Top 6 Best MLB Shortstops of All Time
The shortstop position is one of the most demanding in the game. They are tasked with being the captain of the infield and are expected to be one of the best defenders on their team. In today’s modern game, hitting for average and power have also become requisites, but the best to ever play the position understood that long ago. Below are the top six shortstops in the history of Major League Baseball.
Who Are the Best MLB Shortstops of All Time?
- Honus Wagner
- Cal Ripken Jr.
- Derek Jeter
- Alex Rodriguez
- Ozzie Smith
- Barry Larkin
1. Honus Wagner
- Eight-time batting champion
- World Series champion (1909)
- 3,420 career hits
- National Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee (Class of 1936)
Though he played before the time of the MVP award and the All-Star Game, there’s no doubt Honus Wagner was the greatest ever to play the shortstop position. The number of times he led the league in multiple categories, whether it be slugging percentage, batting average, or doubles, spoke to his dominance as a hitter. He was also seen as one of the best fielders at any position during his playing days.
Wagner was given the nickname “The Flying Dutchman” because of the speed and ferocity with which he played the game. He stole over 700 bases in his career and also racked up 252 triples, the third-most of all time. Wagner was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936.
2. Cal Ripken Jr.
- Longest games-played streak ever (2,632)
- Two-time MVP (1983, 1991)
- Eight-time Silver Slugger
- National Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee (Class of 2007)
As a phenomenal shortstop for the Baltimore Orioles, Cal Ripken Jr. was also known as “The Iron Man.” His 2,632 consecutive games played is the longest streak in the history of Major League Baseball, and he’s miles ahead of anyone else. Ripken was an all-around player, combining excellent fielding with tremendous power at the shortstop position. At a time when most shortstops were seen as defense-centric and weak hitters, Ripken Jr. revolutionized the position with his prowess as a slugger. Over 21 seasons, he smacked 3,184 hits and clobbered 431 home runs. Ripken Jr. was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007.
3. Derek Jeter
- 3,465 career hits
- Five-time World Series champion
- 14-time All-Star
- National Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee (Class of 2020)
Nicknamed “The Captain,” Jeter spent 20 years as one of the best players on the most storied franchise in baseball. He was the perfect modern shortstop: smooth fielding to go along with great hitting and enough power to be feared. Jeter never won an MVP, but his list of accomplishments is impressive nonetheless.
He was named to 14 All-Star teams and won five Gold Gloves to go along with five Silver Sluggers. One of Jeter’s most characteristic traits was his ability to show up in the postseason, where he had a .308 batting average and won World Series MVP in 2000. Jeter was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2020.
4. Alex Rodriguez
- 696 career home runs
- 14-time All-Star
- Three-time MVP (2003, 2005, 2007)
Though many remember him as a third baseman, Alex Rodriguez was one of the best shortstops in the league when he first came up. He provided excellent defense while also becoming one of the most productive power hitters in the game. He may also be one of the main reasons Jeter did not win any MVP awards, as Rodriguez took home three MVPs in a five-year span. Once he went to the Yankees, Rodriguez moved to third base, but he did win two Gold Gloves during his time as a shortstop. His 696 career home runs are by far the most of anyone on this list.
5. Ozzie Smith
- Most Gold Gloves by a shortstop (13)
- 15-time All-Star
- 580 career stolen bases
- National Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee (Class of 2002)
Though Ozzie “The Wizard” Smith was a below-average hitter, he more than made up for it with his legendary defense. His 13 Gold Gloves are the most ever by a shortstop, and he is seen as one of the most athletic players the game has ever known. Whether it was doing backflips after wins or turning spectacular double plays, Smith had a flair for fielding that remains unmatched and he was named an All-Star fifteen times (1981-1992, 1994-1996). Smith was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002.
6. Barry Larkin
- MVP Award winner (1995)
- Nine-time Silver Slugger
- 12-time All-Star
- National Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee (Class of 2012)
Barry Larkin’s well-rounded game featured everything a team could ask for from their shortstop: great fielding, power at the plate, and tremendous leadership. Larkin won the MVP award in 1995 at a time when big sluggers were headlining the game. He finished his career just shy of 200 home runs and just under a .300 batting average while racking up over 2,400 hits. Larkin was part of the great Reds’ dynasty of the 90s, winning a World Series in 1990 as well as three Gold Gloves. Larkin was recognized for his accomplishments in baseball by being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012.
- Three-time All-Star
- Gold Glove winner (1982)
- National Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee (Class of 1999)
Robin Yount was the best shortstop to ever play for the Milwaukee Brewers and even one of the best in the league’s history. Yount spent the entirety of his MLB career with the Brewers, from 1974 to 1993, but he achieved his greatest success in the second decade of his career. During the 1980s, Yount was named an All-Star three times (1980, 1982, 1983), received three Silver Sluggers (1980, 1982, 1989), was named the league MVP twice (1982, 1989), and even won a Gold Glove in 1982. After 3,142 hits, 251 home runs, and 1,406 RBIs, Yount ended his 19-year career and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame six years later.
- 14-time All-Star
- Two-time MVP
- Gold Glove winner (1960)
Ernie Banks, who played for the Chicago Cubs from 1953-1971, played half of his career at shortstop and half at first base. In the first half of his career, Banks was the rare breed of power hitting shortstop that made him one of the most valuable shortstops the league has ever seen. Unfortunately, an injury from his time in the military flared up in 1961, prompting his move to first base. He finished his career with 2,583 career hits, 512 home runs, 1,636 RBIs, and a batting average of .274. Banks was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977.
- Six-time All-Star
- Four-time Gold Glove winner
- World Series Champion (1984)
- World Series MVP (1984)
Alan Trammell played all 20 years of his MLB career in Detroit, winning a World Series and World Series MVP with the Tigers. Trammell had an interesting path in the MLB despite only playing for one team. He was known primarily for his defensive prowess in his early years, winning four Gold Gloves in the early 80s. However, Trammell shifted course later in his career, becoming a significant contributor to the Tigers’ offense. Trammell won three Silver Sluggers in the late 80s, solidifying him as one of the best all-around shortstops the sport has ever seen. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018.
Who is the greatest MLB shortstop of all time?
The greatest MLB shortstop of all time is Honus Wagner. His ability to be one of the top hitters in the league while also playing outstanding defense separated him from the rest. Wagner finished with 3,420 hits, second to only Derek Jeter among all shortstops. He was also an eight-time batting champion who consistently led the league in multiple offensive categories.
What MLB shortstop has won the most gold glove awards?
Ozzie Smith has won the most Gold Gloves of any shortstop, with 13. He even won all of them back-to-back, winning the award consecutively from 1980 to 1992. Smith is widely regarded as the best defensive shortstop ever, and he has the resume and reputation to back it up. His wizardry in the field was often showcased on highlight reels across the nation, and he was also a productive hitter.
What MLB shortstop set the record for most consecutive games played?
Cal Ripken Jr. set the record for most consecutive games played with 2,632. That’s not just the most by a shortstop, it’s the most ever in the history of the game, and by far. The next closest player is Lou Gehrig, who appeared in 2,130 games, a record that was seen as unbreakable at the time. Ripken Jr. earned the nickname “Iron Man” for his ability to stay healthy.