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All-Time Arizona Diamondbacks: Shortstop

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Despite there being little statistical separation between most of the players on the third base ballot, Matt Williams ran away with the starting slot. Shortstop, though, brings us to what could be one of the most difficult votes so far...

Nick Ahmed's face in this picture sums up the struggles Diamondbacks shortstops tend to have at the plate
Nick Ahmed's face in this picture sums up the struggles Diamondbacks shortstops tend to have at the plate
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Shortstop brought me to another conundrum. First base and left field were pretty easy to figure out; there was/will be a clear winner, so hold a vote for the backup. Shortstop, on the other hand, features a number of players that saw time at shortstop, but spent most of their time at other positions. So instead of simply using a number of plate appearances as a cut-off point, I'm also requiring the players to have spent more time a shortstop than any other position.

The reason for this is simple: shortstop is a position where defense is paramount. So even though Brandon Drury started a game at shortstop last year, he shouldn't wind up on the ballot based on numbers that were primarily obtained at another position. (On the other hand, corner infielders are more easily exchanged, as are corner outfielders. Heck, the real ASG just votes for outfielders in general, leading to defensive luminaries such as Luis Gonzalez and Sammy Sosa starting in center field.) But shortstop is unique, almost as much as catcher. Thus, Tony Batista (2.5 fWAR in 1998, but primarily at second base) doesn't make the ballot, while Jay Bell (already elected starter at second base for his performance in 1999 at that position) does. Interestingly, Fangraphs shows a clear drop-off from the best to the second-best, but I suspect we'll see a very close vote, with some fan favorites on this list.

Jay Bell, 1998

Bell makes his second appearance in this series, after scoring a large victory in the second base voting for his performance in 1999. Suffice to say that Bell in 1998 wasn't nearly as great as Bell in 1999, but he was still a very good player. While he only hit 20 home runs, that's still good enough for second all-time among Diamondbacks shortstops, trailing only Stephen Drew's 21 in 2008. He slashed .251/.353/.432 and posted a wRC+ of 106. He also played very good defense, according to both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference. He was worth 3.9 bWAR and 3.4 fWAR.

Alex Cintron, 2003

Cintron was a rookie in 2003, and if he had put together the offensive season he did that year in today's offensive climate, he might have been a Rookie of the Year favorite, instead of failing to garner any votes. He slashed his way to .317/.359/.489, including 13 home runs. His wRC+ of 115 remains the highest of any shortstop in franchise history. That was the good side of Cintron. The bad side was his defense, which was never above-average, and steadily got worse. That was the main reason Cintron wasn't worth a lot more. He was worth 2.1 fWAR and 2.7 bWAR in 2003, and never posted positive value again, entirely because his bat fell off a cliff, as his walk rate of 6% actually managed to drop and his strikeout rate of 6.8% ballooned. But in 2003, it looked like we might have a shortstop for the next several years. As we shall see below, that hope has remained relatively unchanged as the years have passed.

Craig Counsell, 2001

"But wait a minute," you say, "wasn't Tony Womack our shortstop in 2001?" Technically, yes. Womack did play the most innings at shortstop that year. But Counsell wasn't far behind, and in fact he played more at shortstop than at any other position, exceeding 200 plate appearances there. (For the record, Matt Williams and Alex Cintron also saw action at shortstop in 2001.) Counsell didn't have a great offensive season in 2001 either, not even by his standards. He slashed .275/.359/.362, but did play good defense at three positions, shortstop being the most common one. (He also backed up Jay Bell at second base and Matt Williams at third base for most of the year, before becoming the regular starter at second in September.)

Stephen Drew, 2010

After the Alex Cintron false-start, Drew was the next answer at shortstop. He held the position for 4+ years in the desert, turning in good value with the glove and generally good value with the bat. While he showed the most power in 2008 (21 home runs, as mentioned above) he had his best all-around season in 2010. He slashed .278/.352/.458 for a wRC+ of 113. He hit 15 home runs and stole 10 bases. He posted 4.8 fWAR and 4.0 bWAR. At only 27, there was plenty of hope that he could continue being the shortstop for several years, and form part of a young core of the team. That shattered along with his ankle the next season, and lack of regular playing time since has meant that he hasn't been able to rediscover his bat, with the exception of a good partial year in Boston in 2013.

Chris Owings, 2014

After the "next Derek Jeter" was passed over in favor of Owings, it was hoped that the shortstop position would find some stability. Owings had performed well in September of 2013, and there was hope that he could be a candidate for Snakepit Rookie of the Year. He was great with the bat in April, and decent with the bat through June, when he was injured on an ill-advised attempt at an inside-the-park home run. With his shoulder hurt, he played only second base after returning. His bat was good, slashing .261/.300/.406, and his defense was excellent. He was worth 1.8 fWAR and 1.9 bWAR despite only being able to play just over half the season. Unfortunately, I could basically copy-and-paste the problems with Alex Cintron, at least offensively. Owings apparently has never seen a pitch he didn't like, and with his shoulder bothering him, or for whatever reason, he's started striking out a ton. But he's also very young, so hopefully we'd see him on this ballot (at second base, of course) for his performance in a future season.