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Positional Power Rankings: Shortstop

Posted By Bradley Woodrum On March 6, 2012 @ 4:46 pm In 2012 Positional Power Rankings,Teams | 83 Comments

For an explanation of this series, check out the the introduction courtesy of Dave Cameron.

I think it’s important to remember a couple of things here:

(A) The WAR estimates are kind of ballpark figures. As Cameron notes in his intro above, a 2.0 WAR projection should be considered nearly the same as a 2.5 WAR prediction.

(2) Each of these projected playing times have been researched as diligently possible, but there are bound to be mistakes. Things happen and things change, plus, I’m like a human, bro; chill out.

(D) The danger of ordinal rankings is that we intrinsically assume the distance between each point is the same or close to the same. That’s not always the case. The middle group is pretty similar with lots of gray area. The top 10 or 12 are pretty much on a much higher tier that the following 18 or so. ALSO: Keep in mind: These rankings: They are not about long-term quality, just 2012.

Without any more of this ado, here’s the 2012 Shortstop Positional Power Rankings:

No. 30 — Milwaukee Brewers

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Alex Gonzalez R 550 .245 .282 .399 2.0 1.5
Reserve Cesar Izturis S 150 .248 .291 .306 N/A 0.0

Oh brother. A pair of defense-first veteran shortstops in the sunsets of their largely mediocre careers (more so for Izturis than Gonzalez). If one of these wily old veterans goes down with an injury, the team likely will turn to either Jeff Bianchi or Edwin Maysonet, both of whom figure to start the year in Triple-A.

No. 29 — Washington Nationals

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Ian Desmond R 500 .256 .304 .378 -5.0 1.5
Reserve Andres Blanco S 100 .259 .300 .351 N/A 0.0
Prospect Danny Espinosa S 100 .229 .309 .400 4.0 0.5

If the Nationals braintrust deems that Steve Lambardozzi is done cooking, then there’s a very real chance that Ian Desmond loses his starting job as Danny Espinosa moves over from second base. I put Espinosa here as a prospect, though he’s already a veteran of two seasons, so that we can at the very least see his projected stats. I think I would be mildly shocked if Espinosa isn’t playing shortstop by the season’s end, which should improve the stock here considerably.

No. 28 — Pittsburgh Pirates

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Clint Barmes R 500 .249 .305 .374 5.0 1.5
Super Utility Josh Harrison R 150 .271 .308 .377 N/A 0.5
Reserve Chase d’Arnaud R 50 .236 .297 .356 N/A 0.5

I’m still scratching my head over the Pirates’ signing of Clint Barmes, but at least they have some interesting young guys waiting wing-wise behind him. Harrison seems like the favorite to break camp as the utility player, despite having pretty much no experience at shortstop in the minors (as in: 1 game), but if Barmes, who will be 33 in 2012, goes down for an injury, I imagine the 25-year-old d’Arnaud — who likely will start the season at Triple-A — gets his go.

No. 27 — San Francisco Giants

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Brandon Crawford L 500 .225 .291 .336 6.0 1.5
Reserve Ryan Theriot R 100 .272 .323 .337 -4.0 0.5
Super Utility Mike Fontenot L 100 .245 .308 .367 0.0 0.5

Brandon Crawford could very well be one of the better defensive shortstops going into the 2012 MLB season. Let me re-phrase that. Brandon Crawford’s defense should be among the best going into the 2012 season. In other words: If we want to stay positive about Crawford, let’s not talk about his offensive ambitions. When a 32-year-old Ryan Theriot is expected to school you offensively, then you kind of need to be one of the top defenders at your position.

No. 26 — Atlanta Braves

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Tyler Pastornicky R 550 .261 .311 .363 N/A 1.5
Reserve Brandon Hicks R 75 .202 .272 .348 N/A 0.5
Super Utility Jack Wilson R 75 .257 .289 .330 N/A 0.5

Wilson is going to miss an early hunk of the season and Brandon Hicks likely wins the backup SS job on the sole merit of his placement on the Braves’ 40-man roster, so the rookie, Tyler Pastornicky, appears to have an unimpeded route to the starting role. Don’t get your hopes too high, though. Over the last 10 seasons, rookie shortstops have average 0.8 WAR per 550 PAs. Pastornicky should be good, but, y’know, still a 22-year-old rookie.

