When it comes to fantasy baseball, there are so many different strategies that one can implement. What categories do you value boosting the most? Do you prefer players with high ceilings or high floors? There isn’t a right answer for this! You can, for the most part, build your team as you please. As long as you’re receiving a strong return for investment on the player based on expectations, you should consider yourself well in the running to win your league.
With that in mind, it’s time to analyze how players are going to produce from a fantasy perspective. Usually, to do this, we would rank players based on our intuition and confidence in each player. However, there’s another way to go about this. Personally, my mind works better when working with specific numbers, rather than just looking at one whole big picture.
What do I mean by this? Essentially, there might be less margin for error if we focus more on how a player is going to contribute to each main category, as opposed to what their overall value is there. To help with that, I have created my own projections to help list players in order of expected production. By no means is this an objective projection system, but that is sort of point. Being able to incorporate the context that goes into rankings allows the projection to take into account several important factors, but the overall rating is objectively created based on the value they provide in each category.
What is a Roto Score?
To come up with this, we will be looking at each player’s “roto score”. Essentially, I’ll be taking their 20-80 scale rating of their contributions of the five major hitting categories (average, home runs, RBIs, runs, stolen bases), average them out, and then adjust for position. For batting average, the grade is based on the amount of at-bats the player will have. The better the batting average, the more at-bats you’ll want to have, while the reverse is true for someone with a poor batting average. Thus, we can accurately reflect on how much a hitter’s batting average truly is going to affect your fantasy team.
In simple terms, these are manual projections that combine a subjective touch with some needed objectiveness. Rather than predict their straight-up production in these categories, I projected how they would rate in peripheral categories to come up with the final result:
- Batting Average: Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP), Strikeout Rate, Balls in Play
- Home Runs: Fly Ball%, Home/Run Fly Ball Rate
- Stolen Bases: Success Rate, Overall Attempts
Projecting playing time, meanwhile, is the impossible task that we, as fantasy baseball managers, need to do. Personally, I took into account previous durability, current status with their team (lineup spot, team success), as well as Fangraphs’ roster resource playing time projections, to come up with an accurate plate appearance number. Since we don’t know how many games are going to be played this year, this projection is under the assumption that there is going to be a 162-game season, even if that possibility is highly unlikely.
Without further ado, let us get to the projections! Today, we’ll be focusing on the shortstop position. This position was always seen as one with mainly defensive specialists, but times have changed. Now, it is filled with superstar players, in addition to strong offensive producers. If you’re a starting shortstop right now, chances are that you’re a premium athlete- this is one of the deepest positions out there.
Who stands out as a potential value at shortstop, and who should you be targeting? Let us find out!
Stats via Fangraphs and Baseball Savant
2022 Fantasy Baseball Shortstop Projections & Tiers
|Trea Turner||LAD||2B, SS||77||665||.306||.370||.517||29||112||89||36|
|Fernando Tatis Jr.||SD||SS, OF||76.65||615||.282||.374||.592||44||113||105||26|
This has to be one of, if not the tightest races for the #1 overall pick in some time. These two players are absolutely phenomenal talents, and you truly cannot go wrong.
We’ve already analyzed Trea Turner in our deep dive of the second base position. Thus, let’s use this as the perfect time to assess Fernando Tatis Jr., and his claim to be this year’s #1 overall pick. As one of the most hyped-up prospects in recent memory, expectations were extremely high for Padres shortstop when the team decided to put him on the opening day roster. Although he responded nicely with a 151 weighted-runs-created-plus (wRC+) in 372 plate appearances, it did come with an unsustainable .410 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) and poor plate discipline.
Even with those slight red flags, Tatis Jr.’s clear talent was enough to make him a second-round pick in 2020, based on NFBC Main Event average draft position (ADP), according to rotoholic.com. Not only did he replicate his 2019 statistics, but he improved his plate discipline, and added more power. That was enough to put him in contention for the #1 pick last year, and he certainly delivered.
