Welcome back into my 2023 positional dynasty rankings series. After hitting catcher, first base, second base, and the hot corner, we now finish up the infield with my dynasty shortstop rankings. As usual, the shortstop position is the deepest infield position by a country mile, both in terms of Major League and prospect talent. Even if this position loses one of it’s superstars moving forward, there’s still a plethora of young talent already in the Majors and many more on the way in the coming years.
- As of now, Fernando Tatís Jr holds the top spot, but for how long? With Xander Bogaerts now in town for the long haul, there’s a decent chance that Tatís loses eligibility after this season. That’s probably for the best though. Once that does happen, the new king to the throne will likely be Bobby Witt Jr. Witt made an impact right away in his rookie season posting the only 80/20/80/30 season in the Majors and becoming one of only nine rookies ever to go 20/25 in their debut season. He does chase a bit too much, but Witt posted above-league-average quality of contact metrics and showed even more power in the minors. It’s not unrealistic to expect some grown at the plate into the .270/25 range in 2023. On top of that, Witt immediately established himself as one of the fastest players in the league, ranking second in sprint speed behind only Corbin Carroll. With an improving Kansas City lineup, Witt going .270/90+/25/90+/30+ in 2023 is certainly possible.
— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) September 3, 2022
- While I’m still not 100% sure if he’ll be a shortstop or third baseman long-term, I’m going to mention Gunnar Henderson here. Thanks to Henderson, Connor Norby, Jordan Westburg, Coby Mayo, and others, Baltimore has plenty of flexibility in this infield. And it honestly doesn’t matter much where Henderson ends up as the bat will play anywhere. But yes, he would be a bit more valuable as the shallower hot corner. Henderson was just one of four players with a 50+% hard-hit rate and 90th percentile or better sprint speed last season. If you add in a 12% walk rate, it’s just Henderson. There’s a bit of swing and miss to his game, but nothing I’m too concerned about at this time. This is a potential top 5 fantasy shortstop or third baseman in the making with .270+/25+/10+ upside.
- Wander Franco has become a fairly polarizing player for fantasy purposes. Some still believe he’s bound for greatness as a future annual first-round pick. Other have even used the term “overrated for fantasy” when describing him. Me? I’m somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. No matter what you think of Franco, there’s no doubting the impact he’s going to have in the AVG department. Franco has already displayed elite approach metrics with a 9.6% strikeout rate, 13.3% whiff rate, and 92.5% Zone Contact rate, but a lot of that has been on the ground with middle-of-the-road QoC metrics. While Franco has decent raw power, I’m not sure I see more than 20-25 home runs, even if he begins hitting more balls in the air. Longterm, a fairly-realistic outcome is Ozzie Albies with more AVG but a bit fewer home runs. That’s still going to make Franco a top 25 overall player, but I just don’t see top 10 overall. It’s crazy to think that Franco is still only 21 also.
- One of the more difficult ones to rank at this position right now is Oneil Cruz. The level of upside Cruz possesses could push him inside the top 20 overall for dynasty purposes. However, we simply cannot ignore the red flags that tag along for the ride. We saw that upside on full display in 2022 when Cruz cranked 17 home runs with 10 steals in just 361 plate appearances. On top of that, Cruz posted a 15.5% barrel rate, 46.1% hard-hit rate, 91.9 mph AVG EV, .463 xwOBACON, and 98th percentile sprint speed while registering the hardest-hit ball in the Statcast era (122.4 mph). That missile is below for your viewing pleasure. But of course, we need to discuss the red flags. Cruz recorded a 34.9% strikeout rate and a 35.4% whiff rate last season which caused some inconsistencies in his performance. The zone contact rate was a tick under 80% which isn’t too bad, but Cruz is going to need to cut down on the swing and miss moving forward. His big frame and subsequent big strike zone aren’t doing him any favors either. But even if he can hit around .250, that should be enough to allow Cruz to establish himself as a borderline top 25 overall dynasty asset. And if he’s up closer to .270, flirting with top 10 overall status isn’t entirely out of the question either.
Oneil Cruz hits one 122.4 mph!
