2015 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 below 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.

Yes, we know WAR is imperfect and there is more to player value than is wrapped up in that single projection, but for the purposes of talking about a team’s strengths and weaknesses, it is a useful tool. Also, 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.

It’s time now to continue the rankings of power being conducted by this site. Today, we turn our attention to shortstops. We begin by turning our attention, specifically, to this graph:

SS Graph

Some teams (Colorado) have very good shortstops; others (Miami) have less good shortstops. Every team has shortstops. In what follows, the author examines how much power the shortstops possess and then ranks them according to that power.

#1 Rockies

Troy Tulowitzki 504 .307 .386 .539 .400 23.4 -1.0 4.5 5.2
Daniel Descalso   154 .259 .327 .366 .307 -3.8 0.1 -1.3 0.1
Charlie Culberson   42 .253 .287 .392 .298 -1.4 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .293 .368 .491 .374 18.2 -0.9 3.0 5.3

Last year was a vintage season for Tulowitzki, which is only mostly a good thing — insofar, that is, as a vintage season for Tulo includes not only exhibiting markedly above-average skills on both offense and defense, but also playing something less than 140 games due to injury. In the case of 2014, the injured body part was the labrum in his left hip, and the total number of games played was 91. Still, the only reason he didn’t record the top WAR among qualified shortstops is because he didn’t qualify. Remove the filter for plate appearances and one finds him tied with Jhonny Peralta atop that particular list — in about 250 fewer plate appearances.

Unsurprisingly, Tulowitzki is projected once again in 2015 to produce more wins than any other shortstop — and, unsurprisingly, he’s expected once again to do it in fewer plate appearances than everyone else. That alone gives Colorado the strongest shortstop position entering the season. It would appear, if they possessed a capable secondary option, they could extract even more value out of the position. The current iteration of the Rockies doesn’t really feature that, however — unless, perhaps, either Cristhian Adames or Trevor Story makes a notable leap this year.

#2 Braves

Andrelton Simmons 644 .256 .301 .370 .296 -9.2 -1.3 19.8 3.9
Phil Gosselin 35 .247 .284 .335 .275 -1.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Jose Peraza 21 .256 .285 .338 .276 -0.6 0.1 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .255 .300 .367 .295 -10.9 -1.2 19.8 4.0

Players aren’t really supposed to receive fielding projections of +20 runs. If you want, take a moment to scroll down this post and get a sense of the range with which we’re normally dealing. The next best figure after Simmons’ projection is J.J. Hardy’s figure of about +7 runs. Most of them are within a run or two of zero. Graph the fielding numbers here and the result, as is generally true of normal distribution, would resemble a bell — but a really stupid bell, in this case, with one side that’s a lot longer and flatter than the other side. That stupid bell would be entirely the fault of Andrelton Simmons. Andrelton Simmons hates bells.

Perhaps more interesting than Simmons’ defensive acumen — from an analytical perspective, at least, because Simmons’ defensive acumen is the sort of thing one merely sits backs and enjoys — is his offensive profile. After hitting 17 home runs in 2013 and recording an 8.4% strikeout rate, he declined by both measures in 2014. It seemed, that decline, to be the unwanted product of an attempt to adopt a whole-field batting approach — all of which situation Drew Fairservice documented ably at the end of August. Projections can’t anticipate alterations in approach, but it seems as though there’d be some merit in letting Simmons swing away again.

#3 Nationals

Ian Desmond 630 .263 .315 .430 .328 5.6 1.2 -1.4 3.4
Yunel Escobar 49 .269 .330 .365 .311 -0.2 -0.1 -0.1 0.2
Danny Espinosa 21 .218 .281 .352 .281 -0.6 0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .262 .315 .423 .325 4.8 1.1 -1.5 3.6

By the end of the 2011 season, there seemed to be no compelling reason for Desmond to remain Washington’s shortstop. He’d just produced a win or less for the second consecutive season and — by the metrics, at least — had exhibited below-average defense. Danny Espinosa, meanwhile, who played shortstop at college and throughout the minors, had parlayed a compelling blend of speed and power into a three-win season.

Three-plus years later, the two players’ careers have diverged substantially, Desmond having recorded three consecutive four-win seasons; Espinosa, having lost control both of the strike zone and, because of that, his starting role.

The Nationals benefit at shortstop from the offseason acquisition of Yunel Escobar, a defensively capable player who would allow the club to avoid catastrophe were Desmond to experience injury or ineffectiveness. (How that would affect second base is, of course, another consideration — one with which August Fagerstrom must deal, who’s tasked with addressing the second-base rankings.)

#4 Cardinals

Jhonny Peralta 595 .261 .324 .413 .326 5.6 -2.1 2.9 3.3
Pete Kozma 70 .223 .282 .319 .268 -2.4 0.0 0.5 0.1
Dean Anna 35 .238 .314 .346 .297 -0.5 -0.1 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .256 .319 .400 .319 2.7 -2.2 3.4 3.5

Multiple noted physicists, including Brian Greene and Stephen Hawking and Neil deGrasse Tyson, support the theory that multiple — and perhaps even infinite — universes exist simultaneously. If their respective suspicions are correct, the author would like to formally express his disappointment at not currently occupying the universe in which the human body is hydrated by means of delicious scotch (as opposed to water).

