In my fantasy baseball first base rankings, I mentioned that we would get to San Diego's Jake Croneworth when we got to the middle infield. So we might as well start the shortstop rankings with him.
I definitely like Croneworth as I think he absolutely has that "it" factor. For one, he has shown some spectacular flashes with the leather. Of course, fantasy baseball players rarely care about fielding, but they should. Given how crowded things are on the Padres (more on that in a minute), it will be good to know he won't be removed for defensive reasons, thus giving him more at-bats, which we as fantasy players do care about.
Croneworth also is a switch-hitter, which again gives manager Jayce Tingler more reasons to keep him in the game. And if he gets the plate appearances, there is no reason why Croneworth won't continue to improve on his 2020 slash line of .285/.354/.477.
The issue of course is that Croneworth is blocked at his natural position by my first overall pick for this year, Fernando Tatis Jr. The Padres are pushing all-in this year, and that includes the 14-year, $340 million extension they offered Tatis. As one fellow writer said best, "Five years from now that's gonna be an absolute bargain." And I couldn't agree more as I think he might start living up to his contract this year.
If we simply double Tatis' 2020 stats to give him just 450 at-bats (and I suspect he will see far more than that!), that gives him 34 home runs and 22 stolen bases. It's not hard to envision a 40/30 season from Tatis this year. Even if Tatis only does what he did in 2019 when he hit .317 (in 334 ABs) with 22 homers and 16 stolen bases, that's a spectacular floor. At a loaded position, Tatis is my clear No. 1 choice, even with a spectacular backup behind him.
Thoughts and Other Rankings Notes:
- AL-only leagues obviously don't have the option of grabbing Tatis or even Croneworth. And we know that neither I nor you will be able to get those players in every league in which we play. I'll be very happy to have any of the other top options at SS in an NL league like Trevor Story and Trea Turner. In an AL-only league, I won't grab them in the first round, but I will be very happy to end up with Xander Bogaerts, Bo Bichette, or Adalberto Mondesi as my starting shortstop as well, perhaps as early as the second round.
- Even if I'm forced to start a shortstop outside of my top 20, the position is deep enough to provide plenty of viable options. I'm happy to take a chance on the switch-hitting Jorge Polanco, who hit .295 with 22 home runs in 2019. And was 2019 so long ago that we forgot that Jonathan Villar hit .274 with 24 HRs and 40 SBs? I could think of worse starting options.
- And if I have to start a SS outside of my top 30, I'm happy to play the high-upside potential of a Jon Berti or an Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who may even be eligible as a catcher in your league.
Check out my shortstop rankings below. Let me know your thoughts!
— Rankings by Mark Strausberg, a member of the Athlon Network Contributor, who despite his youthful exuberance and good looks has been playing fantasy sports before Wildcats or Hoosiers even made it to VHS. Got a fantasy sports question or thought? Hit him up on Twitter @MarkStrausberg.