After each week of positional coverage, we will wrap things up here with our 2016 dynasty/keeper rankings. Players are ranked with the next five years of production in mind, which means the higher ranked players are not always the best short-term solution. Also, players are ranked at what we assume will be their primary position which is why Starlin Castro is ranking at second base and not here. Our 2016 rankings (which begin in January) will reflect players eligibility for each position.
Some new blood has joined the top ranks of the shortstop position. Jung-ho Kang, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor and Corey Seager made their major league debuts this season. Lesser-hyped players such as Trea Turner, Ketel Marte and Eugenio Suarez also flashed their skills, and J.P. Crawford, Trevor Story and several other prospects could soon be on the way. A position that was once barren of talent – well, top-tier talent – has some new life.
No longer do fantasy owners have to gamble on an injury-free season from Jose Reyes or accept mediocre numbers from Elvis Andrus or Erick Aybar. There are a number of options available, and even if you don’t get one of those fresh faces there are other (younger) options towards the middle of the rankings such as Marcus Semien and Wilmer Flores. Plenty of fresh new faces to choose from, and the names Tulowitzki and Ian Desmond weren’t even mentioned. Things do get a little unstable and mediocre (for lack of a better term) the further down the rankings you go, so those of you that use a middle infield slot may want to look to second base to fill that slot. But, for those that don’t use a middle infielders, there are enough shortstops to go around and several more are on the way.
Taking part in our dynasty rankings will be Paul Hartman, Kevin Jebens, Jim Finch, Will Emerson, Ron Vackar and Michael Zakhar. Our six experts each ranked their top 20 shortstops. Players marked N/R were not ranked inside the top 20 by that particular person, Here are the results along with last year’s rankings.
Just like every other position, the top 5 are the players you want to own in a dynasty (and redraft) league. Carlos Correa was the unanimous choice for the top spot; his combination of speed and power makes him a five category contributor for years to come. Xander Bogaerts has similar potential to that of Correa; maybe to a lesser extent power and speed wise, but still a top quality five category player. Francisco Lindor was known more as a glove first shortstop, but he proved in 2015 that he is more than capable of being every bit as good as Xander Bogaerts. Injuries and age may have knocked Troy Tulowitzki out of the top spot, but he is still a dangerous weapon to own when healthy. Finally there is Corey Seager who has been compared by some to Tulowitzki and made the top five based upon power potential alone. There are concerns about what position he’ll eventually call home, but his bat is worth owning regardless of which infield position he ends up at.
As for the remaining players, our panel shares their thoughts on each below.
6. Ian Desmond – F/A
- Jim: Many are jumping off the Desmond train due to his strikeouts and declining batting average. Let me remind you he had three straight 20/20 season prior to 2015 and still has the power and speed to continue to produce them. If the average does not return then Desmond is no different than Brian Dozier, and he’s still in the top 5 for second base. I expect more years closer to his 2014 season going forward.
- Kevin: He still has the ability to reach 20/20 in any given year, but the dropping contact rate, LD%, and BABIP are worrisome, as is the increasing GB%. Add in the errors on defense, and I wonder whether he’ll even stick at shortstop for much longer.
7. Addison Russell – Cubs
- Zak: While Francisco Lindor and Corey Seager immediately impressed when they arrived in 2015, Russell more or less puttered along. Plenty of players who have puttered along at that age emerged as stars sooner rather than later. It is way too soon to give up on a top prospect who basically skipped triple A. Plus, he’s not going to be hitting ninth forever. If someone is selling, go get yourself a soon to be key kog in a strong Cubs offense. Even though I’m the highest on him, I might be wishing I’d have listed him higher very soon.
- Will: Russell put up some respectable numbers in 2015, but not spectacular numbers. Yes, he is only 21, but to me that is all the more reason not to completely jump on board yet.
8. Jung Ho-Kang – Pirates
- Ron: Kang proved his skeptics wrong in 2015. He has power that plays in any yard and a good approach at the plate as his .355 OBP would suggest. A shortstop with an .816 OPS is a rare find.
- Paul: Kang is right in his prime at 28 years old, and showed us what he was capable in his 2015 major league debut. He has power (11 HR in the second half in less than 200 AB), and he can hit for average (.287 overall, .310 in 2nd half). While others are gushing over the younger shortstops, this is the time to sneak in and steal Kang.
9. Jose Reyes – Rockies
- Paul: Reyes is 32 years old and just doesn’t get on base like he used to. His OBP was .310 last year, which puts him in Elvis Andrus territory. Add in the injury risk and the 24 SB from last year is likely close to the most you can expect from him moving forward. Five years from now he’s not on this list at all, but he’s likely a top 10 guy for the next one or two seasons.
