In 2023, shortstop is the deepest position on the diamond. If you told a baseball fan from 1995 what the shortstop position looks like today, they’d be shocked. But the power-hitting, five-tool shortstop like Carlos Correa or Francisco Lindor is only becoming more common. Since the position has so many elite talents, there are at least 12 guys who are worthy of a spot on this list. I’d like to give some honorable mentions before I get into the top 10.
Which closer would use to win you the World Series?
Jeremy Pena, who comes in at #11, won the ALCS MVP and World Series MVP while leading the Astros to a ring in his rookie year in 2022. A staple on this list for years, Tim Anderson was an All-Star in 2022 but only played 79 games. Oneil Cruz has ridiculous tools but hasn’t been able to put it all together quite yet. Also, before I get into the list, I’d like to mention that Fernando Tatis Jr. will be ranked as an outfielder, as he’s projected to switch positions entering 2023.
10. Bo Bichette, TOR (Last year: 7)
I would’ve expected Bo Bichette to move up this list if you had asked me last year. He has all the tools to be an elite shortstop, but he hasn’t put it all together yet. In 2022, he put together another solid season at the plate with a .290/.333/.469 slash line, .347 wOBA, 129 wRC+, and 4.5 fWAR.
On defense, however, he was an absolute liability. In 1374.1 innings, he had -16 DRS, -15.4 UZR, and -7 OAA. No matter which defensive metrics you favor, Bichette was awful with the glove. He’s projected for a 4.3 fWAR by Steamer in 2023, a slight step back from the last two years. If Bichette can figure it out with the glove, he’ll easily skyrocket up this list.
9. Tommy Edman, STL (NR – 2B)
Whatever the Cardinals needed in 2022, Tommy Edman gave them. With his glove, he played 153 games across five positions while ranking 3rd in all of baseball with 19 OAA. With his bat, he had a .265/.324/.400 slash line, culminating in a 108 wRC+. With his legs, he stole 30 bases and had 8.4 base runs (BsR). All of that was good for a 5.6 fWAR, by far the best of his career.
He’s ranked here at shortstop, but he’s possibly the best utility man in all of baseball. In 2023, he’s expected to be the Cardinals’ full-time shortstop and Steamer projects him for a 3.6 WAR next year. I’d expect him to be worth closer to five or six wins.
8. Willy Adames, MIL (10)
We’ve seen two drastically different versions of Willy Adames in his first two years with the Milwaukee Brewers. Last year, after arriving in Milwaukee in May, he changed the dynamic of the Brew Crew’s offense with a 136 wRC+ and 20 homers in 99 games but he was worth -7 OAA with his glove.
This year, he hit just .238/.298/.458 but finished the year with a 4.7 fWAR due to the emergence of his glove. In 2021, he was worth -7 OAA across 1150.0 innings. This year, however, he had 10 OAA and 9 DRS in 1199.2 innings. If Adames can find a way to combine his 2021 offense with his 2022 defense, we might see a 7-WAR season out of him.
7. Dansby Swanson, CHC (NR)
Through the start of the 2022 season, it seemed like Swanson would have a good, not great MLB career. To some, he was failing to live up to the lofty expectations placed upon him as the number one overall pick in the draft. This year, he drowned out all the noise, posting a 116 wRC+, 3.1 BsR, 21 OAA, and 6.4 fWAR. Despite the huge offensive contributions, it was his glove that was most impressive. He ranked 2nd in the league, across all positions, in Outs Above Average.
The 28-year-old is an All-Star, World Series champion, and Gold Glover. This offseason, he signed a seven-year contract with the Chicago Cubs. Swanson has a high floor due to his stable defense and speed, and he has solid potential with his bat. Projection models have wildly different expectations for his 2023 season. Steamers projects a major decline with a 104 wRC+ and 3.3 fWAR, while ZiPS projects a slighter regression with a 113 wRC+ and 5.0 fWAR. I would lean closer to ZiPS’ projection: don’t expect that steep of a drop-off for Swanson.
