MLB Players

20 Best MLB Shortstops Of All Time

By / 24 January 2023 07:27 AM

MLB has seen some of the greatest shortstops in its history including the likes of Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter(left), Ozzie Smith(top right) and Alan Trammell(bottom right)
Source : twitter

Best MLB Shortstops of all time would include Honus Wagner and Derek Jeter for the list to be complete. Two players who dominated two different centuries. 

The captain of the infield, a shortstop, positions himself between the third and second baseman and is often considered one of the most difficult positions to play in the age-old game. A position often overlooked, powerful shortstops have been able to transform their franchises. 

If there have been players like Jeter and Garciaparra, whose powerful hitting had fans in awe, then there have been players such as Ozzie Smith, whose defensive skills are considered second to none. It is a position that demands all-round play from the player. 

In its 147 years of history, MLB has seen some iconic shortstops who became the greatest players of the bat and ball game. We've compiled the list of such 20 players considering their statistics and also the lasting impact they had on the sport. 

20. Nomar Garciaparra

Nomar Garciaparra is a former Boston Red Sox player who was a six-time all-star player.

Often on social media pages, you will see Nomar Garciaparra's name pop up with fans asking whether, if it weren't for injuries, would the Red Sox player would have had a similar career trajectory as that of Derek Jeter. 

Garciaparra edges out his rival, Derek Jeter with 43.1 in WAR compared to Jeter's 42.4. But the Boston Red Sox player suffered from barrages of injuries throughout his playing career.

Nomar Garciaparra throws the ball during the AL Division series against the Oakland Athletics in 2003
Source : twitter

Many imagined Red Sox to win their World Series title with Garciaparra at the helm, but that was not quite the case, as Red Sox won their last four titles without the support of the shortstop. 

It was a shame that the talented shortstop couldn't have a single World Series to his name. In his prime, Nomar had an average of .372, which remained his best until his retirement in 2009. 

Garciaparra will not get the plaque in Cooperstown but did get one with Boston Red Sox. A weakened player after his injury in 2001, Nomar only comes behind Arky Vaughan in OPS+ among the shortstops at 124. 

19. Bobby Wallace

Bobby Wallace is a former player of the Baltimore Orioles who played for the AL side when they were St. Louis Browns. 

The shortstop started his career at age 21 with Cleveland Spiders (now Cleveland Guardians), but as a pitcher, then continued his baseball journey as a third baseman before transitioning as a full-time shortstop.

One of his best seasons as a shortstop came in 1901 with the Saint Louis Cardinals. Wallace had an average of .324 with an OPB of .351 and OPS+ of 120. It was also the year when Wallace led the NL as a shortstop in chances per game, assists, and double plays.

Bobby Wallace pictured in 1901 as in one picture he gears up in his batting stance.
Source : twitter

Often regarded as one of the greatest defensive shortstops of the game, Wallace was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1953. And as many baseball fans point out, it was his fielding that gave him the place in Coopertown. In 1902, Wallace fielded 17 chances in a game against Boston, which, to date, remains an American League record. 

Though his career dipped during his twilight years as he managed .100 in 1917 and .153 in 1918, Wallace ended his career with a WAR of 70.3 and OPS+ of 105.

18. Joe Sewell

Joe Sewell is a former Cleveland Guardians shortstop and was considered one of the most difficult players to strike out. 

The shortstop was struck out only 114 times in his career which he spent ten years with the Cleveland Guardians and the rest three years with the Yankees. 

Sewell, who maintained a batting average of .312 saw a career-high of .353 during his fourth year with Cleveland. The 21-year-old Joe made his debut in traumatizing circumstances, with Ray Chapman losing his life after being hit on his head. 

Joe Sewell in his Cleveland Guardian gear is pictured right after striking the ball
Source : instagram

Sewell won his first World Series title as a rookie, having batted with .329 in 22 games. He won his second title with the New York Giants in 1932 but wasn't able to recapture his old form as his batting average dwindled to .272 and a year later, in his last season, to .273. 

