The following list consists of the top five shortstops currently in the Major Leagues in my opinion.
- Derek Jeter– I hope this pick does not surprise anyone because Mr. Jeter has been nothing short of outstanding for the better part of the last two decades. Since his first full season in ’96, Jeter’s season-low in games played is 119. Only five times in seventeen seasons has he hit under .300; four of those times he hit in the .290’s. A great contact hitter, Jeter keeps his strikeout total low, and is also a very talented base-stealer. Jeter has recorded 200+ hits in a season eight out of his seventeen seasons, which is nothing short of phenomenal. He is coming off of a serious ankle injury this season, so keep your eyes open to see whether or not he can be the same player he was a year ago.
- Jose Reyes– Some may not realize how good Jose Reyes is because of his awful situation in Miami, but in reality, Reyes has been very solid for the past few years he has been in the league. His first full season came in 2005 with the Mets, in which he hit .273. Reyes, like Jeter, is a fantastic contact hitter who does not hit for much power. On occasion he can put a ball out of the park, as he did nineteen times in 2006. The only real problem I have with Reyes’ game is his fielding is sometimes very shaky. There have been several seasons in which he has made fifteen or more errors. Fielding aside, Reyes is one of the better base-stealers in the recent years. In 2007, he totaled a whopping seventy-eight stolen bases! He has gotten off to a slow start this year in Toronto, but look for Reyes to pick it up now that he is out of Miami.
- Troy Tulowitzki– Tulowitzki is personally one of my favorite shortstops in the league, due in large part to his passion for the game day in and day out. When he broke into the league in 2007, he hit a stellar .291 while playing in 155 games. The only downside to Tulo is his lack of consistency as an everyday player. Only twice in six years has he played in over 150 games. He is not a base-stealer like Reyes or Jeter, but he is still an above average baserunner. Fielding-wise, Tulowitzki is a stud. His career high in errors is eleven, and he has a career fielding percentage of .985. He is off to a good start this season, as are his Rockies who have started the season 3-1.
- Hanley Ramirez– Coming in at number four is Hanley Ramirez. In his early years, Ramirez was known as a big time young player as he broke out with the Florida Marlins. His missed a little less than half the season in 2009, which led to his worst season in the pros. He batted over .300 for four straight seasons, 2007-2010, and has a career average of .298. When he got out of Miami halfway through last season, he admittedly struggled a little bit with his new Dodgers team. He was also recently injured in the World Baseball Classic so he has not played in a game so far this season. Ramirez commits a significant amount of errors each season, which is why he dropped toward the bottom of my list, but he is also a fantastic base-stealer like Jose Reyes.
- Starlin Castro– Starlin Castro rounds out my top five because I believe he is the best young shortstop, and maybe even player in the game today. Though Castro hasn’t been playing that long, he has been an all-star two out of his first three years. He has accumulated a .295 batting average over his first three seasons, and in 2011 he totaled 207 base hits. He is not a known power hitter but he did put fourteen balls out of the park in 2012, a season in which he played every single game. On the negative side, Castro is sometimes a very shaky fielder. When he messes up once, there is a good chance he will get down on himself and mess up again in the near future. Though still not great, he has progressed his fielding over the last season or two and I believe that with time and effort, he will become an MVP caliber player in the next three to five years.
Other notable shortstops include Jimmy Rollins of the Phillies, Alexei Ramirez of the White Sox, and Elvis Andrus of the Texas Rangers.