Welcome to my positional prospect rankings series for 2023. The offseason is always a fun time, especially in the world of dynasty and prospect rankings. This is the time of year when we have additional time to dissect our rankings in many different ways and dive deeper into prospect profiles to see if we have them ranked appropriately. The two most beneficial ways to break them down are by team and position. In this series, I’m going position by position, continuing with my top Shortstop Prospect Rankings here today.
NOTE: International signees will be in an upcoming update.
- Regardless of format, Gunnar Henderson is the top shortstop prospect in the game right now. At least for the first week of the season until he graduates and one of the next few names takes his spot on this proverbial throne. Henderson has constantly demonstrated how advanced of a hitter he is with great on-base abilities and a sneaky-good power/speed blend that often gets underrated. All of those tools were on full display in his MLB debut late last season with a 53.1% hard-hit rate, 12.1% walk rate, and 91st-percentile sprint speed. It was a small sample size, but to put it in perspective, Henderson was the only player in baseball (Min 50 BBE) to reach those three thresholds.
- In addition to Henderson, Jordan Westburg should join him in Baltimore at some point this summer. In my eyes, Westburg is one of the most underrated prospects in baseball. Sure, he gets recognized as a TOp 100 caliber prospect on many lists, but everyone should be talking about him with more hype and excitement. Just look at Westburg’s production over the last two seasons below. There’s around an average hit tool with plus power and average speed. I’m not sure how Baltimore will mold their infield given all the options and flexibility they have, but a .260+/20+/10 profile would look pretty damn good wherever Westburg winds up. THat longterm position could be shortstop, but Westburg has also played second base and third base as well.
- 2021 (A/A+/AA): 506 PA, .285/.389/.479, 27 2B, 15 HR, 17 SB, 12.1% BB, 25.1% K
- 2022 (AA/AAA): 622 PA, .265/.355/.496, 37 2B, 27 HR, 12 SB, 11.3% BB, 23.6% K
- Without question, the highest upside at this position and in all of minor league baseball goes to Elly De La Cruz. After hitting .296 with 8 HR and 10 SB in 61 games in 2021, De La Cruz fully broke out in 2022 to the tune of a .304/.359/.586 slash line, 68 extra-base hits, 28 home runs, and 47 steals in just 120 games last season. If you extrapolate that out over 650 plate appearances, Elly would have a juicy 35 home runs and 60 steals. All those steals weren’t just because of the rules in Single-A either as De La Cruz swiped 19 in 47 Double-A games. This level of elite power and speed doesn’t come around too often and gives De La Cruz first-round fantasy upside if he’s able to improve his approach. While incremental improvements have been made already, he’s going to need to trim his 30.9% strikeout rate and 15.8% SwStr rate. Elly should run higher BABIPs too given his QoC and speed.
- If Elly De La Cruz doesn’t take over as the top shortstop prospect, it’s because Jordan Lawlar did. The 2021 #6 overall pick racked up 16 home runs and 39 steals (6 CS) with a .303/.401/.509 slash line, 12.4% walk rate, and 25.1% strikeout rate. There should be more game power on the way too and Lawlar still has some projection left on his frame. The upside is here for Lawlar to go 20+/20+ annually with a good AVG and OBP as well. He’s a no-doubt top-10 overall fantasy prospect and will likely be inside my top 3 once Henderson and Carroll graduate.
- One of my favorite prospect buys right now in dynasty leagues at any position is Oswald Peraza. Over the last two seasons, Peraza is one of only five prospects to record 15+ home runs and 25+ steals in both seasons. His fellow Yankees prospect, Anthony Volpe, is one of the other four. Peraza was even able to reach these thresholds after a slow start to the 2022 season that saw him sitting with a .192/.267/.316 slash line entering play on June 11th. But luckily, Peraza righted the ship and finished his minor league season with a .318/.382/.560 line leading up to his early-September call up to the Bronx. He’ll likely settle in around .260 or so, but that could come with 15-20 homers and 20+ steals annually. All of that plus the fact that Peraza actually has an opening to seize in the Yankees everyday lineup makes him a fantasy target in dynasty leagues right now. Anthony Volpe continues to be underrated as well and should be up not too long after Peraza.
- Let’s keep the underrated theme going with Brice Turang. Props to my good friend and co-host Chris Clegg for beating the Turang drum this offseason because many, myself included, were underranking him. Granted, he was coming off back-to-back underwhelming seasons in 2019 and 2021, but his 2022 was a nice rebound, finishing with 13 home runs and 34 steals in 134 games with a .286/.360/.412 slash line. Is Turang going to be a fantasy stud? Unlikely. But there’s a Peraza-lite profile in here with a better OBP. There’s also a chance Turang breaks camp as the starting second baseman if he has a productive spring training.