The multiverse hypothesis encourages an important baseball-related thought experiment, though: given everything that we know about Jhonny Peralta, in how many of those universes is he a major-league shortstop still? Even in this universe, he’s been moved off the position twice: first by Asdrubal Cabrera in Cleveland and then by Jose Iglesias in Detroit.

Peralta doesn’t necessarily look like a shortstop. Two numbers suggest that he’s probably a pretty great one, though: both the defensive ones available at this site and also all the ones to the left of the decimal point on his contact with St. Louis.

Of note, finally, for those readers who delight in fringe prospects is the Cardinals’ offseason acquisition of Dean Anna. Owner of only 25 career major-league plate appearances, the 28-year-old still profiles as about a one- to two-win player.

#5 Athletics

Marcus Semien 455 .238 .314 .394 .315 1.9 0.1 -5.5 1.8
Ben Zobrist 175 .264 .350 .408 .336 3.6 0.0 1.0 1.3
Eric Sogard 70 .245 .307 .327 .286 -1.3 0.0 0.1 0.2
Total 700 .245 .322 .391 .317 4.2 0.2 -4.4 3.3

It was surprising this offseason when Oakland, following a trade that sent Jeff Samardzija to the White Sox, appeared content to give Marcus Semien (acquired in that same deal) every chance of winning the club’s starting shortstop job. The plan appeared to make more sense the following month when Oakland acquired Yunel Escobar and Ben Zobrist from Tampa Bay. That iteration of the A’s didn’t last long, however, as Escobar was traded within the week to the Nationals for Tyler Clippard.

Semien’s an interesting offensive player — and certainly not without defensive value. Given both the scouting and statistical data, however, he seems to possess the profile more of an entirely capable second or third baseman than a major-league shortstop. Oakland obviously isn’t averse to exploring creative solutions in the face of certain problems, however, and deploying Semien at short is an illustrative example of that.

The risk is probably low, too: if Semien absolutely reveals himself to be incapable of handling shortstop, he could simply switch places with Zobrist, who’s played the position capably in recent years. If he’s incapable of playing any position, Joey Wendle (acquired in the trade that sent Brandon Moss to Cleveland) could man second base, too.

#6 Angels

Erick Aybar 630 .272 .311 .381 .305 -0.4 0.8 -1.1 2.9
Josh Rutledge 56 .236 .284 .354 .284 -1.0 0.1 -0.5 0.1
Grant Green 14 .256 .293 .373 .295 -0.1 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .269 .308 .378 .303 -1.5 0.9 -1.6 3.1

There’s probably some way to define it objectively, but Erick Aybar almost certainly produced among the most boring four-win seasons in the majors last year. He’s a defensively competent, maybe above-average, shortstop who makes enough contact to post a league-average batting line. His park suppresses offense, though, and he doesn’t steal a ton of bases, so he doesn’t appear on any leaderboards. On paper, it’s unimpressive. On the field, it’s quite helpful.

Here’s one group to which Aybar belonged in 2014 and, given some fortunate batted-ball outcomes, might belong again — players with fewer than 10 home runs and at least four wins:

# Name Team PA HR Off Def WAR
1 Jose Altuve Astros 707 7 31.9 -10.1 4.9
2 Lorenzo Cain Royals 502 5 11.3 16.8 4.9
3 Howie Kendrick Angels 674 7 12.0 8.8 4.7
4 Christian Yelich Marlins 660 9 15.8 4.0 4.3
5 Erick Aybar Angels 641 7 3.8 14.6 4.3
6 Dustin Pedroia Red Sox 609 7 -1.7 20.3 4.2
7 Denard Span Nationals 668 5 19.2 -2.4 4.0
8 Matt Carpenter Cardinals 709 8 13.6 1.4 4.0
9 Juan Lagares Mets 452 4 2.3 20.2 4.0

Altuve stole a million bases and Yelich never pops out and Lagares has a super weird skill, so they all have compelling aspects to their overall profiles. Aybar, not so much. Still, he was quietly pretty great last year and is likely to be quietly pretty good in 2015.

#7 Mariners

Brad Miller 385 .249 .308 .387 .308 -0.2 0.5 -0.7 1.8
Chris Taylor   280 .255 .316 .343 .296 -2.9 0.6 1.0 1.2
Willie Bloomquist 35 .268 .302 .341 .285 -0.7 -0.1 -0.4 0.0
Total 700 .252 .311 .367 .302 -3.8 0.9 -0.2 3.0

The Mariners have cornered the market in recent years on a certain kind of high-floor, low-ceiling middle-infield prospect. Dustin Ackley, Nick Franklin, Brad Miller, Chris Taylor: all feature below-average power coupled with above-average patience and defensive ability. They’re also all white, American players who (with the exception of Franklin) attended college.

