As we enter the final stretch of the 2023 series, Pitcher List is ranking the top 10 at every position in baseball.
A new era of franchise shortstops started to emerge this season but there were a handful of stalwarts reminding us who the position still belongs to. Four players on the list are between the ages of 22 and 25, while six are between 28-30 years old.
10. Bo Bichette, TOR
Although a top-10 year is a success for most players, Bichette was underwhelming in 2023. That is, after a 5-win season in 2021 and a 4.5-win season in 2022, 3 fWAR in 2023 is not anything to write home about. Regardless, Bichette has been a batting average machine at the top of the Blue Jays lineup, hitting .306 with a 123 wRC+ in 119 games so far.
He’s also pumped out 18 home runs throughout the season, although that’s on track to be his lowest total in the last three years. A bright spot for Bichette is that he has only struck out 18.4% of the time in 2023, which is also the lowest mark of his career.
Bichette has been plagued with leg injuries down the stretch, causing him to miss 27 games. After back-to-back 159-game seasons for Bichette, he’ll be looking to be higher on this list in 2024.
Bo Bichette: DIFFERENCE MAKER 😤 pic.twitter.com/rgNT5VRzXE
9. Xander Bogaerts, SD
In the first year of his 11-year, $280M contract, Xander Bogaerts has been a consistent presence in the Padres lineup. He has been an above-average hitter throughout the year with a slash line of (.272/.341/.423). He started out his Padre career hot with a 132 wRC+ in April and cooled off throughout the summer. He’s back to raking to end the year: he’s putting up a 251 wRC+ in September.
His 3.5 WAR is on the lower end for his career, but there’s nothing wrong with a 114 wRC+ and strong defense. 4 outs above average (OAA) puts him in the 85th percentile for shortstops this year.
Bogaerts has double-digit home run and stolen base totals for the first time since 2017 and his 33 HR+SB ranks 9th among shortstops (min 400 PA).
Welcome to San Diego, Xander!
— MLB (@MLB) April 2, 2023
8. Matt McLain, CIN
Here is the first surprise of the list compared to preseason predictions, as Matt McLain becomes one of only two rookies to appear on the list. Coming into the year, McLain was the Reds #2 prospect and 46th overall (according to Fangraphs).
McLain has the fewest plate appearances of anyone on the list (403) but has still amassed 3.2 fWAR. He hit the ground running after his debut on May 15th, he recorded 6 multi-hit games in his first 12 career games.
He has slashed .290/.357/.507 with a 128 wRC+ in 89 games and added 16 HR and 14 SB in that time. His batting average and on-base percentage rank 3rd among players on this list, while his slugging percentage is good for 2nd.
Despite moving to 2B after Elly de la Cruz came up to the Majors, McLain looks to be a contributor to this Reds team for years to come.
7. Trea Turner, PHI
Had this list been written a month ago, Turner would be nowhere to be found. After signing an 11-year, $300M contract last offseason, Turner was slashing an abysmal .235/.290/.360 with 10 HR through August 3rd.
Why August 3rd? On August 4th, Turner got a standing ovation from the Philly crowd supporting him through the tough season. After the ovation, Turner has been the player we all knew.
Philadelphia fans give Trea Turner a standing ovation to show that they still support him through his tough season pic.twitter.com/fkSb14wRcQ
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) August 4, 2023
Since the ovation, Turner is slashing a white-hot .378/.419/.797. That’s good for a 220 wRC+ (or 120% better than the league average). Talk about the City of Brotherly Love.
On the whole, Turner has put up 26 HR and 27 SB with a 111 wRC+. All things considered, the year-long stats look to be in line with career norms as he gets hot just in time for the playoffs.
6. Dansby Swanson, CHC
Dansby Swanson is the last shortstop who signed a nine-figure deal in the offseason, as he inked a 7-year, $177M deal with the Cubs.
Swanson has dominated the shortstop position with his defense and has arguably been the premier player at the position in 2023. His 18 OAA ranks in the 100th percentile for shortstops and the defense has been electric to watch as well.
Swanson has also been a productive bat, putting up a 109 wRC+. 2023 also marks the third consecutive year he’s reached 20 HR.
5. J.P. Crawford, SEA
Surprise #2 on the list! J.P. Crawford has flown under the radar as a consistent bat at the shortstop position in 2023 and he’s been crucial in keeping the Mariners playoff hopes alive.
