SSG Baseball – Top 10 Shortstops for the 2020 Season

Our look at the best players in the game continues today with the top 10 shortstops. This was a very very competitive list. There were quite a few that just missed. Among them were Jose Iglesias of the Tigers, Troy Tulowitzki of the Blue Jays, and Brad Miller of the Mariners. Iglesias was especially hard to keep off the list considering his 5-straight Gold Gloves in the AL. Unfortunately, his bat was not enough to crack the top 10. Iglesias, Tulowitzki and Miller are also all over 30, and as you’ll see there are a lot of good young shortstops (there’s only one player above 30 in my top 10).  10) Jose Moran (26), Cincinnati Reds 2019 – 124 games, .300/.364/.527 (129 OPS+), 22 HR, 18 SB, 2.6 ZR, 4.5 WAR   +   Coming off of a true breakout rookie season (3rd highest WAR among rookies, and 7th among all SS)   +  Home runs in 2019 (22) surpassed his career minor league numbers (19 HR between Rookie league and AAA in 194 games)   +   Low strikeout rate (10.8% in 2019) and decent walk rate (7.1%)   –   As mentioned, his rookie numbers blew away his career minor league stats; he obviously benefited a lot from playing at the Great American Small-park (.973 OPS at home and .825 OPS on the road) and he’s probably due for a lot of regression   9) Andrelton Simmons (30), Washington Nationals 2019 – 157 games, .267/.332/.404 (91 OPS+), 14 HR, 5 SB, +16.7 ZR, 4.3 WAR

“[Andrelton’s] improvement with his bat has been important to us as we’ve suffered plenty of injuries to our stars this past couple of seasons. It is a bonus to have a bat with his kind of defensive ability. We were saddened, however, when he engaged in a brawl before the end of the season which resulted in him being suspended. He missed the wild card game where we lost against the Dodgers. We missed him in that game as we were already missing our third baseman Manny Machado. Hopefully, he’ll learn his lesson this season.” 

-Patrick Garde, SSG Nationals GM

   +  Statistically the best defensive SS in baseball (NL Gold Glove winner in each of the 7 full seasons of his big league career from 2013-2019)    +   Coming off of the best two defensive (+21.0 and +16.7 ZR in ‘18 and ‘19) and offensive (117 and 98 WRC+ in ‘18 and ‘19) seasons of his career    +  Doesn’t strike out a lot (11.7% in 2019 was tied for 3rd lowest among qualifying SS)    –  Very little power overall (.377 career slugging)    –  Only one above-average offensive season (116 OPS+ in 2018)    –  On the wrong side of 30 entering 2020 at a position with a lot of younger talent (Oldest player in the top 10) 8) Addison Russell (26), Chicago Cubs 2019 – 143 games, .274/.351/.465 (111 OPS+), 23 HR, 23 SB, +2.1 ZR, 4.4 WAR   +  Prototypical 5-tool shortstop   +  Just now entering the traditional “prime” years   –    Not statistically exciting in any category (7th among SS in OBP and SLG, 8th in HR, 9th in SB and ZR)   –   High Strikeout rate (18.9% in career, and 20.9% in 2019 was his career-high and 5th among SS) 7) Ozzie Albies (23), Baltimore Orioles 2019 – 158 games, .283/.364/.364 (95 OPS+), 4 HR, 56 SB, +4.8 ZR,  4.2 WAR     +   Comparable to Ozzie Smith through his first 2 full seasons, but with a much better bat     +   Awesome speed (9 triples in 2019) with great base-stealing skills (121 SB and only 25 CS since ML debut in 2017)     +   Good on-base skills (.365 and .364 OBP in first two full seasons)     +   Good strikeout to walk ratio in 2019 (87 SO/67 BB)     +   Very durable (158 and 160 games in first two full seasons with no IL time)     –   LIttle to no home run power (7 HR in first two full seasons combined) 6) Xander Bogaerts (27), Boston Red Sox 2019 – 156 games, .272/.345/.491 (113 OPS+), 33 HR, 1 SB, +0.7 ZR, 4.6 WAR     +   Consistently good since 2015 (Average of 6.6 WAR per season)     +   Great home run power (led all SS in HRs in each of the past 3 seasons) and gap power (top 5 extra base hits among SS in each of the past 5 seasons) for the position     –   Statistically mediocre defense (Average of -2.3 ZR in 2017-19)     –   No speed to speak of (24 total career steals in first 7 seasons)     –   Significant regression in 2019 (OBP down 24 points, SLG down 40 points, OPS+ down 25 points, and WAR down 1.4 from 2018)  5) Carlos Correa (24), Houston Astros 2019 – 144 games, .273/.355/.471 (112 OPS+), 27 HR, 26 SB, +3.6 ZR, 4.6 WAR     +  One year removed from breakout 6.9 WAR season in 2018     +   Another 5-tool player, good on-base, power, speed, glove and arm     +   Consistently good defense (Average of +3.3 ZR in first 4 seasons of career).     +   Greatly improved his base-stealing skills in the past 2 seasons (53 SB/14 CS in 18-19, 30 SB/21 CS in 16-17)     –    Like Bogaerts, big regression in basically every category last season (including: OBP down 12 points, SLG down 67 points, HR down 8, triples down 5, ZR down 1.5, and WAR down 2.3 from 2018) 4) Corey Seager (25), Los Angeles Dodgers 2019 – 159 games, .315/.360/.518 (138 OPS+), 26 HR, 1 SB, -2.1 ZR, 6.0 WAR     +   Consistently durable (159 games played in each of the last 3 seasons)     +   Set career-highs in hits, doubles, triples, home runs, extra-base hits, total bases, batting average, and slugging in 2019.     –   Below-average defensively (-1.4, -2.7. And -2.1 ZR in past three seasons)     –   Set career-high in strikeout rate (20.1%) and career-low in walk rate (6.6%)     –   He has had an up and down career, and if you believe in patterns, 2020 will be a relatively down year (WAR in each full big league season: 3.8 in 2016, 6.7 in 2017, 3.5 in 2018, and 6.0 in 2019) 3) Nick Gordon (24), Minnesota Twins 2019 – 159 games, .311/.362/.447 (108 OPS+), 17 HR, 51 SB, +11.5 ZR, 5.9 WAR    +  After treading-water offensively since debuting in 2015, his bat finally eclipsed league-average last year (OPS+ in 2019 was 108, previous career high was 85) which is a great sign considering his age    +   His speed may be matched by Albies, but no one is faster (51 SB last season)    +   His OBP increase last season (.362) made him an ideal lead-off hitter, and he lead the AL in plate appearances (741) and at-bats (676)    +   Only Jose Iglesias (who just barely missed the list) had a higher ZR at shortstop in each of the past 3 seasons    –   As mentioned, 2019 was his first decent offensive season, and he’ll need to have a good follow-up to stay this high on the list    –   A lot of strikeouts and not many walks (114 SO/48 BB in 2019) 2) Jurickson Profar (27), Colorado Rockies 2019 – 150 games, ..333/.418/..559 (144 OPS+), 25 HR, 3 SB, +3.9 ZR, 8.0 WAR

