Eight players who will have to show their faces in 2023

Most of the attention is focused on the big signatures and mega changes that get made during Red Hot Winter, but the moves that don’t get made can be just as important.

Last offseason, the Astros did not bring in an outside replacement after letting the Puerto Rican go. Carlos Correa to the Twins in free agency, opting instead to give the rookie Dominican Jeremy Pena a chance to own the starting shortstop job. Pena ended up producing 4.8 wins above replacement (WAR) in the regular season. Later, he was named MVP of the SCLA and the World Series as the Astros were crowned champions.

Likewise, the spotlight is now on these eight players down here heading into the 2023 season, due to the gaps that weren’t filled by their respective clubs before all the big-name free agents signed with their new teams. Although the trade market could still change the landscape, these eight are currently positioned to be key pieces for clubs with serious postseason aspirations in 2023.

The Cardinals are counting on Flaherty not only to stay healthy, but also to recapture the ace level he displayed in 2019. After finishing fourth in voting for the National League Cy Young Award that year, Flaherty leads EFE+ of 102 and a 4.36 FIP over the last three seasons, missing considerable time due to injuries in each of the last two.

The Braves have a hole at shortstop with the departure of Dansby Swanson to the Cubs. If they don’t sign Elvis Andrus or Jose Iglesias in free agency, Grissom will have to earn the job. Grissom, who turns 22 next month, had a 121 OPS+ in 156 plate appearances as a rookie in 2022, but struggled down the stretch with a .613 OPS in his last 27 games after posting 1.123 in his first 14 games. There are also concerns about Grissom’s ability to stretch defensively at shortstop.

For the second straight offseason, the Dodgers are tasked with replacing the departure of their starting shortstop. But unlike in 2022, when they had the luxury of replacing Corey Seager with another top shortstop in Trea Turner, their solution going into 2023 is far from obvious. Lux could be that replacement if he makes good on the promise he exhibited as he rose through the Dodgers’ estate to become MLB’s top prospect. The 25-year-old infielder showed improvement at the plate last year after posting a career-high 105 OPS+, but was able to hit just six home runs and slugged .399 (including .354 vs. left-handed pitching) in 471 appearances at the plate.

To make the most of the 31-year-old Mike Trout’s season and what could be Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani’s last season with the club, the Angels need the Rendon they thought they got when they signed him to a seven-year deal and $245 million after 2019. In the first three years of that contract, Rendon has brought the Angels just 20 home runs, a .779 OPS and 3.3 bWAR in 157 games.

Baltimore has a solid crop of young position players led by wide receiver and rising star Adley Rutschman, but the club’s rotation is surrounded by question marks. If the Orioles hope to make the leap to contendership in 2023, they’re probably going to need Rodriguez, MLB’s fourth-best prospect, to live up to the hype immediately after he makes his Major League debut. The flamethrower was on the verge of being promoted by Baltimore last season, but his promotion was halted by a right hamstring strain.

The Red Sox already had a feeling Xander Bogaerts was going to exercise his opt-out clause to become a free agent this winter, and Story represented an insurance policy in case Bogaerts didn’t re-sign with the club. That insurance policy is about to go into effect after Bogaerts signed an 11-year, $280 million contract with the Padres. Defensively, both are solid, but the Red Sox need Story to do a lot more with the bat than he has the past two seasons (102 OPS + both years).

With Cuban Jose Abreu leaving in free agency to sign with the Astros, the White Sox have a huge void to fill both in the clubhouse and in the lineup. Vaughn can help with the latter if he can take another step forward after a promising 2022 season. Vaughn’s numbers, including a .271 average, 17 home runs and a 111 OPS+, don’t draw much attention, but the 24-year-old slugger He produced hard contact (balls connected at a muzzle velocity of 95 miles per hour or more) on 20.7% of his swings in 2022. That percentage tied him with Juan Soto for the fourth-highest in MLB.

The Yankees have a lot of faith in their young options to fill the shortstop position. Volpe (MLB’s fifth-best prospect) and Oswald Peraza (No. 50) are both expected to compete for the starting job with Isiah Kiner-Falefa this spring. After turning their attention to other openings on the free agent market, the Yankees need one of their young shortstops to step up in 2023. Although Peraza is considered better on defense, Volpe is the higher-ranked prospect of the two and the best bet to become a star on the level of some of the free-agent shortstops the Bombers passed up this winter.

We would like to give thanks to the writer of this short article for this incredible web content

Eight players who will have to show their faces in 2023