Ranking the 24 Absolute Best Shortstops of All Time

Jake Cain

Jake Cain

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Last Updated: January 20th, 2024 by Jake Cain

The shortstop position in baseball, characterized by athleticism, agility, and stellar defensive play, has been graced by numerous talented individuals through the history of the sport.

Shortstops like Honus Wagner, who dominated the game in the early 20th century, set high standards for both offensive and defensive prowess.

The role of what’s expected of a shortstop has ebbed and flowed over the years, but the best of the best could get it done at the plate as well as in the field.

How We Made This List

Admittedly, the numbers shortstops put up in the 1800’s, particularly power numbers – don’t compare to modern sluggers like A-Rod. So comparing eras is always a challenge. However, there’s a lot to be said for a guy who was considered the best at his time and had the respect of his peers (which is why you’ll find Dave Concepcion in this list despite a lower WAR).

So we started by checking some WAR numbers on Baseball Reference, then added in some of our personal bias and opinions (which we all have, right?)

Even after that, I’m sure we missed somebody that deserves to be on the list. If so, let us know on Facebook.

(We’ve even updated the list based on feedback in Facebook comments. Sorry Luis Aparicio fans :))

Without further ado, here’s our list of the best short stops to ever do it.

Honus Wagner (HOF)

Johannes Peter “Honus” Wagner, often referred to as “The Flying Dutchman,” was a hallmark of consistency and talent, playing most of his 21-season career with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936, Wagner was one of the first five inductees, cementing his legacy as one of the all-time greats. He is celebrated for having won eight NL batting titles, a record at the time, highlighting his prowess at the plate.

Batting Average.327
Home Runs101
Stolen Bases723

Wagner’s influence extended beyond batting; he was known for his impressive defensive capabilities as a shortstop. Acknowledged by some as the greatest shortstop in baseball history, his all-around skill set was a benchmark for future generations. His career batting average was .327, illustrating the impact he had every time he stepped up to bat.

Offensively and defensively, Honus Wagner helped redefine the shortstop position. His combination of speed, hitting, and fielding made him a distinguished figure in baseball lore, living up to the moniker of baseball’s prototypical five-tool player. Wagner’s legacy has remained influential in the narrative of baseball history, with fans and scholars alike reflecting on his exceptional career.

Alex Rodriguez

Renowned for his proficiency on the field and power at the plate, Alex Rodriguez, commonly referred to as “A-Rod,” stands out as one of MLB’s most accomplished shortstops and third basemen. He started his Major League career with the Seattle Mariners in 1994, showcasing remarkable talent that quickly caught the attention of fans and analysts alike.

In 2000, his journey continued with the Texas Rangers, where his performance elevated, earning him the prestigious MVP award.

Rodriguez joined the New York Yankees in 2004 and moved to third base, since short was occupied by Derek Jeter. His time with the Yankees was highlighted by significant achievements: A-Rod secured two more MVP titles and played pivotal roles in their 2009 World Series victory.

Batting Average.295
Home Runs696
Stolen Bases329
MVP Awards3
Silver Slugger Awards10
Gold Glove Awards2

A-Rod’s impressive home run tally places him fourth on MLB’s all-time home run list, a testament to his power at the plate. His talent for driving in runs is equally notable, with a career total of RBIs that underscores his value as a player. Even after retiring from baseball, Rodriguez’s legacy as one of the dynamic shortstops and third basemen in the history of the sport remains indelible.

Cal Ripken Jr. (HOF)

Cal Ripken Jr. earned his place in the Baseball Hall of Fame with a distinguished career as the cornerstone of the Baltimore Orioles. Nicknamed “the Iron Man” for his endurance, he is renowned for his record-breaking streak of 2,632 consecutive games played, which eloquently speaks to his dedication and resilience.

His contributions on the field were extraordinary, earning him numerous accolades including two Gold Glove Awards and eight Silver Slugger Awards. His defensive prowess and powerful offense solidified his status as one of the most complete shortstops in baseball history.

