What was the worst trade of 2018? (part 2)

What was the worst trade of 2018? (part 2)

This is part two of a three-part series discussing the most unfavorable trades of 2018. When the Pirates traded away Auston Meadows and Tyler Glasnow to the Rays for Chris Archer it shocked the world. The Pirates were still three and a half games out of the wild card and it looked like they would need more than one piece to get back into it. Archer had a 4.31 ERA at the time of the trade, leading many to believe the Rays had missed their opportunity to sell high on Archer. Boy was everyone wrong about that. At the time the baseball world knew the Pirates had just given up more assets to acquire Archer than they had gotten for their longtime ace Gerrit Cole. Gerrit Cole’s potential was always higher than Archer’s and both pitchers had their ups and downs throughout their career but almost everyone thought Cole would end up being the better pitcher when all was said and done. Since Archer came to Pittsburgh he has posted a 4.92 era and has looked like a shell of the Chris Archer everyone knew from the Rays. This has led many to believe the Rays knew something was potentially wrong with Archer. The Pirates did not make the playoffs in 2018 and looked like a disaster in 2019 only winning 69 games. The Pirates look like they are headed into a full rebuild so unless Archer regains some trade value this trade could go down as one of the worst in Pirates history. Surprisingly the Rays had gone and traded for Tommy Pham on that day despite being out of the race. Pham was an outfielder in his late 20s, so it is surprising that they would trade for him the same day they traded away their staff ace. The Pham trade signaled the Rays wanted to compete while many thought the Archer deal meant the Rays may be rebuilding. In the Archer trade however, The Rays actually picked up two prospects that were very close to the majors. Despite various injuries Auston Meadows had hit and hit for power his entire minor league career. He was a former 9th overall pick and once he got healthy he moved quickly to the major leagues and has been even better than many people anticipated. He has a career .888 OPS and 39 home runs in just 197 games. He has been the rays most complete hitter since arriving there and, with Tommy Pham being traded to the Padres, this year Meadows will be counted on even more going forward. The Rays kept him in the minors once they received him even though the Pirates had brought him up and he had hit .292 in a 49-game sample there. He only played 110 regular season games for the Rays that season and never had a chance to get going. I knew he was the best player on that team in 2018 and in 2019. I have been following Meadows since he appeared in the Under Armour All American Game and everyone was talking about him and Clint Frazier.
Prior to his arrival in 2017 Tyler Glasnow was nearly unhittable in the minor leagues. He had trouble with his control and command at times but when it was on there was almost nothing any hitter could do about it. In 2016 he posted a 1.93 ERA in double and triple-A. While he did struggle at the big-league level from 2016-2018 everyone knew if he figured it out he could be one of the best starters in baseball. Not many pitchers have a 6-8 frame and the stuff that Glasnow does. While Meadows alone has already provided more value to the Rays than Archer has to the Pirates, Glasnow showed that big things could be coming from him to as he posted a 1.78 ERA in 2019 before getting injured. The Rays won 96 games in 2019 and look poised to be a contender for the foreseeable future led by Meadows and Glasnow. This trade was a clear win for the Rays and this could get even more lopsided in the future if 2019 is any indication for what the future holds. The Pirates ended up cleaning house shortly after this trade and bringing in a new front office. The Rays on the other hand have two foundational players to build around for the foreseeable future.
What was the worst trade of 2018? (part 1)

What was the worst trade of 2018? (part 1)

This is part one of a three-part series. There have been three mega trades over the last two years that make the word heist seem reserved when describing them. All three of these trades were made in 2018.
Marlins trade of OF Christian Yelich to the Brewers for OF Lewis Brinson, OF Monte Harrison, IF Isan Díaz and P Jordan Yamamoto
Rays trade P Chris Archer to Pirates for P Tyler Glasnow, OF Austin Meadows and P Shane Baz
And
The Seattle Mariners trade Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to the New York Mets for Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak, Gerson Bautista and prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn.
