Youngsters? More like "youngstars." The shortstop position is teeming with so much young talent that it inspires a new word. It is arguably the poster position for the trend in baseball -- and by extension, fantasy baseball -- toward building around young, dynamic players.A quick peek at the top names
Youngsters? More like "youngstars." The shortstop position is teeming with so much young talent that it inspires a new word. It is arguably the poster position for the trend in baseball -- and by extension, fantasy baseball -- toward building around young, dynamic players.
A quick peek at the top names in these rankings is all you need to see that this spot is about youth, athleticism and turning potential into production quickly. Consider this: The first four players below already are established superstars, and yet each will be younger than 25 when the 2018 season starts. What's more, only two players among all five tiers will be entering a season age north of 27 (Elvis Andrus, Jean Segura).
• MLB.com's player rankings
What does that mean for fantasy? Well, you'll have to act fast on draft day if you want one of these players as a building block, because the top few will come off the board very early. However, owners who miss out in the first two or three rounds will still have some value-grabbing opportunities later.
Tier 1: Trea Turner (Yahoo ADP: Pick 8)
Turner enters '18 the same way he started '17 -- looking like a five-category fantasy stud in the making after an abbreviated campaign. If you're wondering why Turner is ranked No. 3 overall in MLB.com's 2018 Player Preview, slightly separated from the shortstop field, consider that he has averaged 20 homers, 70 RBIs, 109 runs and 66 steals per 162 games in his career while posting a lifetime .304 average. In other words, if the 24-year-old can play even 140 games while hitting at or near the top of a stellar Nationals lineup, his all-around skill set could make him truly elite.
Tier 2: Carlos Correa (Yahoo ADP: Pick 16), Francisco Lindor (Yahoo ADP: Pick 21)
These two will likely be linked together and compared to each other for, oh, the next decade. After all, they're both Puerto Rican-born shortstops who were first-round MLB Draft picks a year apart, made their big league debuts a week apart in June '15 and have since helped turn their teams into powerhouse American League franchises.
Correa produced an incredible .320/.400/.566 slash line with 20 homers in his first 84 games of '17 and was seemingly on track to vie for AL MVP Award consideration before a torn left thumb ligament knocked him out for half of July and all of August. He returned with a fury and was outstanding during Houston's run to a World Series title, posting an .886 OPS with five homers and 14 RBIs in 18 postseason games against the best of the best. His only fantasy shortcoming? A double-digits steals total isn't guaranteed. Besides that, '18 could be the year Correa -- still just 23 -- cements himself as one of the top hitters in all of baseball.
Remember when the question surrounding Lindor (aka "Mr. Smile") was whether he'd hit for enough power to hang with the big bats at shortstop? The Indians star answered that last year, establishing career highs with 33 homers, 89 RBIs and an .842 OPS while racking up 99 runs scored for a second straight season. Sure, his average dropped from .301 in '16 to .273, but that was partly due to a .275 BABIP (.310 career mark). With the expectation of better batted-ball luck and 15 or so steals in addition to the increased pop, any fantasy owner who drafts Lindor should be left smiling all season.
Tier 3: Corey Seager (Yahoo ADP: Pick 30), Elvis Andrus (Yahoo ADP: Pick 61)
The top-ranked shortstop in the MLB.com Player Preview a year ago, Seager didn't make the statistical leap many expected from him last year. Part of the problem was that he battled through right elbow and back problems late in the season and slashed .210/.286/.358 with only three home runs in his final 24 games. After choosing to rehab instead of undergo surgery this offseason, Seager reported to Dodgers camp feeling good. He's still just 23 years old and could reach another level this season.
Andrus had a nobody-saw-that-coming campaign in the power department last year, crushing 20 homers -- more than twice his previous best -- on his way to career highs in runs (100), RBIs (88) and OPS (.808). The risk is that the 29-year-old won't repeat his power performance, especially after his average launch angle and exit velocity both dropped from '16 to '17. But Andrus has been a stable source of runs and steals for a long time, and he's posted a .299 average over the past two years. Fantasy owners shouldn't be wary of drafting him as their starting shortstop if the price isn't overly inflated based on last year's numbers.
Tier 4: Xander Bogaerts (Yahoo ADP: Pick 71), Jean Segura (Yahoo ADP: Pick 88)
After putting together a breakout '16, Bogaerts took a step backward last year. He especially struggled in the second half (.235/.324/.347 slash line) while battling a right hand injury from being hit by a pitch in early July. But Bogaerts likely would have fallen well short of matching his 21 homers from '16 even without that ailment, as he cleared the fences only six times in the first half. While the 25-year-old can be a valuable all-around asset, he's produced more than 12 home runs in a season only once in his career and cannot be counted on to hit for major power in '18.
Segura also was unable to replicate his '16 numbers, but he was still plenty productive in his first year with the Mariners despite making two trips to the disabled list (right hamstring, right ankle). In 125 games, Segura hit .300 with 11 homers, 22 steals and 80 runs scored. He should continue to provide well-rounded production from his spot near the top of Seattle's lineup, which now features speedster Dee Gordon along with holdovers Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager.
Tier 5: Orlando Arcia (Yahoo ADP: Pick 248), Didi Gregorius (Yahoo ADP: Pick 115), Trevor Story (Yahoo ADP: Pick 94), Jorge Polanco (Yahoo ADP: Pick 264), Marcus Semien (Yahoo ADP: Pick 255)
Mind the gap! The drop in the overall rankings from the previous tier to this one is right around 50 spots. In other words, if you haven't landed one of the above shortstops, you might as well wait until the middle rounds before targeting any of these Tier 5 options. And with little separation among this group, your team's needs should drive your decision-making at this stage.
Those in need of power should look to Gregorius or Story, while Arcia, Polanco and Semien will likely provide fewer homers but more steals. Arcia in particular could be one of the best value picks in fantasy, as he is ranked among the top 145 in MLB.com's Player Preview but has an ADP of 248 in Yahoo leagues. The 23-year-old former top prospect showed major growth in his first full season, hitting .277 with 15 homers and 14 stolen bases over 548 plate appearances.
Jason Catania is a fantasy writer for MLB.com.