Batting Average.276
Home Runs431
MVP Awards2
Silver Slugger Awards8
Gold Glove Awards2

For more details on his streak and performance, you can read about Ripken’s Record for Consecutive Innings Played. His commitment and unwavering presence on the diamond serve as an inspiration to players and fans alike, exemplifying the spirit of baseball.

Ernie Banks (HOF)

Ernie Banks, often referred to as Mr. Cub, is one of the most iconic figures in Chicago Cubs history. He made his mark as a shortstop and first baseman, playing his entire 19-year career with the Cubs. His friendly demeanor and impressive sportsmanship earned him the affectionate nickname “Mr. Sunshine.”

Career Highlights:

  • MLB Debut: September 17, 1953
  • Hall of Fame Induction: 1977
  • MVP Awards: 1958, 1959

During his tenure, Banks smashed 512 home runs, showcasing his formidable power at the plate. He was twice named National League MVP, a testament to his exceptional skill and valuable contribution to the team. He remained a beloved figure long after his retirement, symbolizing the spirit of the Cubs.

Batting Average.274
Home Runs512
MVP Awards2

Banks’ legacy is celebrated in the baseball community and his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977 was a fitting honor for an extraordinary career. His number 14 was the first to be retired by the Cubs, ensuring that his impact on the team and the game would never be forgotten.

Derek Jeter (HOF)

Derek Jeter, affectionately known as Mr. November due to his clutch postseason performances, is a legendary figure in the baseball world. Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2020, he received an overwhelming 396 out of 397 possible votes, a testament to his stellar career with the New York Yankees. His tenure with the Yankees was marked by five World Series championships, cementing his legacy as one of the game’s greats.

Batting Average.310
Home Runs260
Stolen Bases358
Silver Slugger Awards5
Gold Glove Awards5

A leader in both the clubhouse and on the field, Jeter amassed an impressive 3,465 hits over his 20-year career, ranking sixth all-time in MLB history. His consistency at the plate earned him five Silver Slugger awards, highlighting his status as one of the premier offensive shortstops in the league. Jeter’s accolades reflect not just his talent, but also his commitment to excellence.

In addition to his individual achievements, Jeter’s impact on the Yankees was profound, contributing significantly to their success during his two-decade tenure. His number 2 jersey has been retired by the team, a fitting tribute to a player who embodied the spirit and determination of the storied franchise. Derek Jeter’s induction into the Hall of Fame is a celebration of a career that was truly remarkable.

Arky Vaughan (HOF)

Joseph Floyd “Arky” Vaughan made an indelible mark in baseball history during his spell with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Brooklyn Dodgers. His impeccable skill as a shortstop earned him a posthumous induction into the Hall of Fame in 1985. Vaughan’s high OPS of .859 (on-base plus slugging percentage) underscored his offensive prowess, ranking him among the elite players of his era.

In his time with the Pirates, Vaughan’s performance was nothing short of stellar. He boasted an exceptional batting average of .385 in 1935, which set a 20th-century record for National League shortstops. His tenure with the Dodgers, although shorter, still demonstrated his invaluable contribution, including playing a key role on the pennant-winning 1947 team.

Batting Average.318
Home Runs96

Vaughan’s seamless glove work and potent bat secured his place as one of the finest shortstops ever to grace the diamond. His legacy continues to resonate, commemorating a career defined by exceptional skill and consistent performance.

Robin Yount (HOF)

Robin Yount is considered one of the greatest shortstops in baseball history, with his entire 20-year career spent with the Milwaukee Brewers. Yount received the Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award twice, a rare feat for a shortstop, emphasizing his exceptional performance on the field. His accolades include a Gold Glove Award, commemorating his defensive prowess, and three Silver Slugger Awards, highlighting his offensive contribution to the Brewers.

Batting Average.285
Home Runs251
MVP Awards2
Silver Slugger Awards3
Gold Glove Awards1

His induction into the Hall of Fame underscores the impact Yount had on the sport, solidifying his legacy as Mr. Brewer. For more detailed information on Yount’s career, you can visit the Society for American Baseball Research for an extensive biography.