Let’s start with the Marlins deal. Christian Yelich was coming off a down year in 2017 compared to his 2016 campaign. He hit only 18 homeruns with an .807 OPS compared to 21 homeruns and an .859 OPS the year before. People were wondering if he had tapped out his power potential already at just 20 homeruns. He had also moved over to centerfield in 2017 where he posted an ugly -12 defensive runs saved after posting a positive two defensive runs saved in left field in 2016. The Marlins were in full tear down mode having already traded face of the franchise Giancarlo Stanton and fellow outfielder Marcel Ozuna. Yelich also had voiced displeasure about the direction of the team. His underlying skills suggested he had more power than he was showing even though he was seen as a solid everyday player at the time. Yelich had a team friendly deal so the Marline wanted to try to cash in this last trade chip to help move their rebuild along. The Brewers were coming off an 86-76 season and had not been in the postseason since 2011. On the same day they traded for Yelich they signed Lorenzo Cain. This was a clear move the Brewers believed they had the pieces to win now at the big-league level. They had a great bullpen led by Josh Hader and Corey Knebel and built a decent rotation led by Wade Miley and Jhoulys Chachin. They added Cain and Yelich to a lineup already featuring Ryan Braun and a few players they were hoping would turn their careers back around such as Jesus Aguilar and Domingo Santana. The Brewers would go on to win 96 games in 2018 and 89 more in 2019 led by Christian Yelich who would go on to win the 2018 MVP award and if not for breaking his knee in 2019 may have won another, instead he had to settle for a second-place finish. Upon arriving in Milwaukee Yelich found his power stroke hitting 36 homeruns in 2018 while leading the National League in batting average, slugging percentage, OPS, OPS+ and total bases. He also stole 22 bases and posted a 7.3 WAR. He was on track for an even better encore in 2019 as he hit 44 homeruns, stole 30 bases and led the NL in batting average, on base percentage, OPS and OPS+. He accumulated a 7.0 WAR despite playing in only 130 games in 2019 and has been the best player in baseball not named Mike Trout over the past two seasons and looks primed to be once again in 2020. The problem here is the Brewers now look like they could be headed in the wrong direction. Ryan Braun is not getting any younger, they lost Mike Moustakas their third basmen, Yasmani Grandal their starting catcher and pitcher Chase Anderson between 2019 and 2020. They only have one pitcher in Brandon Woodruff that inspires confidence for now and the future. And after this deal they do not have a great farm system anymore. They may never be able to win the big one and now with Yelich’s new extension bringing in talent could be harder going forward. The Marlins received four prospects in this deal with Lewis Brinson being the centerpiece. Prior to 2017 Lewis Brinson was a top prospect ever since being drafted 29th overall by the Texas Rangers in 2012. He was a highly touted prospect with burgeoning five too talent. So far however he has struggled to the tune of a .183 batting average and a .531 OPS in the majors. With 211 strikeouts to 37 walks in the MLB, Brinson needs to refine his approach and produce results quickly to be a part of the Marlins future plans. So, one prospect in the deal may already be a bust, the second one Monte Harrison has not yet reached the big leagues. Monte Harrison is the number 9 prospect in the Marlins system. In 2018 he had a 37 percent strikeout rate and even though he did lower it to 29 percent in 2019 he will need to further refine his approach if he wants to have an impact at the big-league level. He has four tools which grade out as a 55 or better according to MLB.com but his ability to make contact will need to improve for the 24-year-old to be a big-league starter one day. So, with two players with plate discipline issues already, here comes Isan Diaz who struck out 59 times in just 49 games in the big leagues this year. Yes, it was his rookie season and he have time to improve but he did post a 26.6 strikeout rate in the minors in 2017 and outside of 2019 had little to no success in the minor leagues. Was 2019 just a fluke for Diaz or will he be able to adjust to major league pitching? The jury is still out on that one but if he can’t develop into a franchise second baseman for the Marlins this trade will be one they regret for a very long time. Now there is one last player in this trade Jordan Yamamoto. While he did strikeout over a batter an inning in the majors last year he also posted a 4.46 era and scouts have never thought he would be an ace. Even if he is a good pitcher he will need to help the Marlins win for many years and in important games, even if he does that, this trade still looks better for the Brewers. The Brewers essentially paid pennies on the dollar for Yelich in this trade but ultimately it is looking more and more likely that neither team may get the final prize of a world series championship with the players in this trade on those championship roosters. In conclusion the Brewers won the Yelich trade big but unless they can come up with a better starting pitching staff and soon they may not get the ring they are searching for with Yelich on the rooster. The Marlins wish they got more for Yelich, but they still could end up benefitting from the players they received but they have to start hoping it is soon.
Who is the best young player in the MLB to build around?

Who is the best young player in the MLB to build around?

