Today I continue my NL Central position rankings with the shortstop position. I’ll be judging them based on their offensive prowess, defensive skill set, potential, age, and injury history.
To see my third base rankings, click here.
Shortstop is the most important position in a major league infield. It’s where teams put its strongest defender. A top-tier shortstop makes an average defense look superior. Additionally, if he can handle the bat, well, that’s an added blessing.
Let’s find out who the best shortstop in the NL Central is.
5. Zack Cozart – Cincinnati Reds
2013 stats: .254/.284/.381
Cozart comes in at N0. 5 because he struggles to get on base, has mediocre power, and doesn’t have any speed (zero stolen base attempts in 2013). Somehow, he actually managed a worse walk rate last season (4.2%) than he did during his rookie year in 2012 (5.2%). His on-base percentage, on-base plus slugging and slugging percentage all fell from his pedestrian rookie campaign.
Defensively, Cozart is below average as well. He made 14 errors (10th most among MLB shortstops) in 2013.
The 28-year-old failed to make any improvements from 2012 and isn’t worthy of a higher seed. His low average and lack of power make him an unexciting shortstop who doesn’t contribute much to his team.
4. Jordy Mercer – Pittsburgh Pirates
2013 stats: .285/.336/.265
Don’t get me wrong – Mercer has potential and the Pirates are finally letting him show it for a full season in 2014. But potential only gets a player so far. He has to prove he has what it takes to be a Major League ballplayer.
Mercer, 27, had a solid showing in 103 games last season. He hit .285 along with eight home runs and posted an incredible .330 batting average of balls in play.
Mercer has decent pop in his bat and is capable of hitting for a high average. He’ll never be a 20+ home run guy but he’ll consistently hit close to .300.
3. Jhonny Peralta – St. Louis Cardinals
2013 stats: .303/.358/.457
Of all the shortstops in the NL Central, Peralta has the most power. He’s hit double-digit home runs in nine consecutive seasons and 20+ home runs in four of those seasons.
But despite that, Peralta still comes in at No. 3 on my list, mainly because of his age (he’ll be 32 in May) and his limited potential.
In 2013, he batted .303 with 11 home runs in 107 games for the Detroit Tigers. His season was cut short after he was suspended 50 games for violating Major League Baseball’s joint drug prevention and and treatment program, though that didn’t stop the Cardinals for giving him $53 million. But who am I to judge?
Peralta doesn’t walk. His walk percentage hasn’t been over ten since 2005. He’s also inconsistent at the plate, hitting .299 in 2011, .239 in 2012, and .303 in 2013. He’s a career .268 hitter.
He’s the oldest shortstop in the NL Central and if you ask me, the Cardinals gave Peralta too much money. They paid for past performance instead of what he can contribute in the future.
2. Jean Segura – Milwaukee Brewers
2013 stats: .294/.329/.423
Segura has some work to do when it comes to fielding, but overall, his 2013 rookie season was sensational.
He finished the season with a .294 batting average, despite hitting just .241 in the second half. He admitted his body wore down, something I don’t see being a problem in 2014.
Segura, 24, hits for average and is a demon on the base paths (44 steals in 2013). His batting average of balls in play (.326) was high, but don’t expect that to drop much. Throughout his minor league career, Segura has continuously posted a high BABIP. He also displayed a surprising amount of power in his first big league season by hitting 12 home runs.
In order for him to take the stop spot in my ranks next year, Segura will need to improve on his on-base percentage and walk rate. His walk rate (4.0%) was the lowest among NL shortstops with at least 300 plate appearances.
Segura has everything a team looks for in a shortstop, and has a very bright career ahead of him.
1. Starlin Castro – Chicago Cubs
2013 stats: .245/.284/.347
One bad season is not going to change my opinion on a stud like Castro. 2013 was a season to forget, so why don’t we?
Before 2013, Castro posted batting averages of .300, .307 and .283. Last season was his first year with a negative WAR, and I fully believe it was fluke.
Castro takes top honors because he already proven himself at a young age. He has shown he’s a .300 hitter, can still 20+ bags and can hit double digit home runs. What more do you want?
His defensive work still needs to improve, however (along with his attitude, but that’s a different story). In 2013, his .968 fielding percentage was 19th among NL shortstops who had logged at least 200 innings. Yet, he is still capable of making “Oh wow, did you see that?” type of plays.
Like Segura, Castro is just 24 and still has a lot of room to grow. But the fact that he is already the NL Central’s best shortstop says a lot. Just think what he could do if he actually tried.