Projecting Every MLB Team's 2022 Starting SS Ahead of Absurd Free-Agent Class

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMay 22, 2021

Projecting Every MLB Team's 2022 Starting SS Ahead of Absurd Free-Agent Class

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    The upcoming MLB free-agent class is absolutely loaded at the shortstop position, even after Francisco Lindor removed himself from the conversation by signing a long-term deal with the New York Mets.

    Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Trevor Story and Javier Baez are all star-caliber players at the position, Marcus Semien is enjoying a strong bounce-back season in Toronto, Andrelton Simmons remains an elite defender and contact hitter, and Freddy Galvis continues to be a useful stopgap option.

    All of those guys could be on the move this winter.

    In an attempt to set the scene for what could be a busy offseason of shuffling, ahead we've taken a crack at predicting who will start at shortstop for all 30 MLB teams on Opening Day next year.

    Off we go! 

Notable 2021-22 Free Agents

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    Brandon Crawford
    Brandon CrawfordJeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Clear-Cut Everyday Starters

    • Javier Baez
    • Carlos Correa
    • Corey Seager
    • Andrelton Simmons
    • Trevor Story


    Other Potential Free-Agency Options

    • Brandon Crawford (34 years old, retirement possibility)
    • Freddy Galvis
    • Miguel Rojas ($5.5M club option)
    • Marcus Semien (2B)
    • Jonathan Villar (UT)

AL East

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    Xander Bogaerts
    Xander BogaertsMichael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Baltimore Orioles: Brandon Crawford (Projected FA signing)

    The O's are still searching for their shortstop of the future, and even if someone like Gunnar Henderson or Terrin Vavra is the answer, they would benefit from adding a stopgap veteran this coming winter. After signing Jose Iglesias in January 2020 and Freddy Galvis this past offseason, a one-year deal with Crawford would similarly fill the void if the San Francisco Giants are ready to turn the page.


    Boston Red Sox: Xander Bogaerts

    Bogaerts signed a six-year, $120 million extension early in 2019 that runs through the 2025 season. One of the best offensive players in baseball, he has developed into a passable defender at shortstop. There's a chance he could eventually shift to third base, with Rafael Devers moving across the diamond to first base, but that's unlikely to happen anytime soon.


    New York Yankees: Trevor Story (Projected FA signing)

    Gleyber Torres is not a shortstop. The 24-year-old has produced ugly defensive metrics (-12 DRS, -7.3 UZR/150) at the position throughout his career, and a permanent move to second base is inevitable. The Yankees could easily employ DJ LeMahieu in a super-utility role all over the infield, opening the door to sign the dynamic Story as the team's new shortstop. He won't come cheap, but it would be money well spent.


    Tampa Bay Rays: Wander Franco

    The Rays assigned Franco to Triple-A, and he will play the entire 2021 season at the age of 20. The top prospect in baseball hit .309/.361/.582 with four doubles, three home runs and 10 RBI in his first 13 games at Triple-A Durham, and it's only a matter of time before he gets the call. The fact that Tampa cut ties with Willy Adames creates a clear path for Franco to be promoted in the not-too-distant future.


    Toronto Blue Jays: Bo Bichette

    Bichette faced questions about his ability to stick at shortstop during his time in the minors, but he has tallied seven DRS at the position in the majors and now looks like a good bet to stick there long-term. The eventual arrival of Jordan Groshans and Austin Martin could create some questions about how the Blue Jays will line up defensively, but for now, it appears safe to pencil Bichette in as the 2022 shortstop.  

AL Central

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    Tim Anderson
    Tim AndersonAshley Landis/Associated Press

    Chicago White Sox: Tim Anderson

    Signed to a six-year, $25 million extension back in 2017, Anderson was the first long-term piece of the puzzle locked into place by the White Sox. That contract includes a pair of club options for 2023 and 2024, and as the on-field leader of the team and an impact top-of-the-order presence, he's not going anywhere.


    Cleveland: Amed Rosario/Andres Gimenez

    The combination of Rosario and Gimenez is going to get a long leash in Cleveland after they were acquired as the marquee pieces in the Francisco Lindor blockbuster. Neither player is off to a great start this year, but they have the tools to be long-term pieces. Top prospect Tyler Freeman will also be ready for an MLB look at some point in 2022, if not sooner.


    Detroit Tigers: Andrelton Simmons (Projected FA signing)

    With a young pitching staff and a team on the rise, the Tigers would benefit greatly from a defensive upgrade at shortstop with utility man Niko Goodrum and offensive-minded Willi Castro currently tasked with handling the position. In a deep free-agent class, Simmons could have a hard time matching the one-year, $10.5 million deal he signed with the Twins this past offseason, and the Tigers have been successful bargain-hunters in recent years.


