Braves' Top 5 shortstops: Bowman's take

April 21st, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only … if you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Braves All-Time Team: 3B | 2B | 1B | C

Here is Mark Bowman’s ranking of the top 5 shortstops in Braves history. Next week: Left fielders.

1. Johnny Logan, 1951-60
Key fact: Only shortstop in Braves history to produce a 5.0 bWAR

This is where I need to justify putting ahead of Hall of Famer Rabbit Maranville, who was inducted in his 14th year on the ballot. Let’s start by pointing out Logan ranks higher in franchise history in Wins Above Replacement (in both bWAR and fWAR), despite having played 136 fewer games at the shortstop position than Maranville did with the Braves.

In terms of fWAR, Logan joins Jeff Blauser and Herman Long as the only shortstops in franchise history to produce a 5.0 twice.

Serving as the shortstop in lineups that featured Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews, Logan helped Milwaukee capture consecutive National League pennants and win the 1957 World Series. The four-time All-Star ranked second among all NL players in 1957 with his 20.2 defensive fWAR.

2. Rabbit Maranville, 1912-20, ’29-35
Key fact: Finished top three in MVP balloting in his first two full seasons

Elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1954 (his 14th year on the ballot), was one of the franchise’s most popular players during its Boston days. How respected was he from a defensive perspective? Well, he finished third in MVP balloting after producing a .638 OPS in 1913 and second (behind teammate Johnny Evers) after producing a .632 OPS in ’14.

Yeah, longevity plays a part in Maranville ranking third in both bWAR and fWAR among shortstops in franchise history. Worth noting: His defense was still highly respected even after he rejoined the Braves in 1929 at 37 years old. He finished in the top 20 of MVP balloting in four of his first five years back with the organization.

If you need to be reminded of how much the game has changed, Maranville produced a .640 OPS and 71 OPS+ in that span of five seasons.

3. Rafael Furcal, 2000-05
Key fact: His 40 stolen bases in 2000 is the highest total for a Braves rookie, dating back to 1914 (Ronald Acuña Jr.’s 16 stolen bases in 2018 is next highest)

led all NL shortstops with the 17.9 fWAR he produced during his six-season stint with Atlanta. Blessed with fantastic speed and a cannon arm, he quickly became one of the most exciting players on a team that won six of its 14 consecutive division titles with his assistance.

Despite playing just six seasons with the Braves -- including one that was cut in half by a dislocated left shoulder in 2001 -- Furcal stands with Logan and Maranville as the only shortstops in franchise history to produce a 4.0 bWAR or better at least three times. (The latter two reached this mark in four seasons.)

4. Andrelton Simmons, 2012-15
Key fact: Owns three of the six highest Defensive Runs Saved totals recorded since this stat became available in 2003

was the best defensive shortstop in Braves history. Would he already sit atop this list had he not been traded after just his third full season? Well, the 30-year-old currently has a 24.9 fWAR through 1,030 career games (essentially 7 1/3 seasons).

The best career fWAR marks produced by a Braves shortstop belong to Herman Long (38.5 in 1,647 games), Johnny Logan (31.3 in 1,503 games) and Rabbit Maranville (28.3 in 1,795 games). Even though Simmons’ production slowed last year, he’s averaged a 4.0 fWAR over the past three seasons. So you could certainly project he would move higher on the list within the next few seasons.

Or you could just take my approach and say, “Simmons is the best Braves shortstop I’ve ever seen.” Unfortunately, his stay in Atlanta was not long enough for me to justify putting him at the top of this list.

5. Jeff Blauser, 1987-97
Key fact: Owns three of the top four single-season OPS+ marks for a Braves shortstop

Like Simmons was the best defensive shortstop the Braves have seen, it seems easy to argue Jeff Blauser was the best hitting shortstop in franchise history. He spent his first couple of seasons moving around the infield and didn’t truly cement himself as Atlanta’s shortstop until 1993.

Still, his bat was strong enough to cover some of the defensive weaknesses that limited his time at shortstop during the early part of his career. The 110 wRC+ he produced from 1993-97 ranked second among NL shortstops in that span, trailing only Reds Hall of Famer Barry Larkin (135).

Honorable mention: Herman Long ranks first among Braves shortstops with a 38.5 fWAR. He played for the franchise from 1890-1902 … Rafael Ramirez, a popular figure from the 1980s, ranks fourth in franchise history with 852 games played at shortstop … Alvin Dark was named the NL Rookie of the Year after producing a .786 OPS for the 1948 Boston Braves … Denis Menke’s 6.1 fWAR from 1964 is the best single-season total for a Braves shortstop.