For the last few years, prior to about 2013, the position of shortstop has lacked a true “superstar” and has left fans wanting more. Gone were the years of Alex Rodriguez dazzling with the bat and the glove, and Derek Jeter’s age had begun to catch up with him. Sure, there were a few bright spots here and there. Just look at Andrelton Simmons and his other-worldly defense, but he also left much to be desired at the plate. So, baseball fans began to wonder, “When will the next superstar shortstop arrive?” Within 2 years, their question was answered resoundingly.
These days, it’s hard to name just one shortstop you would start your franchise with; all the options are tempting. The infusion of young talent started with the arrival of Xander Bogaerts, a young Aruban shortstop for the Red Sox.
Boston Red Sox, 24 years old
Comparison: Edgar Renteria
Bogaerts made his debut in the Show in 2013. Some people around baseball felt that Bogaerts reminded them of Edgar Renteria, a solid shortstop in his prime. Bogaerts only played in 18 regular season games in his rookie season but he impressed enough to be included on the 25-man roster heading into 2014. Bogaerts moved around a bit in 2014, playing both 3rd base and short. 2015 was his breakout year though. Bogaerts had a slash line of .320/.355/.421 with 35 doubles, 7 home runs, 81 RBIs and 196 hits. These numbers were enough to warrant a silver slugger award. Bogaerts has continued to improve with a very impressive 2016. He slashed .294/.356/.446 with 34 doubles 21 home runs, 89 RBIs and 191 hits. He again won a silver slugger and earned a spot on the American League All Star Team. Pair those offensive numbers with a very solid defense and the future looks bright for the Red Sox and Bogaerts.
Houston Astros, 22 years old
Comparison: Alex Rodriguez
Correa is, personally, one of my favorite players to watch in the game today. His range and athleticism at shortstop is impressive for someone of his size and stature, (6’4 215lbs). Correa has be heralded as the next big superstar at short and is compared to the likes of Alex Rodriguez (before all of the controversies and the move to 3rd later in his career.) When looking at the way they play its easy to see the comparison. Both Correa and ARod displayed power at the plate and a strong defensive prowess on the diamond. Correa was selected 1st overall in the 2012 draft by the Houston Astros at the age of 17. After making his way through the minors Correa made his MLB debut on June 8th 2015. In 99 games, Correa cemented himself as one of the games great young talents, hitting .279 with 22 home runs and 68 RBIs with solid defense to go along with those numbers. That performance earned Correa the American League Rookie of the Year award for the 2015. After a “letdown” of a year in 2016 in which he “only” hit .274 with 20 home runs and 96 RBIs, the baseball world is excited to see what else Correa can add to his game and how he will perform from here on out. The sky is the limit for Correa and he’s only 22.
Los Angeles Dodgers, 22 years old
Comparison: Troy Tulowitzki
Being the younger brother of an all star 3rd baseman (Kyle Seager) can certainly put pressure on a young athlete. In 2016, however, Corey Seager showed that he wasn’t content to live in his older brother’s shadow. After playing sparingly in 2015, just 21 games, Seager exploded onto the scene in 2016. He was a force at the plate batting .308 with 26 homeruns, 72 RBIs, 193 hits, and also adding 40 doubles to his line. Those numbers earned him major recognition. Seager ended 2016 with the National League Rookie of the Year award, an All Star selection, a Silver Slugger for the Shortstop Position, and 3rd place in the NL MVP award voting. Not bad for being just 21 years old. Seager reminds me a lot of Troy Tulowitzki, or “Tulo” as his called. Tulo played 9 seasons for the Colorado Rockies before being traded in the middle of 2015 to the Toronto Blue Jays. During his time in Colorado, Tulo earned 5 All Star appearances, 2 Gold gloves, and 2 silver sluggers. Like Tulo, Seager can hit for a lot of power at the shortstop position. The one problem with Seager that I see is, how long can he stay at short? Will he progress and become a solid defender to go along with his bat or will the Dodgers need to kick him over to 3rd base in the near future? Only time will tell, but one thing is for certain: LA’s got a superstar in Seager.
