The juiciest position on the diamond for 2022 is clearly the shortstop position. This position is deeper than ever before, and it is likely to stay that way. It has power, speed, elite AVG and everything in between. Attacking it will require a good plan, but there are so many enticing options, that should be easy enough to do. Enough rambling, let’s dive in!
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SS is the deepest position in fantasy, but that doesn’t mean you can wait too long on this spot. There is a cliff at the position, so it is wise to lock in production before that. After Dansby Swanson and Willy Adames go off the board, there aren’t really any players that I am thrilled about to have as my starting SS, so I really prioritize locking one in before I get to the pick 120-130 range where those two often get drafted. Additionally, I have a need for speed with my SS, so guys like Corey Seager, Carlos Correa will get downgraded some for that, while players like Jazz Chisholm or Dansby Swanson will get a little bump in value because they contribute steals! I am not afraid to fill my MI early if there is a SS value I love, as I have taken Tim Anderson and Xander Bogaerts in round 3/4 respectively in a 12 team draft before.
Disclaimer: Some of these players have been touched on in previous articles, so their outlooks have been copied over to this article.
|2||Fernando Tatis Jr.|
Simply put, Trea Turner is on another level compared to all other hitters for rotisserie fantasy baseball leagues, as he provides more steals than almost anyone, 25+ HR pop, gobs of runs, and RBI near the top of the Dodgers’ order as well a premium BA floor. Turner’s ISO has been over .200 every year since 2019, 3 years running, proving his budding power is here to stay as he enters his late-20s. Flawless profile.
Fernando Tatis Jr. is an absolute freak of nature. His ability to punish baseballs puts him into another dimension of the elite. A mouthwatering 21.3% barrel rate shows a glimpse into how much damage he can do, on top of the potential for 30+ SBs. Duel eligibility between SS/OF further sweeten his value to another level, but the elephant is the fact he did deal with shoulder issues multiple times. This is a risk, but I’d be willing to take it based on the 40/40 ceiling Tatis has.
After coming into The Show as a 60 FV, Bichette put the league on notice with a 134 wRC+ over his first 340 PA’s in 2019/2020, but in 2021 he really had a superstar caliber year for fantasy, hitting 29 HRs with 25 SBs to boot, as well as a .298 AVG that was supported by a lowered K rate and a .291 xBA. A fantasy superstar is here to stay, so select Bichette with little hesitation, as his lineup context is also one of the best in Baseball.
Since 2019 Tim Anderson has a .322 AVG over 1290 PA’s, with a .495 slugging percentage, showing the 20+ HR pop he has. Steals are obviously a wonderful selling point with TA7, and he will continue to be a blur on the bases. Health is the only ding with Anderson, as the last time he topped 123 games played was in 2018, but he can put up a full season’s worth of numbers in 120 games. Additionally, if Anderson did stay fully healthy, a 1st round caliber season is achievable.
The possibility of leaving the comforts of Coors Field does petrify some when it comes to Trevor Story, but this is a proven 25+ HR, 20+ steal monster who is a fantastic athlete that should age fairly well as long as he can continue to not strike out too much. Story has made adjustments as he has gained MLB experience, cutting down his strikeout rate pretty much each year since 2017. Players like Nolan Arenado, Corey Dickerson, and famously DJ Lemahieu have displayed this first hand, despite losing some BA, but the proof is that they will remain productive. Simply looking at away stats will not be fair to Story, as he will adjust quicker to normal altitude level stadiums quicker than he did as a Rockie. A .260 AVG is possible, but even a .250 AVG with gobs of power and speed at SS is very tasty, especially if he goes to a loaded lineup like Houston.
Xander Bogaerts is one of the steadiest options out there in all of fantasy baseball. He doesn’t strike out much, gets on base plenty with a double-digit walk rate, provides some chip-in steals, hits in a great lineup, and has plus power for fantasy. Bogaerts doesn’t have many cons to his game outside of the lack of steals, but he provides a smattering of SBs. Well worth a top 50 pick for his very consistent profile.
Marcus Semien didn’t get an appealing offer from the Oakland A’s in FA after the 2020 season, so he bet on himself and put up MVP caliber numbers for the Toronto Blue Jays as a result. Coming down off that high, let’s now transition to the next phase of his career. Semien will see a massive ballpark downgrade from Dunedin/Buffalo to playing 81 home games in Texas with a significantly worse lineup. Semien still has value, but picking him inside the top 50 is too rich for my blood, as just isn’t a lock to significantly add steals or hit 35+ homers, especially with a Rangers lineup that is top-heavy and it gets weak in a hurry. Semien still is a very valuable player with his 30 HR – 15 SB potential, but there is BA risk. Pay for 30 homers – 10 steals, and hope for more given the fact he’s an ironman in terms of PAs.