Who is the top young talent to build around for the next 10 years? There are many choices throughout the major and minor leagues as baseball has become a young man’s game. In 2019 we witnessed Juan Soto win the World Series in his second year, Ronald Acuna Jr nearly join the 40/40 club in his sophomore year and we watched as Pete Alonso slug 53 homeruns in his inaugural season. Fernando Tatis Jr. became an overnight sensation when he slugged 22 homeruns and stole 16 bases in just over half a season of play. Vladimir Guerrero Jr was the top prospect in baseball heading into last season and Jo Adell, Eloy Jimmenez, Luis Robert Gavin Lux, Rafael Devers and Bo Bichete are all sensational young players with prospect pedigree galore.
So, who is the best? Ronald Acuna Jr. is a 5-tool centerfielder who has a bit of a strikeout problem. His strikeout percentage was 25.3 his rookie year and went up to 26.3 last year. However, he also was three steals away from a 40-home run 40 stolen base season. He should continue putting up close to 40/40 numbers until he loses some speed due to age. If he cuts his strikeout rate down to below 20% nothing will stop him. Juan Soto has posted two seasons of a .400 OBP in his year 19 and 20 season. That is almost unheard of. He has the discipline of a 10-year veteran and increased his power from 22 homeruns his rookie year to 34 last year and helped the Nationals win the world series. He even added 12 steals last year despite speed not being a big part of his game. He is limited to left field defensively and was only average out there after being even worse his rookie season. If Soto can be above average defensively and keep the double-digit steals and Acuna doesn’t get better plate discipline he will be the best choice. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. came in with more hype than anyone since Bryce Harper. Many people consider his rookie season a big disappointment as he was just above average offensively using OPS+ and his negative 9 defensive runs saved was even worse. He did put on s how in the homerun derby where he showed off his lightning quick bat speed. If he improves like many expect him to in his second season and moving forward he could be the best hitter in this draft. No matter what position he plays he will probably never be more than an e=average fielder and that’s assuming he doesn’t get too big. While he will never provide the all-around value of Acuna it is his bat that will tell his story. Luis Robert hasn’t even taken an at bat at the big-league level and the white sox have already inked him to a 50-million-dollar contract that runs through2025. This is because he is a 5-tool outfielder who hit .328 with a 1.001 OPS. With no MLB experience and a minor league strikeout rate that has some people concerned we cannot crown him the best player in baseball just yet. A better question might be, is he better than Jo Adell right now? Jo Adell battled injuries in 2019but still posted a respectable .289 average and .834 OPS with 10 homeruns in only 76 games played. He is another 5-tool outfielder with a very similar skill set to Robert. I believe he has even more potential as I was watching him in the futures game and he made baseball look easy the way Robinson Cano des. They look like they can go 85% and still get better results than everyone else going 100%. Now he also has not played an MLB game and when that will change is unknown but him and Robert could be battling for the top outfield spot once Trout’s reign is over (if it ever is). Eloy Jimenez is Luis Robert’s teammate and was the top White Sox prospect heading into 2019. He didn’t have the greatest rookie year but did slug .513 with 31 home runs. If he can improve n his .315 on base he could be one of the most dangerous hitter for the next ten years but unless he cleans up his defense he will not join the top tier of young players. Bo Bichete came up at the end of 2019 to play 46 games and posted a .930 OPS. The future shortstop of the blue jays hit 11 home runs and with a 70-grade hit tool has a high offensive ceiling. Should he be able to stick at short if he is able to contribute positively on the base paths he will be competing for the top player on this list. He could already be the best young shortstop in this game if the ability to stay on the field is included (pointing at you Tatis Jr.). Gavin Lux had one of the biggest jumps on prospect lists in 2019 after a banner year that saw him tear up the higher levels of the minor leagues to the tune of a .347 average with 26 homeruns and a 1.028 OPS. While he only has a.705 OPS in the majors last year he is the favorite to win the NL rookie of the year in 2020. While he improved last season at shortstop and has quieted some critics who worry about his throwing accuracy it remains to be seen if Lux ultimately ends up at shortstop or second base long term. If he can be a solid defensive shortstop with his potential to hit .300 and 25+ homeruns a season he could be near the top of this list. We end on two major leaguers one who could be competing for batting titles for years to come at Fenway park and one who could be competing for homeruns crowns in Flushing. Rafael Devers had a great 58 game debut in 2017 but then struggled mightily in 2018. He seemed to make positive adjustments in 2019 and hit .311 and led the American League with 54 doubles. While Devers struggles a lot on defense he still managed to put up a 5.9 War season in 2019. While defense may always hold him back from being elite he could be battling his division rival Guerrero Jr for years to see who the best third base bat is for the next ten years. My money is on Vlad Jr. however, but Devers should not be slept on. Lastly, we have the National league rookie of the year for 2019 Pete Alonso. If he wasn’t already 25 and didn’t play only first base he might have had a shot at the top spot. As it is he is the best power hitter on this list and the best future first baseman by miles.
