Top 15 Shortstop Prospects (2019 Preseason): Impressive Upside Fills The Rankings

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Shortstop is full of high upside prospects, some of which are already on the precipice of reaching the Majors (and hopefully thriving).  A position that has already had an influx of talent could be getting even deeper, and there’s more than just the obvious big names.  While some will move off the position (like the Rockies’ Brendan Rodgers), many will get the opportunity to thrive at the position.  Who are the best shortstop prospects today?  Let’s take a look:

RankPlayerCurrent TeamCurrent Grade
1.Fernando Tatis Jr.San Diego PadresA
2. Wander FrancoTampa Bay RaysA
3.Royce LewisMinnesota TwinsA
4.Bo BichetteToronto Blue JaysA-
5.Carter KieboomWashington NationalsB+
6.Gavin LuxLos Angeles DodgersB+
7,Brendan RodgersColorado RockiesB+
8.Jazz ChisholmArizona DiamondbacksB+
9.Oneil CruzPittsburgh PiratesB
10.Luis RengifoLos Angeles AngelsB
11.Andres GimenezNew York MetsB
12.Luis GarciaWashington NationalsB
13.Isaac ParedesDetroit TigersB
14.Freudis NovaHouston AstrosB
15.Luis GarciaPhiladelphia PhilliesB

1) Fernando Tatis Jr. – Grade – A
Tatis played the year at Double-A as a 19-year old and posted a highly impressive line as he hit .286 with 16 HR and 16 SB.  The concern is going to be his strikeout rate, at 27.7%.  Behind that was a 16.5% SwStr% and there is going to be concern that the number regresses further as he moves to Triple-A and eventually the Majors…

Of course keep in mind his age and experience level before concluding that he can’t or won’t make the necessary adjustments.  If he can harness his approach, even just a little bit, he’s going to be a perennial 20/20 contributor at the highest level (and a 30/30 season isn’t impossible).

2) Wander Franco – Grade – A
Franco has a long way to go before he arrives in the Majors, but the success he had in Rookie Ball as a 17-year old (he’ll turn 18 on March 1) speaks to just how talented he is.  Over 273 PA he hit .351 while showing a strong eye as he walked (27) more than he struck out (19).  Regardless of the level, at his age that’s a highly impressive mark and he complemented it with significant extra base production:

  • Doubles – 10
  • Triples – 7
  • Home Runs – 11

You put those two things together and it’s hard not to get excited about the outlook.  Obviously a lot can happen between now and when he arrives, but thus far the upside is evident and the results back up the hype.  It’s very easy to get excited.

3) Royce Lewis – Grade – A
Lewis emerged as one of the premier prospects in the game, splitting time between Single-A (327 PA) and High-A (208 PA) and showing both power (14 HR) and speed (28 SB).  The numbers did falloff after his promotion, but it’s easy to chalk that up more to luck than anything:

LevelStrikeout RateWalk RateSwStr%BABIP
Single-A15.0%7.3%10.0%.349
High-A16.8%9.1%8.3%.291

In fact you can see his approach was actually better as he faced tougher competition, cutting down on the swings and misses and improving his walk rate.  Throw in that it was a more pitcher friendly setting, and his numbers look that much better.  While he may be forced to shift off shortstop at some point, he continues to be viewed among the premier prospects in the game.

4) Bo Bichette – Grade – A-
Another second generation star, Bichette played the year at Double-A (595 PA) hitting .286 with 11 HR and 32 SB.  While he didn’t show significant power, he added 43 doubles and 7 triples so there’s plenty of upside for the 20-year old (he’ll play 2019 at 21-years old).  Maybe he doesn’t profile as a 35+ HR monster, but would it be surprising if he regularly hit 20+ HR (with a 25+ HR or two coming as he benefits from playing half his games in Toronto)?

