Erick Aybar has been the Los Angeles Angels shortstop since 2006. His best season came in 2011 when he hit 10 home runs (the only time), 59 RBI and .279 with 30 steals (career high). He was the 13th-best shortstop last season and that’s where he lands this season.
Aybar is a good, solid hitter. He doesn’t strike out often, career 11.3 strikeout and 5.9 swinging strike rate, and had at least 135 hits in each of the last seven seasons. Aybar has over 160 hits in the last two seasons. He isn’t much of a power hitter, evident by his 26.4 fly ball rate. He does have a 60.1 medium hit rate, just over his career average of 59.2 percent.
Aybar doesn’t excite you and he is a name often looked over, 17th round ADP last year. However, playing on a team with Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, Aybar has a lot of value. He either hits in front or behind him, which will help his runs and RBI. He was tied for second on the team with hits and fourth in runs scored last year. He will hit six home runs, 50 RBI and .270 with 14 steals.
Ranking Alcides Escobar this high may be a bit of a stretch. He finished 17th among shortstops on the Player Rater. Last season was a big drop off for Escobar. He played in 148 games one year after playing in all 162. He hit three home runs, 47 RBI and .257 with 17 steals. He hit three/50/.285 and 31 steals in 2014.
Escobar, similar to some of the other shortstops on the list, don’t strike out or walk much. He had a 11.3 strikeout and 3.9 walk rate last year. He also doesn’t have much power, 24 career home runs and .344 slugging percentage. Some hitters have 24 homers in half of a season. Escobar spreads the ball around when he hits it, 31.5 pull, 38.3 center and 30.2 opposite field percentage.
The Kansas City Royals have one of the more consistent offenses in the league. They were seventh in runs, second in hits, seventh in RBI and third in batting average. Escobar was the Royals’ leadoff hitter last season. With Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer hitting well and the resurgence of Mike Moustakas, Escobar will have plenty of chances to get on base and score.
He’ll have 160 hits, four home runs, 51 RBI and .265 average with 20 steals this season. Good enough to be considered a top-10 shortstop.
Addison Russell was one of four rookies to play at least 69 games for the Chicago Cubs last season. He played in 142 games and hit 13 home runs, 54 RBI and .242. He spent most of the season at second base, but played over 50 games at shortstop. Now that Castro is in New York, Russell slides in as the starting shortstop.
Russell, unlike the players before him, struck out a lot. He struck out 149 times, 28.5 percent, to be exact. His 13.7 swinging strike percentage was good, or bad, for 13th-highest in the league. He had a 31.4 O-swing and 51.3 O-contact percentage, 71st and 138th in the league among qualified hitters, respectively. Russell also had a 41.0 ground ball rate and 40.7 fly ball rate, 100th and 28th respectively.
Hitting in a lineup with Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Dexter Fowler and Kyle Schwarber will help any hitter. Javier Baez played some shortstop last season and will be second on the depth chart. If Russell struggles again like he did in the middle of the season, two home runs, 12 RBI and .232 in June and July, Baez could take over the job.
Russell is a boom-or-bust kind of hitter. He will strike out a lot, but when he makes contact, it will sound beautiful. He will have 129 hits, 15 home runs, 65 RBI and a .252 batting average this year.
Well, there you have it. My shortstops ranked 15 to 11, with three honorable mentions. I noticed a similarity with most of the players I listed here. A lot of them don’t strike out often and can get on base. The power numbers may not be there, but you don’t draft a shortstop this late and expect a 20-home run season. You are looking for batting average and maybe some steals.
There are a few players on this list that I have my eye on in drafts. Marte, Castro and Russell to be specific. Marte is now the starter. He has a good lineup around him and this is the chance for him to break out as a top shortstop. Castro is on a new team in a new league. How will he adjust to the AL East? Russell is now on the opposite side of second base permanently. He’s played some games there, but now he has to do it for a full season.
Is there someone I left off my list? Overrated? Underrated? Let me know in the comments.
Keep an eye out for my top-10 shortstops post. It should be up either Sunday or the following Wednesday.