Despite the graduations of Xander Bogaerts and Javier Baez, shortstop remains one of the most loaded positions in the minor leagues. The high minor leagues has its share of potential stars, but so do Rookie and Short Season-A leagues, as a result of a recent influx of draft picks and recent signings.
The rankings are broken into four parts: the top 10 prospects in order, the next five prospects in alphabetical order, two top international prospects and some prospects who could provide some fantasy value in 2015 but are not among the top 15. As always, these rankings are done with fantasy baseball in mind, generally focusing on a standard 5x5 league, but other statistics (e.g., OBP) are considered.
Top 10 Prospects:
1. Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians
Highest Level: AAA Columbus (International League)
2014 Statistics: .278/.352/.389 with 6 HR (88 games, AA Akron); .273/.307/.388 with 5 HR (38 games, AAA Columbus)
2014 was more of the same for Lindor, consistent defense at shortstop with flashes of brilliance to come and solid but not spectacular offensive production as one of the youngest players in the league. Each year brings seemingly ever-increasing expectations for Lindor, who could be the Indians’ best shortstop since Omar Vizquel, but with the potential to hit .300 with 10+ home runs and 30 stolen bases at his peak. He may struggle to hit much above .250 when he makes his MLB debut in 2015, but his defense will keep him in the lineup as he learns on the job.
2. Carlos Correa, Houston Astros
Highest Level: High-A Lancaster (California League)
2014 Statistics: .325/.416/.510 with 6 HR (62 games, High-A Lancaster)
Correa caught fire in late May, hitting .373/.514/.639 over his final 22 games before being sidelined by a fractured fibula. While Correa’s ascent may be delayed by the lost development time, he was running and fielding groundballs in September, and is expected to be fully healed by spring training. He should make his major league debut in mid-2016 and projects as a .300 hitter with 20 home runs. Questions remain as to whether he will remain at shortstop long term, but his defense continues to improve and he should remain at shortstop for the next few years.
3. Addison Russell, Chicago Cubs
Highest Level: AA Tennessee (Southern League) and AA Midland (Texas League)
2014 Statistics: .294/.332/.536 with 12 HR (50 games, AA Tennessee); .333/.439/.500 with 1 HR (13 games, AA Midland)
Russell started the year by tearing his hamstring, missing the first two months of the season. After a quick rehab stint back in Stockton, Russell set the Southern League on fire before being dealt to Chicago as part of the Jeff Samardzija trade. He lacks any elite talent, but projects to stay at shortstop while hitting .300 with 20 HR and 20 stolen bases at his peak, making him an elite baseball player at any position.
4. J.P. Crawford, Philadelphia Phillies
Highest Level: High-A Clearwater (Florida State League)
2014 Statistics: .295/.398/.405 with 3 HR (60 games, Low-A Lakewood); .275/.352/.407 with 8 HR (63 games, High-A Clearwater)
Crawford started slowly, but earned a promotion due to a scorching May and smooth, fluid defense. He is loose in the field and has surprising power despite a thin frame, which will fill out as he matures. Crawford will play the entire 2015 season as a 20-year old, which will make him one of the youngest players in the league. At his peak, he projects as a .280 hitter with 10+ home runs and 20 stolen bases while playing an above average shortstop. It won’t be enough to make Phillies fans forget about Jimmy Rollins, but he will be a more than capable replacement.
5. Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers
Highest Level: AA Chattanooga (Southern League)
2014 Statistics: .352/.411/.633 with 18 HR (80 games, High-A Rancho Cucamonga); .345/.381/.534 with 2 HR (38 games, AA Chattanooga)
The primary knock on Corey Seager is that he is unlikely to make it to the major leagues as a shortstop. That being said, he had one of the best statistical seasons in the minor leagues, hitting a combined .349/.402/.602 with 50 doubles and 20 home runs, while putting up monster lines against both righties and lefties, something rare for many left-handed batters in the minor leagues. Seager has the potential to be the best hitter on this list, but the smaller-than-desired likelihood of his playing any substantial amount of time at shortstop hurts his ranking. His huge season is unlikely to be replicated, but his peak season projects at .280 with 20 home runs, more than sufficient for an all-star third baseman.
