Every Friday I will take a snapshot of this year’s current crop of prospects at each position relative to how they were ranked a year ago. I’ll examine the top performers, those who did not live up to our lofty expectations, and the key graduates. Our rankings last year were compiled by Andy Germani and myself, and I know we have our fair share of hits and misses. The point of this exercise, though, is to highlight players to target heading into 2017, as well as those to look at moving while they still have name value.
With 7 graduates and one who fell a single at bat short, last year’s Top 25 Shortstop Prospects changed the whole landscape of the position from a fantasy perspective. Our dynasty rankings will come out on Sunday, but it’s safe to say that this year’s graduates have had a major impact on the position. Some of last year’s prospects graduated to other positions too, namely Trea Turner and Alex Bregman, making last year’s list one of the best I’ve seen in a long time.
(2016 rank in parenthesis)
(1) Corey Seager, Dodgers: Seager had an MVP-type season in his rookie year, hitting 26 home runs, scoring 105 times, and slashing .308/.365/.512. He led all shortstops in AVG, OPS, wOBA, and wRC+. He also finished second in runs, and third in home runs, while having the 5th highest WAR in all of baseball. Not bad for a 22-year-old shortstop. The question for Seager is: Can he deliver even more? At 22 years old, it would be silly to bet against it.
(13) Trevor Story, Rockies: Story’s season ended on July 30th with a torn UCL in his thumb, but the legend of 2016 will live on forever. Twenty-seven home runs in 91 games, to go along with 72 RBI and 67 runs made Story the early season lock for Rookie of the Year, even ahead of Corey Seager. The strikeouts were very concerning, and most (including me) expected them to catch up with him. But a funny thing happened:
I’m not going to starting singing the praises of a 28% K rate, but many players are successful in the 23-25% range, whereas at 36% the odds were stacked against him. I’m comfortable investing heavily in Story moving forward.
(5) Tim Anderson, White Sox: Kevin Jebens wrote up Tim Anderson yesterday, and he’s taking a cautious approach to the young Sox shortstop. That’s one thing I have never been accused of doing. I agree that there are some batted ball profile concerns if Anderson is ever going to reach the same level as Story and Seager. I don’t suspect he will, but I think there’s the upside of 15 home runs and 30 stolen base, which will offer a ton of value to fantasy owners. He hit .283 with 9 home runs and 10 stolen bases in 91 games last year – he needs to get more attention – and I put him (barely) in my top ten shortstops ranking.
Other Graduates: Trea Turner, Nationals (7), Alex Bregman, Astros (8), Orlando Arcia, Brewers (T9), Raul Mondesi Jr (14)
(14) Isan Diaz, Brewers: Diaz was dealt to Milwaukee in the Jean Segura trade, and it looks like they’re grooming him to be their second baseman of the future. He should be a good one! He makes hard contact to all fields and is just coming in to his power. Here’s a look at his spray chart from 2016, courtesy of MLBfarm.com.
Diaz is struggling a little in the AFL, but he does have a home run and 4 doubles in just 11 games played. As good as Segura has been, it’s easy to think the Diamondbacks came out ahead of that deal. For now, they have. Diaz is one of my personal favorite prospects and I’m hoping the Brewers look pretty smart in a couple of years.
(T17) Amed Rosario, Mets: There are plenty of misses in my Top Shortstop Prospect list dated Sept, 2013, but I have been on Rosario this long and am thrilled to see him finally break through. As I sometimes do (I’m getting better), I was overly aggressive with the young shortstop prospect, ranking him as the 74th best prospect heading in to 2014. But I digress. Rosario hit .341 in 54 games in Double-A as a twenty year old in 2016. While he hit just 5 home runs to go with his 19 stolen bases for the season, there is more power to come. I don’t think there’s any more room on the Rosario bus for you to hop on, but keep an eye in case a seat opens up.
(T23) Richard Urena, Blue Jays: Urena was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2012; the same year the Jays signed Franklin Barreto. While one could argue that Barreto’s stock took a slight hit in 2016 (I won’t), Urena made heads turn hitting .295/.334/.434 across High A and Double A this year. Three months younger than Rosario, the two were the youngest position players in the Florida State League in 2016, and they both were promoted in AA. Urena has good power and struck out only 14.7% of the time last year. There’s a lot to be excited about with Urena, though he gets only a fraction of the recognition that his leaguemate Rosario gets.
(2) J.P. Crawford, Phillies: With so many graduates, there won’t likely be many “fallers” in this year’s list. Even listing Crawford here is a stretch as I usually reserve this section for those with significant drops from year to year. Instead of skipping over The Fallers altogether, I’ll list Crawford who will surely drop from his #2 spot, though I suspect he’ll remain in the top ten.
While he struggled in AAA, he was just 21, the tenth youngest player in the league. The power disappeared as he slugged just .318 in 385 AAA plate appearances. His walk rate remained high at 10.9%, and his strikeout rate was still very good, though higher than 2015, at 15.3%. The problem is if there isn’t a lot of power, and he’s had just 12 stolen bases in each of the past two seasons, what exactly remains for fantasy leaguers? I’m not giving up, and I suggest targeting Crawford if his owner has, but it’s possible that he’s not the Phillies savior at shortstop in 2017. Heck, with the recent play of Freddy Galvis it may not be any time soon.
The New Faces
Kevin Maitan, Braves: I haven’t been so excited about an international shortstop since, well, 2014 with Adrian Rondon. Maitan is just 16 years old and is being called the best prospect out of Venezuela since Miguel Cabrera. Maitan won’t have that kind of power, but 20 home runs seems more than reasonable. He’s a hard contact guy who not only has the potential to be a middle of the lineup bat, but may very well stick at shortstop while doing it. Where applicable, Maitan needs to be considered the number one pick in fantasy minor league drafts in 2017.
Adrian Rondon, Rays: Rondon is another example of someone I went all-in on too early, ranking him as the 6th top shortstop prospect heading into 2015. Will I make the same mistake with Maitan this year? On one hand I’d love to, but history has taught me that there is no set timetable for these 16-year-olds to develop. We dropped Rondon completely off of our list last year after he struggled in rookie ball in 2015. Last year, he hit 7 home runs in the Appy League at 17 years old, just one less than last week’s New Face Vladimir Guerrero Jr. It’s still early to rank Rondon at #6, or even #16, but he’s earned a spot on the list this year, and not just because I’m excited about the #1 international prospect of the year.
Video Courtesy of 2080 Baseball
Kevin Newman, Pirates: It’s surprising that Newman didn’t make our list last year, but he was 22 years old at the time and didn’t show a whole ton in his professional debut. In 2016, he impressed in High A and Double A, hitting .320/.386/.426 across both levels. Even more impressive was his 9.4% walk rate and just 7.9% strikeout rate. Already 23 years old, Newman should continue moving up the ranks quickly and could see some September time in 2017. While we were late to the party, it’s not too late to join us.
Next week I will take a look at outfield prospects, where there weren’t nearly as many graduates in 2016.
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