Batting Around: Who's the best shortstop in MLB? Can a newcomer beat out hot young players and veterans?

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Throughout the season the CBS Sports MLB experts will bring you a weekly Batting Around roundtable breaking down pretty much anything. The latest news, a historical question, thoughts about the future of baseball, all sorts of stuff. Last week we picked our favorite City Connect uniforms. This week we’re going to debate the game’s best shortstop.

Who is the best shortstop in baseball?

R.J. Anderson: It still feels a little weird to type this, but I think the answer is Mookie Betts. He’s outhitting everyone else, by far, and he’s been a better presence defensively than I expected based on his limited experience at the six. There are some impressive young shortstops performing at high levels around the league — Gunnar Henderson, Bobby Witt Jr., Elly De La Cruz, and even CJ Abrams, to name a handful — but I think Betts has them all beat right now.

Matt Snyder: Yeah, I have to agree with R.J. It’s such a cheat code to be able to move the best right fielder in baseball to second base and then in the middle of spring training declare him the shortstop and THEN have him play the way he has at short. It’s just laughable. He’d win MLB MVP right now if there were such a thing. 

If we were able to remove Mookie from this, I think it would be a really fun argument between Gunnar Henderson and Bobby Witt, Jr. while having room to discuss when we could loop in Elly De La Cruz and also not dismissing the holdover stud Corey Seager after one rough month. 

With Betts playing well more than half his games at shortstop, however, there isn’t really an argument that I can see against him being the best shortstop in baseball. 

Mike Axisa: It’s funny, when I first considered the question, Mookie didn’t cross my mind. I still think of him as an outfielder. He has to be the answer through, right? He’s been off the charts this season and the track record is as good as it gets. His defense is getting better too. I wouldn’t say he looked uncomfortable earlier this year, but there were times his inexperience showed, and it wasn’t the most natural-looking defense. Betts is improving in the field and has been really great overall.

Like R.J. and Matt, my answer is Mookie. Among natural shortstops (i.e. non-converted outfielders), I would go Gunnar Henderson over Bobby Witt Jr. ever so slightly. When they’re that close, something like Henderson being a left-handed hitter and thus at the platoon advantage more often (righties throw about three times as many innings as lefties each year) is enough to move me in his direction. My favorite shortstop is Elly De La Cruz. He is electric. It looks like he’s putting it together and he’s so very fun.

Dayn Perry: Honestly, I might lean Betts, but we need some diversity in our responses. If I had confidence in Corey Seager’s health and durability, I might say him. Instead, I’ll go Elly De La Cruz. The tools are of course off the charts, and this season he’s been an elite combination and power and speed thus far. The batted-ball quality is excellent, and he’s also improved his plate discipline. I’m buying the hot start, and I’m going with the Reds’ star 22-year-old.  

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