Best Shortstop in Baseball
Written by Jonathan Lidskin
In the current state of the MLB, shortstops might have the biggest responsibility out of any position on the diamond. They are nicknamed the “captain of the infield” for a reason. They typically are good contact hitters with a really good glove and a strong arm. Their leadership is usually what guides a good team through the ups and downs of a long 162 game season. With that being said, who is the best shortstop in baseball? This debate could go on forever, but here are my top 5:
Note: Bo Bichette is not on this list because he didn’t have the minimum plate appearances last year to be qualified according to Baseballsavant.
5. Fernando Tatis Jr.
Fernando Tatis Jr. was having arguably the best season of any shortstop in the league last year before his injury in mid-August. Tatis was hitting .317 with 22 homers in 84 games played. The number of games played might seem small compared to other shortstops from last season, but there is no doubt Tatis looked like one of the best young players in the game. His defensive abilities shined as it seemed like he was on SportsCenter every night for his spectacular plays in the field. So, if Tatis was having this great of a season, why isn’t he higher? There are two reasons. The first is that Tatis is unproven. He has played one year in the MLB and in the one season, he barely played over half the season. With that much inexperience, it is hard to rank him higher. The second reason is that he was extremely lucky at the plate last year. Now, anyone can say that about any player, but for Tatis, there are stats to back it up. Tatis’ expected batting average according to Baseballsavant was .058 lower than his actual batting average. This simply means that there were plenty of times when Tatis simply didn’t hit the ball all that hard, but hit it in the right spot. For these two reasons, Tatis cannot be ranked higher than 5, but he definitely has a bright young future in the MLB.
4. Trevor Story
Trevor Story is another player on this list that is a 5 tool player. The Colorado Rockies shortstop posted a 6.1 WAR last season and hit 35 home runs in a lineup that could definitely swing the bat. Story also showed people last year that he had good instincts from the shortstop position and established himself as an essential piece to the Rockies future. Like Tatis, Story has two reasons that he is not higher than number 4. The first is the same reason as Tatis. Last season Story hit .294 and his expected batting average was only .264. He had a somewhat lucky season and according to advanced stats, shouldn’t have had nearly as good of numbers as he did. The second reason is that Story plays 81 games of the season at Coors Field. I don’t usually bash a player for the ballpark he plays at, but Coors Field is the most hitter friendly park in baseball because of the high altitude in Colorado. This inflates Story’s numbers even more, but despite all that, Story is an established shortstop at 27 years old and has much of his prime left.
3. Javier Baez
Javier Baez is one of the most liked and electric players in baseball. His hustle is something that managers and teammates love to see. Baez played his first 100 game season in the majors in 2016, so at 27 years old, he is entering his 5th semi-full season of major league baseball. In 2018, Baez finished runner-up for National League MVP and followed that up the next season by hitting .281 with 29 homers. Baez, despite what the stats say, is a huge help for the Cubs defensively. He has a great arm and can make plays that no other shortstop in the history of baseball could. The downside to Baez is that with his aggressive play, comes more mistakes than usual. Baez struck out 156 times last season which ended up being tied for the 19th most in baseball. While this is not good, Cubs fans actually should be happy about that because he struck out 167 times the year prior. As Baez becomes more disciplined at the plate and less chaotic in the field, the Cubs will be able to rely on their shortstop of the future.
2. Gleyber Torres
While Torres might not get the recognition of Baez or some of the other great shortstops in the league, his value to the Yankees lineup is extremely underrated. Torres is only 23 years old which is crazy to think about considering he was traded 4 years ago from the Cubs to the Yankees for Aroldis Chapman. Torres hit a solid .278 last season and hit 38 homers, the most by a shortstop last season. Throughout his career, if Torres stays with the Yankees, he will be continued to be pitched to and not pitched around due to the other huge threats in the Yankees lineup. This is crazy to say about a 6’1 shortstop who usually doesn’t hit very high in the order, but 35-40 homers a season consistently doesn’t seem like it’s a reach for him. The Yankees have a ton of guys that you need to pitch around so Torres seeing good pitches isn’t going to be a rarity. Gleyber could end up being the key to the Yankees success in the future and last season he certainly proved that he could be.
1. Francisco Lindor
Francisco Lindor has surprisingly only played a little over 4.5 seasons in the MLB. In his time, the 26 year old 5 tool shortstop has been one of the most consistent players in baseball. He hit 32 home runs last year in only 143 games and that was despite Jose Ramirez having an awful year. The Indians were constantly played by injuries last season, especially on the pitching staff, and their lineup was nowhere near as talented as 2016 when they went to the World Series, but Lindor continued to do what he has always done. He produced runs for the Indians in whatever way he could. Lindor has been the best shortstop in baseball for the last couple years and he will definitely continue to be the best shortstop in the league for at least a couple years. The Indians are looking to rebound this year from a tough last season and with Lindor in the lineup, there is no reason they can’t.