Despite having just 546 plate appearances, the 23-year-old hit 42 home runs, scored 99 runs, drove in 97 runs, and also stole 25 bases. That is simply ridiculous, especially with a .282 batting average. Really, I don’t see why our expectations should be much different than that for this season. When you search up the definition for an absolute freak of nature, Tatis Jr.’s picture would come up. He posted a 21% barrel rate, 55.6% hard-hit rate, and hit the ball as hard as essentially any player in the league.
Thus, Tatis Jr. is able to overcome some of his whiff issues. He’s going to post a very high BABIP due to his quality of contact, while he better optimized his approach for power in 2021. He lowered his ground-ball rate to 41%, increased his zone-swing rate to 79.9%, and also had a career-high 42.2% pull rate. Put it all together, and there truly is no red flag to his profile from a skills perspective.
So, why isn’t Tatis Jr. the runaway #1 overall pick. It all comes down to his shoulder. He was placed on the injured list multiple times due to a left shoulder subluxation, to the point he had to be moved off of shortstop. Yet, he didn’t undergo surgery for his shoulder, leading to concerns that this could linger into the 2022 season. When you’re talking about the #1 overall pick, any question mark regarding durability is critical. Thus, it comes down to this: do you want to chase the tantalizing upside, or take the safer option in Turner? Really, it just comes down to your personal preference!
This is the only position where a player is in a tier of his own, outside of the top tier. However, even if Bo Bichette isn’t quite in the same tier as Turner and Tatis Jr., he certainly sets himself apart from the rest of the pack.
There wasn’t a great sample of Bichette heading into last year- he only had 340 plate appearances, and although his production was strong, it came with a .361 BABIP and some concerns about his plate discipline. This is likely what dropped him potentially into the third-round of 12-team drafts, where he turned out to be one of the best values in the entire draft.
Overall, Bichette ended up as the third-most valuable hitter, per Fangraphs’ 5×5 dollar values; he was just $0.2 away from being the #1 player! The 23-year-old was able to drop his strikeout rate to under 20% (19.9% K). That, along with a .339 BABIP that shouldn’t drop off much (ATC Projections have him for a .333 BABIP), helped him post a .298 batting average. Furthermore, he surprised greatly when it comes to his speed (25 stolen bases), giving him a very nice foundation to build upon.
That’s not all, though. Bichette is a very aggressive hitter, but he was able to swing at much more pitches in the zone (79.6% zone-swing rate), which likely helped fuel the lower strikeout rate, but also more contact quality. While his 9.9% barrel rate may not stand out as elite, it’s certainly above-average, allowing to post an ISO around .200. Furthermore, his presence at the top of the lineup for one of the most potent lineups is going to do him wonders in terms of scoring runs, in addition to his plate appearances- he’ll be able to rack up plenty of counting statistics.
He may not have the power of Tatis Jr. or be quite as elite when it comes to speed as Turner, but Bichette’s well-rounded fantasy skillset makes him a bonafide first-round pick. At just 24-years-old, there’s plenty of reason to expect at least a similar season to last year, albeit potentially with even more power. For real-life value, you’d love if he walked more, but that doesn’t affect 5×5 value. This is a premium talent, and I don’t think this is the last time we’re going to be talking him as a potential top-five pick.
|Marcus Semien||TEX||2B, SS||63.96||703||.261||.339||.506||38||102||90||13|
|Javier Baez||DET||2B, SS||59.31||597||.257||.307||.473||32||82||86||15|
|Jorge Polanco||MIN||2B, SS||57.66||644||.265||.332||.478||27||92||85||8|
Even if you miss out on the consensus top-three options, there are still some very talented multi-dimensional players you can turn your attention to in this tier.
We covered Marcus Semien and Jorge Polanco, and why I believe in their power breakout, in the second base projections. They’re both players that can be slotted into either second base or shortstop and are strong values where they are currently being drafted.
