With it looking more and more likely there will be no MLB baseball this year and zero MiLB baseball, as we know it, it can be tough as a fantasy baseball fan to concentrate on baseball. However, if you play in dynasty leagues, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It will be very tough, from a personal and hobby standpoint, but we will get through this. The Dynasty Team here at Pitcher List brings you the Top 10 Shortstop Prospects to give a brief respite from what is going on. The shortstop position in MLB has changed over the past few years. The idea of positional scarcity does not exist now but there are still a bunch of prospects on the horizon. The position has never looked better. Without further ado, here we go.
1. Wander Franco – Tampa Bay Rays
Highest Level: High-A
This ranking was a bit obvious. Franco is easily the number-one prospect in all of baseball. What Franco has done in his young career is magical. He hit .327/.400/.886 with nine home runs and 18 stolen bases in 113 games between Low-A and High-A. Not only that but Franco stuck out 34 times and walked 56 times and he just turned 19 years old. He has an elite hit tool—most scouts have it rated as an 80-grade. Franco has an excellent eye at the plate to go along with exceptional pitch recognition. He is able to get the barrel on the ball consistently and his max exit velocity of 108 MPH puts him around Kristian Robinson and Julio Rodriguez. While he is currently playing shortstop, there is a huge possibility that Franco will see more time at second base when he arrives at Tropicana Field. Willy Adames is a great defender and showed some eyes on growth last season. From a fantasy baseball standpoint, this is great news, as the second base position has been a wasteland, unlike shortstop. However, I am a bit bearish on how many bases he will swipe as time goes on. Not only are stolen bases slowly leaving the game but his 56% success rate is below league average. That being said, Franco is going to be a stud and fun to watch whenever he makes his debut.
2. Marco Luciano – San Francisco Giants
Highest Level: Short Season
Marco Luciano burst onto the scene last year after demolishing the Arizona League at only seventeen years old. In his 178 ABs, Luciano hit .322/.438/.616 with ten home runs and nine doubles. What makes Luciano amazing his ability to get the bat through the zone and barrel up the baseball. His max exit velocity of 109 MPH is impressive and indicates he should still be able to put a bunch of balls over the fence, even in San Francisco’s cavernous ballpark. “It sounds like a cannon going off.” one evaluator was reported saying after watching a batting practice session. Not only does Luciano have big-time power potential, but he also has the hit tool that will let him reach most of that power. His arm is strong enough but his footwork needs some work if he is to stick at short. No worries if he moves to third base, as the power/hit combination easily plays there.
3. Carter Kieboom – Washington Nationals
Highest Level: MLB
If you have read any of my previous posts you know I’ve always been a fan of Carter Kieboom. He is as cool as a cucumber in the box, with a swing as smooth as butter and max exit velocities in the upper crust of the minor leagues (okay… that last one might have pushed it). He is patient at the plate, but not to a fault—if you hang a curveball, he will destroy it. He sprays the ball to all fields so he should rack up extra-base hits with ease. Some people might be put off by the cup of espresso Kieboom received last year but don’t worry. Kieboom has traditionally struggled when moving to a new level. However, once he got his “legs underneath him,” he started to mash the ball. While he should start the season, if there is one, with the Nationals as their everyday third baseman, I thought he should be included in the list as he played most of his games at shortstop last year.
4. Bobby Witt Jr. – Kansas City Royals
Highest Level: Rookie
Bobby Witt Jr. was drafted second overall by the Royals last year but struggled in his first taste of professional ball. Witt Jr. is super athletic, even for a shortstop, and has above-average power. In fact, he won the high school home run derby the year before he was drafted and had a max exit velocity reading of 109 MPH this year. He does have some swing and miss in his game, evidence by the 25.6 K% in the Rookie Arizona League. Even so, Witt Jr. has the look and feel of an above-average shortstop. He has a quick first step, to both sides, and a quick, accurate arm so he will stick at the position. He also has above-average speed so there is the possibility for double-digit stolen bases in his future. Don’t be turned off by his “slow” start, Witt Jr. is a potential five-tool stud.
5. CJ Abrams – San Diego Padres
Highest Level: Low-A
CJ Abrams was selected by the Padres in the first round last year and, unlike Witt Jr., destroyed the Rookie-Level Arizona League. During his 142 ABs, he slashed .401/.442/.662 with twelve doubles and three home runs. His eight triples and 14 stolen bases display his above-average speed, not to mention a .425 BABIP. Obviously, that stat line is not sustainable but with Abrams’ excellent bat-to-ball skills, quick, direct bat path, and quickness, he should be able to keep high BABIPs and batting averages during his career. His max exit velocity of 102 MPH was very impressive, especially keeping in mind he should add some muscle to his frame as he moves up the ladder. However, he will most likely have to move off the position has the only thing lacking is his arm to make those quick, long throws deep in the hole. I could see him sliding over to second base or center field. Wherever Abrams’ final position is, he will be a fantasy baseball asset.
