Top 10 Shortstop Prospects (Preseason 2016 Edition)

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Is there a position with as much talent coming up through the minors as shortstop?  Teams are trying to keep their talent at the premium position, which makes sense.  Long-term many of them may ultimately move off the position (whether it’s to second base, third base or the outfield), but only if necessary.  Who are the best prospects on the horizon?  Let’s take a look:

1) Corey Seager – Los Angeles Dodgers
#1 ranked prospect for Dodgers
Grade – A

We all waited for the Dodgers to grow frustrated enough with Jimmy Rollins to turn things over to Seager. Finally, late in the year, the team made the change and reaped the benefits (.337, 4 HR, 17 RBI, 17 R, 2 SB over 98 AB). Is Seager going to be able to maintain that type of pace?

It’s not likely, considering he benefited from a .387 BABIP. That said the power is clearly developing (despite 13 HR at Triple-A over 421 AB, he added 30 doubles) and he showed a good command of the strike zone (14.0% strikeout rate at Triple-A, 16.8% in the Majors). He has the potential to be one of the elite shortstops in the league, and could reach that potential as soon as ’16.

2) J.P. Crawford – Philadelphia Phillies
#1 ranked prospect for Phillies
Grade – A

A Phillies first round draft pick in 2013 (16th overall), Crawford split time between High-A and Double-A in ’15 (430 AB) hitting .288 with 6 HR and 12 SB. Those numbers may not seem all that impressive, but keep in mind that he spent the entire season as a 20-year old (he’ll turn 21 in January).

While he’s never going to be a significant source of power, it’s clearly developing as he had 33 extra base hits in his 351 AB at Double-A (21 doubles, 7 triples, 5 home runs). Look for him to continue developing, with 12-15 HR likely (with the potential for a few more playing half his games in Philadelphia).  He also showed a tremendous approach at the plate at both levels, which is highly impressive given his age (strike out rate // walk rate):

  • High-A – 9.5% // 14.7%
  • Double-A – 11.1% // 12.1%

Those aren’t flipped, as he actually walked (63) more than he struck out (54) last season. Throw in the potential to steal 15-20 bases annually and you get the makings of an elite player at his position.

3) Brendan Rodgers – Colorado Rockies
#1 ranked prospect for the Rockies
Grade – A

The third overall pick in the 2015 draft, you can argue that he was actually the premier prospect available. In his first taste of professional baseball he hit .273 with 3 HR, 20 RBI and 22 R over 143 AB, adding 8 doubles and 2 triples in the process. There is power in his bat and has the allure of playing in Coors Field in his future.

While he struggled with strikeouts initially (23.3% in Rookie Ball), he didn’t turn 19 until August and is going to need time to adjust. Expectations are that it shouldn’t be an issue and he brings five tool potential to the table. Once he arrives, in a few years, he should emerge as the “new” Troy Tulowitzki, though for now we will have to be patient and allow him to develop.

4) Alex Bregman – Houston Astros
#1 ranked prospect for Astros
Grade – A

The second overall selection in 2015, Bregman was widely viewed as one of the Top 4-5 players in the draft.  He split time between two different levels of Single-A compiling a .294/.366/.415 slash over 272 AB.  While seeing him generate some extra base hits (13 doubles, 4 triples, 4 home runs) and stolen bases (13 SB) are impressive, it’s his strikeout rate that gets our attention the most:

  • Single-A (112 AB) – 9.8%
  • High-A (160 AB) – 9.6%

It’ll be interesting to see where he fits into the Astros long-term plans, with Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve both young and establishing themselves as fixtures in the middle of the infield.  That said, the 21-year old (he will turn 22 just before Opening Day) has the makeup of a potential .300/20/20 player so the Astros are going to find a way to fit them all into the lineup.  Let’s chalk this up to a good problem to have.

5) Dansby Swanson – Atlanta Braves
#1 ranked prospect for Braves
Grade – A

Selected with the first pick in the 2015 draft, Swanson made a nice first impression by slashing .289/.394/.482 over 83 AB.  It’s a small sample size, but 14 K vs. 14 BB and 11 extra base hits (7 doubles, 3 triples, 1 home run) certainly can’t be ignored.

While he’s not projected to hit for a significant amount of power, Swanson profiles as a top of the order bat who can steal some bases and get on base.  At 21-years old (he’ll turn 22 before Opening Day), there’s a good chance that he can move quickly through the Braves system.  While arriving in 2016 is a long-shot, don’t be surprised to see him finish the year at Double-A (or maybe even Triple-A) and make his MLB debut in 2017.

