Top 10 MLB Players: Shortstop

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The shortstop position historically featured contact-hitting, speedy, defensive standouts. While some players still fit that bill, many shortstops are now the best players on their teams. Shortstop is deep once again in 2022; there are about 15 players who could contend for a spot in the top 10. For that reason, I’d like to give honorable mentions to Brandon Crawford, who had an unbelievable season in his age-34 season in 2021, and Javier Baez, who just misses out on the top 10 due to his inconsistencies at the plate.

10. Willy Adames, MIL

Willy Adames could never hit at Tropicana Field. In 2019 and 2020, his wRC+ at home was just 56 and 64 as opposed to 137 and 173 on the road, respectively. After being traded to the Brewers, he slashed .285/.366/.521 with a 135 wRC+ and 3.9 fWAR in 99 games. While it seems abundantly clear that Adames’ struggles were due to ballpark factors (especially since other former Rays have had similar problems), there could be other contributing factors. Another concern with Adames is his defense which is, at times, massively overrated by the eye test. He had -8 OAA in 2021.

9. Tim Anderson, CWS

Tim Anderson is one of the most fun players in baseball, but his on-field performance doesn’t quite match his personality. In 2019 and 2020, I, along with many other proponents of advanced analytics, dismissed Anderson’s performance as “lucky” and “unsustainable.” His .395 BABIP in 739 PAs between 2019 and 2020 seemed destined to regress. However, it didn’t – at least not in 2021. In 2021, Anderson BABIP’d .372 on his way to a .309/.338/.469 slash line with a 120 wRC+ and 4.3 fWAR. Anderson has incredible bat-to-ball skills and his defense has improved, but his plate discipline (4.0% BB%) is a true concern.

8. Xander Bogaerts, BOS

Xander Bogaerts has fallen down the list of top shortstops over the past few seasons, and it’s not entirely his fault. While he’s been consistent, the players around him have drastically improved. Bogaerts may have a top-three bat at the position but his defense is just so bad that it’s nearly impossible to overcome. Offensively, he hasn’t had a wRC+ under 130 since 2017. He had a five-win season in 2021 behind a 130 wRC+ and .863 OPS. With the glove, Bogaerts has -21 OAA and -18 DRS since 2019. While it would be in Boston’s best interest to slide Bogaerts to 2nd base and start newly acquired Trevor Story At short, it’s unlikely that they’ll be moving their franchise cornerstone anytime soon.

7. Bo Bichette, TOR

Bo Bichette had his first truly great season in 2021. He slashed .298/.343/.484 with a 122 wRC+ and 4.9 fWAR. Bichette chases a lot (38.1%), but he makes a ton of contact which keeps his strikeout rate below the league average. Bichette takes an old-school approach to the plate. He has solid gap-to-gap power and elite speed, which have resulted in a near-120 wRC+ in each of his first three seasons. He was pretty bad defensively, though, which is why he comes in relatively low on this list. If Bichette can improve his glove, he’ll easily be a top-five shortstop.

6. Corey Seager, TEX

I am admittedly very low on Corey Seager. When he’s on the field, he’s one of the best hitters in the league. Since the start of 2020, Seager has a .381 OBP, .391 wOBA, 148 wRC+, and 5.5 fWAR in 647 PAs. In 2021, he had a 12.4% Barrel% (81st percentile), .392 xwOBA (93rd percentile), and a 49.3% Hard-Hit% (89th percentile). The drawbacks for Seager and his defense and durability. Seager played just 95 games in 2021 and hasn’t played 150 games since his rookie year in 2016. With the glove, Seager is regressing. While he put up a positive OAA in both 2019 and 2020, he had -5 in 2021. He’s still playable at shortstop but a move to 2nd or 3rd base seems likely in the future.

5. Wander Franco, TBR

Wander Franco is the hardest player on this list to rank. How do you rank a player who has only 70 games of MLB experience but was ranked as one of the best prospects ever entering the year? In Franco’s 43 game on-base streak, he slashed .329/.398/.545 with a 163 wRC+. He got off to a slow start adjusting to the major leagues, but he established himself as one of the league’s elite young stars in the 2nd half. Some fans have already placed Wander Franco in their top 10 players, while others aren’t fully sold on him yet. There’s no denying Franco’s 80-grade hit tool, but there are still questions regarding his power and defense.

4. Francisco Lindor, NYM

The Mets traded for Francisco Lindor last offseason and gave him a $341 million dollar deal. He struggled in the month of the season, but from May 6th onward put up his usual numbers. In those 100 games, Lindor slashed .250/.335/.467 with a 119 wRC+, 2.1 BsR, and 3.0 fWAR. He had a rare injury and missed about a month in the middle of the season, and the Mets collapsed without him. On top of that, he’s due for some positive offensive regression in 2022. His peripheral numbers were near his career average, and his barrel rate was up to 8.2%.

Lindor’s most valuable asset, however, is his glove. He put up 20 OAA in 2021 and has a league-leading 103 OAA since the stat began being tracked in 2016. Also, he’s only missed 67 games since his rookie year in 2016. Because of his glove and durability, he has the highest floor of any shortstop in the league. If he can put up a 120 wRC+, he’ll easily be a five-win player. If he can put up a 130 wRC+, he’ll be in the thick of the MVP race. The general public is overreacting to his down-year in 2021.

3. Trea Turner, LAD

Trea Turner led all position players in fWAR in 2021. He might be the most well-rounded star in baseball. He has elite speed, elite power, elite bat-to-ball skills, plays solid defense, and doesn’t strike out much. Since the beginning of the 2020 season, Turner trails only Jose Ramirez in fWAR and has put up a 147 wRC+, .551 SLG, and 40 HRs. He’s returning to his natural position, shortstop, where he has put up 12 OAA in his career. He doesn’t barrel the ball a lot, but he makes a ton of contact and uses his league-leading 30.7 ft/s sprint speed to take extra bases. Turner is just one of many potential MVP candidates in a loaded Dodgers lineup and might lead the entire league in runs in 2022.

2. Fernando Tatis Jr., SDP

If you asked me about a month ago, Fernando Tatis Jr. would’ve been a shoo-in for the top spot on this list. However, he got hurt again. This time, it wasn’t even on the field. Tatis Jr. is just 23 years old, but his injuries are already becoming a huge concern. He consistently had minor issues last season before a shoulder injury nearly ended his season in July. When he’s on the field, Tatis Jr. is easily a top-five player in baseball. He has a career 153 wRC+ and has slashed .282/.364/.611 in his first 1175 MLB plate appearances. His glove has gotten better and he’s clearly more fit for shortstop than the outfield, but he won’t even make his season debut until June, at the earliest. It’s tough to put a guy who won’t even crack 100 games at the top spot at such a loaded position.

1. Carlos Correa, MIN

Seeing Carlos Correa in a Minnesota Twins uniform will be weird. He’s been an Astro for his whole career and took on the villain image as the face of the cheating scandal. Reports have surfaced about underlying injury concerns, which is almost certainly why he only got a three-year deal in free agency. The Twins are taking a shot on a potential MVP candidate, and I can’t say I blame them. Correa, despite missing plenty of games due to various injuries, has amassed 25.1 fWAR in his first seven seasons. In the last three, he’s slashing .276/.356/.487 with a 129 wRC+ and 9.7 fWAR. What separates him from Turner and Tatis Jr. is that he also has an elite glove. Correa has 50 OAA since 2018 and put up 12 in 2021. If Correa can stay healthy, he’ll be in the thick of the MVP race.

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