Chicago Cubs, 23 years old
Comparison: Barry Larkin
After being traded from the Oakland Athletics to the Chicago Cubs in 2014, Addison Russell was ranked the #3 prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America before the beginning of the 2015 season. Russell made his major league debut early in 2015 and impressed many. Still only 23 years old after 2 years of pro ball, Russell has plenty of time to improve. Russell is an athletic, smooth defender with quick hands and looks to be part of a dangerous double-play duo for years to come with another uber-athletic defender in second baseman Javier Baez. Batting average is one area of Russell’s game that he does need to work on; hitting .242 in 2015 and only .238 in 2016. But the Cubs are hopeful that with time this will improve. Power production doesn’t seem to be a problem however early into his career, clubbing 13 homers and 54 RBIs in 2015, and 21 homers and 94 RBIs in 2016. Those are very good power numbers for a young middle infielder. Russell was named to his first All Star game in 2016, and it won’t be his last. The Cubs’ roster is loaded with young talents and superstars; sometimes Russell gets forgotten or becomes an afterthought. That being said, Russell should not be forgotten because he is definitely one of the up and coming young stars at the shortstop position.
Cleveland Indians, 23 years old
Comparison: Roberto Alomar? Rafael Furcal? Or maybe even Omar Vizquel
Take a smile that can light up a room and a personality to be a fun exciting leader of a ball club for years to come, combine that with slick fielding and an advanced approach at the plate, and you have Francisco Lindor. Lindor is an exciting shortstop for the Cleveland Indians and one of the new faces of the game. 2 seasons of back-to-back .300 plus batting average shows that Lindor is not just a great defender. Lindor may not have the pop at the plate that Correa or Seager have, but his ability to make good contact is undeniable. An aspect of Lindor’s game that may be overlooked is his ability to swipe a bag when needed. While 12 stolen bases 2015 and 19 in 2016 aren’t going to threaten any of Rickey Henderson’s records, (Henderson averaged 74 steals per year during his hall of fame 25 year career) those numbers will certainly help a ball club, especially when you combine that with Lindor’s other stats. With already one Gold Glove award (2016) and one All-Star selection (2016), the future looks extremely bright for Lindor. I’ve seen comparisons to the great Roberto Alomar, which I certainly see, but I have a hard time finding just one player to compare Lindor. Beyond Alomar, I also see a blend of Rafael Furcal and Omar Vizquel. Vizquel’s defense was insane and Furcal had a cannon attached to his right side. I think the blend of their defense and Alomar’s offense, who was no slouch defensively, make Francisco Lindor.
Atlanta Braves, 23 years old
Comparison: Derek Jeter
Among the many gaffs of Dave Stewart’s tenure as the Diamondbacks’ GM, trading Dansby Swanson may be his biggest regret. Swanson was the number one pick in the 2015 MLB draft out of Vanderbilt University. In 2015, while at Vandy, Swanson was nominated for the Golden Spikes Award, the award given annually to the best college baseball player, but fell short to fellow superstar, Andrew Benintendi, (LF for the Red Sox). When Vanderbilt won the 2014 College World Series, Swanson was named the Series Most Outstanding Player. Clearly Dansby isn’t one to shy away from the big stage. After being drafted 1st by the DBacks, Swanson was traded to the Atlanta Braves on December 9th, 2015 along with Ender Enciarte and Aaron Blair in exchange for Shelby Miller and Gabe Speier. So far, the Braves have clearly “won” this trade. Swanson made his big league debut on August 17th 2016. Swanson quickly adjusted to the Bigs and proved that he belonged. He finished the year playing batting .302 in just 38 games. With a very strong arm plus range, Swanson looks like a solid defender for years to come. At age 23, Swanson already possesses an advanced approach at the plate and looks like a consistent top of the line-up bat with .300+ average potential. Swanson also has a little pop in his bat and has the potential to hit around 15 to 20 home runs per season. Swanson, along with Freddie Freeman, look like they will be the faces of the Braves the likes of which Atlanta hasn’t had since the days of Chipper Jones.
Washington Nationals, 23 years old
Comparison: Hanley Ramirez
Trea Turner is back at his original position of shortstop this year after playing centerfield for most of 2016. In 2014, the Nats acquired Turner in the 3-team trade between the Padres, Nationals, and Rays. In August of 2015, Turner made his debut for Washington. In 2016, Turner moved to centerfield and produced a very solid rookie campaign. In 73 games, Turner hit .342 with 13 homers and stole 33 bases. He finished 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting to the aforementioned Corey Seager. The combination of speed and power, along with the ability to play multiple positions, warrants the Hanley Ramirez comparison. We looked at Hanley now and forget how explosive and dynamic he was when he was a young and upcoming player with the Marlins. He was a legitimate star from 2006 to 2012 hitting 155 homeruns with 237 stolen bases. Turner looks like yet another star the Nationals can use to help continue their success in the NL East for years to come.