So, my final analysis of the players are as follows Acuna will follow Mike Trout as the next number one baseball player in the MLBSoto may end up being a better hitter than Acuna but not a better overall playerPete Alonso will one day be the best first baseman in the majors and maybe even the best slugger overall.
Fernando Tatis Jr. needs more time and to stay healthy but if he can do that while playing shortstop could be better than Soto but will probably end up being slightly below his level.Vlad Jr. may be the best hitter overall of this group and should bring Toronto to its feet every at bat, but he is not a complete enough player to be number one with this group of players comingJo Adell or Luis Robert could be the next Acuna but will have to prove it in the majors first.Gavin lux could be the best second baseman in baseball but if he moved to short could have even more value overall. He probably will not top Tatis but could be secondBo Bichette could be number two at shortstop if Lux isn’t.Rafael Devers will fight Vlad Jr. for top third base honors for the next decade but topping him will be tough if they both stay at third.
Are Joe Mauer, Buster Posey and Thurman Munson Hall of Famers?

Are Joe Mauer, Buster Posey and Thurman Munson Hall of Famers?

One has three championship rings the other has three batting titles and one has three gold gloves. For the past 15 years there have been two catchers that have stood above the rest. Joe Mauer was the face of the Minnesota Twins organization for 15 years. He was drafted first overall out of Cretin-Derham Hall High School in Minnesota. Buster Posey was drafted fifth overall in the 2008 MLB draft out of Florida State University and has been the face of three championship teams in San Francisco. Decades before Joe Mauer and Buster Posey came onto the scene there was a man named Thurman Munson who had a great career that was cut short. Below I analyze the Hall of Fame case for these three players
Joe Mauer has a career .306/.388/.439 slash line. That is his batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. That adds up to an .827 on base plus slugging percentage and a park adjusted 124 OPS+. Mauer played 15 years in the MLB from 2004-2015. He played catcher for 11 seasons and 921 games. He also played first base and DH over his career. Mauer has collected three batting titles in 2006, 2008 and 2009. He is the only catcher ever to accomplish the feat three times.
While never being known for his power Mauer did club 28 homeruns in 2009 while leading the American league in batting average, on base percentage slugging percentage and OPS+ on his way to winning the American league most valuable player award. He also has a career 123 WRC+ and a 55.3 WAR.
When it came to fielding, he was +14 defensive runs saved meaning he was just above average every season. He also contributed plus 23 defensive runs saved at first, showing that even if his bat wasn’t the same after he moved out from behind the plate, he was adding some defensive value as well. He also has a career 33% caught stealing percentage and led the league in 2007 and 2013.
Despite playing 603 games at first base he still played 921 out of 1526 games behind the plate and his best years were behind the plate as well. Mauer is seventh all time in WAR for catchers and there are only four catchers who amassed a better WAR over their best seven seasons in the big leagues – Hall of Famers Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Mike Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez. Jay Jaffe developed a JAWS score to assess players chances of making the hall of fame and Mauer’s Jaws score is the seventh highest all time among catchers, and the six catchers above him plus the next four below him are in the Hall of Fame. With few offensive catchers as good as him ever and his average defense at the catcher position with offensive production as good as his he is a clear hall of fame player any way you look at it.
Buster Posey has a career .302/.370/.456 slash line. His career OPS is .826 and his OPS+ is 128 both great career numbers for any hitter especially a catcher. Buster Posey is still catching for the San Francisco Giants, so his story is not quite complete. He has 140 career homeruns and 673 RBIS resulting in four career silver slugger awards. In 2010 he won the rookie of the year after posting an .862 OPS and 18 home runs in just 108 games. He won the batting title and MVP in 2012 and he posted a league leading 171 OPS+. He also has a careeer WRC+ of 128 and a career War of 41.8.
