THE DYNASTY GURU’S 2021 TOP 50 DYNASTY LEAGUE SHORTSTOPS, #1-10
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Onward: it’s time to continue our 2021 consensus rankings by looking at the top 10 shortstops in dynasty leagues.
1) Fernando Tatís Jr., San Diego Padres, (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 2)
Upon seeing Fernando Tatís Jr. in the #1 spot, you probably thought to yourself “tatís no surprise to me, as he’s a consensus top 3 dynasty player at this point, along with Soto and Acuña.” It took a year, but the major projection systems have caught up with analyst hype, typically forecasting him as a top-three bat in 2021. This offers an important lesson: if you want the next megastar, you’re going to have to be quicker than the major projection systems as they tend to be conservative on rookies, only catching up later on, after it’s too late for us dynasty leaguers. Fears of a sophomore slump for Tatís, thanks to a .410 BABIP and .348 xwOBA in 2019, proved to be poorly-founded, as aging-related skills growth more than offset his BABIP regression. His BABIP indeed dropped from .410 to .306, nearly league average, but nobody cares because he cut his K% to 24% and boosted his BB% to 11%, all while posting an astronomical 62% hard-hit rate and 96 MPH average exit velocity (and a near league-leading .404 xwOBA). The dude is only 22 and already the full package, somehow offering Judge-ian power without sacrificing much contact, and 25-30 stolen bases from a premium position. He’s one of the faces of major league baseball for the next decade. (Jordan Rosenblum)
2) Trea Turner, Washington Nationals, (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 4)
If Trea were a novel, he’d be the kind that goes really fast, i.e., a page-turner. Instead, he’s the kind of baseball player that goes really fast, consistently performing as one of the game’s top base stealers. That’s far from all though: he took the rest of his offensive game up a notch in 2020, showing career-best power and contact abilities, finishing as one of the game’s top hitters, with a 158 wRC+. Heading into 2021, the four major projection systems (Steamer, ZiPS, ATC, and THE BAT) all view him as a top-8 fantasy hitter, even allowing for some regression toward career norms. Turner’s stolen base aggressiveness has diminished a bit to the point where 35 stolen bases may be a more reasonable expectation than 40+ moving forward, with further declines as he ages, but 35 is still a lot and his sprint speed remains as strong as ever. He’s in his physical prime at 28 years old and should continue to perform at a high level for a long while. (Jordan Rosenblum)
3) Francisco Lindor, New York Mets, (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 1)
Cleveland may have shown him the lin-door [woof- Ed.] but Francisco is a superstar regardless of where he calls home. His K%, BB%, hard-hit rate, and average exit velocity have each remained quite stable in recent years to the point where you know what you’re getting with him: a well-rounded hitter in his prime, with strong plate discipline and contact ability, and 30+ homers and around 20 stolen bases annually. A surefire top-20 dynasty talent. (Jordan Rosenblum)
4) Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies, (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 3)
Everyone knows you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Judging a story [WOOF- Ed.] by its home park, on the other hand, is entirely reasonable. Linked to trade rumors this off-season and a free agent after 2021, the 28-year-old Trevor Story is currently a volatile player to evaluate. If the Rockies sign him to a long-term deal, as they did with Arenado, he’ll continue to be an easy top-10 hitter year in and year out, one of very few players who offers 60 combined homers and steals annually. Outside of Coors, Story still offers a ton of value but takes a hit, projecting more like a top-20 bat. When evaluating Story, ignore arbitrary, small sample home-away splits and instead pay attention to wRC+, a park-neutral metric that gives a good indication of what to expect from outside of Coors. His strong career wRC+ (114, and a bit better in recent years) shows he’ll be an above-average hitter regardless of where he calls home. As long as you factor in some “leaving Coors” risk into your Story evaluation, you won’t be disappointed. (Jordan Rosenblum)
5) Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays, (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 9)
Over his first 340 MLB plate appearances, Bo “joins a frat” Bichette has been a model pledge, affirming his uber-prospect pedigree by posting a strong .370 wOBA and a (slightly less strong) .340 xwOBA, with a roughly MLB-average K% (23%) and a mediocre BB% (6%). His quality of contact measures are comfortably above average (90 MPH average exit velocity and 42% hard-hit rate). This is all made much more impressive when considering his youth and prospect pedigree: his best days have yet to come and the wait shouldn’t be particularly long. Entering 2021, he’s projected as a top-30 bat across the main projection systems, ranking as good as 11th (Steamer). Pencil him in for 25 homers and 25 stolen bases already, and expect further BB% and K% improvements as he ages. (Jordan Rosenblum)
