THE DYNASTY GURU’S 2021 TOP 50 DYNASTY LEAGUE SHORTSTOPS, #31-50
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Without further ado, it’s time to continue our 2021 consensus rankings by looking at the 31-50 shortstops in dynasty leagues.
31. Andres Gimenez, Cleveland Baseball Team (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 42)
With a slight build at 5’11” and 161 lbs, there were some questions about how he would handle major league competition, but Andres was able to silence some of his critics in his first big league season. He put up an OPS+ of 102 meaning he was an above league average hitter after adjusting for parks, at 21 years of age no less. He’s proficient in stealing bases, and chipped in 8 of them on the season, ultimately finishing 7th for the NL rookie of the year.
Overall, it was an encouraging ’20 season for Gimenez, but there’s a flip side to the coin. Power is not a big part of Gimenez’s game, producing only a .135 ISO in the majors, which is right around his marks each of the last two minor league seasons. The profile is also a bat-to-ball hitter, having put up a net sub-9% walk rate through the minors and into his first 132 major league plate appearances. Despite some questions around his ultimate upside, Gimenez figures to be a solid middle infield option on a competitive fantasy team for up to a decade. (Ken Balderston)
32. Oneil Cruz, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 29)
The offseason started with a tragic accident for Cruz, rendering his future unclear, but it now looks like he’ll be available for the start of spring training. Down a couple of ranks from last year, it’s possible this uncertainty has still affected his ranking. Blessed with elite size at 6’7” and 215 lbs, Cruz leverages his body and quickness to unlock his plus raw power, and he has shown in-game power in the upper minors. Cruz figures to start the season in Triple-A, and once he proves he’s ready the Pirates should be eager to see what he can do in the big leagues. (Ken Balderston)
33. Jose Garcia, Cincinnati Reds (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
Garcia was an under the radar prospect until last season when he skipped both Double-A and Triple-A and made his MLB debut for the Reds. The results weren’t very good, with a sub-Mendoza batting average of .194 and no extra-base hits in 68 plate appearances, but it’s reassuring the organization believes in him and is being aggressive with his development. Roster Resource currently projects Garcia to be the Reds starting shortstop in 2021. There are several free agents still available so that could change, but it’s unlikely they block him entirely. If they bring someone in, it would likely be for competition purposes, or to ensure Garcia is truly ready for the show, rather than to block him or move in another direction. When he does emerge, Garcia should provide an above-average hit tool, some developing power, and moderate speed. (Ken Balderston)
34. Robert Puason, Oakland Athletics (Age: 18, Previous Rank: 39)
One of the rawest prospects on the list, and farthest from contributing, Puason has the body to be a very intriguing fantasy player. Plus raw power and plus speed hint at the upside of a first round dynasty player. A key part of the game, his hit tool, lags far behind the rest and could ensure a slower climb to the big leagues for Puason. While he still doesn’t have any professional at-bats stateside, Puason was at the Athletics alternate site last year. While he did not excel on the field, the struggles were understandable as he was the youngest player there, and ultimately the hope is he’ll benefit long term from better coaching and facing advanced competition. The Athletics paid $5.1 million to sign Puason in 2019, who was 17 years old at the time. This is a monetary reflection of just how much the A’s believe in Puason’s ability, and how he deserves your attention in dynasty leagues. (Ken Balderston)
35. Ed Howard, Chicago Cubs (Age: 19, Previous Rank: NR)
The Cubs first-round pick this past June, Howard instantly became one of the top two or three prospects in their system. A glove-first shortstop now, who will almost certainly stay at the position, but whose bat should follow suit. Howard is currently 6’2” and 185 lbs, but his build and broad shoulders hint he’ll continue to grow through the minors and help further tap into his power stroke. Howard’s hit tool is a bit behind currently, as this is something long-limbed athletes can struggle with. He does have quick hands, and above-average bat speed so there’s optimism these skills will help his hit tool improve over time. There’s a lot of projection, but also a lot to like about Howard’s game. His blend of high floor and high ceiling should help him find his way into the first round of 15-team FYPD this spring. (Ken Balderston)
36. Jean Segura, Philadelphia Phillies (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 30)
Segura has become a victim of the 2020 recency bias. Many analysts suggest not to look too deeply in the small sample of 2020, but Segura seems to be sliding down lists after some poor production last year. The batting average is a perfect example, as he has a career .285 average, in 4,327 career at-bats, and hit over .300 in each season between 2016 and 2018. He’s seemingly being pushed down boards now that he’s turned 30 and batted just .266 in 2020.
