Posts Tagged ‘Troy Tulowitzki’

Houston Astros' Carlos Correa throws before a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox Monday, June 8, 2015 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

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.

Jun 14, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Cleveland Indians designated hitter Francisco Lindor (12) reacts to tripping over first base after he hits a single in the ninth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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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.

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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.

The shortstop position is undergoing a renaissance of sorts currently. While it is still showing higher levels of offensive potential than it has in many other eras of the past, it has also begun to turn back to defense first position where a limited offensive output is okay in favor of covering acres of land in return.

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The guard is changing in regards to the faces at the position as well. Gone is Derek Jeter to retirement and Hanley Ramirez to left field in Boston. But while the long-time top of the market guys are out, there are more team than not that will run out very strong shortstop play on a day-to-day basis, proving the fact that it is one of the deepest pools to access talent within the game today.

While there are easily 15+ names that could make a legit case to be featured in the top 10, the ones that made it are all excelling at the art of making a high-end contribution at some part of the game. But be wary of the field, because just like there are four new faces in this year’s top 10 six-holers, there could be even more that breakthrough a year from now. It is truly a great time to see some superb shortstop play.

 

1. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies (#1 in 2014): Tulo has this spot on reserve, and for good –but frustrating— reasons. He proved last year that he far above reproach from any other shortstop (and potentially any other position, period) in the game….when he is out there. His ability as an overall contributor is nearly unparrelled in the game today, as his nearly 6 Wins Above Replacement in just 91 games shows. Before his season ended in August due to hip issues, the now 30-year-old was preparing to run away with the National League MVP. But despite the fact he just cannot stay on the field from start to finish, what he does when he is there is both so brilliant and so much better than anybody else at the position today, Tulowitzki remains the easy choice for best in the biz.

2-year average: .323 average/.974 OPS/23 home runs/67 RBI/72 runs scored/1 stolen base/.988 Fld%

2. Ian Desmond, Nationals (#2 in ‘14): Desmond continues to put on a brilliant all-around display of talents for the Nats. He won his third consecutive NL Silver Slugger after hitting 24 home runs and driving in a career-best 91 runs. He added on 24 stolen bases as well and registered his third consecutive 20-20 season. He is entering his walk season and is in great position to cash in in a major way.

2-year average: .267 average/.764 OPS/22 home runs/86 RBI/75 runs scored/22 stolen bases/.967 Fld%

3. Jhonny Peralta, Cardinals (#9 in ’14): He was the most constantly productive bat for the Cardinals a year ago, leading the team in home runs and finishing second among NL shortstops in RBI as well. Peralta also turned in a better than advertised season in the field, which when combined with his expected offensive impact saw him finish with an impressive 5.8 WAR figure.

2-year average: .280 average/.794 OPS/16 home runs/65 RBI/56 runs scored/3 stolen bases/.986 Fld%

4. Andrelton Simmons, Braves (#7 in ’14): He’s an unparalleled defensive maestro up the middle. Long and instinctive presence, blessed with a power arm and uncanny accuracy as well, he can range from third base to well onto the second base side with equal ease. While Simmons’ offensive game took a slight step backwards in 2014, it really is of no effect to his value simply because he is so great of glovesmith. He is the cornerstone of the Braves team going forward and the type of talent that easily holds down a Gold Glove spot for a decade.

2-year average: .246 average/.657 OPS/12 home runs/52 RBI/60 runs scored/5 stolen bases/.979 Fld%

5. J.J. Hardy, Orioles (#5 in ’14): The Orioles knew that they did not want for Hardy to see the free agent market this winter and locked him in early to a $50 million extension smartly. That is because Hardy has been one of the most consistently productive shortstops in the game since reaching B-More in 2011. He took home his third Gold Glove in as many years last summer and is only two years removed from a Silver Slugger as well.

2-year average: .265 average/.712 OPS/17 home runs/64 RBI/61 runs scored/1 stolen base/.980 Fld%

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6. Jose Reyes, Blue Jays (#3 in ’14): It seems like he’s not doing the things he actually is because he is not tearing up the bases for 70 steals or taking home batting titles anymore, but in reality Reyes has remained a very productive player, when healthy. And that was exactly that in 2014, playing 143 games and notching 175 hits, 30 stolen bases and a .287 average.

2-year average: .290 average/.747 OPS/10 home runs/44 RBI/76 runs scored/22 stolen bases/.969 Fld%

7. Alcides Escobar, Royals (Not Ranked): He has been one of the best defenders up the middle for years, but struggled with consistency at the plate. He found that regular, traditional-style of shortstop stroke in 2014, hitting for a .285 average and stealing 30+ bases for the second time as well. His glove work was a major reason for the Royals’ success, and entering his age 28 season, Escober looks primed to rise among the AL’s elite at SS.

2-year average: .259 average/.625 OPS/4 home runs/51 RBI/66 runs scored/26 stolen bases/.977 Fld%

8. Starlin Castro, Cubs (Not Ranked): Castro seemed to rediscover his way last year and played an expectedly vital role in the Cubs uptick in success as a result. The he raised his average up past .290 and made his third All-Star visit in five years as well. While his future at the position could be time sensitive, with the Cubs deep farm system pushing at his back, Castro certainly has reaffirmed his place among the team’s most vital presences for the time being.

