Top 5 Fantasy Baseball Prospects: Shortstop (2023)
Nearly every club has some exciting young shortstop waiting in the wings these days, but these five studs (plus a few honorable mentions) are the cream of the crop. They may not be the highest-ranked prospects overall at the position, but in terms of fantasy production for THIS YEAR, this youthful group of superstars should be targeted in all redraft leagues.
To find prospects who will make a significant impact this season, besides the obvious traits, I tend to look at guys who have a clearer path at playing time. Most teams will get creative to find a spot for their budding stars once they’re deemed ready, even if that means moving them to a different position – but an opening on the roster is always a more favorable situation. With the new service time rules in place, teams are more likely than ever to bring up their young guys, so don’t sleep on any of these five.
For this list, I’m sticking to players who still qualify as “rookies” by MLB standards. For offensive players, that means fewer than 130 at-bats and no more than 45 days on the active roster.
Before we begin, I just have to mention Royce Lewis. Lewis is a fantasy favorite who will be a difference-maker at some point this season, but it won’t come anytime soon. And with Carlos Correa resigning, there’s no need to rush him back. Unless your league allows for numerous IL stashes, he’s more of a wait-and-see option, so for now, we’ll leave him off this list.
Without further ado, here are your top five prospects at the shortstop position for the 2023 fantasy season.
Be sure to check out each installment of FantasyPros’ Top 5 Prospects Per Position series:
Top 5 Prospects Per Position: Shortstop
Henderson is easily the top choice. He spent the majority of last season playing third base but should be the O’s Opening Day shortstop. The left-handed hitting phenom is ranked as the number-two overall prospect in all of baseball this year. He exhibits incredible patience at the dish while hitting for both average and power. He’s also lightning-quick on the base paths, ranking in the top nine percent of sprint speed across the league.
The 21-year-old performed admirably in limited Big League action last year, finishing with a .258/.348/.440 slash line over 116 at-bats. His power is to all fields, but he was still shifted on the majority of the time. His numbers will only go up this year, and he could easily flirt with a 20/20 season. He’ll likely bat third in the lineup against RHP so expect a hefty amount of RBIs and runs scored as well. He’s worth a top-100 selection.
Tovar performed so well in Double-A last year that the Rockies promoted him to the Majors after just five games in Triple-A. At just 21 years old, Tovar already looks like he’s ready to take over the reins at the infield’s most demanding position. He’s an elite defender who hits for power and average, plus he’s more than capable of stealing a base.
Some question whether he’ll start the year on the active roster, but the fact that he already has a bit of Big League experience should give fantasy managers more confidence when drafting him. With the new rules in place that promote base stealing and with Coors as his home field, how can you not like the upside of a 21-year-old switch-hitter who hit 14 home runs, stole 17 bases, and hit .320 over just 71 games last year (66 at Double-A, 5 at Triple-A)?
Some projections have him producing a 20/15 season while hitting around .280 with an OPS near .800. Even if he doesn’t reach those lofty totals, you still have to love Tovar’s affordable ADP at 280. He’s obviously very young and remains unproven, but Colorado will almost surely give him a fair shot at earning the starting job outright. If he’s left undrafted in your league, see if you can’t swap out one of your low-end pitchers to snatch him up.
🚨IT'S TOVAR TIME🚨
Career HR No. 1 for Ezequiel Tovar! pic.twitter.com/129k5joTNT
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) October 5, 2022
Volpe is a well-known name among baseball enthusiasts. Heralded as the next great shortstop in the Bronx, the 2019 New Jersey high school player of the year has a lot to live up to. He’s got power and speed to spare and has a ton of swagger on the baseball field.
The question is, how soon will he be on the Major League roster? The Yankees (smartly) didn’t sign any of the big-name shortstops this past off-season, so it seems the path for Volpe is clear. However, when the Yankees were in search of more shortstop production late last season, they turned to a pair of older prospects in Oswaldo Cabrera and Oswald Peraza. There’s a good chance history repeats itself this year, ticketing Volpe for more time on the farm, limiting his fantasy value.
Volpe’s 2022 numbers don’t exactly jump out at you, as he struggled with strikeouts once reaching Triple-A (30.3 K%). But before departing Double-A, Volpe produced a .286 BA with a .910 OPS over his final 72 games. He swatted 16 home runs and swiped 38 bags over that time. He totaled an impressive 50 steals last year across both levels and should continue to run once he makes his way to the Show.