Can Tim Anderson continue to be a unicorn in terms of BABIP luck compared to the rest of the league? Since 2019, he has an insanely high .385 BABIP, which has helped fuel a .322 batting average during that span. As I covered this past September, there might be a method to his madness. That being said, sustaining a BABIP over .370 on a yearly basis is simply something we haven’t seen. Fortunately, he should still be able to post a .290 average with plenty of runs scored and over 20 steals, though a repeat of what we’ve seen the last three years is unlikely.
Trevor Story is another very complicated evaluation. He’s benefitted greatly from playing his home games in Colorado, but he’s now a free agent and is almost certainly not going back. However, because of the lockout, we have no idea what team will sign him. Honestly, we got a good look at what Story could look like in Colorado next season.
Last season, partially due to a decrease in line-drive rate, Story’s BABIP fell to .293, well below his previous career norms with the Rockies. For his career, he’s posted a .317 BABIP on the road, which makes his BABIP last year seem low, even outside of Colorado. Thus, I think a .260 batting average is within the realm of possibilities, which works when you can be a 30/20 player. Hopefully, he lands with a team with a favorable home ballpark, but, regardless, he remains a quality shortstop target.
Then, there is Francisco Lindor. After being traded to the Mets, and signing a massive $341 contract extension, expectations were massively high for him, especially given his track record. Coming into last season, he was a top-two round pick in the NFBC Main Event, according to rotoholic.com, but he greatly disappointed. He posted a .230/.322/.412 slash line, and was barely an above-average hitter (103 wRC+).
All told, Lindor was the 22nd-most valuable shortstop, according to Fangraphs’ 5×5 dollar values. However, I’d bet on the bounce back. For starters, no one is expecting Lindor’s .248 BABIP to remain intact. His 21.9% line-drive rate will come up, based on how unstable line drives are year-to-year and his career average 26% line-drive rate, which will lead to a BABIP spike.
Plus, there are other considerations to take into account. For starters, Lindor dealt with multiple injuries throughout the year, while also adjusting to a new team in a big market in New York. At the beginning of the season, he was a bit too timid, trading some contact quality for contact quantity. As the season went on, though, he started to gear for power:
As you can see, Lindor accepted the concept that it’s okay to make less contact if it led to more power. From July 1st on, he posted a .241 ISO and a 10.4% barrel rate. Meanwhile, although that came with more strikeouts, it was just a 20.7% rate, which is more than acceptable. All told, it appears Lindor finally unlocked who has been in the past. The batting average may not be elite, but you should be looking at 25+ home runs and 15+ steals. Sign me up for that!
|Jake Cronenworth||SD||1B, 2B, SS||53.63||630||.279||.356||.459||19||89||68||6|
|Bobby Witt Jr.||KC||SS||52.74||539||.265||.328||.460||21||67||69||17|
|Chris Taylor||LAD||2B, SS, OF||52.38||580||.253||.344||.447||21||82||75||10|
|Jazz Chisholm Jr.||MIA||2B, SS||52.17||546||.244||.313||.429||21||72||61||21|
|Luis Urias||MIL||2B, SS, 3B||50.63||595||.256||.352||.442||23||78||73||4|
With a mix of young players and some big-hame veterans, this tier has it all.
Wander Franco may have been the most hyped-up prospect in at least the past decade, excluding Shohei Ohtani. There are pros and cons to his profile. On one hand, he posted just a 4.9% barrel rate last year, and only stole two bases in 308 plate appearances. On the other hand, he was just 20 years old, has elite prospect pedigree, and has tremendous contact skills (7.4% swinging-strike rate). I have questions about the power, but it all comes down to his stolen bases. If he starts running more, then he’ll likely return value. If not, it’s less likely.
I think it’s fair to call Corey Seager and Carlos Correa the cream of the crop of this year’s free agency class. Now, this isn’t actually a positive in terms of fantasy value, as both are leaving strong offenses playing in favorable ballparks. Although Seager’s swinging-strike rate (14%) was a career-high number, it may not affect his strikeouts too much due to increased aggression in the zone (81.5% zone-swing), leading to fewer strikeouts. Furthermore, it may be helping his quality of contact, as his 12.1% barrel rate was a career-high for a full season. The lack of speed, along with a downgrade in team quality and ballpark isn’t great, though his ADP (SS #13) is taking that into account.