George Davis (HOF)

George Davis, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998, stands out in baseball history as a premier shortstop with a well-rounded defensive and offensive skill set. Though never with the New York Yankees, he made his mark with other teams like the New York Giants. His defensive prowess at shortstop was matched by his batting abilities, amassing over 2,600 hits and 163 triples.

Batting Average.295
Home Runs73

Davis’s career spanned from 1890 to 1909, during which he also proved his versatility playing third base and center fielder. His offensive contributions were significant, and he retired with a batting average of .295. George Davis’s legacy withstands the test of time, as his career achievements secured his place among the greats in the Hall of Fame.

Luke Appling (HOF)

Lucius Benjamin “Luke” Appling, a legendary figure in baseball history, etched his legacy as a key player for the Chicago White Sox. His consistency and skill at the plate earned him a career batting average of .310, a clear testament to his prowess as a hitter. Appling’s dedication and performance were recognized with his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1964, a crowning achievement for any player.

Batting Average.310
Home Runs45

During his tenure with the White Sox from 1930 to 1950, Appling was known for his reliability and was affectionately nicknamed “Old Aches and Pains.” His batting titles in 1936 and 1943 highlight a career filled with personal accolades, reflecting his status as one of the best shortstops to have played the game. Enshrined in Cooperstown, Appling’s legacy in the sport is enduring.

Barry Larkin (HOF)

Barry Larkin, inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012, is often celebrated as one of the greatest shortstops in MLB history. During his illustrious career spanning from 1986 to 2004, he achieved remarkable milestones with the Cincinnati Reds. He was a skilled defender and a formidable batter, contributing significantly to the Reds’ successes.

Larkin’s talent was recognized with numerous accolades, including being named the National League MVP in 1995. His defensive prowess was acknowledged through the Gold Glove Award, which he won three times. Larkin also displayed versatility in his batting, earning nine Silver Slugger Awards.

Batting Average.295
Home Runs198
Stolen Bases379
MVP Awards1
Silver Slugger Awards9
Gold Glove Awards3

He showed athletic ability on the bases, too, stealing over 370 bases during his time in Major League Baseball. In 1996, he became the first shortstop in the 30-30 club, with at least 30 homers and steals in the same season. Larkin’s legacy endures, and he is remembered for his excellent all-around play, leadership, and contribution to the game of baseball.

Ozzie Smith (HOF)

Often referred to as “the Wizard”, Ozzie Smith redefined the role of a shortstop with his acrobatic defense, exemplified by his trademark backflips. During his esteemed career with the St. Louis Cardinals, Smith won an impressive 13 consecutive Gold Glove Awards, cementing his status as one of baseball’s all-time great defenders.

Batting Average.262
Home Runs28
Stolen Bases580
Gold Glove Awards13

Smith’s influence on the game extended beyond his mesmerizing defensive displays; he amassed a significant Defensive Wins Above Replacement (dWAR), a statistic that measures a player’s defensive value over a replacement-level player. Fans and players alike marveled at Smith’s ability to dominate defensively, which played a pivotal role in his induction into the Hall of Fame.

Alan Trammell (HOF)

Alan Trammell, an icon of the Detroit Tigers, carved a remarkable 20-year tenure in Major League Baseball. Renowned for his defensive prowess, Trammell earned four Gold Gloves throughout his career, solidifying his reputation as an elite shortstop. He was crucial to the Tigers’ success in the 1984 World Series, where his stellar performance clinched him the title of Most Valuable Player.

Batting Average.285
Home Runs185
Stolen Bases236
Silver Slugger Awards3
Gold Glove Awards4

Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018, Trammell’s legacy transcends his 2,365 hits and 185 home runs. Defensively, he displayed exceptional skills that contributed immensely to the Tigers’ infield strength. Fans and sports historians alike remember Trammell for his unwavering consistency and ability to perform under pressure, characteristics that led to his Hall of Fame induction.

Lou Boudreau (HOF)

Lou Boudreau, renowned for his tenure with the Cleveland Indians, marked his place in baseball history as one of the best shortstops to grace the diamond. His leadership skills were exceptional, becoming player-manager at the young age of 24. Boudreau led the Indians to a World Series title, showcasing his dual role prowess.

