1. SS Francisco Lindor (Montverde Academy, Florida)
So much has already been written about Lindor that I think I’ll cut right to the chase and explain what excites me about him and what worries me about him. First, and most obvious, is the glove. There are many factors that lead to attrition when it comes to amateur shortstops hoping to stick at the position professionally, but Lindor is as safe a bet as any prep player to stay at short that I can remember. He has the range, the hands, the instincts, the athleticism, and the arm to not only stick up to middle, but to excel there. With that out of the way, we can focus on his bat. At the plate, Lindor has one big thing going for him: his age. At only 17 years of age, Lindor is one of the 2011 draft’s youngest prospects. For a guy with as many questions with the bat as Lindor has, it is a very good thing that he has time on his side. His swing really works from the right side, generating surprisingly easy pull power. From the left side, there is much work to be done. There is something about his lefty stroke that seems to limit his power (can’t put my finger on what exactly), but you have to imagine good coaching and hard work give that a solid chance to improve. The iffy swing is mitigated some by his impressive bat speed, but it is still a worry. On balance, however, I have to say I do like his raw power upside as much as any of his offensive tools (hit tool is average for me and I don’t think he’ll be a big basestealing threat as a pro) and can envision a future where he hits upwards of fifteen homers annually. This may be an example of me forcing a comp when there really isn’t one there, but I’ve come around to the idea that Lindor shares many similarities to current Texas Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus (Lindor’s power advantage and Andrus’ plus speed make this one a stretch, but I could see vaguely similar batting lines despite the differences). Rather than a ceiling comp, however, I’d say that Andrus qualifies as Lindor’s big league floor. If we’re talking upside, Lindor compares favorably with Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins.
2. SS Trevor Story (Irving HS, Texas)
Trevor Story is about 90% of Francisco Lindor with only about 10% of the hype. His biggest tool is the draft’s best infield arm, a literal rocket launcher (note: arm may not be literally a rocket launcher) affixed to his upper body capable of producing consistent mid-90s heat. His range at short is more good than great, but his crazy arm strength actually helps in this regard as it enables him to play back far enough in the hole. Unlike Lindor, I think more of his hit tool than his raw power – his swing is at its best when geared towards making solid contact, and he actually hurts himself when he overswings to create more power.
3. SS Tyler Greene (West Boca Raton HS, Florida)
Greene has two clear plus tools — raw power and speed — and the defensive tools to stay up the middle. His unusually quick hands at the plate allow him to hit to all fields, but it is a bit of a double-edged sword – those same quick hands seem to have given him the belief that he can hit anything throw within six inches of the plate, a good plan if you are Vlad Guerrero but maybe not the best plan of attack for a young hitter. A little more plate discipline and some polish in the field would go a long way in making the elite shortstop prospect his other tools dictate.
4. SS Brandon Martin (Santiago HS, California)
What stands out to me about Martin’s game is his approach to hitting. His speed is good, his arm is good, and the likelihood he sticks at shortstop is, well, good, but it is his potential plus hit tool and professional approach at the plate that separates him from the pack. Regular readers of the site probably realize that certain hitting-related buzzwords — approach, patience, maturity — get my attention more than others — aggressive being the first that comes to mind — and many of my favorites just so happen to be words that scouts often use to describe Martin.
5. SS Julius Gaines (Luella HS, Georgia):
There are about a dozen prep shortstops who can realistically lay claim to “potential big league shortstop,” a statement that is more about their defensive futures than any kind of upside at the plate. When projecting shortstops long-term, defense is king. If there is one thing we are sure Gaines can do, it’s defense. How the bat develops is a whole other story, but his range and hands at short are so good that his hit tool is almost an afterthought. Almost.
6. SS Connor Barron (Sumrall HS, Mississippi)
It is easy to see why Barron has been on of the draft’s fastest risers this spring. He has great speed, a strong arm, and a big league frame that makes projecting his bat a easy relative to many of his draft class peers. The Reid Brignac comps are popular, and with good reason.
7. SS Drake Roberts (Brenham HS, Texas)
My thought on Roberts at the onset of the season was that he was probably good enough to stick at shortstop as a professional, but not a candidate to ever win himself a Gold Glove along the way. Things have since changed. Now I’m not necessarily ready to predict that he’ll win any hardware down the line, but, man, has his defense progressed nicely since last summer. We’re talking excellent hands, smooth actions, good first step quickness, above-average range to his left, and an average arm that plays up because of its accuracy.
