Welcome back to our ongoing series aimed at determining the best of the best at each position in Major League Baseball.
Our goal here is two-fold. First, we determine each current franchise’s best ever player at a position. Then we rank those players 1-30 to determine how they stack up in MLB history.
The only caveat being that the selected player must come from the current incarnation of each franchise. But don’t worry, we’ll throw in bonus players when warranted as well. To make things more interesting, we also require that no player represents multiple franchises or multiple positions throughout the series.
Today, we’re ranking the shortstops.
No position has evolved more over the decades. This list is evidence of that. The wide range of styles or skills from different eras were difficult to rank against one another. That should make shortstop one of the more hotly debated positions during our series.
There’s certainly no shortage of star power. This list features 12 Hall of Famers. That includes the newest, Derek Jeter. Where does the New York Yankees legend rank? Find out below.
1. Honus Wagner — Pittsburgh Pirates
With Pirates: 18 seasons
Best season: 1908 (11.5 WAR, .354/.415/.542, 19 triples, 53 steals)
Wagner is the clear choice to head this list. He’s also worth discussing as a top 10 overall player considering his career WAR (130.9) ranks 10th all-time. Wagner won eight NL batting titles during the early 1900s. He finished with 3,420 hits, 643 doubles, 252 triples, 1,732 RBIs and 723 stolen bases. Those numbers hold up in any era.
2. Cal Ripken Jr. — Baltimore Orioles
With Orioles: 21 seasons
Best season: 1991 (11.5 WAR, .323/.374/.566, 34 homers, MVP)
As Johnny Bench did for catchers, Ripken helped redefine shortstops. At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, he brought size and power rarely seen at the position. He also brought unmatched durability, becoming baseball's "Iron Man" after playing in 2,632 straight games. Ripken earned 19 All-Star selections and was twice voted AL MVP.
3. Luke Appling — Chicago White Sox
With White Sox: 20 seasons
Best season: 1943 (7.3 WAR, .328/.419/.407, All-Star)
The White Sox have a pair of Hall of Famers to choose from with Appling and Luis Aparicio. Appling, though, is a true standout at the position after becoming the first shortstop ever to win a batting title back in 1936. Appling hit .388 that season and finished second in the MVP race.
4. Ozzie Smith — St. Louis Cardinals
With Cardinals: 15 seasons
Best season: 1987 (6.4 WAR, .303/.392/.383, MVP runner-up)
You won't find a better defensive player, regardless of position. "The Wizard of Oz" is top-10 worthy just based on his work in the field, which earned him 13 Gold Gloves. He reaches top five status because he steadily improved at the plate. Smith finished with 2,460 career hits while anchoring a World Series winner in 1982.
5. Robin Yount — Milwaukee Brewers
With Brewers: 20 seasons
Best season: 1982 (10.5 WAR, .331/.379/.578, 29 homers, MVP)
After debuting at 18, Yount really hit his stride during his age-24 season. Over the next 10 seasons, Yount hit .305/.365/.485 with 174 homers, 337 doubles and 148 steals. That stretch earned him two AL MVPs, three All-Star selections and ultimately a call to Cooperstown.
6. Ernie Banks — Chicago Cubs
With Cubs: 19 seasons
Best season: 1959 (10.2 WAR, .304/.374/.596, 45 homers, MVP)
The one and only “Mr. Cub.” Banks became the first black player in Cubs' history when he debuted in 1953. It didn’t take him much longer to become the franchise’s most popular player. Banks also made history by becoming the NL's first back-to-back MVP in 1958-59. His Hall of Fame career included 14 All-Star appearances.
7. Derek Jeter — New York Yankees
With Yankees: 20 seasons
Best season: 1999 (8.0 WAR, .349/.438/.552, 24 homers, 219 hits)
Simply mentioning Jeter's name will always stir a debate. Not everyone was sold on his all-around game, particularly his defensive range. He's still one of the most decorated players in MLB history. Jeter earned 14 All-Star selections, won five Gold Gloves and was part of five World Series championship teams. He finished with a .310/.377/.440 slash line and 3,465 hits.
8. Barry Larkin — Cincinnati Reds
With Reds: 19 seasons
Best season: 1995 (5.9 WAR, .319/.394/.492, 51 steals, MVP)
Larkin played his entire 19-year career in his hometown and got to cap it with a Hall of Fame induction. That's pretty sweet. Larkin was always productive, finishing with a .295/.371/.444 batting line and 2,340 career hits. His accolades include the NL MVP in 1995 and 12 All-Star selections.