They’re even basically all the same size. Regard:

Player Height Weight
Ackley 6-1 195
Fanklin 6-1 195
Miller 6-2 200
Taylor 6-1 190

It’s excusable, then, if the reader has ever confused one for the other — and not surprising, either, that Seattle entered the offseason with no obvious preference for either Miller or Taylor at shortstop (with Ackley in left field now and Franklin on a different team). A Milwaukee Brewers reliever was required to decide the competition by breaking Taylor’s wrist this spring. (With a pitch, that is. Not, like, in a street fight.) Taylor will return at probably around the beginning of May, however, and the same questions regarding the shortstop job are likely to persist. The good news for the Mariners is that they have two probably above-average options.

#8 Orioles

J.J. Hardy 560 .254 .296 .386 .301 -6.5 -1.1 6.8 2.6
Everth Cabrera 105 .251 .310 .331 .289 -2.2 0.5 -0.5 0.3
Ryan Flaherty   35 .228 .286 .376 .293 -0.6 0.0 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .252 .298 .377 .299 -9.3 -0.5 6.3 2.9

With some help from his home park, but largely on his own merits, Hardy led all shorstops in home runs between 2011 and -13, averaging just over 25 of them per season during that interval. Last year, he hit only nine of them over nearly a full complement of plate appearances. Why? Perhaps because of a problem with back spasms. Perhaps because of age-related decline (which isn’t necessarily unrelated to back spasms). Perhaps because of a dumb butterfly flapping its wings somewhere. A butterfly with an inexplicable grudge against J.J. Hardy.

Whatever the cause, Hardy still managed an offensive line within 10% of league average and slightly better than the average among shortstops — and still managed a three-win season, as well. One notes the defensive projection, which is impressive and which will probably prevent a total collapse for Hardy as a player.

Everth Cabrera is the nominal backup, although it’s also interesting to contemplate briefly how well Manny Machado might handle the position given the opportunity. Machado’s defensive numbers have been exceptional at third and he was, of course, a shortstop in the minors. The likelihood of Machado at shortstop isn’t a high one for 2015 (or probably ever), though.

#9 Blue Jays

Jose Reyes 595 .284 .333 .410 .327 4.3 2.4 -7.4 2.7
Maicer Izturis   70 .254 .305 .346 .292 -1.4 -0.1 -0.6 0.1
Ryan Goins 21 .232 .267 .317 .260 -0.9 0.0 0.1 0.0
Ramon Santiago   14 .230 .300 .314 .279 -0.4 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .279 .328 .399 .321 1.6 2.3 -7.9 2.9

For how poorly suited Jhonny Peralta appears to seem physically for handling shortstop duties, that’s the degree to which Jose Reyes looks as though he should be excellent there. In five mostly healthy seasons since 2010, he’s averaged just over 30 stolen bases per year while also producing a strikeout rate below 10% — offensive numbers which suggest a combination of speed and hand-eye coordination that should translate well to the skills necessary for shortstop. Yet, over that same interval, Reyes has also averaged about -5 runs at that position, giving him essentially the same defensive value as a league-average second or third baseman. For those sort of performances, there seems to be little public discussion about a position change for Reyes. Perhaps that’s because of a dearth of immediate alternatives within the Jays’ system. For while Devon Travis represents a possible solution to the club’s second-base hole, no such equivalent exists at short. And for the moment, at least, Reyes’s offensive abilities compensate nicely for the defensive shortcomings, if they exist.

#10 Red Sox

Xander Bogaerts 616 .261 .321 .411 .324 2.3 0.0 -6.1 2.5
Brock Holt 70 .268 .319 .358 .302 -0.9 0.1 -0.1 0.2
Hanley Ramirez 14 .281 .354 .462 .359 0.4 0.0 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .262 .321 .407 .322 1.8 0.1 -6.1 2.8

The author can’t speak to all of public opinion, but if certain Boston-area sports radio hosts are to be believed, Xander Bogaerts is a failing failure from the autonomous district of Failstan. In truth, Bogaerts didn’t have a great 2014 season, producing only about half a win over ca. 600 plate appearances, but he was also just a 21-year-old who entered the year with 50 major-league plate appearances. That’s the same age at which shortstop prospects Addison Russell and Corey Seager will see out their 2015 seasons and neither is expected to play much more than a cameo role with his respective parent club. That Boston features a shortstop depth chart among the top-third in the league — and that said depth chart is informed predominantly by Bogaerts’ projection — suggests that patience is required and will likely be rewarded in the case of Bogaerts.

