Let’s Watch Some Shortstop Prospects Play Protection

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With Tutorial League underway in Arizona (casts look of disappointment towards Florida) and Fall League rosters doubtless about two weeks out, the time has come to line the coffers with information and re-worked scouting reviews in preparation for one more spherical of farm system audits. Particularly on the up-the-middle positions, protection is each crucial and likewise a little bit of a black field for readers, as there aren’t many publicly accessible minor league defensive stats and a lot of evaluating protection is visible. I’ve lately been engaged on a video deep dive on the place gamers at the moment graded as 50 FV prospects or higher, particularly to guage their protection intimately. Right here I’ve taken a cross on the shortstops, offering video dietary supplements for the prospects who I’ve evaluated within the 55 FV tier and above. I’ve made modifications to their defense and arm device grades over on The Board because of this train, and spotlight the cases the place this has induced a change to the participant’s overall FV grade within the evaluation beneath.

I’ve reduce the movies in such a manner you can see every shortstop making comparable performs one proper after one other. The movies characteristic performs to their left the place I need to see them flip their hips and throw, performs that present the intense finish of their vary, backhand performs within the gap to their proper, performs coming in on the grass, and double play makes an attempt. The fewest balls in play I watched for a person participant was 36 (Colson Montgomery and Dyan Jorge) and probably the most was nearer to 70 (Jackson Holliday, Carson Williams and Marcelo Mayer).

Jackson Holliday, Baltimore Orioles
Holliday isn’t at the moment an enormous league-quality shortstop defender, however he’s proficient sufficient to venture as an acceptable one throughout the subsequent couple of years. He’s most comfy throwing on the transfer from proper to left, and he typically goes out of his manner to take action even when it isn’t known as for. His capacity to make correct throws from odd platforms is spectacular, as are Holliday’s poise and inner clock. However his arms should not at all times sound, and Holliday lets quite a lot of choppers take an unnecessarily excessive hop, with the route of that hop generally shocking him. He must do a greater job of staying low and attacking one of these groundball nearer to the bottom, particularly when he’s transferring towards the opening to his proper. He additionally tends to take an additional step or two to assemble himself earlier than throwing, which the pace of main league play may not permit for. Once more, I feel Holliday will ultimately be tremendous, however proper now his bat is fairly comfortably forward of his protection.

Jackson Merrill, San Diego Padres
The important thing element right here is that Merrill has begun to play positions moreover shortstop over the previous couple of weeks. He’s performed a recreation or two every at first and second base, and a pair in left subject after having solely performed shortstop for his whole profession. Whereas his efficiency at quick can present an affordable facsimile for what Merrill ought to be capable of do at second base, it’s not but doable to guage him as an outfielder (he has solely had one remotely catchable fly ball hit to him up to now) and it’s nonetheless too early to have a coherent opinion about his protection at first base (although his footwork there up to now has been predictably tough).

In a vacuum, Merrill will doubtless be a shortstop match regardless of below-average arms due to his really feel and instincts for the place, in addition to his max-effort arm power. His feeds to second base when beginning double performs and his alternate across the bag when he’s the pivot man should be sooner. Xander Bogaerts and Ha-Seong Kim are each higher defenders than Merrill, which might be why you’re beginning to see him transfer across the diamond. If the Padres assume he can outhit Jake Cronenworth, he may usurp him in an analogous position.

Marcelo Mayer, Boston Pink Sox
Mayer has been out since August 2 with soreness in his non-throwing shoulder. Portland supervisor Chad Epperson told The Athletic two weeks in the past that Mayer was seven to 10 days from a return, however that has confirmed to be optimistic. The tape he put down previous to the harm is encouraging, although. I had Mayer evaluated as much less more likely to stick at shortstop than most of the others analyzed right here, however whereas he nonetheless has some points, his actions ought to allow him to take action. His arms are fantastically fast and skillful, and that is most evident on double play makes an attempt when he’s both beginning issues or appearing because the pivot man. Mayer can also be a way more pure low-to-the-ground athlete than both Holliday or Merrill, and he seems rather more comfy backhanding balls within the gap, although he doesn’t at all times have the arm to complete that play and his vary is a shade beneath common.

