Each week I will look back at my prospect rankings from last year and examine the top performers, as well as those who did not live up to my lofty expectations. In every case, it’s not my rankings that were wrong, but the player who did better or worse than they should have. I’m kidding of course; I’ve got my share of hits and misses, but this series is really about looking forward and what players to target and who to cash in on if you can.
Last year when I did my 2015 Top 25 Shortstop Prospects, I said there is a changing of the guard happening at shortstop, and it happened to an even a greater extent than I could have imagined. The really awesome part of this new era in shortstop greatness is that it is not over yet. There were 18 shortstop prospects in my Top 100 last year, and I’m forecasting a similar number this year. There are certainly those that will fall off the list along with the graduates, but the next new group of shortstops is very exciting. While they may not be the next Correa, Kang or Lindor, they could help give the position more depth than it has ever seen before.
The Graduates (2015 rank in parenthesis)
(1) Carlos Correa: Astros, (3) Francisco Lindor: Indians, (2) Addison Russell: Cubs, and (22) Jung-ho Kang: Pirates
Enough has been written about these elite shortstops individually, so let’s look at them collectively.
|League Avg SS||.256||.307||.375||.297||10.5||9.5|
Not surprisingly, as a unit, shortstops improved compared to 2014, where they hit .251/.306/.363. What makes the growth in 2015 so impressive is that it includes significant drop offs from Desmond, Peralta, Rollins, Reyes and Hanley Ramirez. Add in the fact that these 4 shortstops should continue to grow (and get full-time at bats) and we could pass the numbers put up in 2009 by Tulowitzki, HanRam and Jeter. With Corey Seager added to the mix and a dynamic Xander Bogaerts already in play, this truly is a golden era for shortstops.
Addison Russell brought up the rear in this quartet of graduating prospects, but he showed encouraging growth in the second half. If he can move up in the Cubs potent lineup, the counting stats will increase significantly.
My only other note here is that while Jung-ho Kang is the senior here at 28 years old, he should not be overlooked; at least as far as the next 3-5 years are concerned. In 53 games in the second half before he got hurt, Kang hit 11 home runs while batting .310. He’s an elite shortstop option right now.
Other Graduates: Ketel Marte, Mariners.
It’s interesting that I ranked these four pretty aggressively together, and they each took a step forward towards becoming the next wave of top shortstop prospects.
(13) Ozhaino Albies, Braves: Albies followed up his rookie ball season in 2014 (where he hit .375) with a 29 stolen base, .310 effort as an 18-year-old in A ball. A fractured thumb caused him to miss the last 6 weeks of the season, otherwise his numbers could have been padded even more. As is, he is one of baseball’s most exciting young prospects with plus speed and a near-elite hitting tool. The power will never be there, but he projects as a top-of-the-order bat in the major leagues.
Video Courtesy of Chris Blessing
(14) Franklin Barreto, Athletics: Barreto is still just 19 years old, having finished his third pro season in High A last year. Although his stolen base totals fell in 2015, he has very good speed to go with an excellent hit tool. The Blue Jays obviously won (quite easily) the Josh Donaldson trade, but Barreto should prove to be the best piece acquired by the Athletics. With 13 home runs and a .302 AVG at such a young age, Barreto is going to find himself making huge leaps up prospect lists heading into 2016. Here’s a video from the great folks at Fangraphs:
(15) Orlando Arcia, Brewers: The elder of this quartet, Arcia is 21 years old and finds himself knocking on the door to a major league position. Arcia is outstanding defensively and would likely turn into an everyday major league shortstop regardless of his bat. After hitting .307/.347/.453 in AA with 25 stolen bases last year, his ceiling is now that of an All-Star major league shortstop. Look for him to be among the top 20 overall prospects on many lists this winter.
Video courtesy of minorleagueball
(16) Gleyber Torres, Cubs: Finally, Torres finishes off this group as a huge climber, having been promoted at the end of the season to High A as an 18-year-old. He finished the year as the #1 prospect in the Midwest League after hitting .293/.353/.386, playing very well defensively. He’s got a little more power than the other three listed, and while not as fast, still managed to steal 22 bases last year. I’m not sure what the Cubs are going to do with all of their young infielders already; Torres just makes for an even greater embarrassment of riches.
Video Courtesy of Brian J. Davis
(6) Adrian Rondon, Rays: Poor Adrian Rondon fell victim to my over-inflated expectations of him based on (at the time) only a couple of videos and scouting reports. I’m still very much intrigued by his power and hit tools, but he performed poorly in rookie ball and is at least 3-4 years away. I’ll need to see some positive results before I place him near the top of any prospect lists in the future, though it wouldn’t surprise me if it still happened. I was just over-eager.
I hesitate to put anyone else in the Fallers category for now; with just a preliminary list in mind I don’t see any other significant drop-offs. There will be a lot of new faces in next year’s list to counter the many graduations, making this the absolute most important positional prospect list for 2016.
The New Faces
Brendan Rodgers, Rockies: Rodgers was taken with the #3 overall pick by the Rockies, but was the highest ranked player heading in to the 2015 amateur draft. As an 18-year-old, he hit .273 in Rookie Ball with 13 XBH in 143 AB. He has plus power, and the fact that he will call Coors his home in 3-4 years means he’ll likely be a 25 HR shortstop who can hit for average. To put that in perspective, not a single shortstop has hit more than 25 home runs since 2011. He’s going to have incredible fantasy value! Check out his power here, courtesy of minorleagueball:
Dansby Swanson, Diamondbacks: Swanson was picked #1 overall out of college in the 2015 draft. He doesn’t possess nearly the power that Rodgers has, but he has an excellent hit tool, good plate discipline and plus speed, making him an ideal leadoff type hitter. Swanson hit .289/.394/.482 in short season ball last year, and at 21 years old, he has the advanced approach that could lead him to progress quickly through the minors. The ceiling is that of a high run-scoring hitter with 10 home runs, a good average and a couple dozen stolen bases. Here is a highlight reel of Swanson from his Vanderbilt days from 7-films. Go for the video, stay for the music.
Alex Bregman, Astros: Slotting in at #2 between Swanson and Rodgers in last year’s draft, Bregman signed out of college with the Houston Astros. The last thing the Astros need is a shortstop prospect, especially as Bregman looks like he’ll move very quickly through the Astros system. He has some power and speed, but it’s his hit tool that really stands out. In his debut, he batted .319/.364/.475 in High A ball with just a 9.6% K rate. Whether he ends up at second base, center field or stays at shortstop, Bregman is a special talent and just what Houston needs amid their high strikeout lineup. I really like Bregman, and as great as Rodgers and Swanson are, I have a hard time ranking him any lower than them.
Video Courtesy of Fangraphs
Next week I will take a look at outfield prospects,
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