Ranking fantasy shortstops, second basemen

March 13th, 2021


Shortstop is a deep and exciting position when it comes to fantasy baseball, with some of the best players in the game manning that spot for their respective teams. Here’s a breakdown of the fantasy options at short, which include several MVP candidates, as we enter the 2021 season:

Tier 1: Fernando Tatis Jr., Trea Turner, Trevor Story, Francisco Lindor

Here are your MVP-caliber shortstops, beginning with the most exciting player in the game. Tatis has played in 143 Major League games, and yet has risen to the very top of the fantasy rankings among shortstops, hitting .301/.374/.582 with 39 home runs, 98 RBIs and 111 runs scored. And that only after slumping during the final month of the 2020 regular season.

Turner, meanwhile, flexed his power in the pandemic-shortened campaign, belting 12 homers in 59 games while also leading baseball in hits (78) and triples (four). He also drove in 41 runs and scored 46 -- in ’19, he hit 19 homers with 57 RBIs in more than twice as many at-bats. And, as always, he stole a bunch of bases -- 12 last year and 33 or more in each of his other MLB seasons, save for 27 games in 2015.

Story has blossomed into one of the best all-around players in the game, a true 30-homer/30-steal threat every year. Since 2018, he’s averaged 38 homers, 100 RBIs, 30 steals and a .909 OPS (122 OPS+) per 162 games. He led the NL with 15 steals last season.

Lindor has a new backdrop and will help anchor an exciting new-look Mets lineup in 2021. And while he had a down year -- by his standards -- in ’20, we’re talking about a fantasy jewel, a durable veteran who averaged 34 homers and 21 steals per season from 2017-19.

Tier 2: Bo Bichette, Corey Seager, Adalberto Mondesi, Xander Bogaerts

Bichette was hurt for much of last season, and played in only 29 of 60 games. Nevertheless, he hit .301/.328/.512 with five homers, and in 75 career games, owns an .896 OPS with 16 homers and 44 RBIs. We haven’t seen what a full season of Bichette looks like just yet, but if we assume similar production, fantasy owners are looking at a 30-homer,100-RBI campaign, and possibly even 15-20 steals.

Seager had a big season last year after a solid, though not eye-popping 2019, when he was coming off Tommy John surgery. In the shortened 2020 season, he slashed .307/.358/.585 with 15 home runs and 41 RBIs in 52 games. He then had a tremendous postseason to help lead the Dodgers to their first World Series title in 32 years, taking home NLCS and World Series MVP honors. If the power carries over to 2021, Seager could be a serious MVP candidate.

Mondesi may be somewhat of a surprise this high in the fantasy rankings, but when you take a closer look, you see why he is where he is -- still just 25 years old, he’s 161 games removed from posting an .804 OPS with 14 homers, 37 RBIs and 32 steals in 75 games. Last year, he swiped 24 bags to lead the Majors. When he fires on all cylinders, Mondesi will be the prototypical early-round fantasy selection.

Bogaerts has become the star the Red Sox had hoped for all along, even if it took a few seasons for him to get there. Since 2018, he’s consistently been one of the best shortstop fantasy performers in the game, averaging a .907 OPS with 32 homers, 116 RBIs and 102 runs scored per 162 games.

Tier 3: Tim Anderson, Gleyber Torres, Javier Báez

Anderson followed up his breakout 2019 season, in which he won the AL batting average title, with another strong campaign last year, leading the AL with 45 runs scored while slashing .322/.357/.529 with 10 home runs. He’s also averaging 15 steals a season thus far in his career. The way Anderson has been trending, he might even end up giving fantasy owners more bang for their buck in ’21. 

Torres struggled in the short 2020 season, but there’s no reason to think he won’t put up numbers over a full season like he did in ’19, when he launched 38 homers, drove in 90 runs and scored 96 (sure, a big chunk of that production came against the Orioles, but Baltimore is still in the AL East).

Báez likewise had his struggles last year, but is a guy who could very well move up a tier or two by this time next year with a big season in ’21. It kind of needs to happen for him soon, though, as his huge 2018 campaign is growing ever more distant -- he was runner-up in NL MVP voting that year after posting an .881 OPS and leading the league with 111 RBIs to go along with a career-best 34 homers. If he replicates something like that this year, fantasy owners are going to be very pleased given he’s a Tier 3 guy to open the season.

Tier 4: Dansby Swanson, Carlos Correa, Marcus Semien, Didi Gregorius

Swanson had shown flashes of what he can do at the plate over his first four seasons in the Majors, but entering 2020, he had never posted an OPS over .748 in a full season. He played in all 60 games for the Braves last year, and his offensive production was impressive -- he launched 10 homers, drove in 35 runs and scored 49. If he can do that over a full season in ’21, he’ll make fantasy owners happy as a low-tier/high production guy.

Correa had a tough 2020 at the plate, but a huge postseason, when he hit .362 with six homers and 17 RBIs in 13 games for the Astros. The hope in Houston is that October of last year will carry over into April of this year, and fantasy players likewise -- Correa is a great low-tier/high-upside guy given his track record. The question is: Can he stay healthy in ’21?

