2014 Positional Power Rankings: Shortstop

What do we have here? For an explanation of this series, please read this introductory post. As noted in that introduction, the data is a hybrid projection of the ZIPS and Steamer systems with playing time determined through depth charts created by our team of authors. The rankings are based on aggregate projected WAR for each team at a given position. The author writing this post did not move your team down ten spots in order to make you angry. We don’t hate your team. I promise.

Eyeballing it — and what else would you use to look, really — shortstop seems to have one of the larger gaps between the top spot and everyone after, failing to lead that list only because Evan Longoria and Mike Trout exist. That’s because while Andrelton Simmons (No.2) is an unmatched fielder, and Hanley Ramirez (No. 3) is an offensive powerhouse, Troy Tulowitzki (No. 1) does a bit of everything, which is why you can see the 1.3 WAR advantage he has here:


I’m starting to wonder why we don’t just have the final team to the right there always labeled “Marlins, probably,” because, spoiler alert: it’s the Marlins here, too.

On to the shortstops!

#1 Rockies

Troy Tulowitzki 595 .298 .372 .524 .385 22.0 -0.3 6.4 5.6
Josh Rutledge 70 .279 .324 .430 .330 -0.4 0.1 -0.2 0.3
Paul Janish 35 .235 .296 .320 .277 -1.7 -0.1 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .293 .363 .504 .374 19.9 -0.2 6.3 5.9

On the strength of Tulowitzki alone, essentially, Colorado had our No. 1 ranked shortstop group entering last season. They were No. 1 entering 2012 as well, and though we didn’t do season previews by position prior to that, it’s easy to say they would have been ranked No. 1 in at least two of the previous seasons as well. So the short, obvious version is this: Troy Tulowitzki is really, really good. When he’s healthy, is almost unarguably the best shortstop in baseball, combining an elite bat with quality defense, and while you can find better defenders and perhaps one other near him with the bat, no one combines the package quite like he does. Colorado probably won’t be very good this year, but any portion of good they are will largely come from their shortstop.

Of course, the story with Tulowitzki is always the same, in that he’s great when he plays, yet you can bet with near certainty that he won’t play a full season. He hasn’t played in even 145 games since 2009, has made it into only 173 over the last two seasons, and recently missed a few days of camp after being hit in the calf by a pitch. Despite that, he’s still coming off arguably his best season — dig that 143 wRC+, which gets him in the top 10 seasons of any shortstop this century — so the Rockies remain atop this list, even though they’ll all but certainly need to put up with some time from Rutledge or Janish during one of Tulowitzki’s regular days off or inevitable absences.

#2 Braves

Andrelton Simmons 630 .266 .314 .398 .312 -1.7 -0.8 18.7 4.5
Ramiro Pena 49 .240 .292 .336 .280 -1.4 -0.1 0.0 0.1
Tyler Pastornicky   21 .260 .306 .353 .292 -0.4 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .264 .312 .393 .309 -3.4 -0.9 18.7 4.6

As you’ll see in a second, Hanley Ramirez did absurd things to the baseball last year, while Simmons had a mere .296 OBP. And yet, the Braves still rank ahead of the Dodgers, because defense matters. It matters a lot, and Simmons may very well be the best defensive shortstop any of us have seen in many years. The question, as ever, remains with his bat, because even though he popped a surprising 17 homers last year, his slugging percentage actually dropped by 20 points. Considering that he cut his strikeout rate to 8.4 percent while suffering a .247 BABIP, there’s some possibility for his slash line to improve, though I’ll probably take the under on another 17 homers. But with the way the Atlanta starting rotation is imploding so far this spring, the most valuable thing Simmons can do to help his team is to make the replacement starters look slightly better by eating up as many grounders as he can. Anything he adds with the bat is really just gravy.

Were Simmons to miss time, the drop-off behind him would be immense — you can copy and paste that sentiment for the first 20 or so of these teams, by the way — though it should be remembered that Pastornicky was once seen as the shortstop of the future, and represents decent depth once he finishes rehabbing last season’s knee injury.

#3 Dodgers

Hanley Ramirez 560 .276 .342 .472 .352 18.1 0.9 -7.2 3.7
Justin Turner 105 .258 .310 .363 .298 -1.0 -0.1 -1.2 0.2
Chone Figgins 35 .229 .292 .301 .268 -1.2 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .271 .335 .447 .340 15.9 0.8 -8.5 4.0

Lest it be forgotten how insanely dangerous Ramirez was last season at the plate, do note that he finished second (min. 300 plate appearances) in wRC+. Not second among shortstops; second among every hitter, behind only Miguel Cabrera, so ahead of Mike Trout and Chris Davis and every other big name you can fathom. Not that anyone should expect a .345/.402/.638 line and a 40-homer pace over an entire season, of course, but the projections above seem to be a floor for a happy, healthy Ramirez, and even then, we’re talking about a nearly four-win player. But like Tulowitzki, health is an issue: Ramirez missed time last year with various injuries to his thumb, hamstring, shoulder, back and ribs, and while several of those were decidedly of the “fluke” variety, it remains a concern for a team that suffered through Dee Gordon and Justin Sellers without him. For all the ink spilled on Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, Ramirez is the single most important player in the Dodgers lineup.

Of note: If and when Ramirez goes down again, Turner isn’t really going to get 105 plate appearances at shortstop. Not shown here, since he arrived in the United States barely a week ago and doesn’t have a projection yet, is Cuban shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena, who is reportedly phenomenal with the glove, enough to carry his considerably below-average bat. Arruebarrena will start the year in the minors, though he is expected to be available to the big club if needed in 2014.

