Several of you have asked when our 2011 Top 100 Prospects list will be online. We're working on the Top 100 as I post this, and we'll unveil it toward the end of next week.
The Rays signed Felipe Lopez to a minor league contract, which means that the Red Sox won't get any compensation for the Type B free agent and that the 2011 draft order is finalized. I did some research for our Early Draft Preview and determined that, yes, Tampa Bay's 12 picks in the first two rounds do establish a new record. The old mark was 10, by the 1990 Expos, who got Rondell White and six lesser big leaguers.
Below is the finalized draft order. This probably only bothers me, but it does: The supplemental draft picks are assigned on the basis of team records (with all the Type A choices coming before the Type B selections) rather than the statistical rankings used to determine compensation. Yet for teams with multiple sandwich picks, MLB goes back at the end and attaches them to players based on the stat rankings, rather than chronological order.
For instance, the Rays received their first supplemental first-rounder when Carl Crawford signed with the Red Sox in December. It was set in stone, and there was no way Tampa Bay would lose that pick. Yet after the Rays added another supplemental first-rounder when Rafael Soriano left for the Yankees a month later, MLB decided that Tampa Bay's first sandwich pick was for the loss of Soriano and the second was for the loss of Crawford. That isn't the way the compensation went down, and it always drives me nuts.
Anyway, with that off my chest, here's the official draft order for 2011:
7. Diamondbacks (for failure to sign 2010 first-rounder Barret Loux)
10. Padres (for failure to sign 2010 first-rounder Karsten Whitson)
15. Brewers (for failure to sign 2010 first-rounder Dylan Covey)
19. Red Sox (from Tigers for Victor Martinez, Type A)
21. Blue Jays
23. Nationals (from White Sox for Adam Dunn, Type A)
24. Rays (from Red Sox for Carl Crawford, Type A)
26. Red Sox (from Rangers for Adrian Beltre, Type A)
31. Rays (from Yankees for Rafael Soriano, Type A)
33. Rangers (from Phillies for Cliff Lee, Type A)
Supplemental First Round
34. Nationals (Dunn)
35. Blue Jays (for Scott Downs, Type A, to Angels)
36. Red Sox (Martinez)
37. Rangers (Lee)
38. Rays (Soriano)
39. Phillies (for Jayson Werth, Type A, to Nationals)
40. Red Sox (Beltre)
41. Rays (Crawford)
42. Rays (for Grant Balfour, Type A, to Athletics)
43. Diamondbacks (for Adam LaRoche, Type B, to Nationals)
44. Mets (for Pedro Feliciano, Type B, to Yankees)
45. Rockies (for Octavio Dotel, Type B, to Blue Jays)
46. Blue Jays (for John Buck, Type B, to Marlins)
47. White Sox (for J.J. Putz, Type B, to Diamondbacks)
48. Padres (for Jon Garland, Type B, to Dodgers)
49. Giants (for Juan Uribe, Type B, to Dodgers)
50. Twins (for Orlando Hudson, Type B, to Padres)
51. Yankees (for Javier Vazquez, Type B, to Marlins)
52. Rays (for Brad Hawpe, Type B, to Padres)
53. Blue Jays (for Kevin Gregg, Type B, to Orioles)
54. Padres (for Yorvit Torrealba, Type B, to Rangers)
55. Twins (for Jesse Crain, Type B, to White Sox)
56. Rays (for Joaquin Benoit, Type B, to Tigers)
57. Blue Jays (for Miguel Olivo, Type B, to Mariners)
58. Padres (for Kevin Correia, Type B, to Pirates)
56. Rays (for Randy Choate, Type B, to Marlins)
60. Rays (for Chad Qualls, Type B, to Padres)
66. Phillies (from Nationals for Werth)
74. Blue Jays (from Angels for Downs)
75. Rays (from Athletics for Balfour)
Supplemental Third Round
121. Mariners (for failure to sign 2010 third-rounder Ryne Stanek)
The shortstop cupboard is bare, in the majors and minors. Only six big league shortstops batted .275 or better with double-digit homers in 2010, and only three of those (Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez and Stephen Drew) managed to post a .750 OPS. Before the Royals traded Zack Greinke, and it was known they were wanted up-the-middle talent in return, a few of us BA staffers sat around the office in December and had a tough time coming up with many worthwhile shortstop targets. They're that rare.
