Top 10 Shortstops For 2016
With the end of the NFL season upon us, the Baseball Hot Corner team brings back the Top 10 at each position series as we get closer to pitchers and catchers reporting. One position to highlight is shortstop, where the talent pool continues to be very competitive. Agree or disagree, it’s tough to choose.
*Updated 2/17/16 at 7:35 pm*
10. Didi Gregorius – NYY
There were certainly large shoes to fill at short once Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter left for retirement. But it seems like Gregorius may become a worth-while successor to El Capitan. In 2015, the young infielder batted .265 in his first season as a starter. The 26 year-old Dutchmen will definitely be on the rise in 2016, and he could find himself being a mainstay in the Bronx for years to come.
9. Ian Desmond – WAS
I was reluctant to put him on the list because of his roster status, but in my opinion he deserves the respect. Since joining the Nats full time in 2010, Desmond has been one of the best top of the order hitters in the National League. Secondly, Desmond is reliable in the field, averaging 21.5 errors over the last four seasons. The talented lineup around him with Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmermann also bodes well for him. In 2016, Desmond will contribute to the growing and talented team that should reach the postseason once again. Now it’s just a question of when he’ll be at Spring Training and which team will he play for.
8. J.J. Hardy – BAL
Since being the starter of the 2013 All-Star Game, Hardy’s production has begun to decline. But at the end of the day, he is one of the more consistent infielders in the American League at the plate and on defense. His batting average dropped from .268 in 2014 to .219 last season. Most of that could be contributed to age, however Hardy’s veteran presence at shortstop for the Baltimore Orioles is valuable considering their young infielders. In his waning years, I expect Hardy to stay true to form.
7. Carlos Correa – HOU
In just 99 games with the Houston Astros last season, shortstop Carlos Correa batted .279 with 22 home runs. His production exponentially helped Houston bring itself out of absurdity and into relevancy. The young team around him will allow Correa to truly develop into the big league shortstop that he will be for years to come. I look forward to seeing his progression in 2016.
6. Jose Iglesias – DET
After Peralta’s departure and his own arrival in Detroit, Iglesias was given the chance to be the Tigers’ starting short uncontested. But following a 2014 season lost to injury, Iglesias rebounded in 2015, batting .320 in 3/4 of a season and only making eleven errors in the field. In an already talented lineup featuring Miguel Cabrera and J.D. Martinez, there won’t be a lot of pressure on Iglesias to hit extremely well, giving him the opportunity to showcase his stellar defensive skills.
5. Brandon Crawford – SF
Getting shortstops to constantly hit above .250 is one thing, but getting them to do that and hit 20-plus home runs is a rarity in Major League Baseball. Thankfully for the Giants, Crawford does both extremely well, in addition to only making 13 errors on defense in 2015. At age 29, Crawford is already a 2-time champion and a clutch leader in the Giants lineup. It’s an even year, meaning I expect Crawford and the Giants to shine in October.
4. Andrelton Simmons – LAA
There is no question that Simmons is in the conversation for the best defensive shortstop in the entire MLB. But his move to the American League raises even more questions about his ability at the plate, even though he did hit .265 with the Atlanta Braves last season. Hopefully in Los Angeles, Simmons will get the chance to learn from veteran players like Albert Pujols and feed of the competitiveness of Mike Trout. A talented group around him will really allow Simmons to flourish like he should. By next season, he could even be higher on this list.
3. Alcides Escobar – KC
Escobar absolutely went off during the postseason, en route to Kansas City’s World Series victory over the New York Mets. Throughout the playoffs Escobar had 23 hits and 9 RBI while batting .329. For his performance he was awarded American League Championship Series Most Valuable Player. Heading into 2016, there’s not many other shortstops I’d rather have on my team than Escobar, especially in the clutch.
2. Xander Bogaerts – BOS
From being the spark of the 2013 World Series to being the biggest all-star snub last season, Xander Bogaerts has emerged as what could be a perennial all-star shortstop and a pillar to the Red Sox franchise for the next decade-plus. Last season, Bogaerts lead the league in batting average for shortstops with .320, a whopping sixty-three points higher than Escobar, who started the All-Star Game. In addition, Bogaerts batted forty points higher than the next highest shortstop in average, Troy Tulowitski. He’s shown the poise and maturity to handle playing in Boston and he may end up being the first long term shortstop that the Red Sox have had in over a decade. However, future contract talks with agent Scott Boras could get very interesting.
1. Troy Tulowitzki – TOR
Just as my colleague put it last year, Tulo is the best shortstop in the league. Hands down. He may not be the most agile or the youngest or even the most durable, but he is the first veteran shortstop in which any GM would want to build a young team around. When healthy, Tulo is a .270-plus hitter with tremendous upside in the field. Since joining the Toronto Blue Jays in August, he established himself as a team leader and a cornerstone piece to potential World Series contender. I expect nothing less than the same in 2016.