Marcus Semien of the Oakland A's is the eighth-best shortstop in the game, according to MLB Network's list of Top 10 Shortstops Right Now! The full list, which is based on both offensive and defensive metrics and 2016 projections:
1. Francisco Lindor, Cle
2. Troy Tulowitzki, Tor
3. Carlos Correa, Hou
4. Brandon Crawford, SF
5. Jhonny Peralta, StL
6. Xander Bogaerts, Bos
7. Addison Russell, ChC
8. Marcus Semien, Oak
9. Andrelton Simmons, LAA
10. Didi Gregorius, NYY
A's fans won't be able to look at that list without noticing the two names surrounding Semien. One slot above him is Russell, the former Oakland uber-prospect traded away in 2014, though if anything it's an encouraging sign that Semien is ranked so close to him. Losing Russell in the first Shark trade was a bummer because he was going to be a top shortstop and now has become just that for another team ... but then the second Shark trade brought Semien back to fill that hole with another top shortstop. Of course, Russell still has greater heights in his likely future, but we're now entering the second year of each player's six-year service clock and so far the A's side of the deal(s) is holding up just fine.
One spot below Semien is Simmons, the shiny new toy acquired by the division rival Angels in November. Simmons is almost certainly the best defensive shortstop in the game, and probably one of the best in history. He's going to make at least one play against the A's this year that will make you throw your shoe at the TV, and then he'll leap through the screen into your living room and catch the shoe before it does any damage. But he's an awful hitter, who makes a lot of contact but doesn't use it to get on base or drive in runs or anything of that sort. He just has to bat every so often so that they'll let him play defense. Simmons is still a valuable player and you could make a great argument to rank him over Semien on this list, but there are limitations to a guy who only really contributes on one side of the ball.
As for Semien, he made headlines in the first half of 2015 for his atrocious defense. But then, the A's re-hired former infield coach Ron Washington, who once mentored third baseman Eric Chavez from a bat-first prospect into a six-time Gold Glover, and Semien made new headlines for his rapid improvements in the field. By the end of the year he looked completely adequate with the glove, and it's realistic to hope for league-average defense from him in 2016. At the plate, he knocked 15 homers with a roughly average batting line and showed flashes of the plus hitter he is capable of becoming as he enters his age-25 season.
For anyone who (deservedly) stopped paying attention to the A's last summer, it might be difficult to fathom Semien being ranked as a top shortstop. But the iron glove he demonstrated in those opening months simply does not exist anymore, and it's past time to update our perceptions to match reality. Even if Semien never becomes a strength on defense, he at least won't be a glaring weakness anymore and should be completely decent. That leaves it up to his bat to continue developing as he moves toward his prime years -- if he becomes an above-average hitter with average shortstop defense, as he could well do in 2016, then he will be a valuable player indeed and easily justify this No. 8 ranking.
As for the rest of the list, Lindor is a notable pick over Tulo for the top spot. He's only played 99 MLB games, but they were amazing games backed up by a blue chip prospect stock. Meanwhile, Tulo had an off-year and just turned 31, so I can't argue with gambling on the up-and-coming youngster who just flashed major game on both sides of the ball. Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa is also up there, with his early success and massive potential placing him ahead of a couple other established All-Stars.
What do you think of these rankings? Does Semien belong at No. 8, or is he too high or too low? Is Lindor your top guy, or would you have gone with Tulo or Correa? What about notable snubs -- like Alcides Escobar, Jose Reyes, Elvis Andrus, or Ian Desmond? To the comments!