#11 Dodgers

Jimmy Rollins 595 .239 .305 .366 .298 -5.5 1.7 1.0 2.3
Justin Turner 56 .277 .335 .394 .324 0.6 0.0 -0.4 0.3
Alex Guerrero 35 .248 .297 .396 .307 -0.1 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Darwin Barney 14 .234 .286 .327 .272 -0.4 0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .243 .307 .369 .300 -5.5 1.7 0.6 2.8

The Dodgers have been well-acquitted at shortstop by these positional rankings over the last two seasons, appearing eighth and third, respectively, in 2013 and -14. Much of that was due to the presence of Hanley Ramirez, though, and Ramirez wasn’t so much an above-average shortstop as he was an above-average player who happened to be occupying the place on a baseball field typically reserved for shortstops. At the most hypothetical level, it sort of doesn’t matter at which position a player is deployed: as he moves down the defensive spectrum — and thus receives fewer runs from positional adjustment — he’s (again, hypothetically) likely to gain most of that back from UZR or DRS or whatever system you care to use. And vice versa. In reality, that’s not a thing. Placing Steve Pearce at shortstop is destined to have some negative implications beyond what might immediately be revealed by Pearce’s individual numbers.

The acquisition this offseason of Jimmy Rollins by Andrew Friedman et al. gives the Dodgers, for the first time in a while — since before Hanley Ramirez and before Dee Gordon — an average player (at worst, it would seem) who’s also capable of playing an average shortstop. So far as depth is concerned, one might reasonably have suspicions about the durability of a 36-year-old player, much of whose skill set is based on athleticism. It hasn’t been a problem for Rollins yet, however: he’s recorded 600-plus plate appearances in each of the last four seasons, and every season except one (!) since 2001.

#12 Cubs

Starlin Castro   595 .279 .323 .417 .326 3.1 -1.4 -4.1 2.4
Javier Baez 70 .228 .277 .436 .312 -0.4 0.1 -0.4 0.2
Addison Russell 35 .240 .294 .391 .304 -0.4 0.0 0.1 0.1
Total 700 .272 .317 .417 .323 2.3 -1.3 -4.4 2.7

The small green-and-white cross graphic beside Castro’s name denotes an injury. In his case, it doesn’t appear to be serious: just some tightness in his groin. There’s little concern regarding his availability for Opening Day. If the Cubs were to lose their starter, however, they’d probably be more well-suited to contend with it than most other clubs — on account, that is, of how their organization is composed almost entirely of promising young shortstops.

Upon further examination, this is perhaps a case of hyperbole. What’s manifestly true, however, is that among the young shortstops the Cubs do employ, a number of them have promising futures. Before he lost his rookie eligibility, for example, Javier Baez appeared fourth among all prospects last year on Marc Hulet’s list. Addison Russell occupied the third-overall spot on Kiley McDaniel’s top-prospect list published last month. And though he hasn’t appeared at short in the majors leagues, that’s the position at which Arismendy Alcantara recorded the majority of his starts as a minor leaguer.

The Cubs essentially possess a nearly inverse arrangement as the Rockies. If (and when) Colorado loses Troy Tulowitzki, the next best option is basically a replacement-level player. The Cubs, meanwhile, possess zero players with Tulo’s talent, but also have four players who might reasonably be expected to produce league-average numbers as a shortstop.

#13 Rangers

Elvis Andrus 630 .270 .327 .346 .303 -8.9 3.2 2.2 2.6
Adam Rosales 70 .235 .290 .351 .287 -1.9 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Total 700 .266 .324 .346 .301 -10.8 3.2 2.1 2.7

Dave Cameron mentioned in a recent edition of the podcast that basically none of the Rangers’ recent deals of note have worked out particularly well. That includes the signing of Shin-Soo Choo, the trade of Ian Kinsler for Prince Fielder and, relevant here, the extension of Elvis Andrus.

From one perspective, it’s hard to evaluate the Andrus deal — largely because it hasn’t started yet, that is. The deal guarantees Andrus $120 million between 2015 and -22. But also that’s kinda the point: if Andrus’s career continues in the same fashion as his 2014 season, during which he produced just a win in nearly 700 plate appearances, then that’s unfortunate for the Rangers.

The projections indicate that some optimism is in order, forecasting Andrus for nearly three wins. Hopefully, another kind of optimism is eventually in order, as well — the sort that involves promising young shortstop Jurickson Profar getting healthy. For the moment, he’s scheduled to miss his second consecutive season after undergoing shoulder surgery.

#14 Giants

Brandon Crawford 595 .238 .308 .360 .294 -5.8 -0.1 3.5 2.4
Ehire Adrianza 70 .220 .279 .303 .262 -2.4 0.0 0.3 0.1
Joaquin Arias 35 .254 .282 .333 .270 -1.0 0.0 0.1 0.1
Total 700 .237 .304 .353 .290 -9.1 -0.1 3.9 2.5

Photographic evidence reveals that Brandon Crawford is pretty emotional about San Francisco’s place among these shortstop positional rankings:

Crawford Emotional

No further questions, thank you.

#15 White Sox

Alexei Ramirez 630 .268 .301 .379 .301 -8.5 1.1 0.9 2.3
Emilio Bonifacio 35 .248 .303 .329 .284 -0.9 0.2 -0.1 0.1
Tyler Saladino 21 .231 .294 .348 .288 -0.5 0.0 0.0 0.0
Leury Garcia 14 .224 .263 .304 .253 -0.7 0.1 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .265 .300 .374 .299 -10.6 1.4 0.9 2.4

Given his established levels over the past six years, one might be compelled to say of Ramirez that he’s the sort of player you can “pencil in” for around 600 plate appearances and something between two to four wins. In what sort of capacity are people doing all this penciling, though? And within what sort of document is all this kind of information being kept? More questions than answers, is what one finds.

