By MARK SIMON
Much like the home run robbery, I think we can all agree that great shortstopping is a baseball work of art. It’s another of those things we’re so looking forward to this season. Shortstops are referred to as wizards or magicians for their artistry at the position. And they can do it in so many ways.
We’re looking forward to their return to the field so much, whether it be this season or in another. These players especially:
Andrelton Simmons has 75 Runs Saved over the last three seasons and remember that he was limited to 102 games at shortstop last season due to injury. The next-most Runs Saved at the position in that span is Nick Ahmed with 52.
There’s only one Ozzie Smith, but Andrelton Simmons is making his case that he’s this generation’s version of The Wizard of Oz. His shortstopping is way better than any other current player and even at age 30, we can’t wait to see him again.
Speaking of wizardry, we have to say it will be great to watch Javier Báez’s magic in the near future. Báez has a flare to his game that should be universally appealing. He’s a three-time winner of our Fielding Bible multi-position award who more than ably made the move to being a full-time shortstop. He tied for the lead in Runs Saved at the position last season and is much more than just a guy who makes fancy tags.
The steady hand
In talking with Ozzie Smith for The Fielding Bible – Volume V, he noted that the likely reason that Paul DeJong tied Báez for the lead among shortstops in Runs Saved last season was because DeJong was so good at making the routine play. Indeed, DeJong isn’t flashy. He ranks last in our Good Fielding Plays per 1,000 innings tally among everyday players. But he covers the ground he needs to and occasionally does something to make you appreciate the work he puts in.
Ahmed falls into this category as well, though he’s a little flashier than DeJong. In particular, Ahmed excels at making the play in the shortstop-third base hole, showing off both range and his accurate arm. But he’s also pretty good at getting to the ball hit up the middle.
Potential for greatness
There are some great young shortstops on the cusp of being as well regarded as the best defensive players in the game. Willy Adames and Adalberto Mondesi made great strides in their game for the Rays and Royals, respectively. But we want to single out Fernando Tatís Jr.
Tatís looks like he’s going to be a special hitter based on his injury-shortened debut year, in which he hit .317 with 22 home runs in 334 at-bats. Defensively, he’s got a little ways to go. But the upside is promising. Tatís ranked better than Báez and Ahmed in the component of Runs Saved related to getting to balls. But he ranked last among all infielders in the throwing component of the stat.
If Tatis can get that straightened out, he’ll be something special on the defensive side too.