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2015 MLB Draft: HS Shortstops (May Update)

A guy named Rodgers is number one. We covered him. Beyond that, things at the high school level are chaotic (in a good way!) as any and all attempts at sorting through this year’s shortstop class are met with with general uneasiness one might feel when attempting to make ice cream for the first time ever. I actually don’t know if that makes a real, smart adult uneasy, but I, a fake, non-smart adult, was in that exact position last night feeling a bit anxious (and, yes, uneasy) about how things would turn out. Well it turns out that when mixing vanilla, sugar, whole milk, and heavy cream together, it’s really, really hard to make something that doesn’t taste good. It might not be ice cream as you know it (or it might!), but it’ll be sweet and cold and close enough to something you recognize as tasty and familiar that you walk away fairly satisfied that you’ve accomplished something worthwhile after eating some. Perhaps as importantly, you’re then forever emboldened with the belief that next time will be even better.

That’s more or less where I’m at with this updated shortstop ranking. There are enough interesting players to write about that I don’t feel too bad about excluding some quality names, but I hope that my eventual final rankings bring me closer to whatever “truth” there is and will be about the unwritten futures of these hard working young men. Rodgers is first and then…I don’t know. Nobody does. That’s what makes this fun. In fact, I’m not sure there are any “wrong” choices as you fill out a post-Rodgers ranking of the position. Of course, it wasn’t that long ago that you could argue for Kyler Murray and Lucius Fox as the second and third best shortstop prospects in this high school class. Those days are long gone, but there’s still an impressive group of talented potential regulars left behind. I’m going to write their names down on scraps of paper, toss them in a hat, and pick to get an expert quality order. Hold on, let me find a hat. Got it and done! We have an order. Let’s proceed.

High school statistics don’t mean a whole heck of a lot in the grand scheme of things, but they are still occasionally fun to look at. Cadyn Grenier (Bishop Gorman HS, Nevada) this year: .513/.636/.894 with 17 extra base hits in 107 PA and 25 BB/9 K. He’s also swiped 21 of 23 bags. He’s a career .532/.616/.859 high school hitter in 363 PA with 60 BB/28 K and 47/49 SB. Is that good? It seems good. Incidentally, Marty Cordova stands as the best Bishop Gorman alum to play pro ball to date, though Joey Gallo figures to change that within the next few seasons or so. Baseball Draft Report: come for the near-meaningless high school stats, stay for the pointless trivia!

More importantly (and on topic), Grenier’s scouting profile reminds me some of where Alex Bregman was back when he was coming out of high school in New Mexico. I think, like the current version of Bregman, Grenier has at least a 50/50 shot at sticking at shortstop for a few years as a professional due in part to a strong enough arm, good first step quickness/instincts, and athleticism to spare. Even if second base winds up as his eventual home, he has the bat to make him an above-average regular if it all works out. I’ve gotten a Howie Kendrick comp on his bat as he’s been described to me as one of those guys who can wake up in the morning ready to hit. He “can roll out of bed and get a base knock” is how that’s usually worded, I guess. You get the idea.

Jalen Miller (Riverwood HS, Georgia) put up eye-popping stats of his own this spring (.464/.562/.875…and, yes, I’m done mentioning HS stats now) and has an equally appealing skill set that almost certainly will be preferred by big league clubs this June. Miller’s calling card is his defense, which is a great thing made greater in a class of high school shortstops with bats generally ahead of their gloves. You take Miller and don’t worry one whit about his future position. The open question about his game has been his ultimate upside with the bat in his hands. I was one of those slow to embrace him as a hitter, but the amount of progress he’s made as a hitter this spring season is undeniable. That alone makes him a unique case for me because I typically weigh summer showcase performance more heavily than whatever transpires on the local high school schedule. That’s a bit counterintuitive maybe – shouldn’t real games that count in the standings take precedence over the manipulated matchups and workouts of the summer season? – but the more level playing field and all-in-one nature typified by the showcase circuit makes it pretty appealing for a scout (or “scout”) looking for some one-stop shopping.

Still, the rise of showcase baseball will forever make me anxious because of both the artificiality of the entire endeavor and the pay-to-play business practices that squeeze out prospects unable to cover the expenses associated with being seen by the right people in today’s modern game. To that point, I’d never hold it against a player for not playing in showcases and always remain open to seeing and hearing about new names or improved games in the spring. It’s still important to recognize that showcases aren’t going anywhere anytime soon – they are BIG business, after all – and I’ll admit that the logistical advantages of getting as many premium talents together in one place to square off head-to-head is of greater import to me “professionally” than any of my moral objections.

Where were we again? Right, Jalen Miller. The Georgia prep shortstop impressed both on the showcase circuit and during his high school team’s spring season. That’s a big positive. I’ve heard the Brandon Phillips comparisons, but I don’t see Miller as quite that kind of player. He’s a better bet to stay at short in the long run, but not as likely to hit for as much power (his pop was described to me as “sneaky”) as even a young Phillips was projected.

Nick Shumpert (Highlands Ranch HS, Colorado) is another high-level easy to like middle infield prospect. On straight tools alone, he might rank second only to Rodgers in this year’s high school shortstop class. If power upside is what you want, I’d say he’s pretty clearly second only to Rodgers. That average or better raw power combined with a fascinating mixture of athleticism, arm strength (average, maybe more), speed (above-average, plays up), defensive upside (love him at second, but think he could also excel at short in time), and bat speed (so hard to measure objectively, but whatever it is he has it) make him a pretty large personal favorite. He’s even got the big league bloodlines thing going for him, if you’re into that sort of thing. If there’s a player in this class I’d compare to Phillips, it would be Shumpert and his explosive hands at the plate.