In truth, though, Ramirez has been incredibly durable since arriving from Cuba — which is really the best case scenario for the White Sox, who haven’t stocked their minor leagues with many replacement options. One such prospect (Marcus Semien) is now an Athletic. Another compelling possibility still remains, however, in the person of Tyler Saladino, who acquitted himself well last year at Triple-A Charlotte.

#16 Rays

Asdrubal Cabrera 455 .244 .309 .383 .307 0.5 0.1 -5.4 1.6
Nick Franklin   105 .234 .304 .362 .297 -0.7 0.1 -0.2 0.4
Logan Forsythe 105 .228 .300 .343 .289 -1.4 0.0 -0.9 0.2
Hak-Ju Lee 21 .215 .275 .291 .257 -0.8 0.0 0.0 0.0
Tim Beckham 14 .232 .279 .322 .269 -0.4 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .239 .305 .370 .301 -2.7 0.2 -6.5 2.3

As noted above, Asdrubal Cabrera is the reason that Jhonny Peralta was moved from shortstop to third base with Cleveland in 2009. In each one of the six years since then — inclusive of that 2009 season — Cabrera has recorded negative fielding numbers at short. He’s been a candidate to make a positional move of his own, in other words, and that’s what the Nationals did after acquiring him at the deadline last year.

Cabrera’s tenure with Washington was always destined to be a brief one, however, and still on the right side of 30, Cabrera was perhaps reluctant to concede his defensive value. Following the trade of their whole middle infield to Oakland, the Rays have a place available for Cabrera at shortstop. Unsurprisingly, the fielding projections aren’t great. Cabrera is still forecast a league-average batting line, though, so the overall package is entirely adequate.

Of some interest further down the depth chart is Hak-Ju Lee. A “plus defender at shortstop” at this best, according to Kiley McDaniel, Lee wasn’t at his best in 2014. He was also just a 23-year-old playing at Triple-A, though.

#17 Mets

Wilmer Flores   525 .257 .293 .413 .309 -0.1 -0.3 -3.8 1.9
Ruben Tejada 140 .246 .315 .320 .285 -2.6 -0.1 0.4 0.4
Wilfredo Tovar 35 .239 .287 .307 .266 -1.1 -0.1 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .254 .297 .390 .302 -3.9 -0.4 -3.3 2.3

There’s considerable angst — publicly, at least, if not necessarily privately within the organization — regarding Wilmer Flores’ ability to play shortstop. The specifics of that angst vary, but most of the concerns are summarized by the footage below.

Flores Fall Down

What that is, is Wilmer Flores failing in a pretty spectacular way to convert a ground ball — a pretty routine ground ball, it appears — into an out. It’s rare to see shortstops flail about in this way. Locating similar footage of Andrelton Simmons, for example, would prove difficult.

On the other hand, Flores — according to the numbers — hasn’t been a disaster yet at shortstop. And the prospect of his offensive ability with even slightly below-average defense is inviting.

In conclusion, here’s Flores performing his job ably:

Flores McGehee

#18 Pirates

Jordy Mercer 385 .254 .305 .387 .302 -3.0 -0.5 -0.8 1.2
Jung-ho Kang 245 .240 .304 .395 .309 -0.5 -0.2 -1.2 0.9
Pedro Florimon 35 .221 .276 .314 .265 -1.3 0.1 0.0 0.0
Sean Rodriguez 28 .238 .298 .387 .304 -0.2 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Alen Hanson 7 .237 .274 .366 .282 -0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .247 .303 .386 .302 -5.1 -0.6 -2.1 2.2

The first word in Kang is kan, which is a phonetic rendering of the English can. Can is a word with some decided relevance to Pirates infielder Jung-ho Kang, to whom the club committed $11 million over four years during the offseason.

For example: can he play an average major-league defensive shortstop? And also: can his offensive success in Korea translate to the major leagues? And finally: can hack writers continue to produce puns relating to his surname?

Maybe, probably not, and almost certainly are the three most likely answers to those questions. Given the projected slash lines present here, it’s possible that Kang is roughly Jordy Mercer’s equal, with a bit more power but a bit less contact. The contact issues have been apparent so far this spring: through 30 plate appearances, Kang has recorded 11 strikeouts. That doesn’t help his case in the short term. Then again, some adjustment period is to be expected.

#19 Royals

Alcides Escobar 623 .265 .298 .352 .288 -12.8 3.5 1.5 2.1
Christian Colon 42 .258 .304 .349 .292 -0.7 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Orlando Caxito 21 .222 .262 .329 .263 -0.8 0.0 0.0 0.0
Rafael Furcal   14 .245 .299 .332 .284 -0.3 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .263 .297 .350 .287 -14.6 3.5 1.4 2.2

Escobar is among the best baserunners on a club that ran hither and thither all the way to the World Series last year. Since 2012, he’s produced the sixth-most runs by that means of any major leaguer, and he’s projected to record the sixth-most among all major leaguers in 2015. That, combined with his above-average contact skills and average (or slightly better) shortstop defense, renders him a league-average player overall. The end, more or less.

