In recent years, we've come to think of shortstop as one of the strongest positions, and judging by these rankings, it's as deep 1 through 20 as any other.
But it doesn't feel as bankable as in years past. Mainstays like Trea Turner and Bo Bichette have seen their stock take a hit. Elly De La Cruz and Oneil Cruz are still more sizzle than steak. Then there's Matt McLain, who really has just half a season under his belt. That's half the top 10 right there.
- Early rankings: | | | | | | |
OK, but realistically, Turner and Bichette are still going to be must-start players, and even if De La Cruz, Cruz and McLain come up short, there's plenty to fall back on, right? Well, maybe, but what I couldn't help but notice when putting together this top 20 is how many of the players I've written about already, whether it was Gunnar Henderson and De La Cruz at third base, McLain, Nico Hoerner and Tommy Edman at second base, or, in the case of Ha-seong Kim, both.
Particularly in leagues with larger lineups, like standard Rotisserie, the presumed depth at shortstop could get dispensed to other positions, and there will come a point where what remains is pretty scary.
Then again, you'll notice Anthony Volpe didn't make the cut here. What does it say when a 20/20 man isn't in the top 20?
Note that the focus here is standard 5x5 scoring (such as Rotisserie leagues), but scroll a little further and you'll see my rankings for points leagues.
Bobby Witt Kansas City Royals SS
|Witt came within a stolen base of being the fourth ever 30-homer, 50-steal player, and that might be reason enough to draft him directly after the third player to join that club, Ronald Acuna. He actually underachieved, too, according to the expected stats, which suggest that his .301 second-half batting average is a realistic full-season outcome.
Trea Turner Philadelphia Phillies SS
|It's tempting to move Corey Seager ahead of Turner given their disparate 2023 outcomes, but for whatever advantage the former may have in batting average and home runs (and history says it's debatable), there's no looking past the 30-steal advantage for the latter. It helps that Turner hit .317 with 16 homers and a 1.000 OPS in the final two months.
Corey Seager Texas Rangers SS
|It all finally come together for Seager in 2023, his unimpeachable hitting profile meeting with good health for what would have been an MVP campaign if not for Shohei Ohtani. Him being a zero in stolen bases may bump Seager to Round 2 in leagues that use 5x5 scoring, but only Ronald Acuna, Ohtani and Mookie Betts bettered him in Head-to-Head points per game.
Francisco Lindor New York Mets SS
|To whatever degree Lindor feels like old hat in Fantasy, the guy just delivered his first ever 30/30 season, seemingly embracing the new steals-friendly environment by swiping 22 bags in the last three months. The batting average may be hard to stomach so early, but there's no discounting the counting stats he provides.
Gunnar Henderson Baltimore Orioles 3B
|Actually ranking one spot higher at third base, Henderson had the sort of rookie season that anyone with an ounce of foresight will salivate over. The last four months, when he hit .276 with 23 homers and an .856 OPS, give an inkling of his potential, but the 22-year-old is still growing as a hitter and could add more steals as well.
Bo Bichette Toronto Blue Jays SS
|In a year of stolen base resurgence, Bichette continued to regress, and it's at a point now where you can't count on him to be of any real help in the category. He's also become so opposite field-minded that it's begun to diminish his power production, so while the batting average is nice, it's not enough to justify a first- or second-round pick.
Elly De La Cruz Cincinnati Reds SS
|For all of De La Cruz's struggles to make contact and lift the ball, he still bested Gunnar Henderson and Bo Bichette in Head-to-Head points per game, which figures to be his lesser format. He hits the ball so hard and runs so fast that his shortcomings are just mild irritants. Any amount of growth in 2024 could make him a stud.
Matt McLain Cincinnati Reds SS
|McLain checks in at No. 5 at second base, where his upside isn't so easily matched, but the versatility is certainly a wecome attribute. We saw power and speed from him as a rookie, though the strikeout rate was creeping into worrisome territory by the time he was shut down with an oblique injury.
Nico Hoerner Chicago Cubs 2B
|Hoerner's 2023 Roto value was higher than this, his 43 stolen bases and .283 batting both standing out among middle infielders (with little reason to doubt either). His lack of power can make him difficult to build around, though -- and difficult to rank as well.
