, even moreso when their category is batting average, but Iglesias will be valuable as long as he can continue to prove BABIP-haters wrong.
32) Eugenio Suarez, Cincinnati Reds (Age: 24, Previous Rank: NA)
Replacing an injured Zack Cozart, Suarez put it all together for a solid, if not spectacular, 98 games as one of the few bright spots on a terrible Reds team. Suarez will likely gain third base eligibility early in the year, but could lose shortstop eligibility for 2017 and beyond. The 2015 batting average had good bit of BABIP inflating it– expecting .260 with 15-20 home runs might be more realistic.
33) Didi Gregorius, New York Yankees (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 30)
Gregorius quietly put together a surprising 2015 season, essentially erasing his brutal platoon split against lefties. Unfortunately, even without the platoon split he hit .265/.318/.370 with nine home runs and five steals. The stellar defense will ensure he plays every day, and his maturation at the plate against lefties shows there is still projection left. His strikeout percentage was in the top-40 of all qualified hitters across the majors, so in formats where strikeouts are penalized he could be a sneaky asset.
34) Ozhaino Albies, Atlanta Braves (Age: 19, Previous Rank: NA)
Some reports have Albies as the best pure prospect in Atlanta’s system even after accounting for Dansby Swanson, and he certainly garnered a lot of attention after a stellar 2015 campaign in Low-A. The glove plays at short, which will help, given his Ben-Reverian power potential. In the current fantasy environment, a .280-hitting shortstop with 20-30 stolen bases can be pretty valuable. But that’s “good Elvis Andrus” type of production, and the floor is “the other Elvis Andrus.”
35) Willy Adames, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 20, Previous Rank: 45)
You can ask a lot of questions about Willy Adames: will he be able to cut down on the strikeout rate (27 percent in 106 games in 2015) enough for his hit tool to translate into a strong average? Can he add more pop as he fills out, or is his upside 10-15 home runs? Can he stick at short, where his limited fantasy upside won’t hurt him? Is his first name really just “Willy,” as Baseball Reference suggests? He’ll have a chance to answer all of these questions in 2016–except that last one–where he’ll finally be at an age appropriate level.
36) Alexei Ramirez, San Diego Padres (Age: 34, Previous Rank: 15)
One year after a resurgence that made him a legitimate starting option, Ramirez crashed and burned in 2015. Every relevant fantasy statistic took a hit and he became non-startable as the season progressed. At this point, he offers nothing more than health and a bit of speed. In deep leagues and NL-only formats, this makes him a legitimate option for a team in need of a player for the 2016 season. Dynasty owners in a rebuilding phase should look elsewhere and move him to a contender in desperate need of a shortstop.
37) Raul Adalberto Mondesi, Kansas City Royals (Age: 20, Previous Rank: 32)
Mondesi had the unique distinction of making his major league debut in the 2015 World Series. However, he is quite obviously not ready to contribute to either a fantasy or major league team at this time. He is highly regarded, ranking inside most top-50 prospect lists, but this is unquestionably due to his potential, rather than his performance. He has always been extremely young for his level and he played this past season at Double-A as a 19-year old. He is projected to have quality hitting skills and with his excellent speed, Mondesi should be able swipe 20 or more bases per season. He does not possess anywhere near the power of his father, Raul Mondesi, and might struggle to post double digit home runs at his peak. He should be owned in all dynasty formats, but even if he reaches his all-star potential, it might not translate to fantasy greatness.
38) Adeiny Hechavarria, Miami Marlins (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 41)
Through three seasons, Hechavarria has clearly established who he is. He will hit somewhere between 5-10 home runs and accumulate about the same number of stolen bases. Last year’s .281 batting average represented likely his best case scenario, as projection systems expect him to regress back to the .260 range. On top of all that, he bats eighth in the order in a lineup that is fairly top heavy. So what does he have going for him? His glove will keep him in the lineup and that alone makes him useful in deep mixed or NL-only leagues. In short, this is not a player that will not help you win your league but if you are in a deep league that utilizes a MI slot, he is of some value.
39) Jedd Gyorko, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 27, Previous Rank: NR)
What a difference three years makes. Going into the 2014 season, Gyorko was a highly coveted asset after posting elite power numbers for a middle infielder. While his .249 batting average was far from ideal, hitting 23 home runs in a partial rookie season foretold greatness to come. Fast forward to 2016, and Gyorko is an afterthought. The contact issues that plagued him during his rookie season remain but the power that impressed owners did not develop as expected and has actually regressed. Gyorko’s move to St. Louis will likely place him in a utility role for 2016, but he still possesses the ability to hit 20 home runs in a full time role, so keep an eye out for injuries in the St. Louis infield.
40) Chris Owings, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 17)
Owings is another player who suffered significant regression from his first full season. His batting average dropped from .261 to .227, and despite 200 more at-bats, his home run output dropped from six to a mere four. Owings doubled his stolen base total from eight in 2014 to 16 in 2015, but his future in Arizona is cloudy, as he faces internal competition from Nick Ahmed, Brandon Drury and Aaron Hill at the middle infield spots, and the team’s designs on contention could lead to them signing a free agent to fill a starting second base role. All things considered, you could do worse in an NL-only league than having Owings as your middle infielder, as he could be a cheap source of speed.
