Top International MLB Shortstop Prospects Often Pan Out
If the Cubs sign 16-year-old Dominican shortstop Cristian Hernandez as expected when the international signing period opens, they will be adding a player many scouts consider the best player available in this class.
Recent history indicates that’s a smart move.
The top two shortstops from five of the last six international classes have turned into excellent prospects, one of whom—budding Yankees star Gleyber Torres—has already begun producing in the big leagues.
Like Hernandez is expected to be, Torres was initially a Cubs signee. He was part of one-two punch at the top of Chicago’s class, along with outfielder Eloy Jimenez. The Cubs eventually dealt both players—Torres to the Yankees and Jimenez to the crosstown White Sox—as they pursued the franchise’s first World Series championship since 1908.
The plan worked. The Cubs dealt Torres in July 2016 for closer Aroldis Chapman and won the World Series three months later.
And while Torres is easily the most accomplished player to rank among the top two shortstops in a given international class, it appears that he’ll have company in the big leagues in fairly short order.
The top prospect in the game, Rays wunderkind Wander Franco, was the top talent available in the 2017 class. He’s exceeded all expectations in his first two seasons as a pro, showing an otherworldly combination of contact skills and plate discipline from both sides of the plate.
Franco ranked as the top prospect in two leagues in 2019 after thriving in both the early cold of the low Class A Midwest League and the sweltering summertime heat of the high Class A Florida State League. He entered 2020 as the No. 1 prospect in the game.
The prospect behind Franco in 2017, Ronny Mauricio, is no slouch either. He ranks as the top prospect in the Mets’ system and checks in at No. 66 overall on the Top 100 Prospects after holding his own over a full season at low Class A as an 18-year-old.
The 2018 class could prove to be a banner year as well.
Luciano walloped the competition in the Rookie-level Arizona League and vaulted not only to the top spot in an excellent San Francisco system, but he earned such rave reviews that he entered the year ranked as the No. 19 prospect in baseball.
For his part, Marte had an excellent season in the Dominican Summer League and came in at No. 92 this spring.
The Nationals’ Luis Garcia was the No. 2 shortstop available in 2016, and he appeared to be nearing the big leagues after an excellent turn in the Arizona Fall League and a hot start to spring training before the coronavirus pandemic halted things.
Garcia ranked No. 91 on the preseason Top 100 Prospects, one spot above Marte.
Two of the top shortstops in the 2019 class— the Rangers’ Maximo Acosta and the Athletics’ Robert Puason—had yet to make their professional debuts, but each earned initial rankings among the Top 10 Prospects of their respective systems.
The pandemic has pushed back by six months the date when Hernandez will officially sign his first pro contract. But when he signs in January, recent history suggests good things are in his future.
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|The Top Two Shortstops In Past Signing Classes|
The Yankees’ starting shortstop following 2016 trade from Cubs for Aroldis Chapman
Stalled at high Class A following trade to White Sox for international bonus money
Toiling in low minors following low-profile trade to Angels in 2019
Bundled off to Nationals in 2018 as part of return for rental Gio Gonzalez
Reached Double-A at age 20, later won AFL batting title; one of Mets’ top prospects
Signed for non-Cuba record $6 million, later traded to Rays for Matt Moore
Initial contract with Braves voided; signed with Angels, moved to 3B and has scuffled
One of youngest regulars in Double-A last year ranks among the game's top prospects.
Has made a mockery of low minors, ranks as game’s No. 1 prospect
Scouts dream about what the Mets’ No. 1 prospect can grow to be at maturity
One of fastest risers in the game; demolished Rookie competition in pro debut
Shined as power-speed prospect in pro debut in Dominican Summer League