The best shortstop prospect in the game is Manny Machado (Orioles), the No. 3 pick in last year's draft and a potential five-tool shortstop. He probably won't be ready until 2013 at the earliest, but he will provide offense and stay at shortstop. Almost all of the other shortstop prospects fall into one category or the other, but not both.
The top offensive prospects don't figure to remain at the position. Among players who can hit for average and power, Nick Franklin (Mariners) probably will have to move, Grant Green (Athletics) and Christian Colon (Royals) almost certainly will and Wilmer Flores (Mets) definitely will. Danny Espinosa (Nationals), who along with Franklin was one of three minor leaguers to hit 20 homers and steal 20 bases in 2011, could get the job done at shortstop but will move to second base with Ian Desmond in Washington. Speedsters Billy Hamilton (Reds) and Matt Lipka (Braves) may hit for high averages and rack up steals, but scouts aren't sold that either is a lock to remain at short.
So that leaves us with the quality shortstop defenders. Dee Gordon (Dodgers) is a tremendous athlete who could provide batting average and steals, but he won't hit for much power. Jose Iglesias (Red Sox), Eduardo Escobar (White Sox), Adeiny Hechavarria (Blue Jays) and Jonathan Villar (Astros) aren't going to have a lot of pop, either. That leaves Jurickson Profar (Rangers), Hak-Ju Lee (Rays) and Chris Owings (Diamondbacks) as the best bets after Machado to be shortstops with solid bats.
That said, I don't foresee Profar, Lee or Owings making a big offensive impact. While Machado might hit his way into Tulowitzki/Ramirez territory, there isn't another obvious shortstop with close to that upside.
In another plug for the 2011 Prospect Handbook, I'll give everyone a taste of the scouting reports you can find there. We listed Nishioka's report in an appendix because he signed shortly before the book went to the printer, and noted that he would have ranked sixth on our Twins Top 10 list, between outfielder Ben Revere and righthander Liam Hendriks. Here's what we had to say about Nishioka:
The Twins got decent production from middle infielders J.J. Hardy and Orlando Hudson in 2010, but both have no better than average speed and the club wanted to get quicker. As a result, Minnesota traded Hardy, let Hudson become a free agent and aggressively pursued Nishioka. After the Chiba Lotte Marines posted him, the Twins won his negotiating rights with a $5,329,000 bid and signed him to a three-year deal worth $9.25 million. He's the first Japanese player in franchise history, leaving the Diamondbacks, Marlins and Reds as the only big league clubs never to have one. Nishioka played in the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006, hitting two homers as Japan won the tournament, but was left off the 2009 team despite posting back-to-back .300 seasons. He had a career year in 2010, batting .346/.423/.482 and winning the Pacific League batting title. Nishioka profiles as a No. 2 hitter. A natural righthander, he learned to switch-hit as a 19-year-old at the Japanese big league level. His best attributes are his ability to make contact and play a speed-oriented game. Nishioka bunts well and has the pitch recognition and plate discipline to draw walks, though he'll have to prove that pitchers can't knock the bat out of his hands. He hit 38 home runs in his last three seasons in Japan, but some U.S. scouts grade his power as 30 on the 20-80 scale. He's not a burner, but he does have plus speed. When Bobby Valentine managed the Marines, he shifted Nishioka to shortstop, and the Twins say they're open to him competing with Alexi Casilla for the shortstop job. He's a plus runner who has enough range for shortstop, but his average arm plays better at second base. How his hitting ability translates to the States will determine whether or not he can be a regular.
Nishioka has a chance to be a steady everyday player, but he lacks the upside of Ackley, Kipnis, Lawrie and Segura. All of those prospects project as above-average big league hitters for their position, while Nishioka figures to be average at best. Of those four, only Segura is in Nishioka's class defensively, and it remains to be seen whether Ackley or Lawrie will be able to handle second base.
The Rangers have more depth than most minor league systems, but Odor would probably find a spot in the 20-25 range. Signed for $425,000 in January, Odor is an advanced hitter for a 16-year-old and could have average power once he adds some strength to his 5-foot-10, 155-pound frame. Some teams have clocked him as fast as 6.6 seconds in the 60-yard dash, though his arm is merely average and eventually may lead to a move to second base.
Another offseason Latin American signee to watch in the Rangers system is Dominican shortstop Luis Marte. Inked to a $250,000 bonus in November, Marte is a slick defender.