Javier Baez has long been slandered by SABR-focused fantasy baseball minds considering his horrifying plate approach and knack to go ice-cold with his frigid streaks of futile hitting. Over the balance of a 6-month long roto season, Baez pretty much always gets his, 30+ HR with double-digit steals and a BA that won’t kill you, despite a park downgrade. Take advantage of the discount given to Baez that is based on his poor plate skills, as he should be very useful in roto again considering the fact he’s only 29, and his talents shouldn’t evaporate as some may think.
Francisco Lindor has gone from a first-round stud to a polarizing player, all in his mid-20s. There are questions about Lindor’s power, and those questions are very valid, as he has dropped a bit in that department, as well as his AVG. That was a big issue for him, hitting .230 in NY, but he was pressing a bit after signing a big contract with the Mets. Still, if he had played a full season, he would have paced for 25 HRs with 12+ SBs, a palatable floor where he goes around pick 50. Hopefully, there is more in the tank for Lindor as he gets more comfortable in New York in his age 28 season, but he is a nice floor play at this stage in his career.
Jazz Chisholm is a player that has an elite ceiling if he continues to improve his hitting as he has shown. He’s already projected to reach over 20 home runs and over 20 steals, with upside for more. Many fantasy pundits hone in on his poor plate discipline, and while he is a free swinger, it’s important to remember he can easily improve a lot since he’s entering his age 24 season. Jazz should be viewed as a BA liability potentially, but there is a serious upside to be had at this pick, and if someone needed an injection of upside and stolen base potential, I wouldn’t fault anyone taking him over Jose Altuve, despite Altuve being more bankable.
After showing a ton of all-around promise in prior years, Polanco put it all together in 2021 and I honestly assumed he’d be a top 4 round pick in 15 teamers but the market has shrewdly not overpriced him. He’s a player where his HR output will greatly affect how satisfied fantasy managers will be with him since if he doesn’t crack 20 HR and doesn’t provide 10+ steals, it could get ugly fast for Polanco who’s being taken inside the top 100 picks. He has the all-around game to provide a good bit of help in all categories, and I have no problem taking him if he slips a little past ADP, especially because his power came with a clear approach change to pull the ball more for more power and his barrel rate skyrocketed up to a 10% barrel rate, a healthy number for a player who doesn’t strike out much and provides goodness across 5 categories.
|17||Bobby Witt Jr.|
Somewhat similar to Bogaerts, Seager is a high-floor hitting machine that provides good pop with a premium AVG. Concerns of health surround Seager, but he played 2020 fully healthy and only dealt with an injury in 2021 that was caused by a hit by pitch – bad luck. This gives him a good injury discount, but the issue is that he provides absolutely no steals at SS and he is going to a new park and lineup in Texas. If he falls a bit I like him, but there are some negatives to him despite being a really good hitter.
Being drafted by some to do great things in his age 21 season, Wander is an 80-grade prospect. An absolute superstar in the making, Franco is a hit-tool God, but his power and speed are not fully formed, especially on the power side, and stealing bases at a significant rate is not his calling card. Franco is a very high floor player, but he may not provide plus power, and is not likely to provide much in steals, leaving him as an elite AVG, runs scored play that is going too high for my liking.
Still a free agent amidst an MLB-imposed lockout, Carlos Correa is a really nice real-life baseball player, but his talents aren’t optimized for fantasy since he doesn’t steal bases or hit for a consistent batting average. Correa has a nice floor as he has shown above-average power, but for where he goes, I am looking for consistently strong AVG or steals.
One of my favorite targets this year in all of fantasy baseball is Dansby Swanson. Simply put, he was an elite pedigree SS who finally broke out in 2021 and he isn’t being priced up as if that was the case! 25 HR, 10+ SB with excellent counting stats due to his max playing time volume, and a neutral batting average is in play for Swanson. A tremendous target if you chose to wait on SS!
Similar to Swanson, Adames is another great pick. He finally lived up to his prospect pedigree following a trade from Tampa Bay to Milwaukee, and he hit wonderfully in Milwaukee, citing Tropicana Field’s poor lighting as an issue for him. Adames can be expected to provide a decent AVG, with 25 HRs and good counting stats, with a few chip-in steals. Another great pick, similar in many ways to Swanson.