#4 Rangers

Elvis Andrus   630 .274 .338 .355 .311 -8.2 4.4 7.1 3.3
Adam Rosales 70 .241 .294 .373 .293 -1.9 0.0 -0.5 0.1
Total 700 .270 .334 .357 .309 -10.1 4.3 6.6 3.4

Five full seasons into his career, it’s safe to say that we know what Andrus is, and that’s a plus defensive shortstop who adds value on the basepaths and won’t completely kill you on offense. If “eh, he’s not terrible at the plate” sounds like less than high praise, well, he’s still doing enough good things elsewhere to rank No. 4 here. (Related: Just wait until we’re talking about Pedro Florimon or someone below, and then think about how great Andrus looks.) There’s not a ton of projection left here, if any, though it’s worth noting that 2013 was Andrus’ worst offensive season, fueled partially by a decline in both walks and contact rates — and he’s been dogged this spring by right flexor tendon soreness, which has now shut him down for a few days. Even with a .296 wOBA, he was a three-win player; everything else just matters so much.

Were that tendon turn into something major, Jurickson Profar might slide over to short, but if it’s just for a day or two, a backup like Rosales is more likely. If he can just manage to stick with one team for more than 10 minutes at a time, he’ll call it a successful year.

#5 Nationals

Ian Desmond   546 .270 .318 .433 .327 4.3 1.3 -1.2 2.9
Danny Espinosa 133 .222 .285 .364 .287 -3.1 0.1 0.8 0.3
Zach Walters 21 .244 .275 .420 .301 -0.3 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .260 .310 .420 .319 0.9 1.4 -0.5 3.3

After being worth approximately two wins total in his first two seasons as Washington’s starting shortstop, Desmond broke out with a five-win 2012, then set aside any fluke concerns by backing it up with another five-win 2013. It’s one thing to have a great year; it’s quite another to do it again. And yet! We still project him for only 2.9 WAR in 2014. This is clearly because of our bias against the Nationals, except for when we all pick them to win the NL East every year. (Spoiler alert: with Atlanta’s rotation problems, this year probably won’t be any different there.)

Why? Because as Eno Sarris investigated, there’s still some risk. Desmond strikes out too much and may not be capable of putting up the same power, plus a good portion of the shiny 5.0 WAR last year came from favorably-reviewed defense, since Desmond’s slash line did drop in each of the three categories. The Fans currently have him at a 5.2 WAR projection, and we know the Fans are always a bit optimistic there; if you want to take the 2.9 WAR as a floor, I wouldn’t argue with you, though I’d probably take the under on another five-win season. Either way, we’re still talking about a very good player, which you already knew because this is the No. 5 ranked team in these very rankings. If something does happen to Desmond, there’s at least the opportunity for Washington to look at Espinosa, who was once also very good, before becoming considerably less than that last season.

#6 Rays

Yunel Escobar 525 .254 .322 .350 .301 -4.7 -0.3 3.3 2.3
Ben Zobrist 70 .262 .352 .416 .338 1.4 0.1 0.7 0.6
Hak-Ju Lee 56 .242 .301 .331 .283 -1.3 0.1 0.3 0.2
Sean Rodriguez   35 .231 .305 .371 .300 -0.3 0.0 0.3 0.2
Logan Forsythe 14 .233 .316 .351 .298 -0.2 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .252 .322 .356 .303 -5.0 -0.1 4.5 3.2

Whenever you read about Yunel Escobar, you inevitably also read, “hey, that guy’s a jerk / bad teammate / attitude issue / etc.” I suppose I haven’t changed that pattern at all just now, but our projections don’t factor “is or isn’t a nice guy” into the numbers. What they do know is that Escobar came back from a down 2012 (.284 wOBA, 1.5 WAR) to provide Tampa Bay with nice value in 2013 (.311 wOBA, 3.9 WAR), that he’s been an average or better hitter in five of his seven seasons, and he’s consistently rated as a plus defensive shortstop. As he moves into his 30s, that won’t last forever, but 31 is hardly too old to continue being useful. That he’s projected for just over 2 WAR here is mostly a function of the projection expecting some defensive regression from last year’s career-best total; all four of our projection systems peg Escobar for roughly the same decent-OBP, low-power, several-homers line he put up in 2013.

#7 Orioles

J.J. Hardy 616 .259 .303 .421 .315 -3.8 -0.7 6.3 3.1
Alexi Casilla   56 .244 .297 .331 .280 -1.9 0.3 -0.5 0.0
Alex Gonzalez 28 .226 .263 .340 .266 -1.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .256 .301 .411 .310 -6.9 -0.5 5.9 3.1

J.J. Hardy hits a lot of homers, 77 over the last three seasons, by far the most of any shortstop. He combines that with consistently excellent defense at a particularly valuable position, and he rarely strikes out, making contact 87.8 percent of the time last season. Those are great attributes for a shortstop to have, and yet he’s never talked about among the truly elite of the game, because getting on base is important, and Hardy is particularly bad at that. He’s a perfect example of a player for whom BABIP is a skill and not just luck, because as someone who isn’t especially fast and hits the ball in the air nearly 40 percent of the time, his BABIP has been below .300 in every year of his career save for one. That’s not luck. That’s who he is. It’s still good enough to be No. 7 on this list, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

