Shortstop is without question one of the most important positions on the diamond.  In the 1990s and early 2000s, we witnessed a tremendous crop of shortstop that were never-before-seen offensive forces.  Guys like Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra, Barry Larkin, Derek Jeter, and Cal Ripkin Jr were stars in the league at shortstop because of this offensive prowess.  Nowadays, that offensive power has shifted back to the other 3 infield positions.  A-Rod was moved to shortstop and Derek Jeter is at the back end of his career. Hanley Ramirez is another guy who was moved from shortstop to third base. Many of these moves were based on having other guys to man shortstop already; however teams now are looking for a great defender with speed and range to play the shortstop position on an everyday basis, even while sacrificing the offensive firepower.  There are some great looking young shortstops that have either already arrived in the show, or will be there very soon.  Established guys like Elvis Andrus and Starlin Castro have already produced all-star caliber seasons. On the farm, top prospects Jurickson Profar, Xander Bogaerts, and Francisco Lindor should be names we will be hearing about for a long time to come.  Overall, the future of shortstop looks bright, possibly once again providing us with a golden age at the position.

5. Derek Jeter, New York Yankees

     Derek Jeter will go down as not only one of the greatest Yankees ever, but one of the greatest players in history.  The Yankee captain will eventually add his number 2 to the already long list of Yankee retired numbers with his career .313/.382/.448 slash line and five world championships. Derek is coming off a tremendous 2012 with his bat, hitting .316/.362/.429 with a 114 OPS+ and notching his 8th career 200+ hit season.  His bat should be productive again in 2013; however his age and defensive abilities are what have hurt Jeter.  Jeter will be 39 this June, and he has only saved a positive number of runs one time in his 18 year career.  His 9 career gold gloves may be a bit misleading, as Jeter has saved an atrocious -142 runs for his entire career.  His defense again will haunt him in 2013, but his bat is good enough to make him a top 5 shortstop for 2013 and I would expect around a 3 win season from Jeter. 

4. Jose Reyes, Toronto Blue Jays

      After signing a big 6-year contract with the new-look Miami Marlins in the 2011 offseason, Reyes was quickly shipped off to Toronto in a major blockbuster trade after a dismal season for the 2012 Marlins.  North of the border, Reyes will provide a huge spark in a lineup that already includes a lot of firepower.  Reyes, just one year removed from a batting title, had another good season offensively.  He batted .287/.347/.433 in 2012 with an OPS+ of 111.  Along with hitting for a high average and getting on base at a solid rate, Reyes brings 40+ stolen base potential, having done so 5 times in his career, including 2012.  Despite his good speed, Reyes struggles on the defensive side of the ball.  He has not saved a positive number of runs since 2007 and -18 DRS for his 10 year big league career.  He has also committed at least 15 errors in each of his past 3 years.  Regardless, Jose was a 2.8 win player in 2012 and I look for him to be around 3 or 3.5 in 2013. 

3. Ian Desmond , Washington Nationals

      The Nationals' 26 year old shortstop broke out in a big way for the National League East champions in 2012.  He batted .292/.335/.511 with an OPS+ of 126.  His power stood out as he blasted 25 big flies while playing in just 130 games.  He also brought the speed factor into his game while stealing 21 bases in 27 attempts (78%).  It is fair to say Desmond did a little bit of everything offensively in 2012 and we should expect more of the same in 2012 as he enters his age 27 season. Defensively, Desmond saved -6 runs at shortstop and is at -19 for his career.  In spite of his defensive shortcomings, Ian should be about a 3.5 win player in 2013. 

2. Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays

      Ben Zobrist has been a super utility man throughout the majority of his career.  However, with the Rays plans to keep him as a primary shortstop in 2013, Zobrist fits into to the second spot on our shortstops list.  Zobrist has been nothing but consistent throughout the past 4 seasons at the “Trop.”  He’s played in at least 151 games in each of those years.  Although he does not hit for a particularly high batting average (.260 career), Zobrist is able to be a very productive offensive player.  He has a career .354 OBP and had a .377 OBP in 2012.  This is a result of his great patience at the plate as he has walked at least 91 times in 3 of his past 4 seasons.  He also hits for decent power, coming off a year in which he slugged .471.  He has also mashed at least 20 home runs in 3 of his last 4 seasons.  Stealing bases is not a huge part of his game although he has been able to swipe at least 14 in each of his last 4 seasons.  Defensively, Zobrist has been fantastic no matter where he plays as he has saved 60 runs over his 7 year career.  Ben has very impressively been able to compile a WAR of at least 5.5 in 3 of his last 4 seasons and has even reached 8 in 2 of them.  Any man who can be an 8 win player should be considered for MVP because of the overall value he brings.  Zobrist just simply makes the Tampa Bay Rays a MUCH better ball club than what they would be without him.  Look for Zobrist to be a 5-6 win player again in 2013. 

1. Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies

      Despite playing in just 47 games in 2012, “Tulo” has proven he is absolutely the best overall shortstop in all of baseball.  With Tulowitzki having played full seasons in 4 of his last 5 seasons before 2012, we will mainly focus on his production before last year. Expecting full health for 2013, it is very reasonable to expect the type of numbers he put up before his injury because he has been so consistent.  The 28-year old had an OPS+ of at least 130 each year from 2009-2011.  In those seasons, he never hit below .297, never had an OBP of under .372, and never slugged less than .544.  He also hit at least 30 home runs in 2 of those 3 years.  Speed wise, Tulo was able to swipe 20 bags in 2009, but that number dropped to just 9 in 2011.  After his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2007 at the age of 22, Tulowitzki has not disappointed.  Along with his tremendous offensive production, Troy is one of the best defenders in the game.  He saved a whopping 31 runs during his rookie year, and taking away his injury plagued 2012, has never saved a negative number of runs and is at 68 for his career.  Tulo is without a doubt a superstar at shortstop. He has been a 6 win player 4 times in his career, and I would expect that number to be the same in 2013.  

By: Nick Rabasco



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