5 Best Shortstops All-Time

Wrapping up the infield in my all-time greatest series, the list of shortstops features some super-recognizable personalities along with some no-names. I suggest making use of the baseball-reference.com links accessed by clicking any player’s name.

1. Alex Rodriguez

SEA 1994-2000  TEX 01-03  NYY 04-

162-game average during prime:

.304/.394/.608  51HR  136RBI  87BB  130K

Alex Rodriguez is arguably the best right-handed hitters in history. He is obviously then the best shortstop in baseball’s history. Nobody at the position has bested him in just about any meaningful stat. He also dominated his era offensively, despite playing shortstop. He led the league in home runs 5 times, slugging 4 times, and was in the top 5 in RBI 8 times. He has shown the ability to do anything he tries to do on the diamond. He has led the league in games played (162), runs (143), hits (213), doubles (54), home runs (54), RBI (156), average (.358), and slugging (.645) at various points in his career. He has also stolen 46 bases in a season and walked 100 times in a season. He has virtually no flaw, and will continue to build his case as he plays into his mid- and late- thirties.

2. Honus Wagner

LOU 1897-1899  PIT 00-17

162-game average during prime:

.354/.416/.513  6HR  119RBI  58BB  55SB

Honus Wagner was one of the best pre-live ball era hitters. He hit above .320 for 14 consecutive seasons while finding himself on top 8 times. He leads all shortstops in runs, stolen bases, hits, doubles, triples, and average. While clearly not a power hitter, he hit the ball with authority on a regular basis; he led the league in total bases 6 times. Perhaps most known for his baseball card, which is more expensive than any other (one sold for $2.8 million in 2007), few probably know how fantastic of a player he was.

3. Cal Ripken

BAL 1981-2001

162-game average during prime:

.270/.347/.451  26HR  94RBI  76BB  66K

Cal Ripken was one of the earlier true power-hitting shortstops. Starting in his rookie season in 1982, he rattled off 10 consecutive seasons with at least 20 home runs. When he hit 34 home runs in 1991, it was the 5th highest single-season total by a shortstop to date. He also had 3 separate seasons with at least 40 doubles, 25 homers, and 100 RBIs. That has been done just 8 times by a shortstop, and he has accounted for 3 of them. In two of those seasons, he also led the league in extra-base hits. He played in an era of depressed offense, but still held his own with the bat. He also made offensive shortstops “trendy,” and facilitated the rise of players like Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra, and Miguel Tejada.

4. Arky Vaughan

PIT 1932-1941  BRO 42-43, 47-48

162-game average during prime:

.339/.442/.499  12HR  93RBI  106BB  28K

Arky Vaughn gets no love from anyone in the baseball world. His career totals are not impressive because he only played 129 games after age 31. Yet, he was dominant in his time on the field. Despite playing shortstop, he was an offensive force. He repeatedly finished among the league leaders in extra-base hits without many homers thanks to his many doubles and triples. Most noteworthy was his ability to get on base. He only hit below .300 in a healthy season once. Also, he led the league in walks 3 consecutive seasons, which helped him lead the league in OBP for those years. In 1935, he hit .385/.491/.607, tops in the NL in all 3 categories. He tragically died in a boating accident at age 40, in 1952.

5. Vern Stephens

SLB 1941-1947  BOS 48-52  CHW 53  SLB 53  BAL 54-55  CHW 55

162-game average during prime:

.286/.365/.486  30HR  136RBI  80BB  61K

Vern Stephens didn’t stick around putting up average stats after his prime, so his career numbers don’t startle. However, from 1942-1951, he was one of the fiercest hitters around, a shock considering his position. In an offensively challenged era, he routinely finished among the league’s best in home runs, despite the low totals themselves. He also drove in 135+ runs in three consecutive seasons, as well as assembling one of the finest seasons ever by a shortstop. In 1949, he hit 39HR, 159RBI, 101BB, with .290/.391/.539. As a true sign of his ability to slug, he took the fewest at-bats per home run of anyone in the AL in 1945 and finished in the top 3 a total of 4 times.

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