6) Wander Franco, Tampa Bay Rays, (Age: 20, Previous Rank: 7)
The near-unanimous top prospect in baseball, whether determined by a scouting or stats-based approach, Wander Franco is ready to justify the hype in the show. He possesses elite contact and plate discipline and looks like a rare major leaguer who will walk more than he strikes out. His power is developed enough that he should push 20 homers already in 2021, and he’s so young that projecting a 30-homer peak is fairly mundane. He’ll need to work on his base stealing (56% success rate in the minors), but stolen base aggressiveness is more predictive of stolen base potential than success rate, and he was quite aggressive on the basepaths in 2019 (39 stolen base attempts per 600 PA). 20 stolen bases is a reasonable projection for a full-season debut, with 30 upside if he improves his success rate. He’s the complete package and, to be franco [woooooooof- Ed.], it’s no wander [[WOOOOOOF- Ed.] dynasty leaguers already view him as a top-20 overall talent. (Jordan Rosenblum)
7) Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox, (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 6)
Xander [….- Ed.] it goes, another year has passed us by, another year with Xander Bogaerts finishing amongst the top fantasy shortstops. He has settled in at a consistent, high-level of performance these last couple years, and at 28, there’s no indication he’ll slow down anytime soon. He’s a consensus top-30 bat for 2021 according to the major projection systems, cracking the top-15 at the high end. Fantasy analysts view him similarly in the #2EarlyMocks, ranking him as the 28th best player overall. You can reliably expect 25 to 30 homers and 10-15 stolen bases per year moving forward, with excellent ratios and a batting average approaching .300. His consistency perhaps makes him slightly boring relative to most of the other guys in the top-10, but it’d be a mistake to conflate boring reliability with weakness. (Jordan Rosenblum)
8) Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers, (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 12)
In the wild, if a prey animal “see grrrrr,” [dear God- Ed.] they know to run away fast from the dangerous predator. It’s not really any different for opposing MLB pitchers: when they “seager” step up to the batter’s box, they shudder in fear. That’s because Corey Seager elevated his game to dangerously good last year, showing he was fully healthy with a massive .410 xwOBA and career-best quality of contact numbers (an eye-popping 56% hard-hit rate, 93 MPH average exit velocity, .401 predictive wOBA), without sacrificing any contact (16% K). He won’t offer much in the way of stolen bases, but he’s in his prime and he’s one of the 20 best pure hitters in baseball. Pencil him in for 30 to 35 home runs and elite non-stolen base production for the next couple of years. (Jordan Rosenblum)
9) Gleyber Torres, New York Yankees, (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 5)
On the surface, it seems like Gleyber Torres had a disappointing year: he posted a career-worst, MLB average wOBA (.320) and xwOBA (.321), and a meek 3 home runs after hitting 38 in 2019. Accordingly, we dinged him a couple of spots in our shortstop ranks (he ranked 5th last year). I think this was probably a mistake, as beneath the surface there was a lot to get excited about in Gleyber’s 2020. He massively improved his walk rate to 14% (up from 8% in 2019) while substantially cutting his K% to 17% (21% in 2019)–both easily career bests. Power is a more volatile measure than K% or BB%, and his 3 home runs can be written off as a small sample fluke: his predictive wOBA, based on the predictive values of the launch angles and exit velocities of his batted balls, was aligned with career norms at .354. His hard-hit rate, average exit velocity, and average launch angle were also aligned with career norms. Look for him to bounce back in a big way in 2021, maintaining the contact improvements while rediscovering his power stroke, and definitely check in with your fellow fantasy managers to see if you can land him at a bit of a discount. (Jordan Rosenblum)
10) Tim Anderson, Chicago White Sox, (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 15)
For me, the top 10 breaks down into three tiers: Tatís Jr. on an island, then Turner-Lindor-Bichette-Wander-Bogaerts-Seager-Gleyber in a large tier 2, and then finally, lonesome Tim Anderson occupying tier 3. Anderson will give you 20 to 25 homers, 15 to 20 stolen bases, and a high BABIP (.348 career), but with lackluster plate discipline (5% BB in 2020) and mediocre contact abilities (23% K in 2020). Taken together, he’s probably just a slightly above average MLB hitter (101 career wRC+), but still offers a very fantasy-friendly game, typically projecting as a backend top-30 bat according to the major projection systems. He lacks the upside of the players ahead of him and lacks the bat to withstand a speed decline, but his sprint speed remains as strong as ever, and at 27, he should give you a few more good seasons of upper-tier performance. (Jordan Rosenblum)