9. Pee Wee Reese — Los Angeles Dodgers
With Dodgers: 16 seasons
Best season: 1949 (7.4 WAR, .279/.396/.410, All-Star)
Reese was a 10-time All-Star who played on seven pennant-winning teams and finished top 10 in the MVP voting eight times. That's despite missing three seasons to serve in World War II. He was also a key figure in opening the door for and welcoming Jackie Robinson to MLB. That is a remarkable legacy.
10. Lou Boudreau — Cleveland Indians
With Indians: 13 seasons
Best season: 1948 (10.3 WAR, .355/.453/.534, 18 homers, MVP)
Cleveland has a strong history at shortstop with Joe Sewell, Omar Vizquel and current All-Star Francisco Lindor. Boudreau is one of only three MVP winners in Indians history. He won it in 1948 while also managing the team to a World Series championship. Boudreau was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1970.
11. Alan Trammell — Detroit Tigers
With Tigers: 20 seasons
Best season: 1987 (8.2 WAR, .343/.402/.551, 28 homers, MVP runner up)
Better late than never. Trammell's Cooperstown’s call finally came in 2018. It was earned two decades before that. Trammell was the World Series MVP in 1984 and the AL MVP runner-up in 1987. He earned six All-Star selections and four Gold Gloves over 20 MLB seasons.
12. Bert Campaneris — Oakland Athletics
With Athletics: 13 seasons
Best season: 1968 (6.6 WAR, .276/.330/.361, 62 steals, All-Star)
Campaneris is another shortstop who helped fuel multiple championship teams. The speedy leadoff man was part of Oakland's three consecutive World Series winners from 1972-74, even delivering a rare but key home run in Game 7 of the ‘73 Series. The six-time All-Star led the AL in stolen bases six times.
13. Jim Fregosi — Los Angeles Angels
With Angels: 11 seasons
Best season: 1970 (7.7 WAR, .278/.353/.459, 22 homers, All-Star)
Younger fans will remember Fregosi for his managerial stints with Philadelphia and Toronto. Prior to that, he was a six-time All-Star whose 45.9 career WAR was the highest among Angels position players. That was, until Mike Trout came along.
14. Jimmy Rollins — Philadelphia Phillies
With Phillies: 15 seasons
Best season: 2007 (6.1 WAR, .296/.344/.531, 10 triples, MVP)
Did you know Rollins is the Phillies all-time hits leader? He finished with 2,306, which is 72 more than Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt. He was a major contributor for some dominant Phillies teams. He won NL MVP in 2007. The following season he helped the Phillies win their second World Series.
15. Nomar Garciaparra — Boston Red Sox
With Red Sox: 9 seasons
Best season: 2000 (7.4 WAR, .372/.434/.599, 21 homers, All-Star)
A strong case can be made for Joe Cronin, but Nomar’s peak was too strong. Over his first seven seasons, he hit .325/.372/.557 with 169 homers. In the end, injuries prevented Nomar from reaching his full potential. Otherwise he might be the 13th Hall of Famer on this list.
16. Omar Vizquel — Seattle Mariners
With Mariners: 5 seasons
Best season: 1992 (3.5 WAR, .294/.340/.352)
When we elected to rank Alex Rodríguez at third base, it opened the door for another Hall of Fame hopeful. Granted, Vizquel's best seasons came in Cleveland, but that spot belongs to Lou Boudreau. Vizquel won the first of his 11 Gold Gloves in Seattle while developing skills that led to a memorable 24-year career.
17. Troy Tulowitzki — Colorado Rockies
With Rockies: 10 seasons
Best season: 2007 (6.8 WAR, .291/.359/.479, 24 homers)
Another case of ‘what could have been.’ Tulowitzki was unstoppable when healthy, but wasn't healthy often enough to post elite career numbers while playing at Coors Field. In 10 seasons with the Rockies, he hit .299/.371/.513. He finished top 10 in NL MVP voting three times while earning five All-Star selections.
18. Tony Fernández — Toronto Blue Jays
With Blue Jays: 12 seasons
Best season: 1987 (5.1 WAR, .322/.379/.426, 32 steals)
Fernández started his career with the Blue Jays (1983) and finished it there (2001). In between, he played for seven different teams, which included another stint with Toronto. Fernández won four consecutive Gold Gloves from 1986-89. When he returned in 1993, he drove in a shortstop record nine runs in the Jays World Series win against Philadelphia.
19. Travis Jackson — San Francisco Giants
With Giants: 15 seasons
Best season: 1929 (5.8 WAR, .294/.367/.490, 21 homers)
Jackson was the Giants shortstop in the 1920s and 1930s and put up Hall of Fame numbers relative to the time. Over 15 seasons, he hit .291/.337/.433 with 135 homers and 291 doubles. He's still the franchise's leader for games played at shortstop with 1,326. He finished top 10 in the NL MVP voting in four seasons.