Perhaps more notably, the depth chart here reveals that Rafael Furcal is now in the employ of the Kansas City Royals. Notable, that, not so much because Furcal is likely to provide considerable value, but more because finding Furcal’s name on depth charts has become rare over the last couple of years. Injured just before the winter-league playoffs, he’s rehabbing on the minor-league side of things this spring.

#20 Indians

Jose Ramirez 392 .258 .300 .354 .290 -5.8 0.3 2.6 1.5
Francisco Lindor 203 .239 .288 .344 .282 -4.3 -0.2 0.6 0.5
Mike Aviles 98 .246 .276 .357 .280 -2.2 0.0 -0.3 0.2
Erik Gonzalez 7 .226 .256 .315 .253 -0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .250 .293 .351 .286 -12.7 0.1 2.9 2.2

It’s probably not fair to say that Cleveland has “wandered” into an enviable shortstop situation. They are, after all, the ones who signed and then developed both Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor. Plus, Lindor — signed for $2.9 million after being selected eighth overall in the 2011 draft — obviously wasn’t a huge secret.

In the case of Ramirez, though, his current level of talent appears to be hovering pretty close to the top end of what could have been realistically expected given his pedigree. Signed out of the Dominican for an amount the internet refuses to disclose (and which was thus probably pretty small), Ramirez never appeared among Baseball America’s top-100 prospects and played mostly second base throughout the minors. After the departure of Asdrubal Cabrera at the deadline last year, though, he assumed full-time shortstop duties and his plate-discipline figures translated remarkably well to the majors; his defense, as well, was far better than could have been anticipated.

If and when Lindor is ready, he’s likely to become Cleveland’s shortstop. That said, Ramirez is making it difficult for the Indians not to give him a role.

#21 Astros

Jed Lowrie 560 .257 .322 .392 .315 1.1 -0.5 -6.1 2.0
Jonathan Villar 77 .221 .286 .342 .281 -1.9 0.3 -1.0 0.1
Marwin Gonzalez 63 .245 .288 .348 .283 -1.4 -0.1 -0.2 0.1
Total 700 .252 .315 .382 .309 -2.2 -0.3 -7.3 2.2

Almost all the same caveats that apply to current Oakland shortstop Marcus Semien apply to former Oakland shortstop Jed Lowrie: both appear (by the numbers, at least) more well suited to either second or third base and yet both possess enough overall offensive and defensive value to profile as average major leaguers. The most substantial difference is track record: Lowrie has one and thus provides greater certainty that he’ll continue to produce at those previously established levels.

Houston paid for that certainty this offseason, signing Lowrie to a three-year, $23 million contract with a club option for a fourth year. More expensive than Semien, that, but afforadable for a free-agent deal. Consider: if Lowrie matches his 2015 projection, he’ll have already returned more than half of Houston’s investment.

Absent from the depth chart here but looming in the background is celebrated prospect Carlos Correa, who’s expected to begin the season at Double-A Corpus Christi. It’s improbable but not impossible that he receives some sort of major-league experience in 2015, as well.

#22 Twins

Danny Santana 420 .266 .301 .375 .299 -4.8 0.8 -1.1 1.4
Eduardo Escobar 175 .255 .298 .367 .295 -2.5 0.1 -0.4 0.5
Eduardo Nunez 77 .255 .292 .366 .290 -1.4 0.2 -1.3 0.1
Jorge Polanco 28 .243 .290 .344 .282 -0.7 -0.1 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .261 .299 .371 .297 -9.4 1.0 -2.8 2.1

Like the glass of water filled (or emptied) precisely to its halfway point, Minnesota shortstop Danny Santana serves as an effective litmus test for optimism. On the one hand, he’s projected to produce almost exactly league-average numbers at shortstop per 600 plate appearances in 2015. That alone renders him one of the best players on the current version of the Twins roster and represents the first occasion probably since J.J. Hardy left that the club has featured a dependable option at shortstop. On the other hand, that prognosis seems underwhelming relative to the three-plus wins Santana produced in 2014. As Tony Blengino illustrated in some depth literally just yesterday, though, there’s a lot about Santana’s 2014 season that is unsustainable. It’s probably best to dwell on the accomplishment both of the Twins scouting department and Santana himself that he’s become an authentic major leaguer after signing for just $37,000.

#23 Diamondbacks

Chris Owings 490 .264 .296 .395 .304 -6.6 0.9 1.6 1.7
Nick Ahmed 140 .237 .281 .330 .272 -5.3 0.0 0.6 0.1
Cliff Pennington 70 .247 .313 .345 .295 -1.4 0.1 0.2 0.2
Total 700 .257 .294 .378 .297 -13.3 1.0 2.4 2.0

The trade of Didi Gregorius to the Yankees appeared very much to be made possible by the emergence in 2014 of shortstop Chris Owings, who produced about two wins for Arizona in ca. 330 plate appearances — and is projected for roughly that same amount over the course of the the 2015 season.

