Ranking the 10 MLB Shortstops 25 or Younger

The next wave of shortstops in MLB includes future All-Stars, MVP candidates, and players that could emerge as all-time greats.

CINCINNATI, OHIO - MAY 03: Gunnar Henderson #2 of the Baltimore Orioles throws to first base in the second inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on May 03, 2024 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

In an era where young stars are reaching the majors and impacting winning sooner than ever, there is perhaps no position stocked with future faces of the league quite like shortstop.

In fact, as of Thursday, seven of the top 30 players by fWAR are shortstops — and four of them are 25 or younger.

Over the past 25 years, there have been two classes of young shortstops that would go on to dominate MLB during their primes. In the late 1990s, it was Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Nomar Garciaparra normalizing offensive dominance from shortstops. And in the mid-2010s, it was Manny Machado, Corey Seager, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, and Xander Bogaerts carrying on that legacy.

But now, it appears that the likes of Gunnar Henderson, Bobby Witt Jr., Elly De La Cruz, CJ Abrams, and Anthony Volpe are set to take the torch and run with it through the 2020s.

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But if you had to pick one of those future All-Stars, who would you want lining up at short for the next five to ten years?

That’s what we’re here to answer today.

We’ll be ranking the 10 shortstops 25 or younger who are qualified hitters in MLB so far in 2024. There are, of course, a number of young shortstops in the upper levels of the minors that should push to join this group sooner rather than later, but our focus today is on the major leaguers making their mark at the highest level.

So let’s get into it:

10. Brayan Rocchio, Cleveland Guardians

Age: 23
2024 Stats: 124 PA, .215/.309/.290, .277 wOBA, 0 HR, 6 SB, 80 wRC+, 0.2 fWAR, 4 DRS, -1 OAA

Ending 2023 as Just Baseball’s No. 80 prospect, Cleveland has given Rocchio the keys at short in 2024. The Guardians dealt Amed Rosario last July and chose not to add from the slim free agent class, putting their trust in the switch-hitting Venezuelan.

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While he never profiled as a power hitter, Rocchio has at least shown his high-contact ability, posting respectable strikeout and walk rates, while playing a passable shortstop.

Rocchio’s defense and base running are supposed to be his calling card, but neither have leapt off the page this season as we reach the near-quarter mark. He does have six stolen bases, but has also been caught twice. And defensively, he’s graded out well by DRS, but for a glove-first player who doesn’t appear to have much more to offer with the bat, you’d like to see him rank among MLB’s best at the position without any question marks.

9. Zach Neto, Los Angeles Angels

Age: 23
2024 Stats: 138 PA, .248/.297/.380, .301 wOBA, 3 HR, 5 SB, 92 wRC+, 0.3 fWAR, 2 DRS, -1 OAA

Los Angeles’ first-round pick out of Campbell in 2022, Neto shot through the minors to make his MLB debut last season.

Neto settled into the Angels lineup fairly well, posting respectable numbers through his first couple months as a big leaguer, but he caught fire when June hit. He appeared in 11 games in the month, smashed three home runs in 31 at-bats and had a 212 wRC+. However, a back injury would later cost him four weeks, stalling some of the early progress he made.

He hasn’t quite hit his stride in 2024, grading out as a below-average hitter with his strikeout rate increasing from his debut campaign. But the right-handed swinging Neto has posted a respectable barrel rate so far this season, and has continued to generate value from his work on defense.

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8. Ezequiel Tovar, Colorado Rockies

Age: 22
2024 Stats: 157 PA, .269/.314/.400, .316 wOBA, 3 HR, 3 SB, 89 wRC+, 0.6 fWAR, 1 DRS, 1 OAA

The Rockies gave Tovar a seven-year extension worth up to $84 million in the offseason, and through the first couple weeks of 2024, he made it look like that deal was going to be a steal in Colorado.

Tovar had a 159 wRC+ after 59 plate appearances, but as it happens to fast starters every year, he has come back down to earth over his next 93 trips to the plate. His strikeout rate has also spiked this season, and currently sits north of 31%.

Regardless, the Rockies gave Tovar his extension for what he had proven on the defensive side of the ball while hoping they could get more out of his bat. He finished with 13 DRS and 16 OAA and was named a finalist for the NL Gold Glove at short.

It’s pretty much a toss-up between Tovar and Neto this season, but Colorado’s shortstop of the future gets the edge based on his track record of being one of the top defenders in baseball.

7. Masyn Winn, St. Louis Cardinals

Age: 22
2024 Stats: 117 PA, .265/.330/.353, .303 wOBA, 0 HR, 5 SB, 97 wRC+, 0.4 fWAR, 7 DRS, -1 OAA

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For a Cardinals team that has, once again, woefully underperformed expectations, Winn’s emergence as a near-league-average bat, while providing solid defense has been a welcome development.

A second-round pick in 2020, Winn is well known for having the strongest arm among MLB infielders, but there were questions about whether he would be able to hit at the MLB level.

So far this season, he’s hit the ball better than he did during his 37-game MLB debut in 2023 and has graded out as the second-best amongst defensive shortstops by DRS. Winn has also increased his walk rate, allowing him to reach base at a higher clip than any of the players we’ve gone over to this point.

Winn’s quality of contact numbers limit what he can be offensively, but in both the short and long term, he should be able to settle in as one of the better defensive shortstops with the Cardinals.

6. Oneil Cruz, Pittsburgh Pirates

Age: 25
2024 Stats: 144 PA, .252/.299/.393, .302 wOBA, 5 HR, 3 SB, 93 wRC+, 0.2 fWAR, -5 DRS, -3 OAA

Now here’s where things get interesting. After a fractured ankle cost him almost the entirety of 2023, Cruz made it back to start with the Pirates on Opening Day this year.

