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The Game Day Report’s Top 10 Shortstops Entering 2018

Welcome to another edition of The Game Day Report’s 2018 MLB player rankings!

In this edition, we will be taking a look at baseball’s top 10 shortstops. Generally, MLB teams like to have their best overall defenders at shortstop, and some of the players that will be taking a look at are just that. We have seen a rise in home runs from shortstops in recent years too, as there aren’t too many players at the position anymore that don’t have the potential to pop 20 or so homers.

Here’s a quick look at when the rest of our rankings will be released to the public:

Left fielders: March 26

Center fielders: March 27

Right fielders: March 28

Without further delay, here are our rankings of the top 10 shortstops in baseball entering the 2018 season:

1: Carlos Correa, Houston Astros

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Age: 23

2017 stats: 6.3 WAR, .315/.391/.550, 24 home runs, 84 runs batted in, 4 defensive runs saved

Jose Altuve was named the American League’s MVP in 2017, but his teammate Carlos Correa also had a good case to take home the hardware.

Had Correa not landed on the disabled list with a thumb injury, it’s entirely possible that he would’ve received more MVP votes. He finished 17th in the voting, which means a nearly full-season of games played by Correa likely would’ve resulted in a top-1o voting finish.

Correa is going to have a monster 2018 campian, assuming he stays healthy. His 24 home runs and .550 slugging percentage in 2017 were both career highs, which tells us that age 23 that there is still more power to come. He seems like a lock to hit 30 homers this year, but could 40 one day be in the cards? I don’t see why not if he stays on track.

Per his 162 game averages, Correa is averaging a .288/.366/.498 batting line with 30 home runs, 111 runs batted in, and 13 stolen bases. The 162 game average factors in Correa’s first three seasons of his career, and he could even put up a line similar to this in 2018 alone.

2: Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians

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Age: 24

2017 stats: 5.5 WAR, .273/.337/.505, 33 home runs, 89 runs batted in, 15 stolen bases, 5 defensive runs saved

Francisco Lindor‘s season was a tale of two halves, as he really started to come on in the second half of 2017.

After batting just .252/.312/.456 with 14 home runs and 43 runs batted in across 85 first half games, Lindor posted a batting line of .298/.366/.563 with 19 home runs and 46 runs batted in to finish up the season. The good part about Lindor’s struggles is that they weren’t because of injury, as he has missed just seven regular season games since emerging as an all-star in 2016 following his rookie year in 2015.

That great second half was also able to land Lindor in the MVP conversation, as he placed in the top five with only Jose Altuve, Aaron Judge, his teammate Jose Ramirez, and Mike Trout finishing ahead of him. You can expect Lindor to be in the top-five once again, and at least the top-10 for the next couple of years.

Cleveland reportedly tried to hammer out a long-term extension with Lindor earlier this spring, and obviously that didn’t get done. It’s unclear how advanced contract talks were, but the Indians and Lindor will have plenty of time to strike common ground on a deal. The 24-year-old Lindor isn’t even arbitration-eligible yet, and the fact that talks were held shows that there is significant interest on both sides to get something done still. Lindor is currently set to make $623,200 this season.

3: Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

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Age: 25

2017 stats: 3.4 WAR, .259/.310/.471, 33 home runs, 95 runs batted in, 6 defensive runs saved

Just like Lindor, Manny Machado‘s 2017 season was the tale of two halves, and his second half was also much better than his first.

Let’s take a look at a quick breakdown of the two real quick before diving deeper into analyzing Machado:

First half: .230/.296/.445, 18 home runs, 47 runs batted in

Second half: .290/.326/.500, 15 home runs, 48 runs batted in

It seemed like Machado was hitting into some bad luck in the first half, and his second half resurgence proved that sentiment to be true. It’s going to be critical for Machado to put together a complete season in 2018, as he will be a free agent for the first time in his career, and will cash in big time if he comes off a monster 2018 season.

The New York Yankees appear the early favorites for Machado’s services, but anything could happen in free agency next winter, as it is poised to be one of the most star-studded free agent classes in MLB history. An interesting wrinkle in Machado’s free agency case will be that he prefers to play shortstop as opposed to third base. It’s likely the team that does sign Machado would likely oblige to his wish, as Machado is an elite defender in the field no matter where he plays.

