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April 8, 2014

Prospects Will Break Your Heart

Polling the Industry: Pick a Shortstop Superprospect

by Jason Parks and BP Prospect Staff


The rise of the superstar shortstop prospect prompts preferential inquiries, as my email inbox, Twitter feed, and chat queues are continually maxed out with questions about Bogaerts, Baez, Correa, Lindor, and Russell, and if forced to choose, which one would I choose? The five chiseled heads on the modern Mount Rushmore of shortstop prospects (six if you go high on Mondesi) present a daily challenge of preference, a subjective exercise of forced selection tied to the realities of the present and the fantasies of the future, a tug-of-war we play with ropes made of tangible data, scouting memories of on-the-field motions, and the conceptual ideas of value and who will be most likely to achieve it.

For the sake of debate and discussion, I decided to pose the following hypothetical to 10 front office sources, which included General Managers, Scouting Directors, and Directors of Player Personnel: Assume you are starting a franchise, which current shortstop prospect would you choose to build your team around? For this particular hypothetical, I removed Bogaerts from the equation because of his major-league status, leaving the remaining Four Horseman of the Shortstop Apocalypse standing in full view of the selection committee. In addition to the front office sources—whose opinions will be documented but protected—I presented the same question to some of the highly valued talent evaluators on the Baseball Prospectus Prospect team, and those opinions will be documented and attributed when applicable. Let’s take a look at the results.

Industry Vote (10 total)

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61 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

mattseward

Would be great if we could do a follow up article on this by someone like Russell Carlton into the relative value of the players in warp at different positions so is a 45 Baez at SS better than a 60 Baez at 2b or 3b? How does that compare to Lindor who might be a 60-65 defender at SS?

Maybe if we ask Russell nicely and promise to put sprinkles on I he might look into it. Would be good to know where the values met

Apr 08, 2014 04:09 AM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

#RainbowSprinkles alert!

Apr 08, 2014 05:35 AM
 
DanDaMan

If Machado switches to SS (as expected), where would his future rank compared to these guys?

Apr 08, 2014 05:06 AM
rating: 4
 
John Geer
(44)

Curious about the exact same thing, but more "where would Machado rank amongst these guys at the same stage of development?"
I don't see the benefit/mentality behind moving Machado now that he is clearly an outstanding 3B with a GG SS next to him.

Also, this: "Basically a young Cal Ripken." Whoa. Cannot wait to see Correa in Houston.

Apr 08, 2014 06:30 AM
rating: 0
 
doog7642

I wonder if this doesn't suggest that Andrelton Simmons' recent contract is an enormous bargain. Am I misreading the comp between Simmons and Lindor?

Apr 08, 2014 05:12 AM
rating: 1
 
Nojsztat

#TeamCorrea

Apr 08, 2014 05:23 AM
rating: 2
 
boatman44

The "Golden Age" of the shortstop is at hand, bring it on !!

Apr 08, 2014 06:00 AM
rating: 0
 
dcapofari

Beaz for me. His offensive upside is unreal when considering how few HR hitters are left in the game. I think only 11 players hit 30 or over HR last year. To get a SS with that bat ability is like mixing Viagra and Cialis

Apr 08, 2014 06:32 AM
rating: 0
 
Matthew Trueblood

Value is value. We've gotten way too into the mindset of "this is rare, so it's extra valuable." Value is value. The shape of value matters a little when finishing a roster, but it shouldn't color evaluations of a player themselves.

Apr 08, 2014 08:02 AM
rating: 4
 
Nathan

Great point, but I'm not even sure it matters when finishing a roster, provided the value is really measured accurately as improving a team's chance to win games. Teams don't have to be balanced. They have to win. Value is value, even for a completed roster. Any case where having more "value" doesn't lead to winning more games is one where the value metric needs to be adjusted.

Apr 08, 2014 21:35 PM
rating: 0
 
Colby Rogers

I like to think I'd take chances on a guy like Baez over the safety of (and still greatness of) Lindor. But, I'm not in a position to lose my job as a general manager if it blows up in my face. The high risk of Baez for vs. the slightly lower ceiling bit high floor of Lindor begs the question of just how much more elite the ceiling needs to be for the safety of an elite floor of Lindor to be outweighed.

Apr 08, 2014 06:49 AM
rating: 0
 
mhmckay

I wish Bogaerts would have been included in the discussion set.

Apr 08, 2014 07:16 AM
rating: -2
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

It's hard to consider him on the same level when he's playing in the majors. I felt the article would offer more if the talent pool was specific to the minors and more abstract talents.

Apr 08, 2014 07:19 AM
 
Johnston

I have to second that he should have been included. I want to know about how all young SS compare, not just some of them.

Apr 08, 2014 11:13 AM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

He wasn't included because I wanted to limit the contenders to minor league personnel only. I set the variables in order to spark the debate. It wouldn't offer much if all ten people picked Bogaerts, would it? This is the exact article I wanted to produce.

Apr 08, 2014 11:17 AM
 
BP staff member Ron Shah
BP staff

If all the participants vote for Bogaerts, you wouldn't be learning about how any of the other candidates stack up besides in some order behind Bogaerts.

Then you'd need to run this exact exercise Jason did.

Apr 08, 2014 12:12 PM
 
mhmckay

Thanks for your comments -- I think you answered the question I had -- that Bogaerts ranks way ahead of all of these guys. Despite being a Boston fan, that wasn't intuitively obvious to me.

Apr 09, 2014 09:57 AM
rating: 0
 
gjhardy

This was a great piece because it goes beyond the tools issue. Your franchise player doesn't need to be the guy who puts up the best stats, and there are differences between the skills required to win games and the skills required to win fans. Manny Ramirez was a gifted player, but if you put nine of him on your roster, it would be chaos. I fear that Puig may have some of that same negative volatility.

Jeter became the face of the Yankees not just for his baseball skills, after all. I would suggest that SEA is positioning and grooming SS Brad Miller to play a similar role; he's not the best player on the roster -- not with Cano there! -- but he is interesting, well-spoken, savvy, and willing to play that role.

Some of the comments above seem to suggest that Lindor and Correa are seen as players who can be a franchise player, with lower ceilings than Baez but much more predictable outcomes. There is great value in that.

Apr 08, 2014 07:42 AM
rating: 0
 
patuta03

Love this sort of industry insider perspective. Do more of it. Great to read these quotes.

Apr 08, 2014 07:46 AM
rating: 6
 
maphal

Is there any reason I can't just take them all?

Apr 08, 2014 07:55 AM
rating: -1
 
Matthew Trueblood

The name of the game is not making outs at the plate. Lindor has an OBP ceiling the others can't match and an OBP floor as high as Baez's OBP ceiling. If Lindor's glove is also the strongest in the group, what are we even talking about?

It's Lindor.

Apr 08, 2014 07:59 AM
rating: 1
 
Behemoth

Do you think you would get a different answer if you just asked who is the best prospect, or who will be the best player?

Apr 08, 2014 08:04 AM
rating: 1
 
crile2

Any thoughts where Bogaerts would rank if he were eligible for this?

Apr 08, 2014 08:07 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

He would rank #1

Apr 08, 2014 08:57 AM
 
Johnston
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Sigh. Again, I wish he had been included.

Apr 08, 2014 11:15 AM
rating: -17
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

It wouldn't have offered much, as mentioned.

Apr 08, 2014 14:45 PM
 
chidavidi

what is it about bogaerts (aside from the fact that he's currently a big leaguer) that would have you choosing him over lindor and baez?

Apr 08, 2014 19:22 PM
rating: 0
 
Johnston
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

That question is one of the reasons that I think that he should have been included.

Apr 08, 2014 19:27 PM
rating: -4
 
BP staff member Chris Mellen
BP staff

I'm not speaking for Jason's point of view, but I would also take Bogaerts #1 here. I like his hit tool (the loose hands) more than Baez's, along with the ease in which he generates batspeed. Bogaerts has one of the easiest swings around, and with each step up the ranks, including the majors, has improved when it comes to the approach.

He also doesn't overcommit like Baez does for fastballs or totally sellout for lift. I'm pretty comfortable saying that Bogaerts is going to hit .300 in a season(s), and the game power is going to crest. He's just scratching the surface in that department. Put me down for 30 homers in his peak.

While Lindor is superior defensively, and there's a gap, I think you can keep Bogaerts there for a bit and it'll be ok as opposed to my comments in the article above in regards to Baez. I see Bogaerts as a third baseman eventually though. He's not ultra natural and at times looks stiff at short.

I'll take that defensive trade off, though, when it comes to him over Lindor, and Baez with the bat, because I see Bogaerts as less volatile at the plate season over season due to the way he's shown to adjust quickly to each challenge. I feel Bogaerts will ramp into his offensive peak, getting better and better over the seasons until he hits it. I get the feel with Baez that things could be jagged, with there also being enough risk of never reaching it because of some of things outlined above.

Apr 08, 2014 20:24 PM
 
tommybones

The next 15 years is looking to be a golden age of SS. Can't wait!

Apr 08, 2014 08:50 AM
rating: 0
 
tommybones

Where is Profar in that mix, too....

Apr 08, 2014 08:51 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

I would take both Bogaerts over Profar, and possibly Lindor as well--because of the special defensive skill-set. I'm still very high on Profar, so I would take him over the rest of the SS crop.

Apr 08, 2014 09:04 AM
 
tommybones

Of course, the next question is... for fantasy purposes, what's the ranking? Baez an easy #1? Would he rank higher than Bogaerts?

Apr 08, 2014 08:59 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Bret Sayre
BP staff

I might as well jump in here. For fantasy purposes, I'd go Bogaerts, Baez, Correa, Russell, Lindor.

Apr 08, 2014 10:07 AM
 
Kevin Brown

I'm just wondering what the real question is here. Is it what prospect would I rather have, or what SS prospect. Up until the end monologue I was under the impression it was the latter.

Apr 08, 2014 09:15 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Which prospect would you build a franchise around. They all happen to be shortstops, with some profiling at the position better than others--which no doubt affected the decision. The overall question is about value as it pertains to the preference of a franchise talent.

Apr 08, 2014 09:21 AM
 
Kevin Brown

Thank you for the clarification, honestly I assumed it was just which short stop would you want and I assumed that was why so many people seemed to choose other players than Baez.

Apr 08, 2014 09:57 AM
rating: 0
 
rofldude

Truly a "Golden Age" for shortstops. Not even mentioned( but they may deserve it next year) were Owings and Mondesi.

Apr 08, 2014 09:19 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Owings wasn't mentioned because I don't think he has the same star potential as the lifted names. Mondesi could get to that level, but isn't in that class at present and wouldn't have received any attention in this article.

Apr 08, 2014 09:23 AM
 
John Douglass

Rangy glove-first SSs are not MVP candidates. They're bench players at the all-star game and 4-win guys in sabernerd arguments.

SSs who hit 40 bombs are best-player-in-baseball candidates. The only best-player-in-baseball of his time who was a SS in the modern era was A-Rod for a few years between Bonds and Pujols. He was ok with the glove and could hit a ton.

There's only one guy in this discussion who has best-player-in-baseball potential, and hoo boy doe he have it in spades.

The question is who's second: Correa, Lindor or Russell?

Apr 08, 2014 09:30 AM
rating: 1
 
fbraconi

Ernie Banks could certainly make that claim, as his back-to-back MVPs attest.

Apr 08, 2014 10:10 AM
rating: 0
 
Gotribe31

But the question wasn't "which of these SS has the highest upside?" As articulated by the FO and BP guys who are much smarter than all of us, Lindor has the highest floor, and while Baez could be a perrenial MVP from the SS position, he could also be 'merely' a 1st-division 2B, or even less.

Apr 08, 2014 11:29 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ron Shah
BP staff

To me, the question isn't solely about upside, but also weighing risk, floor (and some would say intangibles).

I mean, we ranked Baez higher than Correa, Lindor, and Russell on the BP 101. Even though I voted Russell in this exercise, I'm not denying Baez doesn't have the higher ceiling.

Apr 08, 2014 12:17 PM
 
John Douglass

Baez also has the higher 50th and 70th percentile projection than Lindor. That Lindor can come and field capably doesn't mean much when a capable or even plus defensive SS with little offensive value isn't a highly valuable player. He's Brendan Ryan. Nice if you can get him and you're on a budget and need to eke out an extra win, but not an appropriate player on a first division club with playoff aspirations.

Look at the Recent History Of The Highly Ranked Shortstop Prospect. Everyone is overrating them, and underrating the future David Ortizes, and rather than fixing the error the prospect rankers keep compounding it. By volume, the results among SS prospects the last 6 or so years would go:
1. guys who didn't/so far haven't justify/ied their prospect status (Wood, Brignac, Lillibridge, Hu, Triunfel, T. Beckham, Flores, G. Beckham, Profar and a host of others)
2. guys who moved off the position and were useful at MLB because of their bat (Chipper Jones, BJ, Moustakas, Machado, etc.)
3. guys who got to MLB and were well above-average (like 3.5 WAR or +) players for 3 or more consecutive years at SS (Elvis, Tulo, I think that's about it.)

Most SS prospects bust. Most SS prospects who translate to good MLB careers switch to another position because they can hit better than they can field and there's still more value in hitting than fielding. Yeah, a run is a run, but the opportunity to create them offensively still outweighs the opportunity to create them defensively. That's why the best offensive SS--Tulo--can be more valuable than the best defensive SS in 30 years--Simmons--while playing just 2/3 of a season. If the opposite were true we could rank the Lindors of the world higher than the Kris Bryants of the world.

A glove-first SS has to be historically elite to just be close to a great-hitting SS. The only way to put Lindor, Russell, Correa > Baez is if you think they will catch up to him offensively.

Apr 08, 2014 15:02 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Ron Shah
BP staff

Excellent rebuttal.

To nitpick, Machado should be a shortstop. Bogaerts is one.

But this is why I take Russell in this exercise. 6/6 at the plate with more walks, base running value, and defensive value (adjusting for position). High floor; ceiling.

Apr 08, 2014 16:25 PM
 
John Douglass

You know, what Ron? If Russell can post a wOBA in the .370 or up range in the high minors over a full season, I might like him more too. But as Jason very wisely said yesterday w/r/t Tapia, "But a good rule of thumb—in the particular context of evaluating position players—is that good hitters hit and bad hitters only project to hit." Baez hits. We know he's gonna hit. The others we don't have that certainty.

Apr 08, 2014 18:31 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Nick Faleris
BP staff

Well, if we are just going to purely scout stat lines, this is what jumps out to me:
At Double A:

Lindor (age 19, around 100 PA) .375 wOBA, 7.7% SO rate, 15.4% BB rate
Baez (age 20, around 240 PA) .435, 28.8% SO rate, 7.9% BB rate

Baez put up huge power numbers, no question. But utility at the highest level matters, and there are legit questions as to whether Baez is a .300/40+ HR monster or a useful .265/25 HR bat with swing and miss issues. Either way his on-base delta likely tops out at, what, 40 points? 50 points?

You stated Lindor is Brendan Ryan. Ryan was four years older at the same level in the minors with a lower walk rate and a higher strikeout rate, as well as an ISO 70 points south of Lindor's and a wOBA 60 points south of Lindor's despite a 40 point edge in BABIP.

You're underselling Lindor's bat and overselling Baez's certainty. You very well may be familiar with Baez, but based on your descriptions of Lindor I am not sure you have a feel for his profile at all.

All that said, it's of course reasonable to state a preference for Baez, I just disagree with some of your justifications. Thanks for the interesting dialogue and, of course, for reading.