It appeared very much like that until Peter Gammons published a piece earlier this week suggesting that Nick Ahmed was obviously the club’s starter.

Writes Gammons, for example:

This spring, Hale has made it clear the 25-year-old Ahmed is the starting shortstop. “He’s got great hands, great energy, he’s a machine,” says Hale.

And later on in the same piece:

[O]ne thing is clear, which it wasn’t to any college coach other than Jim Penders at UConn. Nick Ahmed is a big league shortstop, the Diamondbacks starting shortstop, “and,” says La Russa, “he’s going to be here for a long time.”

The comments were surprising — not merely to the public, but also to D-backs general manager Dave Stewart. Chip Hale himself clarified whatever comments might have been misinterpreted by Gammons.

#24 Brewers

Jean Segura 525 .270 .312 .381 .305 -6.0 1.5 0.0 1.8
Luis Sardinas 70 .260 .291 .333 .278 -2.3 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Elian Herrera 70 .245 .297 .330 .280 -2.1 0.0 -0.4 0.0
Hector Gomez 35 .220 .255 .350 .267 -1.4 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .264 .305 .370 .298 -11.8 1.5 -0.8 1.9

Jean Segura produced a 3.5 WAR in 2013 and then, in only about 70 fewer plate appearances, a 0.0 WAR in 2014. What that information appears to reveal is that Segura was pretty good in 2013 and then merely replacement level in 2014. However, what else one finds is that Jean Segura produced a 3.7 WAR over the first half of 2013 and then -0.2 WAR in the second half. What this new information reveals isn’t that Segura was pretty good in 2013 and then merely replacement level in 2014, but that Segura was one of the absolute best players over the first half of 2013 but more like a replacement-level player over the season and half since then. Segura’s projection suggests that he won’t continue to be replacement level. Even if he does, though, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which the Brewers would replace him based solely on lack of production — given, that is, how all the immediate alternatives are also roughly replacement level themselves.

#25 Yankees

Didi Gregorius 385 .246 .304 .364 .296 -6.2 0.4 0.5 1.2
Jose Pirela   140 .250 .294 .377 .297 -2.2 0.1 -0.3 0.4
Brendan Ryan 140 .208 .270 .279 .250 -7.2 0.0 2.0 0.1
Stephen Drew 35 .216 .290 .362 .289 -0.7 0.0 0.2 0.1
Total 700 .238 .294 .350 .287 -16.3 0.4 2.4 1.8

Before the 2014 season, Yankees shortstops ranked 26th in the league by the methodology used here. Now, before the 2015 season, they rank 25th. In some ways, things have barely changed with regard to Yankees and shortstops. In other ways, they’ve changed a lot.

That 2014 ranking had a lot to do with Derek Jeter. This one — on account of how Jeter has retired — has nothing to do with him. Over the offseason, the Yankees acquired Didi Gregorius to fill the role vacated by their captain. Over parts of two seasons with Arizona, Gregorius exhibited a reasonably compelling skill set, but also probably a less compelling one than Chris Owings, which is what made him available to the Yankees. Below-average power and only modest speed keeps his ceiling rather low, but his defense and reasonable control of the strike zone allows him to profile as something like a one- to two-win player.

#26 Reds

Zack Cozart 455 .241 .282 .358 .282 -12.4 0.5 5.6 1.3
Kristopher Negron 140 .214 .265 .336 .269 -5.3 0.3 -0.1 0.1
Eugenio Suarez 105 .238 .299 .368 .298 -1.6 -0.1 0.3 0.3
Total 700 .235 .281 .355 .282 -19.3 0.7 5.8 1.7

One typically imagines Jose Iglesias (discussed below) as the player who represents that point at which a club is content to tolerate obvious offensive shortcomings in light of defensive excellence. Cozart, however, is a strong contender for that particular distinction. No qualified hitter in all the majors last year produced a league-adjusted line worse than Cozart’s 56 wRC+. Only six qualified batters, meanwhile, saved more total runs defensively when accounting for positional adjustment and UZR in concert. His projections for 2015 suggest that a similar sort of outcome is quite possible.

While manager Bryan Price has suggested that the starting job belongs to Cozart, there’s a capable replacement for him within the depth chart already. Acquired from Detroit this offseason in exchange for Alfredo Simon, Eugenio Suarez acquitted himself well enough in about a half-season’s worth of plate appearances with the Tigers. At the very least, there’d be no downgrade were Suarez to replace Cozart in the event of injury.

