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MLB roundtable: Is Fernando Tatis Jr. the best shortstop in baseball?

Spring has sprung and pitchers have catchers have reported to spring training camps across Arizona and Florida. Soon Cactus League and Grapefruit League pay will begin, and I can’t wait. Real live baseball is on the horizon. Hopefully the pandemic cooperates. Fingers crossed, everyone.

Throughout spring training my fellow CBS Sports MLB scribes and I will bring you a weekly roundtable breaking down, well, pretty much anything. The latest news, a historical question, thoughts about the future of baseball, all sorts of stuff. Last week we debated the AL East hierarchy. This week we’re going to discuss the insane amount of talent at shortstop.

Who is the best shortstop in baseball?

R.J. Anderson: I think you’ll see Fernando Tatis Jr. win this one — and rightly so — because of his performance to date and his youth. His performance to date and his youth landed him the third-largest contract in baseball history on Wednesday night, after all. I want to make sure we appreciate how loaded the position is when players like Trevor Story, Francisco Lindor, and so on are seemingly competing for second best. This is a heck of a group, leaguewide. 

Matt Snyder: I’m going with Tatis as well. In his abbreviated rookie year, Tatis rated out poorly on defense and turned it around to being one of the best in baseball in 2020. He lowered his strikeout rate, raised his walk rate, hit the ball harder, hit it hard more often and stole bases at a higher rate of success. Basically, at age 21, he made positive adjustments across the board. Expect him to continue to get better. He was arguably the best last year, but due to the expected improvement, I don’t think it’ll even be close in 2021. 

Dayn Perry: I don’t know how much the “change of scenery” effect is an actual thing, but I’ll say that Francisco Lindor benefits from it this season with the Mets. He’s been a highly valuable player for the entirety of his career, but his offensive performance has vacillated a bit from year to year. I’ll say that Lindor in 2021 has a career year at the plate while continuing to be a top-tier performer in the field. As such, I’ll wager he edges out Trevor Story and Fernando Tatis Jr. and produces the most value among shortstops in 2021.

Mike Axisa: I’m going with Francisco Lindor over Fernando Tatis Jr. Tatis is incredible and the most exciting player in the game, but we haven’t seen him do it across a full season yet, right? Injuries limited him to 84 games in 2019, and then last year it was a 60-game season. Lindor has been an MVP-caliber producer since the day he stepped into the league and I think Tatis will be right there with him in 2021, but I’m fine with using the difference in track records as a tiebreaker. Lindor has been at it longer. Shoutout to Trevor Story, Corey Seager, and the criminally underappreciated Xander Bogaerts. He has hit .300/.372/.535 the last three years!

Katherine Acquavella: Entering the 2021 season, I think the top tier is any combination of Francisco Lindor, Trea Turner, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Trevor Story. For my pick, I’ll say Tatis. I think he’s primed for another impressive campaign in 2021, a full 162-season this time around, if all goes well. Tatis quieted the concerns of his defense at short in 2020, and he looks like he’ll continue to grow into himself as a five-tool player. He’s already got the athleticism, speed and production at the plate, and after 2020, he looks like he’s added another level of sure-handedness at short. 




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