In baseball, there aren’t nearly as many player vs. player barbershop-style debates as in sports like basketball, where the players are actually facing off against each other head-to-head.
However, for the past decade, we’ve been graced with what was known as one of the golden ages of third basemen.

We’ve been on a tear of superstars that could pick it from the hot corner and slug all at or near their primes that the debate from the top of the list generated conversation. It was Platinum Glove Award-winner Nolan Arenado, slugging Manny Machado, all-around hitters Jose Ramirez and Rafael Devers, and fielding savant Matt Chapman, or the hitter with championship pedigree in Alex Bregman.

We may have entered a new era of a positional debate that will provide us with style and prowess and fodder that is loaded with greatness that could easily define the future of the league: the new golden age of the shortstop. It’s the “premier” position that may be the closest thing baseball has to the individuality of basketball’s definitive and distinct styles. 

There’s the communication and leadership in the field to turn double plays.

There are the hard-hit balls resulting in Derek Jeter-esque picks and throw-overs to first steal an infield hit.

There are the acrobatic tag-outs to take away a stolen base from an overconfident runner.

It’s purely one of the most romantic positions that feel like there’s a palpable difference when you have a good one and you don’t, and there’s an argument to be made that there’s never been more of a wide variety of talent that will define the next decade.

There are even multiple tiers of greatness in the shortstop position: the veterans, the futures of the league generation, and all-around utility tools on seemingly every team across the board. Every single team has a positive WAR above 1, even the Giants, who are trying to move on from Brandon Crawford, and the Tigers with Javier Baez, who, despite his offensive strikeout rate, still has unbelievable defensive metrics.

There was, of course, the iconic 2021 free agent class where many of the highly-touted young stars all got paid at the same time and the question of what kind of shortstop you were looking for rather than if you were going to get one was the question. Those are now some of the defining veterans of the position. We had Carlos Correa, the middle-of-the-lineup power hitter on a championship Astros team, landing with the Twins; Correa has kept the same macho man WWE villain role on a fun Twins team. This was also the monumental offseason where the Rangers spent half a billion dollars on BOTH Marcus Semien and Corey Seager to get their leaders of the infield and merely move Semien to second base for the next decade, and it won them a World Series! Other massive contracts in that class included Trevor Story, who unfortunately hasn’t panned out in Boston due to injuries despite being an offensive powerhouse in Colorado, and the aforementioned Baez with the Tigers, who is solely getting playing time probably due to the money he’s owed.

Francisco Lindor in that class with the Mets, despite the team’s overall struggles, may be one of the most underrated MVP candidates of this generation, from his 98th percentile outs above average over the past three years paired with his long ball capabilities despite his slight build. Other veterans who have gotten massive paydays have been Dansby Swanson to the Cubs after being a pivotal swag guy on the championship-winning Braves team. There was Xander Bogaerts going from leading in on-base on the World Series Red Sox to the Padres for a decade. There was a stolen base savant and Captain America Trea Turner signing with the Phillies and becoming a cult hero after getting a standing ovation from his abhorrent start.

Did we also just forget to mention that Mookie Betts went from Gold Glove-winning outfielder and MVP to moving to shortstop and is top-3 in WAR just because the Dodgers asked him to?

There are even guys that haven’t been paid yet that provide some sort of spark to the lineup or in the field- J.P. Crawford on the Mariners hasn’t provided much offensively since coming back from injury but is widely considered one of the greatest “vibes” guy in the league on a postseason contending team. Willy Adames on the NL Central-leading Brewers is going to get a massive payday for the slugging and clutch factor he’s brought to Milwaukee.

The real story of the shortstop position comes down to the superstars who are in their 20s, and we haven’t even seen the peak of their powers yet.

Gunnar Henderson and Bobby Witt Jr. look poised to be 5-tool players who do something you’ve never seen that will lead us to AL MVP debates for the next decade as they’re already both top 2 in WAR: “Would you rather have Gunnar’s smooth, home run stroke or Bobby’s unreal sprint speed to build your team around?”

C.J. Abrams on the Nats is literally known as “the alien” because of his physique and was one of the chips sent over from San Diego as a 23-year-old who has finally found his swing as one of the best offensive leadoff hitters in the game despite not being able to figure out defense just yet.

The Yankees just produced 23-year-old Anthony Volpe as already the on-base king to replace Derek Jeter. The Astros replaced Correa with a World Series MVP and 26-year-old swole boy, Jeremy Pena. Elly De La Cruz and Oneil Cruz are both NBA-built freaks of nature at both 6’5 and 6’7, with freakazoid power and speed and the capability to either throw or hit the ball harder than anyone in the game.

Even Masyn Winn of the Cardinals is already their prospect who has looked ready to play, field, and get on base in the baseball town for the next decade.

The shortstop position has never had a wider variety of greatness from top to bottom—there are future MVPs, proven stalwarts and legends of the game, and some who are still finding their true peak form before our eyes.

It’s also a matter of choosing your own favorite flavor so you get something different out of the position every single night.

The golden age of shortstops has been here, it IS here, and it’s only getting better.
The only thing left to do is to argue with who you’d prefer to build your team around.


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