Alexei isn't happy that I kept him off of the list. - Brian Kersey
The shortstop position is light on superstar players, but it is relatively deep with solid contributors this year.
Last week, I ranked the Top 10 first basemen entering the 2013 season. This week, we are going to move from the least important defensive position to the most important.
The league is pretty deep with shortstops right now. The position is lacking the big-time superstars like we've been spoiled with the past 30 years. There is no Cal Ripken, Barry Larkin, Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Tejada, Nomar Garciaparra or young Derek Jeter among them.
The guys who dominated the list for years are starting to drop down the rankings due to their age. However, there are plenty of shortstops who can make a pretty good case to be on this list. It was a hard cut, as I had to leave off five guys that could easily have been named at the back of the list.
Here are my Top 10 shortstops right now:
- Troy Tulowitzki
- Elvis Andrus
- Jose Reyes
- Starlin Castro
- Ian Desmond
- Jimmy Rollins
- Derek Jeter
- Hanley Ramirez
- Asdrubal Cabrera
- Erick Aybar
Tulowitzki takes the top spot this season even after only playing in 47 games in 2012. He suffered from groin injuries all season long last year, but still was hitting .287/.360/.486 with eight home runs over 203 plate appearances. If there is one guy on the shortstop list that could put up huge numbers (30+ homers, 100 RBI, .900 OPS) it is Tulo. He is only 28 years old and hit 89 home runs between 2009 and 2011. If I had my pick of anyone to play shortstop for the White Sox
, it would be Tulowitzki.
In the second spot, I'm going with Andrus. Elvis isn't a big power guy, but hits well enough, as he put up a .286/.349/.378 line with 31 doubles and 21 stolen bases in a big-time Rangers
lineup. He also plays very solid defense and is still only 24 years old.
I'm going with Reyes in the third spot. He was able to play in 160 games last season for the Marlins
and hit .287/.347/.433 with 60 extra-base hits, with 40 stolen bases to boot. He is moving to the top of a powerful Blue Jay lineup and will play in an extremely friendly hitters' park. If I was confident that he would stay healthy again, he would be ranked above Andrus. However, Reyes hasn't shown that he can do that outside of last season. He will turn 30 in June.
I'm going to the North Side for my fourth pick, Starlin Castro. Castro, who will be 23 in March, hit .283/.323/.430 last season with 55 extra-base hits, including 14 home runs. While he does make some silly mistakes on the field, he is quickly becoming one of the best shortstops with the lumber. He finished with a -0.9 in UZR/150 last year
, which ranked him 14th of the 21 eligible shortstops. The kid can hit though, and he isn't close to hitting his prime yet.
Ian Desmond was my breakout shortstop two seasons ago. I was a year too early. Desmond ranked first out of the shortstops I considered for my list this season (I will be ranking Ben Zobrist
with the second basemen), with a 5.4 WAR
. Desmond, 27, slugged 25 homers, stole 21 bases and had 60 extra-base hits last year, while putting up a slash line of .292/.335/.511 in 547 plate appearances. Another season like that and he might be the head of the class next year.
In the sixth spot, I'm going with Jimmy Rollins. The 34-year-old hit .250/.316/.427 with 23 home runs, 30 stolen bases in 35 attempts and 61 extra-base hits over 699 plate appearances. The 2007 NL MVP played in 156 games. He doesn't kill you defensively and is in line for another good season in 2013. If he has a couple of more good seasons, Rollins becomes a borderline Hall of Fame candidate.
I'm going with the face of Major League Baseball over the last 15 years in the seventh spot. Derek Jeter doesn't play adequate defense anymore, but you can't argue with the stick. He led the American League in hits in 2012 with 216. He hit .316/.362/.429 with 15 home runs and 32 doubles. He did suffer a broken ankle in the ALCS last October, but is on schedule
to play on Opening Day. You can expect another season with a lot of hits, some power and some even worse defense, but Jeter still ranks in the Top 10 shortstops.
Hanley Ramirez hit .257/.322/.437 with 24 homers, 57 extra-base hits and 92 RBI last season with the Marlins and the Dodgers
. He opened the season as Miami's third baseman, but after being traded to the Dodgers, spent most of his time back at shortstop. He hit better after joining Los Angeles as he hit .271/.324/.450 with the Dodgers. This season, he will benefit from a stacked lineup and could be lined up for a monster campaign. He is still only 29 years old.
Asdrubal Cabrera is the only guy representing the AL Central on the list, as he checks in at No. 9. He hit .270/.338/.423 last year, with 16 home runs and 52 extra-base hits for the Tribe last season. He will never be confused as a slick-fielding shortstop, but his hitting more than makes up for what he can't do with the glove.
Erick Aybar had his second consecutive above-average season with the bat in 2012. He hit .290/.324/.416 with 44 extra-base hits and 20 steals in 24 attempts last season for the Angels
. The 29-year-old isn't a sexy pick, but has proved to be a steady force on both offense and defense for the Angels. He will be hitting in a stacked lineup that includes Mike Trout
, Albert Pujols
and Josh Hamilton
this season, so the opportunity will be there for Aybar to put up some huge numbers.
I really wanted to put Alexei Ramirez
on the list, but couldn't find room for him. He could easily jump back on with a good season here in 2013, but after last season I am a bit skeptical. Others that missed the cut were J.J. Hardy
, who hit 22 home runs for the Orioles
, Alcides Escobar
who hit .293 for the Royals
and Jhonny Peralta
, who was an All-Star in 2011 but fell off with the bat in 2012. Rafael Furcal
can't stay on the field long enough to be considered.
, Clint Barmes
and Brandon Crawford
were the best defensive shortstops last year, but none of them can swing the bat. The closest would be Crawford if he can continue to improve at the plate.