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Unfortunately, he didn’t quite hit the ground running and has posted a stat line that doesn’t quite represent the true talent level of the 6-foot-7 shortstop. His ranking above Winn comes down to a bet on Cruz’s process and his ability to return to the form that had him among the highest-touted prospects across the league.

We’ve perhaps already seen him turn a corner. Over his past 12 games, Cruz is slashing .289/.341/.500 with a pair of home runs, good for a 133 wRC+.

He’s likely never going to be a good defensive shortstop — or even an average one for that matter — and it’s fair to question how long he sticks at the position as Pittsburgh moves into its competitive window. But Cruz’s bat will always be the selling point, as even without the early results in 2024, he ranks in the 95th percentile in average exit velocity and 93rd percentile in hard-hit rate.

5. CJ Abrams, Washington Nationals

Age: 23
2024 Stats: 152 PA, .272/.338/537, .373 wOBA, 7 HR, 8 SB, 142 wRC+, 1.3 fWAR, -3 DRS, -3 OAA

One of the breakout stars of 2024, Abrams has appeared to turn a corner offensively for Washington.

A main piece in the Juan Soto trade (the first one), Abrams has drastically improved his quality of contact numbers this season, posting career highs in barrel percentage, average exit velocity, sweet spot percentage, hard-hit percentage, and xwOBACON.

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Abrams’ overall value is bogged down a bit by being a below-average defender. But now that he has shown the ability to drive the ball while not sacrificing all that much in the swing-and-miss or strikeout department, Abrams has established himself as a cornerstone piece for the up-and-coming Nationals.

4. Anthony Volpe, New York Yankees

Age: 23
2024 Stats: 171 PA, .257/.349/.405, .339 wOBA, 5 HR, 7 SB, 121 wRC+, 1.7 fWAR, 3 DRS, 5 OAA

Volpe has been arguably the best defensive shortstop in the American League since stepping foot in the major leagues. Since his debut, he ranks first in the AL in DRS, third in OAA and third in defensive WAR.

So, it was quite notable that he opened the season with a 201 wRC+ through 15 games. If he could put together elite offense with all the value he provides defensively, we’d be talking about one of the best players in MLB.

Since then, however, the results haven’t followed. He owns a .183/.269/.312 slash line, 72 wRC+, and three home runs over his last 105 plate appearances. But as Volpe proved a year ago, winning the AL Gold Glove for shortstops, no matter how things are going offensively, he’s always going to play good defense.

3. Elly De La Cruz, Cincinnati Reds

Age: 22
2024 Stats: 150 PA, .264/.367/.519, .387 wOBA, 8 HR, 23 SB, 147 wRC+, 1.6 fWAR, -2 DRS, -3 OAA

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De La Cruz has, no doubt, established himself as one of the most electric players in baseball. He hits the ball just about as hard as anyone, runs faster than anyone, and plays the game harder than most players.

His raw tools are off the charts, and despite being a below-average hitter in 2023, he has taken a massive leap in 2024. He has been making ideal contact, increasing his average launch angle and, as a result, has seen an increase in barrel rate. He’s also walking more and chasing less this season.

There are, of course, some holes in his game. He strikes out more than you’d like — but you’ll certainly trade the strikeouts for the damage he does — and has been one of the worst defenders at the position since his debut.

2. Gunnar Henderson, Baltimore Orioles

Age: 22
2024 Stats: 163 PA, .271/.344/.563, .389 wOBA, 11 HR, 6 SB, 155 wRC+, 2.1 fWAR, 4 DRS, 2 OAA

There aren’t a lot of lists that Henderson would be finishing second on with the way he’s started this season. It’s not a knock on him at all to come in second to the player who might be the front-runner for AL MVP if the season ended today.

The reigning AL Rookie of the Year, Henderson has only improved for the Orioles in 2024. He’s posting a better barrel rate, average exit velocity, and hard-hit rate through 36 games, and while he’s walking less, he’s also chasing less than he did last year.

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Henderson split his time between third and short in 2023, but has gotten the reigns in the middle of the diamond this season in Baltimore. Among all shortstops in MLB, he ranks fourth in DRS, tied for fourth in OAA, and tied for sixth in defensive WAR.

Further showing how he’s emerged as one of the league’s best all-around talents, he ranks fifth among all shortstops in BsR, which evaluates a player’s base running value.

1. Bobby Witt Jr., Kansas City Royals

Age: 23
2024 Stats: 170 PA, .318/.388/.556, .405 wOBA, 5 HR, 13 SB, 160 wRC+, 2.7 fWAR, 7 DRS, 7 OAA

After receiving some down-ballot MVP votes in 2023, it might be a long time before Witt doesn’t receive consideration to actually win the award.

The second-overall pick of the 2019 draft, Witt currently leads the American League in fWAR, is second in DRS and stolen bases, and tied for sixth in wRC+. If you look at his Baseball Savant page, it’s clear what he’s excelling at to begin the season: Pretty much everything.

The Royals gave Witt an 11-year, $288.8-million extension over the winter, keeping him in Kansas City for the foreseeable future and adding to their encouraging off-season. That has led the Royals to a fast start, and there’s no one more responsible for their shift from bottom-feeder to in the playoff hunt than Witt.

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Witt has been incredible in all facets of the game this season. Not only has he sparked the Royals success in the win-loss column, but he has emerged as one of the faces of baseball at just 23 years old.