#27 Tigers

Jose Iglesias 483 .255 .299 .325 .281 -13.1 0.0 3.6 1.2
Hernan Perez 112 .256 .286 .350 .282 -2.9 0.2 -0.2 0.2
Andrew Romine 77 .236 .288 .299 .265 -3.0 0.1 0.0 0.0
Dixon Machado 28 .231 .288 .313 .272 -0.9 0.0 0.2 0.0
Total 700 .252 .295 .326 .279 -19.9 0.3 3.6 1.5

Were one the sort of person to indulge in the belief that actual, real-live curses exist, the case of Jose Iglesias and his terrible shins would provide very compelling evidence. Consider: after missing the entire 2014 season due to stress fractures in both of those terrible shins, Iglesias was greeted this preseason by not one but two right shin contusions literally just two days apart. Fortunately, the rest of his spring has proceeded without incident.

As to what a healthy version of Iglesias might be expected to provide, that’s a harder question to answer than for most other players given both his extended absence and the reliance of his game on defense. His defensive projection is more conservative than one might otherwise suppose given the scouting reports and visual evidence. Then again, there’s less than a full season of major-league data from which to draw and projection systems like Steamer and ZiPS regress defensive data more thoroughly anyway. There’s a lot of variance possible here, but the job should belong to Iglesias for as long as he can stand up without pain.

#28 Padres

Alexi Amarista 420 .242 .285 .343 .277 -10.0 0.6 -1.4 0.7
Clint Barmes 280 .219 .270 .306 .257 -11.1 -0.3 2.1 0.2
Total 700 .233 .279 .328 .269 -21.1 0.2 0.7 0.9

On a San Diego club that’s projected to feature one of the league’s worst infields collectively, shortstop is the position within that infield projected to produce the fewest wins — much of which is a result of the club’s decision to retain Amarista as the starter. It’s not that Amarista is bad, per se; it’s merely that he’s miscast in the role.

In the cases of the starters for the clubs ranked below San Diego, it’s possible to find some logic in their decision-making. The Phillies are bad, and so the identity of their shortstop in the wake of Jimmy Rollins’ departure is almost immaterial. As for the Marlins, they really believe in Adeiny Hechavarria’s defensive skills, even if the advanced metrics suggest something to the contrary. The Padres, meanwhile, have reshaped their roster with a view towards creating a playoff contender while simultaneously deciding to deploy a bench player in a starting capacity. After a winter spent sending away much of their minor-league talent, their resources for acquiring an upgrade are diminished. A marginal win or two would be of great benefit to the club, however, given their current postseason odds.

#29 Phillies

Freddy Galvis 525 .232 .270 .372 .282 -13.7 -0.1 -1.0 0.7
Cesar Hernandez 105 .257 .303 .339 .287 -2.4 -0.1 -0.5 0.1
Andres Blanco 70 .227 .275 .315 .262 -2.9 -0.3 -0.5 -0.1
Total 700 .235 .275 .361 .281 -18.9 -0.5 -2.0 0.8

In shortstop J.P. Crawford, the Phillies have one of the top-10 prospects in all of baseball. Despite having played merely a half-season at High-A, his projections already range from replacement-level to nearly average, depending on which system you prefer. Given his lack of experience, though, even the former prognosis is an impressive one. By all accounts, Crawford appears likely to develop into a player who can help the next successful edition of the Phillies.

The next successful edition of the Phillies won’t appear in 2015, however. The current iteration of the club is one designed to survive a major-league season without entirely alienating the fanbase. Freddy Galvis is well suited to do that, insofar he’s likely both to hit and field better than a replacement-level player while also making the league minimum.

#30 Marlins

Adeiny Hechavarria 630 .253 .291 .342 .279 -18.2 -1.3 -3.3 0.3
Miguel Rojas 70 .225 .273 .293 .255 -3.4 -0.1 0.2 0.0
Total 700 .251 .289 .337 .277 -21.5 -1.4 -3.1 0.3

Jeff Sullivan documented in some considerable depth here last August the difference between Miami’s evaluation of Adeiny Hechavarria’s defense and the one revealed by the sort of advanced defensive metrics available here at the site.

Here’s a summary of the former, presented by the Marlins’ infield coach:

“They’ve got all these fancy numbers you measure stuff by and I guess I’m just a dinosaur,” [Perry] Hill said. “I go by what I see. I know what my eyes see and my eyes tell me he’s an elite shortstop.”

And of the latter, presented by Sullivan himself:

Last year, over a full season, Hechavarria came out as below-average by UZR. This year, it’s the same picture, as UZR penalizes Hechavarria for what it interprets as mediocre range.

Last year, over a full season, Hechavarria came out as below-average by DRS. This year, it’s the same picture, as DRS penalizes Hechavarria for what it interprets as mediocre range.

Of greatest interest here isn’t the contradictory results of the two methods — that sort of thing is rather commonplace — but rather Perry Hill’s unflinching admission that he himself is a dinosaur. As Jeff Goldblum warned everyone in 1993, life has found a way.

Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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7 years ago

You mean scotch doesn’t hydrate? That’s not good for me…

Smoky Petey
7 years ago
Reply to  cranky

That’s just if you have it neat. If you need hydration, add some rocks. All good.

7 years ago
Reply to  Smoky Petey

Anybody want to go out for margaritas after work?