2-year average: .265 average/.696 OPS/12 home runs/54 RBI/58 runs scored/6 stolen bases/.970 Fld%

9. Erick Aybar, Angels (Not Ranked): Despite being a past Gold Glove winner and a 2014 All-Star, Aybar has somehow remained regularly underrated. However is contributions to the Halos last year played a major part in the success of the team taking the AL West. He reached double digits in steals and 30 doubles for the fourth straight year, while leading all AL shortstops in WAR at 3.9.

2-year average: .275 average/.692 OPS/6 home runs/61 RBI/72 runs scored/14 stolen bases/.977 Fld%

10. Brandon Crawford, Giants (Not Ranked): He is one of the best rhythm players in the game, meaning that for what his stat line may lack, he makes up for in the bottom line of team productivity. Crawford is a supremely talented defender that is the engine that pushes the Giants’ team-first output across its infield. The 28-year-old became a more diverse offensive presence as well in 2014, driving in 69 runs with 20 doubles, 10 triples and 10 home runs, along with a career-high .304 World Series batting average.

2-year average: .247 average/.693 OPS/10 home runs/56 RBI/53 runs scored/3 stolen bases/.970 Fld%

 

Runners Up: Alexei Ramirez, Jed Lowrie, Elvis Andrus, Jimmy Rollins

Colorado Rockies vs the San Francisco Giants

Shortstop may be home to the best group of young talent in baseball. Half of the very best players at this packed position are well away from their 30th birthdays, and the push towards the upper reaches of the spot could make this one of the most debated positions in the game in coming years.

In today’s game, there’s a Dominican lock on the position, with the island producing no less than seven high quality shortstops right now. And in the now normal expectation of the role, each has a unique spin on what they bring to the position, between speed threats, power bats and blends of it all. And what is more, is that the names that won’t make the cut this year (such as Erick Aybar, Jed Lowrie and Starlin Castro among others) could still make a push to be included with the top 100 players in the game overall later on this winter, so that speaks to the true value at the spot and why the 10 competitors below truly deserve the spotlight that they’ve earned—and are clinging to.

And with that pomp and circumstance out the way, here’s the best of the day at the six spot…

10. Derek Jeter, Yankees: The old standard bearer is still here, and it is mostly because injury kept him from proving if he repeat at the level he ended 2012: a year where led the AL hits (216) and turned in a .316 average at age 38. 2014 could be the last go around for him, and it is unlikely that he doesn’t try to make it one to remember.

9. Jhonny Peralta, Cardinals: He hit a career-best .303 a year ago, while topping 30 doubles and making his second All-Star Game. He will switch to the National League for the first time and look to keep his number steady coming out of a PED suspension that interrupted his 2013.

8. Jean Segura, Brewers: His first season, Milwaukee’s return for Zach Greinke blew up on the scene with 20 doubles, 10 triples, 12 home runs and 44 stolen bases, good for an All-Star Game debut.

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7. Andrelton Simmons, Braves: At only 24, he may already be the best defender in all of baseball. He covers space at shortstop like a center fielder and has an arm that could compete with the best CFs as well. His 5.4 dWAR mark led all players, and he added 17 home runs as a bit of a coming attraction feature at the plate as well.

6. Ian Desmond, Nationals: He joined the 20/20 club and won his second straight Silver Slugger. He drove in a career-best 80 runs and set a personal high water mark for hits and doubles for the fourth straight year.

5. J.J. Hardy, Orioles: Many are quick to point out that Hardy doesn’t reach base with enough regularity, however he is the finest defensive shortstop in the AL (winning his second straight Gold Glove—the legit way) and adding a Silver Slugger for his 25 homer/27 double outburst.

4. Elvis Andrus, Rangers: He is the model of consistency, which is saying a lot for a guy that is only 25. He’s topped 160 hits each of the last three years and 60 RBI as well. His 42 stolen bases were a career high as well, playing a major part in his fourth year over 85 runs scored.

3. Jose Reyes, Blue Jays: The injury bug starts to take off here with regularly, but the game’s most dynamic on-base threat still had a solid AL debut, despite making it to the field for only 96 games. He hit .296 with 20 doubles, 10 home runs and stole 15 bags.

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2. Hanley Ramirez, Dodgers: He had a career renaissance amid a competitive Dodger campaign a year ago. His on-base + slugging topped the hallowed 1.000 mark a year ago, in the course of him hitting .342, with 20 home runs, 25 doubles and running up 105 hits in only 86 games, due to a pair of limiting injuries.

1. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies: Another of those far and away gold standards at his position, it has been a long while since someone other than Tulo has had legit right to call themselves the best at short. While he comes with a pretty substantial injury caveat (he hasn’t played over 150 games since 2009) he’s outperformed the pack annually with a fraction of the availability. In 126 games, he hit 25 homers, drove in 82 and finished with a +5 WAR for the fourth time in his career.

Just A Bit Outside: Jed Lowrie, Stephen Drew, Starlin Castro

For more on this list and the rest of the world at CSP, follow me in real-time on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.