THE DYNASTY GURU’S 2024 TOP 50 SHORTSTOPS: #11-#30
Alright, let’s continue our 2024 consensus rankings with some more shortstops!
Stolen bases were way up across MLB last season thanks to the rule changes, and this group played a large part in that. These 10 guys combined for 202 MLB steals last season – 241 if you include minor league numbers. With so many shortstops running wild, it’s hard for guys who aren’t swiping bags to keep up in the rankings. Willy Adames is a good example – a potential 30-HR shortstop sounds exciting, but once you factor in the unhelpful OBP and single-digit steals, he’s struggling just to stay in the top 20.
CJ Abrams led that stolen base charge with 47 in his age-22 season. He really took off in the second half with 11 HR and 33 SB in 70 games and even dropped his K-rate from 22.2% to 16.3%. That should help him improve on that .300 OBP. He may be in this 11-20 group for writing purposes, but he’s a top-tier dynasty shortstop.
Ha-Seong Kim and Nico Hoerner have a lot in common. Both are primarily 2B, and that’s where you’d probably use them in fantasy, even though they both played exactly 20 games at SS last season. They also had stolen base breakouts – 43 for Hoerner, 38 for Kim – and offered little power. Kim did hit 17 HR last year but only slugged .398, and his 86.2 average exit velocity and 4.2% barrel rate make me skeptical he can repeat that. If I’m choosing between the two, I’d take Hoerner because he’s a little younger, but there’s not much separating them.
The shortstops that start alongside Kim and Hoerner are also somewhat similar. Xander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson are both reliable hitters. Bogaerts is a better OBP source, Swanson brings a little more pop. The one who steals more bases in 2024 will probably be more valuable, but I’m not sure who that will be. Bogaerts swiped a career-high 19 last year, but Swanson, despite being younger and faster, dropped to eight after stealing 18 in 2022.
How much can Coors Field help a player’s numbers? The Rockies had their worst season in franchise history in 2023, going 59-103. Ezequiel Tovar was their everyday shortstop, and that’s part of the reason they were so bad – he slashed .253/.287/.408 with 15 HR, 11 SB, a 4.1% BB-rate and 27% K-rate. Yuck. Yet he still scored 79 runs and drove in 73. If he can do that as an overmatched 21-year-old on the worst Rockies team ever, imagine how many runs he could produce if both he and Colorado ascended to mediocrity.
For comparison, Anthony Volpe had a similarly awful line (.209/.283/.383) but only 62 R and 60 RBI in 159 games. There are good reasons Volpe is well ahead of Tovar in the rankings, however. His 20-20 rookie season gives him a nice floor, he may have been unlucky on batted balls (.259 BABIP, .229 xBA versus .209 actual BA), and if he can take a step forward and secure a lineup spot near Juan Soto and Aaron Judge, the R and/or RBI will come.
Jordan Lawlar is like Volpe in that he reached MLB at a very young age and has five-category upside in a strong lineup. He’ll likely have some growing pains like Volpe, but cutting his K-rate in the minors to just above 20% last season offers some hope that they won’t be too bad.
Zach Neto played college baseball at Campbell, then was in the minors for just 44 games before reaching MLB, so there’s not much in the way of statistical data against high-level competition. That he progressed so quickly and put up passable numbers as a rookie is encouraging, but he lacks the loud tools and favorable environments of other youngsters in this group. With Shohei Ohtani moving across town and Mike Trout aging, the Angels are primed to have one of MLB’s worst offenses for the next few years. Neto’s floor seems high, but I’m not so sure about the ceiling.
My first impression of the shortstops ranked in this 3rd tier is that there’s a whole lot of known quantities though it feels a bit light on top-end upside. Not to say I wouldn’t roster any out of this bunch, consistency can be undervalued. So let’s call this the value tier and dive on in!
Just when we thought we knew what to expect from J.P. Crawford, he goes and hits 19 homers and crosses the plate almost 100 times (94 runs scored to be precise). Those homers were more than double his previous career high of nine. How did this happen? Well, you could say he’s entering his prime – last year was his 28-year-old season which is historically considered the start of that window. Or you could chalk it up heavily to luck. That’s where I fall and the stats back it up. Most of his numbers were precisely in line with his career, except he did hit more fly balls and his 12.3% HR/FB rate was twice the average of his career. Statcast agrees as well: his xSLG of .379 is a far cry from the respectable .438 he actually batted. In short, I wouldn’t expect a repeat of the numbers, but he’ll still be a solid bench bat for your roster.
