“That’s Amore!” Minor League Maestros: Shortstops 2018
The past three weeks I’ve broken down the top prospects from first base, second base, and third base. While each position has exciting players blossoming in the minors, short stop has arguably the greatest depth at the position. When I was younger, Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez were my favorite shortstops playing the game. Each brought different styles to the game, and were dynamite fantasy players in their own right. With a new breed of players such as: Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, and Trea Turner it’s hard to think there are players about ready for their calls to perform at the levels of the aforementioned players. Well, get ready to make a shortlist, because these ten players are sure to make fantasy impacts. Some will make huge impacts in 2018, which others will get their chance in the next few seasons. I promise you their impacts will help anchor fantasy rosters for the next decade. Remember, we aren’t far removed from the shortstop position being a “Ferrari” position in terms of glamor and talent. Think of these minor league maestros as the upcoming Ferraris for fantasy teams.
Gleyber Torres – New York Yankees
Minors: .287/.383/.480/7 HR/34 RBI
The numbers you see above occurred through 55 games! Torres’ 2017 season was cut short due to Tommy John Surgery. If it weren’t for an elbow injury, there’s no question he wouldn’t hit 20+ HR with 70+ RBI. The stud infield acquired in the 2016 deal that sent Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs started a precedent for the replenishing of the Yankees minor league system. Torres has always been ahead of his peers at the plate, and it’s lead to his career minor league slash line of .282/.360/.416. What makes Torres special is his athleticism. I’ve stated this numerous times in my articles, and on the radio shows, that baseball has shifted to true athletes, and we are seeing more and more athletes have success at the Major League level. Along with athleticism, Torres possesses a strong arm and above-average speed. If it was not for a shortened 2017 season, Torres would have stolen 20+ bases each season he spent in the minors. While Torres spent a majority of his minor league career at shortstop, he’s played second base and third base. With Didi Gregorious and Miguel Andujar looking like Opening Day locks at shortstop and third base, Torres could be in line to be the Opening Day starting second baseman. Regardless where he plays, Torres will make an immediate impact and should be a household name synonymous with the Yankees for years to come.
Brendan Rodgers – Colorado Rockies
Minors: .336/.373/.567/18 HR/64 RBI
A lot like Torres, Rodgers has the ability to play shortstop, second base, and third base. Rodgers was taken third overall by the Rockies in the 2015 after Dansby Swanson and Alex Bregman. We’ve already seen Swanson and Bregman shine, and Rodgers isn’t too far behind. Rodgers possesses the best power out of any shortstop on this list, and there’s no question he will push for 25+ home runs per season. Even if he does play home games at Coors Field, Rodgers has the tools to not only hit for power, but for average. He’s pushed for 20+ home runs in both of his minor league seasons, and owns a career minors slash line of .301/.353/.505. The Rockies are primed from solid power numbers from power-hitting third baseman Nolan Arenado and current shortstop Trevor Story has started off hot this spring. Now, there are two potential options that could see Rodgers being an Opening Day starter in 2019. DJ LeMahieu will be a free agent at the end of 2018. If the Rockies move on from LeMahieu, Rodgers could easily take over second base. The other option would be Trevor Story having another disastrous year, resigning LeMahieu, and Rodgers taking over at shortstop. Regardless of the outcome, the Rockies are about to sport one of the best infields, in terms of power, in the Majors. If you don’t already know the name Brendan Rodgers, write it down now! If your keeper/dynasty league hasn’t drafted yet, I suggest taking him if he’s still available. For redraft leagues, monitor Rodgers’ progress because you will want to own any slugger featuring at Coors Field as soon as they are called up.
Franklin Barreto – Oakland Athletics
Minors: .290/.339/.456/15 HR/54 RBI
Majors: .197/.250/.352/2 HR/6 RBI
I was high on Barreto entering the 2017 season. He received his call over the summer and showed glimpses before Major League pitchers quickly adjusted forcing Barreto to swing and miss. Still, it was an encouraging sign for the Oakland A’s organization, and Barreto should soon be the starting shortstop, or second baseman, in Oakland. Barreto’s bat it was to be desired in fantasy leagues. He’s shown the ability to hit for power and average, and has above-average speed that he doesn’t mind using on the base paths. If you’re looking for a shortstop that can do a little of everything with the bat, Barreto is a guy to keep an eye on. Think solid contact, numerous line drives, the ability to hit 20 home runs while stealing a fair number of bases. While Barreto posses a strong arm, his defense isn’t that of a tradition shortstop. More than likely, we will see Barreto at second or third. Keep an eye on Barreto as he could be the player to snag off waivers after the likes of many others are already taken.
