Rating Troy Tulowitzi as the best shortstop in baseball is a claim few would argue. He hits for power and average at a level no one else at his position can match, and when healthy is among the best players in the game overall.
But who is the second best shortstop? ESPN put together a panel of experts to rate the best players at each position heading into the 2014 Major League Baseball season. They have Hanley Ramirez second, Andrelton Simmons third and Ian Desmond of the Nationals fourth.
Desmond is up from seventh the year before, but should he be even higher? Here is a comparison of Ramirez, Simmons and Desmond based on their statistics from the 2013 regular season.
Ian Desmond - Nationals
Offense: 158 G, .280 BA, .784 OPS, 77 R, 38 2B, 3 3B, 20 HR, 80 RBI, 21 SB, 43 BB, 145 SO
Defense: 4.4 UZR, .971 FLD%, 20 E
Andrelton Simmons - Braves
Offense: 157 G, .248 BA, .692 OPS, 76 R, 27 2B, 6 3B, 17 HR, 59 RBI, 6 SB, 40 BB, 55 SO
Defense: 24.6 UZR, .981 FLD%, 14 E
Offense: 86 G, .345 BA, 1.040 OPS, 62 R, 25 2B, 2 3B, 20 HR, 57 RBI, 10 SB, 27 BB, 52 SO
Defense: 0.2 UZR, .960 FLD%, 13 E
WAR: 5.1 WAR
**WAR based on FanGraphs' ratings
As you see, each of the three brings their own unique set of skills to the table. Ramirez was the best hitter of the trio last season, albeit in just 86 games. Simmons is the best defensive player by a good margin, but he's also clearly the worst of the three on offense.
Desmond is the most balanced of the three and has a higher WAR than Simmons, yet ranks behind him. Perhaps ESPN is banking on a breakout year on offense for the Braves' shortstop this season?
Given Ramirez was so good in 2013, and given he used to be a perennial MVP candidate that may have regained his magic, it's understandable to rank him higher than Desmond. But putting Simmons above Desmond is only justified if the former improves significantly at the plate this year.
Is that a fair assessment? How would you rank the best shortstops in baseball?