The New York Yankees have the longest tenured shortstop in Major League Baseball penciled in to the Opening Day lineup. That might be some cause for concern. Derek Jeter is approaching 40-years-old and played just 17 games last season. The Yankees are not the only team in the American League East with concerns at shortstop. I will be ranking each AL East team’s shortstop situation from 5-1.
5. Tampa Bay Rays - Yunel Escobar – The Rays shortstop had a fair season in 2013. He knocked in 56 runs with 9 homers and 61 runs scored. His .256 batting average and .332 on-base percentage leaves a lot to be desired. He doesn’t strike out a ton, but doesn’t walk a lot either. Escobar has always had a nice glove and posted a career-high .989 fielding percentage last year.
4. New York Yankees - Derek Jeter – This hurts me to do as much as it does you guys to read. I really hope I get proven wrong. As of right now, with his injuries of late and how many games he can play at short I have to list the Yankee captain here. No one can deny that his range defensively has diminished. If Derek can play 130+ games at shortstop there is no reason he can’t come close to duplicating his numbers he put up during his last few healthy campaigns. At this stage however, that is a big if.
3. Toronto Blue Jays - Jose Reyes – Like Jeter, the reason for Reyes to be in the middle of the pack is injuries. There is no doubt that Jose Reyes is the most talented player on this list. He really should be number one. His history of injuries is a major cause for concern for a guy that relies so heavily on his legs. If the Blue Jays shortstop can play 155 games he’s always a threat to hit .300 with 15 homers and 70 RBI. Not to mention he has five seasons with 40 or more steals. Reyes is an above average defender with a cannon for an arm. The problem is, he has played more than 155 games just four times in his career.
2. Boston Red Sox - Xander Bogaerts – I might take some heat for this one. I know Bogaerts is still a prospect, and we’ve seen plenty of “can’t-miss” prospects well, miss. His sample size last year was limited, but he did hit .296 in a handful of postseason at-bats. Bogaerts has hit for average and decent power at every level of the minors. He may be the best defensive shortstop in MLB right now. he is only 21-years-old. He will have his bumps along the way. With that said, I think Xander Bogaerts is not far from becoming a perennial All-Star and Gold Glove candidate.
1. Baltimore Orioles - J.J. Hardy- It might surprise some people to see Hardy’s name atop a list the includes a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, a phenom with an extremely bright future and one of the most exciting players in all of baseball. So I’ll try to explain my case. For my money, Hardy is the most bang for the buck. He’s durable, consistent, and although he wont hit .300, he has above average power for a shortstop. He was tied for the Major League lead for home runs by a shortstop in 2013. Hardy is not the greatest defensive shortstop, but he’s adequate. There is a reason Baltimore is trying to sign the 31-year-old to an extension.
There are so many questions among American League East shortstops. If Bogaerts pans out, he’s more than likely at the top of the list. If Reyes is healthy, is he the standard for the position? What if Jeter is healthy all year and bounces back? Well folks, I guess we’ll have to wait and see. That, as they say, is why they play the games.