While he amassed most of his WAR offensively he also has accumulated 121 defensive runs saved and has caught 33% of the runners trying to steal on him. He also has been highly regarded as a pitch framer and a leader on the San Francisco Giants three World Series teams. While Posey has played 229 games at first base and may see more time there as he ages he still has played 987 games at catcher and all his best years were crouching behind the plate.
While Posey’s career postseason stats are nothing to write home about he did hit .375 in his first postseason series, .300 in his first World Series and .389 in an NLDS series win against Washington in 2014. He also was only the fifth rookie catcher ever to hit a homerun in the World Series. While technically Posey only has 8 great years catching and hitting, the Hall of Fame looks for most players to have 10 great years on their resume. Posey should still get in one day.
Posey is currently the 19th best catcher ranked by WAR all time, but with just 4.2 more WAR accumulated over his career he will move into the top 15 all time amongst catchers. Ranking WAR over the best seven years of a player’s career makes Posey ninth amongst catchers. While he may not ever add to that total he shouldn’t need to as all but two catchers ahead of him are in the Hall of Fame – and the other two are Joe Mauer and Thurman Munson.
In terms of the Jaws score Posey is 15th all time and all but three catchers ahead of him are Hall of Famers and guess what Thurman and Mauer are two of the three. There are also three Hall of Fame catchers that have a worse Jaws score and 4 with less WAR than Posey. If he is able to accumulate 6.2 more WAR, then he will be a Hall of Famer, as the only catcher with more WAR than him not currently in the Hall of Fame will be Mauer.
An argument can be made that right now Posey is on the brink of Hall of Fame status. However, he was the best catcher of his generation following Mauer’s move from out behind the plate, and it was not close. Posey was regarded as the best catcher from 2014-2018 while from 2010 to 2014 it was a battle between him and Mauer for the top spot every year. If he accumulates 6.2 more WAR I do not see how the hall can keep him out and even if he doesn’t, the catcher position hasn’t seen anyone like Posey for over half a decade. He belongs enshrined amongst the greats in Cooperstown.
Thurman Munson has already been on the ballot for Cooperstown but never got the 75% needed to get enshrined. Munson played for 11 seasons from 1969-1979 before being in a fatal plane crash. Thurman Munson posted a .292/.346/.410 triple slash line over his career. He finished with a .756 OPS a 116 OPS+ and a 116 WRC+.
Over his 11-year career he accumulated a 40.9 WAR. He is 15th all time amongst catchers in WAR and only Joe Mauer, Wally Schang and Gene Tenace have a higher WAR and are not in Cooperstown. Thurman Munson is 12th all time amongst catchers in JAWS and 8th all time in WAR accumulated over a player’s best 7 years. He is ahead of 6 Hall of Famers in JAWS and has a Rookie of the Year award and MVP. He also has a triple slash line of 357/.378/.496 with three homers and 22 RBIs in 30 postseason games. He won three gold glove awards and caught 44% of would be base stealers over his career.
Munson sometimes gets overlooked since he played in an era against Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Carlton Fisk and Ted Simmons. His peak years were better than Ted Simmons and despite his OPS being 29 points lower when we use OPS+ to adjust for era and park factors he comes in at 116 compared to Simmons 118. Yes, Simmons played many more years and having a long successful career is something that should be appreciated. However, this is not the hall of longevity. Sandy Koufax can attest to that. Munson is ahead of hall of famers Rick Ferrell, Gary Carter and Ivan Rodriguez in OPS+ as well.
Thurman Munson did not get a chance to accumulate the counting stats of many other Hall of Famers, but he was one of the best at his position for the 11 years he played, and he should be rewarded for it. There are players in the Hall of Fame who on a game per game basis were not as good as Thurman Munson and a player should not be held back just because he could not play as long as everyone else due to something out of his control. When on the field Thurman Munson proved for 11 seasons he was worthy of enshrinement into Cooperstown regardless who he played against or how long he played for.
While there are only 18 catchers in the hall of fame I believe two more will soon be enshrined soon and there is one that should be in that was overlooked. Joe Mauer, Buster Posey and Thurman Munson all had careers worthy of being hall of famers. Being the best of their generation at their position is the main reason I believe Mauer and Posey deserve to be hall of famers. While Munson played in an era with many great catchers few provided as much offensive and defensive value over their best 11 years and did it all the way into the postseason.
