Reviewing the AL East 2015 Projections: Shortstop


Playing shortstop in the AL East is not an easy task. You are following legends like recent stars Ripken Jr., Garciaparra, and of course, Jeter.

This year, the two players expected to be the best in the division were supplanted by a young player experiencing a breakout year. And to add, one of the top two played most of the year hurt, the other got traded for a star even bigger than himself.

The rankings will include anyone who started more than five games at the position.

Preseason Rankings

  1. Toronto Blue Jays – Jose Reyes, Ryan Goins, Steve Tolleson
  2. Baltimore Orioles – J.J. Hardy, Everth Cabrera*, Ryan Flaherty, Rey Navarro
  3. Boston Red Sox – Xander Bogaerts, Hanley Ramirez, Brock Holt
  4. Tampa Bay Rays – Asdrubal Cabrera, Nick Franklin, Tim Beckham, Hak-Ju Lee
  5. New York Yankees – Didi Gregorius, Brendan Ryan, Stephen Drew

End of Season Rankings

1. Boston Red Sox – Xander Bogaerts, Brock Holt

The Boston Red Sox had several items of concern in 2015, including 3B, LF and DH. Shortstop was not a place of concern.  Xander Bogaerts turned 23 on October 1, but much like several other top players. After the first six weeks in the division, youth was served in 2015.

In 2014, Bogaerts played 144 games total and struggled with a .240 batting average and also struggled in the field, splitting between shortstop and third base. Not in 2015.

Bogaerts played 144 complete games in 2015, all at shortstop. Bogaerts had more assists and double plays, arguably due to more arm strength. He also was top five in numerous defensive metrics. But enough about defense. He amassed a .320 batting average, 7 HR, 81 RBIs, 84 runs and 196 hits. That was the second best batting average in the American League, second most hits, most singles, and also included 10 stolen bases.

Holt was an All-Star, as previously discussed, and filled in at shortstop in a handful of games, but not many.

2. Toronto Blue Jays – Jose Reyes, Ryan Goins, Troy Tulowitzki

It is kind of hard to rank the shortstops of the Toronto Blue Jays. Jose Reyes is considered a star, but he has been unable to stay healthy, and then was traded for Tulo at the trade deadline. Reyes was hitting a very respectable .285 for Toronto, with 34 RBIs, 17 doubles, 16 SBs and 4 HRs. But, Toronto went all-in, trading for another shortstop with injury concerns, along with sending Jeff Hoffman, Miguel Castro and Jesus Tinoco to the Rockies, and getting Latroy Hawkins as well in return.

Tulo came to town with a .300 average with Colorado. But, he struggled settling in in Toronto, hitting .239 with 5 HRs and 17 RBIs. Tulo then got hurt after breaking his shoulder blade. I, for one, thought this trade was a bit questionable for the Jays.

Hawkins has not been great for Toronto, including in the playoffs. I still think in the end this trade will end up hurting Toronto, but right now the combination of Reyes and Tulowitzki is second best in the division.

3. New York Yankees – Didi Gregorius, Stephen Drew, Brendan Ryan

After the first six weeks of the season, Didi Gregorius deserved to be dead last. But, he got much, much better as the season went on. Defensivly, Gregorius was an utter disaster to start out. But, by the end of the season, he only had 13 errors and finished with a respectable .977 fielding percentage.

Offensively, Gregorius finished with a .265 average, 9 home runs, 56 RBIs, 57 runs and 139 hits.

I expected these three to bring up the rear in the AL East and Didi to probably lose the job by mid-season. And while Drew and Ryan had expected bad seasons, Gregorius turned in a fine year. At first, the weight of replacing Derek Jeter appeared to weigh on Gregorius; but by the end of the season, he was just fine at shortstop for the New York Yankees.

4. Tampa Bay Rays – Asdrubal Cabrera, Tim Beckham, Nick Franklin

I thought Asdrubal Cabrera would have a better season than he did in 2014, and he did just that.  But, I also thought he would be only be the 4th best shortstop in the American League East.  The only change was who was behind him.

More from Baltimore Orioles

He hit .265 with 15 HRs, 28 doubles, 134 hits, 28 doubles and 58 RBIs. While statistically it appears to be a wash between Asdrubal and Didi, the sabermetric numbers and the eye test both favored the Yankees.

And while Stephen Drew and Brendan Ryan were bad, Beckham and Franklin were both bad as well. Beckham was supposed to be a top prospect for the Rays, but it looks like that may never happen.

5. Baltimore Orioles – J.J. Hardy, Everth Cabrera, Paul Janish, Ryan Flaherty, Manny Machado

Shortstop was a disaster in 2015 for the Baltimore Orioles. No one really wants to speak badly about J.J. Hardy, but in playing the season injured, he cost the team. When he was out early, Everth Cabrera was terrible as a replacement. Manny Machado had issues defensively trying to fill in at shortstop, Ryan Flaherty was, well Ryan Flaherty. In fact, it is no stretch to say the O’s best short stop in 2015 was Paul Janish.

Hardy played in 114 games and finished with a .219 average, 8 HRs, 37 RBIs, 14 2Bs, 90 hits and 45 runs. His arm was also significantly worse than last year, likely due to playing with the injury all season. His WAR ranking of 0.0 was easily the worst of his career.

If Hardy was bad, Cabrera was worse. He was hitting .209 with a .220 slugging percentage, four RBIs, 20 hits and two doubles when he was cut by the Orioles, and that ended his year in the major leagues.

Janish only played in 14 games, but hit .286 and played some very good defense, as is his calling card.

Next: Looking back at the AL East 3rd basemen for 2015

Orioles Outlook

Hard to say how the Orioles look moving forward. Can Hardy be a 15 HR guy when healthy at his age? Were his struggles this year injury-related, or due to getting older? Hardy will play as long as he is healthy, so Oriole fans are going to find out.

If not, I think Janish should be the backup and utility infielder in 2016 for the Orioles. He deserves to be on the major league roster, and if not Janish, Manny Machado will be an adequate shortstop as needed.