MINORS: 2017 top SS prospects

(Photo: Dansby Swanson - SS, ATL)


This week we continue our annual review of the top prospects in baseball by position. Between now and Opening Day, we'll examine one position a week by looking at both those rookies ready to contribute in the big leagues now, as well as run-down of the top 15 long-term prospects at each position.

This week we take a look at the top shortstop prospects in baseball. Shortstop has always been a key position at the major league level, but over the past decade teams have placed a renewed emphasis on having both an elite level defender and an impact bat at the position. As a result there has been explosion of talent at the position with more on the way in 2017 and beyond.

A quick glance at the top fantasy shortstops already in the majors shows how dramatically the position has changed and suggests that this may be a new golden age at the position. Of the top 10 fantasy shortstops none are older than 26 and 8 of the 10 are 24 or younger (Machado, Seager, Correa, Bogaerts, Turner, Lindor, Story, and Russell).

One results of this influx of young talent at the major league level is that there is less depth in the minors. In 2016, for example, we had 19 shortstops make the HQ 100, while only 12 made the HQ 100 in 2017 and there were only 4 shortstops taken in round one of the 2016 MLB draft.

Having said that, there are still some elite-level shortstop prospects who should make an impact over the next several years. This lists includes Dansby Swanson (ATL), J.P.  Crawford (PHI), Brendan Rodgers (COL), Gleyber Torres (NYY), and Amed Rosario (NYM), but only Swanson seems primed to make an immediate impact and should be considered an early favorite for the NL ROY award.

The dollar ranges listed below represent projected values for 2017. (See a more detailed scouting report on each player by following the link to his team's organization report.)

Dansby Swanson
Swanson was the first overall pick in 2015 First Year Player draft and was then traded to the Braves last offseason as part of the Shelby Miller deal. The rebuilding Braves fast-tracked him to the majors and despite slashing just .261/.342/.402 in 333 Double-A AB, Swanson was called up to the majors in mid-August. All he did after being called up was hit .302/.361/.442 in 129 AB. Swanson has an advanced approach at the plate with a good understanding of the strike zone. He isn’t likely to develop plus power, but should be able to hit 15-20 home runs to go along with a .280-.300 average. He’s a plus runner with good hands and strong instincts that should allow him to stick at the position.

J.P. Crawford (PHI)
Willy Adames (TAM)
Franklin Barreto (OAK)
Jose Rondon (SD)
Amed Rosario (NYM)
Alen Hanson (PIT)

J.P. Crawford took a step back in 2016, hitting .250/.349/.339 between Double and Triple-A as he struggled to drive the ball. Despite the subpar offensive performance, Crawford remains an elite prospect. He has an advanced understanding of the strike zone (72 BB/80K) and makes consistent contact (83% ct%). In the field Crawford has the hands, range, and arm strength to be an above-average defender right now, with Gold Glove potential down the road. Power is the one area that profiles as average or even a tick below at maturity. Crawford doesn’t have blazing speed, but is a smart runner profiles as a 12/20 player at his peak. Look for Crawford to be in the majors by mid-season if not sooner.

Originally signed by the Tigers, Adames came over the Rays as part of the David Price trade and has flourished. Blessed with across-the-board tools, Adames had his best offensive season yet, hitting .274 with 31 doubles, 11 home runs, and 13 SB at Double-A. Adames has some swing-and-miss at the plate, as he struck out 121 times, but also drew 74 walks. The recent trade of Logan Forsythe creates a clearer path to MLB playing time, as some think Adames will need to shift off shortstop to 2B or 3B. Adames is still likely to start 2017 at Triple-A, with a mid-season callup a possibility.

Rosario had an impressive breakout in 2016, hitting .324/.374/.459 with 24 doubles, 13 triples, 5 home runs, and 19 SB between High-A and Double-A. Rosario is a plus runner with good range and should develop into an above-average to plus defender as he gains experience. Simple, compact up-the-middle approach combined with good bat speed results in consistent contact. He has limited over-the-fence power currently, but that could change as he matures and fills out his 6-2, 170 frame. Most likely he is a year away, but could hold his own if the Mets need a midseason injury replacement.

Hanson’s prospect status has faded since his breakout in 2012, but his plus speed continues to give him fantasy relevance. His overly aggressive approach at the plate has resulted in a .315 OBP over the past two seasons, but he’s still managed to swipe 71 bases. Hanson will contend for a bench role this spring and could be a decent end-game option in NL-only formats.

The Padres Rondon doesn’t have the same upside as Swanson, Adames, or Crawford and profiles more as a utility player with solid across-the-board tools. Originally drafted by the Angels, Rondon was acquired as part of the Huston Street deal in 2014. Rondon shoots line drives to all fields, making consistent contact, but with few walks. He’s a solid defender with slightly above-average speed, but his career slash line of .290/.338/.387 isn’t likely to result in much fantasy value.

Long-term Top Shortstop Prospects
1. Dansby Swanson, ATL
2. J.P. Crawford, PHI
3. Brendan Rodgers, COL
4. Gleyber Torres, NYY
5. Amed Rosario, NYM
6. Willy Adames, TAM
7. Franklin Barreto, OAK
8. Jorge Mateo, NYY
9. Nick Gordon, MIN
10. Kevin Newman, PIT
11. Kevin Maitan, ATL
12. Isan Diaz, MIL
13. Richard Urena, TOR
14. Christian Arroyo, SF
15. Delvin Perez, STL

Long-term, Rodgers could end up having the most fantasy upside of any player on this list, though the high floor of both Swanson and Crawford give them the current edge. Rodgers, the 3rd overall pick in the 2015 draft, has plus raw power, good bat speed, and a good understanding of the strike zone. In his full-season debut, the 19-year-old stroked 31 doubles and 18 home runs against older competition in the SAL. If everything comes together he has the tools to hit .300 with 25+ home runs and should be owned in all keeper formats.

The Cardinals got a bargain when they landed Perez with the 23rd pick in the 2016 draft after a failed PED test caused him to slide out of the top 10. Perez has plus speed and impressed in his pro debut, hitting .294/.352/.393 with 12 SB in 168 AB in the GCL. Perez flashes an above-average glove and has true shortstop actions that should allow him to move up quickly.

The Yankees have to be thrilled with the return they got for Aroldis Chapman. Torres was the key piece and put up impressive numbers as a 19-year-old at High-A, hitting .270/.354/.404 with 11 HR and 21 SB. Torres has above-above tools and should be ready for the majors by mid-2018.

One of the more interesting prospects in the minors is Braves Kevin Maitan. The 16-year-old switch-hitter was a July 2 international signee and landed a staggering $4.25 million deal and at 6-2, 190 he is physically mature and has plus raw power. Scouts see him as a potential middle-of-the-order hitter, but Maitan has yet to make his professional debut. In terms of raw talent he compares favorably to Brendan Rodgers and is a great target in deep long-term keeper leagues.

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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.