Who Is The Best Shortstop In The MLB Heading Into 2020?

Who Is The Best Shortstop In The MLB Heading Into 2020?

When people think of the greatest shortstops of all time, the names Jeter, Ripken, Ozzie, and of course, Honus usually come to mind. If you are talking about the best shortstops of today, the possible answers include names such as Lindor, Bogaerts, Tatis Jr., Story, and Baez. As we head into the 2020 season, it is time to see who is the top shortstop in the MLB today.
The first name to start with would be Francisco Lindor. On the offensive side of the ball Lindor posted an .854 on base plus slugging percentage (OPS), a 118 OPS+, which is OPS adjusted for how hitter/pitcher friendly a park is, and a 114 Weighted Runs Created Plus (WRC+). The WRC+ means Lindor Is 14% better than league average, which is a 100 WRC+ standard. He also has a career WRC+ of 119 and has never been below 109 in his career. As the face of the Cleveland Indians, he has a career .840 OPS and a career 44 defensive runs saved demonstrating his skill on both sides of the ball. His wins above replacement level (WAR) last season was 5.0 and his career WAR sits at 27.6. He does this while playing in a pitcher’s park and being the center of each opposing pitcher’s game plan every night. Lindor has remained a consistent force on the Indians lineup his entire career, despite many scouts wondering if his bat, and especially his power, would ever catch up to his glove. With three 30 home run seasons on his resume and a career slugging percentage of .493, he has proved the doubters wrong and looks like he is destined to do so for years to come.
Bogaerts is coming off a 5.9 WAR season with a .939 OPS and a 140 OPS+ in 2019. This was the best offensive season of his career as he also finished with a 141 WRC+. Xander Bogaerts has had his defensive problems throughout his career; just last season, he posted a negative 3 outs above average which is slightly below average at his position. Some people say based on what they have seen of him, he has gotten better over his career, but his negative 14 defensive runs saved in each of the last two seasons tells a bit of a different story as they are both a career low. Despite his defensive woes, he has a career 21.5 WAR in 7 seasons. His offensive game has improved every season but one of his best may be yet to come as he enters his prime years. He also has been a part of two championship Boston Red Sox teams showing that he is a winning player at a premium position. If he cleans up his defense and continues on his offensive trajectory, he may be the top shortstop very soon.
Fernando Tatis Jr. burst onto the scene in 2019 and lit the baseball world on fire at just 20 years old. In just 37 games he posted a .941 OPS and hit 10 home runs, but missed the rest of the season due to injury. He also posted a 150 WRC+ and a 4.1 WAR for the San Diego Padres. Tatis Jr. was the second top prospect in baseball heading into 2019 (according to MLB.com). His bat speed has always been admired by scouts and his batting eye has progressed throughout his career. In double A in 2018, he posted a .507 slugging percentage. He also stole 16 bases, demonstrating his 5-tool talent. He also posted the 32nd best sprint speed in the MLB in 2019, and was in the top 9% in barrel percentage and top 4% in weighted on base average. However, he did post a 29.6% strikeout percentage and a negative 3 defensive runs saved, leading some to question whether he can stay at shortstop long term. His ability to stay at shortstop and cut down his strikeout rate will tell where his future goes but if he does, his ceiling is as high as anyone’s in baseball.
Trevor Story has quickly become a fan favorite in Colorado. He hit 6 home runs in his first 4 games and finished his rookie season with 27 home runs and a .909 OPS. While he struggled his second year to the tune of a .239 average and a league leading 191 strikeouts, he is not the first player to go through a sophomore slump. He quickly overcame that and has posted a .914 and .917 OPS the past two years. While he does still strikeout a lot, he did walk more last year and posted a .363 OBP. Like many of these shortstops, he is just entering his prime going into his age 27 season and, after a down year defensively in 2018, he got back to his great defense last year with 14 defensive runs saved. In just four years he has already accumulated an 18.6 war and a career 114 WRC+. Now, some people may look at his WRC+ and think it is low considering his other career counting stats such as his career .878 OPS and 123 home runs in only 544 games. Due to the fact that he plays his home games in Colorado, his counting stats such as home runs and OPS are inflated. His OPS is .998 at home and .756 on the road and he has hit almost twice as many home runs at home in only six more games. While it is good he is taking advantage of hitting in his hitter friendly home park, without demonstrating he can hit well anywhere he will not be able to achieve status as the top shortstop. A well-built all-around game that includes two twenty stolen base seasons makes Story a strong candidate for the top spot. While he didn’t choose to play in Coors Field, he has an advantage that other hitters do not and that must be taken into account when looking at who the best shortstop in baseball is.