20. José Reyes — New York Mets
With Mets: 12 seasons
Best season: 2006 (5.9 WAR, .300/.354/.487, 17 triples, 64 steals)
There's Reyes and that's pretty much it in terms of really good Mets shortstops. He won a batting title in 2011, earned four All-Star selections and is the franchise leader in stolen bases (408) and triples (113).
21. Hanley Ramírez — Miami Marlins
With Marlins: 7 seasons
Best season: 2009 (7.4 WAR, .342/.410/.543, MVP runner up, batting title)
Ramírez's time with the Marlins was never boring. He didn't always get along with his teammates or his manager Fredi González. He did, however, produce like an All-Star. Han-Ram won NL Rookie of the Year in 2006. Three years later, he hit .342 to win the NL batting title. Then, like every Marlins star, he was traded.
22. Elvis Andrus — Texas Rangers
With Rangers: 11 seasons
Best season: 2017 (5.2 WAR, .297/.337/.471, 20 homers)
Here's another spot where A-Rod would be in the conversation. We considered Michael Young, too, before settling on Andrus. The latter two both had longevity with Texas, but Young never had a season with a WAR above 3.8. Andrus has three... and counting.
23. Johnny Logan — Atlanta Braves
With Braves: 13 seasons
Best season: 1955 (6.0 WAR, .297/.360/.442, All-Star)
From the Braves' Boston era, Hall of Famer Rabbit Maranville is the clear choice. During the Atlanta days, it's Rafael Furcal. Overall, we like Johnny Logan by a hair. Logan was a four-time All-Star alongside Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews in Milwaukee. He was part of their 1957 World Series title team, and his 33.5 career WAR is the highest among all Braves shortstops.
24. Carlos Correa — Houston Astros
With Astros: 5 seasons
Best season: 2016 (7.0 WAR, .274/.361/.451, 20 homers)
Even with injuries impacting his last three seasons, Correa is the clear choice among Houston shortstops. The 2015 AL Rookie of the Year is averaging 30 homers and 110 RBIs for every 162 games and has an impressive .277/.356/.489 batting line.
25. Roy Smalley — Minnesota Twins
With Twins: 10 seasons
Best season: 1978 (5.9 WAR, .273/.362/.433, 19 homers)
Traded to Minnesota for Bert Blyleven, Smalley had an uphill climb to win over Twins fans. He managed to do just that by producing steady numbers and solid defense. Over 10 seasons, he hit .262/.350/.401 with 110 homers.
26. Trea Turner — Washington Nationals
With Nationals: 5 seasons
Best season: 2018 (4.1 WAR, .271/.344/.416, 43 steals)
Turner will be a fast climber on this list. The 26-year-old is the franchise's leader in batting average (.291) and slugging percentage among shortstops. Both hold true when you factor in all Montreal Expos shortstops as well. In addition, Turner is already third in runs scored (332) and fourth in homers (63).
27. Freddie Patek — Kansas City Royals
With Royals: 9 seasons
Best season: 1971 (4.0 WAR, .267/.323/.371, 11 triples)
Shortstops come in all sizes. The 5-foot-5 Patek always played to his strengths, which included blazing speed and rock solid defense. Though he only led the league in steals one time, Patek swiped more than 30 bags in eight straight seasons.
28. Stephen Drew — Arizona Diamondbacks
With Diamondbacks: 7 seasons
Best season: 2010 (4.0, WAR, .278/.352/.458, 15 homers)
Since Jay Bell's primary position in Arizona was second base, Stephen Drew slides up. Drew was never the star scouts anticipated. In fact, he never made one All-Star appearance. At this point, his placement is just keeping the seat warm for Nick Ahmed.
29. Jason Bartlett — Tampa Bay Rays
With Rays: 3 seasons
Best season: 2009 (6.0 WAR, .320/.389/.490, 14 homers, All-Star)
Julio Lugo has more equity, but Bartlett's 2009 was the only really good season by a Rays shortstop. It just so happens that was also the only really good season of his career.
30. Khalil Greene — San Diego Padres
With Padres: 6 seasons
Best season: 2007 (3.5 WAR, .254/.291/.468, 27 homers)
It’s close between Greene and Garry Templeton, which tells you how weak shortstop has been for San Diego historically. Fortunately, that will now change with Fernando Tatis Jr. around. We’ll give Greene the edge simply because San Diego didn’t have to trade Ozzie Smith in a franchise-altering deal to obtain his average production. The same can’t be said for Templeton.
Previously in this series:
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