41) Andrelton Simmons, Anaheim Angels (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 25)
Unlike many shortstops in this range, playing time is not a concern for Simmons. The Angels just traded their two best/only remaining prospects for him and he is widely considered to be one of the best at the position defensively in the history of baseball. The problem is that none of his greatness on defense counts toward your fantasy categories. His second season saw a home run spike upward to 17, but since then he has not hit more than seven. He is moving to a slightly more favorable situation, both in ballpark and lineup, so some statistical improvement would not be surprising– but it’s probably not prudent to expect more than five to ten home runs and virtually no stolen bases. His batting average should hover around .260 to .270–making him neither an asset nor a detriment in that area. His main value is in deep mixed leagues or AL-only leagues, as he has guaranteed playing time.
42) Javier Guerra, San Diego Padres (Age: 20, Previous Rank: NR)
Guerra is now best-known as the second piece in the Padres’ return in the Craig Kimbrel trade. He is best asset is his glove, which should enable him to stay at the position, but Guerra has some potential both to hit for average and moderate power. He will not be a threat to steal bases as he has below average speed. He is still very young and is likely several years away from making any sort of impact. Although he might be able to add enough power to provide some value at shortstop, your best course of action may be testing the market for him. He likely is overvalued due to the caliber of player he was just traded for, as well as his rising prospect ranking–a large part of which is due to defense.
43) Nick Gordon, Minnesota Twins (Age: 20, Previous Rank: 36)
Gordon was the fifth overall pick by the Twins in the 2014 draft. His minor league performance to date has been quite good, as he has an advanced approach at the plate and has had great success stealing bases. While he does not have the speed of his brother, Dee, he should be able to steal upwards of 20 bases per year. The biggest weakness to his fantasy game is power, as he has shown virtually none to date. Gordon has the upside of a future all-star and will almost certainly stick at shortstop, so he is a must own in dynasty leagues.
44) Jonathan Villar, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 38)
Villar had a fairly successful rookie season in 2013 from a fantasy perspective, as he stole 18 bases in only 241 at-bats. Owners gleefully projected that out to 50 plus steals over a full season, but his bat proved to be so impotent and his defense so erratic, that the Astros refused to give him at-bats, and eventually dispatched him to the minors. The 2015 season marked the arrival of uber prospect Carlos Correa and with he and Jose Altuve locked in at shortstop and second base for the foreseeable future, Villar was shipped to Milwaukee, where he has a much clearer path to playing time. Villar stole 42 bases between Triple-A and the majors in 2015 and if he can carve out a role with the Brewers, he could provide nice value in deeper leagues.
45) Chad Pinder, Oakland Athletics (Age: 23, Previous Rank: NR)
Pinder, a second round pick in 2014, has quietly had a very successful start to his minor league career. He has posted very solid batting ratios in a tough hitting environment (Midland), especially for a middle infielder, and has progressed to Double-A, which makes a call-up in 2016 a distinct possibility. His lack of walks has the potential to hold him back if he doesn’t remedy his approach, but to this point it hasn’t seemed to hurt his performance. If he reaches his potential, you could see a J.J. Hardy type player here. Due to his near arrival time and solid performance to date, Pinder is definitely a guy you want in dynasty leagues. He might never be a star but he will be an asset.
46) J.J. Hardy, Baltimore Orioles (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 20)
From 2007 through 2013, Hardy was one of the most consistent fantasy options at shortstop. While never providing any speed, he was one of the better sources of power at the position. However, the past two years have not been kind to Hardy. In 2014, he slipped to a mere nine home runs and 2015 saw his health abandoned him along with all remnants of fantasy goodness. He enters 2016 in his age-33 season, so there is the potential for one last late career surge, but the odds are not in his favor.
47) Amed Rosario, New York Mets (Age: 20 , Previous Rank: NR)
Rosario is a prospect who will likely see significant upward movement in pre-season prospect rankings. He had a good but not great season with the bat at High-A St. Lucie, but was extremely young for the league. He is considered a plus defender who should have no trouble sticking at shortstop, but could be unlikely to reach double digit home run totals as he matures. He is a very fast runner, but has not shown significant ability to steal bases, having only attempted around ten per year since being signed. He is a good prospect, but runs the risk of being significantly better in real life than in fantasy due to his quality defense and speed that might not translate into steals.
48) Adrian Rondon, Tampa Rays (Age: 17, Previous Rank: NR)
Are you someone who plays the Powerball when it reaches historic levels? How about on a random Tuesday? If so, Rondon might be someone you’d be interested in. He’s so ridiculously young, playing much of the year at the age of 16, that his poor performance in the Gulf Coast League can’t be held against him. He was widely considered to be the top international prospect from the 2014 class and has the talent commensurate with such a lofty rank. The obvious downside to investing in a player like Rondon is that the payoff might be five years away at best. Another less desirable outcome is being forced off the position where his average power would not play as well.
49) Gilbert Lara, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: 18, Previous Rank: NR)
Much of the analysis regarding Rondon applies to Lara–but with even more uncertainty. With an extremely limited amount of performance data to draw on, he is nothing more than a lottery ticket, but his power potential is intriguing, especially if he can stick at the position. As with Rondon, if your fantasy team is in a rebuilding phase or if you can afford to wait a half decade to reap any potential benefits he would be a prospect to strongly consider.
50) Drew Jackson, Seattle Mariners (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
Jackson, a fifth round pick out of Stanford in June, impressed in his first professional season by destroying short-season pitching. His future value is likely quite a bit lower and as with most Stanford products, he has a short contact based swing that is not conducive to power or extra base hits. He has the arm and athleticism to stay at shortstop and he did steal 47 bases in 49 attempts so the appeal that he offers is obvious. If he can continue to progress through the minors, he offers the promise of being a stolen base asset at the expense of everything else.
Commentary by Tyler Baber and Jesse MacPherson