- Kevin: With Reyes, you’re battling the hope for health, but when he’s on the field, he produces. Just because he’s not a 60 stolen base guy anymore doesn’t mean he’s lost all value. He’s not a power guy, but playing in Colorado always helps hitters, so he should net another few seasons of 10+ home runs before this contract runs out. He can steal 25+ bases when healthy. Reyes is not as appealing at the five-year mark, but he will likely be better in the next 2-3 years that youth options Russell, Seager, and Lindor.
10. Wilmer Flores – Mets
- Will: Flores has 20 homer pop at age 24 and doesn’t strike out a ton. I think you will slowly start to see him steadily improve his walk rate, and my bold prediction is he is top five at the position within two years.
- Jim: I am a fan of Flores so don’t let my ranking fool you. He can provide decent numbers in three categories with a serviceable batting average. The problem is he’s a defensive liability for the Mets and New York seems intent on giving Ruben Tejada the job. If the Mets don’t resign Daniel Murphy then Flores might get moved to second, and if they do resign him we could see Flores in some sort of time share situation with Tejada. I like a full-time Flores, but a part-time one gets knocked down the rankings for me.
11. Marcus Semien – A’s
- Zak: After some early season explosiveness, Semien slowed down and was only fantasy relevant in spurts. But in the end he posted a solid season and has the ability to put up double-digit homers and steals in the years to come. A year or two similar to peak Ian Desmond is not out of the question.
- Ron: The .310 OBP is not something that will earn Semien many at bats at the top of his team’s lineup moving forward. Another red flag for me is that he simply cannot stay at shortstop long-term without drastic defensive improvement. He does throw in a little power and speed though and that’s always appealing.
12. Javier Baez – Cubs
- Ron: Baez has power that is only rivaled by a couple of others at the shortstop position. This could turn out to be a Jedd Gyorko-like disappointment, but I’m willing to roll the dice that Baez can get his game together and become a .250 hitter with 20+ HR power.
- Will: I guess, the prospect hype may be affecting my judgment here, but I am not yet seeing what said hype is about. I could certainly see Baez being a serviceable Dan Uggla type, but right now I’m not seeing the star power.
13. Ketel Marte – Mariners
- Zak: He made a decent showing when he arrived last year, but you’ll get similar numbers from a cheaper guy and his skill set doesn’t stand out at the position. I don’t know that you should settle for Marte when there are so many other promising players at the position. I’d also consider moving him for a solid vet type if I was making a run at the title; I think finding a replacement for Marte won’t be a challenge.
- Jim: With Brad Miller traded to Tampa on Thursday, the shortstop job is Marte’s to lose. He has similar upside to that of the departing Miller, except instead of getting 10 homers and 10 steals you’ll get 3-4 homers and close to 20 steals; that is if he can hit for average. The Mariners have had a lot of failed prospects up the middle the past few years. I gave Marte a vote of confidence by ranking him, but there’s a 50% chance he won’t be ranked next year.
13. Brandon Crawford – Giants
- Paul: Crawford’s ISO has climbed every year since he broke into the majors in 2011. He’s not going to hit 21 home runs again as his HR/FB% was inflated in 2015, but he should chip in 15 along with solid counting stats in a prime spot in the Giants lineup. At 28 years old, I think he’s as safe a bet as any to put up solid if unspectacular numbers for the next 5 years.
- Kevin: I just can’t buy into him at the price he’ll cost next year. Sometimes it takes players a while to grow into their potential, but he’s always been a glove-first guy. His HR/FB% in 2015 was more than double his previous best, which is always a red flag regarding maintaining that level. And at 48% grounders, any dip in his HR/FB% is going to knock him down to 10-15 HR in a heartbeat. He doesn’t project to improve in batting average, and he doesn’t offer speed. The high RBI total was a testament to his likely lucky home run rate and some more general luck considering he reached it while usually batting between 6th and 8th.
15. Elvis Andrus – Rangers
- Ron: If you miss out on the top SS options, Andrus does the boring stuff you kind of settle for at the position. He’s going to get you north of 60 runs, 60 RBI, and should chip in just enough pop to go with his 25-30 stolen bases.
- Paul: Andrus was a good late option at shortstop when he was scoring runs and hitting for a decent average. Now, he sits at the bottom of the Rangers lineup helping in just one category, with 25 SB. In 7 full seasons, Andrus is averaging 82/4/52/31/.270. The problem is that he isn’t improving, and over the past two years it looks like this: 70/2/51/26/.261 (and that’s averaging 159 games). There’s really not a lot of value there considering there are many other shortstops that can give a little power or just as much speed.
