Didi Gregorius had a fine rookie season in 2013. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
The Arizona Diamondbacks find themselves in perhaps baseball’s most competitive division: the National League West. As such it would be helpful before the season to see how their players stack up against players from the same position from the other four teams. Today, we will look at the shortstops. The order does not necessarily suggest a top-to-bottom ranking as the first team evaluated will be the Snakes.
Chris Owings/Didi Gregorius: The shortstop position battle between these two will be one of the more interesting story lines in the West. It is a classic battle of bat (Owings) vs. glove (Gregorius). Didi ascended to the starting role on April 18th and held it through the remainder of 2013. Owings was named the Pacific Coast League MVP last year and performed well when called up in September. Neither player has an obvious edge although Gregorius’s left-handed bat would balance out a lineup heavy on the right side.
Troy Tulowitzki: He was the subject of numerous trade rumors this offseason although ownership publicly stated Tulo was off limits. The 29-year old star is truely one of the top talents in the game with the ever ubiquitous “when healthy” tag. Tulo enjoyed another All Star season in 2013 with 25 home runs and 82 RBI’s with a slash line of .312/.391/.540. The Colorado Rockies revamped their bullpen and are armed with a pretty good rotation. The club hopes its offense, led by Tulo and Carlos Gonzalez can lift them to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
Everth Cabrera: The speedster made his first All Star team. He also was suspended 50 games for his involvement with the Biogenesis lab. Cabrera led the National League in stolen bases in 2012 with 44 and was on his way to bettering that mark at the time of his suspension. The lefty swinging Cabrera produced his best slash line in 2013 at .283/.355/.381. Still only 27, he is just entering the prime of his career and is anxious to put his punishment behind him. The San Diego Padres need Cabrera’s production at the top of the order if they want to climb up the division ladder.
Hanley Ramirez: Was 2013 the year that talented but troublesome Ramirez finally grew up? He and Yasiel Puig sparked the Los Angeles Dodgers to a historic run that resulted in a division title in 2013. Despite only 304 at-bats, Ramirez finished eighth in the MVP race with 20 home runs and 57 RBI’s with a an unbelievable line of .345/.402/.638. It is hard to believe that he is entering his tenth season in the Majors having just turned 30 years old. The Dodgers are set at short for at least the next five seasons with a healthy Ramirez holding down the fort.
Brandon Crawford: The 27-year old Crawford is as steady as it comes in the field. His glove was a major reason why the San Francisco Giants won the World Series in 2102 despite hitting only 103 home runs as a team. The former fourth round pick’s bat has been making slow but steady progress as well. He set a personal best in home runs with nine and his .248/.311/.363 line was the most productive of his Giants’ career. Look for him to crack 500 at-bats for the first time and continue making progress with his bat in 2014, the fourth year of his career.
How the D’backs stack up: Tulowitzki and Ramirez are clearly the class of the division, two of the best at shortstop in all of baseball. Cabrera and Crawford are just entering their primes. Didi has a pretty good rookie season and Owings is ready for the Majors. Although the D’back tandem rates below their counterparts, they are productive players in their own right, capable of helping the Snakes make a serious playoff push.