Out of the organization
I’m not going to touch on free agent options or current ML starters to trade for here but take a look at some prospects that might change organizations at some point due to being blocked. Working out trades can be very difficult as the other team needs to match up with the Phillies, so it’s extremely likely that nothing ever happens.
Eduardo Nunez, NYY/MLB- Right now, Nunez is in the majors as the Yankees’ extra infielder, but that’s a bit of a waste considering scouts believe he can be a solid, every day ML shortstop. Unless Derek Jeter finally moves to center field which has been speculated on by fans for a while due to his lackluster defense, Nunez could be in his late 20’s before he ever gets a chance with the Yankees. Nunez will only be a bottom of the lineup hitter, but he has a good arm, nice range, and he can steal bases.
Eduardo Escobar, CHW/AAA- Escobar had a breakout season in 2010, posting an OPS over .700 at two levels combined, and then going to the AFL and having a great fall. Like Nunez, he won’t reach the majors with his bat, but he can play nice defense. His 2011 has been a bit of a step back at the plate, and it’s possible he’s become too pull-happy, one of his weaknesses. In the majors, he’s blocked by Alexei Ramirez who just signed a contract extension through 2015 this winter. He’s also a very good defender, and even though he’s played other positions in the past, the White Sox might not want to move him back off short.
Osvaldo Martinez, FLA/AAA- Martinez is the least talented of the three, and he’s also the least likely to be able to play at shortstop in the majors. He has a good arm, but his range may come up a little short at the ML level. He’s supposed to make good contact, but he’s off to an awful start in AAA New Orleans with a .190 average and .475 OPS. Now that Chris Coghlan is playing CF, it’s going to be harder for them to move Hanley Ramirez to a different position, so Martinez may be the one that has to move, but his bat doesn’t really profile at any other position.
There are plenty of other shortstop prospects in the minors, but for various reasons, they’ll be difficult to acquire due to their organization having a lot invested in them or have flaws and won’t necessarily be an upgrade. Adeiny Hechavarria may be blocked by Yunel Escobar at the moment, but Toronto paid a huge bonus to get him, and they wouldn’t part with him very easily. Drew Cumberland may be blocked by Jason Bartlett at the moment, but he has serious injury problems and never seems to be healthy.
In general, it seems like shortstop play is down in the majors and minors. There are a lot of flawed players in the league, but 30 players need to start at the position, and that’s why Miguel Tejada and and Brendan Ryan get opportunities. Looking at the Baseball America top 100 prospects list, there are 12 players currently playing shortstop. I think it’s fair to put shortstop prospects in three groups, those that have the complete package to play the position in the majors, those whose offense leaves them a little short of reaching the majors, and those who may not be able to play the defense required of ML shortstops. Here are the guys in the BA top 100 and what group I think they fit in. It’s certainly easy to argue a bunch of them.
(Well-rounded) Manny Machado (BAL), Jose Iglesias (BOS), Jurickson Profar (TEX), Hak-Ju Lee (TB), Jonathan Villar (HOU)
(Potentially lacking offense) Dee Gordon (LA)
(Potentially lacking defense) Billy Hamilton (CIN), Christian Colon (KC), Nick Franklin (SEA), Jean Segura* (ANA), Wilmer Flores (NYM), Miguel Sano (MIN), Grant Green (OAK)
The first group features a top three pick (Machado), three pretty highly touted international signings (Iglesias, Profar and Lee), and Villar is probably the easiest to argue out of that group. In fact, it’s possible to argue that Villar belongs in all three groups. The point is, these guys are tough to come by. Players could drop out of this group, and they could work their way into this group too, but these are the best of the best.
The second group might look a bit lacking with one player, but there’s a reason for that. It’s rare for players that can’t really hit in the minors to be considered top prospects, and there are plenty of minor league shortstops that can play great defense and just can’t hit. Some would say Iglesias belongs here, and if they were top 100 prospects, Freddy Galvis, Ehire Adrianza (SF) and the aforementioned Hechavarria would be here too.
The third group is so valuable because players that can hit well and stick at shortstop are incredibly valuable. Right now, they all lack a critical element to playing SS defensively, whether it be an inadequate arm or range. It’s possible that they develop the lacking part of the game, but sometimes that doesn’t happen. As Hanley Ramirez and Derek Jeter (in his prime) show, teams can put up with bad defense at shortstop if the player hits, and that’s possible for players in this group too.
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