Through most of his career, it’s been safe to rely on Segura for double-digit steals as well, but despite still having 87th percentile sprint speed, fantasy owners seem to consider the two steals in 2020 to be the new benchmark. While Segura doesn’t have elite exit velocity, he did produce double-digit home run totals between 2016 and 2019, and with 7 last year, he was on pace to have well over 10 if given a full season. If you can look past 2020, there are far worse MI options out there for competitive dynasty teams than Jean Segura. (Ken Balderston)
37. Luisangel Acuna, Texas Rangers (Age: 19, Previous Rank: NR)
Formerly known as “Ronald Acuna’s little brother”, Luisagel is starting to pave his own trail as a prospect. In 2019 Acuna showed a very good hit tool, batting .342 in the DSL, with 34 walks and only 29 strikeouts in 202 at-bats. His power is a bit behind, notching a low ISO of .113, but some scouts do believe there is solid raw power he could eventually tap into. Fast forward to 2020, and in 13 instructional league games, Acuna hit .429/.478/.476, further demonstrating his advanced hit tool, but still little in-game power to speak of. His older brother Ronald was quoted saying “At the age of 17 he is hitting home runs the way I’m hitting them now,”. Some mighty strong praise but it’s safe to wonder if he’s biased. Regardless, Luisangel is still several years away from the big leagues, but he projects as a traditional top of the order table-setter when he does arrive, with the potential to develop power as well. (Ken Balderston)
38. David Fletcher, Los Angeles Angels (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 2B#36)
We have Fletcher listed as a SS because he played the most innings there in 2020, but in reality, he’ll likely play all over the field again and should qualify at several positions in your league. As Joe Garino mentioned on Join the Ranks 2B podcast, Fletcher is also scheduled to hit leadoff for the Angels and will be protected in the lineup by Mike Trout, both are ideal situations. David had by far the highest contact rate (92%) in baseball last year, almost two full percentage points higher than the next qualified hitter. The counter-argument is David does not hit the ball hard (84.7 exit velocity in ’20, and an 84 career mark) and will probably steal less than a dozen bags a year, so the fantasy upside is limited. He’s a guy that is an ideal backup or MI option in your league, as he can fill in so many positions, will help your batting average and run totals, and chip in on the other counting stats as well. (Ken Balderston)
39. Chris Taylor, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 30, Previous Rank: NR)
It seems every year we look at Chris Taylor’s name on the Dodger’s depth chart and ask, where is he going to play. Then, in part through versatility (he can play 2B, SS, and all 3 OF positions), opportunity due to injury, and good old-fashioned production, Chirs Taylor gets his plate appearances. In fact, the only time the last four seasons that Taylor played less than 85% of the Dodgers games, was in 2019 when he missed a month due to his own injury, but still managed to get into 124 games on the year. When in the lineup, Taylor has an underrated offensive profile, showing power approaching 20 home runs a year, and flirting with double-digit steals as well. These are not elite offensive numbers, but we’re now down to the 39th ranked SS in dynasty. If you can get Taylor on your bench in a 15-team league, in case of injury or to fill in for a slumping bat, he can still help fantasy teams be successful. (Ken Balderston)
40. Brayan Rocchio, Cleveland Baseball Team (Age: 20, Previous Rank: 46)
A quick-twitch athlete, currently undersized at 5’10” and 150 lbs. It’s possible he could still add some weight but might also be maxed out at the age of 20. A switch hitter with an above-average hit tool from both sides, Rocchio projects to put a lot of balls in play with low strikeout and walk rates. Power is a work in progress, with a net ISO of .116 across 2 minor league seasons, though he was the youngest regular during his time in the NYP league in 2019.
Rocchio was a notable player missing from Cleveland’s alternate site, as many teams chose to send their top prospects for game reps and additional coaching. MLB.com reported Rocchio stayed in his native Valenzuela trying to add power to his stroke. Cleveland is adding so many talented middle infield prospects it’s safe to wonder where they’ll all play, but we’ve chosen to rate the player, not the opportunity as Rocchio is still likely two years from seeing a major league field. (Ken Balderston)
41. J.P. Crawford, Seattle Mariners, (Age: 26, Previous Rank: NR)
Hello, friend. Can I interest you in a light-hitting shortstop who’s a wizard with the mitt and a minor threat on the basepaths? If you answered “yes” to this question, please read further. All jokes aside, Crawford is a player whose real-baseball value far outweighs his fantasy value given his elite glove at baseball’s most premium defensive position and his near pop-less bat. His near-elite plate discipline profile (low-strikeout, above-average walk) will give him a slight boost in points leagues, but his league-average speed limits him from being a true stolen base king. His glove will keep him in the lineup consistently, but it’s a true bottom-of-the-order offensive profile. (Joe Drake)
42. Liover Peguero, Pittsburgh Pirates, (Age: 20, Previous Rank: NR)
It’s fitting that Peguero follows Crawford here as they could very well end up with similar MLB careers. Peguero doesn’t quite have Crawford’s defensive chops, but I think he’s going to offset that by developing a little more power. If that power comes to fruition in games, it would make him much more valuable in fantasy. That said, Peguero is still a ways away from making his debut considering he hasn’t played a game above short-season ball yet. If the power never comes, Peguero still projects to be a good defender at short with a solid offensive profile suited for the top of the lineup. (Joe Drake)
