The shortstop position is arguably the most important position on the baseball field. Having a good shortstop can be the difference between an inning-ending double play and the inning being extended, or a hit into the hole between first and third being an infield hit or an out.
So, here are the current top 15 players at the shortstop position so far this season.
Cozart is a promising young player for the Cincinatti Reds. While his average isn't as high as you'd like to see, at only .243, Cozart has shown solid power with five home runs for the season. If he can get his average up and strikeouts down, he could be a really good player.
Where Cozart's really excelled is with his glove. He's currently fielding at a .983 clip, good for sixth in the major leagues. If he can keep up the strong play in the field that he's already shown, he'll be a valuable player for the Reds.
The Toronto Blue Jays SS is currently hitting at a decent .262 and only has two home runs to go along with 15 RBI. It hasn't been as good a season at the plate as Escobar has had in the past, but there's still plenty of time to get it going.
One area where Escobar has to really improve is in the field. He's currently fielding at .974, but he already has six errors, which he'll need to curb over the course of the rest of the season to remain in the top half of MLB shortstops.
Reyes isn't having nearly as good a season as he was expecting to have with the Marlins. Reyes is yet to hit a home run and has just nine RBI. He's only batting .262, which is very unexpected coming off a year in which he won the NL batting title. His fielding numbers are also down as he's already had six errors.
One area where Reyes has remained strong is in the stolen base department. Reyes is second in the NL and first among shortstops in stolen bases with 15. That stat alone is impressive, and he should continue to swipe bases regularly all season.
The Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop lacks power at the plate, as he has no homers this year and a paltry 10 RBI. However, he's batting a decent .269 and he's had six multi-hit games in his last 10 starts, so he's coming on strong as of late.
Bloomquist hasn't turned many double plays compared to others, as he's only been involved in 21 this season. However, he only has three errors, which is a credit to him. If he can continue his hot hitting, he has a chance to move up the list by the All-Star break.
Mike Aviles is off to a good start with the bat, blasting eight home runs already, which is tied for second at SS, and he's already driven in 29 RBI, which is outstanding for mid-May. The one downside is that Aviles is only hitting .260 at the plate. Had the number been higher, he'd have shot up the list.
Aviles has played exceptionally well in the field. With only three errors and a .986 fielding percentage, he's statistically a top-five shortstop with his glove. If Aviles can raise his average up above .290, he's a borderline top-five overall shortstop, in my opinion.
Lowrie is off to a solid start with seven HR and 19 RBI this season. The Astros slugger is also batting a respectable .272. His OBP is also particularly high in relation to his average at .349. Simply put, Lowrie is having a good all-around season for Houston.
Lowrie has been decent in the field, with a .976 fielding percentage and only four errors, which are essentially average numbers. If he can get back to his 2010 form in which he posted a .907 OPS, he'll have a great year.
Desmond is having a nice year at the plate, having gone yard eight times so far this year with 23 RBI. He's hitting .274 but only has a .300 OBP, as he's struggled to draw walks, with only eight total BB on the season. He'll need to get those numbers up as the season progresses, no matter how well he bats at the plate.
What's really hurt Desmond this season is his play in the field. He already has seven errors and a .960 fielding percentage, which ranks in the lower third among shortstops. Desmond must focus on his fielding and cut down on the errors if the Nationals want to remain atop the NL East.
Cabrera is the first guy on this list to hit above .300, as he currently is posting a .301 average for the season. He's hit five HRs with 20 RBI, but perhaps what is most impressive is that he leads all shortstops with a .490 slugging percentage, mainly due to his 14 doubles. Cabrera is playing really well so far and has the seventh best OBP in the league at .395.
Carbrera only has three errors on the season, which is very impressive. If he can keep it up, he'll be listed among the top shortstops in the American League.
Troy Tulowitzki has posted good power numbers so far this year with seven long balls and 25 RBI thus far. However, he's only hitting .278 at the plate, which drops him down a few spots on this list. Had he been closer to his career average of .292, he'd be a clear top-five SS.
While Tulowitzki is having a good year at the plate, he's struggled in the field. Tulowitzki already has posted eight errors on the year, and seeing as we're only a third of the way through the season, that stat is way too high. He's also 22nd in fielding percentage, which he'll need to improve on as the season goes on.
J.J. Hardy has been a beast in the power department this year, blasting 10 homers already this season. His average is only .265, but when your shortstop is on pace to hit 34 home runs, .265 is certainly an acceptable number.
Hardy has really excelled in the field this year, as he's only committed a two errors over the course of the entire season and has turned 35 double plays. He's fielding at .991. Overall, Hardy is having a great season and if he can get his average up, he could be a sleeper to make the All-Star team.
Escobar is having a nice season at the plate so far with a .311 average. He only has one home run and 12 RBI, but hitting in the bottom of the order has definitely had something to do with those numbers. He's also got seven stolen bases to his credit, which is respectable.
Escobar has also been very sound defensively for the Royals. He only has four errors on the year and is fielding at .980. Escobar may be higher on this list than most that you'll see, but I think he's one of the better kept secrets in baseball. If he can continue to hit for a high average and field well, he'll be a solid player for Kansas City for years to come.
Elvis Andrus got off to a very hot start, but he's cooled down as of late. Still, he's hitting .305 and despite only one home run, he has 24 RBI. He's also got eight SB and a great .385 OBP. At only 23, he has a very bright future with the Rangers and, in my opinion, he's a future All-Star.
Andrus has been a slightly above-average fielder for Texas, committing only four errors. He's only 12th in fielding percentage at .979. Those are both pretty good numbers. If he can get hot at the plate again, he's in for a terrific season.
Starlin Castro is one of my favorite young players in baseball right now. Castro is only 22 years old, but he's hit three HR, has 28 RBI and is hitting .313 so far this season. He's got 13 stolen bases already, and besides his almost complete inability to draw walks, he's proficient in every offensive category.
The area Castro needs to improve on the most is on the defensive side. Castro has already committed eight errors this season, which is way too high, and there is a number he needs to be aware of as the season progresses. If Castro can fix this area of his game and be more patient at the plate, he could one day be the best shortstop in the sport.
It pains me to put Derek Jeter this high, as I'm a lifelong Mets fan, but the soon-to-be 38-year-old Jeter is playing as well as he ever has. He's hitting .338, has five HR and 18 RBI. Considering he hits out of the lead-off spot, these numbers are even more impressive. He's slugging at .465, which is a good number for him as well.
Jeter's also fielding well this year. He's eighth in fielding percentage and has committed only three errors this season. If he can remain injury free for the rest of the season, he'll have one of the best years of his career.
Standing at No. 1 is Rafael Furcal, the wily St. Louis veteran. Furcal is having one of the best years of his career, with a .333 average, and an OBP of .395. He's stolen eight bases and has three HR and 22 RBI to his credit.
Furcal has four errors, the same as Jeter, and has a fielding percentage that's only .002 below Jeter's. They're essentially equal at this point of the season, but I gave him the nod over the Yankee's star due to his edges in OBP, SB and OPS. Either way, they're proof that age is just a number.
Follow me on Twitter: @rlongo924