I’ve written about Nick Madrigal (Elk Grove HS, California) and my rather optimistic comp for his future before. Here we go…

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?

Only that last part needs amending, but that’s only because we’re now just one month out instead of nine. Between that post and this right very second I asked around quite a bit on Madrigal, receiving mostly favorable feedback along the way. There were some who questioned his size, more who questioned his power utility (a fair concern in my view), and most agreed that a utility ceiling with a chance for more in spurts was a fair projection going forward. I can’t say that’s wrong, but I’ll still bump him up a few spots on my rankings because of what I’ve seen firsthand. Whether you want to call that giving into personal bias or following an instinctual hunch, that’s where I’m at with Madrigal right now. One comp I got on him (bat only) that I enjoy for reasons both practical and personal: Tadahito Iguchi.

I mentioned in September that Xavier LeGrant (Phillip O. Berry Academy of Tech, North Carolina) reminded me some of Shumpert. I stand by that today. I’d also add that Jonathan India (American Heritage HS, Florida) reminds me some of Miller. Baseball America (I believe) has compared India to Avery Romero in the past, but that’s another one I’m not really seeing. India is a better bet defensively to stick at short than Romero ever was. Brandon Perez (Mater Dei HS, California) will be a fan favorite across minor league parks almost immediately for his defensive work. Trey Dawson (Hurricane HS, West Virginia), Logan Tolbert (IMG Academy, Florida), O’Neal Lochridge (St. Thomas More HS, Louisiana), and Kyle Datres (Loyalsock HS, Pennsylvania) stand out as particularly interesting players found a bit lower than the list than they arguably deserve. Daino Deas, like Miller, is a Georgia high school middle infielder, so of course he’s also received the popular Brandon Phillips comp that seems to come with the (literal) territory. Again, I don’t see it other than a few superficial similarities but everybody’s got their own opinions and that’s cool.

If your favorite high school shortstop (or son or cousin or neighbor) isn’t included here, it’s entirely possible that I goofed so let me know. Be advised, however, that these are pro projections (or my best attempts at such), so the high school shortstop you know and love today could be listed with the future pro second basemen and third basemen (coming soon!) of tomorrow.

SS Brendan Rodgers (Lake Mary HS, Florida):
SS/2B Cadyn Greiner (Bishop Gorman HS, Nevada)
SS/2B Nick Shumpert (Highlands Ranch HS, Colorado)
SS Jalen Miller (Riverwood HS, Georgia)
SS Nick Madrigal (Elk Grove HS, California)
SS/2B Xavier LeGrant (Phillip O. Berry Academy of Tech, North Carolina)
SS Jonathan India (American Heritage HS, Florida)
SS Brandon Perez (Mater Dei HS, California)
SS Trey Dawson (Hurricane HS, West Virginia)
SS/3B Logan Tolbert (IMG Academy, Florida)
SS/2B Daino Deas (Parkview HS, Georgia)
SS Chris Reid (St. Michael the Archangel HS, Louisiana)
SS/RHP Kyle Datres (Loyalsock HS, Pennsylvania)
SS/RHP O’Neal Lochridge (St. Thomas More HS, Louisiana)
SS/OF/RHP Daniel Neal (South Laurel HS, Kentucky)
SS Brody Cook (Riverdale Baptist HS, Maryland)
SS/2B Luke Wakamatsu (Keller HS, Texas)
SS Ramon Alejo (Boone HS, Florida)
SS Jake Mueller (Richland Northeast HS, South Carolina)
SS Grant Cox (Greenville HS, South Carolina)
SS David Posas (Valdosta HS, Georgia)
SS Jack Weiller (John Jay Cross River HS, New York)
SS/2B Beau O’Hara (Seven Lakes HS, Texas)
SS Deacon Liput (Oviedo HS, Florida)
SS Trevor Brown (Parkview HS, Georgia)
SS Gabriel Cancel (Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy, Puerto Rico)
SS/2B Nico Hoerner (Head Royce HS, California)
SS/RHP Dylan Doherty (Foothill HS, California)
SS/RHP Dylan Poncho (Kinder HS, Louisiana)
SS Nate Fisbeck (The Woodlands HS, Texas)
SS Jonathan Meola (Toms River East HS, New Jersey)
SS Christian Rivera (Cypress Creek HS, Texas)
SS/2B Jeremy Pena (Classical HS, Rhode Island)
SS Garrett Zoukis (Landon HS, Virginia)
SS AJ Graffanino (Northwest Christian HS, Arizona)
SS/2B Jade Salmon-Williams (Brampton SS, Ontario)
SS/3B Jeremiah Burks (Will C. Wood HS, California)
SS Branden Becker (Cajon HS, California)
SS Carter Hall (Wesleyan HS, Georgia)
SS/2B Tristan Metten (Prestonwood Christian Academy, Texas)
SS Ty Denzer (Chanhassen HS, Minnesota)
SS Kyle Isbel (Etiwanda HS, California)
SS Tyler Ankrom (San Clemente HS, California)
SS Nick Dunn (Shikellamy HS, Pennsylvania)
SS Jay Sanford (Pope John XXIII HS, New Jersey)
SS Brandon Janofsky (Jackson Memorial HS, New Jersey)