Sewell ended his career with a WAR of 54.7 and an OPS+ of 108. He scored a total of 49 home runs in his entire career and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977. 

17. Luis Aparicio

Luis Aparicio was named the Athlete of the Year in 1964 for his exploits on American soil. He was born in Venezuela.

The shortstop of Baltimore Oriole, Aparicio, was named to the All-Star team 13 times, having won the AL Rookie of the Year Award in his debut season. 

A gifted player, Aparicio is no shape and size at 5ft 9, and looked like a squeaky clean hitter of the ball, but if there was one thing he was known for, then that was stealing bases. One of his memorable steals came against the Brewers at Fenway Park as he went 2-for-4. 

Luis Aparicio takes his batting stance as he is pictured in Chicago White Sox gear
Source : twitter

He won his one and only World Series title with Baltimore Orioles in 1967 and had a batting average of .233, scoring four home runs and an RBI of 31. From 1959-1966, the Venezuelan native led the AL in fielding percentage and won nine Gold Glove Awards in the process. 

Luis finished his career with a WAR of 55.9 and an OPS+ of 82. The shortstop also won nine AL stolen base leader titles as the Chicago White Sox having his no.11 retired, only for him to unretire it for Omar Vizquel. Aparicio was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984 and became the first Venezuelan to be honored. 

16. Lou Boudreau

Lou Boudreau spent the majority of his career with Cleveland Guardians before moving to Boston Red Sox for one season in 1951.

One of the best defensive shortstops, Boudreau, was named to the All-Star team eight times and had his no.5 shirt retired by his beloved team. The shortstop of Cleveland Guardians, Boudreau led his side to the World Series Championship in 1948 against Boston Braves, it was their second in history, having won their first title in 1928.

That year, the Illinois native Bourdeau enjoyed his best batting average at .355 and slugging percentage at .534 and also took home the AL MVP award. 

On the left picture: Lou Boudreau is pictured as he is announced as the Cleveland Guardians manager
Source : twitter

Not forget to mention, Lou was also the manager of the Cleveland Guardians while maintaining his career as a baseball player. He had a batting average of .295 and an OPS+ of 120 and ended his career with a WAR of 63.3. 

Boudreau was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1970 and went on to manage three other teams, including Boston Red Sox, Kansas City Athletics, and Chicago Cubs but failed to find the same success as he did with the Cleveland Guardians. 

15. Pee Wee Reese

Pee Wee Reese was a ten-time All-Star, a beloved player of the game and a respected captain of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

With a batting average of .269, Reese ended his 18-year career with a WAR of 68.4 and an oWAR of 57.8. In his best-ever season in 1947, Reese had an average of .284 and an OBP of .841. 

It was also the year Jackie Robinson joined Brooklyn Dodgers and signaled an end to segregation. And despite that, Robinson would be insulted by the crowds and his teammates. 

The captain of the Dodgers Pee Wee Reese pictured with the teammate Jackie Robinson who was subject to racism in 1947 supported him throughout the whole ordeal
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During that time, Reese stepped up in support of Robinson. During one of the games, he put his arm around Robinson's shoulder and also refused to sign the petition that wouldn't allow Robinson to play the games.

He won the world series twice, in 1955 and 1959, and despite not being able to play a big role in both series, Reese's return to Hodges remains an important moment of the game.

Reese was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984. As much as he is known as one of the greatest shortstops of all time, his act of kindness towards his teammate went down in history as one of the greatest moments in baseball. 

14. George Davis

George Davis was a brilliant shortstop but was inducted into the Hall of Fame only in 1998. His talent was recognized late by the voting committee.

Davis began his career as a third baseman before transitioning into a shortstop. With a career WAR of 84.9, the number that comes only short of three players in the history of shortstops. 

He began his playing career with Cleveland Spiders in 1890 and later moved to New York Giants in 1893, where he enjoyed his best years. In his debut season with the Giants, Davis had a batting average of .355, which remained the highest of his career. The shortstop would lead the league with RBI and in 1897, had an RBI of 135. 

