Welcome to Bleacher Report's 2023 MLB position rankings series!
With the beginning of a new baseball season right around the corner, we'll be ranking each team's starter at every position in the coming days to provide a full position-by-position preview for the 2023 campaign.
Up first are the shortstops, and there was plenty of shuffling at that position during the offseason. Notable players such as Trea Turner (PHI), Xander Bogaerts (SD) and Dansby Swanson (CHC) all signed nine-figure deals with new teams in free agency.
Meanwhile, there's also a wave of up-and-coming talent at the position, led by Wander Franco (TB), Jeremy Peña (HOU), Bobby Witt Jr. (KC) and Oneil Cruz (PIT).
Players were ranked based on expectations for the 2023 season. Offensive and defensive contributions were both considered, and past track record played a major role in determining each player's outlook.
Included on each slide is also a look at the next man up at shortstop. This is who would take over as the starter if the current starter were to miss significant time. In some cases, it's a minor leaguer or bench player, and in others, it's a starter moving over from a different position.
Let the debate begin!
30. Kevin Newman, Cincinnati Reds
- Next Man Up: Jose Barrero
On the same day they sent incumbent shortstop Kyle Farmer to the Minnesota Twins, the Cincinnati Reds swung a deal to acquire Kevin Newman from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The 29-year-old was pushed into a utility role by the arrival of Oneil Cruz, so trading him made perfect sense for a rebuilding Pittsburgh club. With club control through 2024, he'll serve as a stopgap in Cincinnati while they wait on the development of guys like Elly De La Cruz, Noelvi Marte and Edwin Arroyo.
Newman hit .274/.316/.372 for a 94 OPS+ last season, and while he doesn't offer much offensive upside, he's a standout defender who will provide support for the young pitching staff.
29. David Fletcher, Los Angeles Angels
- Next Man Up: Luis Rengifo
David Fletcher was a 3.8-WAR player during a breakout 2019 season, and he hit .317 with a 120 OPS+ to earn some down-ballot AL MVP votes during the abridged 2020 season. However, he has struggled to match that level of production the past two seasons.
He hit a punchless .262/.297/.324 with a 70 OPS+ in 157 games during the 2021 campaign, and he similarly struggled last season while injuries limited him to 61 games. Healthy once again and entering the third season of a five-year, $26 million extension, he'll be given every opportunity to be an everyday player.
However, if he continues to scuffle, Luis Rengifo could seize the starting shortstop job. The 26-year-old had a breakout 2022 season at the plate, and he'll open the year in a super-utility role.
28. Nick Allen, Oakland Athletics
- Next Man Up: Aledmys Díaz
Nick Allen raised his prospect profile during the 2021 season when he hit .288/.346/.403 with 25 extra-base hits in 89 games in the upper levels of the minors while also serving as the starting shortstop for Team USA in the Olympics.
He made his MLB debut last April, and the Oakland Athletics eventually cut veteran Elvis Andrus loose to give him a clear path to playing time.
The 24-year-old hit just .207/.256/.291 over 326 plate appearances, but he was still a 1.0-WAR player thanks to his strong defense (6 DRS, 8.6 UZR/150) at shortstop. His glove should help keep him in the everyday lineup.