usatsi-133464831.jpg
USATSI

The arrival of Major League Baseball's offseason means that, among other things, it's now the time of the year when we're going to be ranking all kinds of things -- free agents, prospects, and so on. The process got underway last week, when we rolled out our annual free-agent rankings. This year's list ran 60 deep, a nod toward the bloated free-agent class that resulted from teams declining affordable club options in a fiscally conservative response to the pandemic.

Continuing today, we'll be taking the next step with our free-agent rankings, breaking things down on a position-by-position basis. That process carries on with our top five shortstops.

Free-agent shortstop rankings
1
Andrelton Simmons Los Angeles Angels SS
(No. 9 overall) How messed up was 2020? Simmons, arguably the best fielding shortstop of his generation, graded as a below-average defender, according to public-facing metrics. Now, to be fair, he played in only 30 games because of an ankle injury and his decision to opt-out late in the year. To be even more fair, reviewing his play suggests that he was largely the same rangy, big-armed, sure-handed defender he's always been, he just dropped a few pop-ups that he shouldn't have dropped and didn't have enough time to atone for it. Fair enough. Simmons did enjoy a bounce back season at the plate, though his only real skill there is making contact. He's posted a 98 OPS+ since the start of the 2017 season, but let's be real: you aren't signing him for his stick.
2
Marcus Semien Oakland Athletics SS
(No. 11 overall) Semien failed to repeat or build upon his 2019, when he finished third in the American League in Most Valuable Player Award voting. Instead his OPS+, like many millennials this year, regressed into the 90s; a familiar place for it, as it has resided there in six of the past seven seasons. That isn't to suggest Semien is the same player he was back in 2014. He walks more frequently, punches out less frequently, and has worked hard to improve his defense. It's worth noting that his batting average on balls in play was well below his norm, suggesting his production ought to improve even if everything else remains the same. Semien turned 30 in September, so the length of his contract could eventually necessitate a position change.
3
Didi Gregorius Philadelphia Phillies SS
(No. 17 overall) Take a glance at Gregorius' Baseball-Reference page, and you'll find that he had a 119 OPS+, 10 home runs, and a reduced strikeout rate in 2020, suggesting he's going to get paid. Dig a little deeper, though, and you'll find a trove of red flags concerning his offensive performance. To rattle them off: his average exit velocity was a career-worst 83.7 mph; he hit the ball 95 mph or harder as frequently as Jose Peraza and Tyler Wade did; his max exit velocity (104.7 mph) was five ticks below his '19 mark, and ranked 248th out of 257 qualified hitters; and so on. Maybe there's a sensible explanation here, but when a fair amount of a player's value is tied to hitting the ball hard ... and they're demonstrably not hitting the ball hard ... well, it's something to weigh.
4
Enrique Hernandez Los Angeles Dodgers 2B
(No. 51 overall) Hernandez's value to a team is straightforward. He's a fun-loving presence, a versatile defender, and a capable batsman against left-handed pitching. It's theoretically possible that some team will give him a chance as an everyday player, just to see if there's something more there ... but from this vantage point, his optimal role is the one he's been occupying for the Dodgers .
5
Freddy Galvis Cincinnati Reds SS
(Unranked in top 60) Galvis is a better hitter and a worse fielder than he was earlier in his career. You'd rather employ him as a sub than a starter, but he just turned 31 and the odds are he'll get one more run as a primary shortstop.