“With all due respect to David Dahl, Jurickson was our MVP. [2018 Rockies SS Gavin] Cecchini was a great player for us but we needed to improve our defense thus the change. We were really stagnant as a team at the time. His switch hitting was a huge asset also. He was robbed of awards by the change in leagues. His combined stats and WAR were insane and I think he went largely unnoticed. My only concern now is him maintaining this level of play.”

-Phil Macioce, SSG Rockies GM

     +   MVP caliber offensive explosion in 2019 (led all SS in AVG, OBP, SLG, and BB, second among SS in WAR and OPS+)      +   Even considering the Coors Field park effects, his juggernaut second half after joining the Rockies holds up (157 OPS+ with Colorado, 119 OPS+ with Texas in 2019)      +   Above-average defense makes him a fine fit at his position considering his bat (+3.9 ZR at SS in 2019)      +   He’s still in the midst of the typical “prime” years (he’ll be 27 on opening day) and he’s been very good in all of his first 4 full major league seasons (at least 4.4 WAR in each year from 2016-2019)      –    Historically injury-prone, and 2019 was just his second season with 150 or more games played      –   Was definitely helped by Coors Field, so we will have to see if he can follow it up 1) Francisco Lindor (26), Philadelphia Phillies 2019 – 159 games, .325/.406/.539 (154 OPS+), 29 HR, 31 SB, +8.7 ZR, 9.5 WAR

“I can’t expect anything more from last year’s MVP and the two-time defending World Series MVP. He won the Silver Slugger at SS and would have a couple of Gold Gloves if Andrelton Simmons was in the other league. He one home run away from being a 30/30 player, while getting on base over 40% of the time. He had a complete season last year. He will probably take a step back in 2020 just because his 2019 was so good it would be crazy to duplicate.”

– Andrew Seitz, SSG Phillies GM

    +    An easy choice for number 1 at a very deep position; a true MVP for the best team in baseball     +    Possesses all 5 tools at a high-level, with no holes in his game     +   Runs scored, hits, doubles, home runs, AVG, OBP, SLG, and OPS+ have increased in each of the last 3 seasons     +    Great patience (Average of 78 SO/71 BB in past 3 seasons)     –    Absolutely no negatives; an all around great player on a very team-friendly contract with many years still left in the tank if he stays healthy 4 lists down, 4 to go. Here’s a reminder of who took the top spot at each position so far: Based on the rankings in the first four positions here are the top 10 teams (so far):
  1. Colorado Rockies (#2 2B, #2 SS, #6 1B)
  2. Philadelphia Phillies (#1 SS, #3 2B, #9 C)
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks (#1 C, #4 2B)
  4. Los Angeles Dodgers (#3 C, #4 SS)
  5. Minnesota Twins (#3 SS, #5 1B)
  6. San Diego Padres (#5 2B, #6 C, #9 1B)
  7. Washington Nationals (#4 1B, #8 2B, #9 SS)
  8. San Francisco Giants (#1 2B, #10 C)
  9. Cincinnati Reds (#2 C, #10 SS)
  10. Detroit Tigers (#1 1B)
On the other hand, there are 8 teams who have had no players featured so far: the Royals, Angels, Marlins, Brewers, Yankees, Athletics, Rays, and Rangers. Thanks again for reading. Top 10 Third basemen will be coming up next, followed by the top 10 Starting pitchers, top 10 Relievers, and in lieu of ranking each outfield position individually, the finale of this series will be the top 30 Outfielders overall. Stay tuned.