One of the sexiest names to draft this year in fantasy baseball, Bobby Witt Jr. is an elite prospect, with immense power/speed upside, and a chance to receive an early call-up in 2022. There is a chance that he provides 20/20 upside, if not more if he lives up to the hype, but we have seen this story many times before with rookies failing upon their first arrival in the MLB, and that could well happen to Witt Jr. If he was going a round or 2 cheaper, I would be tempted, but I’d rather bet on Swanson or Adames, players who have figured out MLB pitching and guys who are still firmly in their prime. Just because Witt Jr. destroyed AAA, doesn’t ensure he will translate that to MLB action, and I would rather play this one a little more conservative, despite the immense upside he brings.
Good Middle Infield Options:
One of my favorite players in baseball, Chris Taylor has been underappreciated throughout his career, as he is an extremely valuable utility man who changes position sometimes on a nightly basis. The fact he doesn’t have a position to necessarily call his own causes some fantasy managers to be concerned he won’t play a great deal, however, the Dodgers always ensure he gets his run, surpassing 550 PA’s on average since 2017 (excluding 2020, even though he played a full year in 2020.) Taylor provides consistent power, with double-digit speed, and though he K’s a lot, keeping his BA down, he is a very consistent player that the Dodgers value highly ensuring his job.
A good AVG foundation, excellent SB efficiency, and a good lineup placement are wonderful selling points for Rosario, as he has a .281 AVG over his past 3 seasons, and he was a perfect 13-13 in stealing bases for Cleveland in 2021. His power and approach are totally meh, but he goes around pick 150-170, so that doesn’t need to be a selling point. A .270 AVG with 15/15 is fine here, but there is upside for 20+ steals with Rosario if Cleveland gives him the green light more often, he is one of my favorite SS targets!
Jake Cronenworth has a tremendous plate discipline profile, the baserunning ability to swipe the occasional, very occasional bag, and the lineup spot we all covet, batting atop the Padres’ order. The issue is that this skill set does leave fantasy owners wanting a bit more. His triple-eligibility is in fact fantastic, but how much of a premium does that place on him? The answer is more than I likely want to pay since there are guys further down this list like Kolten Wong or Jean Segura that could provide a similar output at a cheaper price.
More of a theoretical player than a real commodity, Rodgers is a guy I can dream of posting 25 homers with a .280 batting average, and gobs of counting stats. This is a dangerous game to play, investing in guys with limited performance, but Rodgers is a player that carries duel-eligibility, plays half of his games in Coors, was a premium prospect, and is only 25-years-old and has a contact-oriented game that plays up in Coors. He reportedly claimed to have wanted to steal 20+ bags last year, but lower-half injuries plagued him and he hasn’t attempted a steal since 2018. Regardless, Rodgers is the type of gamble I love, because he has MLB experience, has a locked-in job with Colorado, and he was a former elite prospect that has shown enough glimpses for me to covet him in fantasy.
As Rotowire’s James Anderson recently put it, Gleyber Torres was the largest beneficiary of the Juiced Ball Era, as he crushed 38 HRs in 604 PAs back in 2019 (good for a .256 ISO), and he has only cranked 12 HRs in 676 PAs in 2020/2021 combined (.111 ISO). Not a good trend. Torres also stole 14 bases in 2021, somewhat lessening the blow he delivered his fantasy owners, but how sticky is that moving forward? In his previous 3 seasons he only stole 6 total bags, so I wouldn’t count on more than 6-10 steals. With poor power and iffy speed, I am not sure what we have here with Torres. Realistically, I think a 15/10 season with a .260+ AVG is possible, with solid counting stats in the Yankee lineup, but I likely wouldn’t take him until the pick 180 range and after due to the question marks.
A 20-something homer guy with a .250 BA and not a ton of steals isn’t as interesting to me as a Wong or a Segura, as they can run a bit more, however, this is the profile one could expect from Luis Urias. Urias made his bones mostly off of pulled homers, something that I think he can sustain, but a big jump up from this production would be a little surprising to me. His SS/3B/2B eligibility is a big selling point for me, however, since, in draft-and-hold drafts, that flexibility is huge.
High Upside What-ifs:
A big power bat that is projected for 31 HRs with a .240 BA (The Bat X) is available here often times after pick 200 with 3B/SS duel-eligibility, an interesting surface level proposition. Drafters have fully soured on Suarez, given his .198 AVG from 2021. His 30% K rate would support such a bad mark, but he’s also been a lot better for AVG over his career, so a .220-.230 BA with over 30 HRs is in the cards. Barrel rate of 15% shows that at least the power is still in the bat. If you missed out, this at least looks like big power, with a full-time role and a shot at a bounceback.
