Yankees’ Top 5 shortstops: Hoch’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 Bryan Hoch’s ranking of the top five shortstops in Yankees history. Next week: Left fielders.

Yankees’ All-Time Team: C | 1B | 2B | 3B

1. (1995-2014)
Key fact: Played the equivalent of another full year in the postseason, batting .308/.374/.465 with 200 hits in 158 games

Five years after Jeter walked off a winner in his final Yankee Stadium at-bat, concluding a storybook run representing the franchise for which he cheered as a boy, The Captain claimed his well-deserved place in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in January. Jeter earned the highest vote percentage (99.75 percent) ever credited to a position player, one vote shy of matching longtime teammate Mariano Rivera’s feat of unanimous selection.

Jeter’s career featured five World Series championships, seven American League pennants, 14 All-Star selections, five Gold Glove Awards and 3,465 regular-season hits, the sixth-most total of all time. A career .310/.377/.440 hitter, Jeter collected 544 doubles, 260 homers, 1,923 runs, 1,311 RBIs and 358 steals in the regular season.

In addition to his numerous highlight-reel moments -- his leadoff homer in Game 4 of the 2000 World Series, the 2001 Flip Play against the Athletics, a bloody dive into the seats against the Red Sox in 2004, a homer for his 3,000th hit in 2011 -- Jeter was the 1996 AL Rookie of the Year, and earned both the All-Star Game and World Series Most Valuable Player Awards in 2000.

“It’s the same game, whether it’s Spring Training or it’s Game 7 of the World Series,” Jeter said in January. “It’s still baseball. A lot of times, I think the moment gets pretty big for people, but I prided myself on being prepared. I felt as though when I was in those situations, I was prepared. Therefore, it was just the same game and the game slowed down.”

2. (1941-56)
Key fact: 1,217 career double plays, second to Luke Appling at the time of Rizzuto’s retirement

Holy cow, you huckleberries! The Scooter was an integral part of a dynasty that won nine AL pennants and seven World Series titles during his 13 seasons. Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1994, Rizzuto spent his playing days as a slick-fielding shortstop who was highly regarded for his bunting ability, and then immediately moved into a second career as a beloved Yankees broadcaster.

A five-time All-Star who served three years in the United States Navy, Rizzuto put up his finest season in 1950, when he won the AL MVP award after batting .324/.418/.439 in 155 games. That campaign saw Rizzuto collect career highs in hits (200), batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs (125), homers (seven), walks (92) and doubles (36). His 1,588 career hits and 149 stolen bases are second to Jeter among Yanks shortstops.

“I hustled and got on base and made the double play,” Rizzuto once said. “That’s all the Yankees needed in those days.”

3. Frank Crosetti (1932-48)
Key fact: Was part of 17 World Series championships and 23 AL pennant-winners as a shortstop and third-base coach from 1932-64

A sure-handed fielder and two-time All-Star, Crosetti saw his best numbers in 1936, when he batted .288/.387/.437 with 15 homers and 78 RBIs as the Bombers’ leadoff hitter.

A consummate professional who displayed a knack for getting on base years before OBP would be in vogue (he led the Majors in hit-by-pitches seven times), Crosetti eventually had collected so many rings that he asked the Yankees for engraved World Series shotguns instead -- acquiring five of them.

“The Crow” ranks second to Jeter among Yankees shortstops in games (1,683), at-bats (6,277), runs (1,006), doubles (260), triples (65), homers (98), RBIs (649), walks (792) and hit-by-pitches (114).

4. (2015-19)
Key fact: First Yankees shortstop with consecutive seasons of 20 or more home runs (2016-18)

Taking over at shortstop after Jeter’s two decades of excellence seemed to be an impossible challenge, but Gregorius performed with aplomb over five seasons in The Bronx. Though his tenure with the Bombers was relatively short compared to others on this list, Gregorius earned his place here, compiling 14.8 bWAR and a 101 OPS+ that ranks third behind only Jeter (115 OPS+) and turn-of-the-century shortstop Kid Elberfeld (106 OPS+).

Though his next at-bats will come as a member of the Phillies, “Sir Didi” leads all Yanks shortstops in slugging percentage (.446) -- Jeter is second at .440. Gregorius also cracks the top five among Yankees shortstops in home runs (97, third), hit-by-pitches (28, fifth), batting average (.269, fourth) and on-base percentage (.759, second).

5. Roger Peckinpaugh (1913-21)
Key fact: Led AL shortstops in assists and double plays five times, three as a Yankee

An excellent defensive shortstop and strong on-field leader who served as the Yankees’ player-manager at age 23, Peckinpaugh played nine of his 17 big league seasons in New York. Though his 1925 MVP campaign came in the uniform of the Washington Senators, Peckinpaugh’s best Yankees season was 1919, when he batted .305/.390/.404 with a 123 OPS+.

Though Peckinpaugh clearly played in a different time -- for example, his three homers in 1914 led all AL shortstops -- his 29.7 fWAR is third behind Jeter (73.1 fWAR) and Rizzuto (41.3 fWAR). He ranks fourth among Yankees shortstops in at-bats (4,555), runs (670), hits (1,170), triples (53), RBIs (428) and walks (508), and his 143 stolen bases rank third.

Honorable mentions
Bucky Dent (1977-82) was a two-time All-Star who hit one of the biggest home runs in franchise history, leading the Yankees past the Red Sox in a one-game playoff for the 1978 AL East title. He also won MVP honors in the ’78 World Series, batting .417 vs. the Dodgers. … Tony Kubek (1957-65) was the 1957 AL Rookie of the Year and a three-time All-Star who tallied 1,109 hits and played in six World Series, winning three, before injuries forced his retirement at age 29. … Mark Koenig (1925-30) spent his early 20s batting ahead of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, going .285 with a .382 slugging percentage.