Of course there is always a chance Machado re-signs with the Baltimore Orioles, but that could very well be ruled at this point, as Machado will almost certainly want to test the free agent market. It should be interesting to see how this situation plays out.

4: Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers

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Age: 23

2017 stats: 5.6 WAR, .295/.375/.479, 22 home runs, 77 runs batted in, 10 defensive runs saved

Corey Seager has been one of the best defensive players in baseball since his debut in September 2015, and while some say he has some issues with his plate discipline, Seager is still able to post an on-base percentage of .370+ in each of his first two full seasons.

Machado switching over from third base prevents Seager from being ranked in the top-three and it would’ve worked out nicely if Seager still could’ve been ranked in that top-three because of Correa and Lindor all being in about the same age group. All three also made their MLB debuts in 2015, and figure to be the future of the shortstop position for many years going forward.

Seger could be due for a big time offensive explosion in 2018, as he is my pick for the 2018 National League MVP Award. With star third baseman Justin Turner sidelined until May due to a broken wrist, manager Dave Roberts will need someone to step up big time in Turner’s absence, and for Seager, he should be able to step up naturally, as he is probably the furthest thing from a finish product at this stage in his career.

It’s also important to remember that Seager finished third in MVP voting in 2016, so my projected MVP honor in 2018 could really come to fruition.

5: Trea Turner, Washington Nationals

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Age: 24

2017 stats: 2.6 WAR, .284/.338/.451, 11 home runs, 45 runs batted in, 46 stolen bases, -3 defensive runs saved

Health is the biggest question mark when it comes to Trea Turner‘s game, but when he is on the field for the Washington Nationals, not only is baseball better, but the entire Nationals team and lineup is also way better.

Turner will provide first-year manager Dave Martinez with elite speed atop the lineup, as he had 46 stolen bases in just 98 games for the Nationals in 2017. His 162 game averages say that Turner averages 66 steals a year, and would hit 20 homers a year. That is a ridiculous upside you can’t ignore, as I may not want anything more than a clean bill of health from Turner this season.

While he doesn’t grade out to be an amazing defender by any means, you have to factor in his defensive versatility as a plus. Turner is also able to play center field and second base, and the option to play defense in center became really handy for the Nationals after Adam Eaton went down with a torn ACL.

Maybe a full season of Turner being healthy is what the Nationals need at this point to be prepared to win in October, because I, just like everyone can’t seem to figure out why they can’t get the job done. Maybe the narrative flips this season, and if it does, Turner will be a big reason why.

6: Andrelton Simmons, Los Angeles Angels

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Age: 28

2017 stats: 7.1 WAR, .278/.331/.421, 14 home runs, 69 runs batted in, 19 stolen bases, 32 defensive runs saved

32 defensive runs saved for Andrelton Simmons in 2017 is just incredible to think about.

It’s almost important to note how 2017 was also the best offensive season on Simmons career, as he posted career-highs for a full-season in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, home runs, runs batted in, and stolen bases. Simmons’ 32 defensive runs saved are his second-highest total for a single season, with his 41 runs saved in 2013 still being the high point in his defensive wizardry.

Simmons is by far and away the best defender at shortstop, and could very well be the best defender in all of baseball. Since he entered the league in 2012, no other MLB player has more defensive runs saved than Simmons’ 163, and all other defensive metrics love the 28-year-old just as much as defensive runs saved does.

While Mike Trout will always be the engine of the Los Angeles Angels, Simmons himself is also pretty darn important, and the Angels will need another great offensive season out of him if they expect to realistically contend for a Wild Card spot in 2018. The American League West figures to go to the Houston Astros once again, which means that the Angels will have to fight for their playoff lives in what is expected to be a crowded wild card race.

7: Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers

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Age: 29

2017 stats: 4.7 WAR, .297/.337/.471, 20 home runs, 88 runs batted in, 20 stolen bases, 3 defensive runs saved

Just like Simmons, Elvis Andrus also had the best offensive season of his career last season.

The 29-year-old Andrus posted career-highs in hits, home runs, runs batted in, slugging percentage, and on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS). Give Andrus a lot of credit for turning around his career for the better as well, as we didn’t know what was going to happen with him based on his disappointing seasons in 2013, 2014, and 2015. We started to see a power stroke emerge for Andrus in 2016 when he hit eight home runs, but when you are able to double it the next season, I’d say your power has now reached new, and better heights.

