Angels' Top 5 shortstops: Bollinger's take

April 20th, 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.

Here is Rhett Bollinger's ranking of the top 5 shortstops in Angels history. Next week: Left fielders.

1. Jim Fregosi, 1961-71
Key fact: 45.9 bWAR is second-highest in club history

Before Mike Trout came along, Fregosi was the best position player in Angels history, as he was a six-time All-Star with the club and was the first face of the franchise. He’s fourth in franchise history in games played and is the club’s all-time leader in triples. He was also regarded as a slick defender, winning a Gold Glove in 1967 and forming a memorable double-play tandem with Bobby Knoop.

Fregosi was a selection by the Angels in the expansion draft and made his debut in '61, as a 19-year-old. He established himself as a regular in '63, garnering some MVP votes and then was an All-Star in '64 and again from '66-70. His highest finish in MVP voting was seventh in '67, when he hit .290/.349/.395 with nine homers and 56 RBIs in 151 games. He also became the first Angels player to hit for the cycle in ’64. Even his departure was notable, as he was traded to the Mets in 1971 in a deal that sent Nolan Ryan to the Angels.

After leaving the Angels, Fregosi played seven seasons in the Majors with the Mets, Rangers and Pirates, and upon retirement, he became the Angels' manager in 1978 at age 36. He guided the Angels to their first-ever postseason appearance in 1979 but was dismissed as manager during the '81 season. He went on to manage the White Sox (1986-88), Phillies (1991-96) and Blue Jays (1999-2000) and was inducted into the Angels Hall of Fame in 1989. He also had his No. 11 retired by the organization in 1998.

2. Erick Aybar, 2006-15
Key fact: 1,223 hits are seventh-most in club history

Signed as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2002, he made his debut in ’06 as a 22-year-old and established himself as a solid regular in '09, hitting .312/.353/.423 with five homers, 23 doubles, nine triples and 14 stolen bases in 137 games. He played at least 137 games in each of the next six seasons with the Angels, becoming a constant at shortstop during one of the best eras in Angels history. Aybar played in five postseason series with the Angels, hitting .262 with three doubles and four RBIs in 17 games.

Aybar ranks among the top 10 in Angels history in several categories, including fourth in triples (43), sixth in stolen bases (141), seventh in games played (1,220), seventh in hits (1,223), seventh in doubles (222) and ninth in runs (572). He's also ninth in club history with 23 bWAR, ranking just ahead of Vladimir Guerrero and Troy Glaus. He won a Gold Glove in ’11 and was an All-Star in '14. He was traded to the Braves before the '16 season in a deal that netted the Angels the next player on this list.

3. Andrelton Simmons, 2016-present
Key fact: Two-time Gold Glove winner with the club

The Angels took a bit of a risk, sending their top pitching prospect in Sean Newcomb along with fellow pitching prospect Chris Ellis and Aybar for Simmons before the ’16 season. But the Angels clearly won the trade, as Simmons remains the premier defensive shortstop in the game and has become better offensively over the years. Simmons finished eighth in the balloting for AL MVP in '17 and 15th in '18. He also won the Gold Glove in both of those seasons. He was also named the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year at shortstop from 2017-19. Simmons is in the last year of his contract but the Angels could look to sign him to an extension.

4. Dick Schofield, 1983-92, '95-96
Key fact: Tied for 10th in club history in games played

Schofield comes from a baseball family, as he’s the son of Dick “Ducky” Schofield and the uncle of former Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth. He was the third overall pick by the Angels in the 1981 Draft and made his debut as a 20-year-old in '83. His best season came in 1986, when he hit .249/.321/.397 with 13 homers and 57 RBIs in 139 games, finishing 22nd in the balloting for AL MVP. His most memorable moment was hitting a walk-off grand slam against the Tigers to complete an eight-run rally in the ninth inning of a 13-12 victory on Aug. 29, 1986. He also hit .300 with a homer, a double and two RBIs in the 1986 ALCS against the Red Sox.

5. David Eckstein, 2001-04
Key fact: His 5.2 bWAR was second on the 2002 Angels behind Darin Erstad

Eckstein, nicknamed the "X Factor," was a fan favorite during his time with the Angels, as the 5-foot-6 shortstop exceeded all expectations after the club claimed him on waivers from the Red Sox in 2000. Eckstein finished fourth in the balloting for AL Rookie of the Year in '01 and was 11th in the balloting for AL MVP in '02. He had a knack for big hits, as he led the Majors in grand slams in '02, including grand slams in back-to-back games against the Blue Jays. He was a major part of helping the Angels to the 2002 World Series title that year and batted .294 with six RBIs and three walks in 16 postseason games. He left as a free agent after the ’04 season and won another World Series with the Cardinals in 2006, earning World Series MVP honors.

Honorable mentions

Orlando Cabrera replaced Eckstein in 2005, signing as a free agent after helping lead the Red Sox to a title. He played three seasons with the Angels, finishing 15th in the balloting for AL MVP in 2007 and also winning a Gold Glove that year. He was traded to the White Sox for right-hander Jon Garland before the '08 season. ... Gary Disarcina played 1,069 games at shortstop with the Angels from 1989-2000, which is the third-highest total among Angels shortstops. He was an All-Star in '95 and finished 19th in the balloting for AL MVP, hitting .307 with five homers, 28 doubles and 41 RBIs in 99 games. ... Maicer Izturis played multiple positions for the Angels but was a natural shortstop. He was perennially underrated and his 12.5 bWAR ranks as the 28th highest total in Angels history, just ahead of Chili Davis and Bob Boone.