#8 Blue Jays

Jose Reyes 560 .288 .341 .427 .334 5.2 1.7 -4.3 2.9
Maicer Izturis 70 .258 .314 .352 .297 -1.4 -0.1 -0.7 0.1
Munenori Kawasaki 70 .240 .307 .311 .280 -2.3 0.0 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .280 .335 .408 .325 1.5 1.6 -5.0 3.1

There was a time where the Blue Jays, and particularly Reyes, ranked higher on this list. That time was last season, when he was No. 2. But when you’re over 30 and you’ve just destroyed your ankle in a gruesome injury, just the latest in a history of nagging (though generally not as ugly) leg woes, you can understand why there’s perhaps some slight downgrade in the outlook here. If anything, it’s more a function of playing time than performance, because we’re not comfortable expecting that he’ll get another 700 plate appearances on his own, as he used to regularly do with the Mets. When he played, his offensive performance was right in line with what it had usually been (save for what looks to have been a contract year outlier in 2011), and if anything he showed some surprising power, hitting 10 homers in limited play (seven of which came in Toronto, of course.) Reyes is still very, very good, and that’s important for Toronto, because Izturis was a disaster last year, and Kawasaki is awesome, but only in the ways that don’t involve being on a baseball field.

#9 Mariners

Brad Miller 595 .268 .327 .405 .322 1.7 0.5 -1.6 2.9
Nick Franklin 35 .246 .318 .391 .313 -0.2 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Willie Bloomquist 56 .263 .304 .338 .284 -1.5 -0.2 -0.4 0.0
Carlos Triunfel 14 .246 .283 .340 .276 -0.5 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .266 .324 .397 .318 -0.4 0.3 -2.1 3.1

Franklin may or may not be a shortstop. He may or may not be a Mariner. But what he almost certainly will not be is a shortstop for the Mariners, because despite all the lip service Seattle has paid to this being an open competition, this job belongs to Miller. Miller arrived perhaps a bit ahead of schedule in 2013, replacing Brendan Ryan once the veteran was traded to the Yankees, and while he offered little excitement, it was hard to argue with the results, offering a league-average bat and approximately average shortstop defense. Given his age, there’s room for improvement here; given a full season of play, one could easily see double digits in both homers and steals. Assuming continued defensive value, Seattle may have gone from one of the worst middle infield situations last season (Dustin Ackley / Ryan) to one of the better ones this year (Robinson Cano/ Miller). That’s largely because of their newly wealthy second baseman, but not entirely so. Miller’s ceiling is likely south of “star,” but as you can see here, we think he can be a three-win player right away.

If Franklin is still around on the bench or in the minors, he’s a nice Plan B. If he’s not… well, I had to double-check that these charts were right and that both Bloomquist and Triunfel were really the alternatives. I did that knowing full well that Mariners fan Jeff Sullivan does the AL West depth charts and would not have been mistaken. I didn’t believe it then. I barely believe it now. Stay healthy, Brad Miller.

#10 Brewers

Jean Segura 595 .281 .321 .413 .320 0.4 1.6 0.7 2.9
Jeff Bianchi 105 .244 .285 .332 .274 -3.8 0.0 0.5 0.1
Total 700 .275 .316 .401 .313 -3.4 1.6 1.2 3.0

It’s at this point in the proceedings that I feel obligated to point out that tenths of a point in WAR projections carry very little meaning, so while the Brewers are No. 10, they’re only 0.4 WAR behind No. 4 Texas, which is is a big gap in a ranking system, but a very little gap in terms of how the team may be likely to produce. How we think about Milwaukee’s shortstops at this time next year depends greatly on what Segura really is. In the first half, he had a .369 wOBA and 11 of his 12 homers; in the second, it was a mere .258, as his BABIP cratered and an already-poor walk rate declined. His true talent, unsurprisingly, is all but certainly somewhere in between, and the fact that he adds value both on defense (somewhat) and on the bases helps him contribute in other ways. A projection of being a three-win player means he’s expected to be a somewhat above-average player. That sounds about right. It has to be right, because the less you know about Bianchi, the better.

#11 Red Sox

Xander Bogaerts 595 .265 .327 .423 .330 2.4 -0.3 -3.9 2.6
Jonathan Herrera 56 .250 .307 .322 .280 -1.9 -0.1 -0.1 0.0
Brock Holt 49 .266 .321 .341 .295 -1.1 -0.1 -0.3 0.1
Total 700 .264 .325 .409 .323 -0.6 -0.4 -4.3 2.7

I imagine that no matter where Bogaerts ended up on this list, some would think he’d be too high while others would say too low, so here at No. 11, leading what’s essentially the third tier of shortstops, seems as good as anywhere else. Pretty much everything about Bogaerts says he’ll be a star, though I do wonder if we’ve been unfairly spoiled by Mike Trout and Bryce Harper and Manny Machado — that is, every highly-touted young player doesn’t have to break out immediately, in their first season, at a particularly young age. That’s why, even though Bogaerts tore up the minor leagues last year and didn’t at all look out of his element in the playoffs with Boston, we have him projected at merely “a good major league player” than “a superstar” in 2014. He could easily outdo these projections, particularly on defense, but a mere 50 MLB regular season plate appearances do call for some amount of restraint. There’s probably not a higher amount of variance between what might be anywhere else on this list than with Bogaerts in Boston.

Not shown, obviously: Stephen Drew, who may very well end up back here at some point, and would of course throw a wrench into things, presuming that Bogaerts would then usurp Will Middlebrooks at third.