George Davis was inducted into the Hall of Fame 1998 eighty nine years later after his retirement
Source : twitter

Davis amassed total hits of 2,665 and scored 73 home runs. He spent his end years with "Chicago White Sox" and won the World Series title in 1906, having a batting average of .277 and memorably stole home in Game 5. 

As he drew curtains to his career in 1909, Davis disappeared into obscurity, with the talented shortstop recognised for his contribution to the game a century later, after his retirement. 

13. Joe Cronin

Joe Cronin scored 170 home runs in his 19 years of playing career. Not many imagined that a bank clerk would become one of the greatest shortstops of all time.

Cronin had a batting average of .301 and an SLG of .468 with an OBP of 0.387 and was voted in the top 10 of the AL MVP list five times and was named seven times to the All-Star team. Despite getting off to a shaky start in his debut season with the Senators in 1928, Cronin's average rose in 1930 to .346. 

Joe Cronin pictured in his batting stance for the Washington Senators the side for which he played from 1928-1934
Source : twitter

A multi-faceted man, Joe Cronin, became a player-manager during his time with the Washington Senators, whom he briefly managed in 1933 and similarly managed and played for Boston Red Sox. 

Twice the shortstop was involved in a pricey deal with the Senators spending $7500 to receive his services and later to Red Sox for $250,000. 

Cronin served as an executive for Red Sox and was named the President of the American League in 1959, three years after he was enshrined into the Hall of Fame. Though he faced many controversies in his role as the President, there aren't many who would dispute his legacy as a player. 

12. Bill Dahlen

Bill Dahlen, nicknamed "Bad Bill", played for five different MLB franchises in his 20 long years of career.

A man known for his fierce temperament, Bill Dahlen had a batting average of .272 and an OBP of 0.358. He scored 84 home runs. And despite being one of the greats of the game, the shortstop never received the support of his teammates to be enshrined into the Hall of Fame. 

Dahlen won the World Series Title with the New York Giants in 1905 and led the RBI list, and though he didn't light up the World Series Games, he gave important contributions through his defensive style of play. 

Bill Dahlan on the right pictured with his teammate as he poses at the Polo Grounds
Source : twitter

Bill had a WAR of 75.2 and was named by the Society for American Baseball Research in its overlooked 19th Century Base Ball Legend, a title fitting to the New York native. Dahlen's best season was in 1894, having batted with an average of .359 and a slugging percentage of .566 and also scored 15 homers highest in his career. 

Dahlen succeeded George Davis with his 42-game hitting streak in 1894 and is eligible to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2025, having missed out in 2013 by two votes. 

11. Alan Trammell

Alan Trammell won the World Series MVP in 1984 with the Detriot Tigers. Trammell waited two decades to be named into the Hall of Fame.

He played for the Tigers for his entire professional career and later managed them for two seasons. Alan had a batting average of 0.285 and an oWAR of 63.1. In his MVP-winning season, Trammell had a batting average of .314 and 14 home runs. 

The shortstop scored two homers in Game 4 of the World Series, which justified his winning the award. Often considered to have been done dirty, Trammell didn't have any animosity when he deservedly entered the Hall of Fame in 2018. However, many wished his partner in crime, Lou Whitaker, would have been named alongside him. 

Alan Trammell on the left pictured in his Detroit Tigers jersey and on the right waves to crowd as he is inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018
Source : twitter

Alan won four gold glove awards and three silver slugger awards and was named to the All-Star team six times. Never flashy, even during his heyday, Trammell was known for his straightforward style of play. He continued the same attitude even after he retired from the game. 

In an interview with The Athletic in 2021, it was revealed that the 65-year-old turned up to the spring training of the Tigers despite being injured in a snowmobile accident and wearing a big boot as he put the infielders to the test.

10. Luke Appling

The video of 75 year old Luke Appling scoring a home run still brings a smile to the faces of the baseball fan, which always causes a sensation when shared on social media pages. 

The man who dedicated his 20 long years of career to only the "Chicago White Sox" ended his career with a batting average of .310 with total hits of 2,749 and RBI of 1,116. His home run at 75 in the Old-Timer game fascinates fans, as in his heyday, Appling scored only 45 home runs. 

Luke Appling played for Chicago White Sox his entire career.
Source : baseballhall

Even during his ending days, Appling's love for the game was clear as daylight. He had only retired two days earlier as a minor league hitting instructor for the Atlanta Braves before he passed away at 83 during an emergency surgery. 

Appling was named to the seven all-star teams and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1964 and won two batting championships in his career and at the time became the only fourth shortstop to be besotted with the title.

Appling had an OPS+ of 113 and an oWAR of 73.7. Appling enjoyed his best season in 1936 when he averaged .388, the highest ever for a short stop but could never feature in a World Series game. 

9. Barry Larkin

The man born and raised in Cincinnati, Barry Larkin went on to play for the Reds for his entire 19 years as a professional baseball player.

Barry won the 1990 World Series with his hometown team, as he starred 12 times in the All-Star team. 

In his 1995 MVP-winning season, Barry had a batting average of .319 and was a surprise winner of the prestigious award tossed between a power hitter and a pitcher. He was the 11th player of the Cincinnati Reds to win the title, which since then has been won only once by a Reds player in the last 27 seasons.

Barry Larkin on the left pictured during the 1987 season for the Cincinnati Reds and on the right the shortstop gets inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012
Source : twitter

In his career, the shortstop scored 198 home runs and had an oWAR of 68.3 and OPS+ of 116. The hometown hero was willing to return for his 20th season, but the Reds ruled it out for him, opting for two youngsters instead of the 40-year-old. 

Larkin was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012 and transformed the shortstop position, which would previously be filled with defensive players. 

8. Robin Yount

Robin Yount is a two-time MVP and played all his 20 seasons with Milwaukee Brewers.

With an OPS+ of 115, the same as that of Derek Jeter and an oWAR of 83.1, Yount comes at no.20 with 3,142 in the list of all-time hits made in the history of the sport.

The statistics don't get any better for a shortstop than of Yount in his MVP-winning season of 1982. He ranked third in batting average with .331 and fourth in RBI with 114 and scored 29 home runs as Bears made their only ever World Series appearance. 

Robin Yount celebrates with his teammates as he gets his 3000th hit in 1992
Source : twitter

When he began his playing career at 18, Yount scored his first homer in the sixth game of his career and broke the record of Mel Ott's having played most games before turning 20. 

It was also the season when he won his only gold glove award, and when he won his MVP award for the second time, he was shifted to centre field. He is one of the only four players to win the MVP award in two different positions. 

In a career that spanned two decades, Yount scored 251 home runs with a slugging rate of .430. The Brewers shortstop was inducted into the hall of fame in 1999, finished his career with a batting average of 0.285, and won three silver slugger awards. 

7. Arky Vaughan

Coming in number 7 on our list is the talented and often-forgotten baseball legend, Arky Vaughan. 

It was only in 1985 that the former Dodgers player was inducted into the hall of fame. Despite his talent and his teammates calling him one of the sweetest hitters they had ever seen, Vaughan was a man who would quietly go by his game. 

In his 14 years of short playing career, Vaughan had an OPS+ of 136, third amongst the shortstops, and had a batting average of .318. His best offensive season, which was in 1935, led the league with a batting average of .385 and SLG of .607 and placed third in the NL MVP voting.

Arky Vaughan pictured in his Pittsburgh Pirates kit as he(on the right) practices at Forbes Field before a game against the Chicago Cubs on August 31, 1935.
Source : twitter

Those close to him say, only if the California native had more of a colourful personality he would have been recognised more for his baseball skills. In the 1941 All-Star game, Arky became the first player to hit two home runs, a feat overshadowed by the celebration of Ted Williams.

In his ten seasons with the Pirates, Vaughan never went below .300 in batting average. He was converted into third base after his transfer to the Dodgers in 1942, and it was also the first time his batting average dropped to .277. 

His Teammate's favourite, Vaughan, retired from the game in 1943 after a dispute with his manager, Leo Durocher. He came out of retirement in 1947 and played in his one and only World Series, and despite not having won the title, Vaughan had a respectful average of .325 that season and appeared as a pinch hitter in three games against the Yankees. 

6. Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter won five championships with the Yankees and went on to become a cultural phenomenon.

A man unmoved by Alex Rodriguez's entry into the side in 2004, Jeter only trails behind his former teammate and Honus Wagner in oWAR, which stands at 96.3. In his elusive career, Jeter went on to win five Gold Glove Awards and five Silver Slugger Awards. 

If there is one thing even his biggest critics will agree when one talks about Derek Jeter, then that is how clutch he was for the Yankees. Many fans still remember the defining moment of Jeter's career in 2001 against Oakland Athletics as he saved the game-tying run. 

Derek Jeter after being elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2020 on January 22, 2020 at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City.
Source : twitter

The former Yankees captain, Jeter, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2020 as he received 396 of 397 votes and was only behind his teammate, Mariano Rivera, who received 100% of the votes. With a batting average of .310, Jeter scored 260 home runs and had 3,465 hits, the sixth most in the history of baseball. 

Nicknamed "Mr November", Jeter continued his association with MLB even after his retirement in 2014. Captain Clutch became a shareholder and later CEO of the Miami Marlins. He stepped down from his position on February 28, 2022, and sold his 4% stake in the team. 

5. Ernie Banks

Ernie Banks was voted twice the most valuable player in the National League in 1958 and 1959 and was the first to win the award two times in a row.

Banks is regarded as one of the greatest shortstops of all time but could've possibly been even much higher on the list if it weren't for the knee injury that saw him shift to first base. 

With an OPS+ of 122, fourth highest amongst shortstops, Banks hits 512 home runs coming second in the list trailing behind Alex Rodriguez. The man who stayed loyal to one club in his entire playing career, Banks never got the chance to win the World Series with the Cubs.

Ernie Banks takes his stance as he poses for a picture in his Cubs jersey
Source : twitter

Though standing at 6ft 1, Banks never looked the most powerful man, but one flick of his wrist and the ball would sail over the field and into the crowds. He was the first person of color in the Cub's team, which was slow at integrating it.

In 2013, Banks received the President Medal of Freedom from the hands of then-US President Barack Obama, who later paid his respect to the Mr Cubs after his demise in 2015. 

He played as a shortstop until the early 1960s and switched to first base because of his leg problems. Eternally optimist Banks had the best fielding average by a shortstop with .985 in 1959 and won his only Gold Glove Award in 1960, and later became a full-time coach for the Cubs for two seasons after his retirement. 

4. Ozzie Smith

Ozzie Smith leads the list with 44.2 dWAR and is known as one of the greatest defensive shortstops of all time. 

Smith, the 13 times Gold Gloves winner, won his first and only Championship with St Louis Cardinals in 1982. 

He had a batting average of 0.262 and an SLG of 0.328, which isn't bad for a player who once used to be called a liability in the offense.

A spontaneous man on the field, Smith performed a back flip before taking on the pitch to face the Milwaukee Brewers in the World Series game. 

The Saint Louis Cardinals shortstop Ozzie Smith as seen in action for his side(right) and on the left pictured for his headshot
Source : twitter

Before arriving at St Louis Cardinals in 1982, the team with whom he stayed for 14 seasons before retiring in 1996, Smith had created a liking with the Padres fans who gave him the nickname "Wizard of Oz." 

And despite the liking from the fans, he only stayed there four seasons before becoming the Cardinals legend. 

Ray Knight, the former Cincinnati Reds manager and player, once said he would select the shortstop to pick the ball if his life was on the line. The former legends of the game, Pee Wee Reese and Roy McMillan, consider Smith to be one the best fielders, and despite earning praises along his way to stardom, Smith didn't stop improving his game. 

