The American League East is home to a couple of the game’s top 2nd basemen. Where does Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette rank?
In the next few weeks, we at JFtC will be releasing a mini-series of sorts. We’ll be examining pitching and defensive positions of the Blue Jays – and how they rank and compare with all their AL East division competitors.
We start the series off with ‘the quarterback of the infield’ – Shortstop. I identified each team’s starting SS as per Roster Resource. Although there are multitudes of interpretive rankings for this position, this is the order I saw them in:
- Yankees – Gleyber Torres
- Red Sox – Xander Bogaerts
- Jays – Bo Bichette
- Rays – Willy Adames
- Orioles – Jose Iglesias
To rank and differentiate this pool of strong candidates, I based my decisions on the combination of various factors:
- Career fWAR
- Age (whether they’re approaching their peak or closure to regression)
- Contractual situation – the length and cost of a player’s control influences their value
- Steamer fWAR Projections for 2020 – what is their anticipated production
- Offense – what is their track record
- Defense – what is their track record
#1 New York Yankees – Gleyber Torres
|Contractual Situation||5 seasons control (2020 Pre-Arbitration; Arbitration Eligible 2021-2024)|
|2020 Steamer fWAR Projection||3.5|
In just two seasons since his debut in 2018, Gleyber Torres has become a young star in Yankee pinstripes. His acquisition, from the Cubs rental of Aroldis Chapman in 2016, has turned out exactly how the Yankee’s front office (and fans) dreamed.
Offensively, there’s a lot to be excited about. In his first two seasons, he’s notched an impressive .849 OPS, and in that time his 123 wRC+ (23% better than league average) is tied for 5th amongst the 25 qualified shortstops
The one aspect of concern in Gleyber’s performance could be his defensive work. He’s played the majority of his time at second base. In his very limited sample size at SS in 2019, he was close to average with a 1 DRS. At 2B, where up to this point he’s played the bulk of his innings, he’s not exactly picking it with his -8 DRS (below average). Some solace with this, the Yankees had a Star Short Stop in Jeter (entering the Hall of Fame in 2020) who only had a single season with a positive DRS rating. On a stacked Yankees lineup, Torres looks to be a strong force for the next few seasons.
Torres tops my list of AL East Shortstops due to his fantastic standing in my highlighted factors. His youthful age, the 5 seasons of cost-effective team control, and that his impressive production has only continued with a growing sample size – make it too easy to put him on the top of this list.
#2 Boston Red Sox – Xander Bogaerts
|Contractual Situation||6 seasons control ($20 million/ season; $120 million total + 2026 option)|
|2020 Steamer fWAR Projection||4.7|
Debuting in 2013, Bogaerts has been a fixture in the Red Sox lineup since 2014. Xander Bogaerts has the most tenure on this list, as well as the only player on a guaranteed contract. In April of 2019, the Red Sox inked their homegrown SS to a $132 million/6-year extension.
Xander’s career trends speak to his offensive abilities. With a career .288/ .350/ .451 slash line,.801 OPS and 113 wRC+ – his output from his 6+ MLB seasons is rock solid. To give some context, since 2014 when he began collecting regular playing time, his 113 wRC+ ranks 10th amongst the 62 qualified shortstops.
Defensively, advanced metrics don’t favor him. In his career, he’s amassed a -69 DRS (quite poor). Since 2014, he’s ranked dead last amongst shortstops in DRS (of the 26 qualified Shortstops). That being said, even with his defense not ranking well, he’s still ranked 3rd in fWAR amongst shortstops since 2014 (of the 62 qualified shortstops).
What Xander provides in proven ability, he lacks in the contractual upside. Due to his contractual situation, he doesn’t have as much Surplus Value potential (as say Gleyber Torres), but he definitely is the most rounded and reliable SS on this list – with his extensive track record. Although he is still young, he is approaching 30, and controlled into his age 32 season on a guaranteed contract. For these reasons, he landed 2nd.
#3 Toronto Blue Jays – Bo Bichette
|Contractual Situation||6 seasons control (2020-22 Pre-Arbitration; Arbitration Eligible 2023-25)|
|2020 Steamer fWAR Projection||3.6|
An under the radar 2nd round pick in 2016 (the first draft under Shapiro and Atkins), Bo was not immediately a household prospect name. Once he started to appear on (and continually climb) industry top prospect lists – the rest of the league realized they missed out on something electric.
Now, we’re all familiar with how Bo came on to the scene in 2019 – an impressive slash line of .311/ .358/ .571, a .930 OPS, and a 142 wRC+. After dreaming on Bo since his appearance on top 100 prospect lists, he’s lived up to the fan base hype.