16. Trea Turner – Nationals
- Zak: Well my neck is out on the line with this ranking, but I welcome it. With the likely departure of Ian Desmond, Turner has a clear path to playing time. Maybe he performs well right off the bat, or maybe he takes a little while to adjust, but it’s not as if he needs to put up crazy good numbers to be ranked higher than Brandon Crawford. The top 10 keeper ranks at shortstop looked very different than they did a year ago. Turner will be among these new top names before you know it.
- Jim: Other than his time in low A-Ball, Turner has been a .300 hitter at every stop; that includes 3 years in NCAA as well. He also has the speed to be able to steal 25 bases annually, and if he can learn to take a few more walks could be a top of the order player. I see some Elvis Andrus similarities here, and am already questioning whether I should have ranked him a few spots higher.
17. Jean Segura – Brewers
- Kevin: He still has great speed, good for 25+ stolen bases. His batting average improved from 2014, but he won’t reach .290 again. The walk rate took a step back, and he won’t hit more home runs due to the high GB%. That being said, the Brewers are going to keep him in the lineup, and he’ll get at least one more chance. I say he’s worth a flier if you miss out on the proven veterans and hot young guys. Come 2016, it’s likely that either I’ll increase his ranking a little, or he’ll drop off my list entirely.
- Will: I feel like I have to constantly defend my low opinion of Jean Segura. Fangraphs rated his 2015 offensive value as negative, and I don’t see much improvement on the horizon. Steals are nice, I guess, but a low OBP with little power – not for me.
18. Johnny Peralta – Cardinals
- Kevin: Normally I’m more focused on the next 2-3 years than the later years for dynasty. However, he’s bounced around in terms of batting average and home runs. He needed his best at bat total in six years to hold onto 15+ HR, given his FB% dropped a lot in 2015. A lucky BABIP in the first half propped up his end-of-year average, and his HR/FB% halved in the second half (with just 2 HR in August/September). He’ll be 34 in 2016, and I worry that even if he holds on for one more year of good production, the end is nigh for him.
- Jim: It took me years to come around on Peralta, but it’s too little too late to go all in on him in dynasty leagues. He may give you a few more good years of production, but Peralta turns 34 in May so there are only a few good seasons left in him. Once the power dips you’re looking at a replacement level player. Don’t dump him, but start looking for a replacement (if you haven’t been already).
19. Alcides Escobar – Royals
- Zak: He can hold a lineup spot well enough in a pinch, but I don’t know that we can expect a rebound to 30 stolen bases. If you want speed there are players with similar skills who have put up better years and are more likely to contribute 25 or so steals (guys like Segura and Andrus). I don’t know that I’d go for this type of player when there are others who can contribute some in steals and provide power as well.
- Ron: He’s another Elvis Andrus type, but I could see myself getting on the Escobar bandwagon even more if the Royals begin trusting him to hit at the top of their lineup more frequently.
20. Asdrubal Cabrera – Mets
- Paul: There just isn’t a lot of upside with Cabrera; in fact 2015 is as good as it’s going to get with 15 HR, 6 SB, and a .265 AVG. When you put his age (will be 30 next week) along his poor plate discipline (6.5% BB/ 19.4% K rates), it won’t be long before the floors drops out from beneath him. And really, the floor is all he’s got.
- Will: Asdrubel will put up like 15 homers, score 60-70 runs and drive in the same, and is just turning 30. This means still plenty of years of steady, respectable production and I’ll take that!
So who was ranked that did not make the top 20? Eugenio Suarez and J.P. Crawford were each ranked on two lists and could easily find themselves in the top 20 next year. Jurickson Profar (remember him), Freddy Galvis, Adeiny Hechavarria, Andrelton Simmons, Brad Miller, Alexei Ramirez, Trevor Story and Erick Aybar received just one ranking each. Several players not ranked in the top 20 could move up, but as of now there are some issues preventing that.
- Story has a roadblock in the name of Jose Reyes to contend with.
- The presence and emergence of Galvis complicates matters for Crawford.
- Profar should be healthy come spring, but has nowhere to play with Odor & Andrus locked into their respective positions.
- Brad Miller could join the top 20 ranks once again with a fresh start in Tampa.
Guys like Ramirez, Aybar and glove-first Simmons, who were once mainstays and adequate fallback options, are now considered backup/bench/waiver options in keeper/dynasty leagues. It will be interesting to see how some of these position battles shake out, and who else emerges in 2016.
That wraps up our shortstop rankings. Tomorrow begins our outfield coverage which will last for 2 weeks and wrap up on November 22nd with our top 60 outfielders.
Still need more rankings, head on over to Fantasy Rundown where Goose will be compiling rankings for the 2016 season as well as prospect rankings and the best baseball links available this off-season.