Baltimore Orioles: J.J. Hardy Remains Near Bottom For Shortstops

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J.J. Hardy of the Baltimore Orioles ranks near the bottom for shortstops in the American League East division.

As Spring Training began for the Baltimore Orioles, I started my annual series of ranking each position in the American League East (Preseason rankings: C | 1B | 2B | 3B).

With the 2016 season officially over, I have released my latest AL East rankings for the positions of catcher, first base, second base and third base. Now we move to the shortstop position, which features two veterans, two young players, and a journeyman.

Before the season started, I ranked Boston Red Sox’s Xander Bogaerts first, followed by the Blue Jays’ Troy Tulowitzki, although I wondered whether Tulowitzki would stay healthy.

In looking at those rankings compared to performance, I will examine each player who started at least ten games at the position for that team.

5. Tampa Bay Rays – Brad Miller, Tim Beckham, Matt Duffy, Alexei Ramirez

Preseason prediction – 5th, Brad Miller, Tim Beckham, Nick Franklin

As we go through this, you will find that the predictions and the pre-season rankings did not change. Shortstop was arguably the easiest position to predict. Brad Miller was new to the AL East, and while he was likely an upgrade over a bad season by Asdrubal Cabrera in 2015, I wasn’t sure he would pass Baltimore Orioles J.J. Hardy. And I surely didn’t think he was better than Didi Gregorius, Troy Tulowitzki or Xander Bogaerts.

Miller displayed an odd amount of power in 2016, hitting 30 home runs. His previous career high was 11, although in 110 fewer at-bats. However, he added a .243/.304/.482 slash line with 29 2Bs, 81 HRs, and 73 RBIs. A pretty good year for a guy who is largely a utility infielder.

What keeps he and the Rays in last are his defense. His offensive WAR was 3.3, but his dWAR was -1.4. Miller was 19 runs below average at shortstop, and his range wasn’t good either. On a team where the young pitching took a step back in 2016, they needed good defense. Miller struggled in that regard, with the fifth most errors by a shortstop.

Tim Beckham, as written about previously, actually looked like a major leaguer in 2016, albeit not a number one draft pick. Matt Duffy was acquired in the Matt Moore trade and started 18 games for the Rays, and will likely be the future shortstop, as long as he is healthy to start 2017.

Alexei Ramirez signed with the Rays on September 8th and started 14 games down the stretch, as Miller played other positions, mainly second base.

I will say, none of these guys had a bad season. And, if J.J. Hardy’s backup, while he was out at shortstop, was Ryan Flaherty, the Rays would have been fourth easily. But, it was Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles, one of the best players in the game.