No. 25 — Tampa Bay Rays

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Sean Rodriguez R 450 .230 .315 .391 5.0 2.0
Reserve Reid Brignac L 150 .239 .281 .338 2.0 1.0
Super Utility Elliot Johnson S 50 .237 .287 .361 N/A 0.0
Prospect Tim Beckham R 50 .239 .294 .336 N/A 0.0

It appears that the shortstop position battle from 2011 has just moseyed on over to 2012. The Rays still have not produced a true shortstop to replace Jason Bartlett, but at least they have the lefty-mashing Rodriguez who is the favorite to win the opening day position this spring. But with a potential B.J. Upton trade looming, the team may well move Ben Zobrist to right, Rodriguez to second, and suddenly have a major opening at short again. Don’t be surprised — assuming he does well in Triple-A this year — if former No. 1 overall pick Tim Beckham makes a late-season showing this year.

No. 24 — Los Angeles Dodgers

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Dee Gordon L 550 .271 .310 .339 -5.0 1.5
Super Utility Jerry Hairston Jr. R 100 .259 .319 .373 N/A 0.5
Reserve Juan Uribe R 50 .249 .300 .401 5.0 0.5

Would you believe that Jerry Hairston Jr. has been worth a prorated 2.0 WAR per 600 PAs over the course of his career? Well the long-time backup and utility man should be the major backup to young Dee Gordon. The rookie Gordon will be getting his chance to be an every-day-er in 2012, but if something goes wrong long-term (think: injury), don’t be surprised to see Juan Uribe move from third to short with Hairston manning third.

No. 23 — Kansas City Royals

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Alcides Escobar R 550 .270 .309 .366 10.0 2.0
Reserve Yuniesky Betancourt R 150 .262 .283 .385 -8.0 0.0

Can Ned Yost and the Royals resist the temptation of giving a 30-year-old Yuniesky Betancourt too much playing time? I doubt it. Teams out there have inexiplicably given Yuni 500+ PAs for the last six seasons, and though that looks likely to end this year, I imagine the Royals find some excuse to take one of the league’s best defenders — Alcides Excobar — off the field in deference to the Great Old School Wonder.

No. 22 — Arizona Diamondbacks

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Stephen Drew L 450 .267 .330 .435 5.0 2.0
Reserve Willie Bloomquist R 150 .258 .305 .348 -4.0 0.0
Reserve John McDonald R 100 .251 .283 .374 N/A 0.0

It looks likely Stephen Drew will start the season on the DL, and judging by his recent comments, he may even miss as much as three months if he can’t heal right. Put me in the optimisitic camp, though, because he’s already returned to a lot of baseball action. Behind him, Bloomquist and McDonald will provide… warm bodies.

No. 21 — New York Mets

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Ruben Tejada R 600 .259 .329 .339 2.0 2.0
Reserve Ronny Cedeno R 100 .238 .285 .346 N/A 0.0

Ruben Tejada, the 22-year-old heir apparent to Jose Reyes, is probably offensively only a tick above average for a shortstop, and a tick above average defensively too. Altogether, that makes a swell young shortstop. If he doesn’t work out, I doubt that Ronny “Replacement Level” Cedeno gets the starting gig. Look for young Wilmer Flores or Jordany Valdespin (clearly an alias) to make an appearance.

No. 20 — Cincinnati Reds

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Zack Cozart R 550 .253 .304 .398 6.0 2.0
Reserve Wilson Valdez R 150 .253 .298 .332 N/A 0.5

Cozart is both the prospect and the starter — which is, y’know, a little terrifying usually. Wilson Valdez is out of options, so he wins the bench job by default. Don’t expect a whole lot of offense from this region, but it should be noted that Cozart was a capable hitter in the minors and Marcel predicts a .330 wOBA, which is his most optimistic projection, but still notable in that it’s Marcel, and Marcel is a dumb monkey.

