It is now awards season on the baseball calendar after the Texas Rangers captured their franchise’s first title to wrap up the 2023 season. That means now is when all the finalists for the game’s most significant awards will be announced or have already been announced. This includes the Silver Slugger Award, given to the best hitter in each league at each position.
Since the finalists for the award have already been announced, now is a good time to analyze the award, starting with the AL finalists and followed by the NL. So, here is the 2023 AL Silver Slugger breakdown.
Breakdown of the 2023 American League Silver Slugger Award
Catcher: Salvador Perez (KC), Cal Raleigh (SEA), Adley Rutschman (BAL)
Cal Raleigh has quickly become the most prodigious power hitter at the catching position in the entire game. He leads all AL catchers in slugging percentage and isolated power by a wide margin and hit seven more home runs than the next-best catcher. Salvador Perez, who was the catcher with the second most home runs this year, has lost a lot of what made him so great just two years ago. The power is down a little bit and the on-base percentage has declined significantly, but he remains among the top offensive catchers in the American League due to his durability and volume of production.
Despite the accomplishments of both of those players, this award is Adley Rutschman‘s to lose. Rutschman is ahead in almost every offensive rate stat and also has more than 100 more plate appearances than either of them. He leads in wRC+ by a wide margin, OPS by more than 40 points over Raleigh, and also leads in OBP by nearly 70 points.
Favorite: Adley Rutschman
First Base: Triston Casas (BOS), Yandy Diaz (TB), Nathaniel Lowe (TEX), Spencer Torkelson (DET)
Triston Casas put together an impressive rookie campaign in 2023, instantly becoming one of the more productive first basemen in the American League. Spencer Torkelson is finally starting to show everyone why he was the number-one pick and Nathaniel Lowe backed up his breakout season last year with another strong season but one man separated himself from the rest in 2023.
That would be Yandy Diaz, who put together one of the best offensive seasons of any player in the AL. Posting the third-best wRC+ in the AL and finished second in Fangraphs’ offensive runs despite missing 25 games. This is not to mention that he won the AL batting title and put up an OBP and wOBA above .400 making him one of the best at-bat for at-bat hitters in the entire sport.
Favorite: Yandy Diaz
Second Base: Brandon Drury (LAA), Marcus Semien (TEX), Gleyber Torres (NYY)
Marcus Semien had the best all-around season of these players but that isn’t what the award is about. This award is purely about how well these players handle the bat and while Semien had an excellent season, Gleyber Torres was also quietly very good. He is just behind Semien in wRC+ (124 to 123) and put up an OPS of .800. The key separator between the two is that Semien led the entire MLB with 753 plate appearances and played every game while Torres, who played a still impressive 158 games, had 81 fewer plate appearances.
As for Brandon Drury, he only played 125 games and didn’t quite put up the numbers of Semien or even Torres. Overall, part of what made Semien’s season so special was his ability to do everything, and that includes swinging the bat better than any second baseman in the American League.
Favorite: Marcus Semien
Third Base: Alex Bregman (HOU), Rafael Devers (BOS), Isaac Paredes (TB), Jose Ramirez (CLE)
This is the toughest position in the AL this year. Jose Ramirez, Alex Bregman, and Rafael Devers represent three of the top third basemen in the league over the last several seasons while Isaac Paredes is a new face who had a massive breakout year in 2023. Looking at wRC+ Paredes seems like the obvious choice, sitting at 137 and the other three between 123 and 125. However, Paredes had the fewest plate appearances and doesn’t have quite that advantage in any other category finishing middle of the pack in OPS and last in batting average.
The advanced metrics disagree on who the most productive of these four was. Baseball Reference’s batting runs and offensive WAR have Paredes in first in the former and last in the latter with both being extremely close. Meanwhile, Fangraphs’ offensive runs have it as a two-horse race between Ramirez and Paredes. However, while Paredes is first in wRC+ the volume-based measurement of the same metric gives the advantage to Bregman and Devers. Even looking at more basic measurements doesn’t give a clear answer. By total bases Devers and Ramirez are tied with Bregman a little behind and Paredes way behind while Devers and Paredes are close in home runs and Ramirez are well ahead in batting average.
None of these four great hitters would be a bad choice, they all have a good case for the award and would certainly win at other positions. That being said only one can win and this year the extremely slight favorite is Paredes. Despite his smaller sample of plate appearances, he was the best power hitter of the group and put together the best at-bat-for-bat production of the group.
