The shortstop position in fantasy baseball is very top-heavy in 2023. After about the first 10 players who have all displayed sustained elite skills at the major league level, there is a whole slew of shortstops with question marks about health, team context, repeatable production, and overall ineptitude (looking at you, Adalberto Mondesi).
If you get shut out of the position early or play in extremely deep leagues, there are a number of hidden gems at the shortstop position, however. When searching for a late shortstop or middle infield roster position, what I typically look for is a player that will 1) contribute across a broad number of categories, and 2) won’t absolutely sink you in any offensive stat. This quartet of shortstops fits the mold of players who could easily outplay their current average draft position in 2023.
The average draft position (ADP) for each of these players is taken from all NFBC fantasy baseball drafts since January 1st.
2023 Fantasy Baseball Shortstop Late Round Targets & Value Plays
Bryson Stott, Philadelphia Phillies (ADP: 230.2)
There are a number of shortstops (14, in fact) who had double-digit home runs and steals in 2022. The position is a great place to look for power-speed combos throughout the draft. But only two of them had double-digits in both in less than 500 plate appearances: Oneil Cruz and Bryson Stott.
Now 25 years old and with more than 125 major league games of experience, Stott looks poised to cross that 500-plate-appearance mark in 2023, which means we are likely looking at another season of around 15/15 production. Stott had a pretty miserable .234/.295/.358 slash line last season, but he was a career .300 hitter in the upper levels of the Minor Leagues and he got a bit unlucky with a .274 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) last year.
Shifting over to second base to accommodate Trea Turner, Stott already has multi-position eligibility in most leagues and might provide enough value with the bat and with his legs to justify a starting spot at one of those positions, and not just a middle infield last piece. The Phillies don’t project to have any left-handed backup infielders on the squad this season, which means Stott is unlikely to be part of a platoon as things stand now.
CJ Abrams, Washington Nationals (ADP: 232.9)
At first glance (and probably at second and third glance, too), CJ Abrams did not have a very good 2022 season. Splitting time between San Diego and Washington, he found it hard to secure a place on the field and hard to find any consistency in the batters’ box. Out of 277 batters who had at least 300 plate appearances in 2022, Abrams’ 1.7% walk rate was the lowest of all players. His .077 ISO was the 15th-lowest among all players.
However, Abrams did end the season with an elite 16.6% strikeout rate and now no longer has to worry about which team he will be on, whether or not he will be up and down from the minors, or where he will bat in the lineup. The move to Washington might be the best thing that could happen to Abrams’ production. He will likely hit second and gets out of the shadow of Fernando Tatis, Jr. who was always a presence looming over Abrams.
Projection systems are in lockstep that Abrams is likely looking at a .250 batting average, about 20 steals, and around 9-10 home runs this season. That’s certainly good enough to get to top-10 numbers, but you can do a lot worse if you are hungry for speed late in a draft when you grab your middle infielder. Still just 21, the Nationals can afford to let him have his growing pains at the big league level and that means 550+ plate appearances are likely in his future.
Ha-Seong Kim, San Diego Padres (ADP: 253.2)
Is it possible that Kim could have a path to the sneakiest 100-run season in 2023? He is slotted to bat leadoff for the San Diego Padres this season, supplanting Trent Grisham at the top spot. That means Kim takes his .325 on-base percentage from last season and puts it right in front of Juan Soto, Manny Machado, Xander Bogaerts, and Jake Cronenworth.
Kim only scored 58 runs to go along with 11 homers and 12 steals in 2022. But he also hit either sixth, seventh, eighth, or ninth in 120 out of his 150 games last year. If he gets 130 games in the leadoff spot plus 600+ plate appearances, this could be a very sneaky 90-run, 15-steal season.
Still just 27 years old despite playing professionally in Korea for seven years, it’s possible Kim could still be getting better as he adapts to Major League Baseball and a new culture. Also eligible at 3B, he is one of my favorite late-round CI or MI targets for speed and runs.
Anthony Volpe, New York Yankees (ADP: 415)
If you’ve got the roster spot and the patience to wait for a month or two for the Yankees’ prized shortstop to arrive in the majors, Anthony Volpe should easily pay off the pennies it will cost to acquire him in drafts this season. In all but the deepest drafts, Volpe is going undrafted, but he is sure to be the hottest waiver wire claim when he debuts, so why not avoid paying the premium?
Drafted in the first round in 2019, Volpe was an instant success after the year he had to sit out for COVID in 2020. In A-ball in 2021, Volpe slashed .302/.455/.623 in 54 games which included 12 dingers and 21 steals.
In 500 plate appearances in Double-A as a 21-year-old last season, Volpe was simply incredible, hitting 18 home runs and stealing 44 bases in two-thirds of a season. It earned him a quick trip to Triple-A, which means a debut in the majors in this, his age-22 season, is inevitable.
Volpe might be the first guy you drop when injuries or underperformance hits your roster in April, but you will want him on your squad before he gets the inevitable call-up in 2023.