    Kansas City Royals: Bobby Witt Jr.

    With just 37 professional games under his belt, Witt was assigned to Double-A to begin the 2021 season after going 11-for-38 with three home runs during spring training. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 draft is the future face of the franchise and a budding star, and no one is going to stand in his way once he's deemed ready for the big leagues.


    Minnesota Twins: Marcus Semien (Projected FA signing)

    Jorge Polanco is a poor shortstop (-40 DRS career), Andrelton Simmons is playing on a one-year, $10.5 million contract, and Royce Lewis is losing a year of development to a torn ACL. That leaves the shortstop position up in the air for the 2022 season. The Twins might not be willing to pursue any of the market's top options, but Semien is off to a nice start with a 138 OPS+ and 10 home runs, and he might be available on a shorter deal with a lower annual salary than guys like Seager, Story, Correa or Baez.

AL West

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    Isiah Kiner-Falefa
    Isiah Kiner-FalefaBrandon Wade/Associated Press

    Houston Astros: Alex Bregman

    "I kind of feel like I'm one of the leaders of the team and I love everything about this organization, but at the same time, I know what I'm worth," Carlos Correa told reporters. "I understand the business. I'm educated on this matter. I would love to stay, but it's gotta be the right deal."

    Bregman has played 966 career innings at shortstop filling in for Correa when he has missed time, and shifting him to the position full-time could be the answer if Correa decides to walk.


    Los Angeles Angels: Jose Iglesias (Projected FA re-signing)

    The Angels acquired Iglesias from the Orioles after he hit .373/.400/.556 in 150 plate appearances during the 2020 season. His two-year, $6 million contract is up at the end of the year, but re-signing him makes sense for an Angels team poised to focus on upgrading the pitching staff. The 31-year-old would serve as a stop gap to prospects Jeremiah Jackson and Kyren Paris.


    Oakland Athletics: Elvis Andrus

    The Athletics are on the hook for $7 million of the $14.25 million owed to Andrus in the final year of his contract in 2022. The 32-year-old is hitting .188/.235/.239 through his first 149 plate appearances, and he batted .194 with a 57 OPS+ last year, so he could be pushed for playing time by Nick Allen by the All-Star break in 2022.


    Seattle Mariners: J.P. Crawford

    The AL Gold Glove winner at shortstop a year ago, Crawford leads the majors with 10 DRS to start the season, and his glove is enough to make him a long-term piece in Seattle. The 26-year-old is controllable through the 2024 season, and he'll hold down the fort at least until top prospect Noelvi Marte is ready.


    Texas Rangers: Isiah Kiner-Falefa

    After winning a Gold Glove at third base a year ago, Kiner-Falefa was shifted to shortstop after Elvis Andrus was traded to Oakland. The 26-year-old is hitting .276/.320/.425 for a 107 OPS+ with 15 extra-base hits and eight steals. His 2.3 WAR ranks third among all position players, and he is cementing his place as a long-term piece for the rebuilding Rangers.

NL East

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    Francisco Lindor
    Francisco LindorSeth Wenig/Associated Press

    Atlanta Braves: Dansby Swanson

    The No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft, Swanson had the best season of his career in 2020 when he posted a 108 OPS+ with 25 extra-base hits and 2.7 WAR to receive some down-ballot NL MVP support. The 27-year-old will be entering his final year of arbitration eligibility in 2022, but for now, he remains the shortstop of the immediate future in Atlanta.


    Miami Marlins: Miguel Rojas

    Rojas has emerged both as a leader in the clubhouse on a young Marlins team and a quietly productive everyday shortstop after filling a utility role early in his career. The 32-year-old is hitting .291/.360/.466 with 13 doubles and 1.4 WAR in the early going, and his $5.5 million club option for 2022 should be a no-brainer.


    New York Mets: Francisco Lindor

    Lindor has landed with a thud in New York, struggling to claw his way above the Mendoza Line in his first season in a Mets uniform. The 10-year, $341 million extension he signed during the offseason begins next year, so he's the guy at shortstop for better or worse for the next decade.


    Philadelphia Phillies: Didi Gregorius

    After making good on a one-year, $14 million deal with a strong bounce-back season in 2020, Gregorius inked a new two-year, $28 million deal with the Phillies during the offseason. His production has dipped to begin the 2021 season, but his $15.25 million salary and strong track record should keep him in the starting lineup next year.


