MLB Pipeline reveals its 2023 Top 100 Prospects list at 7:00 PM ET on Thursday, January 26 with a one-hour show on MLB Network and MLB.com. Before the release of the Top 100, we’ll examine baseball’s top 10 prospects at each position.
Every year, the shortstop position is arguably the most loaded among our Top 10 position lists. The 2023 edition is no different.
Slight spoiler: All 10 of the featured shortstops here will rank among MLB Pipeline’s Top 40 overall prospects. Where exactly? Well, you’ll have to come back 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 expected to arrive in the Majors this season, and the oldest (Brooks Lee) was a first-round pick just last year. Six are from the United States, while three are from the Dominican Republic and one is from Venezuela. Of those six Americans, five were drafted as high school players, which partly explains 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 infielder Edwin Arroyo didn’t miss much. Likewise, Top 100 stalwarts Colson Montgomery (White Sox), Royce Lewis (Twins) and Masyn Winn (Cardinals) aren’t far off, falling victim only to the depth of the Top 10.
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 Holliday, Orioles (2025)
6. Jackson Merrill, Padres (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:
RHP | LHP | C| 1B | 2B | 3B | SS
26/1: Top 100
Hit: Lee (65)
The switch hitter produced a .351 average 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 ability prompted the Twins to take him eighth overall, and his new club couldn’t challenge the bat quickly enough, earning him time in Double-A Wichita before his first Minor League season ended.
Power: Luciano (65)
The Giants prospect has the elite bat speed to generate close to plus-plus raw power, and he lifts the ball consistently enough (59 percent of his balls were grounders at High-A in 2022) to get the most out of it. He’s still only entering his age-21 season, right around the time the power could really jump as he enters the upper Minors for the first time.
Run: De La Cruz (70)
Arguably the most electric player in all of the Minors, De La Cruz has established himself as an absolute burner in the field, and that may come as a shock to anyone who first sees his 6-foot-5 frame. The Reds’ farmhand took advantage of those wheels with 47 steals at High-A and Double-A last season.
Arm: Mayer, De La Cruz, Merrill, Luciano, Tovar (60)
You won’t find many wet noodles at the six due to the difficulty of making throws from there, so it does track that half of our Top 10 got plus marks for their arms. Mayer, Merrill and Tovar appear to stick to short, but Luciano and De La Cruz could bring their guns to use from third or the outfield should they move.
Field: Tovar (70)
The Dominican Republic native has been Major League ready with the glove for some time, thanks to his great footwork, impressive instincts and ability to chase down balls to both 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 hitter since George Springer in 2013, and he has the loud tools to back up the numbers. He’s arguably the best power-speed prospect in the Minors, and the only thing that gives us pause is his 30.8 percent K-rate from last year. If he brings it down a notch — or even manages to keep making enough hard contact to keep his batting average respectable — he’s a potential superstar.
Highest floor: Volpe
Early concerns about Volpe’s ability to hit top-level pitching were eased when he started in June at Double-A last year, and while there are some arm concerns, he’s also a steady defensive presence. He’s not far from taking a center field spot in the Bronx, and barring significant changes to his profile, he seems like a safe bet to hold that spot for many years to come.
Rookie of the Year candidate: Volpe
There are only three 2023 ETAs on this list in Volpe, De La Cruz and Tovar. Oswald Peraza – another great prospect who will appear on our top 100 overall list – could complicate matters 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 before the end of May, Volpe should have a ROY shot.
Highest riser: Merrill
The Maryland native was considered a solid prospect when he went 27th overall to San Diego in 2021. However, the internal and external reports on him now are downright fantastic, starting with praise for his all-field approach. Wrist and hamstring injuries held the 19-year-old back from an entire regular season, but he was still one of the most talked-about prospects in the Arizona Fall League after an aggressive assignment in the desert. There is a lot of helium attached to his spot at No. 6.
Humble Beginnings: De La Cruz
Cincinnati was not expected to make a splash on the international market for 2018-19, as it could not sign any players for more than $300,000 as part of previous overage penalties. So much for that. The club signed De La Cruz for $65,000, and to his credit, the switch hitter has developed into a potential franchise cornerstone.
Most to prove: Marte
Marte is relatively new to the Reds’ system, having joined the Luis Castillo blockbuster last summer, and he brought promising traction and more than a few questions. For starters, he might not be a shortstop much longer, and the Reds had him at third base exclusively in the Arizona Fall League. Although he will get shortstop looks this spring, he will compete with De La Cruz, Edwin Arroyo and Matt McLain on the depth chart for the position. It will be up to the 21-year-old to prove that he is more than just a strong infield type.
Watch: Joey Ortiz, Orioles
As if the Orioles needed another promising young infielder. Ortiz, a fourth-round pick in 2019, is a slick-fielding shortstop with plenty of arm for the position. He faced questions entering the bat last season, but handled a jump to Triple-A quite well with a .346/.400/.567 line and serviceable 14.8 percent K rate in 26 games. His near-readiness could make it easier for Baltimore to keep Gunnar Henderson at third base and give the O’s their long-term left side of the infield.