by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
There are a lot of young shortstops already in the Major Leagues with the potential to become superstars. There also are a slew of prospects on the way who could quickly entrench themselves among the best in the league. Who is the best of the bunch, right now? Let’s take a look at a position that arguably has the brightest future in the game:
5) Javier Baez – Chicago Cubs (21-years old)
He could make his Major League debut in 2014, though maybe at 3B instead of at SS (similar to players like Manny Machado and Xander Bogaerts in recent seasons). He certainly has power, hitting 37 HR between Single and Double-A in ’13, though is he going to be an all power and little else option?
He posted a 25.5% strikeout rate, including a 28.8% mark in 240 AB at Double-A. He also owned just a 13.4% line drive rate (13.8% at Double-A, compared to a league average mark of 17.6%). This is a major concern, and could limit his long-term appeal. That said, he’s still just 21-years old and has plenty of time to make the necessary adjustments.
4) Starlin Castro – Chicago Cubs (24-years old)
A year ago Castro would’ve been significantly higher on this list, but a miserable 2013 campaign has obviously hurt his stock (.245, 10 HR, 9 SB). His strikeout rate regressed (18.3%), his speed disappeared and he has never shown an elite line drive rate (20.1% for his career).
The upside is still there, obviously, and we would expect a solid bounce back campaign. That said, does he have the ceiling of some other shortstops? He never had elite speed (25 SB is his career high) and his batted ball profile doesn’t scream big-time power (49.4% career groundball rate).
He seems more of a .280 hitter with 10/10 or 15/15 upside, unless something changes.
3) Jean Segura – Milwaukee Brewers (24-years old)
Segura is arguably already among the best young shortstops in the game, but there are reasons to be skeptical about his long-term success. For one, he depends on his legs and we have seen how injuries can impact that type of player’s value earlier than with a power hitter (take Carl Crawford, for instance, as well as Jose Reyes).
Wait, he did hit 12 HR in 2013 didn’t he? That is true, but remember he hit just 1 HR in the second half, only once hit as many as 10 HR in a minor league season and had a career minor league SLG of .439. Throw in the fact that he posted a 58.7% groundball rate in 2013 and there is plenty of reason to be concerned. Of course there’s room for growth, but right now his ceiling would appear to be his 2013 total not his floor.
That type of profile is actually a lot closer to Elvis Andrus, as opposed to Jose Reyes, long-term. He does profile with more power and as a leadoff hitter (unlike Andrus, who has been hitting second), so he’s a very good option. However, he may not be the top option at the position moving forward.
2) Andrelton Simmons – Atlanta Braves (24-years old)
Having never shown power before, Simmons erupted for 17 HR in 2013. Of course his speed disappeared (6 SB, though he has as many as 26 in a minor league season) and he hit .248. It’s not necessarily that he was swinging for the fences (39.1% fly ball rate), and his power does profile better than Segura’s long-term.
He also should be able to post a significantly better average, considering his 8.4% strikeout rate and 18.5% line drive rate (19.3% in the second half). He struggled with poor luck (.247 BABIP) and popups (17.8%), which is where he really needs to make significant improvements.
He was shuffled all around the lineup in 2013, though he figures to settle into the second spot in 2014. With 20/20 potential, Simmons could easily turn into the type of player Ian Desmond currently is (20 HR, 21 SB, .280) and do it on a regular basis starting as early as this season. How can we not fall in love with that type of player?
1) Xander Bogaerts – Boston Red Sox (21-years old)
In most formats he may only have 3B eligibility entering 2014, but he’s penciled in to start at shortstop and likely is the future at the position for them so how can we not include him here? He hit 16 HR last season between Double-A, Triple-A and the Majors and at his age he should just continue adding power.
He also has the ability to hit for a strong average, with a very good idea of the strike zone already. He posted a 12.2% walk rate in the minors last season, though he does need to do a better job of avoiding the strikeout (18.4% in the minors, 26.0% in the Majors). That’s not going to kill him, given the power potential, and there’s a good chance he improves with more experience at the Major League level.
He’s going to open in the Majors and his upside is unmatched but the other players who are on this list.
- Elvis Andrus – Texas Rangers (25-years old) – He’s more of a speed option with little upside at this point
- Carlos Correa – Houston Astros (19-years old) – Still young and developing, but will find his way on this list before long
- Addison Russell – Oakland A’s (20-years old) – Closer than Correa, but still young and developing
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, Minor League Central, CBS Sports
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Make sure to check out all of our 2014 rankings: