Top 10 Shortstops for 2020
Familiar faces top the list again in 2020
Rob and I embarked on the journey of ranking our top 10 players at each position on the podcast earlier this year. This is a written version of my rankings along with my explanations for each ranking. Today, we are looking at shortstops. So far I've covered catchers, first basemen, and second basemen, so be sure to check those out as well. Also, if you missed our podcast discussing shortstops, you can check that out here.
To evaluate the players for my list, I looked at the standard stats like home runs and the AVG/OBP/SLG slash line, as well as some more advanced stats like Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) and Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+). To evaluate defense I looked at Defensive Runs Saved Above Average (DRS) and Statcast's Outs Above Average (OAA); if you want to learn more about OAA and see the full leaderboard for shortstops, you can look here.
10. Corey Seager (26) - Los Angeles Dodgers
Corey Seager burst onto the scene at the age of 21, posting a 174 OPS+ in 27 games during the 2015 season. In 2016, he followed that up with an oustanding rookie season, winning the Rookie of the Year vote and finishing third in the NL MVP voting. After another All-Star season in 2017, things fell apart for Seager. Corey struggled both on the field and with injuries in 2018. Ultimately, Seager's season would be cut very short at 26 games, where he posted a career low .744 OPS, and the rising star shortstop would have to receive Tommy John surgery. Seager rebounded in 2019, in 134 games he hit .272/.335/.483, good for a .340 wOBA and a 113 wRC+. While those numbers don't quite reflect the lofty expectations that were set for him early in his career, they are a good sign that, at only 26 years old, he can return to his previous level of play in the future.
9. Trea Turner (26) - Washington Nationals
As a member of the 2019 World Series Champions, Trea Turner hit .298/.353/.497, posting a .358 wOBA and 117 wRC+. One of the biggest advantages that Turner brings to the field is his speed. Turner has had 33 or more stolen bases in every season, and led the league in 2018 with 43. Turner brings versatility as well, having the ability to play both middle infield spots as well as centerfield. Trea Turner may shift away from shortstop in the future, especially if the Nationals feel top prospect Carter Kieboom can hold down the position long term. Whether its at shortstop or not, Turner will be an important piece of the Nationals core over the next few seasons.
8. Gleyber Torres (23) - New York Yankees
Gleyber Torres mashed his way through the 2019 campaign hitting .278/.337/.525 with 38 HR. Gleyber finished 3rd in Rookie of the Year voting in 2018 and 17th in MVP voting in 2019, being named to the All-Star team in both seasons. The biggest question with Gleyber is the defense and whether he will be able to stick at shortstop long term. In 2019, he accumulated -3 OAA and -13 DRS. Torres is likely better suited for second base, but with the loss of Didi Gregorious this offseason, Gleyber will likely be penciled in as starting shortstop on Opening Day. At only 23, Torres has plenty of time to continue to progress and will provide tons of pop to an already loaded Yankees lineup.
7. Fernando Tatis Jr. (21) - San Diego Padres
Fernando Tatis Jr. lands himself at number seven on this list after an outstanding, but short, rookie season. The 21-year-old hit .317/.379/.590 with 22 HR and a 150 wRC+ over 84 games. Unfortunately, Tatis' season was cut short by a stress reaction in his lower back, but Tatis Jr. was able to showcase why he will be a player to watch next season. While the offensive production was great, especially for the shortstop position, Tatis left much to be desired after accumulating -13 OAA, second worst among all qualified shortstops. Although, Padres fans shouldn't be too worried as most of his defensive troubles didn't come with the glove. Of the -13 OAA, -9 came from throwing errors, something that will likely get better as Tatis adjusts to the big leage level.
6. Xander Bogarts (27) - Boston Red Sox
Two time World Series Champion Xander Bogarts hit .309/.384/.555 with 33 HR. Bogarts excelled in the advanced metrics as well, putting up a .390 wOBA, 141 wRC+, and 6.8 fWAR. For the three time Silver Slugger, offense has never been a question, but Bogarts has continued to struggle on the defensive side of the game. In 2019, he accumulated -3 OAA and -14 DRS. At 27, it is unlikely that Bogarts magically gets better at defense, so the Red Sox will be depending heavily on his offensive output in the middle of their lineup. Bogarts has put up MVP type numbers in the past, twice finishing in the top 13 of AL voting, and with the loss of Mookie Betts, the Red Sox will need that kind of production, if not more, from Xander if they want any chance of competing in the AL East.
5. Carlos Correa (25) - Houston Astros
Carlos Correa did himself no favors in his handling of the Astros cheating scandal this offseason. On top of that, he dealt with injuries again during the 2019 season, only playing in 75 games. Correa has played five seasons at the Major League level, and has only played more than 110 games in one season (2016). Despite the injuries, when Correa was on the field he put up great numbers. In 2019, he hit .279/.358/.568 with 21 HR. His 143 wRC+ and .380 wOBA placed him solidly above average as well. Defensively, Correa got the job done too, posting 7 DRS and 9 OAA, placing him in the top 10 for qualified shortstops even though he only played 75 games. The 2020 Houston Astros will be an interesting storyline to follow this season, and Carlos Correa is likely to be one of the main characters.
4. Javier Baez (27) - Chicago Cubs
Javier Baez is nicknamed "El Mago" for a reason. The 27-year-old shortstop put up crazy defensive numbers in 2019. He put up 27 DRS and a led all shortstops with 19 OAA, 3 OAA above the next qualified shortstop. Offensively, Baez is a free swinger, showcased by his .316 OBP. In 2019, he struck out 27.8% of the time, while only walking at a 5% rate. Despite the low on-base skills, Baez was above average offensively, he hit .281/.316/.531 with 21 HR, good for a .347 wOBA and a 114 wRC+. In a 60 game season, Baez could catch fire and carry the Cubs to the playoffs, but he could also go cold and not have enough time to break out of a slump. The Cubs will be hoping for the former and not the latter as the compete in tough NL Central.
3. Marcus Semien (29) - Oakland Athletics
All eyes will be on Marcus Semien in 2020 after a breakout 2019. Semien hit .285/.369/.554 with a .380 wOBA and 137 wRC+ on his way to a third place finish in the AL MVP voting. Semien's breakout season came out of nowhere, he never had higher than a 98 wRC+ in any season prior to 2019. Another 7.6 fWAR season is unlikely for Semien, but there are some things that suggest Semien will continue to be a well above average shortstop in the future. Semien's approach at the plate improved in 2019, he cut his K% by 5% and had a 3% jump in his walk rate, he also saw a 9.2% jump in HardHit%. While those factors do point towards some sustained success in the future, I need to see him string together some more high level play before I'd be willing to move him any further up the list.
2. Trevor Story (27) - Colorado Rockies
Trevor Story put together another fantastic season for the 2019 Colorado Rockies. Story crushed 35 HR while posting a .380 wOBA and 121 wRC+. Trevor got things done defensively as well, putting up 14 DRS and 15 OAA, placing him fourth amongst qualified shortstops. In 2019, Story was named to the All-Star team, brought home a Silver Slugger award, finished 12th in the MVP voting, and was a Gold Glove finalist. The one thing holding Trevor Story back is his Home/Road splits. Trevor was excellent at home, slashing .328/.402/.554 and slugging 24 of his 35 HR on the season. Story's play on the road was a different story (pun intended), he slashed .260/.322/.445 with a .767 OPS, much lower than his 1.064 OPS at home. Ultimately, until Trevor Story can put up better production on the road, it will be hard for him to move up to number one on the list.
1. Francisco Lindor (26) - Cleveland Indians
Francisco Lindor. What more really needs to be said? Lindor became a star as soon as he entered the league and hasn't looked back. At only 26, he's a four time All-Star, two time Gold Glove and Silver Slugger winner, and he has placed top 15 in the MVP voting four times. Lindor mashed in 2019, eclipsing the 30 HR mark for the thrid time in his career with 32 longballs. He slashed .284/.335/.518 with a .349 wOBA and a 114 wRC+. Lindor was great defensively as well, he had 11 DRS and 11 OAA, seventh among qualified shortstops. As a switch hitter with outstanding offense and defense, Lindor is a surefire candidate to be at the top of this list for years to come.