He may not be able to maintain quite this much speed as he matures physically, but again 15+ SB annually would be more than enough.  We’ll have to watch the strikeouts a little bit (10.0% SwStr%), though it again isn’t an outrageous number and isn’t going to sink him.

A middle infielder who should hit .280+ with 20/20 stuff?  It’s hard not to like him.

5) Carter Kieboom – Grade – B+
Kieboom split time between High-A (245 AB) and Double-A (248 AB), hitting .280 with 16 HR and 9 SB.  He showed an ability to draw a walk (10.4%) and a 19.5% strikeout rate is reasonable, though his overall 10.2% SwStr% is something worth monitoring.  Unsurprisingly all of the numbers took a step backward after his promotion:

  • Strikeout Rate – 21.6%
  • Walk Rate – 8.1%
  • SwStr% – 10.4%

The former first round pick didn’t turn 21 until September, so it’s easy to give him a little bit of a pass.  He may not have the elite talent of others, but having added 31 doubles and 1 triple it appears that he has the upside of being a 20/10 type player at the highest level.

6) Gavin Lux – Grade – B+
Lux played at High-A (358 AB) and Double-A (105 AB), hitting .324 with 15 HR and 13 SB.  Having added 27 doubles and 8 triples he appears to have some power potential, and while you may want to credit his success to playing in the California League things continued upon his promotion:

  • High-A – .520 SLG
  • Double-A – .495 SLG

He’s not a burner, but he should be able to continue to chip in 10+ SB.  When you couple that with his ability to handle the bat, with a 10.9% walk rate and impressive 7.8% SwStr% considering his age (he played the season at 20-years old), and it’s easy to get excited.  Maybe he’s forced to move off shortstop, but regardless he could easily develop into a .290/20/10 player.  Those numbers would play anywhere on the diamond.

7) Brendan Rodgers – Grade – B+
Rodgers was impressive at Double-A, hitting .275 with 17 HR and 12 SB over 357 AB.  He added 23 doubles and 2 triples, yielding a .493 SLG.  While he may not be able to replicate those numbers at the highest levels, playing half his games at Coors Field is it impossible?

A promotion to Triple-A led to significant struggles, as he hit just .232 with 0 HR over 69 AB.  He did struggle to make consistent contact overall (11.7% SwStr%), and while the number didn’t balloon upon his promotion it still sat at 11.1%.  After a 13.8% mark in 2017, you could argue that the improvement was a positive, though it obviously doesn’t eliminate the risk of strikeouts.

That’s going to create more of a .270ish hitter with 25 HR and a little bit of speed (and a .290/30 season isn’t out of the question), though would anyone complain about that?  There’s a clear path to playing time at second base, unless fellow prospect Garrett Hampson refuses to relinquish it. 

8) Jazz Chisholm – Grade – B+
Chisholm played the season as a 20-year old and took a significant step forward, splitting time between Single-A and High-A hitting .272 with 25 HR and 17 SB over 456 AB.  Despite his 5’11” and 165 lbs. frame he clearly has power and there was no ill effects of a torn meniscus that prematurely ended his 2017.  With power, speed and the potential to stick at shortstop what is there not to like?

The answer is his strikeout rate, as he posted an ugly 15.5% SwStr%.  Given his age we can give him at least a slight pass, as he has plenty of time to figure it out and develop his approach.  That’s going to be the key to if he can maintain being a “B+” prospect or not, though it’s going to be a process and as he faces more advanced pitching you need to be patient and take a wait and see approach.

9) Oneil Cruz – Grade – B
Cruz is listed as a shortstop, but now at 6’6” there’s a good chance he ultimately is moved to the outfield.  Regardless his bat is going to play, as he’s starting to tap into his power (25 doubles, 7 triples and 14 HR over 402 AB at Single-A).  At 19-years old he showed important growth in his strikeout rate, going from 30.1% in ’17 to 22.6% in ’18 (and, as you’d expect, it’s due largely to a drop in his SwStr% from 14.0% to 11.3%).  If he can continue to improve in that regard, as his power develops, the potential is there for him to really emerge as a top prospect.  He’s not there yet, but don’t be surprised if he’s a B+ prospect or better by the end of the year.