If Swanson had a big 2020 after four mediocre seasons at the plate, Semien experienced the opposite, struggling offensively last year after a breakout ’19 campaign. After finishing third in AL MVP voting in ’19, Semien hit .223/.305/.374 with seven homers in the pandemic-shortened ’20 season. He’s a tough one to evaluate given that he’s had one big season in his career, but that season was really big, We’ll see if he bounces back in that powerful Twins lineup.

Gregorius did just that -- bounce back -- in 2020 after an injury-shortened ’19, posting an .827 OPS with 10 homers and 40 RBIs in his first season with the Phillies. That’s much more in line with what he produced for the Yankees from 2017-18, which bodes well for anyone that picks up Gregorius for a fantasy roster.

Second basemen 

Pondering your fantasy options at second base as we enter the 2021 season? There’s a diverse group at the keystone position, from a perennial MVP candidate to some potential sleeper picks who could handsomely reward fantasy owners for their faith. Here’s a breakdown:

Tier 1: DJ LeMahieu, Ozzie Albies

LeMahieu is far and away the best second baseman in the game right now, and anyone who is able to draft him for their fantasy roster has about as sure of a thing as there is when it comes to offensive production from the position. Having finished fourth and third, respectively, in AL MVP voting the past two seasons, he’s primed to make another run at the honor in ’21. Last season, he led all of baseball with a .364 average and led the AL with a .421 on-base percentage while launching 10 homers and scoring 41 runs in 50 games.

Though he only played in 29 games last season due to injury, Albies is a season removed from leading the NL in hits with 189, while hitting .295/.352/.500 with 24 homers, 15 steals and 86 RBIs for the Braves. That’s a fantasy stud at second base if there ever was one. And he’s still only 24 years old.

Tier 2: Keston Hiura, Jose Altuve, Cavan Biggio, Brandon Lowe, Ketel Marte, Mike Moustakas

Hiura has impressed in his first two MLB seasons, over which he has played 143 games -- he’s belted 32 homers and driven in 81 runs, scoring 81 while posting an .843 OPS. He’s got to cut down on his strikeouts -- he led the league with 85 in last year’s pandemic-shortened season -- but overall, solid production from second base for anyone’s fantasy club.

Altuve uncharacteristically finds himself somewhere outside Tier 1 this year as a result of a difficult 2020 campaign in which he hit just .219/.286/.344 with five homers and 18 RBIs in 48 games for Houston. He might be a Tier 2 guy, but he could very well end up with Tier 1 numbers if he’s able to bounce back the way many stars with subpar ’20 seasons are expected to. 

Between his rookie campaign of 100 games in 2019, and 59 in last year’s abbreviated season, we’ve got about a full season sample of Biggio’s work so far. While he has an OPS near .800, his .240 batting average won’t be too appealing for fantasy players, though his 24 homers and 20 steals certainly might. He’s still only entering his age-26 season, and since it’ll be his first full season in the Majors, the sky’s the limit.

Lowe could end up being a great buy-low/high production guy. He’s hit 37 homers and driven in 113 runs over 181 career games for the Rays. Marte is tough to figure because he had a breakout 2019 season, launching 32 homers to go along with a .981 OPS, but then regressed to career norms in ’20. And Moustakas is another year older -- he’s entering his age-32 season -- but also a year removed from 35 homers in 143 games, and calls the hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park his home.

Tier 3: Jake Cronenworth, Nick Madrigal, Jean Segura, Jonathan Schoop, Jonathan Villar, Ryan McMahon, Ha-Seong Kim

Cronenworth was on his way to a Rookie of the Year Award before a poor September at the plate torpedoed that possibility. It’s always tough to project what a player might do in his second Major League season, but even more so when his rookie campaign was an abbreviated one. He could find himself in a higher fantasy tier in future years, but for now, while he’s somewhat of an unknown quantity in fantasy terms, he could very well be a .300+ hitter over a full season.

Madrigal may not truly be “Mr. 3,000” as the shirts his teammates made up read, and perhaps he won’t be, but he does have 35 hits to his name from his 2020 rookie campaign, in which he hit .340 in 29 games before a shoulder injury ended his season. Another guy with almost no sample size to go on, but given his Minor League track record and prospect status (No. 40 in baseball per MLB Pipeline), he could subtly provide solid numbers from second base for a fantasy roster.

Segura has a pretty consistent track record at the plate of providing above-average production, and had a streak of seven straight seasons of double-digit steals snapped in the shortened 2020 campaign. Schoop could be a nice pickup for a fantasy roster given his power at the plate -- over the last two seasons, he’s hit 31 homers in 165 games. Villar had a rough 2020 but launched 24 homers in ’19, so could also provide some pop from Tier 3.

McMahon also had a very difficult time at the plate in 2020, but has enjoyed stints in which he got hot and slugged some impressive home runs. If he gets things going as Nolan Arenado’s replacement at third base for the Rockies, he could be a sneaky-good selection. 

Kim will be interesting to follow in his first MLB season after seven in the Korea Baseball Organization. He does have a power-speed combination that produced 30 homers and 23 steals for the KBO’s Kiwoom Heroes last year (138 games), and will likely be deployed as a utility player to get his bat in the lineup for the Padres.