At one point, you could have made a case – a tenuous one, to be sure – that the shortstop position at the high school level was similar to the catcher spot. The catchers are currently Chris Betts and a lot of question marks. Shortstop has as clear a top prospect in Brendan Rodgers, but he’s not the only early round candidate worth knowing about. Some of the players listed won’t remain at shortstop, but many will. All in all, this is one of the deeper high school shortstop groups that I can remember this early in the process. Players always come out of nowhere and surprise just as attrition will knock some of the existing top players down a peg or three. I’m just saying that as of September 2014, this is a good group with a clear star at the top and a fun amount of depth trailing behind him.
It’s only logical to compare the aforementioned Brendan Rodgers to Florida’s top shortstop and eventual fifth overall pick, Nick Gordon. Perfect Game has also throw out a Troy Tulowitzki comp (not knocking it, though I don’t see it, but it seems like there’s one of these every year these days) and a JJ Hardy comp (more on target, I think). I’d actually compare his skill set and potential professional future with a different Florida amateur from back in the day: Florida State’s Stephen Drew (except righthanded this time). Rodgers is unquestionably ahead of Drew at similar stages of development – check out the HS scouting report of Drew from Baseball America when you can; it’s rough – and doesn’t come with any of the makeup questions that have dogged Drew (fairly or not) throughout his career. Rodgers, in fact, garners some of the highest praise of any amateur athlete I can remember when it comes to makeup; read this interview on Baseball America for some insight of how he views the game and keep it mind scouts have said this is just tip of the iceberg when it comes to his baseball IQ and commitment to maximizing his natural talent. The words “above-average” litter any report on his future tools: raw power, speed, arm (flashes plus), hit tool, and range/hands/instincts/footwork all hit the mark. The cherry on top is his explosive bat speed, which ranks at or near the top of this year’s group of high school hitters.
My only current quibble with Rodgers’ prospect standing is something he can’t control: his age. He’s not so old for his class that it’s going to move him down boards in any meaningful way, but it is worth keeping in mind when assessing his on-field performances over the past summer and going forward this spring. Even a few month developmental start can make a difference at that age. When you hear reports on his tools, forget about the age thing. If you hear from somebody raving about how he’s overmatching his competition, take it with a little grain of salt. Again, this is really is not anything to obsess about but rather something to store away in the back of your mind when comparing him against the rest of the very tippy top of the draft class. He’s still great, slightly overaged or not.
Cadyn Greiner is a massive personal favorite who ably combines a steady glove, strong arm, above-average speed, and a bat with a chance for an above-average or better hit tool with average power. He’s not quite Brendan Rodgers, but he may be 90% of him. I wish I was more confident that Greiner would stick at shortstop, but, if he has to move off, it is comforting to know he’s gifted enough to handle second base (with the chance he grows into enough power to make third base an option). Nick Shumpert’s glove is worth the price of admission, and the bat/speed could be enough to make him a future regular. He’ll be an interesting player to watch as he enters pro ball because he’s the type who projects as potential plus at second (or better…I really, really like his glove there) or around average at shortstop. What player brings more value? That’s a rhetorical question, as I’m a) not smart enough to actually figure that stuff out, and b) unsure there’s a good, publicly available way to figure that out, what with defensive metrics free for the masses still a relatively new and as yet imperfect measure for adjusting for such things. I hope a smart team with strong propriety defensive data collection system drafts Shumpert to help add a point to one side of the debate.
I’m quite sure somebody somewhere has beaten me to this, but I can’t find it anywhere after a solid fifteen seconds of Googling. Nick Madrigal has a lot of Jose Altuve in his game, and not just because he’s a fellow vertically challenged middle infield prospect. I mean, sure, that has a lot to do with the comp, but it also has to do with Madrigal’s excellent glove, advanced bat control, instincts beyond his years, underrated athleticism, and an approach to hitting tailor-made for pro ball. This is obviously a ceiling comp, as Altuve has matured into a very fine player, but if you can’t project high school players to big league all-stars nine months before the draft, then when can you?
Beyond those top four names, there’s still a ton of players who are good at baseball. That’s important because this is a site that makes guesses about which players will wind up being the best at baseball. In five to ten years we’ll have a better idea which of these players will make me look smart or stupid. I’ve considered using that as a new tagline for the site, if you can believe it. Logan Tolbert has the size, tools, and instincts teams fall in love with during the process. Lucius Fox is a great athlete with easy plus speed. Xavier LeGrant reminds me a little bit of a southern Nick Shumpert. Brandon Perez can really pick it at short and is a really smart hitter. The list goes on and on.
If you’re the type to wonder how a combined high school middle infield prospect list might currently look, then you’re in luck. I think I’d go Rodgers – Alonzo Jones – Greiner – Kyler Murray – Cornelius Randolph – Shumpert – Madrigal. Lots of close calls in there, so take it as tentative on tentative on tentative. Tentative is what I do best, after all.
SS Brendan Rodgers (Lake Mary HS, Florida)
SS/2B Cadyn Greiner (Bishop Gorman HS, Nevada)
SS/2B Nick Shumpert (Highlands Ranch HS, Colorado)
SS Nick Madrigal (Elk Grove HS, California)
SS/3B Logan Tolbert (IMG Academy, Florida)
SS/2B Lucius Fox (American Heritage HS, Florida)
SS/2B Xavier LeGrant (Phillip O Berry Academy of Tech, North Carolina)
SS/2B Daino Deas (Parkview HS, Georgia)
SS/OF/RHP Daniel Neal (South Laurel HS, Kentucky)
SS Brandon Perez (Mater Dei HS, California)
SS/2B Travis Blankenhorn (Pottsville Area HS, Pennsylvania)
SS/RHP O’Neal Lochridge (St. Thomas More HS, Louisiana)
SS Jalen Miller (Riverwood HS, Georgia)
SS Brody Cook (Riverdale Baptist HS, Maryland)
SS/RHP Kyle Datres (Loyalsock HS, Pennsylvania)
SS/2B Luke Wakamatsu (Keller HS, Texas)
SS Chris Reid (St. Michael the Archangel HS, Louisiana)
SS AJ Graffanino (Northwest Christian HS, Arizona)
SS/2B Tristan Metten (Prestonwood Christian Academy, Texas)
SS Ramon Alejo (Boone HS, Florida)
SS Carter Hall (Wesleyan HS, Georgia)
SS/3B Jeremiah Burks (Will C. Wood HS, California)
SS Brandon Janofsky (Jackson Memorial HS, New Jersey)
SS Jonathan Meola (Toms River East HS, New Jersey)
SS Nate Fisbeck (The Woodlands HS, Texas)
SS Kyle Isbel (Etiwanda HS, California)
SS Jake Mueller (Richland Northeast HS, South Carolina)
SS Grant Cox (Greenville HS, South Carolina)
SS Jay Sanford (Pope John XXIII HS, New Jersey)
SS David Posas (Valdosta HS, Georgia)
SS Dylan Doherty (Foothill HS, California)
SS/RHP Dylan Poncho (Kinder HS, Louisiana)
SS Ty Denzer (Chanhassen HS, Minnesota)
SS Deacon Liput (Oviedo HS, Florida)