Astros' Top 5 shortstops: McTaggart'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 Brian McTaggart’s ranking of the top 5 shortstops in Astros history. Next week: Left field.

Houston's All-Time team: C | 1B | 2B | 3B

1. Carlos Correa, 2015-present
Key fact: Astros' career leader in homers, RBIs and OPS at shortstop

While injuries have slowed his career arc, Correa has already established himself as the greatest shortstop to wear an Astros uniform since reaching the big leagues in 2015. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 Draft, Correa won the ’15 American League Rookie of the Year Award, started the ’17 All-Star Game and is the Astros' career leader and single-season leader in home runs by a shortstop. His 102 home runs are the third most by a shortstop through his age-24 season.

Correa has 11 doubles, 11 home runs and 33 RBIs in 50 career postseason games, ranking first in Astros history in postseason RBIs and second in Major League history behind Derek Jeter (20) in postseason home runs by a shortstop. Correa is still only 25 years old and could have a Hall of Fame-caliber career if he can stay on the field. He played in a career-low 75 games last year following two stints on the injured list.

"MVP is something I don't want to retire without winning one," Correa said in 2018. "It would be like a dream come true. I already have a Rookie of the Year. I have an All-Star. I've got a World Series championship. That's amazing. … At some point, I'd like to win that, and I'll just try to improve my game every single day to try to accomplish that."

2. Dickie Thon, 1981-87
Key fact: Ranks second to Correa among Astros shortstops with 16.0 bWAR

Thon was a blossoming star when his career was derailed in the first week of the 1984 season. Coming off a terrific ’83 season in which he hit .286 with 20 homers, nine triples, 79 RBIs and 34 steals and made the National League All-Star team, Thon was struck in the left temple by a Mike Torrez fastball on April 8, 1984, ending his season and threatening his career. In seven seasons in Houston, he hit .270 and his 3.2 dWAR in ‘83 trails only Adam Everett (4.1 in ’06 and 3.3 in ’05) for best in Astros history.

“Dickie was probably going to be a Hall of Fame player,” teammate Enos Cabell said. “He knew how to play. Dickie became a really good ballplayer, even after the head injury.”

Thon, acquired by the Astros on April 1, 1981, in exchange for pitcher Ken Forsch, returned to the field following the injury in ’85, but he was never the same. He suffered vision and depth-perception problems and still managed to play another 10 seasons. He retired following the 1993 season with 1,176 hits in 15 years in the big leagues.

“It happened, and I had to deal with it,” Thon said of the injury. “I was not the same player after that because my vision was never the same, but I battled and worked hard and I tried to do the best I could with what I had. I was lucky enough to play 10 more years after that, but it hurt my career.”

3. Adam Everett, 2001-07
Key fact: 110 Defensive Runs Saved are nearly three times more than any other Astros shortstop

If we’re going by defense alone, there was no Astros player who’s been better than Everett. He’s easily the best defensive shortstop in Astros history, as the metrics prove. His 13.8 dWAR with the Astros is the highest of any player in club history at any position. Everett posted a 7.4 defensive WAR from 2006-07, the highest two-season total by any shortstop in club history.

Everett, acquired from the Red Sox in a trade for Carl Everett in December 1999, was the club’s starting shortstop from 2003-06, appearing in 152 games as the Astros went on to make their first trip to the World Series in ‘05. He often took a bad rap for his lack of offense. He slashed .248/.299/.357 during his seven seasons in Houston with 35 homers, but he was in a deep and talented lineup and brought Gold Glove-caliber defense to a crucial position.

4. Craig Reynolds, 1979-89
Key fact: 300 RBIs at shortstop are second to only Correa (372) in Astros history

A steady presence in the Astros' lineup for a decade, Reynolds played more games at shortstop (1,170) than any player in club history. A native Houstonian who was traded from the Mariners following the 1978 season for Floyd Banister, Reynolds slashed .252/.286/.345 in 11 seasons with the Astros, was an All-Star in ’79 and started on NL West-winning clubs in 1980 and ’86. His 55 career triples are tied with Craig Biggio and Cesar Cedeno for fifth most in club history.

5. Denis Menke, 1968-71, ‘74
Key fact: Two-time All-Star at shortstop

Menke spent only two years as the Astros’ starting shortstop in 1969 and ’70, making the All-Star team both times. He received NL MVP Award votes in ’69 in a season in which he slashed .269/.369/.387 with 13 homers and 92 RBIs. Menke moved to primarily first base in 1971, and was traded along with Joe Morgan, and others, to the Reds following that season before returning to Houston to finish his career in ‘74.

Honorable mentions

Marwin Gonzalez (2012-18) played all over the field during his seven seasons with the Astros, but he started more games at shortstop (249) than he did at any other position, often filling in when Correa was out with an injury. He received some American League MVP Award votes in '17 in one of the best utility seasons by a player in club history (.907 OPS), which included 33 starts at shortstop.

Roger Metzger (1971-78) is the only shortstop in club history to win a Gold Glove, achieving that feat in ’73 when he led the National League in triples (club-record 14) and was named the team's Most Valuable Player.

Miguel Tejada (2008-09), a former AL MVP, continued to produce over two seasons in Houston. He made two NL All-Star teams and led the team in batting average (.313) and hits (199) in ’09.