by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
We’ve seen a significant influx in talent at the shortstop spot in recent years, with names like Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager and Trevor Story bursting onto the scene. They aren’t going to be alone for long, as there is another wave of talent on the horizon as the position is littered with some of the elite prospects in baseball. Who are the best of the best? Who can soon be making an impact? Let’s take a look at the best prospects at the position:
1) Gleyber Torres – New York Yankees
Current Grade – A
ETA – 2018
The key acquisition in the Aroldis Chapman trade, one of his best attributes is his willingness to draw a walk. It’s something he displayed both before and after the trade at High-A:
- Cubs – 10.3%
- Yankees – 11.6%
He’s never going to be an elite power hitter, but that part of his game is developing (29 doubles, 5 triples, 11 home runs). He has speed, though he needs to improve his efficiency (21-for-34). That should come with experience, and he clearly has 20/20 type upside. We will need to watch the strikeout rate (21.3% prior to the trade), but his overall skillset is highly impressive.
2) Dansby Swanson – Atlanta Braves
Grade – A
ETA – Already Arrived
He’s moved quickly, after being traded from Arizona in the doomed Shelby Miller deal. Swanson got 145 PA in the Majors last season, as a 22-year old, hitting .302 with 3 HR and 3 SB. He showed a good command of the strike zone, including a 9.7% SwStr%, so with experience we’d expect him to improve upon his 23.4% strikeout rate.
There could be some bumps as he develops, and expecting him to be an All-Star in ’17 would be a mistake. We also shouldn’t look towards him for extreme power, though there should be a bit more upside as he develops (he totaled 32 doubles, 6 triples and 12 home runs last season). At the end of the day the potential is there for a .280/15/15 type player (and even more in time).
3) Brendan Rodgers – Colorado Rockies
Grade – A-
ETA – 2018/2019
The third overall selection in the 2015 draft presented himself well in his first full season of professional baseball (which was spent at Single-A), hitting .281 with 19 HR and 73 RBI over 491 PA. He added 31 doubles, as the power is evident, and while we’d like to see a better contact rate (20.0% strikeout rate) it’s not a significant red flag yet. His home/road split is something that needs to be monitored, though:
- Home – .318/.376/.597
- Road – .247/.310/.372
While he will obviously have a favorable home ballpark in the future, at his age/development stage it’s going to be something to watch. He’s likely ticketed for High-A to start the season, which will be extremely telling. He has the upside of being the next great young shortstop, and that’s represented in the grade, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t concerns.
4) Amed Rosario – New York Mets
Grade – A-
ETA – Late 2017/2018
It’s possible Rosario arrives late in 2017, at least for a cup of coffee, and he appears primed to take over as the team’s starting shortstop in 2018. Splitting time between High-A and Double-A in 2016, he thrived at both levels:
- High-A (265 AB) – .309 with 3 HR, 40 RBI, 27 R, 13 SB
- Double-A (214 AB) – .341 with 2 HR, 31 RBI, 38 R, 6 SB
His strikeout rate jumped upon arriving at Double-A (12.4% to 21.5%), something that needs to be monitored though playing at 20-years old it’s not a significant concern. While the power isn’t there yet, he added 24 doubles and 13 triples and at 6’1” some of those extra base hits should start clearing the fences as he continues to mature. He’s not going to be a 30+ HR hitter, but double-digits is more than enough given his other skills.
What really started to present itself was his speed, going 19-for-27 on the season. The potential is there for a little bit more, putting him in the 10/25 spectrum long-term.
5) Franklin Barreto – Oakland A’s
Grade – A-
ETA – 2017
Barreto spent the bulk of ’16 at Double-A, putting up 10 HR and 30 SB to go along with a .281 average. A 17.8% strikeout rate shows a good command of the strike zone, though that doesn’t mean that his prospect status doesn’t carry some questions:
- Base running efficiency – He did go 30-for-45 last season (66.7%), something that he needs to improve upon
- Size – While there is a little bit of power, standing at 5’10” is going to bring questions regarding how well his power will translate to the Majors
- Position – While he’s been a shortstop, there are questions about his ability to stick at the position and a move to 2B could soon be in his future
None of those questions eliminate his status as a prospect and the upside is obvious. Just know the questions hovering over him.
