The shortstop position has become one of the deepest and most talented positions in fantasy baseball over the last decade. It only continues to get better, as about half of these prospects below have a good shot to earn consistent playing time this upcoming season. Not only do they boast impressive power, speed, and contact skills, but so many of these prospects carry the elite plate discipline that we tend to see out of established and impactful corner infielders and outfielders. While not all of them will stick at shortstop, they will hit well wherever they’re placed on the field or in the lineup.
Top 10 Shortstop Prospects for Fantasy Baseball
1. Elly De La Cruz, SS/3B, CIN, #4 Overall
2022 Stats (A+/AA): 471 AB/.304 AVG/.359 OBP/.586 SLG/28 HR/47 SB/87 R/86 RBI
Elly De La Cruz signed with the Reds as an international free agent in the summer of 2018. He had a pretty decent debut season at rookie ball in 2019, but then he lost the 2020 season to the Covid-19 pandemic. He made it to Single-A in 2021 and put up a pretty pedestrian stat line over 210 plate appearances. Even after a few lackluster years to begin his professional career, there was still a fair amount of buzz about him last offseason due to his impressive physical size, strength, and speed.
He took off to begin 2022, registering a 161 wRC+ in 306 High-A plate appearances as a 20-year-old, while hitting 20 home runs and stealing 28 bases. He solidified himself as must-see entertainment with a ridiculous power/speed combination of talent. This profile doesn’t come without its warts, however, as he hasn’t posted a strikeout rate below 30% at any level above rookie ball. He also doesn’t draw very many walks and struggles mightily against left-handed pitching.
I like to compare him to Oneil Cruz. They have similar skill sets, they’re built the same, and they play the same position. But Cruz had never carried a strikeout rate north of 30% at any level where he had at least 65 plate appearances. And the biggest debate around Oneil Cruz right now is if he’ll be able to achieve sustained success with his very poor strikeout rates. De La Cruz will absolutely need to make some kind of adjustment to his approach to become a safer prospect, but his ceiling is pretty astronomical regardless. Getting some time with the major league hitting coaches this spring and summer will surely give him a good opportunity to polish his game.
2. Anthony Volpe, SS, NYY, #5 Overall
2022 Stats (AA/AAA): 511 AB/.249/.342/.460/21 HR/50 SB/86 R/65 RBI
Anthony Volpe has proven that he deserves the hype that he could be the next great Yankee shortstop. He has plenty of raw power, speed, and good contact skills. The one thing it looks like he could improve on is his launch angle. His batting average suffered last year largely due to an astronomical flyball rate and a very low line drive rate. The high flyball rate could be good if he hits them with authority, but his HR/FB ratio sits just below 10%. The rest of those flyballs are outs most of the time, so it drags down his BABIP and overall BA. That will likely be his biggest task this spring and when he makes the big league team – optimize the launch angle.
Oswald Peraza should get the first crack at shortstop out of Spring Training, but Volpe will be close behind. With a good start to the season, we could see Volpe up in MLB before the All-Star break. It seems likely that one of Volpe or Peraza will shift over to third base or the outfield when both of them are ready. I don’t have much confidence in the 36-year-old Josh Donaldson holding them off.
3. Jordan Lawlar, SS, ARI, #10 Overall
2022 Stats (RK/A/A+/AA): 389 AB/.303 AVG/.401 OBP/.509 SLG/16 HR/39 SB/98 R/62 RBI
After being drafted in the first round of the 2021 Amateur Draft out of high school, Jordan Lawlar skyrocketed through Arizona’s organization in his first full season of professional baseball. It seems insane to say that he has a chance to make the big leagues in his second season removed from facing high school pitching, but with how fast he was promoted last year it’s certainly a possibility. The Diamondbacks don’t have a player that they’re significantly invested in to block him on the roster, so it looks like he’ll get the chance as soon as he’s ready.
4. Ezequiel Tovar, SS, COL, #15 Overall
2022 Stats (AA/AAA): 285 AB/.319/.387/.540/14 HR/17 SB/42 R/49 RBI
MLB Stats: 33 AB/.212/.257/.333/1 HR/0 SB/2 R/2 RBI
The Rockies made it crystal clear that they intend to be aggressive with Tovar’s timeline when they promoted him to AAA towards the end of last season and then followed it super quickly with another promotion to the big league team. With that being said, we’re still talking about the Rockies, and we haven’t been able to trust their willingness to fully give the reins to a prospect. It’s a small miracle that we made it through the offseason without a surprise signing of a low-impact veteran SS that only serves to block their young star. But early indications point to Tovar getting a shot to seize everyday at-bats as the SS for this team buried in the Western division. Even if he lacks impact thump in the bat, Coors can provide an easy remedy.
5. Noelvi Marte, SS, CIN, #18 Overall
2022 Stats (A+): 448 AB/.279 AVG/.371 OBP/.458 SLG/19 HR/23 SB/74 R/68 RBI
Noelvi Marte was acquired from the Mariners as the centerpiece of the Luis Castillo trade in late July. He has about as solid and consistent a profile as you could probably find in a prospect. He doesn’t have a strikeout problem, he draws plenty of walks, he keeps his batted balls ball off the ground, and he’s already shown above-average game power with plenty of room to grow.
Even after a slow start to his 2022 season, he was still a tick above 30% better than the league average in High-A according to his wRC+. He pulls the ball more than 50% of the time, which could really help his power numbers and run production in the big leagues. We’ll likely have to wait until 2024 to see him at the highest level with the chance of full-time at-bats. He played some third base in the AFL and the Reds also have Elly De La Cruz to play SS, so his position might shift to the hot corner to get them both in the lineup.
6. Jackson Holliday, SS, BAL, #21 Overall
2022 Stats (FCL/A): 64 AB/.297 BA/.489 OBP/.422 SLG/1 HR/4 SB/14 R/9 RBI
Jackson Holliday has shown elite plate discipline in his first tastes of professional baseball. It’s becoming more common in fantasy baseball circles to see him ranked ahead of his draft mate, Druw Jones, and if he’s able to develop impactful game power then he could have a higher ceiling than anyone on this list. His first Spring Training with the Orioles should be great for his development and if he sticks with the path that he’s on now, we could see him with a good-sized sample of AA at-bats before the end of this season. It’s an embarrassment of riches in the Baltimore organization right now, and he could be impactful in Playoff games before he’s 24.
7. Marcelo Mayer, SS, BOS, #23 Overall
2022 Stats (A/A+): 350 AB/.280/.399 OBP/.489 SLG/13 HR/17 SB/51 R/53 RBI
Marcelo Mayer was the organization’s highest draft pick since 1967 and he has the ability to impact all aspects of the game. He hasn’t shown any major weaknesses so far. The closest thing might be his strikeout percentage but when you consider his age (he hasn’t played baseball as a 20-year-old) and his proclivity for drawing walks, it’s easy to see a future where he makes more contact. His walk rate sat at 16% for his first full season between Single-A and High-A, while the strikeout rate came in at 25.2%. He sees a ton of pitches and should reach the higher levels with a really good feel for the strike zone.
Mayer posted a 149 wRC+ in Low-A and a 127 wRC+ in High-A as a 19-year-old in 2022. Mayer could be a very young player in both High-A and Double-A next season, so I’ll have a bit of grace for any struggles out of the gate. If he has the huge breakout season that seems to be looming, his demand in dynasty leagues could rise even higher than where it currently stands.
8. Jackson Merrill, SS, SDP, #39 Overall
2022 Stats (Rk/A): 227 AB/.339/.395/.511/6 HR/11 SB/38 R/40 RBI
Jackson had a rough 2022 season where he missed about half of the year with a fractured wrist and a pulled hamstring. However, he flashed his incredible hit tool when he was active and struck out less than 20% of the time. He’s also impressed the Padres in Spring Training this season, with Bob Melvin saying that he expects Merrill to rise quickly through the organization. The biggest areas of improvement for him right now are lifting the ball off the ground more often and developing a bit more power. Even with the shift changes making it easier to carry higher ground ball rates, I think you’d like to see him hit line drives a bit more often. Merrill is still only 19, and the Padres made sure to keep him when they were sending all of their prospects away in trades, so it looks like he has a promising career ahead of him in San Diego.
9. Colson Montgomery, SS, CHW, #45 Overall
2022 Stats (A/A+/AA): 350 AB/.274/.381/.429/11 HR/1 SB/58 R/57 RBI
As a shortstop who looks like he won’t steal very many bases, we would like to see Colson Montgomery develop more power. He proved across three levels last season that his hit tool is legit, and his plate discipline will carry him through the organization. He has the frame to carry great power and he should get there, but his path to providing value could get limited quickly if he ends up being a 10-15 HR player instead of a 20-HR player. The most encouraging sign of this right now is the fact that his HR/FB% increased at each stop in the minors last season. He has a really solid launch angle distribution as well, so 2022 could be the year that he asserts himself as a force at the plate.
10. Masyn Winn, SS, STL, #46 Overall
2022 Stats (A+/AA): 474 AB/.283 AVG/.364 OBP/.468 SLG/12 HR/43 SB/91 R/63 RBI
Masyn Winn may be best known for his record-setting arm strength from shortstop, or for irking Justin Turner, but he’s a prospect who can impact all facets of the game. The 2020 second-round pick has plus-plus speed and was only caught stealing 5 times in 48 attempts in 2022. His .185 ISO also points to his ability to generate an impressive amount of game power for a speedy middle infielder.
In his 403 PAs in AA, he posted a 100 wRC+, which puts him right at league-average production at the plate. We’d like to see that number get a bit higher to realize his prospect potential, but at 20 years old, he was 2-3 years younger than the average player in AA, so it’s not too worrisome. His timeline is probably at least a few months behind Walker’s, so there’s a chance we’ll see him debut by the end of this season. 2024 seems to be a safe target for when he can challenge Tommy Edman at shortstop.
Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)