THE DYNASTY GURU’S 2021 TOP 50 DYNASTY LEAGUE SHORTSTOPS: PLAYERS TO AVOID
This is a companion piece to our annual Top 50 Dynasty League Shortstops series. The opinions below are our own and do not reflect the TDG consensus. Each of these players has fans among our colleagues.
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Shortstop is the position that arguably contains the most exciting young names in baseball between the major leagues and prospects waiting for the chance to make their splash. The position is extremely deep, and in a way, it is hard to go wrong with any of the top-ranked options. For this reason, a large amount of debate is involved when trying to rank all of these talented players, and some individuals take stronger stands on certain players. In this article, I share some of my personal opinions on players I typically avoid at shortstop.
Adalberto Mondesi, Kansas City Royals (Age: 25, Consensus Rank: 14)
So let’s start off with a bang! Adalberto Mondesi is all about the stolen bases, and I completely agree that he may be able to essentially win the category single-handedly, but I am still just not there with him. You need to reach first base to be able to steal second. To put it simply, Mondesi is just not a good hitter. Sure he hits the ball decently hard, but once again he would need to make contact on a more regular basis to really make it matter. Mondesi is a career .251 hitter, which isn’t terrible but it’s accompanied by a .284 OBP and supported by a .336 BABIP. He averages a just-over 4% walk rate, contributing to the low on-base percentage, and has a career strikeout rate of almost 30 percent. The high BABIP, especially compared to his batting average, shows that Mondesi has actually been lucky to post the numbers he has over the past seasons. His career xBA is .231 and he has been able to post stats on average of .030 points above his expected marks. If Mondesi’s BABIP were to dip for a season he would likely lose these additional points on his batting average and he would lose a significant number of opportunities to add to his stolen base total.
I know there will be plenty of people buying back in on Mondesi after looking at his overall stats in 2020 when he posted a slash line of .256/.294/.416 with six home runs and 24 stolen bases. These numbers are respectable, especially considering the circumstances surrounding the 2020 season, but when you break his year down it was really saved by one hot month. Through 35 games he was batting .193 with zero home runs and eight stolen bases. In his final 24 games, he hit a scorching .356 with six home runs and 16 stolen bases. Players have hot streaks and cold streaks, but I just cannot be persuaded by a few hot weeks and convinced that it would have continued if it were a regular length season. Despite the great stretch at the end of last season, Mondesi’s xWOBA was still below league average for the large majority of his last 100 plate appearances (he had 90 PA during his final 24 games), and it has been in the bottom 10 percent of the league over the past two seasons.
My reasons thus far to avoid Mondesi have been related to his on-field performance, but it is also worth noting that he has struggled to actually stay on the field and healthy. He has yet to play through a full MLB season without suffering a significant injury and missing time. I don’t want to label him “injury-prone” but it has obviously been a problem and you start to wonder if the Royals try to keep him healthier by possibly limiting him on the base paths going forward. That is pure speculation, and I honestly do not really even consider it that big of a possibility, but it’s just another reason that will prevent me from drafting Mondesi in the late-second/early-third rounds of drafts.
Tim Anderson, Chicago White Sox (Age: 28, Consensus Rank: 10)
This may be sort of another “not my guy” call here by saying to avoid drafting Tim Anderson, and you can say I’m just not buying into his performance over the past two seasons, but well, I’m not. I know he has contributed a strong batting average in those two years, including a batting title in 2019, but I’m not confident it’s sustainable and his counting stats aren’t anything special. His notable jump in batting average from .260 between 2016-2018 to .329 between 2019-2020 can be labeled as lucky. This big increase was accompanied by a huge jump in BABIP from .331 to 391. Even for a player who seems to be a “high-BABIP guy,” this is most likely not a sustainable number, and regression to the norm will pull his average back down. A lucky streak is further supported by the fact that Anderson has exceeded his xBA the past two seasons as it was below .300 both years. He does not hit the ball hard, with exit velocities and hard-hit rates in the lower percentiles of the league, along with a low walk rate. He will still likely post a strong batting average moving forward, but it’s hard to imagine it continuing at the same level from the past two years. If this decrease in batting average were to come it would leave Anderson as an average to a below-average contributor in most, if not all, categories. And before anyone starts with the significant steals contributor talk, let’s just face the facts that Anderson hasn’t stolen more than 20 bags except one year of his career. Anderson is a player I have avoided in the past and one I will continue to do so going forward.
Didi Gregorious, Free Agent (Age: 31, Consensus Rank: 30)
Didi Gregorious has been a strong contributor at shortstop over the past several seasons he has spent between New York and Philadelphia. Since 2016, but ignoring the 2019 season in which he was returning from Tommy John surgery, he posted a .279 batting average with twenty-plus home runs and solid counting stats. Despite a very strong stat line in 2020 (.284/.339/.488) there were noticeable decreases in his underlying statistics. Gregorious’s exit velocity decreased by 4.4% in 2020 to 83.8 mph placing him in the bottom two percent of the league. Additionally, his hard-hit rate and barrel percentage decreased by 7.9 and 1.3 percentages respectively, again leaving him in the 8th and 19th percentiles. These decreases in batted ball profile could mark age-related regression as Gregorious is now on the other side of 30. Another aspect that cannot be ignored is that it is still yet to be determined where he will play in 2021. I feel confident to say he will be in a starting role with a major league ball club as he is still a strong defender, but one can easily argue it may not be in as strong of lineups as he has been a part of with the Yankees and Phillies. It is also very likely that the ballpark situation will be less favorable than the very hitter-friendly dimensions of Yankee Stadium and Citizens Bank Park. Between his age possibly starting to show and the unknown team destination I think it is time to move on from Gregorious in fantasy.