Batting Average.295
Home Runs68
MVP Awards1

He was known for his remarkable fielding ability, leading the AL shortstops in fielding eight times. His record for the most consecutive doubles in a game remains unbroken. These consistent performances contributed to his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1970.

Lou Boudreau’s legacy is a testament to his extraordinary talent and defensive and offensively impact on the game. His Hall of Fame status was earned through years of dedication and standout play, making him a true baseball legend.

Jim Fregosi

Jim Fregosi stands out as a notable figure in the history of Major League Baseball, recognized both for his performance as a shortstop and his later contributions as a manager. Born on April 4, 1942, Fregosi’s baseball career spanned from 1961 to 1978, where he shined primarily with the Los Angeles/California Angels, and also played for the New York Mets, Texas Rangers, and Pittsburgh Pirates. His tenure on the field was marked by six All-Star selections, reflecting his prowess defensively and offensively.

Batting Average.265
Home Runs151
Stolen Bases76
All-Star Appearances6

Renowned for his time with the Angels, he became the team’s most productive and popular player, setting a high standard for the franchise’s future shortstops. His legacy with the Angels was substantial enough that his number, 11, was retired by the team, signifying his lasting impact. His passionate play and leadership qualities cemented the link between Jim Fregosi and his fans.

Though much of Fregosi’s playing resume is impressive, part of his fame also originated from one of the most lopsided trades in history, when he was traded to the Mets for Nolan Ryan. The legacy of Jim Fregosi extends beyond his playing days, as he transitioned into management and led teams for 15 years. His overall career in MLB showcases the valuable dimensions he brought to baseball both on and off the field.

Joe Sewell (HOF)

Joe Sewell made baseball history with his remarkable ability to avoid strikeouts, which is reflected in his enduring record for the lowest strikeout rate in major league history. His batting eye was exceptional, allowing him to consistently make contact and put the ball in play. Sewell’s skill with the bat earned him a place in baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1977.

After beginning his career with the Cleveland Indians, Sewell went on to play for the New York Yankees, reinforcing their lineup through the 1920s and early 1930s. He contributed significantly to the Yankees’ success, including their World Series victories. His consistent performance at the plate and in the field solidified his reputation as one of the all-time best shortstops.

Batting Average.312
Home Runs49

Despite his modest power, Sewell’s contact hitting and plate discipline made him a valuable player throughout his career. He truly exemplified the qualities of a Hall of Fame shortstop: consistency, skill, and a deep understanding of the game.

Bill Dahlen

William Frederick Dahlen, known as “Bad Bill,” was a notable figure in baseball during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He had a remarkable career as a shortstop and manager in Major League Baseball, playing from 1891 to 1911. Dahlen was recognized not only for his aggressive temperament but also his impressive ability on the field.

Teams Played For: Dahlen spent his career with several National League teams, including the Chicago Colts, Brooklyn Superbas, and the New York Giants.

Batting Average.272
Home Runs84

Career Highlights:

  • Batting Accomplishments: He achieved batting averages over .350 twice while with the Chicago Colts.
  • Championship Success: Dahlen contributed to championship victories with both Brooklyn Superbas and the New York Giants.
  • Hitting Streak: He held a 42-game hitting streak, which stands as the fourth-longest in major league history.

Throughout his career, Dahlen was ejected from games 65 times, a testament to his fiery character. Despite this, he left a lasting impact on the game, showcasing extraordinary skill and on-field intelligence. His contributions to the sport remain a benchmark for aspiring shortstops.

Joe Cronin (HOF)

Joe Cronin, a legendary figure in baseball history, is celebrated for his exceptional career as a shortstop. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1956, he is recognized for his contributions both on and off the field. Cronin’s baseball career spanned over two decades, including playing, managing, and serving as an executive.

Notably, he played for the Boston Red Sox, elevating his game to become one of the premier shortstops of his era. He led his teams with a competitive spirit and a high level of skill, which left a lasting impact on the game. His legacy is not only in his playing days but also in his time as a manager and an executive, where he continued to exemplify leadership in baseball.

