Brian Creagh opened Shortstop week here at Fake Teams with the landscape of the position for fantasy purposes earlier this morning. Today we bring you our consensus fantasy shortstop rankings for 2016. We used a points system for each of the 30 shortstops ranked by each of the Fake Teams writers who participated in the consensus rankings series.
The writers who participated in this series are the following:
We feel that by providing you our consensus position rankings, you get an average ranking from the Fake Teams writers, rather than one writers' opinion, which inherently may include some bias. You will see some players ranked higher by one Fake Teams writer than the others, so this helps the reader see both sides of the argument for/against a certain player who might be getting too much love this offseason.
Each of the position rankings will be split into two parts, rankings and player profiles for shortstops ranked 1 - 15 in part 1, and rankings and player profiles for shortstops ranked 16 - 30 in part 2 to be published on Tuesday morning. Consensus rankings should bring about discussion amongst you, our readers, and the Fake Teams writers who participated in this series.
In addition, our rankings are based on the standard 5 x 5 fantasy/roto baseball league scoring, including: batting average, runs scored, home runs, RBI and stolen bases for the hitters, and wins, saves, ERA, WHIP and strikeouts for the pitchers, relievers and closers.
Finally, we are using 5 games as our eligibility requirements to be ranked at a particular position. Your leagues may have more games played requirements to be eligible at a position, so keep that in mind when viewing our rankings.
Our Consensus Shortstop Rankings for 2016:
1. Manny Machado, Orioles (Last Year: Did not Qualify)
This is the bonus if you're in Yahoo leagues (or really any with a 5 game minimum rather than 10 or 20), as our #1 third baseman also qualifies at shortstop. Machado's 2015 breakout campaign might seem long overdue--that is, until we recall that the Orioles' third baseman is six months and two days younger than Kris Bryant. Machado made his Major-League debut on August 9, 2012, one month and three days after he turned 20, so he already has played three full seasons and part of a fourth. Only in 2015, however, did his enormous talent translate into offensive production worthy of a first-round draft pick. Indeed, last season's .286/.359/.502 slash with 35 HR and 20 SB probably does not represent Machado's stratospheric ceiling. He should be one of the first 8-12 hitters off the board and could make a case for being the first shortstop drafted as well.
2. Carlos Correa, Astros (LY: NR)
Correa made his Major League debut on June 8, after spending all of 53 games in the upper minors. And all he did was lead all shortstops in HR, while also placing in the top-ten in RBI, SB, and batting average despite playing only 99 big league games due to the late call-up. The 21-year-old was arguably the best shortstop in baseball last season (fantasy or otherwise), and there is little reason beyond the dreaded sophomore slump to doubt his talents going forward. He's hitting in the heart of an improving lineup, and should contribute in all five traditional categories. After all, Correa was the number one overall pick in 2012 and a consensus top-five prospect for a reason.
3. Troy Tulowitzki, Blue Jays (LY: 1)
With the exception of rookies, there may be no player more difficult to rank than Tulowitzki. The former slam-dunk first-rounder and top shortstop had a solid all-around season in 2015, and had his healthiest season since 2011. That being said, Tulo hasn't played in more than 128 games in the last four years, and his numbers away from Coors are more good than great - his OPS is nearly 150 points lower elsewhere. He was a juggernaut as recently as 2014, but even that came in a 91 game season. All things considered, Tulowitzki will be hitting in one of the best lineups of his career in 2016, in a division filled with strong hitter's parks. If healthy, he should be strong in almost every category but SB.
4. Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox (LY: 9)
To some, Bogaerts has been a disappoint due to his middling power output thus far. Hailed as a shortstop with the potential to hit 25-plus bombs, he has hit 20 in two full seasons worth of PA, including 7 in 2015. That isn't quite looking at the larger picture, though, as Bogaerts chipped in in every other category, and challenged for the batting title, as well. The potential is still there, and he will be 23 for the majority of the 2016 season. Looking at his batted ball profile may not instill confidence (a .372 BABIP and 52.7% GB screams regression), but the talent is there for a .300-plus average, 15-plus HR, and run production commensurate with hitting in the middle of the Red Sox lineup.
5. Corey Seager, Dodgers (LY: NR)
It's not too difficult to look at Seager's scouting reports and professional career to date, and expect something along the lines of Correa's 2015 (though, amazingly enough, Seager is actually five months older). Seager tore the cover off the ball in his cup of coffee with the Dodgers last season, batting .337/.425/.561 with 4 HR in just 27 games, and sits comfortably as the top prospect in all of baseball. In this era of brilliant rookie performances, he seems as safe a bet as any to make a legitimate splash in his first full season as he will have every opportunity to prove himself in the middle of the Dodgers lineup. Seager won't be challenging for a batting title this year, but I expect him to hit in the .270 range with 20-plus home runs and a handful of steals.
6. Francisco Lindor, Indians (LY: NR)
Lindor's excellent season was a bit glossed over due to Correa's brilliance on a playoff team, but an argument can be made that the Indians shortstop was the better player due to his magnificent defense. It isn't often that a rookie shortstop batting .313 with 12 HR and 12 SB in less than 100 games is overlooked, but here we are. Lindor's 2015 season came as a bit of a shock to many, as his power output in 99 games was what most expected over a full season. In fact, his Major League line represented the best offensive year of his professional career - not too bad for a guy who spent the entirety of the season as a 21-year-old. Going forward, I do think that this is the player that Lindor can be; a .300ish hitter with double-digit HR and SB. He may not hit more than 12 to 15 HR, but he should be good for 25-plus steals.