Someone I’d prefer to roster is Tommy Edman, good old “Steady T’Eddy”. His multi-positional eligibility is the icing on the cake that a baseline 10/25 line can provide. He’s still fast with a 28.8 mph sprint speed and has great bat-to-ball skills (85% contact rate). So much so, you can feel comfortable taking the over on the stolen bases for the next few years. Despite hitting the ball well consistently (avgEV 89.1), he doesn’t get enough loft so he likely will be low teens for homers at best. Still, this is a player I like rostering.
My first two prospects (Jackson Merrill and Matt Shaw) have the skill sets that could quickly outproduce the rest of the names. Merrill looks to have the ceiling of 20/15 bat while being among the league leaders in batting average. Additionally, he has the skills to stick at short, but the parent org is somewhat set there so they’ve been bopping him around the field to try and get the bat to the majors. If he keeps shortstop eligibility AND adds OF? He could be a ball of fun going forward. Shaw adds a bit more pop and speed into the equation, and the ultimate defensive home question as well. Shaw played the entirety of his post-draft games at SS, but the Cubs are set there as well. 3B and 2B are all viable options for him, so more utility goodness could make for a very valuable fantasy player.
Thairo Estrada was a pleasant surprise entering last year, but at this price, I may be out on him. While he’s another 10-homer and 20-SB type player, he doesn’t have a really strong carrying tool. He does make consistent contact but not overly hard and playing in San Francisco he has a hard time overcoming Mother Nature. He overproduced statistically compared to his expected stats last year as well, so repeating his solid year in ’23 may prove even more difficult.
Believe it or not, Trevor Story could be the biggest question mark out of my bunch. Injuries and strikeouts have been the bane of his existence since joining the Red Sox prior to the ’22 season. The bottom line is he’s swinging more often and missing the ball more often. And when he does make contact, it hasn’t been as hard. Reversing his trends would make ESPN drool (is Sportscenter still a thing outside of people in hotel rooms or at a bar?) and it could do the same for us fantasy nerds. I just wouldn’t pay for the chance.
While maybe not intended, there is a direct correlation between the drop in Jeremy Pena’s home run totals and TDG’s collective ranking. Comparing the year to year, it very well could be a market correction on both ends. He was in the bottom third percentiles for both avgEV and HardHit rate in ’22 when he hit 22 homers. And in ’23? He was in the bottom 25% for those two categories and unsurprisingly even worse in other power metrics. His sprint speed is an excellent 29.4 MPH, which is in elite territory. So I could see a world where he joins the 15/25 club like some of the others above him. But he wasn’t very successful last year with the new rules so even 20 bags are more likely a stretch. I think he could be a viable buy-low candidate, but I wouldn’t dream of 20+ homers in the near future.
Adael Amador looks to be a future batting champion, although ultimately, I see him moving to second base. Watching his swing is a work of art. And leaves him some room to play so that he can hopefully unlock some power to play nicely in Colorado. Ignore his 10-game sample in AA to wrap up last year, instead notice how he has walked more than he’s struck out at every level. He’s not a burner, so him hitting the ball into the air will be key to seeing how much fantasy value he’ll actually produce when he’s in the bigs.
Despite an essentially league average year (96 wRC+) and counting stats fairly in line with the rest of his career, Carlos Correa’s 2023 season was seen as a disappointment. He’s another player where I think some of the results were more poor luck than anything, though. The expected stats back this up as they all were solidly better than his actual triple-slash performance. His strike-out and walk rates were all also on par with his career norms. Basically, what I’m getting at is, you can buy the dip caused by the perceived poor year but don’t expect too much more than a repeat.
Lastly, we have Colson Montgomery who ended the TDG debates as our #30 dynasty shortstop. This is a player I’m solidly ‘in like’ with, whom I have ranked as my #19 shortstop. The kid has done nothing but get on base since he was drafted. Looking at every level where he’s played more than 15 games, his worst wRC+ is 125. Injuries are a concern – he only played 107 games in ’22 (his first full season) and then last year he was limited to just 64 because of oblique and back injuries. Hopefully these aren’t harbingers of doom, as the White Sox appear ready to hand his powerful bat the reins at some point in ’24.