2023 Fantasy Baseball Shortstop Preview

by Alex Welch
2023 Fantasy Baseball Shortstop Preview

Welcome to the 2023 Fantasy Baseball Shortstop Preview!

The 2023 Fantasy Baseball season is finally approaching. As you look at the best ways to construct your roster, the Fantasy Six Pack team is here to help you with the best resources at each position.

If you haven't checked out the rest of our coverage yet, be sure to catch up on our catcher preview, first base preview and second base preview. Now we'll take a look at the position you'll find scattered all over the top 100 rankings this season.

Shortstop provides an impressive pool of young stars who can contribute to all five categories. There is plenty of power and speed here, and it's one of the deepest positions you'll be drafting in 2023.

Who are the best options to target and avoid at the shortstop position this year? Let's take a look.

2023 Fantasy Baseball Shortstop Preview

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Who Are The Top Shortstops This Year?

Trea Turner, Philadelphia Phillies

Last year was a career year for Turner with 100 RBIs, 23 more than his previous high. His metrics have not changed much. He' still one of the fastest players in the game. Another plus, the park factors between Dodger Stadium and Citizens Bank Park aren't much different.

He’s projected to lead off for the Phillies this year, which will probably bring down that RBI mark a bit. But he’s in another good offense on a team that had the fifth-most steals in 2022. He’s worth of one of the top picks again.

Bo Bichette, Toronoto Blue Jays

His numbers took a slight step back, which could maybe buy you a discount. Bichette’s outstanding September (1.134 OPS) outweighed his rough start to the season. And he actually had the same average EV as Oneil Cruz (more on him if you scroll down).

The new rules might help him get back into the 20s for steals, and he’s hitting second on a team that scored the fourth-most runs in 2022. The ceiling is high.

Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres

Do we have to do this? Maybe just flip a coin and let me know how it goes.

The metrics were elite in 2021. Then he missed the first four months of 2022 with a broken left wrist. Then MLB suspended him for PEDs. Then he underwent shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum Now he has 20 games left on his suspension in 2023. You know, a mostly routine year.

This timely piece on hitters and shoulder surgeries should be a primer for his season. He might not return to the same level of stardom, but many are still betting on his talent. It’s a gamble. Just make sure you have a solid backup option, especially since you’ll need another shortstop to start the year.

Bobby Witt Jr. is the fourth in this early group – see more on that below.

When Should You Draft At SS?

These days shortstop is often referred to as one of the deepest positions in fantasy. Here’s why:

I already mentioned four shortstops being drafted in the top 20 overall. The position is solid well after those top guys.

There are nine more shortstops going in the top 100. The World Series MVP has an ADP around 120. It’s clear you won’t panic about grabbing a shortstop early.

It all comes down to draft position and roster construction. Third base is not deep, so it makes sense to prioritize someone like Jose Ramirez over Turner. But it would be wise to fill a middle infielder spot with a second shortstop considering the talent here.

Will Bobby Witt Jr. Live Up To His ADP?

Let’s start with the bad. His .313 xwOBA ranked No. 133 overall. He didn’t walk much, and his OBP sat below .300. He posted a 99 wRC+ for the year.

But with all that in mind, he was still a major value for fantasy owners as a rookie.

The power looked decent. He stole 30 bases – with the fastest sprint speed in the majors. A potential 30/30 campaign with a good amount of runs and RBIs is what you’re buying going forward.

His ADP looks like it varies more than most of the top picks this season. His average ADP is currently 15.

Unfortunately for Witt, he plays his home games at one of the worst ballparks for homers. But a mid-to-late second round pick, considering how valuable he turned out to be last season, is a reasonable price for most leagues. Taking the average of seven projections for Witt: 23 HRs, 86 runs, 82 RBIs, 26 SBs and a .262 BA.

Will This Be A CareerYear For Corey Seager?

If there’s one player I’m targeting after the early-round shortstops go, it’s Corey Seager. Despite posting the lowest batting average of his career last season, the underlying numbers show it’s a good time to buy.

Among qualified batters, Seager suffered the fourth-worst differential between his batting average (.245) and xBA (.283). His insanely low .242 BABIP ranked eighth-lowest in the majors. But despite all that, Seager posted a .372 xwOBA in 2022, ranking No. 1 among shortstops and No. 9 among all hitters.

Seager also had the most plate appearances against the shift, facing it 92.8% of the time. According to The Analyst, Seager would have 50 more hits over the past three seasons without the shift.

Regression is coming. The shift is leaving. With his power metrics remaining consistent, he should easily outperform his average ADP which is currently in the high 50s.

Players On The Rise

Oneil Cruz, Pittsburgh Pirates

His highlight reel ranked as the most-watched video on YouTube last year. At least on my computer. The profile is insane.

The good: 100th percentile max EV, 98th percentile sprint speed, 96th percentile barrel rate, 91st percentile average EV

The bad: 1st percentile K%, 3rd percentile out above average, 4th percentile whiff rate

Last year, Cruz posted a 35% strikeout rate and a .223 xBA. He did turn it on down the stretch, hitting .288 with 6 HRs, 19 RBIs and 4 SB in September/October. Projections are close on his 2022 numbers. ATC puts him at .245/.310/.455 with 25 HRs, 78 RBIs and 17 SBs.

Cruz is going off the board as the No. 11 shortstop right now with an average ADP of No. 82. Fangraphs has him priced as the ninth-best shortstop. His current price feels fair for the upside he brings to your team, especially if he can continue to cut the K rate. Just be cautious with your roster construction when it comes to batting average.

Jeremy Peña, Houston Astros

Peña looked electric in the postseason with a 1.005 OPS in 13 games. It’s a little surprising that display hasn’t shot his ADP up more.

Maybe drafters have looked more into his underlying metrics. His .300 xwOBA ranked him No. 176 overall among qualified hitters. His contact rates hover around league average. He posted an 88.1 average EV. He doesn’t walk much. What am I missing? Maybe it’s the adjustments he made down the stretch.

His EV, barrel rate and hard hit rate all saw impressive increases over the last month of the season. Add in his postseason heroics – I mean the guy did win World Series MVP as a rookie – plus his 95th percentile sprint speed, and we might be looking at an undervalued player considering his average ADP of 120. Let’s hope his adjustments outmatch opposing pitchers in his sophomore campaign.

Players On The Decline

Javier Báez, Detroit Tigers

His average EV dropped from 90.1 MPH to 87.9 MPH from 2020 to 2021, and his barrel rate went down more than 5%. That led to a .238 batting average and his lowest home run total (excluding the shortened 2020 campaign) since 2016.

That .618 OPS against righties is a killer. He also dropped down to 9 SBs and his lowest sprint speed of his career. Báez certainly won’t cost as much this year with an average ADP in the 180s. He’s projected for a slight power bump, so if he can manage a 20/10 season, that could be a late-round boost. He’s certainly someone to keep an eye on this spring.

Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants

After a career year in 2021, Crawford came back down to earth with a .231/.308/.344 slash line. He dealt with a knee injury which caused a few IL stints. That could partly be the cause for the underlying numbers to take a big hit.

His .217 xBA was the lowest of his career. He’s also 36 now. That stellar 2021 run looks like an outlier among his overall body of work. He could be a waiver wire add if he bounces back to that form, but his projections don’t expect it.

Players On The Horizon

Ezequiel Tovar, Colorado Rockies

RosterResource projects Tovar as the Rockies starter at short. Have you seen Tovar’s projections for 2023? You might want to take a look. They’re not far off from Jeremy Peña’s.

Tovar’s power picked up last season, and he posted a 153 wRC+ at Double-A. He only played five games at Triple-A and nine games with the Rockies, so it’s a big jump to step into the starting role here. At least Coors will give him a boost. He’s not being drafted until the late 200s, so he could be a good flier.

Anthony Volpe, New York Yankees

MLB Pipeline recently named Volpe as their No. 1 prospect for 2023, so the hype is only picking up from here. The biggest unknown is when the Yankees will call him up. Oswald Peraza is currently expected to man shortstop, and he had a solid showing in his limited MLB time last season.

Almost every projection system sees Volpe playing 71 games this season. Even after a slow start in Double-A last year, he still managed 21 HRs and 50 SBs across two levels. You need to keep a close eye on his status, because he’ll be one of the most coveted adds if he doesn’t start the year in New York.

Players To Avoid

Xander Bogaerts, San Diego Padres

The EV declined. The launch angle declined. The barrel rate declined. The fly ball rate marked his lowest since 2017, a year where he hit just 10 homers.

Now he gets a major downgrade for his home ballpark. His speed is still decent, but steals aren’t a big part of his game, and the Padres somehow stole fewer bases than the Red Sox last season.

I don’t hate Bogaerts. The BB% and K% remain solid, and he’ll hit for a good average. There are better bats going around his ADP with more upside, though. Maybe “avoid” is a strong term to apply to Bogaerts, but I’m probably out on him depending on how far he drops in my drafts.

Adalberto Mondesí, Boston Red Sox

If you’ve played fantasy baseball recently, I probably don’t need to say much more about Mondesí. He had a combined 190 plate appearances over the past two seasons. Somehow I don’t see him hitting career highs in games played as most projections do.

In an extremely small sample last year, Mondesí posted an 88.0 average EV and his lowest sprint speed (which has continued to decline) of his career before needing ACL surgery. He won’t cost you much, but he could kill you in average and again brings the annual injury concerns.

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