6) Willy Adames – Tampa Bay Rays
Grade – A-
ETA – 2017
It would be easy to argue that Adames and Honeywell are 1 and 1a, as they both have significant upside. Adames is still developing, but he has shortstop of the future written all over him for Tampa Bay. His power isn’t there yet, though he took a step forward in 2016 (31 doubles, 6 triples, 11 home runs), and he’s shown a good command of the strike zone (walk rates of 11.8% and 13.0% over the past two seasons). The patience and willingness to draw a walk may be helping to lead to his increased strikeout rates (27.0% and 21.3%), so for now it’s something that we’re willing to overlook.
Adames certainly has the potential to develop into a 20/10 type middle of the order hitter, something that obviously can’t be ignored. If he sticks at shortstop he’ll look that much better, though there are some who are concerned he will ultimately need to be moved off the position. Time will tell, but there’s an awful lot to like.
7) J.P. Crawford – Philadelphia Phillies
ETA – 2017
Grade – B+
There’s no question that he’s the top prospect in the system, but when will the production start to match the potential? Last season he split time between Double and Triple-A, underwhelming at both levels:
- Double-A (126 AB) – .265 with 3 HR, 13 RBI, 23 R and 5 SB
- Triple-A (336 AB) – .244 with 4 HR, 30 RBI, 40 R and 7 SB
Currently it’s his plate discipline that represents his strongest tool, with 80 K vs. 72 BB last season (59 K vs. 42 BB at Triple-A), and with time he should start to tap into his across the board potential. While he may never produce elite levels of home runs or stolen bases, he should consistently be a 10/20 player with the upside of a little more in both categories.
8) Jorge Mateo – New York Yankees
Current Grade – B+
ETA – 2017
He had some issues this past season, but hopefully he learns from them and continues to mature. If he can, there is no questioning the potential upside that he brings. His speed is elite, stealing 36 bases last season (after swiping 82 in ’15). That said, as a player who profiles as a top-of-the order bat he does need to work on his plate discipline:
- Strikeouts – 21.3%
- Walks – 6.5%
He was also putting the ball in the air far too much, for a player with his skill set, with a 0.68 GO/AO. In total it was a clear step backwards for him. That doesn’t mean that his value has disappeared, but we need to drop him down the rankings a bit and wait to see if he can make the necessary adjustments.
9) Delvin Perez – St. Louis Cardinals
Grade – B+
ETA – 2019
He’s just 18-years old, so we’ll have to be patient with his development. That said, the 2016 first round draft pick hit the ground running as he hit .294 with 12 SB over 163 AB in his first taste of professional baseball. Even more impressive may have been his 15.6% strikeout rate, considering he played the entire season as a 17-year old. It shows that he has a good understanding of the strike zone. At 6’3” he should be able to add some power as he matures, which would pair well with his speed. In other words, the potential is there for him to develop into one of the elite at his position.
10) Isan Diaz – Milwaukee Brewers
Grade – B
ETA – 2018
Acquired in the Jean Segura trade with Arizona, Diaz is an often overlooked prospect who carries significant potential. He spent a lot of time at both middle infield positions in 2016 (41 games at 2B, 90 games at SS), which helps his versatility though most think that his future lies at second base. That would work quite well, as his bat would play at the position.
Playing the season at Single-A, Diaz hit .264 with 20 HR and 11 SB in ’16. With 34 doubles and 5 triples the power is obvious and he showed an ability to draw a walk (12.3% walk rate). The obvious question is his contact rate, with a 25.2% strikeout rate last season. Considering the level it’s a significant red flag, and one that needs to be corrected otherwise his value is going to be capped.
Just Missed – Nick Gordon (Min, B), Kevin Newman (Pit, B), Christian Arroyo (SF, B), Kevin Maitan (Atl, B)
Sources – MLB.com, MILB.com, Frangraphs, Baseball Reference
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Grade A – Elite Prospects (aka potential future perennial All-Stars)
Grade B – Above Average Prospects (aka above average Major Leaguers, could develop into a potential All-Star)
Grade C – Average Prospects (aka solid, though unspectacular)
Grade D – Nothing More Than Roster Filler
Grade F – Move On
Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings: