Top 10 Shortstop Prospects (Preseason 2018 Edition)

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

While some of these players may ultimately be forced to move off the position (whether it’s to 2B or 3B or somewhere else), it’s hard not to look at the talent coming up in awe.  Shortstop is clearly loaded with potential future stars, but who is the best of the group?  Who has the most upside?  Let’s take a look:

 

1) Fernando Tatis Jr. – San Diego Padres
ETA – 2019
Grade – A
Padres’ #1 Prospect

Tatis did get a taste of Double-A last season (57 PA), but he spent most of the year as an 18-year old at Single-A posting impressive numbers:

.281 (121-431), 21 HR, 69 RBI, 78 R, 29 SB

He added 26 doubles and 7 triples, showing that the power is there and developing.  While the stolen bases may regress as he matures physically, he should be able to continue chipping in 10+ per season.  That all sounds impressive, and even more so was his 13.4% walk rate.  That shows a solid approach, especially at his age, and while he did swing and miss a little too much (13.3% SwStr%) that should improve as he gains experience.  He has the potential to be the next big shortstop and it could come quickly.

 

2) Gleyber Torres – New York Yankees
Grade – A
ETA – 2018
Yankees’ #1 Prospect

You can easily argue that Torres would’ve arrived in 2017 (to fill the void at 3B), had injury not ended his season in mid-June. Prior to the injury he was showing his talent, hitting .287 with 7 HR and 7 SB over 202 AB split between Double and Triple-A. Playing at those levels at 20-years old (he turns 21 in December) just adds to the potential upside.

We can point towards a 12.2% SwStr% as a slight red flag, but considering his age there’s obviously time for him to mature and adjust (and considering his 12.8% walk rate in ’17 and 10.5% SwStr% in ‘16, there’s every reason to believe that it will come). Torres also began to show signs of tapping into his power, hitting the ball hard (26.5% line drive rate) and cutting down on his groundball rate (35.8%). The potential to tap into his power, developing into a 20+ HR threat, to go along with the average makes him one of the potentially elite talents in the game.

Just to add to the appeal, the trade of Starlin Castro appears to have cleared a spot for Torres.  He now has the potential to break camp with the team.

 

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3) Bo Bichette – Toronto Blue Jays
Grade – A-
ETA – 2019
Blue Jays’ #3 Prospect

Another second generation prospect, Bichette was nearly as impressive as he shared the spotlight and split his time between Single-A and High-A.  He showed a little more power, at least at this point, as he added 41 doubles and 4 triples to go along with 14 HR.  Obviously no one is going to believe he’s a .362 hitter, and his plate discipline appears to be a small step below that of Guerrero:

  • Strikeout Rate – 16.2%
  • Walk Rate – 8.4%
  • Swinging Strike Rate – 10.1%

His line drive rate also dropped in his 40 games at High-A (20.3%) and again there are questions where he ultimately fits defensively.  That said his upside is apparent and while he may be a small step behind Guerrero, the two clearly represent the future in Toronto and are coming quickly.

 

4) Brendan Rodgers – Colorado Rockies
ETA – 2018
Grade – A-
Rockies’ #4 Prospect

Rodgers has long been viewed as the heir apparent to Troy Tulowitzki, and while Trevor Story’s breakout changed the narrative a few years ago that no longer is a deterrent.  Rodgers looked the part in ’17, splitting time between High-A and Double-A:

.336 (125-372), 18 HR, 64 RBI, 64 R, 2 SB

There is no questioning the power, having added 26 doubles and 3 triples, and he also should be able to chip in 6-10 SB annually.  The big question is going to be his approach, with a 3.5% walk rate overall and his strikeout rate ballooning at Double-A (14.8% at High-A, 22.0% at Double-A).  With a 13.8% SwStr% he could further be exposed, and that will be something to watch.  Having just turned 21-years old he does have time to develop, and even if he can just keep it at the current rate it won’t be costly given the power potential.

 

5) Royce Lewis – Minnesota Twins
Grade – B+
ETA – 2021
Twins’ #1 Prospect

It’s easy to argue that Lewis wasn’t the best player available in the 2017 draft, yet he was the first person selected.  He’s not Mickey Moniak v2.0, though, as Lewis has the upside to be among the better shortstops in the game.  In his first taste of professional baseball (239 PA) he hit .279 with 4 HR and 18 SB.  As of today the speed is his best asset, though he’s expected to add power and refine his approach (10.0% SwStr%) as he matures.  Considering he won’t turn 19-years old until mid-June, there’s clearly plenty of time for him to figure it out.  Time and patience is the key here, and there will likely be growing pains along the way, but he should get there.

 

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6) Franklin Barreto – Shortstop
Grade – B+
ETA – Already Arrived
A’s #2 Prospect

Barreto struggled in his first taste in the Majors, hitting .197 over 76 PA.  The issue was his inability to make consistent contact, with a 14.9% SwStr% and 39.9% O-Swing% leading to a 43.4% strikeout rate.  While that may be a bit extreme, his numbers at Triple-A reflect that type of risk:

  • Strikeout Rate – 27.6%
  • Walk Rate – 5.3%
  • SwStr% – 13.5%

He needs to improve his approach if he wants to fully tap into his power/speed potential, but there’s obvious risk that he never gets there.  He has “A-“ talent, but he needs to show the potential to improve in order to reach that ceiling.