10) Luis Rengifo – Grade – B
While Adell gets all of the attention, you can argue that Rengifo was actually the biggest breakout performer for the Angels last season.  Overall he hit .299 with 7 HR and 41 SB across three levels, and he looked good at each stop:

  • High-A (190 PA) – .323 with 2 HR and 22 SB
  • Double-A (181 PA) – .305 with 2 HR and 13 SB
  • Triple-A (219 PA) – .274 with 2 HR and 6 SB

Acquired from Tampa Bay as part of the C.J. Cron trade, speed is his biggest asset along with his approach.  Overall he walked (75) just as many times as he struck out (75) and both marks were strong even at Triple-A (14.2% strikeout rate, 11.4% walk rate).  Considering that all he needs to do is add a little bit of power, and with 30 doubles and 13 triples is it a stretch to see him developing into a 12-15 HR hitter to go along with an impressive OBP and 30+ SB?  As a middle infielder that’s a difference maker, and one that hasn’t necessarily gotten the attention that he deserves.

11) Andres Gimenez – Grade – B
Gimenez isn’t going to bring much power to the table, and while he didn’t strikeout much last season during his time at High-A (19.9%) and Double-A (14.4%) an 11.6% SwStr% is a red flag for this type of player.  He does bring some speed (38-for-52 SB last season), which will be his best skill, and having played most of the season at 19-years old (he turned 20 in September) he obviously still has time to develop.

The Mets have been aggressive with his promotions thus far, but the addition of Robinson Cano should help to slow his ascent as the Mets shouldn’t feel the need to push him.  That should help his development, though time will tell.

12) Luis Garcia – Grade – B
Garcia turned 18-years old in May, making the results all the more impressive:

  • Single-A (323 PA) – .297, 3 HR, 8 SB
  • High-A (221 PA) – .299, 4 HR, 4 SB

Obviously the skills in terms of HR/SB aren’t quite there yet, but obviously he has plenty of time to continue to develop and mature.  He needs to learn to take more walks (5.7% walk rate), for example, but he has the potential to develop into a 15/15 middle infielder before long.

13) Isaac Paredes – Grade – B
There are questions as to how much power Paredes will develop, though hitting 15 HR (to go along with 28 doubles and 2 triples) split between High-A and Double-A is promising.  He also showed an ability to make consistent contact, with a 6.0% SwStr% leading to a 15.1% strikeout rate and 10.2% walk rate.  If the power is for real that would be an asset, though at 5’11” he’ll have to prove it.  If he does he’ll start to gain significantly more attention.

14) Freudis Nova – Grade – B
He’s 18-years old, so we have to take some of the numbers with a grain of salt (specifically his 22.1% SwStr% and 62.2% Pull%).  That said he already stands at 6’1” while showing signs of some power (6 HR in 146 AB) and the ability to run (9 SB).  It will be interesting to see how he progresses in 2019, but as he develops and matures he should be able to take the next step in his development.  Don’t be surprised if he’s a B+ prospect or better at this time next year, though we’ll have to be patient as he’s a few years away from arriving.

15) Luis Garcia – Grade – B
Signed in 2017 Garcia is the type of prospect who could explode and emerge as one of the elite in short order.  Just 17-years old he played 43 games at Rookie Ball and impressed with an ability to make consistent contact (7.0% SwStr%) and hit the ball hard (25.9% line drive rate).  He may never develop into a true power hitter, but he could be a near .300 hitter with some speed (12 SB last season) making him an intriguing top of the order threat.  He has a long ways to go, but he’s an exciting name to watch and one who should emerge as one of the team’s Top 3 prospects by year’s end (think a B+ or better).

Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com, MILB.com, Baseball Reference

Make sure to check out all of our 2019 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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