Javier Baez is one of the flashier players in baseball. He got a tattoo of the MLB logo on his neck before he was even a permanent MLB player. He is known for his quick swipes at the bags on double plays and his electric bat speed. Baez is an exceptional athlete that has spent time as both the primary second baseman and shortstop on the Cubs. He is the best fielder on the Cubs, so they want to put him in the best position to help the team win. In 2018, he was second in MVP voting while playing primarily second base and hitting .290 with an .881 OPS and leading the NL with 111 runs batted in. While Baez has never been afraid to swing for the fences he has gained a greater knack for getting his bat to the ball, and, despite not walking a lot, he has still posted an OPS+ of 129 in 2018 and 113 in 2019. Combining that with his defense where he has saved 29 career runs at shortstop and 10 more at second base. He also was the leader in Statcast’s Outs Above Average this past season while playing shortstop. The knock against Baez is he has only hit well for three seasons despite playing in five. While 2018 was an incredible year, he came back down to earth in 2019 offensively. His defense is unquestionably amazing, and he has improved his offense, but he will need a few more seasons of his 2018/2019 offensive production combined with his great defense to be the top shortstop.
Now, you may have noticed two names I seem to have forgotten: Carlos Correa and Corey Seager. Both were top prospects and first round draft choices, but they have had their peaks and valleys throughout their MLB careers. After winning the rookie of the year in 2015, over Francisco Lindor, people thought Correa was posed to be the next Manny Machado or A-ROD. With a 6’4” frame, Correa was imagined developing 40 homerun power – which is unprecedented for shortstops. While that power never quite developed, he has turned into a 20 home run threat. His OPS has also been up and down; he has posted two seasons of an OPS above .900 but also one below .800 in-between. He is also a very good defender at a premium position, where he has played well despite being very tall for the shortstop position, with 34 career defensive runs saved. Correa has never been the most durable player, only playing over 120 games once back in his sophomore season. While he has all the tools people love to dream
about, due to injuries and inconsistent play Correa has never been able to achieve the great heights many expected him to. He will have to show he can stay healthy and productive all at once to climb the shortstop rankings to the top spot. Corey Seager debuted at the end of 2015 and won the rookie of the year award in 2016. He has a career .853 OPS, but has battled injuries in recent years and missed most of 2018 due to Tommy John Surgery. Discounting his shortened season, he has managed to post an OPS above .800 all other seasons. He has 73 career home runs and a 126 OPS+ in 489 games. While he only hit .272 in 2019 he still managed to post an .817 OPS, and it looks like he is headed in a positive direction, especially as he gets further removed from his surgery. He has been a slightly below average defender with negative three defensive runs saved for his career, but he improved last year posting a positive two defensive runs saved. If he can stay healthy and bring his offense up a little closer to pre-surgery levels, while maintaining his good defensive play, he could be vying for the top shortstop spot very soon.
Marcus Semien is coming off a 3rd place finish in MVP voting and Gleyber Torres moved over to shortstop full time for the Yankees last season. Both had outstanding years with Semien posting a 138 OPS+ and an 8.9 WAR and Gleyber posting a 128 OPS+ with a 3.1 WAR. Both will have to continue this high level of play to enter into the conversation of the top shortstop in the MLB.
While there may be superior fielders like Andrelton Simmons and his 193 DRS over the last 8 seasons or Xander Bogaerts and his 140 OPS+ in 2019, Francisco Lindor is the correct answer for who is the best shortstop in baseball. His combination of offensive and defensive capabilities put him in conversations for the best player in the American league (not named Mike Trout). With more great seasons out of Baez, Torres, Tatis, or Seager we may have a different answer soon. Bogaerts and Seager need to improve their defense since shortstop is such an important defensive position and Story has to prove he can hit in every ballpark while Baez and Correa need to prove they can be durable and healthy over the long haul. Everyone has their own opinion, maybe value offense or defense more than others and therefore may have a different answer, but no one else has the value of Lindor on offense and defense, and when it comes to his team’s chances of winning on a daily basis.