Without a doubt, no position in baseball underwent a more drastic face lift over the past year than shortstop did. The youth movement of the past two years has been aggressive focused at the infield’s most vital position, and as a result, many of the game’s most exciting young talents find themselves battling out for supremacy at the spot, some still yet to even see their first Opening Day as a Major Leaguer.
That is the mark of some substantial talent to be able to make such an impact in such a quick fashion. And the majority of it has been focused in the American League, where no less than seven of the players to come call home. However, do not write off the veterans at the position, many of which are still producing at an elite level at the spot and some of which are continuing to ascend the ladder, in spite of all of the young bloods making their mark.
This is a position that is a virtual certain to create a plethora of All-Star ‘snubs’ over the next few seasons, but the level of competition should be as good as it has been in nearly two decades. All of this, and the game’s top prospect calls the position home and is primed to begin his full-time assault on National League pitching this upcoming year.
Shortstop is once again one of the most exciting positions in the game, and here is how the spot pulls apart when pitted against each other.
To review last year’s rankings, click here.
10. Jose Iglesias, Tigers
2015: .300/.347/.370, 2 HR, 23 RBI, 17 doubles, 44 runs scored, 11 stolen bases, .717 OPS
Last 3 Years: .287/.336/.362, 2 HR, 18 RBI, 12 doubles, 29 runs scored, 6 stolen bases, .698 OPS
After missing the entire 2014 season due to a stress fractures in both shins, Iglesias returned to the field better than he left it in 2013. The runner-up for AL Rookie of the Year that season, he took his game to the next level in his second full season, making the American League All-Star team after hitting .314 and stealing 9 bases in the first half of the season.
Injuries again impacted his ability to stay on the field in the second half of the season, as a stress fracture in his middle finger cut his season short after 120 games. Iglesias would likely be higher on this list if not for the constant occurrence of freakish injuries in his young career. But as the owner of an impressive 4.22 range factor for his career, the dual threat Iglesias is poised to do nothing but rise in years to come.
9. Elvis Andrus, Rangers
2015: .258/.309/.357, 7 HR, 62 RBI, 34 doubles, 69 runs scored, 25 stolen bases, .667 OPS
Last 3 Years: .264/.317/.340, 4 HR, 57 RBI, 29 doubles, 77 runs scored, 31 stolen bases, .657 OPS
It has been an interesting ride for Andrus over the past few years, as his career has gone on a ride in a number of different ways. For a few years, his output slid overall, seeing his batting average, stolen bases and even fielding metrics take a dive.
However, Andrus made a turnaround of sorts last year. While his offensive metrics continued to slide overall, most noticeably in his defensive impact yet again.
8. Ian Desmond, Free Agent
2015: .233/.290/.384, 19 HR, 62 RBI, 27 doubles, 69 runs scored, 13 stolen bases, .674 OPS
Last 3 Years: .256/.311/.423, 21 HR, 78 RBI, 30 doubles, 73 runs scored, 19 stolen bases, .734 OPS
Desmond had established himself as the offensive standard at shortstop over the past few years, winning three consecutive Silver Slugger awards coming into 2015. This came on the back of three straight years north of 20 home runs and driving in 80+ in each of the previous two years, while also stealing 20 bases in each year as well.
However, 2015 was a brutal year for Desmond, seeing his average dip by 22 points and his on-base percentage fall beneath .300. Toss in the fact that his errors continued to climb higher in the 20’s for the third straight year to a MLB-high 27, and Desmond had a rough year. And while a position change could be in store for him, Desmond remains one of the most dangerous bats at the position in all of the game.
7. Francisco Lindor, Indians
2015: .313/.350/.482, 12 HR, 51 RBI, 22 doubles, 50 runs scored, 12 stolen bases, .835 OPS
The Indians’ top prospect entering the year, Lindor made good on that tag once he got his opportunity in the big leagues, and did so in a way that was rather unexpected.
Lindor never hit higher than .303 as a minor leaguer over a full season, which he did at level A at the age of 19. He seemed more destined to be a light-hitting, glove first guy up the middle with some speed. Lindor’s offensive output got better and better throughout the year, hitting a peak at .370 in August, before coming back to still impressive .325 in September. While this is likely unsustainable, Lindor did not disappoint with ticketed range in the field either, and by showing there’s some impact to be had in his bat as well, he added yet another intriguing young presence at the deepening talent pool of AL shortstops.
6. Andrelton Simmons, Angels
2015: .265/.321/.338, 4 HR, 44 RBI, 23 doubles, 60 runs scored, 5 stolen bases, .660 OPS
Last 3 Years: .252/.301/.357, 9 HR, 50 RBI, 23 doubles, 60 runs scored, 5 stolen bases, .658 OPS
The offensive numbers, while improving, will not wow anyone in regards to Simmons. His .265 average in 2015 was a career high and second-best among NL shortstops, but it still is a rather pedestrian number, as are all of his on-base and power metrics.
However, what is not anywhere near average about Simmons is his defensive prowess, where he is unmatched among infielders in the game today. Since entering the league in 2012, he has posted an insane 15.2 defensive WAR figure, far and away the best in the game at the position. In 2015, he had only eight errors in 687 total chances, while having the second best total range factor in the game. In layman’s terms, he gets to more balls without negative outcome than anybody else in the game, which is the equivalent of carrying a Bryce Harper-like impact at the plate, only with his glove.