Trevor Story & Tim Anderson
The next 2 players I am going to talk about won’t have their own sections, not because the fact that they are not good player, but because they still need to prove a little more. Now, I know I put Dansby Swanson up with the others after only 38 games but Swanson was considered to be a future star even before he stepped onto the stage and proved he was worth the hype in a short sample size. The first player is Trevor Story, the shortstop for the Colorado Rockies. Story was the “story” of the early season last year after blasting 10 homeruns in the month of April, setting a rookie record, and being named National League Rookie of the month. Story’s season was cut short, however, after only 99 games due to a torn ligament in his thumb. He finished the 2016 season with 27 homeruns, 72 RBIs and batting a solid .272. Now, the question going forward is, “Were Story’s numbers inflated due to the fact of playing at Coors Field?” He did hit 16 of his 27 HR’s at home. However, if Story can keep up his play, this may leave the Rockies in a dilemma. What will they do with top prospect, 19-year-old Brendan Rogers? Rogers is also a shortstop and you can only play one at a time. They can’t move Story over to 3rd because it is currently held down by All-Star Nolan Arenado, and a very good player, in DJ LeMehieu, occupies 2nd base. I think it will be a very interesting situation to monitor. The second player in this section is Chicago White Sox shortstop, Tim Anderson. The White Sox took Anderson in the 1st round of the 2013 MLB draft. Like Story, Anderson played in 99 games in 2016 and looked the part of a very good shortstop. Anderson has great athleticism and great range defensively. His batting average of .283 in 2016 also shows that he knows how to handle the bat. 49 stolen bases in AAA in 2015 also point to the fact that Anderson looks like he can become a force at the top of the White Sox’s line-up for a while.
This section will briefly highlight the prospects that already look like they have a bright future but aren’t pros just yet.
New York Yankees 20 years old
Acquired from the Cubs in the Aroldis Chapman trade in 2016, Torres has been rocketing up top prospect boards in the last year. MLB.com has him ranked as the #2 prospect in their latest rankings. With a very bright future at the plate and defense that looks like it will progress as he ages, Torres looks like one to watch.
Philadelphia Phillies 22 years old
The Phillies top prospect and #4 overall prospect, according to MLB.com, Crawford looks like the next slick fielding, high contact, and strong-armed shortstop to arrive. While Crawford’s first taste of big league action didn’t go as well as he hoped in 2016, the potential is certainly there. He may never produce the same power as the other shortstops mentioned but he will be a star.
New York Mets, 21 years old
Ranked in between Torres and Crawford in the latest prospect ranking, Amed Rosario, to me, looks like the next speedy, high average, defensive savant. Scouts rave about Rosario’s defense and love his speed. I think, if he gets called up this year, which he should, he could be a dark horse candidate to challenge Dansby Swanson for Rookie of the Year.
Milwaukee Brewers, 22 years old
Arcia arrived on the big stage in 2016 and didn’t have much of an impact offensively as he would have liked. Arcia has all of the necessary tools to be a consistent Gold Glove caliber contender. He also looks to have a solid impact on the base paths, which when paired with Jonathan Villar (62 SBs in 2016), could make for a nightmare scenario for other teams.
Colorado Rockies, 20 years old
Rodgers was drafted 3rd overall out of high school in the 2015 draft by the Rockies and quickly asserted himself as their top prospect at only age 20. With good bat speed, Rodgers looks to produce solid pop for a middle infielder. However, defensive concerns about his staying power at shortstop may cause a position change for Rodgers.
Atlanta Braves, 17 years old
Why not look a little ways off into the future? We may see Maitan earlier than we think. Unanimously considered the top option in the 2016 international free agency pool, the switch hitting Maitan was signed by the Braves. Still only 17, Maitan is being called the best international prospect since Miguel Sano. Some have even compared his ceiling to the likes of Miguel Cabrera and Chipper Jones, not too shabby being compared to 2 future Hall of Famers. With an advanced approach at the plate, bat speed that excites lovers of power, and a rocket arm, Maitan looks like the real deal. He impressed so much that MLB.com has him ranked as the #29 overall prospect in all of baseball at only 17 and before he ever played a professional game. With Swanson, Freeman and soon Maitan the Braves look to be World Series Competitors in the not so distant future.
The game of baseball evolves with every generation and new wave of talent. Shortstop has and will remain one of, if not the premium position on the field. Great ones like ARod, Jeter, Ozzie Smith, and even Pee Wee Wilson come and go. The mass amount of talent at the position today is something I feel, may be the greatest collection of stars the game has ever seen, and we should feel lucky to be witnessing it.
Photos: SI.com, ESPN.com