Batting Average.301
Home Runs170

Cronin’s achievements include seven All-Star selections and two World Series appearances, highlighting his standing as a storied athlete. His number, 4, was retired by the Boston Red Sox, underscoring his significance to the team and its history. Cronin’s enduring influence on baseball is also evidenced by his near election to the position of Commissioner of Baseball in 1965.

Jack Glasscock

John Wesley “Jack” Glasscock stands as a significant figure in baseball history, renowned for his impressive defense during the sport’s bare-handed era. His career spanned from 1879 to 1895, during which he cemented his status as a premier shortstop. Glasscock’s defensive prowess is evident from his record; he led the National League in fielding percentage seven times.

As a master of the infield, “Pebbly Jack” showcased remarkable skills with six league-leading seasons in assists. This highlights his reaction time, hand-eye coordination, and the caliber of his overall defensive play. His contributions to the game during the nineteenth century have left an indelible mark, earning him various accolades.

Batting Average.290
Home Runs27

Besides his impressive fielding skills, he was also a formidable presence in the field, setting the standards for future generations of shortstops. The Society for American Baseball Research describes Glasscock as the “King of the Shortstops” for his era, emphasizing his excellence and the respect he garnered from fellow players. His influence on the game extends beyond his statistics, contributing to the evolution of the shortstop position in baseball.

Luis Aparicio (HOF)

Luis Aparicio brought a new level of athleticism and artistry to the shortstop position during his celebrated career in Major League Baseball (MLB). As a member of teams such as the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles, Aparicio was a force to be reckoned with on the base paths and a stalwart defender, known for his lightning-quick reflexes and graceful fielding.

Throughout the 1950s and 60s, he redefined the role of the shortstop, earning nine Gold Glove Awards and setting the standard for future generations at the position.

With an impressive ability to steal bases, Aparicio led the American League (AL) in steals for nine consecutive seasons, showcasing his speed and savvy as a baserunner.

His career total of 506 stolen bases stood as a testament to his impact on the game, influencing the way teams thought about the combination of speed and strategy.

At the plate, Aparicio was a consistent hitter, wrapping up his career with a batting average of .262, over 2,677 hits, and frequently utilizing his speed to turn routine plays into hits.

His contributions helped propel the White Sox to the 1959 World Series and later led the Orioles to World Series appearances, including their 1966 title.

Aparicio was not only a defensive wizard but also a fan favorite, celebrated for his engaging personality and passion for the game. His accolades include being a 13-time All-Star and the recipient of the 1956 AL Rookie of the Year award. His illustrious career culminated with an induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, cementing his legacy as one of the game’s all-time great shortstops.

Below is a table with key stats and achievements of Luis Aparicio:

Luis Aparicio – Key Stats and Achievements

Batting Average.262
Home Runs83
Stolen Bases506
Gold Glove Awards9
TeamsChicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox
Other Awards13× All-Star (1955-1964, 1970-1972), AL Rookie of the Year (1956), AL Stolen Base Leader (1956-1964)
Hall of Fame Induction1984

Pee Wee Reese (HOF)

Harold Peter Henry “Pee Wee” Reese, a ten-time All-Star, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984. As a stalwart shortstop for the Brooklyn Dodgers, his career spanned from 1940 to 1958, except for three years he served in the Navy during World War II. Reese was pivotal in the Dodgers’ postseason success, contributing to seven National League championships.

Batting Average.269
Home Runs126
Stolen Bases232
Gold Glove Awards1

Major League Debut: April 23, 1940
Hall of Fame Induction: 1984
Career Highlights:

  • All-Star Appearances: 10
  • World Series Championships: 1 (1955)

Reese’s tenure with the Dodgers was marked not only by his performance on the field but also by his leadership in the clubhouse. His support of Jackie Robinson during the latter’s struggle against racial adversity showed Reese’s character as much as his skill at shortstop did. The legacy of Pee Wee Reese extends beyond his impressive statistics; his contributions to the game of baseball are still celebrated today.

Joe Tinker (HOF)

Joe Tinker, enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1946, played a pivotal role in baseball history as a key member of the Chicago Cubs. Renowned for his defensive prowess at shortstop, Tinker turned double plays with remarkable efficiency, contributing to the Cubs’ dominance in the early 20th century. His career, spanning from 1902 to 1916, was marked by consistent performance, which has since become a benchmark for shortstops.

