July 18, 2024

MLB franchise shortstop draft: Witt, Henderson or Seager No. 1?

The shortstop position is absolutely loaded in Major League Baseball.

One of the biggest debates ahead of the 2024 MLB All-Star Game is who should be the starting shortstop for the American League: reigning Rookie of the Year Gunnar Henderson or budding superstar Bobby Witt Jr.?

MLB franchise shortstop draft: Witt, Henderson or Seager No. 1? - ESPN

Well, the first fan voting numbers are in, and they are No. 1 and 2, respectively, as they battle for their first Midsummer Classic nod. But if you look at some of the other names getting votes in both leagues, you’ll notice it goes well beyond those twoAnother under-25 shortstop rounds out the top 3 vote-getters in the AL — Anthony Volpe — and he’s followed by two-time World Series MVP Corey Seager. In the National League, Mookie Betts already has more than a million votes (but will miss the game after breaking his hand), and he’s followed by two superstars in Trea Turner and Elly De La Cruz. And that’s without even getting into the top prospect in the minors right now: the Baltimore Orioles’ Jackson Holliday, another shortstop.

MLB franchise shortstop draft: Witt, Henderson or Seager No. 1? - ESPN

Which raises the question: If you could build a team around a cornerstone shortstop right now, who would you take? We challenged our baseball experts to participate in an MLB shortstop draft. Below are their picks for the player they’d most want over the next five years — and why they chose them.

No. 1 pick: Bobby Witt Jr., Kansas City Royals



Selected by: Buster Olney

Why he’s the shortstop to build around: Your ideal shortstop would check every box — someone who excels at defense, someone who gets on base at a high level, someone who hits for power, someone who runs well, someone with the kind of athleticism that will allow him to age well and not become too big for the position. This is Bobby Witt Jr., who has excellent defensive metrics, who is on track to rack up more than 200 hits and 130 runs, more than 80 extra-base hits and close to 50 stolen bases. He plays with an ease that you often see in sons of former MLB players; his comfort zone is anywhere on a baseball field, in the most pivotal moments.

One stat that proves it: Witt’s 11 Outs Above Average are the most of any shortstop this season. In fact, that’s tied for the most OAA for any player at any position. (Marcus Semien also has 11). The next closest shortstops have eight.

No. 2 pick: Gunnar Henderson, Baltimore Orioles



Selected by: Xavier Scruggs

Why he’s the shortstop to build around: Henderson is surpassing expectations as a World Series-contending franchise shortstop, and I would’ve taken him even if I had the No. 1 draft choice for that reason. The 22-year-old has dismissed any signs of slowing down after his American League Rookie of the Year campaign and has already shown to be the most productive shortstop in the game right now, according to Wins Above Replacement (bWAR 4.9).

MLB franchise shortstop draft: Witt, Henderson or Seager No. 1? - ESPN

Just pick any tool you need from a generational shortstop: speed, contact, power, arm strength, defense. He possesses all of them. What ultimately separates Henderson from his peers is the immediate impact at the top of the order felt by opposing teams. He won AL ROY last year, and currently he’s second to Aaron Judge in AL MVP odds. Maybe the Cal Ripken Jr. comparisons aren’t far off after all.

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