Coming off a career year at age 34, Brandon Crawford is being priced fairly as a low-end compiler who can hit 18-20+ HR’s with a handful of chip-in steals. There is not a ton of excitement here, but he is a contributor that has a purpose in fantasy, especially as an MI option.
Oneil Cruz is a prospect that reminds many of Aaron Judge, based on his elite power upside and his 6’7 frame. Cruz is likely to get a lot of run in 2022 in Pittsburgh, and he provides power and speed in a package that could explode like we saw in 2021 with Jazz Chisholm. The risks are that he could strike out too much and provide little value like we saw with Jarred Kelenic last year, but there is a lot of upside his Cruz if you can afford to take a gamble on with him.
At this stage in his super young career, Gavin Lux is actually polarizing, despite the fact that he hasn’t been around very long, with only 532 career MLB PA’s on his ledger. Lux has upside to tap into, has been a super premium prospect, but I just haven’t seen enough (86 career wRC+) to buy in.
Best known as an elite defender, J.P. Crawford is really just a cheap volume playing time play for his investors, as his skills are unremarkable, but he will continue to get burn for Seattle because of his elite SS defense. If Crawford leads off, he could provide very useful production in deep-leagues, and even if not, he is young bat who could provide a tiny bit of power, a hint of steals and some decent runs scored while playing as much as he can handle.
Miguel Rojas is similar to Crawford, as his glove will ensure he keeps playing, yet his bat is not spectacular, but he provides a little more steals upside. Rojas is not exciting, but as a bench bat, he serves a purpose in fantasy.
I really wish I knew what the Yankees’ plans are to address the team in free agency, as Urshela’s value could swing in a good or a bad way. He’s currently projected as their SS on Roster Resource, but he can pick it at 3B as well. Still, if the Yankees bring in reinforcements, he could be a luxury utility-man, a meh role in fantasy. Urshela is bland, but a .270 BA with 20 HRs isn’t a bad line here where he goes in drafts.
Josh Rojas’ best attribute, outside of his excellent triple-eligibility, is his ability to provide double-digit steals as a potentially poor man’s Amed Rosario. Rojas is not a hitter that I see a big upside for. The power metrics are not inspiring, and he will need maximum volume to achieve any upside. If you need a shot in the arm of steals with multi-position eligibility, there is value to Rojas.
Paul DeJong is not an exciting player, he never has been, but he is going at a very cheap price in fantasy, and is a decent gamble to see if he can regain his full-time status at SS considering Edmundo Sosa is not necessarily cut out for that job. Dejong ISO still remained solid in 2021 with a .194 ISO, but his lack of games played makes his power looks worse considering he only hit 19 HR’s. He is not a bad power dart throw late in drafts, because he is under contract for a few more years, and STL would love to get him going again.
Andres Gimenez doesn’t have a role locked in as firmly as Nicky Lopez does with his Gold Glove in Kansas City, but Gimenez could take off and reach heights that Lopez cannot based on the better power numbers he has shown. Gimenez was perfect on the basepaths, 13-13 when attempting a steal, but his plate approach was sloppy at best and he has a lot of work to do to establish himself. Age is on his side at only 23-years-old, and he’s a decent stab at steals with upside if he does figure it out.
To give credit where credit is due, Nicky Lopez did ball out in 2021, posting a 4.4 WAR season with 22 stolen bases on 23 attempts. Enter 2022, where Lopez is oftentimes being drafted as a starting-caliber player on Draft Champions teams and he is no longer found money. Lopez projects for just a few homers, and that’s not a joke, as his high-water mark is a 5 homer Steamer projection that still would be a killer HR for most teams’ power. Lopez is just not a player that someone should be relying on in roto.
A Swiss-Army Knife type of utility-man, Joey Wendle provides a literal sprinkling of pop and steals, and I mean that, as he provided 11 HRs and 8 SBs in 501 PAs for the Rays last year, with a 106 wRC+ and he played 3 different defensive positions well. He was a good player for Tampa, and since he was owed a raise, they flipped him for prospect capital! In draft-and-hold, he’s adequate because he can float a little bit between 3B/SS, a valuable duel-eligibility.
After a disastrous opening to his career in 2021, Ha-Seong Kim will be looking to rebound after a rough debut. There aren’t a ton of reasons for optimism in the stats, but one would think another year of getting acclimated to MLB pitching and living in the US can only help Kim. SS/2B/3B are the selling points, as well as the fact he did provide positive defensive value for the Padres. If he has a little improvement on his 2021, a double-double of 10+ HR/SB could be in order with him providing a little pop and speed. Not a bad dart toss for a Swiss-Army Knife since he is going very late in drafts.