Home Featured Best MLB Players of the 2010s: Shortstop

Best MLB Players of the 2010s: Shortstop

by Chris Brown

With the 2010s in the rearview mirror, 110 Sports is taking a look back at the best players of the last decade at each position. There’s no one perfect way to evaluate baseball players. For these rankings, we weigh statistics such as OPS (on-base + slugging percentage) and WAR (wins above replacement), which, while imperfect, are good at assessing hitting contributions and overall value, along with various other factors like the player’s best years in the decade, length of high-level production, speed, defense, reputation, playoff experience and awards. 

A general note about eligibility for this exercise: Players are being considered for the top 10 only at the position they played most in the decade. If a player made a significant contribution at another position in the 2010s, they may receive an honorable mention there as well. Let’s get to it.

The landscape of shortstop has changed more than perhaps any other position in the last 10 years. As the infield spot which requires the most athleticism, the shortstop prototype has been glove-first, speedier players who may hit for a solid average rather than five-category threats who hit for power and drive in runs as well. That’s changed drastically in recent years, to the point where offensively, shortstop is one of the deepest positions rather than the shallowest. 

The beginning of the 2010s featured just a few players who were true offensive stars. Today you could make the case for nearly 20 capable of putting up great numbers. Among those who played at least 100 games at the position in a season, eight of the top 10 seasons in WAR and seven of the top 10 seasons in OPS at shortstop have come in the last four years. With that in mind, balancing longevity with elite performance is the tricky task at hand in ranking shortstops. 

Honorable Mentions

Xander Bogaerts | BOS 2013-19

Bogaerts has cemented himself as one of the best-hitting shortstops in the game in recent years. Over the past two seasons, Bogaerts has hit 23 and 33 home runs, respectively, while averaging 91 runs and 110 RBI per season and hitting .300/.373/.914. The three seasons prior, his power output was lower, but the average was strong (.296), and he swiped double-digit bases each year. At 27 years old, Bogaerts is still trending up; he just didn’t have enough elite level seasons in the 2010s at the plate to make the top 10.

Corey Seager | LAD 2015-19

The Dodgers shortstop burst onto the scene in 2016 in his first full season in the majors, hitting 26 homers, scoring 105 runs, and driving in 72 runs while slashing .308/.365/.512 and winning the NL Rookie of the Year award and a Silver Slugger. He followed that up with a strong .295/.375/.479 showing with 22 homers and 77 RBI the next season before Tommy John surgery robbed him of most of the 2018 season. This past season, Seager led the NL with 44 doubles and hit 19 long balls. Still just 26, the best is likely still to come for Seager, but with only three full seasons under his belt, he doesn’t measure up here.

Hanley Ramírez | FLA/MIA 2010-12, LAD 2012-14, BOS 2015-18, CLE 2019

In the first years of the 2010s, before the emergence of stars like Bogaerts, Seager, and Carlos Correa, Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki were the two premier hitters at shortstop. In 2010, Ramirez was an all-around offensive threat, hitting .300/.378/.475 with 92 runs, 21 home runs, 76 RBI, and 32 steals. He was named to the All-Star game that season for the last time in his career. 

His steals totals and batting average declined gradually in the years that followed, but Ramirez still averaged 20 homers across the next seven seasons, including 30 bombs with a career-high 111 RBI in 2016. Among those with at least 400 games at short in the 2010s, Ramirez is second in home runs, eighth in steals, and sixth in OPS. Ramirez most recently handled short in 2014, though, and he was a poor defender when he did line up there.

José Reyes | NYM 2010-11, MIA 2012, TOR 2013-15, COL 2015, NYM 2016-18

Several of Reyes’ best years were in the mid-to-late 2000s (after stealing 60 and 64 bases in 2005 and 2006, respectively, he swiped 78 in 2007), but he certainly had a number of good years left in the tank in the early part of the 2010s. From 2010-14, he hit .297/.346/.435 while averaging 10 home runs, 30 doubles, 84 runs scored, and 31 stolen bases per season and playing 126+ games in four of five years. His decline from 2015 to his last MLB season in 2018 was steep: .250/.307/.392 while averaging 16 steals per season and playing in 120 or more games only one more time. His prime years were something to behold; there were just too few of those in the most recent decade for him to get real consideration here.