Andrus also remained an above-average defender even with his increased offensive production, bringing his career defensive runs saved totals too 18 total runs saved. There is also an interesting wrinkle in Andrus’ contract with the Rangers that will be discussed.

Back in April 2013, Andrus and the Rangers agreed to an eight-year, $120 million contract, and Andrus will be able to opt-out of this contract if he wants to following either this season or the 2019 season. As alluded to, a couple of years ago, Andrus would’ve never considered opting out, and he still might now with the way free agency this off-season went. But still, this will be an interesting situation to monitor going forward.

8: Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants

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Age: 31

2017 stats: 2.2 WAR, .253/.305/.403, 14 home runs, 77 runs batted in, 9 defensive runs saved

Brandon Crawford had a nightmare season at the plate in 2017, but he walked away with his third-straight National League Gold Glove Award as a consolation prize for the rough offensive showing.

Even with his down offensive year, Crawford still put up similar totals in home runs and runs batted in that we have seen throughout his career. The big dip in on-base percentage and on-base percentage plus slugging is the concerning aspect about Crawford, as his on-base percentage nearly slipped below .300, and his on-base plus slugging percentage almost dipped under .700.

San Francisco is hoping that Crawford will become rejuvenated with Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria added to the roster, but things are already off to rocky start with injuries to Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Smardzija. Still, it would be nice to see Crawford rebound more than anything, especially considering that he could still be with the Giants for a couple more years beyond the 2018 season.

Crawford is currently signed through the 2021 season at an average annual salary of $12.5 million a year, and has a full-no trade clause. So it’s either the Giants are stuck with the bad version of Crawford, or the very good version of Crawford that has been a big-time performer in the playoffs and a former all-star. Obviously, the Giants would choose the latter in this situation.

9: Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox

Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports

Age: 25

2017 stats: 2.2 WAR, .273/.343/.403, 10 home runs, 62 runs batted in, 15 stolen bases, -11 defensive runs saved

X didn’t give it to us last season, as he was said to be battling injuries during the second half of the 2017 season.

Bogaerts’ defensive metrics also could’ve been better, but he has never really been regarded as top-flight defender. The fact of the matter is 2018 will be an important season for Bogaerts and his future. It looked like he could be on the verge of stardom after his all-star season in 2016, but now he is facing all kinds of uncertainty.

The 25-year-old Bogaerts is set to make $7 million this season, and will be arbitration-eligible for the final time this off-season. Perhaps the Red Sox will want to lock up Bogaerts to a long-term extension if he performs strong this season next winter, but a strong 2018 campaign followed up by a strong 2019 could put Bogaerts in an interesting position.

One thing is for sure this season no matter with Bogaerts , he will hit for more power. There is no telling where his batting average and other stats will go, but previous history tells us that Bogaerts should be able to regain his form if he is indeed 100% healthy again.

10: Didi Gregorius, New York Yankees

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Age: 28

2017 stats: 3.7 WAR, .287/.318/.487, 25 home runs, 87 runs batted in, 1 defensive run saved

Didi Gregorius has improved each season with the New York Yankees since the team acquired him in December 2014 to be the team’s new everyday starter at shortstop in-place of Derek Jeter, and he took his game to a whole new level in 2017.

Gregorius posted career-highs in home runs, runs batted in, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and on-base plus slugging percentage as well. Perhaps in 2018 Gregorius could improve even more by drawing more walks at the plate. Not once in his six-year career has Gregorius had a season where he struck out 100 or more times, and with Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Sanchez all likely to hit ahead of Gregorius everyday in the lineup for manager Aaron Boone, there’s a real good chance Gregorius is going to see some very good pitches to hit.

He was also big for the Yankees in the playoffs, as he was able to energize the team in the American League Wild Card Game with a big three-run home run following a rocky start in the American League Wild Card game. Many are picking the Yankees to win the World Series to win the World Series with the addition of Stanton, but Gregorius could be the critical part to the championship formula at the end of the day.

Honorable Mention:

Jean Segura, Seattle Mariners

Addison Russell, Chicago Cubs

Paul DeJong, St. Louis Cardinals

Orlando Arcia, Milwaukee Brewers

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