Each year during the darkest depths of the off-season, MLB Network runs a series called Top Ten Right Now, where they rank the top ten players at each position heading into the coming season. No deceptive titling here. While the show hosts - this year it's Brian Kenny and Billy Ripken - give their opinions and their own lists, the main apparatus used is a secret algorithm named "The Shredder." Here's MLB Network's description of what exactly that means:
"The Shredder" uses an objective methodology to rank players at each position based on their past track records as well as their future projection. It weighs the offensive and defensive statistics for a player in both one- and two-year increments and places more emphasis on defense at positions that are on the right of the defensive spectrum, i.e. catcher, shortstop, second base, and center field. It also takes into account a player's durability as well as the offensive environment of his home park (in other words, it gives more credit to home runs hit in San Diego as opposed to Colorado).
One thing the 2016 lists will mostly share in common is, outside of the relief pitcher edition, they won't feature many Yankees. There hasn't been a designated hitter show in years past, so no Alex Rodriguez. Jacoby Ellsbury already got passed up among center fielders. Brian McCann and Mark Teixeira could sneak in at the back end of their respective categories but neither made it last year. The Yankees did manage to get an entrant in to the most recent list revealed. Barely. As you can watch here, Didi Gregorius placed tenth among shortstops. Here's a look at those rankings, along with some stats:
|1. Francisco Lindor||.313||.353||.482||128||18.9||4.6||4.6|
|2. Troy Tulowitzki||.280||.337||.440||100||4.9||2.3||2.9|
|3. Carlos Correa||.279||.345||.512||133||-13.7||3.3||4.1|
|4. Brandon Crawford||.256||.321||.462||117||11.9||4.7||5.6|
|5. Jhonny Peralta||.275||.334||.411||105||-6.9||1.7||1.8|
|6. Xander Bogaerts||.320||.355||.421||109||0.9||4.3||4.6|
|7. Addison Russell||.242||.307||.389||90||20.4||2.9||3.3|
|8. Marcus Semien||.257||.310||.405||98||-10.4||1.7||2.7|
|9. Andrelton Simmons||.265||.321||.338||82||17.5||3.2||4.0|
|10. Didi Gregorius||.265||.318||.370||89||7.9||3.1||3.3|
Looking at the numbers, it seems the Yankees' shortstop might be getting shortchanged. His 3.1 fWAR last year ranked seventh among players who primarily played short. The Shredder's formula uses a two-year profile, which isn't good for Gregorius since his 2014 was pretty bad, but for a 25-year-old who got better as the season went on, that isn't so important. Didi hit .294/.345/.417 in the second half once the specter of replacing Derek Jeter wore off.
Needless to say, Gregorius doesn't belong near the top of the list where budding stars Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa, age 22 and 21 respectively, hold the first and third spots. Troy Tulowitzki was pedestrian in 2015, but it was his first full year since 2008 where he wasn't worth five or more wins. Brandon Crawford's an excellent defender who had a breakout offensive season, knocking 21 homers to go with a .782 OPS. You can quibble with the order of the top four - I'd probably put Correa ahead of Tulo - but not so much with who's in there.
At the five spot, Didi starts to enter the conversation. Jhonny Peralta's been very good for a while now. Four wRC+'s of 100 or better in the past five years is no easy task for a shortstop in the post-A-Rod-Jeter-Nomar era. Still, Peralta's nearly 34 and his numbers slipped notably in 2015, especially on the defensive side where his negative dWAR was his first since 2007. Xander Bogaerts is two years younger than Gregorius and a farther along in his development. He did for a full season what Didi did in the second half. I'm fine with both Bogaerts and Peralta being ahead of Didi, though Bogaerts should be fifth.
Seventh is where things get really muddled. Still a few days from turning 22, Addison Russell has a really bright future. He was Baseball America's third-ranked prospect heading into 2015, he had a solid debut season in Chicago, where he managed a .696 OPS, including .744 post-All-Star break, and he played excellent defense. He comes with a a higher ceiling than Didi, but MLB Network's show is called "Top Ten Right Now", not "Top Ten Soon." Russell actually played more second than short last year, and while he hit for more power, he also had a 28.5 percent K-rate. You need a ton of power to sustain that. Russell arguably still deserves the nod, but you can make a case either way.
At eight, The Shredder gets wacky with Marcus Semien. His 35 errors last year were the most by a shortstop since Jose Valentin made 36 in 2000, and the most by any player since noted lead-glove Mark Reynolds made the same number in 2008. Semien is a solid hitter - a .715 OPS isn't bad for a shortstop - but he should at some point head back to second or third, where he spent most of his time in 2014. Advantage Didi, for sure.
In the ninth hole we get Andrelton Simmons, a good approximation of what the Yankees' hopes were for Gregorius - otherworldly glove man who's good enough with the bat to not be a liability. Simmons has had sub-.300 OBP's in two of the last three seasons, though, which pushes the envelope on that non-liability thing. What New York should take heed of here is that the Braves signed Simmons to a lengthy team-friendly contract very early, and then traded him last fall for a fat return. The Yankees, if they pursue a long term deal of their own, could theoretically do the same with Gregorius if Jorge Mateo is ready to take over in two or three years.
There are a few notable omissions from The Shredder's list. Corey Seager made it for both Ripken and Kenny. It's tough to rank a guy based on 27 MLB games, but in those games, Seager completely tore it up, and that's pretty much in line with his staggering minor league record. Even the conservative Steamer has him pegged for a 105 wRC+ next year in 598 plate appearances. Jose Iglesias hasn't figured out how to stay healthy yet, but he's batted .300 or better in his two years in the majors and is above average in the field. Adeiny Hechavarria's something of a righty-swinging Gregorius. He hit a solid .281/.315/.374 and was good defensively with a 17.7 UZR/150. There's also J.J. Hardy who, despite a miserable 2015 shouldn't completely vanish from the radar, and the jobless Ian Desmond, who was once outstanding but now seems to be on a steady decline.
I actually agree with MLB Network's tenth-place ranking for Didi, but I'd have different players ahead of him - Seager and Iglesias instead of Semien and Simmons. The bottom line is the Yankees found themselves a shortstop in or near the top third of the league and all it cost them was Shane Greene.