Again, these are players that myworld likes to eventually be major league shortstops. They may not be the best shortstops in the minor leagues, but they are certainly major league quality, at least in my opinion. It seems like many of your Caribbean players start out as shortstops, get too big and then have to find another position. It is hard to believe that Miguel Cabrera was first listed as a shortstop when he was signed out of the Dominican Republic. Myworld has done our best to only select those players who we think will stay at this position. They are listed in alphabetical order. There is no rating in this list.
Zack Cozart (Reds) United States - It was a small sample size, but in a short major league opportunity he showed that he had the skills to play the position, hitting .324 in 37 at bats. It was supposed to be a more extended debut but he hurt his nonthrowing elbow while making a tag ending his season. The Reds have tried many players at this position, but they either could not hit or lacked the range or arm to play the position on an extended basis. Cozart will not be a superstar shortstop with the offensive production of a Manny Machado, but he will get the job done. While he hit .300 in both AAA and the majors last year his career minor league average entering the 2011 season was only .262. He has also had some poor walk to whiff ratios some years so expect more a shortstop that is solid defensively that will hit .260 with lower double digit figures in homeruns. The one concern myworld has is a smoother defensive shortstop Didi Gregorius lurks at the lower levels. Didi has less offensive tools than Zack but superior defensive tools so it all depends on what the Reds want out of their shortstop.
Nick Franklin (Mariners) United States - Of all the shortstops listed here he is probably the best suited for a move to either third or second base. What may prevent a move from happening is the lack of viable shortstops in the Mariners system that can take over the position. They have second round pick Marcus Littlewood and Dominican bonus baby Esteilon Peguero, but both those players are expected to move from their position as they mature. Carlos Triunfel is listed as a shortstop at the higher levels, but he is more of a third baseman. Nick does not have outstanding defensive tools, but he could end up in the mold of Cal Ripken, a solid offensive shortstop who hits for power and plays a consistent defense. His 2011 season was plagued by nagging injuries that prevented him from getting into any kind of rhythm with the bat. He only hit seven homeruns last year after hitting 23 in 2010. He did play in the Arizona Fall League and hit .258 with two homeruns in 24 games. Expect an average that hovers around the .250 area with 20 plus homeruns, unless he sacrifices power for average in which case he could get up to .280.
Didi Gregorius (Reds) Netherlands Antilles - Myworld was quite impressed with his smooth actions at shortstop during the baseball world cup in Panama. The balls bounced true into his glove and he covered a lot of ground. The only concern is whether he will have enough bat to play the position. He didn’t offer me anything in Panama that showed me he could hit, though we waited in hopeful anticipation for him to let loose with the bat. Didi did combine for a .289 average with seven homeruns at High A/AA. He runs the bases well but his 11 for 21 success rate in stolen bases shows he has a lot to learn in reading the pitcher. That has been consistent throughout his minor league career. He has a baseball playing family, with a father who played in the Netherlands professional league as a pitcher and a brother who has also pitched for the Netherlands Antilles national team with his father. The key will be how Didi handles pitchers as he rises up the system, especially lefthanders, who cause him great difficulty.
Adeiny Hechevarria (Blue Jays) Cuba - Adeiny signed a nice $10 million contract with the Blue Jays after he defected in 2009 from the junior national team during a tournament in Mexico. He has yet to reach the major leagues but he will only turn 22 in 2012. There was some concern his first year in the Florida State League when he only hit .193 but the Blue Jays promoted him to AA anyway and he rebounded to hit .273. He did the same thing this year, struggling in AA at .235 until being promoted to AAA where he ripped through the league with a .389 average in just over 100 at bats. Perhaps he has a rough time getting motivated until August. If so, that attitude will have to change if he ever hopes to play in the major leagues. He did hit .250 in 72 AFL at bats, legging four triples. His stolen base proficiency needs a lot of work with a 20 for 35 success rate. He has all the tools to play the postion defensively in the major leagues now. Adeiny just needs to get more consistency with the stick, and that starts with improving his patience at the plate (33/99 walk to whiff ratio in 2011).
Jose Iglesias (Red Sox) Cuba - Another junior national shortstop that defected in 2008 at a tournament in Canada. The Red Sox set the bar for Adeiny by signing Jose to an $8.25 million four year contract that included a $6.25 million bonus. He has the same slick defensive tools as Adeiny but there are still questions about the bat. Jose only hit .235 last year at AAA Pawtucket with an OBA under .300. Even with Gold Glove level defense the Red Sox fans will not tolerate that kind of offense. Jose also seems to lack any kind of power, slugging just .269. He has hit just one homerun in his two years in the United States. Jose will only turn 22 in 2012 so a fullyear in AAA will hopefully show some improvement in the stick. He did get a brief callup last year and hit .333 in just six at bats, but his main purpose was to be used as a defensive replacement.