Tinker’s contributions to the Cubs include being one-third of the legendary Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance double play combination, celebrated in baseball lore and poetry. His impact on the game extends beyond his technical skills, serving as a paragon of the strategic defensive play. Not only did he set defensive records, but Tinker also brought a competitive edge to the Cubs, helping them claim multiple pennants.

Batting Average.262
Home Runs31
Stolen Bases336
  • Teams: Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds
  • World Series Titles: 2 (1907, 1908)
  • Career Double Plays: 670

Off the field, Tinker’s legacy is underscored by the respect he earned from players and fans alike. Tinker’s tenacity and strategic insight laid the groundwork for the modern perception of a shortstop’s role in baseball. His induction into the Hall of Fame stands as a testament to his significant contributions to the sport.

Nomar Garciaparra

Nomar Garciaparra, a prominent figure in Major League Baseball, had a storied career primarily with the Boston Red Sox. He stood out for his high batting average and offensive ability, reflected in his OPS of .882. His tenure with the Red Sox solidified his status as one of the best shortstops in the game when he batted .357 and .372 in consecutive years.

Batting Average.313
Home Runs229
Stolen Bases95
Silver Slugger Awards1

Garciaparra’s achievements with the Red Sox included multiple All-Star selections, Rookie of the Year, and several Silver Slugger Awards. His impact on the team and the city of Boston remains well-regarded, as he was a key component of the Red Sox’s success during his tenure.

Dave Concepcion

Dave Concepcion is revered for his remarkable achievements as a shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds, a role he held his entire Major League Baseball (MLB) career. Known for his defensive prowess, he was a linchpin of the Big Red Machine—a Reds dynasty that clinched four National League pennants and two World Series titles in the 1970s. His fielding brilliance is highlighted by winning five Gold Glove Awards, showcasing his elite defensive skills.

In addition to his fielding, Concepcion also excelled as a baserunner. He had anability to steal bases with high efficiency. Over his career, he amassed a total of 321 stolen bases.

Concepcion’s batting was impressive as well, contributing significantly to his team’s offense. His career statistics include a batting average of .267, over 2,300 hits, and 443 doubles, underscoring his consistency at the plate and ability to hit safely in many situations.

Batting Average.267
Home Runs101
Stolen Bases321
Silver Slugger Awards2
Gold Glove Awards5
  • Teams: Cincinnati Reds
  • Other Awards:
    • 9× All-Star (1973, 1975–1982)

Jimmy Rollins

Jimmy Rollins, affectionately known as “J-Roll,” carved his niche as one of the most accomplished shortstops during his tenure in Major League Baseball. He spent the majority of his career with the Philadelphia Phillies, where his performance earned him several accolades, including the National League MVP award in 2007. His defensive skill set was recognized with four Gold Glove awards, solidifying his reputation as a reliable and elite shortstop.

Throughout his career, Rollins showcased exceptional base running abilities, accumulating an impressive number of stolen bases. He became a significant threat on the bases, not just for his speed, but also for his smart decision-making. His contributions on the field and on the bases were instrumental in the Phillies’ sustained success during the 2000s.

Batting Average.264
Home Runs231
Stolen Bases470
MVP Awards1
Silver Slugger Awards1
Gold Glove Awards4

10 thoughts on “Ranking the 24 Absolute Best Shortstops of All Time”

  1. The most outstanding defensive Short Stop in the MLB has been Omar Vizquel.
    His statistics are well better of many short stops mentioned on this report.

  2. How can you keep Phil Ruzzito off this list? He played in 9 World Series and won in 7. When asked the difference between Yankees and other teams, Ted Williams answered the guy at shortstop p.

  3. Dave Concepcion was also a clutch hitter. I remember listening to a lot of games where he kept the game alive for the Reds. I hope the HOF does the right thing and acknowledge his excellence as a team player.

  4. There’s a couple on this list that aren’t as good as Tony Fernandez was. But geographic bias prevents Fernandez from making this list.

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