That's the hardest hit ball of the Statcast era! pic.twitter.com/WuZchlYLko
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) August 24, 2022
- One of my favorite buys at this position entering 2023 is Corey Seager. The shift was definitely hurting Seager last season as he posted the lowest AVG of his career at .245 after being above .300 in both 2020 and 2021. Seager was shifted against 93.3% of the time and had a .235 wOBA aginst it versus a .343 wOBA when not shifted against. You can also see this in his actual stats versus expected stats from last season. Seager hit .245 with a .455 SLG while his xBA and xSLG were .283 and .510 respectively. With his elite approach and strong QoC metrics, I’m fully buying a big Seager bounceback in 2023. That Texas lineup keeps getting better and better too.
- Are we really writing Xander Bogaerts off as an elite fantasy shortstop? Okay, maybe elite was a tad strong, but it’s far too soon to dismiss him as a top 12 shortstop or so. With how a lot of people are talking about Bogaerts this offseason, you’d think he had a terrible season in 2022 but the 30-year-old Aruba native hit .307 with 15 home runs and eight steals. Sure, the HR total and QoC metrics dropped off a bit, but we’re still talking about a guy that has hit above .288 in each of the last five seasons and .292 for his career. Have we likely seen peak Bogaerts? Probably. But I’m expecting him to remain a .290+/15+/5+ player that can accumulate a ton of runs and RBI hitting high in a San Diego lineup that will feature Manny Machado, Fernando Tatís Jr, and Juan Soto around him.
- Another shortstop you’ll likely see a wide range of rankings for is CJ Abrams. For many, myself included, Abrams was a top 10 fantasy prospect and maybe even top 5 in some rankings. In 302 plate appearances between San Diego and Washington last season, Abrams slashed .246/.280/.324 with two home runs and seven steals. Even though he didn’t steal a ton of bags, Abrams top-notch speed (91st percentile sprint speed) could allow him to become a 30-steal threat annually. However, I’m questioning if he can get on base enough to fully maximize that speed. Abrams is overly aggressive at the plate and that showed with his 1.7% walk rate, 41.2% chase rate (League AVG = 28.4%), 42.7% First Pitch Swing rate (29.5%), and 57% swing rate (47.1%). Abrams also showed minimal power (2.1% BRL, 30.7% HH) and everything was on the ground (52.5% GB). So while there’s a .280/30 SB annual outcome in this profile, there’s also a decent chance that comes with a lower OBP and minimal power. Best-case outcome is probably somewhere in the Tommy Edman range. I’m not necessarily saying to try and sell him right now, but I’m also not looking to acquire any Abrams stock right now in dynasty leagues.
- Vaughn Grissom will likely add shortstop eligiblity this season by the end of April as he’s expected to take over at shortstop with Dansby Swanson now with the Cubs. Once eligible, he would slot in the back-end of tier four.
- In case you missed it, Jeremy Pena made some mechanical adjustments down the stretch and it led to a strong postseason performance (.345, 5 2B, 4 HR in 13 G). He already went 22/11 in his rookie season, and with the Crawford Boxes in left, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Pena flirt with 30 homers this season while jumping up into tier three.
- Don’t sleep on Willy Adames. While he won’t help (or hurt) in AVG or OBP, he’ll definitely provide decent value in HR, RBI, and R. Since arriving in Milwaukee in May 2021, Adames ranks 1st in HR, 4th in RBI, and 8th in runs scored among shortstops with 500 plate appearances. He’s a great target for a contending team.
- It’s sounding like Royce Lewis should be back sometime in May assuming there are no setbacks in his recovery between now and then. There was a bit of prospect fatigue with Lewis entering 2022 as he struggled in 2019 and missed all of 2021. But Lewis bounced back to the Lewis of old in Triple-A (.313/5/12 in 34 G) before an impressive 12-game stint with Minnesota before landing on the IL. His durability definitely is a concern for me right now, but the skills are there to be a .270+/15/25 type of player. Lewis is a fine buy-low target in dynasty leagues right now.
- If you’re looking for notes on the prospects included in these rankings, you can find those in my shortstop prospect rankings.
If you aren’t playing your dynasty leagues on Fantrax, you’re missing out on the deepest player pool and most customization around.
2023 Dynasty Shortstop Rankings
|1||Fernando Tatis Jr.||SDP||24.1|
|3||Bobby Witt Jr.||KCR||22.7|
|13||Elly De La Cruz||CIN||21.1|
Media Credit: Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire, Talkin’ Baseball, Kansas City Royals