No. 19 — Detroit Tigers

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Jhonny Peralta R 600 .268 .320 .423 0.0 2.0
Reserve Ramon Santiago S 100 .258 .321 .364 3.0 0.5

If Jhonny Peralta can keep his strikeout total low and continue to hit for good power, he makes a solid offensive shortstop. Otherwise, he looks more average than anything (~2.2 WAR per 600 PAs in his career). Ramon Santiago appears to have lost his only chance at a starting job when Brandon Inge moved to second base, so he once again goes into the utility role.

No. 18 — San Diego Padres

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Jason Bartlett R 550 .258 .324 .345 -2.0 2.0
Reserve Andy Parrino S 100 .207 .298 .322 N/A 0.5
Prospect Everth Cabrera S 50 .232 .307 .315 N/A 0.0

Jason Bartlett now has three consecutive seasons with a negative UZR — granted, his most recent season was merely -0.9, but still: It’s a massive turnaround from what he appeared to be early in his career. Behind Bartlett, the Padres appear to have a glut of medium-upside infielders, from Perrino to Everth Cabrera and even the replacement level Alberto Gonzalez. It’s hard to say this early which of them breaks camp with the MLB club, but it appears at the moment Parrino has not only the highest upside (his minor league numbers don’t look at all shortstopish), but the best shot at taking over for Bartlett in 2013.

No. 17 — Oakland Athletics

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Cliff Pennington S 550 .252 .318 .359 1.0 2.0
Reserve Adam Rosales R 100 .234 .288 .347 N/A 0.5
Super Utility Eric Sogard L 50 .254 .321 .347 N/A 0.5

Cliff Pennigton had a 9.9 UZR in 2010 and a -5.2 in 2011. His Fan Scouting Reports over the last three years have been 1, 9, and -3. Frankly, it’s hard to tell whether Pennington is a great, 4.0 WAR kind of shortstop (a la 2010) or a barely league average, 1.5 WAR kinda guy (see: 2011). It would appear, though, with Eric Sogard capable of winning a super utility job or even the third base job outright, Pennington may begin to cede PAs to the 26-year-old glasses-wearer.

No. 16 — Boston Red Sox

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Mike Aviles R 500 .273 .301 .417 -4.0 1.5
Reserve Nick Punto S 150 .250 .332 .335 4.0 1.0
Prospect Jose Iglesias R 50 .251 .289 .311 N/A 0.5

Aviles has the talent to be at least a league average hitter, and if his BABIP settles at .300 like all the projection systems are suggesting, then he should reasonably hit around 100 wRC+. If he struggles, they have the surprisingly good Nick Punto waiting in the wings (~2.5 WAR per 600 PAs) as well as glove-first prospect Jose Iglesias.

No. 15 — Minnesota Twins

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Jamey Carroll R 500 .266 .341 .322 0.0 2.0
Reserve Tsuyoshi Nishioka S 150 .271 .327 .376 -4.0 0.5
Prospect Brian Dozier R 50 .254 .313 .353 N/A 0.0

At age 38, Jamey Carroll looks like he’s still got it — heck, he seems to be finally hitting his stride. He’s had a wRC+ at 104 the past two seasons and has been quietly worth 2.4 wins per 600 PAs over the course of his career. Behind Carroll is 27-year-old Tsuyoshi and 25-year-old slugger Brian Dozier. I think a lot of teams would not mind having this kind of cheap depth.

No. 14 — Seattle Mariners

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Brendan Ryan R 550 .245 .303 .322 9.0 2.5
Reserve Kyle Seager L 150 .267 .323 .372 -1.0 0.5

I would not be surprised if Ryan manages to only muster 500 or less PAs in 2012, considering he’s never exceeded 500 PAs in his career. If that trend continues into this season, don’t be surprised if young Kyle Seager gets some considerable playing time and a chance to prove his bat can translate into the bigs.

No. 13 — New York Yankees

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Derek Jeter R 650 .268 .329 .362 -6.0 2.5
Reserve Eduardo Nunez R 50 .273 .312 .379 -7.0 0.0

ZiPS projects some career-worst numbers by far for Jeter, and personally I don’t expect that happening in 2012. He is certainly in the twighlight of his undeniably impressive career, but he is at least an average starting shortstop right now and should be able to hit around league average and field like he’s in a hooveraround for at least one more season.