43. Maximo Acosta, Texas Rangers, (Age: 18, Previous Rank: NR)
Maximo Acosta was all the rage following the 2019 season and good reports out of Rangers camp. Despite not having a top of the class signing bonus ($1.65 million), Acosta’s advanced approach at the plate earned him rave reviews and shot him up prospect rankings. His bat path is pretty direct to the ball, but he’s still able to generate pop due to good bat speed. He’s got good foot speed, as well, along with solid quickness that gives him a shot to steal bases and potentially stick on the dirt defensively. If you’re looking for a young hitter with multiple tools to dream on, Acosta fits that bill quite well. (Joe Drake)
44. Willi Castro, Detroit Tigers, (Age: 24, Previous Rank: NR)
Big. Willi. Style. How else could I start a blurb about a man named Willi who hit .349 during the shortened season? Just 3 players with 140+ PAs hit for a better average than Castro in 2020 and while he outperformed his xBA by 50 points, it was still in the top 7% of the league. What’s odd about his profile is that he also struck out at a 27% clip. Not quite what you were expecting, I imagine. 2020 was all but certainly an outlier for Willi, but he probably earned himself a slightly longer leash in the starting lineup this coming season should he start slow. Stay tuned to see whether it’s his power or hit profile that takes the lead in 2021 because it’s highly unlikely to be both again. (Joe Drake)
45. Greg Jones, Tampa Bay Rays, (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 45)
Who? Greg Jones. Who? Greg Jones! Greg has the opposite body type of Mike Jones, but he was still tippin’ his way through short-season ball last we left off. Back then, Jones dropped a .335 batting average with a 10% walk rate and 19 steals during his pro debut. Not too shabby. It’s a shame we weren’t able to see him in 2020, but a former college bat with great – yes, great, and I don’t use that lightly – speed shouldn’t be hurt too much from the time away from true competition. Jones’ offensive profile is still a little murky, but he’s going to be an absolute nightmare on the bases. (Joe Drake)
46. Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers, (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 31)
Elvis hasn’t quite left the building, but he’s undoubtedly on his way out now. News broke over the winter that Isiah Kiner-Falefa is going to be the starter at short for Texas in 2021 and as we’ve seen throughout Andrus’s career, he simply does not have the offensive prowess to play third. So, it looks like our old pal Elvis will be taking his blue suede shoes to the bench – at least to start the year. Despite being just 32 this year, he’s already racked up 12 full seasons in the majors and it looks like it’s begun to take its toll on him. (Joe Drake)
47. Bryson Stott, Philadelphia Phillies, (Age: 23, Previous Rank: NR)
Stott is more of a boom-or-bust type of prospect than you would expect from a college bat with a strong NCAA track record. The upside is a power-hitting shortstop who can steal double-digit bags. The downside is a tweener who has to slide to third but doesn’t make enough contact to get to his above-average raw power. His actions at short aren’t bad, but they’re not quite good, either. If he slides down the defensive scale, it puts a lot more pressure on his bat and with an ultra-uppercut swing path that gives Jeff Frye night terrors, it’s easy to see why some are worried that Stott will struggle against velocity up in the zone as he climbs towards the big leagues. (Joe Drake)
48. Gabriel Arias, Cleveland Baseball Team, (Age: 21, Previous Rank: NR)
Despite being traded away from San Diego, Arias managed to land in an organization with perhaps even more depth up the middle than the Padres. Despite that, it’s still a good fit for him because Cleveland has become a professional middle infielder developing machine. Arias already possesses all the future tools of a dynamic major league shortstop except… the hit tool. I know that may be surprising given the .302 batting average he posted in High-A in 2019, but his approach, pitch recognition, and bat skills just don’t translate well for success against high-level competition. At least, not yet. We’ll see what Cleveland can do, but for now, Arias doesn’t look like he’ll hit enough to be an MLB regular. (Joe Drake)
49. Niko Goodrum, Detroit Tigers, (Age: 28, Previous Rank:44)
Goodrum is currently on track for everyday reps as Detroit’s second baseman, but I’m not sure he should receive the same consideration for your fantasy team. The 28-year old hit a paltry .184 in 2020 with 5 HRs and 7 SBs and the underlying metrics still say he probably overachieved. Goodrum was at the bottom of the league in xwOBA, xBA, xSLG, K%, and Whiff%. Frankly, that’s a recipe for fantasy disaster, pandemic or not. Even though Detroit is still probably a year or two away from true contention, if Goodrum continues to struggle in 2021, they’ll move on to someone else somewhat quickly. (Joe Drake)
50. Braden Shewmake, Atlanta Braves, (Age: 23, Previous Rank: NR)
If there’s one player in this part of the list that deserved to be ranked higher, it’s Braden Shewmake. Put simply, his unsexy profile makes it easy to lose track of him in the crowd of incredible talents at the shortstop pool, but now that you’re reading this blurb, you’re not going to fall into that trap. The Texas A&M alum climbed all the way to Double-A as a 21-year old in his pro debut (no easy task). Shewmake doesn’t stand out because he doesn’t have a standout tool that catches your eye. Instead, he’s got a bag of major league average tools with an above-average hit tool. Combine that with enough defensive chops to profile at multiple positions and you’ve got a definite major leaguer who’s likely to hit for average with potential for double-digit HRs and SBs. (Joe Drake)