5. Jhonny Peralta, Cardinals
2015: .275/.334/.411, 17 HR, 71 RBI, 26 doubles, 64 runs scored, 1 stolen base, .745 OPS
Last 3 Years: .278/.341/.435, 16 HR, 67 RBI, 31 doubles, 58 runs scored, 2 stolen bases, .776 OPS
Peralta became a National League All-Star for the first time a year ago, as well as three-timer overall. It came on the heels of year where he blazed out of the gates in the first half, hitting for a .298 average with 13 home runs, a .355 on-base % and stellar .828 OPS. He was the most important offensive presence for the Cardinals, as they began their climb towards carrying the best record in baseball throughout the balance of the regular season.
However, his production tailed off in the second half, as fatigue seemed to weigh in (he started 147 games, the third most in his career), but his offensive totals were still strong. He topped 70 RBI for the second consecutive year and finished in the top 3 of all MLB shortstops in average, RBI and on-base percentage.
4. Troy Tulowitzki, Blue Jays
2015: .280/.337/.440, 17 HR, 70 RBI, 27 doubles, 77 runs scored, 1 stolen base, .777 OPS
Last 3 Years: .306/.381/.517, 21 HR, 68 RBI, 24 doubles, 73 runs scored, 1 stolen base, .899 OPS
Tulo is a tricky ranking for a number of reasons. Chief among them all is that he has been so much better than any other shortstop in the game for so long now that it is hard to say if his 2015 season was an aberration or a shift towards a slight decline? And it is not as if he was bad overall last season, but when your average season over the past three years prior to 2015 is was a .316/.399/.551 split line, it is a noticeable decline.
There is also the question of the impact that moving away from Coors Field could have on him. After heading to Toronto, Tulowitzki only carried a .317 on base percentage and managed 13 extra base hits in 183 plate appearances. This is a concerning decline, but too small of a sample size to write him off as having his best days behind him in full. He has earned the benefit of the doubt, and at entering only his age 31 season and being based in a very home run friendly Rogers Centre, Tulo should still produce quite well.
3. Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox
2015: .320/.355/.421, 7 HR, 81 RBI, 35 doubles, 84 runs scored, 10 stolen bases, .776 OPS
Last 3 Years: .281/.327/.392, 7 HR, 44 RBI, 22 doubles, 50 runs scored, 4 stolen bases, .720 OPS
Bogearts made one of the biggest leaps forward in the game last year, as he made the most of his unquestioned year opportunity as Sox shortstop. Both his 196 hits and .320 average were good for the second best totals in the American League, and helped him net a Silver Slugger award as a result. While his home run total dipped by five from his rookie year, nearly everything else rose exponentially for Bogaerts, most noticeably an 80 point swing in batting average, a slugging % bump from .362 to .421 and 37 less strikeouts.
With the days of him seeing matinee time at third base behind him, Bogaerts rounded into form defensively as well. His .984 fielding % was second base in the AL, as he had one more error in 2015 than he had in 2014—while playing 480 more innings at shortstop than he had the year before.
2. Brandon Crawford, Giants
2015: .256/.321/.462, 21 HR, 84 RBI, 33 doubles, 65 runs scored, 6 stolen bases, .782 OPS
Last 3 Years: .251/.319/.405, 13 HR, 65 RBI, 26 doubles, 57 runs scored, 4 stolen bases, .724 OPS
He was one of baseball’s most underrated presences for years; a defensive wizard in the truest sense of the term. Crawford’s glove was a pivotal part of the last two World Series championships in San Francisco, and his abilities even rivaled that of Andrelton Simmons, whom he finally overtook for his first Gold Glove a year ago.
And while his defensive standard remains superb (Crawford led the NL in total zone runs saved at 19 and totaled the second most assists in the league as well), he also added some legit punch to his presence at the plate as well. Crawford hit 21 home runs and drove in 84 runs a year ago, both finishing as tops among all MLB shortstops. His 33 doubles were the second most at the position, behind Bogaerts’ 35. All in all, he added both an All-Star debut and a Silver Slugger to his impressive 2015, and firmly moved himself into elite overall players at the position.
1. Carlos Correa, Astros
2015: .279/.345/.512, 22 HR, 68 RBI, 22 doubles, 52 runs scored, 14 stolen bases, .857
Disclaimer: this may seem like a rush to the crown, and I understand that.
I mean, being rational, there should be no way that a guy with 99 career games should be considered the best in the game at his position. However, Correa has made a habit of proving that the rules do not apply to him. And after a year where he won Rookie of the Year at 20 years old, became the second youngest player to ever have a multi-home run game and simutenously became the catalyst of the Astros’ resurgence, it is safe to say he has earned his keep here.
The top pick in the 2012 Amateur Draft, Correa is the most well-rounded shortstop talent to debut since Alex Rodriguez. And even A-Rod couldn’t match Correa’s output in his first full season (albeit he did it a year earlier as a 19 year old). Correa’s debut, when projected over a full season, would have yielded 36 home runs, 36 doubles 23 stolen bases, 111 RBI and would have seen him reach a grand total of 324 bases, which would have been good for 6th in the Majors and 66 more than any other shortstop.
Just A Bit Outside: Alcides Escobar, Royals; Erick Aybar, Braves; Jose Reyes, Rockies.