The golden age of shortstops came in the late 1990s, when Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra, and Miguel Tejada all arrived within just a couple years of each other. These guys changed the position by showing everyone shortstops don't have to be light hitting defenders.
One of the coolest story lines of 2016 is that we are seeing the next wave of star shortstops come through and there's real debate on who is the best of the bunch. Carlos Correa was likely the answer coming into the season. Xander Bogaerts and his .350 mid season batting average was next. Now it's probably Corey Seager but by next year it could be Francisco Lindor. Here is the case for each of them:
Carlos Correa, Astros, Age: 21
All these guys are young but none are as young as Correa, who doesn't turn 22 until the end of September. The reigning American League Rookie of the Year is having a tremendous seasons for a 21-year-old. That doesn't mean there hasn't been some growing pains, though. In 2015 Correa hit 22 homers in just 99 games. This season he has 19 homers in 134 games. His slugging is down from .512 to .460. He has two fewer stolen bases in 35 more games.
Growing pains should have been expected for such a young player as the next guy on this list can attest to. And it's not as if Correa has been bad. Most guys aren't even in the majors until age 23 or 24. The most encouraging Correa stat this season is that he has increased his BB% from 9.3% to 11.4%. Understanding the strike zone is a crucial skill for young players to develop. While he isn't having the best season of the bunch Correa's potential gives him a convincing case for being the best long term bet of this group.
Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox, Age: 23
Boagerts is proof why you don't worry too much about elite prospects not putting it all together right away. His 2014 season was much worse than what Correa is doing this year. That season Bogaerts hit .240/.297/.362 with 12 homers as a 21-year-old. He rebounded in 2015 and hit .320/.355/.421 this time with just 7 long balls. The lack of power worried some but he made another adjustment this season and is up to 17 homers with a .300/.360/.462 triple slash line.
The development has gone as well as the Red Sox could have reasonably expected. Bogaerts has increased both his BB% and his XBH% every year he's been in the bigs. In June Bogaerts was as hot as a hitter can possibly be, hitting north of .350 with a 26 game hit streak. He has cooled considerably since and in his last 336 plate appearances is batting just .249. That's almost half a season worth of a sample size, which is somewhat concerning. However, the power development has been a huge positive and Bogaerts has shown the ability to make adjustments before. He will be just fine in the years to come.
Corey Seager, Dodgers, Age: 22
Ladies and gentlemen your 2016 National League Rookie of the Year! Corey Seager, at 22 years old, has 24 home runs in 2016. The only other shortstops to hit 24 homers aged 22 or younger.....Alex Rodriguez and Cal Ripken Jr. He has the most home runs EVER by a Dodgers shortstop, regardless of age. But the most astonishing stat is that he has the highest OPS and OPS+ of any rookie shortstop since 1901.
According to Baseball-Reference Seager has accumulated 5.9 WAR this season, which is the second most amongst National League position player. With the Dodgers leading the NL West that puts him right in the thick of the MVP discussion. Currently Seager has 24 homers with a .318/.378/.536 triple slash line. His numbers are better than Fred Lynn's the year he won ROY and MVP. It may take a scorching finish to beat out Kris Bryant for NL MVP, but the fact that Seager is in the discussion at all is astonishing.
Francisco Lindor, Indians, Age: 22
Lindor is officially the most underrated player in baseball. When people think of sports in Cleveland they think about Lebron or the Browns. When they think about the Indians they think about the pitching staff. Yet Lindor is quietly ninth in the American League in WAR, according to Baseball-Reference. He is first amongst shortstops. After finishing second the Rookie of the Year race last season Lindor became a first time all star in 2016.
Lindor's 162 game average would give him a season of 18 homers, 20 stolen bases, and a .318/.362/.469 triple slash. Not bad for a guy who many view as a defensive stud who can't hit. That's not to say he isn't a phenomenal defender. His 2.3 defensive WAR ranks first in the AL and second in all of baseball among all position players. He may not have the power of the other guys on this list but is arguably the most well rounded and deserves more recognition.
So those are the four leading contenders. As of now. Keep in mind if we were counting Manny Machado as a shortstop he would be the pick. Also keep in mind that Addison Russell is very close to being in the discussion as well. He has 19 homers this year and the same defensive WAR as Lindor. He just needs to work on that .243 batting average. Regardless of who you consider the best of the bunch it is clear the shortstop position is in good hands for the foreseeable future.