 

7) Jorge Mateo – Shortstop/Outfielder
Grade – B+
ETA – 2018
A’s #3 Prospect

After a disappointing 2016 campaign Mateo rebounded in a big way in ’18, playing at High-A and Double-A, as he hit .267 with 12 HR and 52 SB.  When you think of Mateo you think of the gaudy stolen base totals, but he added 30 doubles and 18 triples last season which indicates that he’s not just a pure speed option (he could chip in 12-15 HR annually).

His speed is going to allow him to carry a higher than normal BABIP, though we’d like to see him improve his approach at the plate.  Last season he carried a 13.1% SwStr% and 6.8% walk rate, neither of which are ideal for a top of the order bat.  If he can improve there, he has the upside of an elite leadoff hitter.  With the transition happening to the outfield, he could arrive this season and make a significant impact.

 

8) Ryan Mountcastle – Baltimore Orioles
Grade – B+
ETA – 2018
Orioles’ #2 Prospect

You can argue that Mountcastle has a similar makeup to Hays, though his SwStr% was actually worse while splitting time between High-A and Double-A (14.4%).  His strikeout rate jumped to 22.0% over 159 PA at Double-A, and with few walks his plate discipline is a significant red flag as he continues to advance against more developed starting pitching.

He clearly offers power, with 48 doubles, 1 triple and 18 HR last season, and as he matures he could become a 25+ HR threat annually.  He also should add 10ish SB, making him an intriguing blend of power and speed in the middle infield.  He’s still just 20-years old (he’ll turn 21 before the start of the season), so we can give him a little bit of a pass in his approach for now.  That said, he needs to make an adjustment or his value will ultimately be capped.

 

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9) Willy Adames – Tampa Bay Rays
Grade – B+
ETA – 2018
Rays’ #2 Prospect

Adames is the Rays’ shortstop of the future, and there’s little doubt that the future will arrive in short order.  That’s not to say that the numbers are flashy, hitting .277 with 10 HR and 11 SB in 578 PA at Triple-A in ’17, but the upside is there for the 21-year old to continue to mature and develop.  He has proven capable of hitting the ball hard, with line drive rates of 24.1% (Double-A in ’16) and 23.1% (Triple-A in ’17) over the past two seasons.  He’s also shown a good eye at the plate, with walk rates of 13.0% (Double-A) and 11.2% (Triple-A), and he should be able to improve his strikeout rate with time (22.8% courtesy of a 10.1% SwStr% in ’17).

Fine tuning his approach should also lead to a little bit more power, and having added 30 doubles and 5 triples last season it’s easy to envision him becoming a 15-20 HR hitter.  With enough speed to develop into a 15 SB threat, the package is there to be a top of the order 15/15 player routinely (and it’s possible it comes as soon as ’18).

 

10) J.P. Crawford – Philadelphia Phillies
Grade – B+
ETA – Already Arrived
Phillies’ #3 Prospect

Crawford got his feet wet in the Majors in September, after an underwhelming Triple-A campaign (.243 with 15 HR over 474 AB).  The numbers are masked by a slow start, as he began putting things together after the All-Star Break:

  • First Half – .211 with 6 HR
  • Second Half – .287 with 9 HR

The overall average is the big disappointment, as he’s never going to produce a significant amount of power (15 HR was a career high, and 20 doubles and 6 triples doesn’t support an increase) or speed (think 8-14 SB).  With an overall 5.3% SwStr%, 14.2% walk rate and .275 BABIP the upside is there to profile as a 15/10 shortstop working out of the #2 spot in the order.

 

Keep An Eye On – Kevin Maitan – Los Angeles Angels
Grade – B+
ETA – 2021

Maitan fell into the Angels lap, after the Braves’ scandal sent him back to the open market.  We can throw the numbers at Rookie Ball out the window from 2017, considering he played the entire year as a 17-year old.  No one is going to argue against the potential tools, which are all there (comparisons to Miguel Sano and Miguel Cabrera are out there), the question is going to be how the Angels bring him along.  It’s going to be a process, and likely a slow one, but stay patient and he should ultimately develop into one of the better prospects in the game.

 

Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Preseason Top 10 Prospect Lists:

AL EastAL CentralAL West
Baltimore OriolesChicago White SoxHouston Astros
Boston Red SoxCleveland IndiansLos Angeles Angels
New York YankeesDetroit TigersOakland A's
Tampa Bay RaysKansas City RoyalsSeattle Mariners
Toronto Blue JaysMinnesota TwinsTexas Rangers
NL EastNL CentralNL West
Atlanta BravesChicago CubsArizona Diamondbacks
Miami MarlinsCincinnati RedsColorado Rockies
New York MetsMilwaukee BrewersLos Angeles Dodgers
Philadelphia PhilliesPittsburgh PiratesSan Diego Padres
Washington NationalsSt. Louis CardinalsSan Francisco Giants

** ORDER OUR 2018 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT GUIDE TODAY **
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