    Washington Nationals: Trea Turner

    Already a dynamic leadoff hitter with elite base-stealing ability, Turner raised his slugging percentage by nearly 100 points last year. He has maintained those power gains in 2021, posting a 160 OPS+ and 10 home runs in 171 plate appearances. The 27-year-old is controllable through the 2022 season, and the Nationals would be wise to begin extension talks sooner rather than later.  

NL Central

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    Paul DeJong
    Paul DeJongGene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Chicago Cubs: Javier Baez (Projected FA re-signing)

    The Cubs reportedly offered Baez an extension last spring in the $160-170 million range, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, but the two sides were unable to nail down an extension before his final year of club control began. The 28-year-old has a 122 OPS+ with 10 home runs this year, and with his standout defense and the spark he provides, he still looks like the team's biggest priority in free agency.


    Cincinnati Reds: Jose Garcia

    The early defensive metrics (-6 DRS, -4.5 UZR/150) suggest that Eugenio Suarez is in over his head at shortstop. The shortstop of the future in Cincinnati is still Garcia, and the fact that he looked overmatched while making the jump to the majors from High-A last year has done nothing to change that. The 23-year-old is hitting .327/.390/.692 with five doubles and four home runs in 13 games at Double-A, and he could get another shot before the 2021 season is over.


    Milwaukee Brewers: Willy Adames

    With Luis Urias and Orlando Arcia failing to live up to expectations, the Brewers made a move to upgrade the shortstop position Friday when they acquired Willy Adames from the Tampa Bay Rays, along with right-handed pitcher Trevor Richards, in exchange for relievers Drew Rasmussen and J.P. Feyereisen. With club control through the 2024 season, the 25-year-old Adames is now the guy at shortstop in Milwaukee for the foreseeable future.


    Pittsburgh Pirates: Kevin Newman

    Since hitting .308/.353/.446 with 38 extra-base hits as a rookie in 2019, Newman has batted just .221 with a 48 OPS+ in 330 plate appearances. The 27-year-old is controllable through 2024, and the Pirates are in the early stages of rebuilding, so he'll be given every opportunity to return to his rookie form. Top prospect Oneil Cruz could be ready by the All-Star break in 2022.


    St. Louis Cardinals: Paul DeJong

    The Cardinals inked DeJong to a six-year, $26 million extension after he slugged 25 home runs as a rookie in 2017, and he'll still be under contract for two years and $15.3 million at the start of the 2022 season. That contract also includes a pair of club options, and with no clear in-house replacement, it will be DeJong's job for the foreseeable future. 

NL West

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    Fernando Tatis Jr.
    Fernando Tatis Jr.Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Arizona Diamondbacks: Nick Ahmed

    The D-backs gave Ahmed a four-year, $32.5 million extension after he posted a 92 OPS+ with 33 doubles, 19 home runs and 82 RBI while winning his second straight Gold Glove in 2019. The shortstop job will eventually belong to prospect Geraldo Perdomo, but for now, Ahmed is the guy at the position.


    Colorado Rockies: Freddy Galvis (Projected FA signing)

    The Orioles signed Galvis to a one-year, $1.5 million contract during the offseason to serve as a stopgap starter at shortstop, and he could fill a similar role for the Rockies if they lose Trevor Story in free agency. The 31-year-old plays a solid defensive shortstop and he has a pair of 20-homer seasons on his resume.


    Los Angeles Dodgers: Corey Seager (Projected FA re-signing)

    It's not out of the question to think the Dodgers could prioritize extensions for Cody Bellinger, Walker Buehler and others, letting Seager walk in the process. Gavin Lux is a viable in-house replacement at shortstop, and second base is an easier gap to fill. With their window to win still wide open, I think re-signing him is going to be a priority, but it's not a slam dunk that he'll be back in 2022.


    San Diego Padres: Fernando Tatis Jr.

    A superstar on the rise and one of the most exciting young players in baseball, Tatis signed a 14-year, $340 million extension during the offseason. No team is more locked in at the shortstop position than the Padres, and they will be for the next decade.


    San Francisco Giants: Carlos Correa (Projected FA signing)

    How's this for a bold prediction? With Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford and Johnny Cueto all coming off the books, along with Kevin Gausman and a $22 million club option decision on Buster Posey, the Giants are going to have a ton of money to spend next winter. They could re-sign Crawford in an attempt to bridge the gap to Marco Luciano, but if they're ready to make a big move, Correa definitely moves the needle.


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, and accurate through Thursday's games.