As for Correa, he exceeded 600 plate appearances for the first time in a season since 2016, and absolutely flourished. His 8.2% swinging-strike rate was the lowest of his career, while he also posted a very strong .279/.366/.485 slash line. His power has been a bit volatile year-to-year, though that’s mainly been due to injuries. What I’m more concerned about is his landing spot. Correa has benefitted greatly from the Crawford Boxes in Houston. If he ends up with the Yankees, this isn’t a concern, but if it’s somewhere less favorable, the power could be worse than we hope. With no stolen bases being provided, that’s a bit of a concern. He could be vaulted to a top-10 shortstop if he signs with New York, but, until then, he falls into the same tier as Seager.
Gleyber Torres vs Willy Adames is a great picture of how evaluations can differ greatly based on the player’s strategy. Adames is coming off of a career year with the Brewers, while Torres is coming off his worst season yet. For disclaimer: I believe we’ll see a noticeable power bounce back for Torres. As I wrote in my shortstop sleepers column, he posted a 10.5% barrel rate from July on and was one of the most unlucky players when it came to converting barrels into home runs. Especially playing at Yankee Stadium, I’d bet on more power from him in 2021, especially if he maintains the extra speed (14 stolen bases) he had last year. It’s very close between him and Adames, which you wouldn’t think based on last year’s results, but, of these two, I’d buy the dip with Torres.
Bobby Witt Jr. is many prospect analysts’ #1 dynasty prospect and is being drafted in the top 100 right now. Assuming he’s playing with the Royals from the start, the power and speed he could provide is enticing. Personally, I don’t like to take chances on rookies given the immense volatility they offer, but hopefully Witt Jr. follows the Ronald Acuna Jr. path over the Jarred Kelenic path.
|Eugenio Suarez||CIN||3B, SS||50.49||608||.220||.322||.448||33||77||87||1|
|Brendan Rodgers||COL||2B, SS||48.97||567||.276||.326||.443||18||70||76||1|
|David Fletcher||LAA||2B, SS||46.69||659||.278||.330||.342||4||69||53||12|
|Gio Urshela||NYY||3B, SS||46.29||480||.274||.321||.449||17||57||63||2|
|Jonathan Villar||FA||3B, SS||46.2||450||.247||.325||.404||15||57||44||19|
Getting back to “buying the dip” with a 2021 disappointment, there are definite indications that Eugenio Suarez could get back on track this season. Overall, his 85 wRC+, .198 batting average, and 31st overall finish in Fangraphs 5×5 roto value is not ideal. At the same time, if there was a reason to buy back in, this should help:
EUGENIO SUAREZ AVERAGE EXIT VELOCITY BY MONTH
- April: 86.3 MPH
- May: 87.3 MPH
- June: 89.6 MPH
- July: 88.2 MPH
- August: 92.3 MPH
- September: 92.7 MPH
It’s important to remember that Suarez had to undergo surgery on his shoulder last offseason. It’s very likely that he would have struggled to out of the gate, and the combination of less whiffs and better quality of contact represent him being healthy. Add in the fact that his .224 BABIP is well below his career-norms (career .299 BABIP), and there’s a lot to like here. The batting average may still not be great, but the power and RBIs you should get are enticing. I’d prefer him as my third baseman given the lack of depth at the position, and wouldn’t be surprised if he returns top-ten value there.
For your middle infield spot, Brendan Rodgers is an interesting target. Once a top prospect, he saw his stock fade due to injuries and some early MLB struggles, but he put it all together in 2021. In 415 plate appearances, the 25-year-old posted a .284 batting average, and combined that with solid power (.186) as well. He should continue to run high BABIPs with his even sprays and playing his home games in Colorado, meaning you could get a .280 batting average and 20 home runs. Even without much in the way of speed, that’s certainly enticing.
