Welcome down to the depths below the positional top 50, where each week we scavenge for potential crumbs among the current professional ranks and look mercifully into the future for the next wave of fantasy talent at each position. This series is geared towards those of you in deeper dynasty formats, particularly those either with a mid-season minor league draft or with no eligibility restrictions on the player pool. Here are links to the previous articles in this series:
Young shortstops have gained just notoriety of late on account of one of the most exciting headline crop in a generation, but the reality is that the position still lacks significantly for offensive depth (and it very likely always will). The handful of 2015 draftees most likely to make an eventual fantasy impact at accounted for in Bret Sayre’s Dynasty League Top 50 list (which you should read before continuing here), though there is some modest upside remaining below the top tier. And the 2016 class will feature one of the most hype international prospects you’ll find, along with several intriguing domestic options who may or may not be able to stick at the six spot.
Backup Types, But They’re Big Leaguers, So…
Marwin Gonzalez, HOU – Gonzalez quietly went about putting together a very solid season in a super-utility role for Houston last year, and he’ll enter his age-27 season with eligibility at first, third, and short; he also logged 15 games apiece in the outfield and at second, so in leagues with more lax positional requirements he checks even more boxes. He whiffs a bunch and the power spike last year was a bit out of nowhere, though it was reasonably supported by strong exit velocity when he lifted the ball. The middle-infield situation in Houston is obviously one of the worst scenarios for a backup, but an injury or trade could set him up as a nice little –only option with modest growth potential into a deeper mixed league asset.
Eduardo Escobar, MIN – Escobar is an intriguing “now” option for deeper-league players, after he cracked double-digits in mixed league earnings last year on the strength of his dozen homers, half-decent average, and okay counting stats. He’s not a big guy, but he flashes some bat speed in a max-effort swing, and he’s always had an interesting hit and power tool combination that finally started to play a bit last year after his approach took a step forward. He’ll enter his age-27 season with an everyday opportunity, and further improvement—even incremental—could result in mid-teens homers with a won’t-kill-you average to boot. Those numbers would firmly solidify him in next year’s top 50.
Freddy Galvis, PHI – Say what you will about Galvis’ generally uninspiring real-world play, he hit seven homers and stole 10 bases last year, and he has a clear path to an everyday job out of the gate this year for his age-26 season. The excitement should end there, however, as uber-prospect J.P. Crawford is (at least figuratively) breathing down his neck – though it should be noted that the rebuilding Phillies don’t exactly have a vested interest in starting Crawford’s clock any earlier that they have to.
Ruben Tejada, NYM – Look, I’m not here to choose sides, I’m just reporting what I see. For all his real-world issues, Tejada can get on base at a decent clip, and he posted one of the best doubles rates at the position in 2015. He’s buried in Flushing now, but if a trade opened up some playing time on a bad team it wouldn’t be the craziest to ever happen if he battled his way into deep mixed-league relevance.
Danny Santana, MIN – We are, after all, just one year removed from good fantasy baseball players drafting Santana 155th overall, so he at least deserves a nod here. He’s got some speed and a little pop (at least in theory), but he’s also moving to the outfield full-time in 2016, so even if a best-case scenario unfolds the chances of him appearing on this shortstop list next year are minimal.
Amed Rosario, NYM – Rosario spent all of last year as a 19-year-old in High-A, so he’s decidedly not one for the statline scouters among us. But real scouts continue to see some mild reasons for intrigue in the stick, as he shows above-average bat speed and an ability to rope line drives from pole to pole. He’s been overmatched approach-wise to this point, with particular struggles with pitch recognition and sequencing. But there’s enough upside that he should be owned in leagues that roster 150 prospects, and improvement this season will have him shooting up the list this time next winter.
Yairo Munoz, OAK – Munoz may have the best chance of anyone on this list to jump into next year’s fantasy 101, as he has most of the ingredients you look for to take a big step forward in 2016. He has above-average power potential thanks solid bat speed and the ability to create separation, and his hand-eye coordination gives him the foundation for a decent contact profile. He’s hyper-aggressive at the plate, however, which threatens the hit and power tools alike, and his likely return to the Cal League this spring won’t do much to quell his pull-happy, grip-and-rip approach. The combination of enough pop to hit 15-20 homers and wheels big enough to steal about the same number of bases should mark him firmly as a guy to watch this year to see if the approach improves.