Favorite: Just barely Isaac Paredes
Shortstop: JP Crawford (SEA), Corey Seager (TEX), Bobby Witt Jr. (KCR)
After the closest position of them all, here is the easiest call on the board. Not to discount the extremely impressive seasons from JP Crawford and Bobby Witt Jr. but this is Corey Seager‘s award. If it weren’t for the existence of Shohei Ohtani, Seager would also be the easy choice for AL MVP despite injuries limiting him to just 119 games. He is going to finish top two in MVP, he is going to win the Silver Slugger and he’ll surely win other accolades as well. Seager had probably the greatest season of his great career, and none of this includes his historic performance in this year’s playoffs. Witt and Crawford will both likely receive some down-ballot MVP votes themselves due to their all-around great seasons but neither of them can compare to the offensive dominance of Seager.
Favorite: Corey Seager
Outfield: Randy Arozarena (TB), Adolis Garcia (TEX), Aaron Judge (NYY), Luis Robert Jr (CHW), Julio Rodriguez (SEA), Anthony Santander (BAL), Kyle Tucker (HOU)
Unlike the other positions, three Silver Sluggers are given to outfielders each year and this year has been an interesting one for AL outfielders. Silver Slugger stalwart Mike Trout, who was once a shoo-in for this award every season, missed time due to injury and is not a finalist this year. Additionally, last year’s MVP Aaron Judge also missed significant time, but he was still able to put up a very impressive season and will likely still be a winner. Despite just having 458 plate appearances, he hit the third most home runs among AL outfielders and put up by far the best rate stats of any player in the AL except for Ohtani.
As for the other two spots, Luis Robert Jr finally had the season every White Sox fan thought he could have and has cemented himself as one of the best players in the AL. He was able to stay healthy and put up some great numbers: 128 wRC+, 38 home runs, .857 OPS, 4.4 offensive WAR, and 296 total bases. When it comes to offensive production though, no outfielder quite had the numbers Kyle Tucker put up in 2023. He is second to Judge in pretty much every rate stat except for slugging where he is third and batting average where he is first.
The closest behind those three was Julio Rodriguez, who followed up his Rookie of the Year campaign with another impressive showing in 2023. He could easily be one of the three outfield winners the way he produced. As well, Randy Arozarena and Adolis Garcia both put up very good seasons that should garner some consideration while Anthony Santander kept up his consistently solid production.
Favorites: Aaron Judge, Kyle Tucker and Luis Robert Jr.
Designated Hitter: Yordan Alvarez (HOU), Shohei Ohtani (LAA)
These are two of the most prolific sluggers in the MLB, let alone the AL. These are among the top players in pretty much every offensive rate stat. The only players who even approach either of their numbers are Seager, Judge, and Diaz. All easy choices at their positions. Even though both of these players are likely to be in the MVP conversation, there is only one choice for the winner of this award.
While Yordan Alvarez put up a 170 wRC+ and was one of the best overall producers of the 2023 season, he didn’t match the MVP-level offense from two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani posted a better wRC+ of 180 and had an extra 103 plate appearances. He led the AL in home runs with 44, had a much higher OPS than Alvarez, and led all AL hitters in almost every offensive category. Not only will he likely win the Silver Slugger but he is also likely to win the Hank Aaron Award.
Favorite: Shohei Ohtani
Utility: Brandon Drury (LAA), Gunnar Henderson (BAL), Isaac Paredes (TBR), Whit Merrifield (TOR)
Lastly, the newest category in the Silver Slugger Award is the utility player. For those who don’t know the utility player award goes to the best hitter among players who split their time between multiple positions. Drury and Paredes were both finalists for their primary positions of second base and third base while super utility players Gunnar Henderson and Whit Merrifield are only up for this award.
Henderson is likely going to win the AL Rookie of the Year for his outstanding all-around play and through the first half of the season Merrifield looked like he would contend for this award but neither finished with the same offensive production as Paredes. He has by far the highest OPS, wOBA, and wRC+ and got on base far more often than any of the other three players. Overall, while Paredes’s chances at winning the third base award might not be quite as certain, he has a very strong chance of taking home the hardware at the utility position.
Favorite: Isaac Paredes
Around this time the baseball world turns their attention to awards season, when the game’s best players are given the recognition they deserve. One of the most significant of those awards is the Silver Slugger which honors baseball’s most productive hitters at each position. That was the breakdown of the American League side of the award, the NL edition is coming soon. Hopefully, this helps with the annual debate of who is most deserving of the accolades.