I don’t know if any player has seen his stock rise more from a nine plate appearance sample, but that’s exactly what Oneil Cruz managed to do. That’s what happens when you hit the ball as hard as he does:
ONEIL CRUZ JUST HIT HIS FIRST MAJOR LEAGUE HOME RUN!!! pic.twitter.com/PIMMswXDYl
— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) October 3, 2021
Add in the fact that he hit a ball 118.2 MPH, and there’s a lot of hype around Cruz heading into this season. The power is for real, as his .284 ISO in Double-A and Triple-A would back up, though this is a player with a volatile hit tool. I’d be wary about the fact that he’ll need to make some adjustments at the next level, though he’s also going late enough to where taking a risk on him is more warranted. In 12-team leagues with traditional waivers, I’d find him more appealing than in deeper, less flexible leagues. That being said, he’s so fun to watch!
|Gavin Lux||LAD||2B, SS||44.11||472||.256||.344||.421||14||61||59||6|
|Josh Rojas||ARI||2B, SS, OF||43.67||545||.248||.337||.388||12||67||51||10|
|Hae-Song Kim||SD||2B, 3B, SS||42.06||360||.236||.313||.395||11||44||43||8|
|Andres Gimenez||CLE||2B, SS||41.47||419||.236||.305||.386||10||50||41||18|
|Joey Wendle||MIA||3B, SS||41.42||434||.259||.320||.394||9||52||42||10|
Hopefully, by now, you don’t need any of these players to be starters for you! The main appeal with most of these players is the playing time they’ll get, though the skills are more of a question mark.
After posting a .300 batting average with 22 stolen bases and finishing as the 15th most-valuable fantasy shortstop, there may be some intrigue for Nicky Lopez as the 29th shortstop being drafted in NFBC drafts since the start of February. However, I don’t think I’m buying into what he accomplished last year. The 26-year-old’s batting average boost came mainly due to a spike in BABIP, but there isn’t any indication from his past resume to believe this is something he can sustain. Add in the zero power (2 home runs last year) he’ll provide, and there isn’t much use for his stolen bases if the average isn’t around where it was last year.
If I had to search for a potential value of this group, it’d be either Didi Gregorious or Paul DeJong. Gregorious struggled with injuries and posted a 68 wRC+ last year, but this is also a player who had posted an ISO over .200 in each of the previous three seasons. Assuming he’s healthy, I could see him producing power-wise again in a favorable home ballpark, which should allow him to keep his playing time.
As for DeJong, he still posted a .194 ISO last season, but lost playing time due to a .197 batting average. Unless you think he’s maintaining a .216 BABIP, then I don’t see a case for him losing his starting job again this season, especially with his strong defense at shortstop. Plus, according to Derrick Gould of the St.Louis Post-Dispatch, DeJong has hired a private hitting coach this offseason, who has worked with JD Martinez, Mookie Betts, Willy Adames, and others in the past. This doesn’t guarantee anything, though it’s something worth noting when looking for a potential tweak in approach to unlock more from his offensive profile.
|Edmundo Sosa||STL||2B, SS||39.17||390||2.640||.327||.384||8||46||51||5|
|Ramon Urias||BAL||2B, SS||38.68||448||.252||.337||.409||13||49||49||2|
|Tyler Wade||LAA||3B, SS, OF||36.95||296||.230||.312||.336||4||39||22||21|
|Willi Castro||DET||2B, SS||36.94||225||.242||.299||.378||5||26||23||4|
Right now, Jeremy Pena is slated to be the Astros’ starting shortstop, though a) I’m not sure that remains the case and b) I’m not sure how relevant he’ll be from a fantasy perspective. Thus, unless Tyler Wade is the everyday shortstop for the Angels and is able to steal 40 bases, there is much to takeaway from this tier. Good thing the other tiers offer so much excitement!