Fantasy Baseball: Shortstop is 2022's fun zone

Once upon a time, shortstop was a dead zone in fantasy baseball. MLB clubs viewed it as a defense-first position, with any offense a bonus. Your typical shortstop would probably run well, bunt proactively, hit a homer about once a month. If they weren’t slotted No. 2 in the lineup — oh, the bat control! — you’d generally find them buried in the bottom third of the order.

Everything in that narrative is long gone, of course. Shortstop is an action position in the current fantasy landscape, a party to go.

Trea Turner and Fernando Tatis Jr. battled for the No. 1 overall spot on most ranking and ADP boards when draft season began, and Bo Bichette is another top-of-fold first-rounder. And this is a position where you can find something exciting at just about every draft point.

Want a premium shortstop-eligible player in the third round? Xander Bogaerts, Tim Anderson and Marcus Semien await your call. Trevor Story, Francisco Lindor and Wander Franco all take up space after pick 40. A former top prospect like Dansby Swanson costs a 132 ticket in Yahoo. A few picks later, you can sidle up to this year’s model, Bobby Witt Jr.

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Take a good look around. This is a fun zone, a destination spot. I’ll discuss a few shortstop eligibles below who have my interest.

Trea Turner, 2B/SS, Dodgers (2.5 Yahoo ADP, 1.68 NFC ADP)

The current Yahoo ADP board has Turner first and Tatis second, while the NFBC market has them flipped. I’ve come around on Turner at the first slot, and I might even take Bo Bichette over Tatis, too. We’ll get to that in a second.

Turner led the majors in batting average last year, and even if .328 calls for some regression, his career average is .302. You’re getting a healthy gain there. He scored 41 runs in his 52 LAD games; have fun extrapolating that over a full season, backed by perhaps the deepest lineup in the majors. His power has developed through his late 20s, to the point that we should pay for something over .500 in the slugging column — and another 23-30 homers. He might be the best baserunner in the game, too.

And although Turner is likely to slot No. 2 in the Dodgers lineup, he’s capable of being a five-category contributor. The RBI column is nothing to sweat, given the depth of this offense, the incoming DH slot and Turner’s blossoming power. There is no dead spot in this lineup.

Turner is my auto-click if you give me the No. 1 selection. Isn’t it fun to draft someone who does everything well?

Fernando Tatis, Padres, SS/OF (1.2 Yahoo, 2.02 NFBC)

The wonky left shoulder pushed him to the IL three times in 2021, but the club opted for rehab over surgery when the season was complete. I’m surely no doctor, but it makes me nervous when I see this recurring theme — you wonder at what point the shoulder pops again and the surgeons get called in.

Maybe the idea of safety with any pick is a fool’s errand, but I’d rather put my chip on someone who doesn’t have an obvious black cloud hovering over them. The Blue Jays (third in runs) and Dodgers (fourth in runs) also offer better lineup insulation than the Padres (14th in runs) do. That’s why Turner and Bichette get my first-round nod before Tatis.

Editor's Note: Fernando Tatis Jr. has fractured his wrist and will reportedly be out up to three months during his recovery.

Bo Bichette, Blue Jays (6.9 Yahoo, 5.3 NFBC)

Most teams recognize the stolen base isn’t that important in the home-run derby world of 2022, but the Blue Jays will still grab the unguarded base if you allow them. When I note Bichette swiping 25-of-26 last year, I get excited. He can claim second anytime he wants, but he’s smart enough to realize it has to be a specialty play.

I love drafting players who are always accomplished on the field — that offers floor — but likely haven’t posted their best season yet; that’s the sweet song of upside. Bichette has the catbird seat in Toronto, the No. 2 position in front of three other studs in their prime (Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and the underrated Teoscar Hernandez and Lourdes Gurriel Jr.). It’s possible Bichette could be the consensus 1.1 pick in 2023 drafts.

