It has been said many times that real-life baseball teams must be strong up the middle to be able to win. The elite team builds from the middle out. The shortstop, second baseman, center fielder, and catcher are most important, and then you fill in the gaps from there. In fantasy baseball, it’s not as imperative to prioritize the center fielder or the catcher. But the best 2023 fantasy baseball squads are going to end up with one of the elite shortstop options available this year.
We have previously looked at the top five options for the position as part of this series in the FREE Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide, and they are all players going within the top five rounds in early NFBC drafts. The best thing about elite options like Trea Turner, Bobby Witt, Jr., Bo Bichette, Francisco Lindor, and Corey Seager is that there are almost zero flaws in their fantasy game. When you draft them, there are no major holes to climb out of in your roster later in the season.
But there are a variety of shortstop options beyond the sixth round that can feature one or two elite skills or maybe have a more well-rounded game, but slightly less impactful than the top five. The important thing to remember is not to neglect the position. No one wants to end up with Jorge Mateo and Luis García as their shortstop options.
Fantasy Baseball Shortstop ADP Rankings
Even though the top six shortstops (including shortstop-eligible Fernando Tatis) all are picked within the top-60 picks, there are still a number of strong tiers available to shortstop shoppers. Consider this data from NFBC ADP and points league totals from 2022:
- There are currently 13 shortstops taken in the top 100 picks. That means if you play in a 12-team league and you wait until the ninth or tenth round to pick a shortstop, you have waited too long.
- 16 of the top 50 in hitter fantasy points were shortstops last season.
- There is a pretty massive cliff after the top-15 shortstops are taken this season. Depending on how you feel about Javier Báez, Adalberto Mondesi, and Nico Hoerner, things really dry up after pick 125.
- Only Bobby Witt, Fernando Tatis, and Tommy Edman offer multi-position eligibility among the top-19 picks at the position.
- Between picks 140 (Nico Hoerner) and picks 227 (Adalberto Mondesi), there are only two shortstops coming off the board.
Here are some brief notes on the players within the tiers that follow the top-six shortstops for 2023.
Tier 2 – This is the “you’ve shown me once, now show me again tier” of guys who have something in their profile to prove.
- Oneil Cruz, Pittsburgh Pirates – The 17 homers and 10 steals in just 87 games are tantalizing from such a young player, but the injury concern is now there after last year. With good health, he has the profile to bump someone out of the top five next year.
- Tommy Edman, St. Louis Cardinals – The runs and stolen bases are fantasy gold and he should continue to bat leadoff for one of the most dangerous offenses in the National League. Watch the trend of decreasing line drives and increasing ground balls.
- Dansby Swanson, Chicago Cubs – Chicago’s new $177 million-dollar man had a career year in 2022 and parlayed that into a massive payday. But beware the outlier .348 batting average on balls in play (BABIP).
- Wander Franco, Tampa Bay Rays – Still not 22 years old, Wander Franco is just a baby who is learning what all he can do with his new toys. Six homers and eight steals with an average near .280 in half a season shows what kind of potential he has.
- Xander Bogaerts, San Diego Padres – We know Bogaerts has been elite for years in Boston, but now he trades in this third-best park factor for righties in Fenway Park for the fourth-worst right-handed park factor in Petco Park. The barnstorming All-Star lineup around him may make all that a moot point, and this Padres’ offense should be lethal.
Tier 3 – The players in this tier all have some elite skills, but come with a tremendous amount of risk.
- Tim Anderson, Chicago White Sox – The 2019 batting champion has seen his average decrease four years in a row, culminating in a .301 average last year. That is still elite in today’s game, of course, but Anderson missed six weeks with a hand injury after also missing 40 games in 2021. The contact rate has also fallen off to a point where he would have ranked 60th last year among all hitters if he qualified. Does still offer double-digit steal potential.
- Willy Adames, Milwaukee Brewers – Massive power for two seasons in a row now, but the average and on-base percentage fell off a cliff in 2022. His launch angle has basically doubled in three years, so he is clearly looking to hit the ball over the fence every time he is up.
- Jeremy Peña, Houston Astros – Last season’s postseason darling and World Series MVP might have to pack his bag and travel all the way down to seventh in this year’s lineup with Michael Brantley returning and José Abreu added to the mix. But 22 home runs and 11 steals as a 24-year-old make me take notice. He is the one in this group with the most fantasy upside.
- Carlos Correa, Minnesota Twins – The man with three teams was actually pretty elite when he played last year, hitting .291 with 22 homers in 136 games with Minnesota. The long-term health issues are apparently real, but in a redraft league, Correa looks to be a safe bet around pick 116.
- Amed Rosario, Cleveland Guardians – Career highs in nearly every stat across the board last season including an astounding 670 plate appearances. But the stats line up with the underlying profile, so if he stays healthy, he could approach another 10-homer, 20-steal season again.
Tier 4 – The “only if you make me” tier of shortstops
- Nico Hoerner, Chicago Cubs – Sold out for some power (10 homers) to go along with his 20 steals and the average and on-base percentage plummeted. One of the lowest barrel rates in the league (2.6%).
- Javier Báez, Detroit Tigers – I care as much about Javier Báez as he cares about taking a walk. That is to say, I am completely out on him. Even though he cut his strikeout rate down to “only” 25% last year, he still had a bottom-five OBP among all batters, and the power fell off a cliff.
- Thairo Estrada, San Francisco Giants – A really nice story last season with 14 homers and 21 steals. But he is a massive ground ball hitter throughout his career (50.5% in 2022).
Beyond these top 19 options, you can try your hand at Mondesi for some steals (ADP 226.8), Luis Urías (234.2) for a few homers and some power, or one of the Oswald Peraza/Anthony Volpe New York Yankees duo (both going after pick 300) from whom many are expecting big things, but both are completely unproven.
This is a top-heavy position and one you will want to be sure and secure within the first 100 picks of your draft.
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