For a multi-year stretch mostly coinciding with the juiced ball era, shortstop stood alone among infield positions as the most high-end and star-studded of all.

But now? Well, it still has its stars, but it's just not that special anymore. Some of the players who contributed to its star-studdedness have slipped back into something more ordinary, and the new guard hasn't firmly taken hold yet. If anything, shortstop stands out most for having more questions than answers.

And what talent it does have is mostly concentrated at the top, which means you could totally botch the thing if you're not careful. Again, I'm not claiming it's shallow -- no infield position is, really -- but the way you approach it should be the most intentional of all the infield positions.

By that, I mean you really have to draft one of the top 14 to feel "settled" at the position. You don't want to go into the season already on the lookout for an upgrade, whether it's because you're dissatisfied with the player's upside or fearful of his downside. Maybe 14 doesn't sound like a small number to you, particularly if you play in a league with 12 teams or fewer, but of those 14, five are eligible at some other position that isn't noticeably deeper at the point in the draft where they're taken. So if you're not careful, you may get stuck hoping for a Carlos Correa or Trevor Story rebound. And if you play in a Rotisserie league, you still have a middle infield position to fill beyond that.

Indeed, the fallback options -- which I'll loosely define as the 20-30 range in the rankings -- just aren't as bankable at shortstop as at other positions. I'd rather not stake my season to them, so if I'm liable to reach at any position, it's ... well, OK, it's the outfield. But after that, it's shortstop.

The Studs

2024 ADP2023 PPG2023 BA2023 HR

Not gonna lie ... I don't love the value of the last two in this group. Bo Bichette has delivered first-round outcomes in the past, and Elly De La Cruz will in the future. Right now, though, both stand out just as much for their flaws. Bichette has seen his speed decline along with his aptitude for stealing bases, to the point he's not even a surefire contributor in the category, and he may be too opposite field-minded to deliver power numbers like he did at his peak. It's mostly his batting average and reputation carrying him now, and it feels like you can get a potentially more impactful shortstop later. Meanwhile, stolen bases are the only certainty for De La Cruz at this stage of his career, and while he hits the ball hard enough to deliver big power, his strikeout rate and launch angle are in need of major improvement.

So my focus is more on the top five, and so far, I've been fortunate enough to come away with one in more drafts than not. If I have one of the first four picks, at least in a 5x5 categories league, I'm likely to end up with Bobby Witt since he's my second-ranked player in that scoring format. If I have one of the middle four picks, it's possible Trea Turner is there in Round 2. Any of the first eight picks gives me a shot at Francisco Lindor in Round 3, which seems like good value in either categories or points leagues, and if I'm drafting in the last four picks, Gunnar Henderson is a possibility in Round 3.

There was a time when having one of the last four picks almost assuredly meant I'd grab Corey Seager in Round 2, if not Round 1 (certainly Round 1 in points leagues, for reasons his point-per-game average should make clear), but now I've dropped him behind Henderson given that his recovery from sports hernia surgery could sideline him for all of April. If he lasts that long, he's an easy pick even though he's one of the few zeros for stolen bases at the position.

Other Deserving Starters

2024 ADP2023 PPG2023 BA2023 HR

I've mentioned that you'll need to draft one of the top 14 shortstops to feel "settled" at the position. The Studs are all included in that, of course, but only the top seven from this group are. So what about the other four? Thairo Estrada, Tommy Edman, Willy Adames and J.P. Crawford all have their uses -- particularly the first two for their stolen bases contributions in a 5x5 categories league -- but they all have clear limitations that confine them to the ranks of the ordinary, preventing them from breaking through as something more. The possible exception is Crawford -- specifically for points leagues, where his plate discipline is better appreciated -- but if his second-half power surge turns out to be a mirage, which seems likely, you'd want the chance to pivot away from him. So while it's fair to say these four deserve to start in certain contexts, it's not something you should relish.

Then again, who from the other seven would you relish drafting at their going rate? That's the rub, isn't it? It's why I've said I feel fortunate whenever I come away with one of The Studs at the position. Everyone else worth drafting feels like a reach. Some analysts are excited about C.J. Abrams' stolen base potential, even ranking him among The Studs for 5x5 categories leagues, and on the one hand, I can see it. His 47 steals last year were impressive enough, but when you consider 38 of them came over the final three months, it's not hard to imagine him stealing 60 bases -- or even more. But unfortunately, his many shortcomings as a hitter mean you're putting all your eggs in that one basket. Ha-seong Kim is much the same, only with about half of the steals projection, and I've already suggested in my second base strategies that Nico Hoerner and Matt McLain are being overdrafted.

The one player who I could draft here without feeling like I was conceding something is Oneil Cruz. His 2023 season ended after nine games because of a brutal leg injury, which may well have some lingering effects, but for the little we saw him (spring training included), he indeed cut down on his strikeouts in a way that would allow him to get the most out of his vast tool set. His upside isn't so different from Elly De La Cruz's and for the relative cost, I know which one I'd rather have.

The Sleepers

2024 ADP2023 PPG2023 BA2023 OPS

*minor-league stats

Most every other position has a "sleeper" or two who feels pretty safe still and is only included among The Sleepers because of his growth potential. That's not the case at shortstop, where drafting any one of these players as your starter is just begging for disaster. Honestly, the one I feel best about is the 20-year-old without a single major-league at-bat, Jackson Holliday. A former No. 1 overall pick and the son of seven-time All-Star turned hitting guru Matt Holliday, the young shortstop breezed through the minor-league system with such ease that I suspect he'll be an immediate contributor in Fantasy -- and possibly as soon as opening day. Seriously, if I hadn't already drafted a shortstop by this point, I'd make him my Plan A and just try to hold things together until he proves ready to be in my starting lineup.

Some will express enthusiasm for Anthony Volpe, who indeed has the highest ADP of this bunch, but the 20/20 campaign he delivered as a rookie might have been the most discouraging on record. It came with a .209 batting average and without the sort of underlying data that would hint at latent potential. You could put your faith in his prospect pedigree, but I'd rather roll the dice on a bounce-back season for Carlos Correa or Trevor Story, two longtime Fantasy standouts who are still in the prime of their careers. Sure, they were terrible last year, but Correa was plagued by plantar fasciitis and Story was coming back from a significant elbow injury. The exit velocities were still on point for the former and the stolen bases for the latter.

None of the other players inspires real confidence in me. Vaughn Grissom might have a year ago, and it's nice to see him get the opportunity with the Red Sox that he didn't get with the Braves. But he looked like just a singles hitter in the little bit we saw of him last year, and even in the minors, for as well as he performed, the exit velocity readings were underwhelming. I have little hope in Tim Anderson or Javier Baez bouncing back at this point, and while it's possible Zachary Neto, Ezequiel Tovar or Masyn Winn takes a step forward, it's not something I have good reason to predict. Jordan Lawlar is one to watch, but it's not clear when he'll get his opportunity.

The Base-Stealers

2024 ADP2023 SB2024 hopeAlso eligible
813830-402B, 3B
1662730-402B, OF

*minor-league stats

Perhaps it would have been quicker to list the shortstops who aren't expected to make a stolen base contribution this year. In leagues where such things matter, it genuinely does make it a little harder to justify drafting Corey Seager, J.P. Crawford or Carlos Correa, knowing everyone else will be getting stolen bases from that spot. As long as you're cognizant of it, though, you can make up ground at other positions easily enough. Besides, there's a big difference between the kind of stolen base contribution you're getting from Bobby Witt as compared to Gunnar Henderson.