Welcome to the new Golden Age of shortstops. Not since the days of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Nomar Garciaparra have we seen such a strong core of talented players occupying the position between second and third. With the majority of this group under the age of 25, it is only going to get better.
The top ten shortstops in the league heading into the 2017 season are listed below. In order to qualify for the list, shortstop HAS to be the player’s primary position (so the likes of Manny Machado will not be included). Defensive abilities will be weighed heavily here as well, given the need for a slick glove at such a high-traffic position on the diamond. Baserunning is also taken into account, as we look to rank these shortstops in terms of all-around abilities.
10. Jonathan Villar: Milwaukee Brewers
Fittingly, we’ll start this list with a 25-year-old who is still on the rise in the National League. Hidden away behind the ugly veil that was the awful Brewers last year, Villar managed to slug 19 home runs while maintaining an impressive OPS of .826 in his first full major league season. His .457 slugging percentage was also good for fourth-best in the majors among shortstops. What really spikes Villar’s value is his ability to steal bases, swiping a league-leading 62 bags in 2016. His defense could use some improvement (his .965 fielding percentage ranks 22nd among shortstops according to FanGraphs), but look for Villar to improve defensively and offensively in 2017.
9. Didi Gregorius: New York Yankees
Since arriving in the Bronx in 2015 with the impossible task of replacing Derek Jeter, Gregorius has impressed fans in the Bronx with his slick glove and continuous improvement in production at the plate. After a slow start in his inaugural season in pinstripes, Gregorius finished the 2015 season strong and carried that momentum over into 2016, posting career highs in batting average (.276), home runs (20), slugging percentage (.447, sixth best among shortstops) and RBIs (70). Gregorius has found himself a power stroke since arriving in New York, capitalizing on a hitter-friendly right field porch. His .974 fielding percentage could have been a lot better if it weren’t for a slow start in the field, but Gregorius quickly rebounded to have a stellar defensive season. At 26 years old, Gregorius should continue to improve as an all-around shortstop in 2017.
8. Troy Tulowitzki: Toronto Blue Jays
The batting average could use a boost (his .254 average in 2016 was the lowest of his career), but you can’t ignore the power numbers when it comes to Tulo, who hit 24 home runs with 79 RBIs. At 32 years old, you hope that this isn’t the beginning of a decline for the Blue Jays’ shortstop, but it is a possibility that can’t be ignored. It shouldn’t drastically affect his numbers in 2017, and he should still be good for 20-plus home runs and a very reliable glove. His .983 fielding percentage last season was sixth-best among shortstops, committing only nine errors.
7. Trevor Story: Colorado Rockies
Number 27 for Colorado hit 27 home runs in his incredible rookie season, while posting a .909 OPS and an OPS+ of 122. Oh, and he missed the last two months of the season with a broken thumb. Story’s incredible entrance to the big leagues was a joy to watch, and while his numbers leveled off after his insane April, they were still incredibly impressive for the 24-year-old. His thumb will be fine in 2017, and Story will likely capitalize on Coors Field and the dangerous hitters around him to have another offensively stacked season.
6. Addison Russell: Chicago Cubs
You know it is a deep well of shortstop talent when Addison Russell comes in at number six. The shortstop for the World Series champs is another who needs to improve his batting average, but his 21 home runs and 95 RBIs are a showcase of his power and a sign of things to come since he is still just 22 years old. Russell earned an All-Star appearance this season while having arguably the best defensive season in the league among shortstops, finishing the season with 21.9 defensive runs above average (according to Fangraphs). Russell also expressed solid plate discipline with a walk rate of 9.2 percent, putting him near the top of the league among shortstops. Given his level of production at such a young age, it is a safe bet that Russell will find himself on the All-Star ballot again in 2017.
5. Xander Bogaerts: Boston Red Sox
Bogaerts is just 23 years old and already has three major league seasons under his belt. His experience shows on the bases, where he has a sound baseball mind that results in a 6.1 BsR, the best in the majors among shortstops. Bogaerts’ baserunning abilities helped him to score 115 runs last season, also better than any shortstop in baseball. Bogaerts wasn’t too shabby at the plate either, hitting 21 home runs while driving in 89. The young shortstop also showed improvement in terms of plate discipline in 2016, but we cannot classify him as more than an average defender.
4. Brandon Crawford: San Francisco Giants
Crawford’s dip in power numbers is a slight concern after managing to hit just 12 out of the park this year, a noticeable decrease from his 21 in 2015. Still, Crawford finished with 84 RBIs, the same as 2015, and also secured his second straight Gold Glove in 2016. Crawford is easily one of the best defensive shortstops in the league with a defensive mark of 28.0 runs above average, the best in baseball at his position. Crawford also hit a league-leading 11 triples in 2016, and there is no reason to think he won’t have another strong outing in 2017, given the fact that he is just 29 years old.
3. Carlos Correa: Houston Astros
Correa easily could find himself at number one on this list by the end of next season. The youngest on this list at 22 years old, Correa seems poised to break out in a big way and in 2017 to emerge as the game’s top offensive shortstop. His 21.1 offensive runs above average was the second best in baseball among shortstops in 2016, a season where he hammered 20 home runs and drove in 96, which still felt like a low number given his potential at the plate. His 122 wRC+ was also second best in the league, and with Houston adding pieces like Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, and Josh Reddick, expect Correa to have an opportunity to drive in even more runs this season.
2. Francisco Lindor: Cleveland Indians
All-Star, Gold Glove, and a top-ten finish in the MVP voting — all in a year’s work at the age of 23. Not a bad sophomore season for the Tribe’s shortstop who made himself known to the world during Cleveland’s run to the World Series. Lindor batted .368 in the ALCS and .296 in the World Series, all while continuing his stellar defense which is without a doubt the best out of American League shortstops. Lindor batted .301 in 2016 and was 27.7 runs above average on defense, making him one of the best all-around shortstops in the game today, and he’s just getting started.
1. Corey Seager: Los Angeles Dodgers
How can you pick against Seager for the top spot after the year he had last season? Seager’s offensive contribution was 33.9 runs above average in 2016, by far the best in the league. Oh, and on defense, he was 17.5 runs above average. Seager clobbered 26 home runs and scored 105 times in 2016, helping him to an OPS of .877 while accumulating 321 total bases. Seager filled up the trophy case in 2016, bringing home the National League Rookie of the Year, Silver Slugger, All-Star vote, and a third place voting in the MVP race. Is this kid seriously only 22 years old?
Marcus Semien: Oakland Athletics. He has the power. Can he hit for contact and cut back on the strikeouts?