Brooks Lee, Minnesota Twins
Lee makes quite a lot of spectacular performs due to his savant-like really feel and acrobatic aptitude, rather more than by way of uncooked bodily capacity. He’s, nonetheless, the most effective bender of the shortstops analyzed up to now, getting deep into his legs on that key, telling backhand play that the others wrestle with. Lee is so good at making this play partly due to his capacity to bend (take a look at the angle of his hamstring relative to the bottom in comparison with the others) and partly as a result of his switch happens whereas he exits this place. Over the last month he has been uncharacteristically mistake-prone on some gimme grounders, however I don’t anticipate that will probably be a long-term situation. Given his thicker construct and harm historical past, it wouldn’t shock me if Lee’s capacity to play shortstop peters out throughout his preliminary years of workforce management, sooner than the youthful guys additionally analyzed on this article. However among the many all-around impression gamers close to the highest of this checklist, Lee and Jordan Lawlar are clearly probably the most main league-ready defenders right now.

Jordan Lawlar, Arizona Diamondbacks
Lawlar’s vary is barely honest, however now that his throwing stroke has been smoothed out, he’s in any other case an entire and wonderful shortstop defender with plus-plus actions. He generally goes right into a pop-up slide fairly than bend like most different shortstops would to subject sure grounders to both facet of him, however his capacity to exit that slide in place to make a powerful, correct throw is unimaginable and extremely entertaining. A number of shortstops are likely to cost sluggish rollers in on the grass and scoop the ball on the run, however Lawlar has by no means seemed comfy making this play and he appears to have made an adjustment, because it’s onerous to seek out him doing it on tape. As a substitute, he tends to attend on the baseball, and depend on the quickness of his actions and his arm power. It’s working up to now. He and incumbent Diamondbacks shortstop Geraldo Perdomo are each superb defenders, however Perdomo has plenty of expertise at different positions, making him a extra pure match to maneuver round in a superutility capability when Arizona thinks Lawlar is prepared. I’ve elevated Lawlar’s defensive analysis. That, mixed with the best way his strikeout charges have stabilized, induced me to maneuver him into the 60 FV tier forward of some inferior center infield defenders.

Carson Williams, Tampa Bay Rays
Williams is probably the most sensational and proficient defender right here, persistently making massive league-caliber performs whereas sprinkling in an absurd variety of internet gems for a man who’s barely 20 and has solely been specializing in being a place participant for a few years. Other than the occasional short-hop throw to first base (which is extra about Williams’ really feel for launch than it’s a lack of arm power), Carson is an entire defender who checks each scouting field emphatically. He strikes the baseball across the infield with tempo and precision whereas making most facets of protection look absurdly straightforward. He has premium athletic capacity, a plus-plus alternate, and the arm to be an upper-echelon defender on the place. Once more, Williams turned 20 on the finish of June. I’m nonetheless nervous about his hit device, however the impression of his shortstop protection goes to allow him to play a key position. He may produce just like the best way Willy Adames has, and I’ve juiced his FV into the 55 FV tier because of this train.

Different Shortstops Analyzed
White Sox prospect Colson Montgomery is a fairly agency and clear “no” at shortstop, although I suppose you could possibly argue he seems the best way he does as a result of he spent most of 2023 on the shelf with indirect and again points, which can nonetheless be impacting his mobility. Most of what Montgomery is doing on protection occurs too slowly, and runners find yourself secure on in any other case routine performs. His arms and vary are each comfortably beneath common, and 21-year-olds this dimension not often stick at quick. He’s clearly an awesome prospect due to his bat, however the notion that Montgomery is the second coming of Corey Seager in all respects is fake.

