Shortstop may be the position where the AL East has the finest crop. Every team in the division will have a quality, above average shortstop heading into the 2013 season. It remains to be clear whose shortstops will produce and who will be bargains and overpays though.
1. Jose Reyes- Toronto Blue Jays: When Reyes is healthy, he might be the best shortstop in baseball and when he was healthy in 2012, he was the best shortstop in baseball. He batted .287/.347/.433 with 11 home runs, 57 RBIs, and 40 stolen bases after signing a huge deal with the Marlins the winter before. After the Marlins failed to contend, Reyes was traded along with Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, and others to the Blue Jays in what remains the biggest trade of the offseason. Reyes will add an excellent leadoff hitter with speed and on-base skills to an already formidable Blue Jays lineup.
2. Derek Jeter- New York Yankees: It’s not often that Derek Jeter ranks second on a top shortstops list, but his age is catching up with him. Jeter can still handle the bat, as he hit .316/.362/.429 with 15 home runs and 58 RBIs as a 38 year old. However, he injured his ankle during the ALCS last year, which could very well hamper his performance. He’s always been a bad defender, but 2013 could be the year that he starts playing DH much more often. Still, even at 39 years old, a .300 average will not be out of the question for Jeter.
3. J.J. Hardy- Baltimore Orioles: Hardy is somewhat of a curious case. With excellent defenders, one normally expects them to lack a little bit in the hitting department. While Hardy is not fantastic at hitting for average, he displays plenty of power as he batted .238/.282/.389 with 22 home runs and 68 RBIs. To top that off, he won his first Gold Glove after his second straight marvelous defensive season with the O’s. Hardy’s level of elite fielding and good power should continue with an Orioles team that is no longer a surprise.
4. Yunel Escobar- Tampa Bay Rays: Signed away from the Blue Jays after the Reyes trade, Escobar has potential to be one of the best unheralded moves of the offseason. He’s coming off a down year which saw him hit only .253/.300/.344, but when right he can come close to being a .300 hitter. Added on to the fact that he’s an above average defender, the Rays have gotten themselves a pretty good shortstop for cheap.
5. Stephen Drew- Boston Red Sox: Coming off a couple of injury-filled seasons, it’s hard to predict how Drew will play in 2013. Before 2011 when he started missing significant time, he was consistently one of the best offensive and defensive shortstops in baseball. Even with two bad years bringing the average down, his career line is still .265/.328/.433. If he can stay healthy, Drew will almost certainly hit better than his .223/.309/.348 line in 2012. On a one year deal, Drew could be a huge steal if he plays well, but if not then the Red Sox can plug in a prospect to fill his space.