These are the players who can make or break a major league team. Many of these players move on to other positions such as second base, third base or centerfield because of their athleticism and there are only 30 spots open to them in the major leagues. This is probably the most crowded position, with many of the major league teams already filled at shortstop. The Yankees have Didi Gregorius, the Mets will have Amed Rosario, the Nationals Trea Turner, the Indians Francisco Lindor, the Astros Carlos Correa, the Dodgers Corey Seager and on and on we can go. Some teams still need shortstops to make their lineup complete. They are the quarterback of an NFL team, the point guard in the NBA. Without a quality player at this position it is difficult to win in the major leagues. Below are some of the best that are waiting for their opportunity to prove themselves.
1. Willy Adames (Rays) - Signed by the Tigers but traded away in the David Price deal. Now that the Tigers are rebuilding he would be a good piece to have in that quest. The defense is there to make the plays and the bat will be productive. The strikeouts need to be tamed (132) but his high walk total (65) gave him a .360 OBA in AAA. He has the potential to hit 30 plus doubles with double digit homerun power approaching 20. Tampa is still looking for a shortstop and Willy could grab the position out of spring training in 2018.
2. Royce Lewis (Twins) - The Twins first round pick in 2017 and the first pick overall. His bat is solid and his defensive tools are strong. The big criticism is his lack of power and an average arm that could create a move to second base. Currently his power is built for the gaps with the speed to turn singles into doubles and doubles into triples. He makes consistent contact with the patience to draw walks. With his speed he could steal 40 plus bases. Royce is still a couple years away and won’t be introduced to the major leagues until 2020 at the earliest as a possible September callup.
3. Gleyber Torres (Yankees) - Gleyber was signed by the Cubs in 2013 for $1.7 million. They traded him to the Yankees to acquire Aroldis Chapman for half a season. Didi Gregorius stands in his way at the major league level and Tommy John surgery cut his 2017 season short by 100 games last year. The bat seems to be his most impressive tool with the ability to hit for average and power. This would allow a move to third base if Didi stays at short. The arm is strong but his range may not be as great as Didi. Don’t be surprised if Gleyber makes an impact to the 2018 season after spending the first couple months in the minors rehabbing his elbow.
4. Fernando Tatis Jr. (Padres) - The son of Fernando Sr. he carries the power of his father with the speed and tools to cover ground in the middle infield. At 6′3″ he may eventually have to move to third. He made a brief appearance at AA, combining for 22 homeruns at the two levels. There is still a lot of non contact with his at bats (77 walks with 141 whiffs) but the walks but his OBA close to .400 (.379). The Padres currently lack a shortstop so a good year at AA could convince the Padres to promote him by mid-season in 2018.
5. Kevin Maiten (To be determined) - The Braves signed him for $4.25 million in 2016. He immediately appeared on Top 100 lists as a 16 year old. His bat was a little quiet in his first season, producing an unimpressive .629 OPS in rookie ball. He didn’t show the bat or the defensive tools to justify the high bonus, but some have to remember he would still be a high school kid if still in the United States. Kevin is one of 13 players the Braves had to release because of the shenanigans the team practiced in circumventing the international salary cap.
6. Carter Kieboom (Nationals) - His father played in the Netherlands. His brother Spencer is a catcher and was first drafted by the Nationals, but lacks the tools of Carter. Carter was a first round pick in 2016 and struggled to stay healthy in 2017. The bat will be strong and spray the gaps, but he may need to move to third. At 6′2″ he may lose the range to stick at short. Whether he can move to third will depend on his gap hits turning into homeruns. He is still a couple years away so Trea has no worries to peer in the rear view mirror until sometime in 2020.
7. Brendan Rodgers (Rockies) - A first round pick in 2015 Brendan’s bat is ready for the major leagues in 2018. Trevor Story stands in his way at shortstop. One will have to move to second base if the Rockies want to get Brendan’s bat in the lineup. The power exists for 30 plus homeruns in Colorado, which would make him a offensive force in the middle infield. Neither Story or Rodgers has the speed to cover a lot of ground at short so it could be rock, paper, scissors to see who moves to second.
