Fantasy Baseball Shortstop Preview: Sleepers, breakouts, busts, top prospects, rankings and more for 2020

How absurdly stacked is the shortstop position these days? Fernando Tatis, who just hit .317 with 22 homers and 16 steals in 84 games as a 20-year-old is barely in the top five at the position in early ADP; Gleyber Torres and his 38 homers as a 22-year-old don’t crack the top five. Manny Machado isn’t even in the top 10 anymore.

Expect to see at least 10 players come off the board from shortstop inside the first 50 picks on Draft Day, which means there’s a good chance one of your offensive centerpieces is going to come from shortstop. However, we’re also at a point where you might draft someone like Torres or Alex Bregman or Machado, and use them at another position. The days of shortstop being a shallow position are pretty much gone. In fact, there really isn’t much difference between shortstop and first or third base, while it’s much stronger than second.

You could technically draft shortstops with your first three picks and end up with Bregman at third base, Trea Turner at shortstop and Torres at second base, and you’d have power, speed and average locked in to start your team. The position is really that strong, and there’s plenty of depth. If you want to prioritize one position early in your draft, shortstop is where to do it.

2020 Draft Prep

Shortstop Preview

2020 Draft Prep

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2020 Draft Prep

Shortstop Sleeper, Breakout & Bust

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2020 Draft Prep

Shortstop Top Prospects

1. Wander Franco, Rays

Age (on opening day): 19
Where he played in 2019: low Class A, high Class A
Minor-league stats: .327 BA (425 AB), 9 HR, 27 2B, 18 SB, .885 OPS, 56 BB, 35 K  

Franco’s preternatural hitting ability was widely recognized as young as 17 and was on full display in his first season of full-season ball. He led the Florida State League (the higher of the two levels he played) in hitting despite being a year younger than any other player there. But even beyond the stats, it’s his attributes — from his strike-zone awareness to his pitch recognition to his plate coverage — that suggest he’s a star in the making, possibly getting his first taste of the majors this upcoming season.

2. Carter Kieboom, Nationals

Age (on opening day): 22
Where he played in 2019: Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: .303 BA (412 AB), 16 HR, 24 2B, .902 OPS, 68 BB, 100 K
Major-league stats: .128 BA (39 AB), 2 HR, .491 OPS, 4 BB, 16 K      

Pressed into major-league duty because of an early-season injury to Trea Turner, Kieboom was a disaster both offensively and defensively, but he seemed to take it all in stride, returning to put up stud numbers at Triple-A. He has a mature approach and recognizes breaking balls well, giving him a low-risk profile even as he continues to develop as a power hitter. Defensively, he profiles better at second base, where the Nationals have added Starlin Castro and re-signed utility options Asdrubal Cabrera and Howie Kendrick.

3. Royce Lewis, Twins

Age (on opening day): 20
Where he played in 2019: high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: .236 BA (517 AB), 12 HR, 22 SB, .661 OPS, 38 BB, 123 K

An MVP performance in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .353 with three homers and a .975 OPS in 22 games, redeemed what was an otherwise discouraging season for the former No. 1 overall pick, who struggled even in a return trip to high Class A to begin the year. Most evaluators are inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to a player who had performed up to his pedigree prior to 2019 and whose complicated mechanics most likely contributed to his struggles. It’s what the minors are for. 

4. C.J. Abrams, Padres

Age (on opening day): 19
Where he played in 2019: Rookie, low Class A
Minor-league stats: .393 BA (150 AB), 3 HR, 15 SB, 1.083 OPS, 11 BB, 14 K

Athleticism was the most cited reason for the Padres making Abrams the sixth overall pick in 2019, and it’s true he can motor. But his bat skills were the ultimate takeaway from his first professional season, which saw him slash line drives to all fields while routinely taking the extra base. Power isn’t supposed to be a big part of his skill set, but when a player so young shows such aptitude, it’s hard to project the limits of his upside, especially in a power-friendly era.

5. Bobby Witt, Royals

Age (on opening day): 19
Where he played in 2019: Rookie
Minor-league stats: .262 BA (164 AB), 1 HR, 9 SB, .670 OPS, 13 BB, 35 K

The second player off the board in 2019 gets all benefit of the doubt for now, especially since he wouldn’t be the first high-school sensation to sputter in his introduction to pro ball. He still earns high marks across the board, perhaps having some vulnerability to the strikeout but with a strong enough hit tool to overcome it. A Trevor Story-like outcome is plausible.

6. Nico Hoerner, Cubs
7. Jordan Groshans, Blue Jays
8. Oneil Cruz, Pirates
9. Jazz Chisholm, Marlins
10. Jeter Downs, Dodgers

So which sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which undervalued first baseman can help you win a championship? Visit SportsLine now to get rankings for every single position, all from the model that called Kenta Maeda’s huge breakout last season, and find out.

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