Not long ago, back in the '70s, our expectations for offensive production at shortstop were so modest as to be almost nonexistent. Power stats were basically unavailable. Shortstops were expected to hit .240, turn double-plays and steal the occasional base — and that was it.
The position was, to borrow a term from modern supplement advertising, exceedingly low-T.
Bucky Dent, a .262/.327/.354 hitter in his best season, was actually a three-time All-Star. Larry Bowa, a .260/.300/.320 career hitter, made five all-star teams. Freddie Patek (.242/.309/.324) made three.
Eventually, however, mashers like Ripken, Trammell, and Yount elevated the position to offensive respectability, challenging for MVP awards. Soon after, shortstops like A-Rod, Nomar, Tejada, and Jeter went nuclear. A position that had been a wasteland in the '70s became a goldmine in the '90s.
Entering the 2020 season, shortstop is suddenly as deep as any position in MLB for fantasy purposes. Five shortstop-eligible players are locks to be chosen within the first two rounds in standard drafts and another seven are likely to be off the board before the end of the fifth.
Marcus Semien, coming off a season in which he hit 33 home runs and finished third in MVP voting, is somehow just the fourteenth shortstop selected in an average Yahoo fantasy draft. Tim Anderson, the reigning AL batting champ, is typically selected even later than Semien. Corey Seager, Carlos Correa and Elvis Andrus are often available outside the top 100 picks.
Simply put, it's a loaded position. Whatever stat you're looking for, it's available at short. Four shortstops produced 20/20 seasons last year (Lindor, Story, Villar, Santana) and another delivered a 19/35 campaign (Turner), despite appearing in only 122 games.
You might very well have a few regrets after drafting your first fantasy roster of 2020, but your shortstop decision isn't likely to be among them.
Undervalued: Sleeper shortstops for all league sizes
Again, we have dudes like Corey Seager and Carlos Correa going in the tenth round or later. Those players are both former Rookies of the Year, both former All-Stars, both only 25 years old. If you're drafting in a smaller mixed fantasy league, they qualify as sleepers at their current prices. This position is ludicrously deep.
If, however, you're playing in a plus-size league, then we obviously need to reach further down the ranks. Paul DeJong has been remarkably cheap in early drafts — 203.3 ADP at Yahoo, 194.2 at NFBC — despite the fact that he hit 30 bombs and scored 97 runs for the Cards last season. DeJong is only 26 years old and he's cut his K-rate in consecutive seasons. He's a very good bet to produce another 25-30 homers in a healthy season, yet he's an afterthought at the draft table. He didn't hit for average last year (.233), but we shouldn't expect his .259 BABIP to hold.
For those who need their sleepers to fall well outside the top-200 picks, we direct your attention to Willy Adames (cheap 20-homer pop), Luis Urias (22-year-old with upside, recovering from wrist surgery) and Nick Madrigal (future White Sox leadoff hitter and second baseman).
Overvalued: Not every shortstop is a bargain
Let's just make sure we're not drafting Ketel Marte at a spot that requires him to repeat or approach last year's numbers. That's not to say he can't be an asset in 2020, but nothing in his history prior to last year's binge suggested a 6.9 WAR season was upcoming. Marte rode the league-wide power surge to an extraordinary outlier power season, clearing the fence 32 times while slashing .329/.389/.592. He'd entered the year as a career .263/.324/.389 hitter with just 22 home runs over 1,548 lifetime plate appearances. If he can simply give us, say, 21-24 bombs and a .280-ish average this season, that's a terrific line for a player with his resume (and with 2B/SS/OF eligibility). But it's not a projection that demands a top-50 pick.
These guys, on the other hand ...
The Wild Cards
Fernando Tatis Jr. and Bo Bichette are going to feast
To this point, our focus has largely been on the depth of talent among veteran shortstops, but this position is also absolutely stacked with young stars. Tatis Jr. is our consensus No. 4 shortstop and a fully approved second-rounder coming off an absurd half-season for San Diego (22/16, .317/.379/.590). He won't need to maintain last year's pace to justify his ADP. Tatis just turned 21 in January, he has a 22/32 season on his minor league resume and his first taste of the big leagues went unreasonably well. He has obvious 30/30 potential.
Bichette isn't too far behind Tatis in terms of power/speed potential, and he also raked against major league pitching in 2019, slashing .311/.358/.571 over 46 games for Toronto. Pretty much every projection system likes his chances to produce a 20/20 season in the year ahead with a useful average. Bichette was a career .321/.380/.515 hitter in the minors over 323 games. It's a little weird to suggest that a buzzy soon-to-be 22-year-old could be a steal at his top-75 ADP (71.6), but that feels like the case with Bichette.
Just look at this swing:
If you want to argue Bichette has a shot at a better season than Tatis, I'll listen. He's going to be a five-category fantasy asset in his best years.