Richard Urena, TOR – Urena is not that exciting from a fantasy standpoint, but there’s enough in the defensive tank to keep him on the positional watch list as he presumably reaches Double-A this year. He shows some base-stealing instincts despite modest speed, and he did hit 16 home runs last year. Scouting reports remain unconvinced that pop will translate as he advances, however, and he’s probably still best left for the deepest of deep leagues for the time being.
Wilkerman Garcia, NYY – The Yankees threw $1.35 million at Garcia amid their 2014 J2 bonanza, and he showed a strong offensive skill set in the Gulf Coast League after heading stateside last year at 17. He's a switch-hitter with excellent bat-to-ball from both sides and an advanced command of the zone. He draws praise for his approach already, and he pairs it with plus speed that can play on the bases. He's still eons away–he'll likely head to the NYPL this year–but for potential helium this season he's one of the more intriguing late-round investments.
Class of 2015
Lucius Fox, SFG – The Giants snagged the 18 year-old with the largest bonus ever given to an international amateur player (non-Cuban division), though that designation is somewhat misleading, as Fox went to high school in Florida before relocating to the Bahamas as a means to circumvent the draft. He’s a double-plus runner with instincts, and there’s enough of an offensive baseline to squint and see a solid-average hitter down the line who steals a ton of bases and scores a ton of runs. He’s as raw as my emotions when Nina Simone starts hittin’ them notes, and the lag time is long enough that managers in most leagues need not yet apply. But speed and the hint of an approach is speed with the hint of an approach.
Ryan Mountcastle, BAL – The Orioles grabbed Mountcastle out of high school with the 36th pick overall last June, and he’s exactly the kind of bat-first prospect that immediately takes on more fantasy than real world value. Ezra Wise is less than optimistic about Mountcastle’s potential to stay on the six spot, but the bat shows promise, with 20-plus homer potential, and while he lacks standout speed he shows good instincts on the bases to where he’ll be able to feasibly chip in a handful of steals along the way. As with most prep bats the lag time will be significant, and given the defensive uncertainty he’s really only rosterable at this point in his development in the deepest of leagues.
Drew Jackson, SEA – On the one hand, he used to be a Stanford hitter and now he’s a Mariner hitting prospect. On the other, he shares a surname with the organization’s top prospect. On the secret third hand, his utter destruction of shot-season ball after signing last summer—he it .358 and swiped 47 bases in just 266 plate appearances—should be enough to pique anybody’s interest. Unlike Mountcastle, he’s a near lock to stick at the position as well, thanks to solid fundamentals and a canon for a right arm. Solid bat-to-ball skills and plus speed is generally an effective toolkit for shortstops, and his collegiate polish on top of last year’s performance should warrant a more aggressive assignment this season.
Jalen Miller, SFG – The Giants again, yeah. They popped Miller for an over-slot deal in the third round to buy out his Clemson commitment, and he looked like a kid who could’ve used some book learnin’ in complex ball after signing. Range questions leave Miller a less-than-certain option to stick at short, but at this point the offensive hill to climb is the greater question mark for our purposes. The raw elements of his swing are when you want to see, and the frame suggests potential for eventual pop to join the party as well. But “eventual” is the key word there, and indeed everywhere as far as Miller is concerned. He’s a follow this year and nothing more unless your league is rostering something akin to a real farm system.
Blake Trahan, Reds – Trahan’s unorthodox early-swing mechanics may have contributed to him tumbling into the third round, but the other college shortstop from Louisiana posted a stellar junior year at the plate on the back of an advanced approach and excellent bat-to-ball skills. He swings aggressively, and there’s above-average bat speed to help him pepper line drives to all fields. He’s got plus speed and the chops to stick at short, and offers one of the more solid-if-unspectacular fantasy profiles of the college shortstops in last year’s class.