Even though Volpe’s a well-known prospect, he’s still going undrafted in nearly all standard leagues. It all depends on how deep your league is or if they allow non-active players to be stashed (NA or Minor league slots), but to me, he’s worth a flier at the end of the draft. He’ll very likely start the year in the Minors, but the Yankees’ top-ranked prospect and MLB’s fifth overall has an enormous ceiling and could be a major difference-maker by season’s end.
MLB’s #5 prospect Anthony Volpe hits his 18th home run of the season to the deepest part of the park! pic.twitter.com/1uQ7ZFP9t4
— Talkin' Yanks (@TalkinYanks) August 27, 2022
Cruz’s strikeouts are still a problem, so he’ll likely spend more time in the Minors to begin the season. His trajectory reminds me of another highly touted prospect with the same last name, Oneil Cruz. Despite cries from fans to promote him early, Cruz spent a good chunk of last season trying to cut down on his K’s and work on his defense in Triple-A. Elly will likely go through a similar process, but just like Oneil, he could be a solid contributor in the second half.
Cruz will eventually be the Reds’ best offensive weapon, but the talented shortstop has yet to even sniff Triple-A. He just turned 21, and while the Ks are high, the rest of his production is top-notch. He’s a five-tool player that could grow into a superstar before long, it just may be a while.
Patience is not usually in fantasy manager’s vocabulary, but in Cruz’s case, it may be worth it. The Reds traded for Kevin Newman, and while his glove has been terrific, he’s hardly the type of player to block a budding prospect for long. Plus, he can play other positions.
The wrap on Cruz is that he could either be elite or an absolute bust. But the tools are there to make him worth the risk. He’ll need to cut down his K’s to make an early impact, but the sky’s the limit for the young Dominican. If you’re the gambling type, he’s worth a pick late in your draft, as he could be a five-category stud by early summer.
Cruz and Volpe may come with more upside, but Turang looks like he’ll make an earlier impact. Already with 175 Triple-A games under his belt, the 23-year-old and former first-round pick fits the more traditional mold of a player earning his promotion.
FanGraphs already has him penciled in as the starting second baseman, collecting in the neighborhood of 450 plate appearances. The Brewers love to play matchups, so he may sit against tough lefties, but all signs point to him being on the Opening Day roster. Since he came up as a shortstop, and that’s where his fantasy eligibility is at the moment, he qualifies for this list.
A blur up the base paths, the former first-rounder successfully stole 34 bases last year on just 36 attempts. He has modest power to go along with a great eye at the plate. His BB/K ratio was 0.55 last year and 0.91 the year before at the Minors’ highest level. Turang also grades out as an exceptional defender, so his defense should help further his case for the starting job.
He’ll have to beat out a few of the veteran mainstays like Keston Hiura, Mike Brosseau, and even newcomer Abraham Toro for playing time, but Turang is the only left-handed hitter of the bunch (Toro is a switch hitter), and none of them possess the skills on both sides of the ball as Turang does. Even if he doesn’t earn the starting job out of Spring Training, it won’t be long before the Crew’s second-highest-ranked prospect (according to FanGraphs) takes over the reins at second base. Target the young shortstop who’s earned the comp of Andres Gimenez in the late rounds.
Brice Turang 💪
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) May 11, 2022
Oswald Peraza (NYY)
If you miss out on Volpe or are looking for immediate production, you may want to take a stab at Peraza. The 50th-ranked overall prospect in baseball got his feet wet last year by playing in 18 games for the Yanks. He registered an impressive 146 wRC+ (46% better than average) with nearly as many walks as strikeouts in the very small sample size. He looked extremely comfortable at the plate and even stole two bags (he swiped 33 in Triple-A). The Yankees seem content to roll out one of their youngsters this season at short, and Peraza will likely be given the first opportunity.
Lawlar has a chance to make some noise this summer, but with his development slowed by a rash of injuries, you may be better served to look elsewhere in redraft leagues. He is definitely someone to keep tabs on, though.
The Blue Jays are in no need of a shortstop, or a third baseman for that matter, but if hit with the injury bug, Toronto could call upon Barger to fill the role. A power-hitting lefty who registered a .933 OPS and 26 home runs last year in the Minors (including time at all three stops), he could slide right into the potent Jays’ lineup and become a difference maker.
The 24-year-old Westburg has a strong uppercut swing to his pull side, but with the fences moved back in Baltimore, it may cap his ceiling. He also strikes out at a very high clip, similar to most power-hitting prospects his age.
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Austin Lowell is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Austin, check out his archive.