No. 12 — Houston Astros

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Jed Lowrie S 550 .249 .316 .414 -2.0 2.5
Reserve Marwin Gonzalez S 150 .260 .300 .351   0.5

This is certainly no dig on Mark Melancon, but the Jed Lowrie trade is already looking like a feather in the cap of the Jeff Luhnow era. Lowrie should be a plenty capable shortstop while the team waits on prospect Jonathan Villar to test the waters of the upper minor leagues. Meanwhile, they also have Rule 5 pick from the Cubs (via trade with the Phillies) Marwin Gonzalez. Luhnow’s recent comments suggest Marwin will start the season as a utility player, but he could eventually work his way into a starting role if his bat proves to be not too far behind his glove.

No. 11 — Cleveland Indians

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Asdrubal Cabrera S 550 .273 .332 .460 -8.0 3.0
Reserve Jason Donald R 100 .248 .314 .350 N/A 0.5
Prospect Cord Phelps S 50 .249 .317 .360 N/A 0.0

The Indians have a young group of quality shortstops. Cabrera isn’t much of a defender, but he has hit well in two of the last three seasons and even when he’s off, he’s at least average offensively for a shortstop. If the Indians tire of his defensive troubles or if he sustains another injury, don’t be surprised to see Cord Phelps — who started playing shortstop in the minors last year — get some looks at the middle bump. Donald is also a worthy infielder, and at age 27, he’s still a viable long-term infielder (if not for the Indians, then someone else — and maybe on the corners of the infield).

No. 10 — St. Louis Cardinals

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Rafael Furcal S 450 .263 .331 .389 -3.0 3.0
Reserve Tyler Greene R 150 .233 .309 .364 0.0 0.5
Defensive Rep Alex Cora L 100 .245 .307 .310 N/A 0.0

Furcal has struggled with injuries so vociferously over the last four years that my 450 PA prediction is actually optimistic. Fortunately, they have some serviceable backups in Tyler Greene and Alex Cora (5.5 UZR/150 on his career at short), who will likely start the season stashed away in the minors.

No. 9 — Los Angeles Angels

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Eric Aybar S 600 .275 .320 .392 3.0 3.5
Reserve Maicer Izturis S 100 .268 .327 .377 3.0 0.5

Eric Aybar now has two strong hitting seasons out his last three and collected a total of 9.2 WAR in the last three seasons. I imagine the Angels will want to play Aybar, who’s only 28 this year, every day they can, but if he’s not able go, they can slot in the strong-defending Maicer Izturis and barely have a drop off in production — putting the Angels in a most enviable position.

No. 8 — Chicago Cubs

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Starlin Castro R 650 .304 .343 .422 -4.0 3.5
Reserve Adrian Cardenas L 50 .272 .323 .360 N/A 0.5

Why was Adrian Cardenas put on waivers? Do the A’s have that much depth? I dunno, but now the Cubs have a recent Top 10 prospect on their 40-man roster, and he’s backing up the 22-year-old phenom Starlin Castro. That’s pretty cool. Especially if Castro’s defense continues to poo the bed — because now the Cubs can shift Castro to second and give young Cardenas a shot at the middle while Darwin Barney transitions into a super utility role or a different team’s roster.

No. 7 — Philadelphia Phillies

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Jimmy Rollins S 600 .268 .330 .410 3.0 3.5
Reserve Michael Martinez S 50 .231 .277 .339 N/A 0.0
Prospect Freddy Galvis S 50 .261 .299 .359 N/A 0.0

Jimmy Rollins may be past his prime, but he’s still a solid shortstop with some good years left to play. In 2011, he once again showed his durable, productive self, but I would not be surprised to see the Phillies call up prospect Freddy Galvis this September and start thinking long term — especially if Rollins starts looking mediocre again.