Bo Bichette #11 of the Toronto Blue Jays is a top fantasy baseball shortstop
Bo Bichette could be 2023's top overall fantasy baseball draft pick. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

Perhaps you’d like a little more discretion at the plate — Bichette has a modest walk rate and is prone to chasing pitches out of the zone. Nonetheless, he’s a .301 career hitter, and his reluctance to walk means you get more AB-bang for your batting-average buck.

I wouldn’t change a thing, kid. Keep attacking when you see a pitch you can punish.

Tim Anderson, White Sox (32 Yahoo, 34 NFBC)

Here’s another player who’s occasionally been critiqued for his swing-first mentality and his reluctance to walk. People who should know better were actively eschewing Anderson early in his career. Well, check the last three seasons — a batting title in 2019, a .322 average in the truncated 2020 season and a .309 mark last year. Anderson carries a monster hard-hit rate yearly — which validates his lofty BABIPs — and we know he runs well. Whatever you’re doing, Timmy, don’t change a thing.

Anderson’s category juice is generally good but not elite — he’s around 18-20 home runs every year, and he’s probably set to steal 14-20 bags, in part because he’s not a high-percentage thief. I love landing the leadoff man for a Chicago offense that should be in the top 10 for scoring, assuming the White Sox receive even average injury luck this year. Anderson is capable of dominating two categories and will make a solid contribution in the other three. And like Bichette, Anderson’s batting-average contribution carries extra weight because he’s getting extra at-bats from his walk-limited approach.

Trevor Story, Free Agent (43 Yahoo, 39 NFBC)

Story finally leaves the thin air of Coors, and let’s be clear on what that means — he will not collapse into a messy version of his career road stats. When hitters depart Colorado, what generally happens is the player loses the home-field float but gains in his road effectiveness as he no longer has to deal with the Coors Hangover. Breaking pitches aren’t as effective in the Colorado altitude, and often that messes with Rockies hitters when they travel. Story no longer has to worry about this, and he should be fine wherever he lands.

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Story has always offered elite spring speed, and perhaps he’ll be more inclined to run if he lands with a team that doesn’t feature an extreme offensive ballpark. A wonky elbow also held Story back last year; presumably, that won’t be a problem in 2022.

Trevor Story, value pick? It’s been a long time since those words went together. Stay open-minded here.

Carlos Correa, Free Agent (75 Yahoo, 98 NFBC)

His draft price is notably more expensive in the Yahoo world, and I’m unlikely to cut the check. Although Correa’s time in Houston was respectable, he hasn’t reached the heights expected of him when he joined the majors. Before last year, Correa never finished higher than 17th in the MVP voting. He’s been uninterested in base-stealing for a solid five years. Three of his last five seasons have been hampered by significant injuries. A .277/.356/.481 career slash is good, but not elite.

Perhaps I’m holding the pre-majors scouting report against Correa, but I was expecting something in the star area. He’s turned into a very good but not elite ballplayer. If you fancy Correa on your team, understand he will come with a premium draft-pick investment on Yahoo.

Gleyber Torres, 2B/SS, Yankees (177 Yahoo, 149 NFBC)

The Yankees finally accepted that Torres isn’t a shortstop, and while he's unlikely to be a plus defender anywhere on the diamond, moving him off that high-stress and high-profile position might be the best thing for his psyche. It’s also possible Torres could be on the move if New York makes a splashy infield addition when free agency reopens; a change of scenery could be well-timed for all parties.

Torres is still just 25. He ran more proactively last year. He’s only three years removed from a .278/.337/.535 slash with 38 home runs. His current Yahoo tag is begging you to take an upside swing.

Brandon Crawford, Giants (221 Yahoo, 205 NFBC)

The market is handling Crawford carefully, not wanting to be the sucker that pays the weight for Crawford’s stunning 2021 breakout in his mid-30s. But Crawford can give back a lot of last year’s spike and still make you a profit at the current draft cost. He carried a 115 OPS+ in 2020, and the changes to the San Francisco ballpark (ah, the joy of the closed archway) have been beneficial to LH power. When the rest of the room shrugs, you can scoop up Crawford as a tasty middle-infield value play.