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2024 Fantasy Baseball Shortstop Preview: Power position now among game's deepest

Today's assignment is to talk about the fantasy shortstops, and first we acknowledge what a fun position this is. It's a shopper's delight. It's a fun zone.

Look around the infield and consider the current Yahoo ADPs. You'll find 10 shortstop-eligible players among the Top 50, compared to seven first basemen (shoehorning in Paul Goldschmidt at 50.2), five second basemen and five third basemen. You're going to have several paths to right answers at shortstop.

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This represents a shift. Back in the '80s, the early days of rotisserie, a good-hitting shortstop was something of a novelty. Cal Ripken Jr., Robin Yount (before the position change), Alan Trammell, those shortstops surely could hit. And yet Garry Templeton won a Silver Slugger Award once with an OPS+ of 79 (league average is 100). Rick Burleson won the same award a few years earlier with a puny .372 slugging percentage. Most clubs in that era were content to treat shortstop as a defensive-oriented position; any offense was a bonus.

[More Baseball Positional Previews: 1B | 2B]

Maybe the position shifted for good in the late '90s, when Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra and Alex Rodriguez hit the scene and turned into superstars. Barry Larkin's Hall of Fame peak was a few years earlier, over in the National League. The MLB draft is currently dominated by shortstops, even if several of the players selected won't stay at the position. Just like our Little League or high school days, where the shortstop was usually the king of any team, the pro scouts hit the streets looking at the middle of the diamond first.

Here's a rough ADP guide to get you started. It's fine if you disagree with any of my picks and pans; that's why we have a game.

Proactive Picks

Trea Turner, Philadelphia Phillies (ADP: 14.6)

First of all, when Turner wants a bag, he just takes it. He was 30-for-30 stealing last year, and he's at 86% for his career. Turner appeared to be pressing during a poor first half, but he was a .292/.348/.554 man after the break, with 51 runs, 16 homers and 44 RBI over 67 games. Last year Turner was an early pick in the first round. This year, you probably can steal him in the second.

CJ Abrams, Washington Nationals (ADP: 42.0)

For the moment Abrams might be a better fantasy player than real-life one; a .245/.300/.412 slash merely hashes out to a 95 OPS+, under league code. But category juice pays the bills, and Abrams is coming off an 18-homer, 47-steal season at age 22. Abrams finally percolated to the top of the order in the second half of the year, and the final 70 games were explosive (11 homers, 33 steals in 35 attempts). When you consider the prospect pedigree Abrams has (he was a major piece of the first Juan Soto trade), this is probably a rocket ship taking off.

Ezequiel Tovar, Colorado Rockies (ADP: 195.6)

Colorado's offense isn't the bonanza of years past, but there will still be some right answers in this lineup, and Tovar is a good place to start. His average was predictably much better at home last year (a 47-point gap), but he wasn't useless on the road (eight homers, eight steals over 74 games). And note that Tovar spent most of the first half buried in the lineup, but he was at the top of the order for the final three months. His excellent defense will keep him on the field, and stepping into an age-22 season, there's plenty of room for growth.

Players To Fade

Corey Seager, Texas Rangers (ADP: 26.4)

This one stings. A healthy Seager is impossible to pitch to, he's merely heading into his age-30 season and the Texas lineup is deep, top to bottom. But Seager has never been the most durable player — he's missed a chunk of time in four of the last six seasons — and he had sports hernia surgery in January that will force him to most (maybe all) of spring training, puting his Opening Day status in doubt. It's one thing to be optimistic about a player staying healthy, but injury optimism on someone already dealing with an injury has never been my jam. I can't spend an early pick on someone already facing a major rehab.

Xander Bogaerts, San Diego Padres (ADP: 97.1)

I'd prefer my early picks be spent on players still on the escalator, those that haven't had their best season yet. We probably can't say that about Bogaerts, who's good-not-great 2023 slash (.285/.350/.440) was his weakest in six years. There's no guarantee the Padres will keep Bogaerts at shortstop, with Ha-Seong Kim probably a better defender already and prospect Jackson Merrill not far off. That doesn't speak to what Bogaerts does with his bat, but in a broad sense it underscores this is a player in the second half of his story. It's hard to believe the Padres looked at Bogaerts a year ago and were willing to cut an 11-year, $280 million contract for the down phase of his career. The crater seasons aren't here yet, but attrition has already kicked in.

Carlos Correa, Minnesota Twins (ADP: 203.2)

It might look like you're getting a big discount on a name player this late, but consider that Correa's global ADP is almost 50 picks later. I think the broader market is correct. Correa hasn't stolen a base in four years, he's only made it to 150 games once in his career, and he's coming off a .230 season (perhaps a shade unlucky, though an expected average of .253 isn't much of a win). The Twins have a pedestrian lineup and play in a neutral home park; environment isn't going to boost Correa. He did lead the majors in one frustrating category last year — he grounded into a whopping 30 double plays.

[2024 Fantasy Baseball Draft Rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | SP | RP]

Top 16 Fantasy-Eligible Shortstops

Bobby Witt Jr.

Mookie Betts

Trea Turner

Francisco Lindor

Bo Bichette

Gunnar Henderson

Corey Seager

Elly De La Cruz

CJ Abrams

Matt McLain

Nico Hoerner

Ha-Seong Kim

Oneil Cruz

Xander Bogaerts

Dansby Swanson

Ezequiel Tovar