Shortstop is one of the most critical positions on the baseball diamond. You’ve got to have outstanding defense, plus speed, and clutch hitting to be among baseball’s best shortstops. Similarly to MLB Network’s Top 10 Right Now, here’s Overtime’s Top 10 MLB Shortstops.
10. Jose Iglesias, Detroit Tigers
Kicking off our list is the shortstop for the Detroit Tigers, Jose Iglesias. Iglesias has had an interesting career thus far. A young, slick-fielding, .300-hitting shortstop for the Red Sox in 2013, he was surprisingly traded to Detroit in a 3-way deal at midseason. After missing all of 2014 with shin fractures, Iglesias had an up-and-down 2015 season. He batted .300, stole 11 bags, and stayed healthy, but only hit 2 home runs and committed 11 errors, a career-worst.
Iglesias needs to have a bounce-back year in 2016. The diminutive shortstop may not ever be a slugger, but he needs more consistency at the plate and needs to rediscover himself in the field. If Iglesias can hit 7 home runs and cut down on his errors, he will be one of Detroit’s most key pieces.
9. Addison Russell, Chicago Cubs
One of the Cubs’ top prospects, Russell got an extended look in his rookie year. Splitting time at second base and his natural shortstop, he popped 13 home runs, made stellar defensive plays, and struck out a ton (29% of his plate appearances). Now that Starlin Castro is a New York Yankee, the shortstop’s job in Chicago is Russell’s to lose.
Russell is a very exciting player. He showed 20-20 potential in the minors as well as solid defense. In a stacked Cubs lineup, Russell won’t be counted on that heavily. This could bode well in his favor. If Russell gets going, he will be one of baseball’s best bottom-third hitters. Look for Russell to be a centerpiece in Chicago for a long time.
8. Didi Gregorius, New York Yankees
Replacing Derek Jeter isn’t an easy feat for anybody, but Didi Gregorius did it about as good as one could have reasonably expected. His season numbers of .265, 9 homers, .318 OBP, and 13 errors only look average, but those include an absolutely brutal start for Gregorius. Didi really heated up in the second half. He hit .282 after June 1 with 7 homers, raised his OBP to .329, and improved his defense remarkably.
Gregorius is a player who could really have a breakout in 2016. He is improving as a hitter, skilled as a fielder, and is finally comfortable in New York. The Yankees have themselves a true new-wave shortstop in Gregorius, one who has the potential to be another Yankee All-Star.
7. Andrelton Simmons, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Simmons was shockingly traded to the Angels from the Braves this offseason. By now, the book is clear on Simmons: his glove is the best in the game, but his bat is near the worst. Still, it is impossible to ignore his defensive contributions. Sabermatricians approximate that Simmons has saved a ridiculous 113 runs over the last 4 seasons, a whopping 71 more than the next-best shortstop, Brandon Crawford.
Of course, Simmons needs to improve with the bat to be even more valuable in the future. His career .256 average, .666 OPS, and average of 9 homers per season could use some work. But in a lineup that features Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Kole Calhoun, Simmons’s shortcomings aren’t as evident. Simmons is a great fit in the Golden State.
6. Jhonny Peralta, St. Louis Cardinals
Peralta is the elder statesmen of the shortstops, but his offensive prowess keeps him in the top 10. Peralta hit .275 last year with 17 home runs, fantastic totals for any shortstop. He has no speed and his defense leaves more to be desired, but it is insanely valuable to have a shortstop that can hit at an elite clip.
Of course, Peralta is entering his age-34 season, meaning that his fall from grace could be imminent. His past has included the use of steroids, which taints some people’s opinions of him. Peralta is not a perfect player, but you can do a lot worse than him. He will need a big year to keep his spot in the middle of the list with young players chomping at the bit though.
5. Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox
Bogaerts took that big step forward in 2015 that we were all waiting for. A young shortstop with power, defense, and a winning smile? The Red Sox will certainly sign up for that. Bogaerts hit .320 last year with 7 homers, cut down on his strikeout totals, swiped 10 bags, and nearly halved his errors from 2014.
Bogaerts was a top prospect for a reason. The Red Sox can slot him anywhere in the lineup, and he will play a prominent role in 2016. The hype is real with Bogaerts. He will be an award winner before his career is over.
4. Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians
Francisco Lindor burst onto the scene in June and didn’t look back. The Indians’ shortstop was baseball’s second-best-hitting shortstop in 2015, and he quickly became recognized for his penchant for absurd defensive plays. Lindor is exactly what you want out of a young shortstop. The flashy Puerto Rican can do a little bit of everything on the baseball diamond.
Lindor has to watch out for the dreaded “Sophomore Slump”, but I don’t think that it will present a major issue for such a talented player. Lindor will be counted on as Cleveland’s sparkplug at the top of the order for years to come. In time, he could prove to be the very best shortstop in the game.
3. Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants
The 29-year-old Crawford had his first All-Star season in 2015 and has enjoyed steady improvement each year that he’s been a Major Leaguer. The durable shortstop never misses a game, has quality defense, and has surprisingly developed into a 20-home run hitter. He’s won 2 World Series in 5 years for a reason.
Crawford got paid this offseason in a big way: 6 years at $75 million with a full no-trade clause. The consistent Giants’ shortstop will have to have a big year in 2016 if the Giants want to hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy once again. Hey, it’s an even year, so the deck is already in San Francisco’s favor.
2. Troy Tulowitzki, Toronto Blue Jays
I debated long and hard on this one, but I finally decided to drop Tulowitzki to number 2 on the list this year. Tulo has a lower-body injury seemingly every year, and those injuries may finally be taking their toll. Tulo wasn’t the same after being traded to the Blue Jays, only hitting .239 with 5 homers. Still, when Tulowitzki is healthy, there are few better in all of baseball.
Tulowitzki needs a bounce-back in 2016 to regain the top spot. 2016 will be Tulo’s 11th year already, so he isn’t exactly a spring chicken anymore. But if Tulowitzki can stay healthy, he will be a huge weapon on a loaded Toronto offense and the top spot on the top 10 list will be waiting for him.
1. Carlos Correa, Houston Astros
I very rarely tout rookies as the top at anything, but there is something special about Carlos Correa. Since his June debut, there hasn’t been any shortstop that I’d rather have than Correa. He bettered fellow rookie Francisco Lindor in every category, and completely blew away veterans Troy Tulowitzki and Brandon Crawford. Correa hit .279, smashed 22 crushing homers, stole 14 bases, played excellent defense, and further established himself with a huge playoff.
Correa has a swagger on him that you can’t help but admire. He really is a mirror image of a young Alex Rodriguez, which bodes quite well for his on-field future. Correa needs to have a strong second year now that the league has adjusted to him, but he really shouldn’t have any problems with that. Carlos Correa truly has the potential to be the MLB’s next generational talent.