6. Raul Mondesi, Kansas City Royals
Highest Level: High-A Wilmington (Carolina League)
2014 Statistics: .211/.256/.354 with 8 HR (110 games, High-A Wilmington)
Mondesi’s stat line is far from pretty, and it would have been worse if not for a six HR outburst over an 11-day span in August, but there were encouraging signs. His defense improved, he hit for more power and he was caught stealing at a lower rate. Mondesi’s primary problem is an aggressive approach that often leads to pitcher’s counts and weak contact. It is important to remember that he turned 19 at the end of July, making him the youngest player to start the season in the High-A Carolina league (by more than a year), and the second youngest player in all three High-A Leagues. Much of his value is in his defense, but he has the potential to hit .290 with 10 home runs and 30+ stolen bases at his peak.
7. Tim Anderson, Chicago White Sox
Highest Level: AA Birmingham (Southern League)
2014 Statistics: .297/.323/.472 with 6 HR (68 games, High-A Winston-Salem); .364/.364/.500 with 1 HR (10 games, AA Birmingham)
Anderson was starting to take his next step forward in the Carolina League when he missed nearly two months with a fractured right wrist. After a brief rehab stint in Rookie League, he was promoted to Double-A Birmingham, where he picked up seven hits (including two doubles) in his first nine at bats. At his peak, he projects as a solid defensive shortstop with the potential to hit 10-15 home runs and 30+ SB.
8. Franklin Barreto, Oakland A’s
Highest Level: Short Season-A Vancouver (Northwest League)
2014 Statistics: .311/.384/.481 with 6 HR (73 games, Vancouver)
As an 18 year old, Barreto, the top prospect acquired in the Josh Donaldson trade, excelled in a league filled with recent draftees out of big-time college programs. He is a good athlete, but his defense is raw (26 errors in 68 games) and he may profile better in center field, which would allow him to make full use his speed. He lacks elite upside, but has the potential to hit .280 with 10+ home runs and 25 stolen bases at his peak.
9. Amed Rosario, New York Mets
Highest Level: Low-A Savannah (South Atlantic League)
2014 Statistics: .133/.161/.300 with 1 HR (7 games, Low-A Savannah); .289/.337/.380 with 1 HR (68 games, Short Season-A Brooklyn)
Rosario opened 2014 with Savannah, then took a pre-scheduled demotion to Brooklyn, where he put up a solid offensive line, flashed signs of his potentially elite defense and started in the New York-Penn League All-Star Game. Rosario lacks the skills to be an elite shortstop, but he has smooth, clean actions and has all the talent necessary to stay there long term. His peak is a .300 hitter with 10 home runs and 15 stolen bases.
10. Daniel Robertson, Tampa Bay Rays
Highest Level: High-A Stockton (California League)
2014 Statistics: .310/.402/.471 with 15 HR (132 games, High-A Stockton)
In July, Robertson went from the other shortstop prospect in the A’s farm system to the top prospect in their system. In January, Robertson went to Tampa Bay in the deal that sent Ben Zobrist to Oakland where he will be a level behind Hak-Ju Lee, but will push past Lee when he is ready. He is a not a great defender, but has great instincts and makes all of the necessary plays. He possesses a compact swing, and has the potential to hit .300 with 15 HR at his peak. There is a good chance he will end up at third base, but he should be able to handle shortstop until he finishes filling out.
Next Five (Alphabetical Order):
Willy Adames, Tampa Bay Rays (.271/.353/.429 with 8 HR in 125 games between Low-A West Michigan and Bowling Green). Adames became a hot name in dynasty leagues after he became the centerpiece to the David Price trade. Potential to hit .280 with 15+ home runs at his peak, but he may need to move to third base as he fills out.
Nick Gordon, Minnesota Twins (2014 draft, 1st round, 5th pick). Son of Tom and half-brother of Dee, Gordon has a strong arm and is a near lock to stay at shortstop long term. Has potential to hit .290 with 15 home runs and a handful of stolen bases.
Dawel Lugo, Toronto Blue Jays (.259/.286/.329 with 4 HR in 117 games in Low-A Lansing). Lugo was hitting .285/.310/.362 before a brutal August and September torpedoed his season line. Potential to hit .300 with raw power to hit 20+ home runs, but power has yet to manifest.
Jose Rondon, San Diego Padres (.319/.365/.409 with 1 HR in 109 games between High-A Inland Empire and Lake Elsinore). Rondon was the key player acquired when the Padres sent Huston Street to Anaheim, and had a great season despite skipping Low-A. Already a good defender in the lauded tradition of Venezuelan shortstops Rondon’s peak projection is a .280 hitter with a few HR, 20+ doubles and 20+ stolen bases.
Trea Turner, San Diego Padres for now, Washington Nationals soon (2014 draft, 1st round, 13th pick). Turner is the repeatedly named player to be named later that is going from San Diego to DC as part of the Wil Myers trade. Likely the fastest player in the 2014 draft, Turner could hit .280 with 30+ stolen bases, but does not project to hit more than 10 HR. Monster debut in the Midwest League, should open 2015 in High-A.