Defensively, prior to 2019, as a fan base, we were skeptical if Bichette’s abilities would even allow him to stay at SS – and if he would have to move elsewhere. However, we were absolutely delighted with what we saw – he seemed to hold his own and make the plays he needed to. The advanced metrics seem to agree, as he accrued a 3 DRS (approaching Above Average). However with such an incredibly limited sample size, much like the offense, it’s far too early to say he’s definitively locked in at the position. However, a glimpse of his raw tools he exhibited in 2019 gives hope of the potential for big things to come.
Now, admitting my personal bias here, I feel there could be a time (whether it be a few months or a few seasons) where Bo bumps his way up to the top of this list. I honestly feel so strongly about this, I almost put Bo ahead of Xander – on principle of Bo’s youth, electric potential, and the potential for exploding surplus value from being on an entry-level contract. There’s so much upside to be excited about (*he cried ecstatically*) However, Bo has an extremely small MLB sample size and is theoretically still a prospect (and with that comes volatility). So ultimately, I conservatively landed Bo 3rd.
#4 Tampa Bay Rays – Willy Adames
|Contractual Situation||5 seasons control (2020-21 Pre-Arbitration; Arbitration Eligible 2022-24)|
|2020 Steamer fWAR Projection||2.7|
It wasn’t long ago that Willy Adames was the top Tampa Bay Ray’s prospect – a team that historically has very strong farm systems. Unlike some other names on this list who were highly touted prospects, Willy Adames hasn’t lit up the league with his presence – as of yet.
Offensively Adames really hasn’t broken out. In his two seasons to date, he’s managed a .742 OPS and a 102 wRC+ (close to league average). Looking closer at his wRC+, his debut season 110 wRC+ came in a shortened 2018, and in his sophomore 2019 season, he only managed a 97 wRC+. Perhaps some league adjustments have dampened him thus far.
What Adames brings defensively, however, allows for some patience for his offense to develop. His 2018 debut (of a limited 75 game sample size) resulted in a below-average -1 DRS. However, his full 2019 season at shortstop resulted in 13 DRS (approaching Gold Glove Calibre).
I wouldn’t bet against Willy, and with 5 years of team control, he can be a valuable part of the Rays. However, his limited production and offensive woes make him an easy 4th after the previous 3 shortstops.
#5 Baltimore Orioles– Jose Iglesias
|Contractual Situation||1 season control ($3 million – with a 2021 option)|
|2020 Steamer fWAR Projection||1.5|
Well, there has to be the last place in every ranking. That being said, Iglesias brings a skill set to any team, even potentially a competing team – in a supplemental bench/ utility role. However, on an Orioles team that was underwhelming at best, with 54 wins in 2019, Iglesias as a starter drastically raises the floor of their infield ( it’s hard not to raise any positional floor for the O’s).
Iglesias isn’t known for his offensive abilities. His career average .687 OPS and 83 wRC+ indicate his anemic historical offensive output. Since he started receiving consistent playing time in 2013, his wRC+ ranks in near the bottom third of the league’s 67 qualified shortstops ( he ranked 44th).
Jose’s defense is his bread and butter. Since 2013, he’s accumulated a 13 DRS, hovering between the average and above-average classification. Although not enough to balance his lack of offense, Jose can pick it at SS and isn’t a defensive liability. However, compared to the other 4 AL East candidates – his overall projected output and contractual status – easily puts him 5th in this ranking.
Although from a baseball move, I agree with the saying – there’s no such thing as a bad one year contract.
Coming back to the Blue Jays and Bo Bichette, although I currently have him ranked 3rd of all the AL East shortstops, I would not be surprised if he was 1st on my ranking a year from now. Compared to the rest of this list, he has upside in every category – which is tantalizing. His sheer youth (he’s the youngest on this list) allows for refinement in his raw skill and talent for years to come. His contractual control allows for such high potential surplus value – as he has the most control on this list (most of any player on an entry-level contract). But finally, just from a pure on the field perspective, the glimpse we saw in 2019 of the electricity he brings on both sides of his game – there is such well-grounded hope and optimism for the Blue Jays surrounding the Shortstop position.
In the AL East, the Shortstop position is represented by varying player types. The highly established with proven production, the highly ballyhooed prospects who’ve shown ample signs of a bright future or have yet to put it all together, and the patchwork-veteran-journeyman. Regardless of your agreement with my ranking of this list, this position in the AL East should be highly entertaining in both 2020 and the seasons to follow.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints are availible for purchase
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Pete is an avid baseball fan – primarily focusing on the Toronto Blue Jays. Once a timid fan in his adolescence, a 54 home run season won his heart over. He could be heard screaming triumphantly one October evening after an infamous bat flip. Approximately 12 months later, he reacted similarly to the Donaldson Dash. He eagerly awaits the next chapter of October jubilation for his team.