Names to Buy
Jackson Merrill, SDP: While the hype on Jackson Merrill is growing by the week, I’d still recommend buying right now in dynasty leagues. If I believe that the value will continue to rise, I’m fine buying high with a player such as Merrill. All Merrill did all season long was hit, hit, and hit some more, finishing the season with a .339/.395/.511 slash line. Merrill also looked impressive in my live looks out in the AFL even if the overall production didn’t stand out. With an above-average to plus hit tool and similar power potential, Merrill really has a chance to stand out offensively at the shortstop position, especially if he can continue providing double-digit steals annually.
Edwin Arroyo, CIN: This Cincinnati Reds farm system is jam-packed with exciting prospects for fantasy purposes, and Edwin Arroyo is one of the top names leading the charge. Arroyo was acquired from Seattle this past summer and struggled a bit after the trade. I’m not worried about that one bit though. Arroyo profiles as a potential 50/55-hit, 50-power, 55+ speed type that will get a nice boost playing in Great Americal Ballpark. These skills were on full display last season when he finished with a .293/.366/.480 line to go along with 49 extra-base hits, 14 home runs, and 27 steals in 116 games. If this continues, he’ll likely be inside my Top 25 overall by midseason.
Axel Sanchez, SEA: I debated making some Guns N’ Roses puns here given the name, but I’ll hold back. Even after trading several of their top names over the last year or so, Seattle still has an exciting system with Sanchez and others rising quickly. In 285 plate appearances last season, Sanchez slashed .286/.365/.510 with 19 doubles, 10 home runs, and 13 steals. He’s already shown a solid hit tool and I believe he’ll develop into a plus power bat while being able to provide some speed as well. The arrow is firmly pointed up here. Grab some stock now before his price tag skyrockets.
Names to Sell
Marco Luciano, SFG: Let me begin by saying that I still believe that Marco Luciano is going to be a good bat. But he fits the ideal prospect sell mold as his perceived value always seems to be much higher than what I believe his actual value will be. Unfortunately, Luciano stopped running in 2022 and wasn’t efficient even when he was running in previous years. That lack of speed puts a ton of emphasis on his bat to be great and I just don’t think he’s more than a .260/25 type. Again, that’s still solid, but now is a good time to sell while he perceived value is still considerably higher than that.
Masyn Winn, STL: With Winn, I think the AVG and speed should be there, but I’m questioning if he’s ever more than a 10-12 homer bat. The hope for additional power projection pushed him higher in my rankings earlier in the season, but I’m just not confident he can get into the 15-20 homer range. Plus, Winn was overly aggressive in my live looks and I wonder if that gets exposed against more advanced pitching. As I said with Luciano above, I’m still projecting Winn to have some decent fantasy value thanks to his speed (think Edman-lite), but the perceived value makes him a solid sell candidate right now in dynasty leagues.
Matt McLain, CIN: When you look at Matt McLain’s 2022 performance, you’ll probably notice his 17 home runs and 27 stolen bases in just 103 games and wonder why he’s a sell for me right now. Well, McLain seems to have sold out for power and it’s come at the expense of his AVG and strikeout rate. McLain struck out 28.1% of the time in Double-A this season while hitting only .232 and then proceeded to post a 32% strikeout rate in 97 AFL plate appearances where the quality of pitching wasn’t overly high. If given a full-time role, I believe McLain could push 20/20 over a full season. However, with all the other options Cincinnati has in their system, specifically on the left side of the infield, I’m wondering if McLain falls out of favor eventually if he doesn’t improve the contact and swing and miss issues.
Orelvis Martinez, TOR: To round out the article, we have the powerful yet flawed Orelvis Martinez. There’s no doubting the raw power here with Martinez. It’s the hit tool that I question. In 492 Double-A plate appearances, Martinez posted a .203/.286/.446 slash line with an 8.1% walk rate and 28.5% strikeout rate. I was able to see him live several times throughout the season and his approach is incredibly aggressive. Granted, he was young for the level and I’m not fully out on him, but he’s not one I’m targeting in dynasty leagues right now.
- FYPD Targets: Jackson Holliday, Brooks Lee, Zach Neto, Jett Williams, Cole Young, Mikey Romero
- Redraft Targets (In Order): Gunnar Henderson, Ezequiel Tovar, Oswald Peraza, Anthony Volpe, Royce Lewis, Elly De La Cruz, Addison Barger
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2023 Shortstop Prospect Rankings
Other positions can be found here, along with overall prospect rankings, dynasty rankings, and team prospect rankings.
|2||Elly De La Cruz||CIN||21.1||2023|
|58||Eric Brown Jr.||MIL||22.1||2025|
|89||Alex De Jesus||TOR||20.9||2024|
Media Credit: Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire