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May 8, 2013

Prospects Will Break Your Heart

Checking In On: Shortstops, Part 3

by Jason Parks

In the first two installments of this series, we took a detailed look at the progress of the top shortstops in the minors; specifically, the shortstops who either possessed the pure skill to stick at the position all the way up the chain or possessed enough of that desired purity to make an interesting argument for their long-term projection at the position. For the third and final section, we will take a closer look at the shortstops who feature a less-than-pure skill set and will most likely be playing another position at the highest level.

It needs to be said that not all shortstops are created equal, and just because there is a 6 next to your name on the lineup doesn’t mean you possess the aforementioned pure defensive qualities of the players evaluated in previous articles. Organizational need and passable [read: suspect but playable] skills can often win the day, and without trusted eyes on the prize, a good bat can often influence how we view a good glove. It’s realistic to assume that a few prospects featured in this part of the series might end up playing some shortstop at the major-league level, and suggesting otherwise isn’t an assault on their status; rather, projecting a player to stay at the position at the highest level is highly uncommon, which should elevate those in that category without diminishing those who fall a little short. These are the prospects for whom industry opinion reaches volumes louder than a whisper when it comes to their ultimate defensive roles.

Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox)
Placement on BP 101:
Current Level: Double-A Portland
2013 Sample: .303/.373/.465 (23 games; 99 at-bats)
Notes: Opinions are quite mixed when it comes to Bogaerts’ defensive profile, with a healthy chunk of sources suggesting his future home will be at the hot corner and not at shortstop. The pessimistic view is often encouraged by Bogaerts’ actions and range, both of which underwhelm when compared to his contemporaries at the highest level. But the “makes it work” crowd will argue that his actions are good enough and that he makes the plays he is supposed to make, giving him all the necessary attributes to handle the demands of the position. While he isn’t going to take home any hardware for his defensive prowess, youth and athleticism could keep him at the position in the short term, which will keep his overall value at a premium. The bat is still the ticket, and as he continues to mature –both physically and at the plate –his combination of hit tool and power could make him a middle-of-the-order threat. The approach needs some refinement, as he still has a lot of miss in his game. But the ability to hit is there, as he has shown a feel for putting the barrel on the ball against both lefties and righties. He looks good so far in Double-A, although the game power that will eventually be a staple of his game has yet to fully explode. The 20-year-old has plenty of time to build his game, and if he keeps this up all season, he should emerge as a top 10 prospect in the minors.

Alen Hanson (Pirates)
Placement on BP 101:
Current Level: High-A Bradenton
2013 Sample: .239/.308/.316 (29 games; 117 at-bats)
Notes: Hanson became a prospect darling after his breakout full-season campaign in 2012, and rightfully so; the slight middle-infielder had an impressive 62 extra-base hits in 124 games, including 16 bombs. But even as the bat was receiving praise, the overall skill set at shortstop was prompting question marks, as the average-at-best arm and average glove didn’t inspire a lot of confidence in his ability to play the position at the highest level. Those question marks continue to appear on the reports, but so far in 2013, the bat has been raising some concerns of its own. Hanson isn’t a power hitter, but he can sting the baseball, with a quick swing that is short to the ball and surprisingly strong through it. With his contact ability, squirrelly pop, and good speed, Hanson brings multiple dimensions to the plate, but he’s struggling to find hard contact in the Florida State League, rolling over off-speed offerings and falling behind quality fastballs. Hitting is as much mental as it is physical, and several sources suggested that Hanson looks uncomfortable at the plate but not completely lost. Sometimes all it takes is a minor tweak to the swing or good hard contact to spark the confidence, and the natural hitter will once again emerge. Because of the limitations on defense, Hanson is going to have to hit to have value, but the offensive upside is there if he finds a way to put it together. Despite the early-season struggles, it would be foolish to write off this prospect because the profile at shortstop is less than ideal or the bat is slow out of the gate. This kid knows how to hit, and he’s going to make the adjustments that bring the bat back to life.

Dorssys Paulino (Indians)
Placement on BP 101:
Current Level: Low-A Lake County
2013 Sample: .213/.282/.223 (25 games; 94 at-bats)
Notes: Paulino had a strong professional debut in 2012, crushing at the complex level, and holding his own in a brief stop in the New York-Penn League, where the 17-year-old flashed his offensive promise. Full-season baseball isn’t treating Paulino with the same love so far in 2013, as the bat has been very light and reports on the defense remain tepid at best. At the plate, Paulino has a plan but struggles to execute it. He tracks pitches well and knows the strike zone, but his contact is often weak and lifeless. He has good hands and can generate bat speed, but so far this season he isn’t putting the barrel on the ball with much authority and he is getting beaten by stuff. Paulino is a young 18, and he could spend several years in the low minors and still be ahead of the developmental curve. The biggest issue is that his defensive profile is better suited for the keystone, mostly because his actions lack the fluidity and grace of a big-league shortstop. This puts the bonus on the bat, and his hit tool and power projections could end up making him a first-division talent if he reaches his potential. But he’s a long way from that reality, and it could take a few years before he regains the prospect status he enjoyed coming into this season.

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Related Content:  Prospects,  Joe Panik,  Shortstop Prospects

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The Lineup Card: 10 Th... (05/08)
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