Comparing the NL East: Shortstops

Completing our look at the middle infields around the National League East, we've got a ranking of the five starting shortstops and a look at their pluses and minuses.

Andrelton Simmons sort of burst onto the scene with the Atlanta Braves last season and then disappeared, thanks to a broken pinkie that cost him two months of the season. Last season, Simmons lost a training camp battle for the starting shortstop job in Atlanta and was sent to Double-A to open the year, but when Tyler Pastornicky struggled, Simmons was summoned and stepped in to post some impressive numbers.

This spring, Simmons comes to camp as the opening day shortstop and could find himself hitting leadoff with Michael Bourn out of the picture for the Braves. To be effective in that role though, Simmons would need to improve his base stealing ability and get better jumps on pitchers, because he doesn't have the blazing speed that most leadoff hitters possess.

Simmons has a good judgement of the strike zone and will occasionally turn on a pitch, but is more of a gaps hitter, who should be able to hit for a good average in the majors.

The thing to really like about Simmons is his defensive skills. His instincts at short are impeccable and he has an absolute canon for an arm and also has the accuracy to go with the arm strength. He's one of those guys that simply gets to balls that others can't and makes it look pretty routine.

Like Simmons, Adeiny Hechavarria made his major league debut last season, although it didn't come with the Marlins. Hechavarria was one of the players heading from Toronto to Miami in the blockbuster deal between the two teams over the winter and he takes over at shortstop.

Hechavarria isn't going to be a huge threat offensively. He does have quick hands, but terrible judgement of the strike zone and will swing at a lot of junk. As far as power is concerned, he may be able to become a 15-20 home run guy, but likely not much more.

Where Hechavarria will make his money is in defense and speed. He's got soft hands and a strong, accurate arm to go with them. His speed is above average, but it won't be as big of an asset as it could be if he doesn't find a way to cut down on his strikeouts.

In New York, Ruben Tejada took over the shortstop job full-time and put together decent offensive numbers (.289/.333/.351). The Mets are happy with him as their shortstop and didn't look to make any changes during the off-season, which was probably a good decision.

Tejada isn't one of the flashiest players around and not the type that's going to win any batting titles, home run titles or stolen base titles. What he does do is give a team a decent offensive shortstop who should be able to hit in the .270-.280 range and will make all of the routine plays on defense.

In his career, Tejada has played at both second and short, but overall, seems more comfortable at short. The Mets have Daniel Murphy at second base, so Tejada can settle in at short.

In Philadelphia, Jimmy Rollins is far and away the veteran of the NL East shortstops. Coming into his 14th season with the Phillies, Rollins isn't the same player that he was in his prime, but put up respectable numbers in 2012.

Charlie Manuel insists that Rollins is one of the best leadoff guys around, so it's likely that he'll return to that spot in the lineup for Philadelphia. His on-base percentage fell to .316, low for a leadoff man, but he did steal 30 bases again. In all but two seasons since he's been a full-time shortstop, Rollins has swiped 30 or more bases and fell 13 short in 2010 because of injuries.

Defensively, Rollins is still getting to most of the balls that he always has and still has the same reliable arm that he's always had. He may be most effective if Manuel gives him a few more days off here and there, but that's not really the skipper's style.

In Washington, Ian Desmond surprised a lot of people by hitting 25 home runs last season. Coming into 2012, Desmond had hit 22 home runs in 1,191 at-bats with the Nationals, so to launch 25 in 513 at-bats is impressive. Plus, Desmond posted career-highs in average (.292) and on-base percentage (.335) playing in 130 games for the NL East Champions.

Defensively, Desmond is average and doesn't have great range, but generally is up to the task. He continues to work on his defense, so he should be able to improve slightly, at least on making all of the routine plays.

In 2012, Desmond made what is likely to be the first of many appearances in the All-Star Game and also captured his first Silver Slugger Award.

Ranking the NL East Shortstops:

  1. Ian Desmond (Washington)
  2. Andrelton Simmons (Atlanta)
  3. Jimmy Rollins (Philadelphia)
  4. Ruben Tejada (New York Mets)
  5. Adeiny Hechavarria (Miami)

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