There may be a wave of talent coming at catcher, but there’s a tsunami coming at shortstop with five of our overall top 11 and 21 of our 2023 preseason shortstop rankings.
The Reds’ De La Cruz (pictured above) is the most exciting prospect, bar none, as a chiseled 6-foot-5, 200-pound switch-hitting slugger with blinding speed who we can easily dream of future 40-40, heck, even 50-50 seasons in his future. De La Cruz combined for a .945 OPS, 28 homers and 47 steals last year in 120 games between High-A and Double-A, but he has one wart – too many strikeouts (30.9 K% at AA). That could lead to a few struggles along the way but we’re betting he overcomes it and becomes a perennial top-10 fantasy asset.
The Diamondbacks’ Lawlar has power and speed to go with better plate discipline, although his strikeout percentage went up at each level last year and wound up at 28.9% in Double-A. The 20-year-old combined for a .910 OPS, 16 HR and 39 SB in 100 games over four levels last year and could reach Arizona by the end of the summer.
The Yankees’ Volpe is showing off his blend of power and speed in spring training, making some forget his slow start last season in Double-A that had him falling in prospect rankings. He heated up and finished the season with a combined .802 OPS, 21 HR and 50 SB in 132 games over two levels. There are some questions of just how much power the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Volpe will be able to generate in the majors or whether he has the raw speed to keep running wild on the base paths. The 21-year-old is looking to answer those questions this spring, possibly making the jump to New York after just 22 games in Triple-A.
A big portion of the shortstop tsunami should arrive in the bigs this season, including from our overall top 100 – fourth-ranked SS Ezequiel Tovar of the Rockies, No. 8 Oswald Peraza of the Yankees, No. 9 Royce Lewis of the Twins, No. 11 Masyn Winn of the Cardinals, No. 13 Zach Neto of the Angels, No. 15 Luisangel Acuna of the Rangers, No. 16 Brayan Rocchio of the Guardians, No. 17 Jordan Westburg of the Orioles and No. 21 Ronny Mauricio of the Mets. Tovar is expected to be the starting shortstop in Colorado and should provide Corbin Carroll with some competition for NL Rookie of the Year. Peraza must first hold off Volpe for the starting job in New York, but he has a balanced set of tools to make him a stellar fantasy asset. Lewis is returning from a second ACL surgery and will likely need to move to a new position with Carlos Correa back in the fold, but showed in a brief stint in Minnesota last year that he is a major leaguer in waiting.
The tsunami should continue next year with the possible arrivals of No. 5 Marcelo Mayer of the Red Sox, No. 10 Colson Montgomery of the White Sox, No. 12 Edwin Arroyo of the Reds, No. 14 Marco Luciano of the Giants and No. 18 Brady House of the Nationals. And a group that we currently have as 2025 ETAs could easily push their way up by next season includes No. 6 Jackson Holliday of the Orioles, No. 7 Jackson Merrill of the Padres, No. 19 Carson Williams of the Rays and No. 20 Yiddi Cappe of the Marlins.
The list goes on and on at shortstop. A good many of these shortstops will wind up at third base, second base or the outfield, but this is where the most talented players start out in the minors.
To point out just a few of the names from lower on the list to keep an eye on to be moving up the rankings this season, watch for No. 22 Addison Barger of the Blue Jays, No. 28 Maikel Garcia of the Royals, No. 41 Leonardo Balcazar of the Reds and No. 46 Hao Yu Lee of the Phillies. Barger used his swing modeled after Ichiro Suzuki to lay waste to three levels last year – .924 OPS at High-A, .912 at Double-A and 1.121 at Triple-A with a combined 26 HR, 9 SB – and could force his way into the Toronto lineup sooner than later. Garcia has gotten hotter at each stop over the past year – .778 OPS in Double-A, .804 OPS in Triple-A, .942 OPS in Venezuelan Winter League and 1.418 OPS in spring training – and is making a push to break camp with the Royals. Balcazar is ready to sink his teeth into full-season ball after impressing at each rookie-ball level in the last two year – .882 OPS, 6 HR, 8 SB in 29 games in DSL in 2021, then .887 OPS, 4 HR, 13 SB in 42 games in ACL. Lee busted out last season with a combined .824 OPS, 9 HR, 14 SB in 79 games over three levels and could reach Double-A this summer as a 20-year-old.