The minor league season has entered its' final month, and with that I always like to start taking a look back at how my rankings went during the preseason. Next up is shortstop, which has seen a dramatic shift as young, elite talents have started arriving in the majors.
The (Brief) State of the Position
The top of the shortstop ranks remains the same, even if top shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has changed leagues and countries. Beyond that, we've seen a lot of change in the past year. Hanley Ramirez moved to the outfield, and will now move to first base in 2016, definitely losing shortstop eligibility once and probably for all. Top options from a year ago like Ian Desmond, Jose Reyes, and Alexei Ramirez have all regressed significantly, and with them falling back, we're also seeing the next group emerge. Three of the top five shortstop prospects have established themselves in the majors, with Carlos Correa a potential top 25 overall option already at the age of 20. With Addison Russell, Francisco Lindor, and Trea Turner all in the bigs now and Corey Seager and J.P. Crawford expected to arrive during the 2016 season, they will be ready to challenge Tulo for the top spot as soon as next year.
Preseason Top 15 with Current Level
1. Addison Russell - Cubs (MLB - Graduate)
The Cubs brought up Russell to man second base initially, and the struggles of Starlin Castro have now led Russell to supplant him as the everyday shortstop. The performance so far has been mixed, with him hitting .247 with 9 home runs and 3 stolen bases in 106 games. Russell should only continue to improve as he gets more reps, and can still be a top 5 option down the line.
2. Carlos Correa - Astros (MLB - Graduate)
Hope you grabbed him early and often. The Astros look more and more like geniuses for grabbing Correa with the top overall pick three years ago, as he is likely the #2 option at the position next year. He's on a 35 HR, 26 SB pace over a full season, and while I don't see that happening just yet, I can see a 25 home runs, 15 steal season pretty easily.
3. Corey Seager - Dodgers (AAA)
The Dodgers have been taking it somewhat slowly with Seager, who has hit very well over the past month at AAA Oklahoma City. Jimmy Rollins is a free agent this coming offseason, and I expect that the Dodgers will give Seager the opportunity to win the starting job outright. He can be a 25+ home run hitter with a solid average on a regular basis.
4. J.P. Crawford - Phillies (AA)
As crazy as it may seem, Crawford may be a bit underrated still, as he is expected to provide a high batting average with a high on-base percentage, 10-15 home runs, and 25+ stolen bases. I don't foresee the Phillies bringing him up to start the 2016 season, but I think he's definitely the starter by the end of the year.
5. Francisco Lindor - Indians (MLB - Graduate)
The Indians brought Lindor up in mid-June, and has shown himself to be a better hitter than was originally anticipated. He's currently hitting .310/.349/.435 with seven home runs and six stolen bases in 64 games, and should slot in at the back end of the top 10 at the position in 2016.
6. Tim Anderson - White Sox (AA)
Anderson has shown the one thing that evaluators had really been waiting for: health. He's appeared in a career high 119 games, hitting .309 with four home runs and 47 stolen bases in 58 attempts. He has continued to play shortstop, although it doesn't seem like we're any closer at this point to being sure he can stay there.
7. Nick Gordon - Twins (A)
Gordon has had a decent year at Low-A Cedar Rapids, hitting .275 with 24 steals in 32 attempts and a home run. He also has a solid 8% walk rate this year, and has hit .306/.361/.400 since June 1st. It's going to take some time with Gordon, but it could pay off nicely with a high batting average, high stolen base shortstop who provides some production in the other three categories.
8. Raul Mondesi - Royals (AA)
Mondesi has been up and down this year at AA, having a terrible month at the plate one month (July) and then raking the ball al the time the next. The overall numbers don't look so hot (.256/.283/.402), but it's easy to forget that he just turned 20 a month ago. He may need to repeat a level at some point to help with his development at the plate, but he's definitely an interesting shortstop prospect who could provide solid production across all five categories.
9. Daniel Robertson - Rays (AA)
Robertson missed nearly all of June and July after breaking a hamate bone, but has hit well since returning from the disabled list. In 19 games so far, he's hitting .299 with more walks than strikeouts, a home run and a stolen base. He's probably going to end up dropping a bit lower in the offseason not because he's done anything wrong, but because his ceiling may not be as high as some of the other names.
10. Trea Turner - Nationals (MLB)
The Nationals finally got their man in June, and all Turner has done all year is hit. Between AA and AAA, he hit .322 with 8 home runs and 29 stolen bases in 116 games. He's already getting his feet wet in the majors, and looks like the very easy, very ready replacement for free agent to be Ian Desmond.
11. Franklin Barreto - Athletics (A+)
Following the trade from the Blue Jays, Barreto was sent straight to High-A after appearing only in short-season leagues. Barreto was hitting really well when a wrist injury forced him to the disabled list, posting a .375 batting average and 6 home runs in July. He may need to change positions eventually, but his bat can carry him through to the majors.
12. Willy Adames - Rays (A+)
Another 19 year old at High-A, Adames has done well at the pitching-friendly Florida State League, posting a 121 wRC+ despite a 27% strikeout rate. The tools remain for Adames to be a solid hitter that can stay at shortstop long term.
13. Gleyber Torres - Cubs (A)
Torres has been a big mover this season, hitting very well at Low-A South Bend with a .291 batting average and 22 steals. His potential to hit for a high average will make him fantasy relevant, and the potential for some of his other tools to develop could make him an impact player as well.
14. Ozhaino Albies - Braves (A)
Albies finished the season with a .310 batting average and 29 steals after suffering a fractured thumb earlier in the month. The potential for a top-of-the-order hitter is there, and Albies could provide enough value between the batting average and steals even if he hits for no power.
15. Michael Chavis - Red Sox (A)
Chavis has been playing third base primarily on the stacked Greenville infield at Low-A, but unfortunately the only thing that appears interesting from his stat line is the 15 home runs so far. It's not clear that he can play third base either though, which will only put more pressure on his bat.
HM: Trevor Story - Rockies (AAA)
Story has reached AAA and with Troy Tulowitzki now in Toronto, looks like the heir apparent to start the 2016 season. He can potentially provide double digit steals and home runs, and should receive a slight bump from his home park as well.
Potential Names for 2016's List
Orlando Arcia - Brewers - Well, here was miss #1 in the offseason. Arcia was able to carry forward his performance in 2014 through the year at AA in 2015, hitting .301 with eight home runs and 23 stolen bases. He's the future shortstop for the Brewers, and it could be as soon as 2016 if they opt to trade Jean Segura.
Jorge Mateo - Yankees - Speed kills, and for Mateo his speed has been absolutely destroying catchers across Low and High-A. He's up to 82 steals in 116 games, and it's not expected to be hollow speed down the line either. He's anticipated to provide a good batting average and some power with it as well.
Dansby Swanson - Diamondbacks - The top pick in this year's draft, Swanson profiles as a potential .280-.290 hitter with 7-10 home runs and 20+ stolen bases while remaining at shortstop.
Brendan Rodgers - Rockies - The numbers are already jumping off the page for Rodgers, who has three home runs, four stolen bases, and is hitting .279 as an 18-year old in the Pioneer League. The potential (in four to five years) is for a top 5 fantasy shortstop, capable of providing 20-25 home runs with a good batting average. Add in a potential bump for calling Coors his home, and it all lines up for him as the top fantasy prospect from this year's draft.
Alex Bregman - Astros - It's not clear exactly where Bregman will play for the Astros long term, but his bat should be good enough for second base, shortstop, or center field. The potential for him is to provide solid production across the board, with batting average being the potential to differentiate him.