Year Inducted: 1984 (BBWAA, ballot #4, 341/403)
Shortstops need to be able to field their positions. Had Derek Jeter not been the offensive monster that he was, he’d have been playing another position long before he made the majors. A great defensive shortstop is always valuable, no matter if it is a time of high offense or low scoring. As such, it is shocking when some great defensive shortstops get overlooked, like Luis Aparicio.
Aparicio was the best defensive shortstop of all-time until Ozzie Smith showed up. Aparicio set records for career assists (8016), double plays (1553) and games played at shortstop and was worth over 300 runs defensively. To this day, the only more valuable defenders than Aparicio are Ozzie Smith, Brooks Robinson, Mark Belanger, Ivan Rodriguez and Cal Ripken. Aparicio worked hard on his defense in his native Venezuela, where he and his father became renowned for their baseball abilities, and it transferred to the Major Leagues.
It’s difficult to mention Aparicio’s place in history without mentioning his native Venezuela. Aparicio was highly regarded in his career as, not only one of the first great Latin players but one of the first Venezuelan players to gain prominence. Upon winning Rookie of the Year in 1956, he was hailed as a hero back home, further inspiring him to continue honing his craft.
Aparicio was not a great hitter by any stretch of the imagination. He hit .262/.311/.343 in his career with a wRC+ of only 83. He managed to only hit 83 homers in his career, 394 doubles and 92 triples in his 18 years, and spent plenty of time in hitters parks, especially in Chicago with the White Sox. Aparicio did manage to augment his below average hitting with some excellent baserunning. He stole over 500 bases in his career and scored over 1300 runs while being worth 53 runs on the bases.
It may be shocking to see a player with low offense ranking this high, over many other players. However, while his numbers aren’t anything to write home about offensively, compared to his contemporary shortstops he does shine. Other than Ernie Banks, no other shortstops were hitting very well, and Aparicio was absolutely a better defender than Banks. During the years that Aparicio played, only Banks was a more valuable shortstop according to fWAR. Despite lower advanced numbers, it is important to remember that Aparicio was the greatest defender of all-time, and a great baserunner as well. This is more than enough reason to justify his spot here as well as in Cooperstown.
The next update for today will go up at 7:00 AM EST.