In an interview given to The New York Times in 1985, Smith said he still had a lot to learn despite being one of the best players at the time, having already won the Golden Glove four times. 

3. Alex Rodriguez

Many would argue that Alex Rodriguez mostly played as a third baseman in his 22 years career, but his record as a shortstop cannot be ignored.

Before moving to the Yankees and turning into a third baseman, Rodriguez had won two gold glove awards with the Rangers and had seven silver slugger awards to his name.

Alex leads the list among shortstops in OPS+ at 140, JAWS at 90.9, and RBIs at 2086 and scored 696 home runs, falling only four short of the much-awaited 700. He won the MVP award three times and led the RBI list twice in 2002 and 2007.

Alex Rpdriguez is unveiled as the Texas Rangers player in 2001 as he addresses the media after signing as a free agent
Source : twitter

After joining the Yankees, Alex was moved to third base to accommodate the star player, Derek Jeter, but even there, he continued to shine bright and won his first and only World Series Championship in 2009. 

His ending years will remain controversial as the news of performance-enhancement substances came out in the media in 2009. He admitted to taking the substance between 2001-2003, the year he won one of his three MVP awards. 

 He is fondly called A-Rod by his fans, many consider him to be one of the greatest players of the game, and some fell out with their favorite baseball star as they said not only he cheated the fans but also himself. 

2. Cal Ripken Jr

If there is anyone who deserves the nickname, "Iron Man", then that is the former Baltimore Orioles shortstop, Cal Ripken Jr.

In 1995, Iron Man broke the long-standing record of Lou Gehrig as he played his 2,131st consecutive game. Cal was a star from the very first season, winning the AL Rookie of the Year award the following year.

Ripken was voted MVP twice in his career, the first being in 1983, the year he won the World Series Champion and had a batting average of .318. He stands fourth among shortstops when it comes to oWAR at 78.2 and third in the number of home runs hit at 431.

Cal Ripken Jr waves to the crows as he hits a personal milestone appearing for his 2,131st consecutive game
Source : twitter

In his second time being voted the MVP in 1991, he had a batting average of .323, RBI of 114 and scored 34 home runs but couldn't quite help Baltimore Orioles to another title as the team failed miserably that year.

Only a year before that, his manager at the time, Frank Robinson, had considered benching the player as his form had dipped, with his batting average reaching .209. The man who would always wear his baseball jersey to sleep before his Little League Games, Cal didn't only win major battles on the field but also in his personal life.

In 2020, the baseball legend revealed he had beaten stage one prostate cancer and had planned not to tell the news publicly as he didn't want people to pity him. 

The shortstop won the Gold Glove Award two times and the silver slugger award eight times and was named to the MLB All-Century Team in 1999 before being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007. 

1. Honus Wagner

Honus Wagner was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1936. There is no debate about naming him the greatest shortstop of all time.

Wagner is listed as no.1 among shortstops in WAR(130.8) and JAWS(98). Nicknamed "Flying Dutchman" for his speed and agility, it was his older brother, Albert, who was considered the baseball player of the family before Honus decided to build his career in the bat and ball game.

In a career that spanned two decades, 17 at Pittsburgh Pirates, Wagner hit 101 home runs in the dead-ball era. In 1908, the season before Wagner won his one and only  World Series Champion, the shortstop had what is known as one of the greatest individual seasons for the player.

Honus Wagner looks at the field as he is pictured in 1913 during the spring training of the Pittsburgh Pirates in Hot Springs, Arkansas
Source : twitter

Wagner led the league in batting average(0.354) and only came short of the number of home runs hit(10) edged by Tim Jordan by two. 

Even during his time of retirement at 43, Wagner, in his last season in 1917, had a batting average of .265. Even though it has been more than six decades since the great man passed away, his legacy continues to live on in MLB record books and the minds of baseball fans. 

In 2022, the rare T206 Honus Wagner card sold for a record $7.25 million, making it the second most expensive sports card of all time, only below the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card. 

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