8. Delvin Perez (Cardinals) - The Cardinals first round pick in 2016. He may have not fallen to them if not for a drug failure prior to the draft. At 6′3″ the Puerto Rican reminds scouts of Carlos Correa, with less power but a more consistent glove. He also has good stolen base speed. A taller Francisco Lindor may be a better comparison, with Lindor not developing the power until he hit the major leagues. Last year Delvin was limited to 34 games because of injury. His bat was disappointing with a .203 average and .585 OPS. Delvin is still a couple years away from thinking about the major leagues.
9. J.P. Crawford (Phillies) - The Phillies keep waiting for his tools to make an appearance. His bat has produced two consecutive years of disappointing performances. Most were expecting him to move Freddy away from shortstop by now, but based on performance Freddy is the better shortstop and J.P. may have to move to second or third. He does draw a lot of walks which makes his .243 average more tolerable and he did hit a career high 15 homeruns. A .214 major league average and .656 OPS may keep him in AAA to start the 2018 season. The Phillies may make him earn his promotion to shortstop.
10. Andres Gimenez (Mets) - His defense at short would make him gold glove eligible but his lack of hitting tools makes him better as a utility player. His speed should give him 20 plus stolen bases. His lack of power stunted his slugging (.349). In 2016 in the Dominican Summer League he walked more than he struck out (21/13). Against better pitching state side those numbers were reversed (28/61). At 19 the Mets can be patient with him so don’t expect him to sniff the major leagues until 2020.
Others to Consider
Jorge Mateo (Athletics) - The acquisition of Gleyber Torres moved him to second. Dealt to the Athletics in the Sonny Gray trade he has returned to short. Speed is his best asset though he has shown some surprising pop. The Athletics are a little crowded at short so a move to center field to take advantage of his speed is still in the cards.
Cole Tucker (Pirates) - Not a lot of tools. A Jody Mercer clone once Jody leaves as a free agent. Does have the speed to steal 30 plus bases.
Richard Urena (Blue Jays) - A defensive shortstop who lacks a strong bat. Injuries to Troy Tulowitski will give him opportunities to prove himself at the position, but last year only hit .206 in his major league debut.
Wander Javier (Twins) - The Twins shelled out $4 million for Wander in 2015. Royce and Wander are the same age, but Royce has seen Low A. Wander is still in Rookie ball with injuries in 2016 restricting him to 9 games. He has the tools to play the position and the bat to be an impact player but needs the reps to let those tools shine.
Alfredo Rodriguez (Reds) - Not a lot of Cubans to fill the shortstop position. The glove is there to play the position but the bat is light, lacking power and the patience.
Yu-Cheng Chang (Indians) - Chang is the atypical Asian shortstop. He hits for power but his defensive tools may force a move to third. Too many swings and misses (134) kept his average low (.220).
Hoy-Jun Park (Yankees) - An expensive sign out of Korea ($1 million), Park has a smooth glove but a silent bat.
Richie Martin (Athletics) - The 2015 first round pick has the best glove in the Athletics organization. A questionable bat that lacks power may make him fall short as a major leaguer.
Kevin Newman (Pirates) - Another Jody Mercer clone that lacks the speed of Cole Tucker. His bat lacks power but makes solid contact to hit .270 plus.
Wander Franco (Rays) - At 16 years of age he is still a long ways away. The Rays paid $3.8 million to sign him. His bloodlines are good being the nephew of Eric Aybar. Dominicans have a tendency to outgrow shortstop.
Lucius Fox (Rays) - A defensive wizard with good speed the big impediment towards Lucius making an impact is a weak bat. Willy Adames will have claimed the position by the time Fox is ready so a move to second base or center field is a possibility. He has the speed to cover the grass in center.
Logan Warmoth (Blue Jays) - The Jays 2017 first round pick hit .302 in his half season professional debut. Not great defensive tools with power more suited for second base.