8. SS Mikal Hill (Mallard Creek HS, North Carolina)
Heard a Delino DeShields comp on Hill that I find pretty interesting, but I like to compare his upside to early career (i.e. pre-power spike) Chuck Knoblauch. His plus range and plus-plus speed ensure he’ll be able to contribute even if the bat doesn’t come around. That’s not to say that his tools at the plate are bad – he has a long history of hitting high velocity pitching and a hit tool that grades out as average down the line. I am less sure of his ultimate ceiling with the bat (mainly the power…again, I don’t expect him, or almost any amateur middle infielder, to ever be a power hitter, but showing even the threat of a little bit of pop as opposed to no pop goes a long way because of how professional pitchers attack certain types of hitters) when compared to fellow defense first prospects Julius Gaines and Drake Roberts, thus explaining his spot below each guy on this list.
9. SS Chris Mariscal (Clovis North HS, California)
Broken record alert: Mariscal has really good defensive tools at short, a plus arm, above-average speed, a solid hit tool, and not a whole lot of power. In other words, he is pretty much exactly what you’d expect out of a non-first round high school shortstop prospect. Sorting out these players is something I do for fun here in this low-stakes couple thousands hits a day website; I can’t imagine how difficult it is to do it with literally millions of dollars of future player value at stake.
10. SS Nico Slater (Jupiter HS, Florida)
Slater is another quick rising prospect who showed a much improved bat in the latter half of the spring. If that progress is real, then his newfound combination of that average or better hit tool and his already good enough to stick up the middle defense (and plus arm strength) make him a viable option for a team looking for a long-term starting option once the elite talents are off the board.
11. SS Mitchell Walding (St. Mary’s HS, California)
Tools, tools, tools. Based solely on his intriguing blend of future power, arm strength, and defensive upside, Walding could be ranked just outside the top five on this list. As it stands, however, he falls a bit later because the gap between what he currently is and what he could be some day is substantial. The power upside is dependent on his pro frame (6-4, 185) filling out and his swing getting tweaked, the arm strength upside will rely on his weird arm action being adjusted, and the defensive upside will only be reached after thousands of groundballs off the fungo. If nothing else, I appreciate his high boom/high bust style of prospectdom, a fun departure from the series of “yes glove, maybe bat, no power” players that often make up the second wave of prep shortstop prospects. As an added bonus, if it all works out, he has the bat and power potential to start in the big leagues even if he has to move off short.
12. SS Brett Harrison (Green Valley HS, Nevada)
My first draft originally had Harrison with the second base prospects, but a quick word from a smart guy suggested I was underselling his defensive upside. I believe a sampling of that quick word included the phrase “unbelievably light on his feet, like he is fielding on a cloud” or something weirdly poetic like that. There isn’t a whole lot there with the bat just yet, but after being told he had a “criminally underrated pure hit tool” I reconsidered and relented. Still not sold on the power ever coming around, but if he can combine an above-average hit tool with solid defense and a good arm, then we’ve got ourselves a nice looking prospect. There is an outside shot Harrison could go undrafted if teams are as convinced as my smart guy seems to be about his commitment to Hawaii.
13. SS Tommy Williams (Palm Beach Gardens HS, Florida): quick bat; legit shortstop; strong arm
Williams has a quick bat, strong arm, and, most importantly, a very good chance to stay at shortstop now and forever. He gets a little lost in the shuffle in what is a very good year for Florida high school middle infielders, but he’s a good one.
14. SS Jack Lopez (Deltona HS, Florida)
Plus defensive tools will keep Lopez at short until the day he retires from the game to go sell life insurance (or whatever it is ex-ballplayers do these days).
15. SS Zac LaNeve (Pine Richland HS, Pennsylvania)
Pretty sure I have not correctly spelled the first name of a prospect who goes by Zack/Zach/Zac on my first try in the three years this site has been alive and breathing. I’m hoping I nailed it here with Zac, but my confidence level isn’t as high as it should be. My confidence in LaNeve as a solid mid-round sleeper option, however, is right on target. His tools won’t jump at you, but he can field the position and run a little bit. At this point on the list, those things are big.