Among shortstops, Crawford’s 129 wRC+ ranks 2nd. His biggest skill this year has been his plate discipline: his 14.7% BB% also ranks 2nd among shortstops and 8th among all qualified hitters. A .263/.377/.422 slash line does not stand out in any significant way, but Crawford has been a key cog in the Mariners’ offense.
Being on base often has helped Crawford put up a respectable 85 runs to date.
4. Gunnar Henderson, BAL
Henderson might’ve appeared on yesterday’s 3B list, but he’s equally split games at shortstop and third base, thus qualifying him at both positions. He gets a bump from 5th on the third base list to 4th here due to the higher caliber defense at the position.
Although you can read yesterday’s write-up here, I’ll reiterate that Henderson is the AL Rookie of the Year frontrunner with a few weeks left in the season.
After a slow start to the season in which he slashed .201/.328/.370 with a 97 wRC+ through June 1st, Henderson caught fire in the hot Baltimore summer as he’s gone on to slash .285/.330/.553 with a 138 wRC+ since. Add in 25 HR, 9 SB, and plus defense make you a very good ballplayer at just 22 years old.
His 4.1 fWAR ranks 5th among shortstops on the list and 1st among AL rookies.
Please see below for yet another reason why Gunnar deserves to be ROY. pic.twitter.com/uSckppT5fs
3. Bobby Witt Jr., KC
Bobby Witt Jr. takes the first podium spot for 2023 shortstops and he is the first player so far to have a 5+ fWAR season. He’s more than doubled his 2022 fWAR total and has been productive on both sides of the ball.
A .276/.317/.494 slash line and 114 wRC+ are solid, but his HR+SB numbers and defense are what stand out. 28 HR and 44 SB puts him at a total of 72 HR+SB, ranking 1st among shortstops and 13 ahead of the next highest shortstop (CJ Abrams). He has the opportunity to become the third player this year to join the 30/30 club, behind Ronald Acuna Jr. and Julio Rodriguez.
Witt’s 12 OAA ranks in the 98th percentile for shortstops, making him a premier offensive and defensive player.
2. Francisco Lindor, NYM
Lost in all of the disappointment in Queens in 2023, Francisco Lindor continues to show he is one of the best shortstops in the sport. With 5.6 fWAR to date, he ranks 8th in baseball in fWAR and is flashing skills that may come home with hardware on the offensive and defensive sides.
His best tool is his world-famous defense and his 13 OAA puts him only behind Ezequiel Tovar and Dansby Swanson for shortstops.
Francisco Lindor JUMP THROW 😮💨 @BRWalkoff
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 28, 2023
His offense has also been phenomenal, as .252/.331/.463 slash line with 26 HR and 26 SB is quite the year for a defender of his caliber. The 118 wRC+ puts him at 6th for shortstops, but his 52 HR+SB ranks 3rd.
1. Corey Seager, TEX
And then there was one: Corey Seager is your best shortstop in 2023. Remarkably, we didn’t even get to experience a full Corey Seager due to injury. His 6.0 fWAR in only 102 games is an absurdly productive season. His fWAR is tops for shortstops and 6th in all of baseball. Compared to the MLB leaders, Seager has played 33 fewer games than the next closest player (Shohei Ohtani).
Seager’s 180 wRC+ is the best in baseball for qualified hitters and stands out compared to his shortstop peers. J.P. Crawford’s 129 wRC+ is the next closest, meaning that Seager was 51% better than the next closest shortstop. He is also the only shortstop to hit 30 HR at this point.
The .340/.425/.561 slash line puts him in line (if he can qualify) for the AL batting title as the next closest hitter is Yandy Diaz at .324. Finally, his 1.055 OPS only trails Ohtani’s 1.066 in the AL (after writing, Seager surpassed Ohtani and now holds a 1.070 OPS).
— MLB (@MLB) September 14, 2023
Impressively, the injuries haven’t limited the defense either, so Seager is also putting up above-average OAA marks while lighting the world on fire with the bat.
Writer’s Note: Wander Franco was excluded from the list
Photos by Brian Rothmuller, Frank Janksy | Icon Sportswire
Adapted by Kurt Wasemiller (@KUWasemiller on Twitter / @kurt_player02 on Instagram)