Oneil Cruz Pittsburgh Pirates SS
|Heading into 2023, Cruz was regarded as the tooled-up wonder that Elly De La Cruz is now, and for the nine games he played, he seemed like he may have overcome his biggest deficiency, striking out just 20 percent of the time. He messed up his leg pretty bad, though, so while a stud outcome is still on the table, caution is warranted.
Ha-seong Kim San Diego Padres 2B
|Kim is ranked lower at shortstop than second or third base, but that triple versatility will make him especially handy when attrition kicks in. That's mainly what sets him apart from C.J. Abrams, who has higher peak exit velocities and more untapped upside but is confined to shortstop.
C.J. Abrams Washington Nationals SS
|It took a year and half into his big-league career for Abrams to recognize that speed was his greatest asset, and his 38 stolen bases over the final three months suggest a ceiling of 60 or more. He's still pretty flawed as a hitter but not a total zero for power, and his pedigree offers hope of higher batting averages in the future.
Xander Bogaerts San Diego Padres SS
|Bogaerts was looking like a $280-million bust for most of 2023 but managed to salvage it with a huge September that brought him within a home run and stolen base of a 20/20 season. He got burned in runs and RBI, it looks like, and still finished pretty high in the rankings, so there's no shame in drafting him as your starter.
Jackson Holliday Baltimore Orioles SS
|Though he'll only be 20 on Opening Day, there's every reason to believe the first pick in the 2022 draft will have the inside track on a starting job after he rocketed through the Orioles' entire minor-league system this year. There may be growing pains, but he's so polished as a hitter, with such good strike-zone judgment and pitch recognition, that he's worth the gamble.
Dansby Swanson Chicago Cubs SS
|The biggest difference between Swanson's first season with the Cubs and his last with the Braves is that he ran less, swiping just nine bases instead of 18, and it hurt all the more with steals being up across the league. He could get his batting average back up in the .265 range, but the runs and RBI may not be what they were in Atlanta either.
Tommy Edman St. Louis Cardinals 2B
|There was a time when Edman played a special role in Fantasy as a stolen base failsafe for those who missed out early, but when we're seeing guys steal 40 and 50 bases, his 30 don't have the impact they once did. He's still a failsafe of sorts -- and one with triple eligibility to boot -- but now that he's lost his special distinction, his flaws are more apparent.
Carlos Correa Minnesota Twins SS
|At no point in 2023 did Correa look like the must-start player we've always known him to be, but while it's tempting to bury him in Fantasy, we should keep in mind that he's only 29 and was contending with plantar fasciitis for most of the year. His plate discipline and exit velocity readings were pretty much the same, too, so he should bounce back to some degree.
Willy Adames Milwaukee Brewers SS
|Adames' batting average reached a new low in 2023, but nothing else in his profile would suggest actual decline. His opposite-field rate was down for the first four months, which would suggest he was selling out too hard for homers, but it normalized over the final two months, allowing him to hit a more typical .239 (which is good enough for his home run and RBI production).
J.P. Crawford Seattle Mariners SS
|Crawford had long ago put to rest the idea that he'd be anything more than a defensive standout in the majors, but then he hit .282 with 11 homers and an .892 OPS in the second half. Maybe it was a fluke, but he seemed to make a conscious effort to pull the ball more and was such a good on-base threat (.401 in the second half) that he could matter in points leagues regardless.
Trevor Story Boston Red Sox SS
|Opting for an internal bracing procedure rather than full-blown Tommy John surgery allowed Story to make it back for the final two months of 2023, but he was hardly worth the wait, mustering little power while drowning in strikeouts. The hope here is that it was rust rather than decline. His peak exit velocities and sprint speed were both fine.
What changes in points leagues?
1. Corey Seager, TEX
2. Bobby Witt, KC
3. Trea Turner, PHI
4. Francisco Lindor, NYM
5. Gunnar Henderson, BAL
6. Bo Bichette, TOR
7. Elly De La Cruz, CIN
8. Matt McLain, CIN
9. Nico Hoerner, CHC
10. Oneil Cruz, PIT
11. Ha-seong Kim, SD
12. C.J. Abrams, WAS
13. Xander Bogaerts, SD
14. Jackson Holliday, BAL
15. J.P. Crawford, SEA
16. Dansby Swanson, CHC
17. Carlos Correa, MIN
18. Tommy Edman, STL
19. Willy Adames, MIL
20. Trevor Story, BOS