6. Noelvi Marte – Seattle Mariners
Highest Level: Rookie
The Mariners have really improved their system in the past couple of years. They’ve drafted well (Logan Gilbert and George Kirby), traded well (Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn), and scouted well internationally (Julio Rodriguez and Noelvi Marte). The Mariners signed Marte during the 2018 J2 signing period and would be at the top of a team’s system if he was with any other team. As an 18-year-old, he dominated the Dominican Summer League by slashing .309/.371/.511 with 18 doubles and nine home runs. His max exit velocity of 103 MPH is above-average for MLB and very impressive for someone so young. He has an advanced approach at the plate with a compact swing that he uses to get to his above-average power. He is an above-average runner but will probably slow down as he gets older and fills out. He has a bit more work to do in the field, especially with his footwork, and I could see him moving over to third as he has the arm for the position. I thought the Mariners would go the ‘Julio Rodriguez‘ promotion route and have him skip the Arizona League to start his career in Low-A but well… you know.
7. Ronny Mauricio – New York Mets
Highest Level: Low-A
The Mets were super aggressive with Maurico’s assignment to start the 2019 season as he started the season in Low-A. While on the surface, Mauricio performed below league average by hitting .268/.307/.357 but keep in mind he is about three years younger than most of the players at that level. At 6’3″ and 166 lbs, he is built like a string bean but he should be able to add a bunch of weight as he gets older. That is good news as he already makes loud, hard contact and with a max exit velocity of 102 MPH, he should smack 25-30 home runs easily. Rau Mau hits the ball to all fields but does own a groundball rate above 50% so if he can tweak his swing and get the barrel up just a tad, he is going to shoot up the ranks. Mauricio has the arm, footwork, and lateral quickness to easily stick at the position.
8. Oneil Cruz – Pittsburgh Pirates
Highest Level: Double-A
At 6’7″, there are few baseball players like Oneil Cruz and even fewer who play shortstop. The 21-year-old played at two levels and hit .300/.359/.479 with 15 doubles and nine home runs. Sure, he strikes out quite a bit but a 16-17 SwStk% is not bad for someone with a strike zone/long levers like him. He plays an excellent shortstop but we would be kidding ourselves if we thought he would stick there. He will probably move to the outfield, and with his cannon of an arm, should settle very nicely in right field. While the Pirates have made some pretty poor trades recently, this one might work out in their favor and Cruz sure does sound like a certain right fielder playing in Yankee Stadium.
9. Royce Lewis – Minnesota Twins
Highest Level: Double-A
Lewis, a number-one overall pick by the Twins in 2017, stumbled between High-A and Double-A in 2019. In his 132 games between the two levels, Lewis hit .242/.298/.382 with 28 doubles and 13 home runs. Lewis has above-average raw power but has struggled to get to it during games. He has a very exaggerated leg kick and loud hands before he gets his bat in the zone. All of that movement has disrupted his timing and a possible cause of his hitting and strikeout woes. During the Arizona Fall League, he moved to the outfield, which was a bit of a surprise, and performed very well in the field and at the plate. I do think Lewis is going to be a major league player, I’m just afraid that he is going to be more of an average fantasy player as all of the before-swing movement scares me away. He does have some of the best makeup and work ethic in the minors that can prove me wrong very quickly.
10. Jose Garcia – Cincinnati Reds
Highest Level: High-A
Due to his performance at the Junior National Team in Cuba, the Reds signed Jose Garcia but he did not make his debut until 2018 due to a long defection process. Therefore, it is not surprising to see that Garcia struggled to a .245/.290/.344 batting line in Low-A Dayton. I’m not surprised to see someone so young, in a new country, and in a cold-weather climate like Dayton, Ohio to be on a struggle bus for his first year. Even with his below-average performance, the Reds promoted him to High-A, and Garcia went off. In 104 games, he slashed .280/.343/.436 with 37 doubles, eight home runs, and 15 stolen bases. Keep in mind that the power explosion was at the Florida State League, which a notorious pitchers league. Not only has his production at the plate improved but his performance on the dirt improved. He played mostly at second base in Cuba but moved over to shortstop when he came stateside. His footwork and arm strength have improved so much that most evaluators think he can stick at shortstop. This ranking might be a bit aggressive based on one year of outstanding performance but he has no one blocking him in Cincinnati and I believe in what I saw this year.
Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)