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May 8, 2013

Prospects Will Break Your Heart

Checking In On: Shortstops, Part 3

by Jason Parks

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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:
12
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:
66
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:
96
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.

Outside the 101

Ronny Rodriguez (Indians)
Placement on Indians Top 10:
3
Current Level: Double-A Akron
2013 Sample: .235/.252/.339 (30 games; 115 at-bats)
Notes: With the rise of the uber-prospect, it gets forgotten that a 21-year-old in Double-A is actually ahead of most developmental curves and not behind. Rodriguez is over his head right now in a big boy league, but he’s still a legit major-league prospect. The problem is that his future is most likely as a utility option or second baseman, as the chops to play on the left side are a little too raw. I’ve seen Rodriguez at least 10 times since he signed, and each time I came away with a different take. At the plate, he shows bat speed and power potential, although you wouldn’t think that was the case based on his statistical line so far in the Eastern League. His approach is problematic, as he doesn’t work into hitters counts and his aggressiveness gives pitchers a roadmap to exploit him. In the field, Rodriguez can play the part of a shortstop, but is a much better fit at second, where his arm is a legit weapon and his range isn’t a major weakness. He might have a utility future or the bat might step up enough to make him a regular at second, but it’s a stretch to assume he blossoms into anything more than role 5 type.

Roman Quinn (Phillies)
Placement on Phillies Top Ten:
4
Current Level: Low-A Lakewood
2013 Sample: .196/.262/.277 (28 games; 112 at-bats)
Notes: Quinn has legit 80-grade speed and people love them some speed. The problem with speed is that it’s a catalytic tool, one that can enhance the utility of other tools but is unlikely to propel a player into the prospect stratosphere on its own merit. Quinn turned heads last season in the New York-Penn League, where the then 19-year-old showed off his blazing speed and some feel for contact with the bat. Given his premium position on the diamond, the Billy Hamilton comps took off, and before long Quinn was getting mentioned by a few sources as a top 100 prospect in the game. While the speed still grades out as elite, the hit tool carries average projections and his glove isn’t major-league quality at shortstop. Several scouts have suggested center field as a possible home for the speedster, keeping him at a premium spot on the diamond and helping him establish value even if the bat is better suited for down the lineup. He’s still very young and just getting his feet wet at the full-season level, but he will have to show more than just speed if he wants to climb the professional ladder and eventually find a home at the highest level.

Joe Panik (Giants)
Placement on Giants Top 10:
8
Current Level: Double-A Richmond
2013 Sample: .306/.387/.405 (31 games; 121 at-bats)
Notes: Panik can play the game, and that’s the best way to describe his profile. He can make plays in the field, he can put the bat on the ball at the plate, he plays with his head up, and has a good fundamental approach. The tools aren’t flashy, and despite making it work in the minors, his defensive profile at shortstop isn’t going to move anyone off the position at the highest level. He is a gamer and I really like watching him, but the arm is only a 5, the range has to stand on a box to get to a 5, and he’s not exactly gaining any fast-twitch athleticism, so it is what it is. But he can play the game, which sounds reductive, but guys with baseball skills win the day over guys with raw tools and no utility of those tools. Panik is hitting well in Double-A, and in all likelihood, he’s going to be a decent hitter at the highest level. He’s most likely a hit-tool second baseman, but he will be a valuable member of any 25-man roster because he possesses fundamental skills for the game, despite not having any loud tools or big impact potential.

Adrian Marin (Orioles)
Placement on Orioles Top 10:
9
Current Level: Low-A Delmarva
2013 Sample: .191/.228/.234 (26 games; 94 at-bats)
Notes: A third-round pick in 2012, Marin flashed some hit tool ability in his complex league run, and showed a promising glove at short. However, reviews of the overall defensive profile were mixed, with some disagreeing about the quality of the glove and the legitimacy of the arm, which several sources labeled as fringy. So far in 2013, the bat is nowhere to be found and the defensive reports remain mixed. One source labeled Marin as a future utility player at best, and that’s only if his bat and glove take huge steps forward on his journey to that highest level. The good news is that Marin is very young (19) and shows a natural aptitude for the game, so it’s too early to give up on the promise. The bat is a legit question mark, and if he can’t hit he’s not going to have much value if he eventually has to move away from the position.

Jake Hager (Rays)
Placement on Rays Top 10:
On the Rise
Current Level: High-A Charlotte
2013 Sample: .280/.326/.360 (30 games; 125 at-bats)
Notes: Hager is a prototypical Gestalt prospect, whose overall skill set is greater than the sum of his individual tools. I have many sources that question his ability to stick at shortstop at the highest level, but the same ones are quick to point out that you can’t discount or write off this kid in any way. After a solid season at the plate in Low-A in 2012, Hager is once again doing a little bit of everything: making contact, showing some ability to drive the ball, and even swiping a few bags. The defense is still a question mark, but he has instincts for the game and can make plays. It remains to be seen if Hager develops into a legit major-league player or if his ceiling falls a bit short of that mark, but this is a 20-year-old kid holding his own at the advanced High-A level, and like the aforementioned scouting opinion, it wouldn’t be wise to put this kid into a box quite yet.

Niko Goodrum (Twins)
Placement on Twins Top 10:
On the Rise
Current Level: Low-A Cedar Rapids
2013 Sample: .281/.423/.382 (25 games; 89 at-bats)

Notes: Goodrum is an interesting prospect because of the physical projection involved, as the 6’3’’ frame could easily hold more strength and the power could end
up jumping several grades before he reaches the top of his developmental arc. The defense has some red flags, as the arm is plenty strong but the actions are stiff and the expected physical growth could limit his range. The hit tool has some promise, and the approach is extremely mature; although, as pointed out by BP’s Chris Mellen, for a guy who understands the strike zone and seems to recognize pitches fairly well, Goodrum has a lot of swing-and-miss on balls in the zone. This is something to keep an eye on as he climbs the ranks, as is his physical growth, which could be the catalyst in a positional move. If everything breaks, Goodrum could develop into a top 100 prospect with impact potential at the highest level, but he has a long road to reach that point and most of that depends on the direction his body takes. 

Jason Parks is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

Related Content:  Prospects,  Joe Panik,  Shortstop Prospects

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