7. Ian Desmond, FA (LY: 3)
It may seem strange to be high on a still unemployed player that had arguably his worst full season in 2015, but Desmond was the only three-time 20-20 player from 2012 to 2014, and the power and speed were still there last year. It is disconcerting to see his average tumble for three straight seasons, and that slip has gone hand-in-hand with a big increase in strikeouts (from 20.7% of his PA in 2012 to 29.2% last year). The good news is that Desmond hit .262/.331/.446 after the break, with 12 HR and 8 SB in 293 PA. Prorated over a full season, that sort of production could make him the best fantasy SS. At the very least, it tells us that Desmond isn't finished. As long as he's picked up soon, he should be able to chip in a .250 average with 15-plus HR and SB. The longer he's out there, though, the longer you have to worry about what happened to Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales in 2014.
8. Brandon Crawford, Giants (LY: 24)
Crawford was a fringe fantasy shortstop for his first three full seasons, batting .248 and averaging 50 R, 8 HR, 52 RBI, and 2 SB. He did take a step towards relevancy in 2014, setting career-highs in runs (54), HR (10), RBI (69), and SB (5) - but nothing suggested that there was much more to come. He truly broke out in 2015, however, once again setting career-highs across the board, mashing 21 HR and driving in 84 runs. It wasn't a one or two month mirage, either, as he hit .262/.331/.465 with 12 HR in the first half, and .248/.305/.456 with 9 HR in the second. With the exception of a big jump in HR/FB (16.2% in 2015, previous career-high of 7.0%), nothing about his 2015 screams fluke, and the Giants lineup stands to be even better this year. He may not hit more than .250, but he could hit 15-plus HR, with 60-plus R and RBI.
9. Addison Russell, Cubs (LY: NR)
Russell had a great deal of swing and miss in his game last season, striking out in 28.5% of his PA and whiffing on 13.7% of pitches (the league average was 9.9%). He also made a great deal of weak contact, resulting in infield flies and routine grounders. Russell's approach improved as the year wore on, though, and he still managed to hit 13 HR while ranking in the upper third of shortstops in runs and RBI. With more experience and less bouncing around between second and short, a breakout could be coming very soon.
10. Marcus Semien, A's (LY: 22)
The story of Semien's 2015 revolves around his defense, which could best be described as abominable prior to the tutelage of Ron Washington. His improvement as the year went on was incredible, and makes for a great story; however, for fantasy purposes, all that matters is that he logs enough games there to qualify for the position. Offensively, Semien offers a solid power/speed combination (and his partial 2014 had the same pace as his first full season), and should score 65-plus runs hitting at the top of the lineup. It's worth noting that Semien was very streaky last season - he hit .283/.326/.444 in April and May, .199/.246/.281 in June and July, and .283/.352/.478 in the last two months. Using selective endpoints is often a fool's errand, but there does seem to be a bit more upside there if he can avoid prolonged slumps.
11. Jhonny Peralta, Cardinals (LY: 7)
Peralta will be 34 in May, and he struggled mightily down the stretch last season, batting .243/.306/.325 after the break. Is it possible that the boringly consistent shortstop is slipping? Or was he battling an injury? I'm not sure. On the whole, 2015 was essentially his status quo. If he is healthy, Peralta is among the safest bets at the position, with the ability to hit .270 or better with 15-plus home runs and a good amount of runs and RBI.
12. Starlin Castro, Yankees (LY: 5)
For a 25-year-old, Castro has bounced between bust and fantasy darling too many times to count. The expectations on him have been unfair, in my mind, and he has hit double-digit home runs for five straight seasons, and is a career .281 hitter. Castro is inconsistent, to be sure, and he was bad in 2013 and 2015 - but he has the ability to contribute in every category but stolen bases. A move to a new city without the burden of years of praise and development could help, as well.
13. Elvis Andrus, Rangers (LY: 10)
At this point, Andrus seems like little more than a stolen base factory in fantasy terms, as his average has slipped for three straight years and his runs have dropped in back-to-back seasons. He now hits in the bottom-third of the Rangers lineup, and his career-high of 7 HR does did not offset the losses elsewhere. Andrus did make harder contact last year, and he did have some bad luck with balls in play, so a rebound may be in the cards. I wouldn't pay with that in mind, though.
14. Jose Reyes, Rockies (LY: 4)
It seems likely that Reyes will open the season with a suspension due to an ongoing domestic violence investigation. He's also a safe bet to miss 25-plus games with an injury. If and when he is on the field, though, Reyes should hit anywhere between .275 and .290, with the potential to hit double-digit home runs (thanks to Coors Field) and steal 25-plus bases over a full-ish season. Ickiness aside, he still has the ability to be an upper-level shortstop when he's playing.
15. Jung-ho Kang, Pirates (LY: 23)
Kang was a legitimate contender for NL Rookie of the Year before a nasty knee injury (and Kris Bryant's ascendance into another plane of baseball existence), batting .287/.355/.461 with 15 HR and 5 SB in just 126 games. The five-time KBO All-Star earned a reputation as a dominant slugger overseas, peaking with 40 HR in his last season in Korea. The disparity in talent levels between MLB and other leagues is quite high, yet Kang took to the Majors quite well. His swing may not be geared for a home run crown here, but he made consistent, hard contact, and has above-average power to left field. If he's healthy (which remains a question), Kang should be able to hit 20ish home runs, along with a .270ish average and plenty of R and RBI in the Pirates lineup.
If you are looking for more fantasy baseball, football or basketball coverage, look no further than Fantasy Rundown, which provides links to all of the best fantasy content on the internet.