6. Wander Franco, TBR (5)
Wander Franco is the Devil’s Advocate’s dream when it comes to ranking young future superstars highly. He had an impressive debut in 2021 with a 126 wRC+, a record-setting on-base streak, and 2.4 fWAR, leaving many fans expecting an MVP-caliber 2022.
Relative to those expectations, he was disappointing. In 2022, he played just 83 games and had a 116 wRC+ and 2.3 fWAR. If he stays healthy in 2023, I don’t see a reason not to expect what some fans did a year ago: an elite season from the former top prospect.
5. Corey Seager, TEX (6)
Once again, I am admittedly low on Corey Seager. Until we see another season his 2016 or 2017, I’ll continue to question some fans’ perception of the Rangers shortstop. I understand that his batted-ball data is elite, but he has continuously underperformed his expected metrics.
In 2022, he slashed just .245/.317/.455 with a 117 wRC+ and 4.5 fWAR. I wouldn’t be surprised if Seager figures it out and puts up a 7 WAR season in 2023. But until then, he’ll be in the 2nd or 3rd tier at the shortstop position.
4. Xander Bogaerts, SDP (8)
Xander Bogaerts was close to the perfect version of himself in 2022, maintaining his fantastic offense and taking a huge step forward defensively. In 150 games in 2022, Bogaerts slashed .307/.377/.456 (134 wRC+), had 4.7 BsR, 5 OAA and accumulated 6.1 fWAR. His critics will tell you his glove was a fluke, but he’s an elite shortstop even with a bad one.
From 2019-21, he had -21 OAA but only four shortstops had more WAR. He had the best season of his career in his contract year in 2022 and cashed in with a $280 million contract for 11 years in San Diego. He’s projecting to be the Friars’ everyday shortstop in 2023. If he can be a plus defender once again, there really is no ceiling for Bogaerts.
3. Trea Turner, PHI (3)
Maintaining his top-3 spot on this list is Trea Turner, one of baseball’s true superstars. After yet another All-Star season, he signed a massive $300 million dollar deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. Over the past two seasons, Turner only Aaron Judge and Shohei Ohtani lead Turner in total fWAR. In 308 games across those two seasons, Turner hit .312/.358/.500 with a 135 wRC+, 11.5 BsR, and 13.1 fWAR.
Projection models, analysts, and fans all agree that we should expect superstar production from Turner in 2023. ZiPS is especially high on him, as they see him as a 135 wRC+, 6.1 WAR player in 2023. I’d go a step further: Turner has the potential to win the NL MVP in 2023.
2. Francisco Lindor, NYM (4)
This spot was vacated by Fernando Tatis Jr. moving to the outfield, and Francisco Lindor had a massive bounce-back season in 2022 to catapult himself back into the top-3. For whatever reason, whether it be bad luck or struggling to adjust to playing in New York, Lindor’s 2021 season was disappointing and had fans questioning his $341 million contract. In reality, the 103 wRC+, 4.2 fWAR wasn’t even that bad.
But it was the storyline, the slow start, and the Mets’ postseason miss that Lindor caught a lot of flack for. All three of those were resolved in 2022, as Lindor had a 127 wRC+, 6.8 fWAR season and led the Mets to a playoff appearance. Lindor’s career very well could be just starting; at age 29, expect a massive year out of Lindor.
1. Carlos Correa, MIN (1)
Carlos Correa sits atop the shortstop throne for the second year in a row entering 2023. He got off to a slow start in 2022 but returned to form in the second half with a 149 wRC+. Correa had an eventful offseason, reportedly signing 32 years of contracts worth $865 million with three different teams. After all of that, he ended up with the Minnesota Twins on a six-year, $200 million deal.
It’s hard to project Correa given the obvious injury concerns, but he’s played at least 135 games in each of the past full seasons and played 58 games out of 60 in 2020. He’s been able to stay healthy, but the Mets and Giants had to have a serious reason for the concern. After all, they both let the best shortstop in baseball go due to the concern over his injuries. ZiPS expects 139 games and 5.9 fWAR from Correa in 2023, which seems like a good expectation for the star shortstop.
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