#12 Angels

Erick Aybar 595 .274 .311 .389 .307 -2.9 1.8 -2.9 2.4
Andrew Romine 63 .238 .294 .304 .269 -2.2 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Tommy Field 42 .225 .290 .340 .281 -1.0 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Total 700 .268 .308 .378 .302 -6.1 1.8 -3.0 2.5

Considering just how many things went wrong for the Angels last year, the fact that Aybar had a down season flew under the radar somewhat, because who looks at “below average” when you can gawk at “extremely well-paid train wreck,” or even two such disasters? But being out of the spotlight doesn’t change the fact that Aybar’s wOBA sunk to .299 and his WAR to 1.6, as his walk rate continued its descent, his base running value took a nosedive, and his defense was considered below-average for the first time. He offsets all this a bit by posting a very good contact rate, though as nagging leg injuries pile up — he missed nearly three weeks with a heel contusion, and over the last two years, he’s also missed games here and there due to minor issues with his hamstring, quad and big toe — it’s fair to wonder if the 30-year-old Aybar has slowed somewhat after nearly 4,000 professional plate appearances. It would explain the downturn in his defense, his base running, and his BABIP, because he was regularly over .300 when he was at his best. We’ve had Aybar at over three wins three times, so a projection of just over two feels right. The Angels will take it, anyway. A world with Romine or Field is not a world they want to live in.

#13 Athletics

Jed Lowrie 490 .262 .325 .415 .324 3.6 -0.2 -6.2 2.0
Nick Punto 105 .229 .308 .299 .276 -3.2 0.0 0.1 0.2
Eric Sogard 35 .255 .315 .351 .297 -0.5 0.0 0.0 0.1
Addison Russell   35 .230 .292 .353 .287 -0.8 0.1 0.0 0.1
Jake Elmore 35 .246 .323 .333 .296 -0.5 -0.1 -0.1 0.1
Total 700 .254 .320 .387 .312 -1.4 -0.3 -6.3 2.5

A year ago, the A’s thought Hiroyuki Nakajima would be their shortstop. Then Jed Lowrie went out and stayed healthy for the first time, well, ever, but a year from now — maybe sooner — this job belongs to Addison Russell. Understandably, no one feels particularly comfortable assuming a great deal of playing time for Lowrie, considering his injury history and the fact that he might be playing second base by the end of the season, and so that makes him perfectly adequate, though with a bit more power (31 homers in just over 1,000 plate appearances over the last two years) than you’d expect from your usual shortstop.  No one really loved his defense, and he doesn’t really add much on the bases, however, so no one will complain much when Russell inevitably takes him job.

Punto, by the way, takes endless amount of ridicule for his habit of sliding head-first into first base — quite rightfully so — but ended up being an invaluable piece for the Dodgers last year when Ramirez was injured, providing surprisingly useful defense with a bat that wasn’t quite the zero one might expect. Sogard and Elmore may aspire to be even that, but this team at least has depth at the position.

#14 Cardinals

Jhonny Peralta 560 .260 .317 .398 .314 0.4 -1.8 -0.5 2.3
Daniel Descalso 70 .244 .307 .354 .290 -1.3 0.1 -0.6 0.1
Pete Kozma 35 .221 .279 .307 .259 -1.5 0.0 0.1 0.0
Greg Miclat 35 .235 .299 .296 .270 -1.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .255 .313 .384 .307 -3.5 -1.7 -1.0 2.4

Last year, the Cardinals went into the season sitting at No. 29 on our shortstop rankings, because it seemed like a Kozma / Descalso situation would be a terrible one. It didn’t stop the Cardinals from being very good, but it certainly didn’t help them, as they ended up being one of the very few teams to be below replacement-level. But that was last year’s problem, and this year’s solution is Jhonny Peralta, who annually seems to put up better defensive ratings than anyone cares to give him credit for. (The fielding numbers here are not position-adjusted, so that -0.5 turns into a 3.0 projection when the shortstop bonus is applied.) The major question about Peralta is the fact that he tends to be all-or-nothing — his wOBA scores since 2008 run .347, .307, .309, .356, .301, .356. St. Louis didn’t give Peralta a big contract for a .307 wOBA, or even the .314 mark projected here,  but even that worst-case scenario has a silver lining: it’s still better than Kozma or Descalso would do.

#15 Padres

Everth Cabrera 658 .253 .323 .342 .298 -6.5 4.6 -3.8 2.3
Alexi Amarista 28 .251 .290 .362 .287 -0.5 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Ryan Jackson 14 .234 .290 .314 .271 -0.4 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .252 .321 .342 .297 -7.4 4.6 -3.9 2.3

After an up-and-down start to his career, Cabrera was in the midst of a fantastic 2013 — 3.6 WAR, 37 steals, 113 wRC+ — before being shut down for the last two months thanks to his involvement in the Biogenesis mess. What he is in 2014 depends on whether he can continue his unexpectedly contact-filled ways (he dropped his whiff rate by a full 10 percent from 2012-13) and get on base enough to provide value with steals and runs ahead of the middle of the lineup. I will easily take the under on the five-win pace he was on last season before he got busted, though he’s only entering his age-27 season, so he’s not exactly old. He’s particularly good at one thing (base running), and somewhat less good at most other things. That’s how you end up ranked No. 15.