Apr 08, 2014 19:28 PM
 
Behemoth

Baez is probably the only one with a realistic chance to go full Brandon Wood on us. The strikeouts do matter - yes, he has the potential to reduce them, but most people who strike out 29% of the time in AA end up with a severe strikeout problem in the majors. I mean, you can make a K-rate like that work in the bigs (Pedro Alvarez and Chris Davis say hi) but it's not all going to be plain sailing and there will be poor seasons mized in. And all of that assumes that the K-rate doesn't spike further when he gets to the majors.

Apr 09, 2014 00:58 AM
rating: 1
 
genehuh

I really enjoyed this article because this is the type of stuff I waste my time thinking about all day.

I love Lindor's approach, but I wonder whether being so polished right now is a negative for his prospect status. I mean, filling out physically may allow him to boost his power from 40 to 50-55 and he did win that HR derby back in HS. However, he's already walking more than he's striking out so you can't project what will happen when he becomes better with pitch recognition.

But with guys like Baez and Russell, both of whom strike out too much right now, you can dream on what would happen if they improved their approaches even slightly. If Baez curbs his tendency to chase sliders out of the zone, with that Sheffield bat speed he could become a .300 hitter with 30-40 HR power.

The guy who's advanced for his age won't have that edge once he gets to the majors.

Apr 08, 2014 09:56 AM
rating: 2
 
Behemoth

Saying the guy who is advanced for his age won't have that edge in the majors is a bit wrong-headed. Most players continue to develop when they get to the bigs, and the earlier you get there, the more opportunities you have to continue developing.

Apr 09, 2014 01:01 AM
rating: 2
 
genehuh

Of course, that would be an overgeneralization. However, the guy who's more polished than other players of his age may have simply moved more towards his ceiling (raising his floor) a little earlier and by the time that player makes the majors, the player who has a higher ceiling may very well close the gap. I love Lindor, but if he's currently a 45/50 and has a celling of 60/65 (60 hitter with 40 raw 70 field) and Baez is a 40 with an OFP of 70 (60 hit 70 raw 50 field), I'll take Baez because he has more room to grow.

Apr 10, 2014 11:52 AM
rating: 0
 
BPKevin

This is a great article and comments. Made me wonder if we could turn back time and change the names to Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra, Alex Rodriguez and Miguel Tejada.

Apr 08, 2014 10:34 AM
rating: 3
 
Johnston

Maybe the current crop will be better.

Apr 08, 2014 11:16 AM
rating: 0
 
R.A.Wagman

Jeter is to Lindor as Garciaparra is to Russell as Rodriguez is to Baez as Tejada is to Correa.

Apr 08, 2014 21:27 PM
rating: 0
 
smallflowers

Crazy to consider that Elvis Andrus and Jean Segura will also be in the argument once all these guys are in the majors.

Apr 08, 2014 13:57 PM
rating: 0
 
BirdlandPGH

From a strictly fantasy perspective? Seems like Baez is the clear leader, no?

Apr 08, 2014 14:25 PM
rating: 0
 
gphelp77

I like the comment from BPKevin. As prospects, no MLB sexperience considered, what would be the concensus be about Nomar, A-Rod, Jeter, and Tejada? I'm not interested in the comp, rather what skills were valued by the experts while these studs were in the minors, and then how they ultimately played out in the majors? Their legacies are obvious, but what can we learn from their actual careers besides longevity and steriods, from this context. If safety is valued in Lindor, who would of been the safe one of this historical question?

This is my favorite article of the 2 years I've now been a member!

Apr 08, 2014 15:28 PM
rating: 0
 
BPKevin

I hope I'm not offending BP, but I just found this site that gives minor league scouting reports...reading up on old ones of Jeter, Garciaparra and Tejada was rather insightful.
http://scouts.baseballhall.org/

Apr 08, 2014 19:31 PM
rating: 0
 
chidavidi

Jason - I know you're really high on Rosario. Do you see any chance that his upside could be on par w/ all the shortstops listed in this group or is his upside at a level below? Thanks.

Apr 08, 2014 19:24 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

My guess would be a tier below this group, which could end up being historically good.

Apr 09, 2014 06:42 AM
 
viconquest

Who has a higher chance of sticking as SS, Correa or Baez?

Apr 09, 2014 10:04 AM
rating: 0
 
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