With the 2023 Fantasy Baseball season almost upon us, it’s time to take a look at the shortstop position. Shortstop is having a bit of a renaissance right now with so much strong talent at the top of the ADP boards. And while it may not quite be like the Jeter/Hanley/Nomar/A-Rod days of 20 years ago, this position can provide you any combination of fantasy stats you want depending on how much you choose to invest. There is a bit of a steep cliff after these top-five at the position, and all go within the top-60 in drafts that have taken place in NFBC leagues since January 1st.
1) Trea Turner, Philadelphia Phillies
Philadelphia’s new $300,000,000 man has instant pressure to be the missing piece that can get them over the World Series hump after coming so close to a title in 2022. A debate about whether or not it was smart to guarantee Turner $27.2 million per year through his age-40 season can be saved for another time, as all we care about is what Turner can do for us in 2023. And he’s going to be great once again.
In his first full season with the Dodgers, Turner was as advertised, slashing .298/.343/.466 with 21 homers, 27 steals, and more than 200 combined runs and RBI. He easily returned first-round value for fantasy managers, despite small drops in both homers and steals, and now moves to a home park that was even better for right-handed batters (108 offensive park factor) than Dodger Stadium was last season (104 park factor).
Turner also could benefit greatly from the larger bases and limits on throws over to first base in the new rule changes this season. As you can see from Baseball Savant, Turner was just one-tenth of a second behind Bobby Witt for the fastest shortstop sprint speed last season and the Phillies stole the fifth-most bases in the league last year.
Add in some better fly ball luck this year (his 11% HR/FB ratio last season was much lower than the 17% from 2020 and 2021), and it’s easy to see why Turner is back in the conversation for best overall fantasy player.
2) Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays
Fantasy managers who were hoping for another step up after one of the best overall age-23 seasons of all time in 2021 may have been disappointed. Bichette saw a decline in all of batting average, homers, stolen bases, runs, and RBI in 2022. But there is still plenty to be hopeful about and, in the end, Bichette finished 2022 with another elite fantasy line.
With a second straight season with more than 690 plate appearances and an OPS+ higher than 120, Bichette joined an exclusive group of just 17 players in MLB history to have two seasons like that before turning 25 years old (coincidentally, teammate Vladimir Guerrero also accomplished the feat last year).
We may have been seduced by the 102 RBI and 29/25 home runs and stolen base totals in 2021, but a slash line of .290/.333/.469 with 24 homers and 13 steals last season is still borderline first-round value.
Bichette was a tale of two halves in 2022, and an abysmal start was eventually covered up by a torrid finish.
It was the contact rate that caused such a poor first few months of the season, but once that got back to normal levels again, Bichette produced a .337/.378/.543 second half that should help propel him to another great fantasy season again in 2023.
3) Bobby Witt, Jr., Kansas City Royals
After a very strong rookie season in 2022, Bobby Witt, Jr. is solidly a first-round pick heading into the prime draft season in late February and March. His NFBC ADP of 9.2 over the last five weeks puts him around the same spot as a Yordan Alvarez or Juan Soto in drafts. Surely, the double eligibility of third base and shortstop is helping to drive some of the appeal, but Witt’s is a profile that shows he could make another leap in 2023 and pay off that lofty price tag.
In 2022, Witt became the first player since 1975, and just the second player ever, to finish a rookie campaign with at least 20 home runs and 30 stolen bases. He was surprisingly consistent in both batting average and on-base percentage as a rookie, but there may actually be room for more power this season.
In the last quarter of the season in 2022, Witt’s fly ball swing and power were reduced to next to nothing for a stretch. In September and October combined, his slugging percentage plummeted to .360 and he had one total home run. This is surely a product of him playing in 150 major league games when he only had two minor league seasons of 37 and 123 games, plus no season at all in 2020.
If Witt can maintain the early-season endurance all through the year, there is really no reason to think a 30/30 season is out of reach.
4) Francisco Lindor, New York Mets
If not for a horrific stretch in May and June last season, we could have been looking at one of the all-time great shortstop seasons from Francisco Lindor in his second season on the New York Mets. His first year was an all-around disaster with the new club in 2021, but Lindor bounced back in a huge way last year which has caused the market to move him back up to around pick 35 in NFBC drafts.
But underneath the hood, all of the metrics we want to see for a solid offensive season improved in 2022. His barrel rate ticked up slightly to 8.3%, his HR/FB rate stayed just above 13%, and – most importantly – his BABIP spiked back up from .248 to .301.
We also can’t overlook the fact that 2022 was perhaps the healthiest year Lindor has ever had. His 161 games were a career-high and his 709 plate appearances were the first time he reached that mark since 2018. At just 29 years old, drafting him in the third round is an exercise in hoping that this new level of health is sustainable.
Now likely batting third behind Brandon Nimmo and Starling Marte, there should be ample opportunities for Lindor to pile up some counting numbers this season in addition to a healthy slash line and around 20 steals.
5) Corey Seager, Texas Rangers
Seager and new Texas Rangers teammate Marcus Semien had opposite tracks to the 2022 season in their first years with the new club. While Semien famously struggled mightily in the first couple of months of 2022, Seager got off to a scorching start in the first half of the season. The Rangers’ shortstop slashed .251/.324/.480 with 22 home runs and 52 RBI in the first half of the season. But the second half of the season told a wildly different story.
He slashed only .235/.307/.421 in the second half and his home runs were cut in half with only 11 clearing the fence during the last three months. Semien would go on to become one of the three hottest players in the league in the second half, which raises the question: “how would these two produce if they both had good years from start to finish?”
But unlike Semien, Seager has another huge variable working in his favor. The new shift rules.
Seager certainly has the ability to hit the ball to all fields, as shown in his spray chart above from Baseball Savant, but you can also notice the tendency to pull the ball into right field and the right- and right-center bleachers.
In 2022, the left-handed Seager was shifted against by the defense almost 93% of the time. Seager’s weighted on-base average (wOBA) against the shift was a mediocre .321. But when he did not get the shift, his wOBA was a robust .397. To put that in context, a .397 wOBA would have been fourth in the majors in last season.
With no shift available this year and a full season under his belt in the new park, Seager is a player I am targeting as much as I can around pick 60.