Class of 2016 and Beyond
Kevin Maitan, N/A – Sure, yeah, let’s talk about the 15-year-old that won’t even be J2-eligible until this summer. Look, I don’t really have anything of substance to contribute here, as he’s chupacabra until Scott Boras proves he actually exists. But any time Chipper Jones comps are thrown around and there are whispers of a “generational talent,” it behooves dynasty league players to make a note in their little black internet notebooks.
Lourdes Gourriel, Jr., N/A – The youngest of Serie Nacional legend Lourdes Sr.’s three sons, Gourriel and his older brother just defected from Cuba a few days ago, and he’ll immediately join Maitan at the top of the international class once he’s cleared to become a free agent. He played third base and dabbled in the outfield earlier in his junior career, but last season he became the Industriales’ starting shortstop. He possesses a leveraged swing with good track and pitch recognition skills, and he controls the bat head effectively while staying relatively compact for a long-limbed guy. The raw material of an above-average hit tool is there, along with the potential for 20-25 home runs at his peak. Add in the helium of the monster contract he’ll eventually sign, and this is one of the guys to grab immediately once available in your league.
Cadyn Grenier, Oregon State – Grenier boasted top-round talent out of high school, but signability concerns dumped him into the flyer bin of the 21st round, and he ended up electing to take the scholarship instead of the signing bonus. He should remain firmly on dynasty league radars, however, as he produced consistent hard contact with a line drive swing in high school, to go along with plus-or-better speed and the defensive toolkit of a true shortstop. It’ll be another couple years now until he re-enters the draft pool, but it may be worth the wait to get on that bus early.
Randy Arozarena, N/A – Arozarena is another Cuban who was just recently declared a free agent by MLB after defecting, and he’s another that shows a strong approach at the dish along with impressive fast-twitch physicality. The 20-year-old’s fielding actions are quite raw, and the athleticism may eventually push him to center field, but he’s intriguing as a potential top-of-the-order hitter down the line.
Delvin Perez, International Baseball Academy (Puerto Rico) – Perez is the top prospect out of Puero Rico in this class, and it’s really not that close. The 17-year-old is a no-doubt shortstop with an ideal frame for the position and double-plus speed, and he shows the intrinsic fielding instincts to develop into an above-average big league shortstop down the line. Whether the bat will play enough for him to become as exciting in our game as the real ones, however, remains to be seen. There’s been enough strong contact on the showcase circuit that, compared with his physical projectability, it’s not out of line to suggest 50 power down the line and a hit tool to match it, which could turn him into a top-10 dynasty league option at the position. We’re a long way away from that, however, and there are enough pitfalls in the current swing mechanics and long developmental path to keep expectations firmly in check for the time being. He’s a solid investment in the deeper formats that are already snapping up June talent.
Luis Curbelo, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy (Puerto Rico) – Curbelo is the other notable six-spotter in Puerto Rico, and his promo video features the class’s best score. It’s far less likely he stays at short as a professional, as he’s already 6-foot-3 with the kind of broad shoulders that were meant for hanging good weight on. But the offensive potential is far clearer than with Perez, as he shows above-average bat speed already and an advanced ability to manipulate his barrel to get it on plane early. This is a potential riser as he physically matures.
Bryson Brigman, San Diego – Brigman was impressive in my limited look at him on the Cape last year, with a line drive stroke and consistent barrel delivery. There’s very little leverage in the swing, however, and his short stroke doesn’t have much room for any power at all. It’s also far from a sure thing that he sticks at short, as the arm strength isn’t standout. Still, in a down year for college shortstops he gets a mention.
Colby Woodmansee, Arizona State – Woodmansee is another whose offensive potential may or may not ultimately be enough to overcome some defensive questions. He shows range and some instinct in the field, and he hit .300 both in the Pac12 and on the Cape last year. He’ll be one of the more volatile stocks at the position this spring.
Daniel Bakst, Poly Prep Country Day School (New York) – A Stanford commit, Bakst played for the gold medal-winning USA U18 team last summer and boasts one of the more refined prep bats in the class. He’s an average runner with decent range at short, but the big draw is the bat, which features a simple load, strong balance, and aggressive hip rotation. He has improved notably across the showcase circuit in the last couple years, and will be a threat to land in the first round if he continues on that trajectory this spring.
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