COMMENTARY: After looking at the starting third basemen of the National League last time, today we move onto the shortstops. While most of the formula in this selection process is based on numbers from 2013, a few may remain slightly higher if there is reasonable expectation for them to return to form in 2014.
15. Didi Gregorius/Arizona Diamondbacks- On MLB Network, manager Kirk Gibson told us that he is leaning toward Gregorius over Chris Owings and that has to be a good thing considering Owings had 28 errors at AAA Reno last season. However, Didi didn’t impress much last season with that .252 average and his 13 errors. Owings might get a shot after hitting .330 in his 20 year-old season in 2013.
14. Ruben Tejada/New York Mets- If the battle wasn’t on in Arizona, Tejada may have been the worst of the bunch. His 10 RBI in 2013, along with his .202 average has to be making the Mets think about someone else. MLB Trade Rumors keeps telling us about the Mets in talks with Stephen Drew. The Metropolitans can only hope.
13. Adeiny Hechavarria/Miami Marlins- His 15 errors hurt him and his lack of pop (only three homers) didn’t help. He had double digit steals, but he definitely has to do better than hitting .227 or the Marlins will be forced to try to move Rafael Furcal or Ed Lucas there.
12. Jordy Mercer/Pittsburgh Pirates- Jordy’s placing here shows you how strong the shortstop position is in the National League in 2014. He split time with Clint Barmes in 2013, but the gig is his now after showing off some pop with eight homers in 103 games and hitting .285. He needs to lower the errors from 15 a season ago, but those are league average and the Pirates have been spoiled by Barmes defensively and almost a decade of former Bucco Jack Wilson’s defensive theatrics.
11. Everth Cabrera/San Diego Padres- Everth is one of those that got hurt by the PED suspension in 2013. I know he wasn’t a powerhouse with the bat (only four homers and 31 RBI), but how he comes out of the suspension will tell us if he moves up. His 37 steals mean that he is electric on the basepaths and if he keeps hitting for average and improves upon the .283 in 95 games last year, he will definitely crack the top ten in 2015.
10. Jimmy Rollins/Philadelphia Phillies- To see Rollins fall this far tells you how far from his 2007 NL MVP season that he is in 2014. In ’07, he led the NL with 716 at bats, 139 runs scored and hit a phenomenal 20 triples, which is unheard of in today’s game. He also had 30 homers and drove in 94 runs while hitting .296. He’s not even a weak facsimile of that player as he still played in 160 games, but hit only six homers with 39 RBI while hitting .252. He did steal 22 bases only commit 11 errors, which only trailed Troy Tulowitski and Jhonny Peralta in errors among shortstops and both of those played in a lot less games.
9. Brandon Crawford/San Francisco Giants- Crawford is another SS on the up-and-coming list. He hit nine homers and drove in 43 runs a season ago. Again, his 15 errors are league average and he will improve on these in the future. He also needs to improve on his .248 batting average.
8. Zack Cozart/Cincinnati Reds- While many critics of the Reds talk bad about Cozart at short, his numbers prove better than average. His 14 errors may be just slightly better, but he also hit 12 homers and drove in 63 runs for the Reds. He also hit .254, but I expect that number to improve as he enters his third season in Cincinnati.
7. Starlin Castro/ Chicago Cubs- A lot of his ranking has to do with a poor team and his frustration as the season progressed in 2013. His numbers suffered even though he led the National League in at bats for the third straight season. He hit only ten homers, stole only nine bases and drove in 44 as he hit a career-low .245. With all the moves the Cubs made over the winter, I can’t see him staying that low again.
6. Jean Segura/Milwaukee Brewers- The Brew Crew has to be pleased with the future of this guy. He may have had 15 errors defensively, which will improve, but his offense will be near the top of the order for some time to come. In 2013, he hit .294, stole 44 bases, hit ten triples and 12 homers. The double play combo with Scooter Gennett means the middle is protected for quite a while.
5. Jhonny Peralta/St. Louis Cardinals- The Cards broke the bank hoping that the PED suspension is behind him and the hitting that he did before it will continue. He had 30 doubles in only 107 games, along with 11 homers and 55 runs batted in while hitting .303 for the Detroit Tigers in 2013. Truthfully, the only reason that the Tigers were able to pass on him was the emergence of Jose Iglesias.
4. Andrelton Simmons/Atlanta Braves- When I heard Chipper Jones talk about him as the future of the franchise in Spring Training a year ago, I had my doubts. The 2013 season erased my doubts. Simmons missed only five games and hit 27 doubles, 17 homers and drove in 59 runs while hitting .248. While his stolen base numbers haven’t jumped out yet as he only had six a season ago, there is no reason to think his double-digit steals won’t return with experience. He had as many as 26 at A+ Lynchburg in 2011.
3. Ian Desmond/Washington Nationals- While his 20 errors only trailed Starlin Castro for most by a shortstop, his bat continued to thrive in 2013. Desmond is one of only three NL shortstops to hit 20 homers. Along with that, he stole 20+ bases (21) for the third consecutive season. He is a dual threat that makes him possibly the top fantasy option of NL shortstops.
2. Troy Tulowitski/Colorado Rockies- Tulo led NL shortstops with 25 homers, hit 27 doubles, drove in 82 runs and hit .312. The problem is that he only played 126 games. For the Rockies to thrive, they need more of Tulo. His eight errors led the National League in least errors in 2013, even though Peralta had only four in Detroit.
1. Hanley Ramirez/Los Angeles Dodgers- Like Tulo, a full season of Hanley couldn’t hurt the Dodgers. In 86 games, he hit 20 homers, had 25 doubles, 57 RBI and hit .345. His 105 hits in 86 games also helped him to finish eighth in the Most Valuable Player voting, which tells you how valuable it is to have Hanley Ramirez in your lineup. Yes, his 13 errors may have been closer to 20 with a full season, but his offense is so helpful to the Dodgers that it overshadows his defense.
So that’s a look at the starting shortstops. Next time, we’ll look at the starting catchers and their influence.
Statistics grabbed from Baseball Reference.com.