#16 Giants

Brandon Crawford 616 .241 .305 .353 .290 -9.5 -0.6 5.1 2.2
Joaquin Arias 56 .254 .282 .344 .273 -1.6 0.0 0.0 0.1
Ehire Adrianza 28 .227 .292 .315 .272 -0.8 0.0 0.1 0.1
Total 700 .242 .302 .351 .288 -11.9 -0.5 5.3 2.3

Crawford exists because he has a very good glove at a very important position — you may have seen this recent post of five selected outstanding defensive plays from last year, for added visual evidence — and so there’s only so much you can say about that. Glove-first shortstop uses his glove, first. If you’re looking for some sort of hope on the offensive side of the ball, it’s that he improved both his walk rate and his strikeout rate, while popping nine homers, but the slash line output was more or less the same as it had been in 2013, and as it is likely to be in 2014. As you’ll see below, the bottom half of the shortstop list gets pretty dreadful pretty quickly, so Crawford’s bat is merely poor, not abysmal, as compared to his peers. He still does enough with the glove to be a worthwhile starter for San Francisco, and he has very little to worry about coming up behind him.

#17 Cubs

Starlin Castro   595 .278 .319 .408 .318 -2.1 -0.3 -3.9 1.9
Darwin Barney 56 .251 .300 .344 .284 -1.7 0.1 0.9 0.2
Donnie Murphy 14 .235 .296 .421 .313 -0.1 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Javier Baez 35 .244 .290 .451 .321 0.0 0.0 -0.3 0.1
Total 700 .273 .316 .406 .316 -3.9 -0.1 -3.5 2.3

Remember the long ago days of, oh, a year ago, when Castro was seen as one of the brighter young shortstop talents in the game? Anyone? That was before an across-the-board decline in pretty much every important metric. Castro got on base less, hit for less power, was a negative on the base paths, and went from 3 DRS to -8. Oh, and he clashed with management amid reported attitude issues. So all in all, it was a pretty great year… and 2014 isn’t going much better, since he’s had all of three plate appearances due to an injured hamstring, and may not be ready for Opening Day. He only turns 24 next week, so it’s far too soon to give up on him considering how valuable he is at his best (and how much money the Cubs have tied up in him), but last year was nothing other than a massive step backwards.

Baez’ future may be at second base, where he’s been playing some this spring, and the Cubs have been giving Barney t look at shortstop, perhaps either to inflate his trade value or prepare for a Castro absence. There’s not zero competition here, but Castro will still get plenty of opportunities to rebound.

#18 White Sox

Alexei Ramirez 616 .268 .304 .374 .298 -12.7 1.1 3.0 2.0
Leury Garcia 49 .238 .282 .321 .268 -2.1 0.1 0.1 0.0
Marcus Semien 35 .241 .319 .386 .313 -0.3 0.0 -0.2 0.1
Total 700 .265 .303 .371 .297 -15.1 1.2 2.9 2.1

Did you know that Ramirez was at one point one of the better shortstops in baseball? In 2010, he was worth 4 WAR; in 2011, he was worth 4.3 WAR. He never gets talked about that way, but he was, for a period, extremely valuable. Another did you know: Ramirez is older than you think he is, somehow turning 33 years old late in the 2014 season. So when he absolutely fell apart in 2012 — if my math is correct, a 2.6 percent walk rate over 621 plate appearances is something like three-quarters of one walk, so three balls — it was easy to wonder if age was catching up with him. But his defense was still solid, and he rebounded partially at the plate in 2013, even adding a shocking 30 stolen bases, despite a season marred by personal tragedy. Considering that 2013’s offensive performance is basically the mid-point between his solid 2010-11 and his brutal 2012, coming in close to his career averages, it’s fair to project about that in 2014, which makes him roughly a two-win player.

Marcus Semien is mostly notable for making me think of Marcus Stroman. I much prefer thinking about Marcus Stroman.

#19 Indians

Asdrubal Cabrera 518 .258 .318 .411 .320 2.4 0.1 -8.4 1.8
Elliot Johnson 56 .228 .279 .333 .271 -1.9 0.1 -0.2 0.1
Mike Aviles 49 .255 .286 .373 .289 -0.9 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Justin Sellers   49 .222 .284 .336 .275 -1.5 0.0 -0.2 0.1
Jose Ramirez 14 .264 .305 .346 .289 -0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
Francisco Lindor 14 .247 .305 .330 .283 -0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .252 .310 .394 .309 -2.5 0.2 -8.7 2.1

The FG crew took in an Indians/Cubs game last weekend in Arizona, and Francisco Lindor was playing shortstop. He booted two balls badly, and based on that sample size of “one game” I conclude he is not ready for the majors. That’s obviously said with tongue pressing entirely through cheek, but it remains more likely than not that he will spend the majority, or even entirety, of the 2014 season in the minors. That leaves Cabrera with another season to prove — to some other future team, most likely — that he can still be the very good player we saw in 2011, or at least the solid player we saw in 2012, as opposed to the total disaster he was in 2013.

Never considered a valuable defensive shortstop, Cabrera’s offensive value just disappeared last season, continuing a three-year slide in wOBA from .344 to .332 to .307. That will happen when you walk less, strike out more, are less valuable on the bases, start swinging at five percent more pitches outside the zone, and on and on. Last year, Jeff Sullivan said “shortstop isn’t a problem” for the Indians. That was certainly true at the time, but for a team hoping to get to the playoffs, it absolutely is now. They don’t want to rush Lindor, so Cabrera will get a chance to rebound, but the leash isn’t going to be endless here.