No. 6 — Texas Rangers

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Elvis Andrus R 650 .275 .348 .350 8.0 4.0
Super Utility Alberto Gonzalez R 50 .254 .288 .337 N/A 0.0

I’d pencil Alberto Gonzalez in for the backup infielder job, but if anyone other than Andrus is getting back-to-back starts at shortstop, then something has gone horribly, horribly wrong. There’s a chance Michael Young mimics a shortstop at some point in the season, but if recent history holds, Andrus won’t share many PAs.

No. 5 — Baltimore Orioles

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Fielding WAR
Starter J.J. Hardy R 550 .268 .316 .446 10.0 4.0
Reserve Robert Andino R 100 .249 .301 .358 3.0 0.0
Prospect Ryan Flaherty L 50 .238 .289 .376 N/A 0.0

A healthy J.J. Hardy is a really dangerous J.J. Hardy. He’ll amazingly be only 29 in 2012, so there’s no real pressure on the Orioles to have a shortstop coming up the pipes, but still, if Hardy goes down for any extended period of time, the Orioles shortstop situation still has options: Manny Machado is only 19 and Mychal Givens hasn’t reach Double-A yet, so Andino and Flaherty would likely fight over the playing time. My bet is on the Rule-5 pick and top prospect Flaherty getting the most looks in the event of an injury.

No. 4 — Chicago White Sox

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Alexei Ramirez R 600 .274 .321 .412 8.0 4.0
Reserve Eduardo Escobar S 50 .256 .290 .344 N/A 0.5
Super Utility Brent Lillibridge R 25 .230 .299 .378 N/A 0.0
Prospect Osvaldo Martinez R 25 .241 .295 .314 N/A 0.0

Osvaldo Martinez really hit a wall at Triple-A last year, so I imagine the White Sox send Ozzie (who they got for Ozzie) back to the minors to start the season. That leaves the reserve and utility roles to Escobar and Lillibridge. If Martinez crushes Triple-A, then we should see him some time near September. Meanwhile, Alexei Ramirez continues to be one of the — if not THE — best defensive shortstops in the league, as well as an above average hitter for his position. Altogether, the White Sox have an enviable state, to say the least.

No. 3 — Toronto Blue Jays

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Yunel Escobar R 600 .272 .351 .393 3.0 4.5
Reserve Luis Valbuena L 50 .251 .313 .377 N/A 0.0
Defensive Rep Omar Vizquel S 50 N/A N/A N/A N/A 0.5

Escobar has really developed into one of the league’s best hitting-shortstop. In fact, I find it surprising ZiPS has predicted a line beneath his career average… It’s mysterious… The Blue Jays will presumably attempt to maximize Omar Vizquel’s playing time while minimizing his plate appearances, so they might be able to get some 60+ games out of just 50 or so PAs. Meanwhile, Luis Valbuena is out of minor league options, so I suspect Toronto will find a way to keep him on the roster and give him a super utility / backup SS role — what with his crushing of Triple-A pitching and ability to play the whole infield plus left field.

No. 2 — Miami Marlins

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Jose Reyes S 600 .302 .353 .471 -2.0 4.0
Reserve Emilio Bonifacio S 50 .263 .326 .347 -2.0 0.5
Super Utility Donnie Murphy R 50 .226 .287 .428 N/A 0.0

By signing Reyes, the Marlins can now boast quite a few shortstop-capable players on their roster. I imagine if the injury bug really takes ahold of Reyes, we will again see Hanley Ramirez at short, but even if they choose to bring Emilio Bonifacio in from the outfield, they should still get decent production.

No. 1 — Colorado Rockies

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Fielding WAR
Starter Troy Tulowitzki R 600 .294 .367 .533 7.0 6.0
Reserve Marco Scutaro R 50 .289 .350 .415 1.0 0.5
Super Utility Chris Nelson R 50 .261 .303 .408 N/A 0.0

Behind Tulo, there’s a bit of a competition this spring, and I’m wagering the lack of minor league options for Nelson helps him beat out Jonathan Herrera and D.J. LeMahieu. If Tulowitzki goes down for more than a day or two, Marco Scutaro probably takes the shortstop duties and Nelson goes to second.

Altogether, though, the team has two starting shortstops — one of them playing second base — and one of them is great, the other is elite.


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