Special Cases: International Prospects
Yoan Moncada, Free Agent
In order to be signed as an international free agent, a Cuban baseball player must establish residency in a country other than Cuba, be declared a free agent by Major League Baseball and receive clearance from the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), a component of the U.S. Treasury Department. Moncada has established residency in Guatemala and MLB declared him to be a free agent, leaving the only roadblock to be the OFAC clearance. Further complicating the situation is that Moncada appears to have left Cuba using his Cuban passport with the approval of the Cuban government, as opposed to the much-publicized escapes of Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu. In terms of potential, Moncada has the talent to be the best of the recent wave of Cubans. Moncada is listed at 6’1” and 200 pounds, and he won’t turn 20 until late May. He has the potential to hit .300 with 20-plus HR and 30-plus stolen bases. Additionally, Moncada has the physical ability to play all over the field, and should be able to stick at shortstop for the next few years at the least. If Moncada were on the above list, he would be the #1 prospect.
Every team is interested in Moncada’s services, but it is rumored that he is seeking a $40 million signing bonus, which would shatter the largest signing bonus ever given to an international player (Abreu got $10 million, Puig got $12 million, and Yasmany Tomas got $14 million). Further complicating the situation is that any team that exceeds their bonus pool (the largest is $5 million) must pay a 100% penalty on the overage, which could lead to a $35 million penalty. A number of big market teams, most notably the large-market Yankees and Red Sox, have already exceeded their budgets so substantially that they will not be allowed to sign an international free agent for more than $300,000 in the next signing period (beginning July 2, 2015), giving them a further incentive to overpay for Moncada. However, if OFAC does not clear Moncada until after June 15, 2015 (there is a roughly two-week moratorium on signings immediately after the draft), those teams would be out of the running for Moncada, leaving the door open for other teams such as the Cubs, White Sox, Mets, Nationals, Tigers, Braves, or, really, any team that could use a five-tool shortstop prospect that has the talent to have MVP-caliber seasons on an annual basis.
Jung-ho Kang, Pittsburgh Pirates
On January 12, it became public knowledge that the Pittsburgh Pirates reached a four year deal with Jung-ho Kang, a shortstop who played with the Nexen Heroes of the Korean Baseball Organization in 2014. While the KBO is an extremely-offense friendly environment (the average KBO hitter put up a .289/.365/.443 line), Kang’s .356/.459/.739 line is sure to raise some eyebrows. Kang was second in the KBO with 40 HR (former big-leaguer Eric Thames was third with 37 HR as part of a .343/.422/.688 line) and third with 36 doubles (Felix Pie was fourth as part of a .326/.373/.524 season). While Kang is unlikely to put up anything resembling his KBO line, he has the talent to hit 15-20 HR, but there are questions as to whether he will be able to handle the elite pitch speeds. Further, there are real questions surrounding Kang’s defense, as his range is limited and he may struggle to make plays that are not routine. He may be best suited to be a utility infielder who plays second base, third base and shortstop, but the Pirates seem committed to playing him at shortstop for now. He will turn 28 the day before Opening day. Kang is worthy of an “upside” pick late in drafts, but don’t expect huge numbers out of Kang, especially given the gap in talent between MLB and the KBO. If I were to put him in the 1-10 list, I would put his maximum value at #6, ahead of Raul Mondesi and he would be no lower than #10, ahead of Daniel Robertson.
2015 Fantasy Value (Alphabetical Order):
Orlando Arcia, Milwaukee Brewers. Defensively, he’s ready to be a shortstop in the majors. Offensively, he may never hit more than a few home runs, but could steal 30 bases and hit .280. Likely to start the year with AA Huntsville, could see time if Jean Segura continues to struggle.
Aledmys Diaz, St. Louis Cardinals. High profile signing out of Cuba; solid season in minors. Could see time at short or second if there is an injury.
Hak-Ju Lee, Tampa Bay Rays. Former Top 100 prospect who missed nearly all of 2013 with torn knee ligaments. Could see time at shortstop or second base, especially now that the Rays have dealt Ben Zobrist.
Deven Marrero, Boston Red Sox. Former 1st round pick could see time due to injury. Defense-first shortstop, but can hold his own and has enough bat to hold his own.
Jorge Polanco, Minnesota Twins. Likely to get call if either Danny Santana or Brian Dozier get hurt or are ineffective. Has gap power, but could hit .280 with 5 HR if given full season’s worth of at-bats.