6) Orlando Arcia – Milwaukee Brewers
#1 ranked prospect for Brewers
Grade – A-

He spent last season at Double-A and performed well, hitting .307 with 8 HR and 25 SB. That’s a significant step forward for a player who at one point looked primed to simply depend on his glove.

He’s not going to be a big-time source of power, though his 37 doubles, 7 triples and 8 HR as a 21-year old shows us that 10 HR at the next level is not out of the question. He’s also continued to show some speed, with 20+ SB for three straight seasons. While we’d like to see him draw a few more walks (5.4% in ’15), he does make good contact (13.2% strikeout rate) and could be a top of the order bat.

While he doesn’t appear to have one standout skill, he could easily produce across the board. As a shortstop, that brings great appeal.

7) Trea Turner – Washington Nationals
#2 prospect for Nationals
Grade – A-

It will be interesting to see if the Nationals opt to open the season with Turner as their starting shortstop or if they acquire a middle infielder to allow them to delay his full-time arrival (updated – they ultimately signed Daniel Murphy to man 2B, allowing Danny Espinosa to be the starting shortstop to open the season). Regardless of the route they take, it’s only a matter of time before Turner is deemed ready to be an everyday option in the Majors.

He totaled 31 SB for four different teams last season, and the speed is there to swipe 30+ bases annually. He also has shown a good eye at the plate coming up through the minors, though a 20.0% strikeout rate over 205 PA at Triple-A is something to monitor. It could help limit his average upside, especially given the lack of power. There’s no questioning the potential, though there are adjustments to be made.

8) Jorge Mateo – New York Yankees
#1 ranked prospect for Yankees
Grade – A-

Mateo’s name came up often around the Trade Deadline, most notably connected to the Padres in return for Craig Kimbrel, but at the end of the day he remained property of the Yankees.  When we look back three years from now chances are that the Yankees are ultimately happy that they failed to culminate the deal.

Across two levels in ’15 Mateo hit .278 with 82 stolen bases in 449 AB.  Right now we would draw the comparisons to Billy Hamilton, with Mateo’s struggles to make consistent contact (98 K) at the lower levels something well worth watching (this is a comparison we looked at, which you can read by clicking here).  As the old adage goes you can’t steal first base, and with his speed all he needs to do is put the ball in play and he should be able to use his speed and wreak havoc.  At 20-years old he has plenty of time to adjust and mature, we just need to be patient.

9) Franklin Barreto – Oakland A’s
#1 ranked prospect for A’s
Grade – A-

Acquired in the deal that sent Josh Donaldson to Toronto, Barreto showed ample power (13 HR, as well as 22 doubles and 3 triples over 338 AB) at High-A last season.  Throw in 8 SB and a .302 average and it shows just how good he possibly could be.  It would be easy to point to an over-aggressive approach (4.1% walk rate), but the underlying metrics are all strong:

  • BABIP – .337
  • Strikeout Rate – 18.4%

In fact he’s actually improved his strikeout rate at each level (19.5% at Single-A in ’14), further adding to his appeal.  That said there are two concerns that fantasy owners need to monitor:

  1. A wrist injury that limited him to 90 games in ‘15
  2. His ability to stick at shortstop long-term

The second one could impact his value, but his bat seems primed to play anywhere around the diamond if he proves that he has made a full recovery from the injury.

10) Tim Anderson – Chicago White Sox
#1 ranked prospect for White Sox
Grade – B+

No one is going to question the speed (49 SB in 62 attempts at Double-A in ’15) and there also is the potential to chip in 10+ HR a season.  He had just 5 last season, but he added 21 doubles and 12 triples, so it’s something that should come in time.  Coming from a premium position you would think that would line him up to be viewed as one of the elite prospects in the game.  However, while he did hit .312 last season, his eye at the plate brings significant question:

  • Strikeout Rate – 20.7%
  • Walk Rate – 4.4%

The average came courtesy of a .391 BABIP, so there is risk involved.  Could he ultimately develop a better approach and cut down on the strikeouts?  Absolutely, and if he does he is going to vault up the overall rankings given his potential to put up a 10/40 season in the Majors.

Just Missed – Gleyber Torres (CHC), Raul Mondesi (KC), Ozzie Albies (ATL), Nick Gordon (MIN)

Sources –, Fangraphs

Grading System (still in development):
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 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

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