#20 Phillies

Jimmy Rollins 581 .247 .313 .372 .302 -7.5 1.7 -0.3 1.9
Freddy Galvis 77 .243 .280 .362 .281 -2.2 -0.1 0.5 0.1
Kevin Frandsen 21 .265 .309 .363 .297 -0.3 0.0 0.0 0.1
Reid Brignac 21 .215 .272 .309 .260 -1.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .246 .308 .369 .298 -11.0 1.5 0.2 2.1

At the moment, Jimmy Rollins is still a Phillie, and despite the intrigue of the last week, he’s likely to remain so for most of the season, if only because declining 35-year-old shortstops who are still owed millions of dollars aren’t exactly the most valuable trade assets on the market. Rollins was once in the conversation for “best shortstop in the majors,” but now he’s merely in the conversation for “a shortstop in the majors.” Maybe even that is admirable after how long he’s been in the bigs, but of course the indicators aren’t going in the right direction. Rollins’ power completely deserted him last year, popping only 6 homers a year after hitting 23, and his .348 SLG was inferior to that of even Michael Bourn and Jose Altuve. Combine that with two years of strikeout rates higher than he’s had in a decade, and defense and base running that are both okay but nowhere near where they used to be, and you can see why Rollins’ outlook is only around two wins. That this is still good enough for No. 20 says a lot about what’s left to come.

#21 Pirates

Jordy Mercer 350 .253 .305 .382 .300 -3.6 -0.5 -1.0 1.0
Josh Harrison 280 .265 .304 .391 .305 -1.9 0.2 -1.3 0.9
Clint Barmes 49 .227 .275 .327 .265 -1.9 0.0 0.6 0.1
Alen Hanson 21 .241 .286 .362 .285 -0.5 -0.1 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .256 .302 .381 .299 -7.9 -0.4 -1.8 2.0

The only “Jordy” in major league history worked his way into a job share with Clint Barmes last season, and now that Barmes has been relegated to a utility role, the job is Mercer’s to lose, for now. Going with Jordy Mercer, as opposed to say, not Jordy Mercer, seems like an odd choice for a team that faces tough odds to return to the playoffs in 2014, but then Mercer showed some ability to play in 2013, hitting eight homers in only 365 plate appearances, along with a .336 OBP and not-objectionable defense. The low-ish ranking here reflects both uncertainty about his true offensive skill — in his minor league career, his OBP was just .326 — and the fact that it’s difficult to assume that he’s going to retain the job for the entire season, though I would take the “over” on the listed 350 plate appearances here. Harrison doesn’t offer much, so the Pirates would certainly love it if he were to play considerably less than we have him for here. Hanson is the future, though he may yet end up as a second baseman.

#22 Reds

Zack Cozart 595 .251 .289 .389 .296 -10.8 0.7 4.2 2.0
Ramon Santiago 63 .237 .301 .327 .282 -1.8 -0.1 -0.3 0.0
Kristopher Negron 42 .208 .261 .313 .257 -2.1 0.1 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .247 .288 .379 .293 -14.7 0.7 3.9 2.0

We’re now getting into the portion of the show where you hope your shortstop can do even one thing well. If he can do two things well, even better, but it’s probably too much to hope for three things, otherwise, you wouldn’t be ranked in the bottom one-third of the league. Cozart does one thing extremely well, and that’s field baseballs. Given that this is shortstop and not, say, first base, that’s enough for him to have a job in the major leagues. He does a second thing somewhat well — 27 homers over the last two years is nice enough out of the shortstop position — and the combination makes him roughly a league-average shortstop. He’s not going to be better than that simply because he has no ability to get on base, thanks to limited plate discipline and a proclivity to hitting grounders without the elite speed needed to turn them into hits. Assuming Bryan Price won’t hit him second like Dusty Baker did, that won’t be nearly so objectionable coming out of the seventh or eighth spot in the lineup.

#23 Diamondbacks

Chris Owings 385 .267 .296 .391 .301 -6.9 0.1 0.1 1.0
Didi Gregorius 280 .258 .312 .379 .303 -4.5 -0.5 1.3 0.8
Cliff Pennington 35 .247 .307 .355 .293 -0.8 0.0 0.1 0.1
Total 700 .263 .303 .384 .301 -12.3 -0.4 1.6 1.9

We have now reached the theoretical “Stephen Drew line,” in that every team from here on down is below where Drew would have ranked on his own, since we  project him for 2.0 WAR. That doesn’t mean there’s much difference between 1.9 WAR and 2.0 WAR, or that every team from here out is in a situation where they should have went for Drew, but if you were curious, here we are.

I was hoping that maybe Arizona would have cleared up this situation by now, but for the moment, there’s no such luck, so we’ll need to hedge our bets despite the increasing likelihood that one of them ends up in Detroit or Queens or elsewhere. Given the recent talk that Owings is in the lead for the job and the simple fact that Gregorius wasn’t very good last year — he started out white-hot, but after May 15, he hit only .229/.317/.318 in 332 plate appearances –we’ll give Owings the playing time advantage, knowing full well this will change in one way or the other. Gregorius is the better defender, though Owings should at least be capable, and most think that Owings will provide more at the plate, though our projections don’t seem to see it that way just yet.

If you believe in sources, here’s one which claims the Diamondbacks are actively trying to trade Gregorius, but not Owings, to shore up their suddenly leaky rotation. I imagine we’ll look at this situation very differently in the next few weeks.