Hak-Ju Lee (Rays) South Korea - Another gifted defensive shortstop with deer like speed. He is one of the rewards of the Cubs efforts in South Korea, though they traded him to the Rays as one of the several players for Matt Garza. Lee missed his first year because of Tommy John surgery, but he got everyone to take notice when he hit .330 with 25 stolen bases in his debut at a short season league. Some advertised him as a five tool player with the eventual ability to hit for power as he fills out, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. The Rays should be happy with his four outstanding tools. He did struggle a bit when he was promoted to AA, hitting only .190 in his 100 at bats there. He also dipped below 70 percent in his stolen base success rate, something he needs to improve on if managers feel comfortable giving him the green light.
Manny Machado (Orioles) United States - At 6′3″ he may get too big for shortstop, especially if his body fills out. He won’t have the flashy range as the Cuban shortstops nor the smooth actions of Didi, but he will be more like Nick Franklin, steady enough to make all the plays. Manny will also contribute offensively, something the flashier shortstops lack. Many have compared him to Alex Rodriguez because of his height, Dominican heritage and Miami upbringing. Manny was the third overall pick in 2010, but signed late resulting in minimum playing time. This year he played, but nagging injuries limited him to 101 games and may have dragged his average down to .251. It will be interesting to see what he can do in a healthy year. The power did not show up in 2011, but he was still a teenager playing in High A. Give him time and many of his drives will carry over the fence.
Jurickson Profar (Rangers) Curacao - It will be interesting in 2013 who will be playing shortstop for the Netherlands in the WBC. Didi played for them in the World Cup but my bet is that Profar will be their shortstop in the WBC. Some even think that eventually he will move Elvis Andrus from shortstop to second just like Elvis moved Michael Young to third base. He is probably the best combination of offense and defense on this list. In 2011 he hit .286 with 12 homeruns, but more improtantly 37 doubles. He also stole 23 bases in 32 attempts, but don’t expect that to continue as he rises to the higher levels. As the youngest player in the South Atlantic League his performance won him the MVP vote, leading his team Hickory to the best regular season record. MLB.com also voted him as the Class A best hitter. With Elvis at shortstop, the Rangers can be patient with his development.
Jean Segura (Angels) Dominican Republic - Normally shortstops are moved to second base after they don’t show enough range or arm for the shortstop position. It is rare when you see a second baseman shift to short. Mariano Duncan is the last one I can remember. Jean has the arm and range to play the position defensively. The reason they moved him is they have another player to play second in Alex Amarista and if Alex doesn’t pan out it would be easy to move Jean back to second if he can’t supplant Erick Aybar at short. Jean also had issues with injuries that limited him to just 52 games last year. When he played though he hit well, with a .293 average, four homeruns and 26 RBIs. It will be interesting to see if the Angles decide to promote him to AA next year after only playing 44 games at high A. He did get a seven game trial in AAA in 2009, but that was as a second baseman.
Andrelton Simmons (Braves) Curacao - Another player the Netherlands can slide into the shortstop position for the WBC. He has an interesting background in that major league scouts were not impressed enough with him to sign him off the island. So he went to the States to play at Western Oklahoma State junior college where he abused pitchers for a .472 average, seven homeruns and 40 RBIs in just 38 games played. He also stole 15 bases and hit 98 miles per hour on the speed gun. That was enough to make him a second round pick in 2010. He won the Carolina League batting title in 2011 with his .311 average, though his power only displayed one homerun. He did hit 35 doubles and was voted by the league as the best defensive shortstop. Those are some pretty impressive credentials to win a batting title and be voted the top defensive player at your position. His only real downside was that he was only successful in 26 of his 44 stolen base attempts.
Trevor Story (Rockies) United States - Number one draft picks are generally not put in the category of sleeper, but he does play for the Rockies and his odds of moving Troy Tulowitski from the position are pretty limited. He has to hope that he gets traded if he wants to continue to play shortstop. The problem with Trevor is that he has such a good bat that the Rockies will probably move him to second base before they consider trading him. As a 2011 number one pick, he signed early enough to play a bit in the minor leagues where he hit .268 with six homeruns and a .463 slugging percentage. Trevor split his time between third and short in 2011, but his middle infield awareness might suit him best at second if he can’t supplant Troy at short.