The Upcoming Shortstop Class Looks Increasingly Bleak

MLB Trade Rumors

The top free agent storyline of each of the past two offseasons was the respective star-studded shortstop classes. In 2021-22, it was Carlos CorreaCorey SeagerMarcus SemienTrevor Story and Javier Báez. Last winter, Correa was back on the market again, joined by Trea TurnerXander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson.

Next winter’s group was never going to rival that previous collection. The class in general is very light on star position player talent beyond Shohei Ohtani. It’s particularly barren up the middle of the diamond. It’s hard to imagine a more complete 180° turn than how things appear to be trending with the shortstop class, though. Virtually everyone involved is off to a very slow start.

The early-season performances from the impending free agents at the position:

Amed Rosario (28)*

While Rosario is not the superstar some evaluators had anticipated during his time in the Mets’ farm system, he’d been a solid regular for two seasons since landing in Cleveland in the Francisco Lindor blockbuster. Rosario’s solid batting averages helped offset his very low walk tallies. He hit 25+ doubles with double-digit homers in both 2021-22, playing on a near everyday basis. His cumulative .282/.316/.406 batting line was almost exactly league average. Public metrics were mixed on Rosario’s defense but the Guardians have been content to keep him at shortstop despite plenty of upper minors infield talent. Only 27 and without a ton of market competition, he entered the year in position for a strong three or four-year contract.

That could still be the case but Rosario is doing himself no favors with his early performance. He’s sitting on a .217/.262/.300 showing through his first 130 plate appearances. He has just one homer and is striking out at a 29.2% clip that’d easily be the worst full-season mark of his career if it holds. After making contact on 81.3% of his swings last season, he’s putting the bat on the ball only 71.5% of the time this year. He’s also committed six errors in 255 1/3 innings after being charged with just 12 in more than 1200 frames last year. Rosario is still the top impending free agent shortstop by default but he’s struggling in all areas right now.

Javier Báez (31), can opt out of final four years and $98MM on his contract

Báez is hitting .256/.318/.376 through his first 130 plate appearances. That’s an improvement over the lackluster .238/.278/.393 line he managed during his first season in Detroit. His 16.2% strikeout rate is the lowest of his career, pushing his overall offense near league average in spite of just three home runs in 32 games. Báez’s 2023 campaign has been fine but hardly overwhelming. It’s nowhere near what it’d take for him to beat the $98MM remaining on his existing contract. He’d need a torrid summer to put himself in position to test free agency.

Enrique Hernández (32)

Hernández has been pushed into primary shortstop duty by the Red Sox’ various injuries. The early reviews from public defensive metrics aren’t favorable, with Statcast putting him at seven outs below average in 199 innings. Hernández is off to an equally slow start at the plate. He’s hitting .236/.295/.362 over 139 plate appearances on the heels of a .222/.291/.338 showing last year. He’s been a valuable super-utility option and everyday center fielder at times in his career, including a 20-homer campaign in 2021. The past year-plus hasn’t been especially impressive, though, and Hernández has yet to demonstrate he’s capable of handling shortstop regularly from a defensive standpoint.

Brandon Crawford (37)

The career-long Giant had a tough April on both sides of the ball. He’s hitting .169/.244/.352 with a personal-high 28.2% strikeout rate in 21 games. His defensive marks through 173 2/3 innings are unanimously below-average. A right calf strain sent him to the injured list last week. Even if Crawford is willing to explore all opportunities next winter after 13 seasons in San Francisco, he’ll need much better production once he returns from the IL to find any interest as a starting shortstop.

Elvis Andrus (35)

Much of what applies to Crawford is also true for Andrus. He’s a 15-year MLB veteran with a couple All-Star appearances to his name but his offense has fallen off in recent seasons. Andrus was a well below-average hitter from 2018-21. He rebounded with a solid .249/.303/.404 showing last season but still didn’t generate much free agent attention. After settling for a $3MM deal with the White Sox, he’s hitting only .208/.291/.264 in 142 plate appearances this year. Andrus hit 17 homers last season but has just one through the first six weeks.

Nick Ahmed (34)

Another glove-first veteran, Ahmed is also off to a rough start at the plate. He carries a .227/.239/.318 line over 67 plate appearances. He’s hit only one home run and walked just once. Ahmed has always been a bottom-of-the-lineup defensive specialist, but his career .235/.289/.380 slash is much more tenable than the production he’s managed thus far in 2023. He lost almost all of last season to shoulder surgery.

Gio Urshela (32)

Urshela is hitting plenty of singles to start his time in Orange County. His .303 batting average is impressive but is paired with just a .325 on-base percentage and .345 slugging mark. He’s walking at a career-low 3.3% clip and has only three extra-base hits (two doubles and a homer) in 123 plate appearances.

More concerning for teams looking to the shortstop market is Urshela’s lack of experience at the position. He’s been a third baseman for the majority of his career. Since landing with the Angels, he’s assumed a multi-positional infield role that has given him eight-plus starts at shortstop and both corner infield spots. Even if he starts hitting for more power, he’s better deployed as a versatile infielder who can moonlight at shortstop than an everyday solution there.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa (28)

Kiner-Falefa lost his starting shortstop role with the Yankees towards the end of last season. He’s been kicked into a multi-positional capacity this year and hasn’t logged a single inning at the position in 2023. While Kiner-Falefa presumably could still handle shortstop if asked, he’s contributed nothing offensively in the early going. Through 72 plate appearances, he owns a .191/.225/.206 line.

Adalberto Mondesí (28)

Mondesí is young and has flashed tantalizing tools throughout his major league career. He’s also reached base at a meager .280 clip over 358 MLB games and battled various injuries. An April 2022 ACL tear cut that season short after just 15 games. The Red Sox nevertheless acquired him from the Royals over the offseason, but he’s yet to play a game with Boston. Mondesí opened the season on the 60-day injured list and won’t make his Sox debut until at least the end of this month. There’s a chance for him to play his way into some free agent interest. He’ll need an extended stretch of health and performance.

Players With Club Options

Both Tim Anderson and Paul DeJong can hit free agency if the White Sox and Cardinals decline respective 2024 club options. That seems likely in DeJong’s case but is reflective of the .196/.280/.351 line he managed between 2020-22. If he plays well enough to warrant significant free agent interest — he has been excellent in 11 games this season, to his credit — the Cardinals would exercise their $12.5MM option and keep him off the market anyhow.

The White Sox hold a $14MM option on Anderson’s services. That looks as if it’ll be a no-brainer for Chicago to keep him around (or exercise and make him available in trade). The only way Anderson gets to free agency is if his 2023 season is decimated by injury or an uncharacteristic performance drop-off, in which case he’d be a question mark as well.


This was never going to be a great group. It’s comprised largely of glove-first veterans in their mid-30s. Players like Andrus, Ahmed, Crawford and José Iglesias — who’ll also hit free agency and has bounced around on minor league deals thus far in 2023 — don’t tend to be priority targets. That opened the door for the likes of Rosario, Báez and a potentially healthy Mondesí — younger players who have shown some offensive upside — to separate themselves from the pack in a way they wouldn’t have the last couple winters. No one has seized the mantle to this point. While there are still more than four months for someone to emerge, the early returns on the shortstop class aren’t promising.

*age for the 2024 season

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