#24 Royals

Alcides Escobar   581 .259 .294 .347 .282 -18.0 3.0 2.7 1.4
Pedro Ciriaco 84 .257 .282 .344 .274 -3.1 0.1 -0.4 0.0
Christian Colon 35 .258 .305 .345 .289 -0.9 0.0 0.1 0.1
Total 700 .259 .293 .346 .281 -22.0 3.1 2.4 1.5

No one ever expected Escobar to be a star, but .234/.259/.300 in a full season of play doesn’t even seem possible. (You have to go all the way back to Jose Lind in 1992 to find a player with at least 500 plate appearances who had a worse wOBA than Escobar’s .249. And now you’ve thought about Jose Lind today.) A three percent walk rate isn’t doing him any favors, anyway, and even the bounceback that we have him projected for gets him just to a .282 wOBA, which is still terrible. Because of his value on the bases and acceptable shortstop defense, Escobar manages to keep himself above replacement level, but Kansas City isn’t going to stomach another season like that again. If he does repeat his 2013, or if the shoulder injury that has sidelined him this spring flares up, Colon may get a look, but 2010’s No.4 overall pick looks to be both a second baseman and a disappointment relative to his draft position.

#25 Mets

Ruben Tejada 525 .254 .309 .326 .285 -11.1 -0.1 0.6 1.2
Omar Quintanilla 105 .231 .299 .324 .276 -2.9 -0.1 -0.7 0.1
Wilfredo Tovar 70 .241 .290 .317 .271 -2.2 -0.1 0.3 0.1
Total 700 .249 .306 .325 .282 -16.2 -0.4 0.2 1.3

This is still not Drew, and it’s still not likely to be Drew, because as we’ve been saying for months, any upgrade Drew may be over Tejada is probably not really worth it to the 2014 Mets. That doesn’t mean it won’t be Franklin or Gregorius, both of whom have been rumored to be the target of Mets interest, though Detroit’s sudden entry into the shortstop market won’t help Sandy Alderson there. Anyway, for the moment, Tejada appears to be the man here, and that is a cause of considerable angst among Mets fans, who remember — accurately — how awful he was in 2013. They maybe don’t remember that he was actually pretty decent in the two seasons before that, and that 2013 was marred by a strained quad and a fractured leg, and that he somehow trails only Joey Votto and Matt Carpenter in line drive rate since 2010. Since he’s still only 24, yes, it makes absolute sense to give him another shot, though the likelihood of him actually holding the job all year is low.

Not shown here is Wilmer Flores, because when it’s questionable that he can even handle third base, the idea of him actually seeing major league time at shortstop seems beyond laughable. Yet the talk of it won’t go away, which probably says more about the other options here than it does about Flores himself.

#26 Yankees

Derek Jeter 385 .269 .328 .364 .308 -4.3 -0.3 -7.6 0.5
Brendan Ryan   245 .221 .286 .306 .266 -10.8 0.2 3.3 0.4
Dean Anna 35 .252 .329 .370 .312 -0.3 0.0 0.2 0.1
Eduardo Nunez 35 .259 .306 .363 .295 -0.8 0.1 -0.4 0.1
Total 700 .251 .312 .344 .293 -16.2 -0.1 -4.5 1.1

This whole situation seems like a complete crapshoot, doesn’t it? The history of 40-year-old shortstops coming off major ankle injuries to be productive is essentially non-existent, but then again, the history of shortstops who have had careers like Derek Jeter is pretty small too. It almost feels like Jeter playing regularly at a mediocre level is the least likely outcome here, because you’d imagine that either he’s rarely playing at all, or he is and he’s playing somewhat well. On offense, anyway, because while you hardly need another review of Jeter’s defense, a major ankle injury doesn’t particularly seem like something that would help his range.

Ryan, of course, is a very known quantity, in that his defense is exquisite and his offense is painful. It will be interesting to see if everyone’s new favorite toy, Dean Anna, actually gets a chance here, though that’s really more dependent on Jeter than anything else. He’s a legend in his final year, so if he’s healthy enough to take the field, he’ll play, and it would take some really historically bad performance — I’m talking 0-for-his-first-100 here — to get him off the field for any other reason.

#27 Astros

Jonathan Villar 490 .236 .296 .355 .289 -11.1 1.9 -4.2 0.9
Marwin Gonzalez 140 .242 .280 .337 .272 -5.0 -0.2 -0.1 0.1
Cesar Izturis 70 .237 .275 .310 .258 -3.3 -0.1 0.4 0.0
Total 700 .237 .291 .346 .282 -19.3 1.6 -3.9 1.0

Villar has contact issues and isn’t a plus defender, and yet this is still better than last year’s Ronny Cedeno / Marwin Gonzalez combo, or that time in 2010 when the Astros actually tried to go with Tommy Manzella. Still, striking out nearly a third of the time is a big problem if you aren’t, say, Chris Davis, and Villar is absolutely not. The tools are there, though, especially if he can improve his decision-making on the base paths and cut down on the errors in the field, and the job is likely to be his for the entire season. Not much longer than that, however: Carlos Correa is coming.

#28 Twins

Pedro Florimon   455 .231 .287 .330 .275 -15.4 0.4 0.9 0.6
Eduardo Escobar 140 .245 .288 .340 .279 -4.4 -0.1 -0.3 0.1
Danny Santana 56 .256 .288 .342 .278 -1.8 -0.1 -0.1 0.1
Jason Bartlett 49 .246 .310 .330 .287 -1.2 0.0 -0.4 0.1
Total 700 .237 .289 .333 .277 -22.7 0.2 0.2 0.9

For a mere waiver claim, as Florimon was from Baltimore in 2011, anything above replacement is a nice get, so in that sense, Florimon’s 2013 was worthwhile. Unfortunately, Florimon is an all-glove shortstop, without the glove of Brandon Crawford, and also without the bat of Brandon Crawford. He is, as they say, “a guy,” out there because a baseball team requires nine fielders at all times. Maybe that’s somewhat unfair, because he can field, and he can run a bit, and he even popped nine homers, but safe to say, if and when the Twins next have a winning team, Florimon is not likely to be the shortstop there. Escobar isn’t likely more than a utility player, and… is that Jason Bartlett? The Jason Bartlett? No way. It can’t be.

#29 Tigers

Danny Worth 175 .219 .283 .310 .267 -7.5 -0.1 -1.0 -0.1
Steve Lombardozzi 175 .267 .307 .359 .294 -3.8 -0.1 -0.3 0.4
Eugenio Suarez 140 .239 .295 .339 .283 -4.3 -0.4 0.3 0.2
Jose Iglesias   140 .262 .307 .337 .288 -3.8 0.0 1.0 0.4
Francisco Martinez 70 .238 .281 .312 .265 -3.2 0.1 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .246 .296 .334 .281 -22.5 -0.7 0.0 0.8

When I learned over the weekend that Iglesias was seriously injured, I was in Arizona on our FanGraphs trip, and I leaned over to whomever was sitting next to me — Eno, I think — and I said, wait, I’m doing the shortstop projections, so Detroit, you have five days to prevent me from having to write about, well, this. No such luck, sadly.

I thought Dave Cameron did a nice job of explaining why Drew isn’t the obvious move here, but I think we can all agree that this depth chart is absolutely not how the 2014 Detroit season is going to play out. Yes, maybe it’s Worth or Suarez or Hernan Perez or whomever for a few weeks or months, but eventually it will be Drew or Franklin or Gregorius or someone else, maybe even Iglesias later in the year. For now, you have a bunch of utility players who can’t hit, and can only sort of field. Thanks to Miguel Cabrera and that starting rotation, Detroit is good enough to overcome this setback and still win the division, but they’ll do something here by the summer. They simply have to.

#30 Marlins

Adeiny Hechavarria 560 .245 .284 .337 .275 -19.1 -1.0 -2.0 0.1
Donovan Solano 91 .259 .306 .344 .288 -2.2 0.0 0.1 0.2
Ed Lucas   49 .238 .290 .333 .277 -1.6 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .246 .288 .338 .277 -22.9 -1.0 -2.2 0.3

Think about all the things I just said about the mess in Detroit, and realize that the Marlins are still a good 0.5 win behind that. I think it’s pretty well-known at this point that Hechavarria simply cannot hit — the Marlins themselves probably wouldn’t argue that strenuously, and even his 11 steals came with 10 times caught — but what’s interesting is that he seems to have this reputation as a glorious defensive shortstop, and the numbers just do not back that up, at all. DRS had him at -3 last year, which isn’t terrible. UZR/150 puts him at -10.0, which is. To carry that bat, his defense needs to be more than a conversation about which stat has him at “somewhat lousy” or “very lousy.” It’s not, which is why he’s a replacement level player, and why the Marlins are ranked No. 30 in yet another depth chart ranking.

Mike Petriello used to write here, and now he does not. Find him at @mike_petriello or MLB.com.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
10 years ago

IMHO the Braves would never put Pastonicky back at SS; when he was the starter his defense at the position was an utter dumpster fire and was a huge part of hastening Simmons path to the show. They simply couldn’t afford to pair Pastornicky with the statue known as Chris Johnson then watch 90% of the grounders to the left side find their way into the outfield behind their patchwork starting pitching.

10 years ago
Reply to  Bobulated

Yeah, I see Pena, who has fine (maybe even above league-average) defense as a more likely fill-in just because Pastornicky seems to have demonstrated that he’s not minimally competent to field the position. But Mike’s right that either way, the drop-off is huge. Stay healthy, Andrelton.

10 years ago
Reply to  Bobulated

It is of importance to note just how much the Braves rely on Simmons to keep their overall infield defense at an acceptable level. Freeman has no range at first, but he at least is learning to play the position more intelligently and seems to save between 2 to 3 errant throws per game. Uggla is a freaking horror show at second and Johnson still has zero range at 3rd, but knowing Simmons covers just over three quarters of the left infield allows him to narrow his focus and play semi-respectable defense. Simmons is the glue holding the Brave’s infield together.

10 years ago
Reply to  Mike

Correct. I see him as the most important player on the team for that reason, even as I see more potential for Freeman or Heyward to put up a 6 WAR+ season.

10 years ago
Reply to  Anon21

I see where Heyward has the potential for 6 WAR. Freeman though?

Freeman only good chance to reach 6 WAR is to take a major step forward with his power. His BABIP was as high as one could reasonable expect it to be last year, his defensive value is inherently limited by his position, and it’s not like he’s suddenly going to turn into a great base stealer.

Without a big jump in power, Freeman’s best case scenario is John Olerud, and Olerud walked 14% of the time in his career while striking out 11%. Even then, he only reached 6 WAR three times (including his 5.8 WAR 1999).

10 years ago
Reply to  Anon21

Yes, exactly. If he adds fly ball distance, he could increase his power and put up a 6 WAR season. Given that he’s 24, he could still add strength and push his home run total up above 30. I would probably give him even odds of putting up at least one 6-WAR season over the course of his current contract.

(Btw, Heyward doesn’t just have the “potential” for a 6 WAR season, he already has one to his credit.)

Dan Uggla
10 years ago
Reply to  Mike

That’s why I hug Freddie all the time. If I were throwing to Prince Fielder, I’d be challenging the all-time worst 2B UZR.