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Fantasy Baseball: Top 20 Shortstops

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Fantasy Baseball: Top 20 Shortstops

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1. Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

It’s hard to find much fault with Machado as he set career highs in most offensive categories in 2016. At one time his power was questioned, but after two consecutive years with 35-plus HRs, nobody’s asking much now. Critics will point to the drop from 20 SBs in 2015 to zero last season, but that’s more than offset by new shortstop eligibility for the 2017 season. He’s also played in 157 or more games in each of the last two seasons, easing some of the injury concerns we may have had. Machado is a no-brainer first-round pick with a solid argument for going anywhere in the Top 5 picks.

2. Carlos Correa, Houston Astros

Correa disappointed in 2016, but that was more our fault for having such lofty expectations. He still hit 20 homers, stole 13 bases and added in a .274 average, .361 OBP and 96 RBIs and 76 runs. At just 22 years old he could continue to improve and could hit 25-plus homers, while flirting with about 85 runs and RBIs. He will, however, cost a Top 20 overall pick.

3. Jonathan Villar, Milwaukee Brewers

There are very few players with 60-stolen base ability, and while everyone is calling for Billy Hamilton to blow past that eventually, Villar has actually reached that plateau unlike Hamilton. Villar broke out in a huge way, becoming a player worthy of drafting in the second round thanks to 60-plus SBs and over 90 runs. Even a slight drop-off in 2017 would have Villar worthy of Top 25 status.

4. Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians

Lindor was going to be a good real-life baseball player, but he’s exceeded expectations for Fantasy purposes thus far. He’s increased his homers and steals incrementally over his first two seasons, but if he can hit the 20/20 level while maintaining a .300 average, his stock will just keep going through the roof.

5. Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers

The embodiment of hoping for the best and getting better, Seager carried the Dodgers at times during a Rookie of the Year campaign that saw him finish with the fifth-best WAR total in the NL. How deep is the ocean? How high is the sky? About the same range of Seager’s ceiling. Once his plate discipline improves, Seager and Carlos Correa will battle for the title of Best Fantasy Shortstop for the next 7-10 years.

6. Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies

Story overcame a hideous strikeout rate and applied a surprising .272 average before a thumb injury ended his season in late July. It’s easy to dream of a full season of .270-35-110 and a bushel of steals from Story, who will be in the second tier of players the position. As is the case with most of his teammates, Story is a much different player outside of Coors, where he went .235/.292/.454 with a .747 OPS.

Fantasy Baseball: Top 20 Shortstops

7. Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox

Bogaerts was supposed to be the next big thing at shortstop and the early returns left much to be desired. Every year though, he’s taken major jumps forward and in 2016 the results really came together. His on-base skills and the Boston offense ensure high runs totals; he should be able to approach 20 home runs on an annual basis; and he’s even a threat to swipe 20 bags at this point. Shortstop is an exciting position right now and Bogaerts is a big part of it. At 24 he’s also young enough to take another couple steps forward in 2017. It’s not often you get safety and upside at a premium position.

8. Jean Segura, Seattle Mariners

There’s no greater bust or regression candidate in Fantasy Baseball this year. He goes from a great hitter’s park to an average one. The Mariners aren’t a base-stealing team, though he’ll still get his 35-40 swipes. The power, though, will come down from his career-high 20 and career-high .181 ISO.

9. Jose Peraza, Cincinnati Reds

Peraza has speed to spare and with the trade of Brandon Phillips, a starting job is now in Peraza’s lap. As for that speed, Peraza is one of a few players with 50-plus stolen base ability thanks to his carrying a good average around .290. The only downside is if he’s hitting down the order, as the runs will dip. Consider Peraza a fringe SS1 on draft day with the upside to reach the Top 7-8 at the position.

10. Tim Anderson, Chicago White Sox

Anderson isn’t getting a lot of love heading into the 2017 season, so use that to your advantage. He’s a perfect middle infielder in Roto leagues or a capable shortstop in 12-team leagues. His blend of power and speed can give you a 20/20 season with a .270 batting average.

11. Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers

When you draft Andrus you know you will get around 25-steals, a handful of home runs, as well as a solid source of runs. However, owners last year got a gift with the .302 average, which was his career high. That is likely to come back around his career norm of .274, but the other stats you can continue to rely on. He is a good option for those who wait on SS or MI in Roto leagues.

12. Addison Russell, Chicago Cubs

Russell has a bit more power than his teammate, Javier Baez, does with less speed and a lower average. The runs and RBIs will be close, but Russell could fall behind Baez in counting stats, especially if Baez bats higher in the lineup. Nevertheless, Russell is a Top 15 shortstop with upside for the Top 12, as he is still developing and is smart enough to improve his average.

13. Dansby Swanson, Atlanta Braves

Swanson has developed pop and some speed, making him an interesting young player to watch. He did pretty well in his debut in 2016. Whether you buy into him for this season depends on how much risk you want to take. He’s got all of 145 PA above Double-A, which proves nothing for now. You can draft and stash him but have a Plan B in place.

14. Marcus Semien, Oakland Athletics

Semien traded batting average for power last season, hitting 27 dingers with a .238 batting average. His hard-hit rate is just average so we’re not at all convinced he can keep up a HR/FB ratio that was nearly 50 percent higher than at any other time in his past. Still, he’s a good enough producer to hold a middle infield spot in most leagues.

15. Brad Miller, Tampa Bay Rays

Miller always had good pop, but last year’s 30 home runs came out of nowhere. Much of it can be attributed to a 20.4 HR/FB rate that almost doubled his previous best. Right now it looks like Miller will handle second base in Tampa, but he’s also eligible at shortstop and first base. The positional flexibility is nice. Just realize there’s a pretty strong likelihood his numbers will be a lot closer to what he did in his Seattle days than what he did last year.

Fantasy Baseball: Top 20 Shortstops

16. Didi Gregorius, New York Yankees

Gregorius rode a 10.4 HR/FB rate to 20 homers in 2016 and also continued to bump his batting average up to a respectable .276. Pay for a repeat at your own peril. Other than that elevated HR/FB rate, there’s just nothing in his batted ball profile to suggest the power spike can be maintained. Gregorius is a replacement level shortstop in AL-only formats and a barely passable option in shallower mixed leagues.

17. Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants

Now that we know his 21-homer season in 2015 was a fluke, let’s accept Crawford for what he is: an above-average shortstop who can give you 10-12 dingers, a solid OBP and a reasonable batting average. If you can make peace with that, Crawford can be a nice endgame option.

18. Troy Tulowitzki, Toronto Blue Jays

We expected a drop-off when Tulo left Coors, but we thought the Toronto lineup might cover some of that. We certainly didn’t expect a league-average player. Tulowitzki was able to remain mostly healthy and still puts up solid numbers for a shortstop. It’s just that the obvious injury risk does not come attached with the huge potential reward it used to. Feel free to draft Tulo after the top young shortstops are off the board. Just don’t pass up more reliable players when you do it.

19. Asdrubal Cabrera, New York Mets

Cabrera’s HR/FB rate jumped from 8.7 to 14.0 last year and there may be many non-believers that will pass on him until very late. Last season, though, he hit the ball harder than ever before and if there is any regression, it may not be much. While he is coming off a career year, he’s an underrated and terrific later value pick that is going to confirm last season was no major fluke.

20. Alcides Escobar, Kansas City Royals

Escobar always held value with late-round speed at a shallow position. He still has the speed, but the position is a lot deeper.

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