Guardians rookie Brayan Rocchio now seems tremendous at quick after experiencing the yips in Venezuela over the winter. His high-stress throws on do-or-die makes an attempt in on the grass typically require just a little little bit of assist from the primary baseman, which, with Kole Calhoun being requested to be taught the place on the fly on the massive league stage, made for some ugly baseball when Rocchio was up in August. His lightning-quick alternate and talent to make spinning throws on balls hit again up the center are the highlights of an in any other case common assortment of expertise on the place. He ought to stabilize the shortstop place subsequent 12 months as soon as Cleveland is soundly satisfied Gabriel Arias can’t hit.

You little question learn about Masyn Winn’s all-world arm power. That 80-grade device makes up for what can generally be a sluggish method to groundballs, which might in any other case trigger the baseball to reach late. Winn’s frequent have to rush his throws has typically induced first basemen to have to return off the bag, however this shouldn’t be a long-term situation. His vary and athleticism are each plus, whereas his arms and actions are nearer to common. He in all probability isn’t a future Gold Glover, however Winn is fairly comfortably the most effective shortstop defender within the Cardinals org and I take into account it extra doubtless that Tommy Edman and Brendan Donovan rotate round largely non-shortstop positions subsequent 12 months now that Masyn is in place.

The Blue Jays Addison Barger returned from elbow irritation in June and commenced to see an increasing number of time in proper subject in mid-July. For the reason that starting of August, he’s been taking part in largely proper subject whereas getting a begin someplace on the infield about as soon as every week. He was evaluated as a 40-grade shortstop defender through the offseason and that also holds, as Barger’s ft and arms are missing however his arm is a match mainly anyplace on the infield. He’s able to taking part in shortstop however isn’t superb, and with Bo Bichette entrenched because the workforce’s on a regular basis choice, it’s more likely that Barger performs a left-handed position that enhances Santiago Espinal and an ageing George Springer for the following a number of years. Barger may already be higher than Cavan Biggio is in that position proper now and will advantage down-the-stretch consideration, however the Jays selling Mason McCoy and Ernie Clement fairly than Barger (or Orelvis Martinez) in mild of current accidents to Bichette and Matt Chapman form of indicators what Toronto thinks of these guys on protection. As a result of he’s primarily slipping down the defensive spectrum, I’ve slid Barger into the 45 FV tier as extra of an integral position participant fairly than a real on a regular basis man.

I’ve dialed down the grades on Orioles infield prospect Joey Ortiz’s protection and arm by a full normal deviation. His diminutive dimension makes him particularly agile, however he lacks some other distinctive defensive attributes. I haven’t altered Ortiz’s FV grade, nonetheless, as a result of he’s nonetheless making a ton of contact and hitting the ball onerous, with a 46% hard-hit price at Norfolk. Right here is how a few of Ortiz’s extra granular offensive attributes stack up in opposition to the common of the highest 30 massive league second baseman from 2022 (i.e. about how he’d need to carry out to be a 50-grade participant at second). It feels okay to 50 him although second base is now within the image greater than earlier than.

Joey Ortiz Offense vs. Main League Second Basemen

Participant Z-Contact% Chase% Laborious Hit%
Joey Ortiz 89% 33% 46%
AVG of Prime 30 MLB 2B 88% 32% 35%

At greatest, high-ceiling Rockies prospect Dyan Jorge is at the moment a work-in-progress at shortstop, the place he stays susceptible to misplays. His arms are comfortably beneath common and his throwing stroke is a bit non-traditional. I had him speculatively projected to heart subject as an beginner and am again on that prepare after a short departure primarily based on my prolonged spring coaching seems. Marlins prospect, and fellow Cuban, Yiddi Cappe is in an analogous spot. Cappe has seen extra time at shortstop since Kahlil Watson was traded away however continues to be largely taking part in second base, the place his arm is a cleaner match. He’s sluggish to corral balls at shortstop and finally ends up writing slow-developing checks that his arm can’t money. Each of those guys deserve just a little extra time to air out developmentally as a result of they each waited an additional 12 months to signal, however they’re each nonetheless rather more about long-term athletic projection than current defensive ability.