Top Shortstops In Baseball History

This might be the toughest position to judge from the early days of baseball to today, as shortstops typically fell into two camps: hitters and fielders. Only the best have done well at both, and the powerful (Alex Rodriguez, Cal Ripken) have only emerged in recent years.

Honus Wagner
Honus Wagner is shown before a game at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh in 1910. Transcendental Graphics

He's probably better known for his baseball card, which is more valuable than anybody else's because of its rarity. But his career was better than any other shortstop in big-league history, too. In 21 seasons, he hit .329 and stole 722 bases, and in a career entirely in the dead-ball era, he hit 101 home runs. He was in the original five-man class in the Hall of Fame in 1936. He hit better than .300 in 17 consecutive seasons and won eight NL batting titles. Wagner broke in with the Louisville Colonels and played his final 18 seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He wasn't the greatest fielder (.940 career percentage), but that was among the best of his era, which was before there was such as thing as Gold Gloves or smoothed-out infields.

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Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter 2014
Derek Jeter compiled 3,465 hits in his 20-year career. Getty Images

The all-time hits leader as a shortstop -- Wagner had more but played a lot in the outfield, first base and at third -- Jeter will be remembered as a winner and a leader as much as for his production with the New York Yankees. Still, he batted .310 and racked up 3,465 hits (sixth all-time, as of 2016) in his 20-year career. In the postseason, Jeter batted .308 with 20 homers and a .838 OPS. He helped the Yankees win five championships in a 14-season span from 1996 to 2009. He concluded his career as a 14-time All-Star, with five Silver Sluggers and five Gold Gloves.

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Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez
Alex Rodriguez entered the 2016 season with 687 career home runs. Getty Images

Rodriguez is a difficult player to rank for multiple reasons, beginning with his admission to taking performance-enhancing drugs and later his season-long suspension in 2014. Also problematic when it comes to finding his place in any all-time ranking is he entered the 2016 season having played more games at shortstop than any other position -- but not by a lot. For now, we're going to leave him at short, since through 2015 he had played more than half (1,272) of his 2,458 career games at shortstop. Regardless, A-Rod will go down as one of the greatest -- if not the greatest -- power-hitting infielders of all-time. The three-time MVP entered the 2016 campaign with a .296 average, .936 OPS, and 687 home runs.

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Cal Ripken Jr.

Cal Ripken 1998
Cal Ripken Jr. is shown at the 1998 All-Star Game at Coors Field. Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

His career was similar to Jeter's, but with a little more power and not as good an average. Ripken hit .276 with 3,184 career hits and 431 homers and moved to third base for the final five years of his 21-year career for the Baltimore Orioles. He won two AL MVPs and a World Series in 1983. And for playing in 2,632 consecutive games, the most in history, his place in baseball history is secure. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2007.

Luke Appling
Transcendental Graphics. Luke Appling is shown in the White Sox's dugout in 1944.

Appling won two American League batting titles, and his .388 average in 1936 remains the highest by a shortstop in history. He hit .310 in his career and had a splendid .798 OPS, which is better than Ripken. However, he never played in the postseason in his 20-year career for the Chicago White Sox. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1964.

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Robin Yount
Robin Yount played his entire 20-year career with the Milwaukee Brewers. Bernstein Associates

Yount almost played as many games in the outfield (1,218) as at shortstop (1,479). He was good enough to win a Gold Glove at shortstop in 1982, when he was the AL MVP, hitting .331 with 29 homers, both career highs. Yount was consistent, with a career average of .285, 251 homers and 1,406 RBI, and personified Milwaukee Brewers baseball from age 18 in 1974 to age 37 in 1993. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1999.

Arky Vaughan
Arky Vaughan. Transcendental Graphics

He replaced Wagner in Pittsburgh and was a perennial All-Star through the 1930s for the Pirates. He missed three seasons because of World War II, and that kept his totals low. But he still had 2,103 hits and a .318 career average. He wasn't fantastic defensively, with a .951 fielding percentage. Vaughan is largely forgotten, however, as he died in a boating accident in 1952. He hit .385 at age 23 and was elected to the Hall of Fame by the veterans committee in 1985.

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Joe Cronin
Joe Cronin is shown at Fenway Park in 1940. Transcendental Graphics

A .301 career hitter, this Boston Red Sox shortstop topped .300 11 times and played solidly in the field. Cronin was also a player-manager from 1933-45. He was almost out of his time when the position was typically manned by small, slick fielders. Cronin was more like Ripken or Jeter, hitting for power and average. His career fielding percentage was .951. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1956.

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Ozzie Smith
Ozzie Smith might have been the best fielding shortstop of all-time. Focus On Sport

The Wizard is generally considered the best fielding shortstop ever (although fans of Luis Aparicio and Omar Vizquel might disagree). Smith won 13 Gold Gloves, a World Series in 1982 with the St. Louis Cardinals and was a career .262 hitter. He hit .300 only once, in 1987 (.303, 0 HR, 75 RBI), but was so highly regarded that he finished second in the NL MVP vote. His fielding percentage was .978, and he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2002.

Lou Boudreau
Lou Boudreau. Rogers Photo Archive

Perhaps the best of the mid-20th century, the former Cleveland Indians shortstop had a career average of .295 in 15 seasons and drove in 789 runs. He also led the Tribe (as a player/manager at age 30) to its last World Series in 1948, when he was the AL MVP. Boudreau hit .355 with 18 homers and 106 RBI that season. Even more incredible that year: He walked 98 times and struck out only nine times in 676 plate appearances. His career ended somewhat early as he concentrated on managing at age 34. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1970.

The next five are Barry Larkin, Omar Vizquel, Luis Aparicio, Alan Trammell, Joe Sewell.

Edited by Kevin Kleps on April 19, 2016.

Note: We moved Jeter from No. 3 to No. 2, and Rodriguez from 2 to 3, when this article was updated. We also dropped Boudreau from No. 7 to No. 10 and bumped Vaughan, Cronin, and Smith up one spot each.