That shortstop is now the first place everyone turns for a stud hitter shows just how much the game has evolved in my 13 years writing about it. It wasn't long ago that Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki were so far ahead of every other shortstop that you almost couldn't overstate their worth.
Now it's like, "Francisco Lindor already? Ugh, but I'd be giving up so much value at the position."
It's not an unfair sentiment. Shortstop, like every other infield position, served up some outsized underachievers during the pandemic-shortened season, but since Gleyber Torres, Javier Baez and Carlos Correa are all still in the prime of their career and have no outstanding concerns, the opportunity to buy low on them is a particularly inviting one.
Then again, if you aim for the most perfect outcome and fall short of it, shortstop actually is a position where you can get boxed out. There are enough quality options to go around in a 12-team league with standard Head-to-Head lineups, but that's assuming nobody takes a second one for his utility spot. As talented as this shortstop crop is, someone might -- a couple someones, actually. And if you do get boxed out, the drop is a precipitous one.
Besides, how are you going to turn down any of these guys?
|2021 ADP||2020 PPG||2020 BA||2020 HR|
Xander Bogaerts BOS SS
Corey Seager LAD SS
Fernando Tatis is one of just a handful of players in contention to go No. 1 overall. Trea Turner and Trevor Story have been first-round fixtures for a couple years now and, along with Tatis, present a rare opportunity to secure a significant steals total from a genuinely elite bat. The position they play is irrelevant considering.
Lindor in past years was right there with them, and though his performance suffered over the small sample, the underlying numbers made him out to be the same player as always. Adalberto Mondesi, meanwhile, is the game's biggest outlier for stolen bases, making him the one player who could single-handedly carry you in the category. He wouldn't be one of The Studs in a points league, but his one-of-a-kind production in that scarcest of categories makes him golden in 5x5 play.
I could go on about how Corey Seager showed first-round potential last year or how Bo Bichette is shaping up to be the position's next superstar, but you get the idea. You'll have plenty of chances to take a crack at one of these guys, and you shouldn't dismiss it just because you have your eye on something else later.
I know what you're thinking. Why pay up for those other guys when I still have a chance for Torres, Baez or Correa, with Dansby Swanson also lurking as a fallback option? But I've seen those four all go in such short succession that I didn't even have a chance to react. And there I was having to settle for Didi Gregorius, the obvious also-ran at a position of studs and near studs.
It could have been worse -- much worse. At least we know now Gregorius will be back with the Phillies and at a park well suited to get the most out of his middling power. It's the reason I was willing to include him with the Other Deserving Starters and not lump him in with the nobody Chris Taylor types. Still, it's obvious Gregorius doesn't compare to these others in terms of upside. Maybe I'm being a little too generous to Swanson by saying so, but oh well. At least he steals some bases.
Like at second base, David Fletcher shapes up better for points leagues than categories since he offers little in the way of home runs or stolen bases, but he should be a good source of batting average and runs.
|2021 ADP||2020 PPG||2020 BA||2020 OPS|
Jorge Polanco MIN SS
Paul DeJong STL SS
Willi Castro DET SS
Bobby Witt KC SS
Nico Hoerner CHC 2B
*2019 minor-league stats
^2020 KBO stats
Calling these players upside plays is kind of rich given what upside looks like at this position. Fair to say Willi Castro isn't going to be closing the gap on Xander Bogaerts anytime soon. But if we're talking sleepers in the most technical sense, it's true that these players all have the potential to outperform their draft position. And for a couple, it's by more than a little.
We obviously saw Marcus Semien perform at an MVP level just two years ago. Maybe the move to a smaller park will help him tap into that outlier power again. Wander Franco, being the top prospect in baseball, of course has an enormous ceiling. I expect to see both him and Bobby Witt, a rapidly rising prospect who flirted with the Royals second base job this spring, in the majors sooner than later.
Jorge Polanco remains a safe bet for batting average, his 2020 numbers looking like a total fluke, and at this time a year ago, we considered him a must-start at the position. It's hard to say exactly how much upside Ha-seong Kim has coming over from South Korea, particularly since we don't know what kind of role he'll have with the Padres, but to not call him a sleeper would be ignoring the numbers he put up in the KBO.
|2021 ADP||2020 SB||2021 hope||Also eligible|
Jonathan Villar NYM 2B
Joey Wendle TB 3B
Isiah Kiner-Falefa TEX SS
Amed Rosario CLE SS
2019 minor-league stats
^2020 KBO stats
It's true that shortstop is a position where many in your league can expect to meet their steals need, but the length of this list is a little misleading. The top six names -- Tatis, Turner, Story, Lindor, Bichette and Mondesi -- are all gone after three rounds, at least in the scoring format where stolen bases are so vital. And from the remaining players who can offer something beyond stolen bases -- guys like Tim Anderson, Baez and Swanson -- the expected steals contribution is a modest one.
Tommy Edman could hit for a high average and score a bunch of runs batting atop the Cardinals lineup, so you shouldn't sleep on him. And as already mentioned, it's hard to say just how high Kim's ceiling goes. But some of the others? Amed Rosario isn't meeting anyone's steals need in 2021 -- I'm just saying.
So which 2021 Fantasy baseball sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which undervalued first baseman can help you win a championship? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy baseball rankings for every single position, all from the model that called Will Smith's huge breakout last season, and find out.