With less than a week left until Opening Day, we count down the Top 10 at position “6” and the captain of the field, the Shortstop.
- Francisco Lindor – Cleveland Indians
Both an elite defender and hitter, Lindor tops my list; especially as new Padre Manny Machado has been announced to move back to Third Base (peep him tomorrow). Lindor led all shortstops in home runs in 2018 with 38 and was one of only three players with at least 35 home runs and 25 stolen bases (Jose Ramirez, Trevor Story). Lindor’s glove is so valuable, he’s likely to again rank among the league’s leaders in games played and plate appearances. The only doubt for him in 2019, is the strained calf he suffered days before the start of spring training, which threatens to land him on the injured list for the first week or two of the regular season.
2. Brandon Crawford – San Francisco Giants
With the possible best glove in the MLB, Crawford is by far the best defensive Shortstop but falls behind Lindor as Lindor is leaps ahead of Crawford offensively. Last season, Crawford hit .254 with 14 Home Runs and a lowly 54 RBIs. If he were better offensively, Crawford might have taken the top spot.
3. Carlos Correa – Houston Astros
Similar to Lindor and Crawford, Crawford barely beats out Correa for number two on my list. Crawford is just a slightly better hitter than Corres who hit .239 with 15 Home Runs last year.
4. Javier Báez – Chicago Cubs
New to the position, moving over from Second Base, Báez has always had a stellar glove and that’s what lies him in the top 5 despite being a natural Second Baseman for most of his Major League Career. Báez is also one of everyone’s favorite players to watch, always having stellar plays with so much swag. Despite his mediocre walk and contact rates, Báez set career highs in numerous categories while blowing away his previous marks, including his 111 RBIs (third highest in baseball), 34 Home Runs, .290 batting average and 160 games played.
5. Didi Gregorius – New York Yankees
Despite not going to be in the Yankees lineup for a good part of the season due to offseason Tommy John surgery, Gregorius had a career season last year, setting Yankee Shortstop records with 28 Home Runs, also hitting .268 with 86 RBIs. Although he will be a risk through out this season, the numbers he posted last season, combined with his good defense land him at number 5.
6. Trevor Story – Colorado Rockies
Story’s breakthrough 2018 was instrumental in the Colorado Rockies’ wild-card run, and showed how appealing his combination of elite power, well-above-average speed and perhaps the significant advantage of calling Coors Field his home can be. One key trait fueled the offensive explosion was that he made contact 72 percent of the time after doing so in only 63 percent of his at-bats over the previous two seasons combined. That explained the 52-point increase in his batting average and his 20-steal increase.
7. Corey Seager – Los Angeles Dodgers
If Seager was healthy and was not injured all of last season, Seager would probably be in the top 5 on my list. If Seager gets healthy and can show reminiscence of his 2017 season, Seager will surely be back on top of this list come next year.
8. Paul DeJong – St. Louis Cardinals
DeJong burst onto the scene in 2017 with a 25-homer showing over 443 plate appearances, flashing the pop necessary to project as a 30-plus-homer bat with a full season’s worth of playing time. He took a small step back in the power department last season, losing nearly 100 points from his slugging percentage (.433) despite improved walk and strikeout rates. A broken hand in May might have been the primary culprit for his reduced power output, as he hit eight homers in 171 plate appearances (.473 SLG) before suffering the injury in mid-May.
9. Nick Ahmed – Arizona Diamondbacks
Ahmed is a brilliant defensive shortstop, that ability fueling a hefty amount of playing time, but he made subtle improvements with the bat in 2018 that could make him an intriguing late-round pick in deep-mixed or NL-only formats. He slightly elevated his launch angle, slashed roughly six percent off his ground-ball rate in the process, and improved the quality of his contact from being one of the game’s worst in the category to one who was merely below-average.
10. Dansby Swanson – Atlanta Braves
Swanson showed small improvements in his second full big-league season in 2018, but the incremental gains weren’t large enough, nor did any of his underlying metrics provide hints, to suggest a big step forward for him in 2019. Most troubling was the fact that he batted just .223/.307/.364 in 70 games from July 1 forward, perhaps a sign that he never fully recovered from the wrist inflammation that cost him a disabled list stint in May. Through his age-24 season, Swanson has yet to show better than middling contact ability, speed, pop or elevation to his swing, making him more of a deep-mixed and NL-only middle infielder reliant upon counting numbers. With a strong spring, he could be worthy of more than that, but otherwise it’s best not to flash back two years to recall the greater hype that surrounded him.
Just Missed: Jean Segura – Seattle Mariners