The AL East position run down continues with shortstop. The Orioles rank pretty low on the list but the difference between numbers 3 and 5 are really not much at all. This is the last position to be covered in the infield and I'm really looking forward to moving on to the outfield.
1. Derek Jeter (Yankees) - Here's the thing about Derek Jeter: he's probably not a bad dude. It's easy to hate him, I grant you this. But I think most of it stems from the way others treat Jeter more than anything he actually does. It's not really his fault that his every move causes a collective orgasm from the media. Jeter is a hell of a hitter, the kind you really don't want to see come to the plate with runners in scoring position. We joke about Jeter-esque hits all the time but fact is the dude has built a hall of fame career on them. Jeter will be 36 in 2010 and has to start slowing down sometime, but until he does he's head and shoulders above the rest of the SS in the AL East. Finally, just because it's awesome: Derek Jeter Honored For Having Fewer Hits Than Harold Baines.
2. Jason Bartlett (Rays)- Prior to coming to the Rays in the same trade that brought them potential ace Matt Garza, Bartlett was known as slick fielder with a slightly below average bat. Then suddenly in 2009, Bartlett became a beast at the plate. He hit 14 home runs to bring his career total to 25. He hit .320/.389/.490 in '09 and while those numbers will most certainly regress in 2010 it's hard to say how much. Even if he splits the difference between his 2008 and 2009 numbers he'll still be a serviceable bat with a great glove. Bartlett will be 30 years old for the 2010 season.
3. Marco Scutaro (Red Sox) - Scutaro had a career year in 2009 and parlayed it into two year contract with the Red Sox. It was his first season with an OPS+ higher than 96 and given that he'll play in 2010 at age 34 it's unlikely he's just now hitting his stride. His success in 2009 was fueled by an increase in walks (he took 90 of them, 37 more than his next highest single season total) and power (career highs in doubles and home runs). The Red Sox needed a shortstop and Scutaro was the best option on the market. He wasn't a great option, just the best.
4. Cesar Izturis (Orioles) - I still welcome Izturis on the Orioles given the dreck we were subjected to before he got here. Izzy is fun to watch in the field but kind of a nightmare at the plate. His career OBP is .298 mostly due to the fact that he can't take a walk. In 114 games in 2009 he walked just 19 times. At this point in his career he is what he is, and hopefully that's a great glove to help out the young pitchers until a replacement can be found after this season.
5. Alex Gonzalez (Blue Jays) - Alex Gonzalez was signed by the Blue Jays to replace the departed Marco Scutaro. Gonzalez is the poor man's Cesar Izturis. No bat, good glove. Their career numbers actually aren't all that different but Gonzalez is three years older than Izzy and Gonzalez's glove isn't as good, and when you hit like Izzy and Gonzalez do, the glove has to be awesome.