When I think about the best shortstops in baseball, Troy Tulowitzki is the first player that comes to mind. He is incredibly talented on both offense and defense, and despite his injuries still manages to put up great numbers. When I think of defense, Andrelton Simmons is naturally the first player I think about. He might be the best defensive shortstop since Ozzie Smith. When I think of other good shortstops over the last decade, Jimmy Rollins and Jose Reyes come up, and Ian Desmond has been a solid player for a few years now. Heading into the season, ESPN's poll of experts ranked Peralta sixth among shortstops behind Tulowitzki, Desmond, Simmons, Reyes, and Starlin Castro. Jhonny Peralta does not feel like one of the best shortstops in baseball without gaudy offensive numbers, amazing defensive highlights, or a year with an MVP candidacy, but those feelings fail to appreciate Peralta's consistent above-average offense and his incredibly steady play at one of the most difficult defensive positions. As Tulowtizki and Reyes have struggled to stay healthy, Rollins has declined and Hanley Ramirez has been removed from the position, Jhonny Peralta has been one of the very best shortstops over the last half-decade. Joe took a look at the combined production of Peralta and Kolten Wong a few weeks ago, and the two players have continued to form an excellent combination. While Wong is still coming into his own, Peralta has been producing for years. From 2010 through the present, here are the fWAR leaders, from the FanGraphs Leaderboards, at shortstop:
Peralta has certainly received a little more attention of late, but he has put up solid numbers for quite some time. At one time moved from shortstop to third base, since his trade to the Tigers in 2010, Peralta has been a full-time shortstop and he has been one of the very best baseball. Five-plus seasons is a long time to look back when trying to consider the best players in the game right now. Moving forward one year from 2011 to the present, the leaderboard looks like this:
Peralta is actually on top of this over the last four-plus seasons, edging out Tulowitzki for the top spot. From 2012 on, a younger player unseats both Peralta and Tulowtizki.
Ian Desmond, 29 years old and a free agent at the end of this season, has put up very good numbers over the past few seasons, including more than 20 home runs in each of the last three years. Moving forward one more year, Tulowitzki moves back in front.
Despite averaging around 110 games per season over the past six years, Tulowitzki has managed to have five five-win seasons during that time. When completely healthy, he is an MVP candidate, although he has gotten off to a slow start this season. Since Peralta joined the Cardinals, here are the fWAR numbers for shortstops:
Peralta is on top, and it is not really close. His combination of offense and defense has made him the best shortstop in baseball over the last 14 months. His ZiPS projection for the rest of the season has him slightly behind Tulowitzki, but given the lead Peralta has, he will be tough to catch, although for 2015 only, Brandon Crawford is the current projected leader for the end of the season.
Moving away from shortstops, here are the most valuable players i the National League by fWAR since Peralta joined the Cardinals:
Jhonny Peralta did not come through the Cardinals' minor league system, they did not make a major trade for him, and although he was signed to a decent-sized deal as a free agent, he is not even in the top-3 in terms of Cardinals' salaries. Shortstop is a difficult position to fill, and based on his production and projections, he just might be the best shortstop in baseball. If you had to choose a player with the most talent and highest ceiling for the year, you might still take Tulowitzki. If you were looking at future production based on age, you might take Simmons, but for right now, you might want the guy who just did this: