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Ranking The Top MLB Shortstop Prospects, Breakout Stars Entering 2019

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Wander Franco (left, photo by Tony Farlow) and Fernando Tatis Jr. (right, photo by Bill Mitchell)

The graduations of Gleyber Torres, Willy Adames and, to a degree, J.P. Crawford take a little bit of wind out of the minor league shortstop crop. Still, shortstop remains the main position of strength for minor league prospects.

In all 16 shortstops made the BA Top 100 Prospects to open 2019, the most of any position. That includes five of the top 15, headlined by Padres wunderkind Fernando Tatis Jr., and a deep group that stretches all the way to the end of the list. Just outside the Top 100 are a half-dozen more shortstops who had a case to be on the BA Top 100, and many of them will rise on shortly.

While many of the top shortstop prospects may eventually move off the position—you can find scouts that believe Tatis, Wander Franco and Bo Bichette all will end up moving off of shortstop at some point—their bats are potent enough for them to be impactful no matter where they play. That impact, combined with the depth of the group, makes shortstop once again one of the best positions for prospects in the minors.

Rating: 4 of 5 starts 

Previous 2019 position rankings: 

  1. Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres
  2. Wander Franco, Rays
  3. Bo Bichette, Blue Jays
  4. Royce Lewis, Twins
  5. Brendan Rodgers, Rockies
  6. Andres Gimenez, Mets
  7. Gavin Lux, Dodgers
  8. Carter Kieboom, Nationals
  9. Jazz Chisholm, D-backs
  10. Luis Garcia, Nationals
  11. Oneil Cruz, Pirates
  12. Garrett Hampson, Rockies
  13. Luis Garcia, Phillies
  14. Kevin Smith, Blue Jays
  15. Isaac Paredes, Tigers
  16. Ronny Mauricio, Mets
  17. Nico Hoerner, Cubs
  18. Wander Javier, Twins
  19. Marco Luciano, Giants
  20. Tyler Freeman, Indians
  21. Anderson Tejeda, Rangers
  22. Luis Rengifo, Angels
  23. Cole Tucker, Pirates
  24. Nicky Lopez, Royals
  25. Brayan Rocchio, Indians
  26. Kevin Newman, Pirates
  27. Brice Turang, Brewers
  28. Xavier Edwards, Padres
  29. Mauricio Dubon, Brewers
  30. Shervyen Newton, Mets
  31. Yu Chang, Indians
  32. Willi Castro, Tigers
  33. Lucius Fox, Rays
  34. Wenceel Perez, Tigers
  35. Freudis Nova, Astros
  36. Geraldo Perdomo, D-backs
  37. Jorge Mateo, Athletics
  38. Nick Gordon, Twins
  39. Jose Devers, Marlins
  40. Noelvi Marte, Mariners
  41. Jeremiah Jackson, Angels
  42. Miguel Hiraldo, Blue Jays
  43. Tommy Edman, Cardinals
  44. Owen Miller, Padres
  45. Jeremy Eierman, Athletics
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Baseball America Prospect Report -- October 18, 2019

Today's prospect report focuses on winter league action, highlighted by Rays prospect Wander Franco.

As part of our 2019 position rankings, BA staffers are picking one breakout prospect and one prospect they are concerned about at each position. Here are the selections for shortstop.

BEN BADLER

Breakout: Brayan Rocchio, Indians

There are all kinds of breakout candidates in this group beyond the players already in the Top 100. Wenceel Perez, Marco Luciano, Brice Turang, Noelvi Marte . . . but the best pure hitter of that group might be Brayan Rocchio. He just hits. He hit as an amateur, he hit in the Dominican Summer League, and he had no problem hitting at a high level when he jumped to the Rookie-level Arizona League last summer as a 17-year-old. He's not that big and you're not looking at any outstanding tools or explosive athleticism. But his swing, plate discipline and innate ability to barrel balls with high frequency are all attributes you want to see in a high-level hitter.

Red Flag: Jazz Chisholm, D-backs

I recognize the tools. Athletic shortstop, above-average runner, plus power. There's a lot to like and a lot that's going to jump out to you quickly when you see Chisholm person. Where I have more reservations on Chisholm is his swing and ability to make contact. That barrel is in and out of the hitting zone pretty quickly, and there's a higher dose of swing-and-miss in the strike zone than I'd like to see, which led to a 30 percent strikeout rate last year. I'd have to see him make that adjustment with his contact frequency before I can buy in more.

KYLE GLASER

Breakout: Nico Hoerner, Cubs

Hoerner played only 14 games after signing due to injury, but he showed just how talented he is when he returned for the Arizona Fall League. Simply put, Hoerner was one of the best hitters in the AFL both statistically and visibly. With a balanced setup, a quick swing that makes a lot of contact, and the ability to take the ball where it's pitched and drive it to all fields, Hoerner is in position to move quickly and join the long list of successful Cubs homegrown infielders. Even if he moves off of shortstop as some suspect, his bat will play.

Red Flag: Oneil Cruz, Pirates

Cruz is a rare bird at 6-foot-6 with deceptive athleticism to go with the expected huge raw power. That's a good place to start, but finding and staying in an approach has long been a struggle and he really scuffled in the second half last year (.230/.277/.397) after pitchers started adjusting to him. The fact he's not reliable enough at shortstop isn't all that relevant because he doesn't project to stick there. He's going to go as far as his bat takes him, and his overall approach and ability to make counter-adjustments are big question marks.

JOSH NORRIS

Breakout: Cole Tucker, Pirates

After scuffling in the first half of the regular season, Tucker showed out in the second half and in the Arizona Fall League with a promising mix of contact, speed and defense. He's had his career stalled at times by injuries, but he could use a strong fall to make a big push in 2019.

Red Flag: Isaac Paredes, Tigers

Paredes is already big enough that he's in danger of moving off the position entirely, and he already has below-average range. He was excellent with the bat in 2018 given his age and league context, but his conditioning is a concern.

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