MLB Pipeline will unveil its 2023 Top 100 Prospects list at 7 p.m. ET on Thursday, January 26, with an hour-long show on MLB Network and MLB.com. Before the Top 100 is released, we’ll take a look at baseball’s top 10 prospects at every position.
Each year, the shortstop position is arguably the busiest among our top 10 position lists. The 2023 edition is no different.
Slight spoiler: All 10 shortstops featured here will be among MLB Pipeline’s top 40 prospects. Or exactly? Well, you’ll have to come back on Thursday to find out.
It’s also a young and diverse group of shortstops. Only three of the 10 (Anthony Volpe, Elly De La Cruz, Ezequiel Tovar) are set to make it to the Majors this season, and the oldest (Brooks Lee) was a first-round pick last year. Six are from the United States, three from the Dominican Republic and one from Venezuela. Of those six Americans, five were drafted as high school players, which is part of why the group is so young.
The Reds are the only organization with multiple Top 10 shortstops in De La Cruz and Noelvi Marte, and fellow Cincinnati forward Edwin Arroyo hasn’t missed much. Likewise, Top 100 stalwarts Colson Montgomery (White Sox), Royce Lewis (Twins) and Masyn Winn (Cardinals) are not far off and have only fallen victim to Top 10 depth.
The Top 10 (ETA)
1. Anthony Volpe, Yankees (2023)
2. Marcelo Mayer, Red Sox (2024)
3. Elly De La Cruz, Reds (2023)
4. Jordan Lawlar, D-backs (2024)
5. Jackson Holiday, Orioles (2025)
6. Jackson Merrill, Fathers (2024)
7. Marco Luciano, Giants (2024)
8. Ezequiel Tovar, Rockies (2023)
9. Noelvi Marte, Reds (2024)
10. Brooks Lee, twins (2024)
Complete list “
Top 10 prospects by position:
HPR | HPL | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS
1/26: 100 best
Throw-in: Lee (65)
The switch hitter averaged .351 over 115 career games at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and struck out just 28 times in 286 plate appearances last spring. Lee’s bat-to-ball skills prompted the Twins to take him eighth overall, and his new club couldn’t challenge the bat quickly enough, giving him time at Double-A Wichita before the end of his first Minor League season.
Power: Luciano (65)
The Giants prospect has the elite bat speed to generate raw power close to plus, and he elevates the ball consistently enough (59% of his balls were off the ground at High-A in 2022) to shoot the best part. He is still only entering his 21-year-old season, just when power could really burst as he enters the upper minors for the first time.
Route: De La Cruz (70)
Arguably the most electric player of all the minors, De La Cruz has established himself as an absolute burner on the pitch, and it might come as a shock to anyone seeing his 6ft 5in frame for the first time. The Reds farmhand took advantage of those wheels with 47 interceptions at High-A and Double-A last season.
Arms: Mayer, De La Cruz, Merrill, Luciano, Tovar (60)
You won’t find many wet noodles at the six due to the difficulty of throwing from there, so it follows that half of our Top 10 got marks more for their arms. Mayer, Merrill and Tovar look the most likely to hold it short, but Luciano and De La Cruz could use their guns from third or the outfield if they needed to move.
Land: Tovar (70)
The Dominican Republic native has been Major League ready with the glove for quite some time, thanks to his excellent footwork, impressive instincts and ability to chase balls left and right. He was our shortstop pick on the 2023 All-Defense Team.
Highest ceiling: De La Cruz
In 2022, the Cincinnati star was two homers away from being the Minors’ first 30-40 player since George Springer in 2013, and he has the powerful tools to back up the numbers. He is arguably the best power-speed prospect in the miners, and the one thing that gives us pause is his 30.8% K-rate from last year. If he takes that down a notch — or even manages to maintain contact hard enough to keep his batting average respectable — he’s a potential superstar.
Top floor: Volpe
Early concerns about Volpe’s ability to hit the top-level pitch were allayed when he took off in June at Double-A last year, and while there were some arm issues, he’s also a constant defensive presence in the short term. He’s not far off taking a spot in midfield in the Bronx, and barring any significant changes to his profile, he seems a safe bet to keep that spot for years to come.
Rookie of the Year: Volpe
There are only three ETA 2023s on this list in Volpe, De La Cruz and Tovar. Oswald Peraza — another stellar prospect who will feature in our overall Top 100 list — might complicate things with the Yankees for Volpe, but the latter still has a higher ceiling due to his superior skills with the bat. If he joins the Bombers by the end of May, Volpe should have a ROY shot.
Highest elevator: Merrill
The Maryland native was considered a solid prospect when he went 27th overall at San Diego in 2021. Internal and external reports on him now, however, are downright stellar, starting with praise for his striking approach on all terrains. Wrist and hamstring injuries kept the 19-year-old from a full regular season, but he was still one of Arizona’s most talked about Fall League prospects after an aggressive assignment in the desert. There’s a lot of helium strapped to its place at #6.
Lowest start: De La Cruz
Cincinnati was not expected to make a splash in the 2018-19 international market, given that it couldn’t sign any player for more than $300,000 under previous overage penalties. So much for that. The club brought in De La Cruz for $65,000, and to his credit, the hitter became a potential franchise cornerstone.
The most to prove: Marte
Marte is relatively new to the Reds system, having joined last summer in blockbuster Luis Castillo, and he has come with promising power and more than a few questions. For starters, he may not be a shortstop much longer, and the Reds have had him at third base exclusively in the Arizona Fall League. Even if he gets shortstop looks this spring, he’ll be competing with De La Cruz, Edwin Arroyo and Matt McLain on the depth chart for the job. It will be up to the 21-year-old to prove that he is more than a powerful inside corner guy.
Keep an eye out: Joey Ortiz, Orioles
As if the Orioles needed another promising young player. Ortiz, a 2019 fourth-round pick, is a slick field shortstop with plenty of arms for the position. He faced issues with coming off the bat last season, but handled a jump to Triple-A pretty well with a .346/.400/.567 line and a usable K-rate of 14.8% in 26 games. His near-readiness could allow Baltimore to keep Gunnar Henderson at third base and give the O’s their long-term left side of the infield.