Top 10

10. Ian Desmond | WSH 2010-15, TEX 2016, COL 2017-19

Desmond was one of few reliable 20-20 players at shortstop — and in baseball — in the early years of the decade. From 2012-18 — excluding an injury-shortened 2017 — Desmond averaged 22 home runs and 20 stolen bases per season. In fact, Desmond’s five 20-20 seasons are tied with Mike Trout for the most in MLB in the 2010s. He’s a two-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger in the decade as well.

Desmond’s average has fluctuated throughout his career, with seasons as high as .292 and as low as .233 in his prime. His bat has trailed off in recent years, even playing his home games in the remarkably hitter-friendly Coors Field. One of the biggest knocks against Desmond, though, is that while he played 149 or more games at short for six straight seasons to begin the decade, he’s only played a total of four games there since. He was also a poor defender at shortstop during his time there, averaging nearly 24 errors per season during that six-year stretch.

9. Asdrúbal Cabrera | CLE 2010-14, WSH 2014, TB 2015, NYM 2016-18, PHI 2018, TEX 2019, WSH 2019

A member of six different teams in the decade, Cabrera certainly moved around a good deal, though it wasn’t due to a lack of production. An underrated player throughout his career, Cabrera has been incredibly durable, playing in 130+ games every season from 2011-19. He had three seasons with 20+ homers in the decade, and his best year was in 2011, when Cabrera hit .273/.332/.460 with 87 runs, 25 homers, 92 RBI, and 17 stolen bases. Cabrera has hit 14 or more home runs in each of the last nine seasons. 

That durability and consistently solid production lifts him high in cumulative stats at shortstop compared to others. Among players with at least 400 games at short in the decade, Cabrera is fourth in hits, third in runs, first in doubles, third in homers, and second in RBI. The downside for Cabrera is that he hasn’t played more than 45 games at shortstop since 2015, bouncing around to other infield spots more frequently. He also has never really been considered an elite option at the position, and his .265 batting average and .326 on-base percentage for the decade are both outside the top 15 at the position.

8. Jean Segura | LAA 2012, MIL 2012-15, ARI 2016, SEA 2017-18, PHI 2019

Segura didn’t play a full season in the majors until 2013, but he’s been a pretty consistent speed and average player ever since. His best all-around season came in 2016, when he hit an impressive .316/.368/.499 with a league-leading 203 hits along with 41 doubles, 20 homers, 102 runs scored, and 33 stolen bases. Segura was third in steals among shortstops in the decade (with 181) and fifth in average (.286).

Aside from that 2016 season, though, Segura never approached 20 homers in a season again, and while a consistently solid bat, he was not thought of as an elite hitter or defender at any point in the decade. His batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage have also declined in each of the last four seasons.

7. Brandon Crawford | SF 2011-19

While Desmond made this top 10 despite a poor glove at short, Crawford is here in large part because of his outstanding defense. Crawford was only marginally better than a league-average hitter for the first half of the 2010s after debuting in 2011, but he set new career-highs in home runs (21) and RBI (84) in 2015 with a .256/.321/.462 batting line while making his first All-Star team. The lifelong Giants shortstop won a Silver Slugger that year, as well as his first of three Gold Gloves in three consecutive years. Over the past four seasons, Crawford has hit .253/.320/.395 while averaging 13 homers, 69 RBI and four steals per year.

Like Cabrera and Segura, Crawford was never considered one of the top shortstops in baseball in the decade — at least not offensively. His cumulative stats and rate stats don’t come close to measuring up at the position, especially given the influx of great hitting shortstops in recent years, but his durability (he’s played in 140+ games in eight straight seasons), defense, and contributions to two World Series championship teams should not go undervalued.

6. Carlos Correa | HOU 2015-19

Injuries have limited Correa to 110 or fewer games in four of his five seasons in the majors, but we’ve seen a strong bat every time he’s been on the field. His best production came in 2017, when Correa hit .315/.391/.550 while tallying 24 home runs and being selected to the AL All-Star team. Despite only playing close to a full season once in his big league career, the former Rookie of the Year has still managed to hit 20+ home runs in four seasons, and has hit .274 or better in every MLB season. Correa’s best production has been notably better than someone like Seager, for example, but like Seager, due in large part to injuries there just wasn’t enough of it.

5. Trevor Story | COL 2016-19

Story only played in four years in the 2010s, the least of any player on this list, but he’s made a huge offensive impact from the jump. The Rockie swatted 27 homers and a .909 OPS in 2016, finishing fourth in NL Rookie of the Year voting despite playing in only 97 games. Story experienced a bit of a sophomore slump the next year, hitting .239/.308/.765 but still hitting 24 homers and driving in 82 runs. These past two seasons, though, is when he really found another gear: hitting 35+ home runs and stealing 23+ bases each year with an outstanding batting line of .293/.355/.561. He won a Silver Slugger both years, was an All-Star both years, and finished top 12 in MVP voting both years.

Despite his incredible last few seasons, you can’t ignore his lack of an extensive major league track record of success when comparing him to the best of the decade, which is a major reason why he doesn’t rank higher than fifth. But his high peak in the 2010s relative to other younger players (like Cabrera and Seager) is why he ranks ahead of them. Since his debut in 2016, Story ranks first in home runs, second in RBI, fifth in steals and first in OPS among shortstops.

4. Andrelton Simmons | ATL 2012-15, LAA 2016-19

Let’s go ahead and cut straight to the big points for Simmons: Of all the players on his list, he was the worst hitter of any in the decade. Of all the players on this list, he was also the best defender — and one of the best defenders in baseball. That certainly wouldn’t mean as much if we were talking about first basemen, but shortstop is one of the most defensively important and challenging spots on the field, and Simmons is one of the best defenders there we’ve ever seen. The Braves-turned-Angels shortstop has won four Gold Gloves since 2013, which on its own doesn’t do his fielding justice. His defensive WAR value from Baseball Reference for the decade is 26.7. Just how good is that? The next closest in baseball for the 2010s is Yadier Molina — at 15.9. 

Despite the fact that he’s never hit more than 17 homers in a season, has rarely hit for a high average, and isn’t an elite base stealer by any means, Simmons has still finished top 15 in MVP voting three times. It’s clear the voters at least somewhat understand the value Simmons brings to the table. Simmons has become a better offensive player in recent years, averaging 11 home runs and 13 steals with a .280/.328/.405 batting line over the past three seasons. That’s not why he makes this list, but it helps him land at fourth instead of a further down.

3. Elvis Andrus | TEX 2010-19

No shortstop in the 2010s was as durable and consistently solid at the plate as Andrus, who played in 147 or more games in nine of the 10 years. Among shortstops in the decade, the Texas Ranger is first in games played (1,478), second in hits (1,595), first in runs scored (810), fifth in RBI (589), and first in stolen bases (269). He was a pretty consistent high-level speed guy, with 42 stolen bases in 2013 being his career high. Excluding an injury-shortened 2018, Andrus averaged just shy of 30 steals per season in the decade, and his nine years in the 2010s with 20+ stolen bases is more than any other player in baseball. Andrus has also been a good, but not spectacular, batting average player, with his .276 mark in the decade tied for 11th among those with at least 400 games at shortstop in the 2010s. 

Andrus experienced a power jump in the last few years — hitting 20 homers in 2017 and 12 in 2019 — but he’s generally been a very low power hitter, averaging just four long balls per season from 2010-16. Based on his cumulative numbers alone, it’s hard to come to any other conclusion than that Andrus was the shortstop of the 2010s, and some people have ranked him as such. Since making his major league debut in 2009 at the age of 20, Andrus has pretty much always been a solid option at the position, but rarely an elite one. He hasn’t been to an All-Star game since 2012, has not been regarded as a top tier defender at short, and simply has never been a true star. His career has likely been underappreciated by many and his longevity and solid production is quite impressive, but he’s never been regarded as a star at the position like these final two players.

2. Troy Tulowitzki | COL 2010-15, TOR 2015-17, NYY 2019

It’s easy to wonder what could have been for Tulowitzki had he been able to stay relatively healthy through the decade — and his career. He likely would have gone down as one of the best to ever handle shortstop. Tulo only played 100+ games three times in the last eight years, but still ranks second in WAR at the position in the 2010s behind only Simmons. That tells you what kind of hitter Tulo was at his best. He posted an OPS above .915 in four of the first five seasons of the decade, and he leads all shortstops in the 2010s in seasons with an OPS north of .900 (four). 

The first two seasons of the 2010s, Tulo hit .308/.376/.555 while averaging 85 runs, 34 doubles, 29 homers, 100 RBI, and 10 steals per season. He was an All-Star both years, won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger both years, and finished top 10 in MVP voting both years. After an injury-shortened 2012, Tulo was an All-Star in each of the next three seasons, including in 2014, when he slashed an incredible .340/.432/.603 with 21 home runs in just 91 games.

Tulo played a total of just 202 games over the last four years due to various injuries. As a result, he’s outside of the top three shortstops in the 2010s in total hits, home runs, and RBI. The longtime Rockies shortstop was essentially the opposite of Andrus in the decade. Andrus largely stayed healthy, Tulo struggled remaining on the field. Andrus was a low power hitter with speed, Tulo was a high power hitter with, for most of the decade, little speed in terms of steals. Andrus was the steady, but not spectacular, shortstop of the decade, while Tulo was the position’s greatest star when healthy, particularly in the first half of the decade. Tulo’s peak and star status at his best lands him the second spot here.

1. Francisco Lindor | CLE 2015-19

Up to this point, every one of our top players saw major league action in every year of the decade. Lindor didn’t make his debut until 2015, and didn’t play a full season until 2016. So why is he here in the top spot? Because he’s been a five category stud, and one of the best players in baseball, ever since. Lindor burst onto the scene in 2015 at age 21, tallying 12 home runs, 50 runs, 51 RBI, and 12 steals with a .313/.353/.482 batting line in 99 games and finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting. After a 15-homer, 19-steal season with a .301 batting average in 2016, Lindor found his power stroke, hitting 33, 38, and 32 homers in the last three seasons of the decade, respectively. 

Over the last four seasons, Lindor is averaging 30 home runs, 20 steals, 107 runs and 83 RBI per season while slashing .284/.346/.495. He’s also been selected as an AL All-Star four times, finished top 15 in MVP voting four times, been on three playoff teams, and won two Silver Sluggers and two Gold Gloves. That four-season stretch was the most dominant of any shortstop in the 2010s. His more limited time in the majors relative to players like Andrus, for example, means Lindor doesn’t top many lists in terms of cumulative stats. But he’s third in WAR at shortstop for the decade — ahead of Andrus — as well as sixth in home runs. 

We’ve already discussed why Andrus doesn’t hold the top spot, but why Lindor over Tulo? Tulowitzki has the advantage of playing in all but one season of the decade, but he only had five seasons with more than 95 games played in the 2010s, which happens to be the same number as Lindor. Lindor finished top 15 in MVP voting four times compared to Tulo’s two times. Lindor also won the same number of Gold Gloves and Silver Slugger awards as Tulo in a significantly shorter timespan. Most of all, though, Lindor was a true five-tool player in his peak of the decade, hitting for average and power, stealing bases, and fielding well with a strong arm. Strong cases could be made for Andrus and Tulo, but Lindor’s incredible production out of the gates in his career earns him the title of top shortstop of the 2010s.

Catch up on 110 Sports’ entire series looking back at the best MLB players at each position of the last decade here.

Photos by Dirk DBQ / Flickr (Andrus), Ian D’Andrea / Flickr (Tulowitzki), Erik Drost / Flickr (Lindor)

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