Spring Training is a week away. Pitchers and catchers begin reporting to camp in just a few days, and in less than three weeks, Grapefruit League and Cactus League games will begin. We’re almost home.
So, with the offseason coming to an end, it’s time to look ahead to the upcoming season. And to do that, we’re going to break down the top 10 players at each position over the next several days. Some things to keep in mind:
- The players are ranked according to who we’d want for 2017 only. Contracts and salaries don’t matter. Simply put, if you are trying to win the World Series this year, who do you want at the position?
- These rankings are the result of voting by your four CBSSports.com baseball writers: R.J. Anderson, Mike Axisa, Dayn Perry, and Matt Snyder. We ranked the players individually and averaged them all together.
- These are not fantasy baseball rankings. You can find those here. It’s not just about offense. All-around play matters, especially here at an up-the-middle position.
Up next are the shortstops. Given what we know now, it would be unfair to compare this group to the late 1990s class of shortstops that included Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Miguel Tejada, Nomar Garciaparra, and Edgar Renteria. That said, the current class of shortstops around baseball are incredibly impressive and have already done some amazing things early in their careers. Let’s get to the rankings, shall we?
Francisco Lindor Cleveland Indians SS
| The 2016 postseason gave fans around a world the chance to see the all-around brilliance of Indians franchise cornerstone Francisco Lindor. He’s a switch-hitter with power (48 extra-base hits in 2016), speed (19 steals), defense (+20.8 UZR), and a million dollar smile. Lindor is a career .306/.356/.454 (111 OPS+) hitter in the regular season, then he managed a .310/.355/.466 batting line in October. No other shortstop has as much impact in every phase of the game (hitting, defense, baserunning), which is why Lindor sits atop our rankings.|
Carlos Correa Houston Astros SS
| Going into last season Astros shortstop Carlos Correa was a trendy AL MVP pick, and while he didn’t win the award (or even receive a single MVP vote), he did hit .274/.361/.451 (123 OPS+) with 20 home runs in his age 21 season. Correa is a solid defender as well, but he stands out most for his offense. He’s already garnered “the next A-Rod” comparisons, which are probably unfair, but aren’t completely outlandish. Once he reaches his prime, Correa has a chance to put up some all-time great seasons.|
Corey Seager Los Angeles Dodgers SS
| Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager just wrapped up his first full big league season, and he already has more finishes in the top three of the MVP voting (1) than the other nine players on this list combined (0). That’s what happens when you hit .308/.365/.512 (137 OPS+) with 40 doubles and 26 home runs at a crucial up-the-middle position. Seager will turn 23 shortly after Opening Day and I know I’m not the only person anxious to see how he follows up his historic rookie campaign.|
Xander Bogaerts Boston Red Sox SS
| Compared to the three players ahead of him on this list, Xander Bogaerts is a grizzled veteran. The Red Sox shortstop turned 24 back in October and he just completed his third full MLB season. Bogaerts has established himself as a solidly above-average hitter, authoring a .307/.355/.434 (108 OPS+) batting line from 2015-16 and smashing a career-high 21 home runs in 2016, and he’s made a lot of progress defensively as well. He did all of that after getting his first real taste of the big leagues as a 20-year-old third baseman during the 2013 postseason.|
Brandon Crawford San Francisco Giants SS
| From 2011-15, Brandon Crawford’s offensive progression was textbook. Here is his year-to-year OPS+ from 2011-15: 67, 86, 93, 104, 113. Perfect. Crawford hit .275/.342/.430 (106 OPS+) with 12 homers and 51 extra-base hits for the Giants in 2016, while also playing his typically excellent defense. Many players in our shortstop rankings are just starting their careers. Crawford has been reliably above-average for a half-decade now.|
Addison Russell Chicago Cubs SS
| It’s hard to think a shortstop could hit 21 home runs and drive in 95 runs and still be underrated, but that’s pretty much exactly what happened with Cubs shortstop Addison Russell last year. I guess that happens when you’re only the third best player on your own infield. Russell struggled in the postseason, but he hit .238/.321/.417 (97 OPS+) during the 2016 regular season and rates as a stellar defender (+15.4 UZR). Out of everyone in this post, I think Russell will improve the most from 2016 to 2017. He turned just 23 last month.|
Andrelton Simmons Los Angeles Angels SS
| The offense hasn’t come along as hoped since his out-of-nowhere 17 home run season in 2013 -- he’s hit 15 homers combined in the three seasons since -- but Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons makes the top 10 because he is still the game’s premier defensive shortstop. He very well might be the best defensive player in baseball, regardless of position. Andrelton’s worst full seasons are +18 DRS and +15.4 UZR. A run saved with the glove is as good as a run created with the bat. Simmons’ net production makes him one of the game’s best at the position.|
Troy Tulowitzki Toronto Blue Jays SS
| We haven’t done these player rankings all that long -- this is only the second year of our positional player rankings -- but, had we done them during the mid-to-late 200s, Troy Tulowitzki would have been a mainstay atop the shortstop list. Tulo, now 32, is no longer the hitter he was during his prime with the Rockies, but he can still provide pop (24 homers in 2016), a solid bat (101 OPS+), and good defense (+4.9 UZR). He remains a rock solid shortstop with the Blue Jays.|
Trea Turner Washington Nationals CF
| The 2016 NL Rookie of the Year runner-up to Seager, Nationals wunderkind Trea Turner has not yet been a full-time big league shortstop. He played center field last year in deference to Danny Espinosa, who has since been traded away, allowing Turner to return to his natural position. The 23-year-old dazzled in 73 big league games a year ago, hitting .342/.370/.567 (144 OPS+) with 13 homers and 33 steals in 39 attempts. The scouting reports indicate he’ll play quality defense at short as well. Getting Turner and Joe Ross for Steven Souza will go down as one general manager Mike Rizzo’s biggest heists.|
Jean Segura Seattle Mariners SS
| The voting totals were tight at the bottom of our list, but Diamondbacks second baseman turned Mariners shortstop Jean Segura claims the final spot in our rankings. He led the NL with 203 hits in 2016 and posted a .319/.368/.499 (124 OPS+) batting line overall. Segura’s defense at short was hit or miss during his time in Milwaukee, so the Mariners are banking on his bat making up for anything he costs them in the field.|