Willy Adames – Tampa Bay Rays
Minors: .277/.360/.415/10 HR/62 RBI
Adames was acquired in the deal that sent David Price to Detroit. While many others are known for their dynamite bats, Adames possesses some of the best hands, and throwing arm, in the minor leagues. He’s a very good athlete, although his speed is average at best. Following suit with the three players mentioned before him, Adames could see time at second base with the Rays. I’ve talked about his defense, but Adames’ bat is no slouch as he’s hit at every stop in the minors. Adames had a successful 2017 season hitting 50 extra-base hits in 506 at-bats. While Adames’ power may not develop into that of Torres, Rodgers, and Barreto, I see Adames turning into a solid fantasy option that could easily hit 15+ home runs and drive in a number of runs. The Rays are ready to give their minor league players playing time, and when Adames gets his call, there’s no reason he won’t see everyday at-bats.
Fernando Tatis Jr. – San Diego Padres
Minors: .278/.379/.498/22 HR/ 75 RBI
Tatis Jr. hit the seen, in 2017, after absolutely demolishing pitching. The son of the former Major League third baseman was shipped to San Diego in the trade that sent James Shields to the White Sox. Tatis adds depth to a Padres minor league system that has been rebuilding in the past few years. Tatis brings a bat that is destined for power. His hard contact, ability to make adjustments, and overall power should be intriguing to all fantasy owners. Only 19, we should be a year, or two, away from seeing him get the call from San Diego. What makes Tatis even more scary are his wheels. The slugger stole 32 bases in 47 attempts. At 6’3″ 185lbs, Tatis will grow into his frame. His size reminds me a lot of Nomar Mazara in Texas. Once Tatis gets the call, he will be a nice addition to a Padres team that looks to be on the rise.
Bo Bichette – Toronto Blue Jays
Minors: .362/.423/.565/14 HR/74 RBI
Another son of a former Major Leaguer, Bichette, along with Vlad Guerrero Jr., gives the Blue Jays two top prospects that have great pedigree. Bichette’s raw power was on display when he won the Under Armour All-American home run derby. He’s been better than advertised after being selected in the second round of the 2016 draft. There is no questioning Bichette’s offensive ability, and he could provide Toronto with a nice one-two punch alongside Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The question remains to be seen where Bichette will play. He was drafted as a shortstop, and has done a fine job holding down the position. At the Major League level, Bichette could find himself switching to second, or short, while playing a corner outfield position isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
J.P. Crawford – Philadelphia Phillies
Minors: .243/.351/.405/15 HR/63 RBI
Majors: .214/.356/.300/0 HR/6 RBI
Crawford is slated to be the Phillies Opening Day starting shortstop. We finally get to see Crawford receive everyday at-bats at being near the top of shortstop rankings the past few seasons. Looking at Crawford’s 2017 slash line, you may be scratching your head. Crawford’s had to make adjustments after moving past Double-A. He’s made the necessary adjustments, and while the slash line doesn’t tell the story, Crawford had his best statistical year in terms of power. He made the adjustments, learned patience, and has never accumulated 100 strikeouts at any level in the minors. What makes Crawford special is his defense. He has all the necessary tools to be one of the top defensive shortstops, and will have every opportunity to display it in 2018. While Crawford may not possess the power of the other shortstops on this list, he could help in leagues that count singles and extra-base hits as individual categories. Still, the power increased in 2017, and he doesn’t strikeout a lot.
Jorge Mateo – Oakland Athletics
Minors: .267/.322/.459/12 HR/57 RBI
When the Yankees acquired Gleyber Torres, Mateo became expendable and was part of the deal that brought Sonny Gray to the Yankees. Mateo has played shortstop, second, and center field and gives the Athletics many options. The name of the game for Mateo is speed having accumulated 234 stolen bases in 291 attempts (80.4%). 82 of those steals game in 2015 alone. While Mateo won’t scare anyone with his power, he does have the ability to up to 15 home runs per season, and hover around a .270 batting average. Still, speed is what Mateo will bring. Honestly, Mateo could be the rich man’s version of Billy Hamilton as Hamilton hasn’t shown consistent hitting ability in the Majors. The Athletics have a lot of options with their middle infield. If Mateo does end up in center field, he could be an electrifying player to see track fly balls down in the spacious outfield of the park formerly known as O.co Coliseum.
Nick Gordon – Minnesota Twins
Minors: .270/.341/.408/9 HR/66 RBI
The younger brother of Dee Gordon, Nick Gordon possesses one of the strongest arms in the minors. While he may not possess his brother’s speed, Gordon does a number of things well, and possess a bit more pop than his brother. The contact-oriented player had 46 XBH in 519 at-bats while swiping 13 bases in 20 chances. With the Twins selecting shortstop Royce Lewis with the first overall pick in 2017, Gordon seems destined for second base. With Brian Dozier set to become a free agent, Gordon could take over assuming he leaves, or hold down shortstop until Lewis is ready. In terms of fantasy baseball, Gordon could be a serviceable player after the top middle infielders are taken off the board. He won’t hit for great power, but he could steal a fair number of bases while racking up a number of hits and runs scored.
Kevin Maitan – Los Angeles Angels
Minors: .241/.290/.340/2 HR/18 RBI
You may remember the 18 year-old as one of the top minor league prospects for the Atlanta Braves before their organization having to forfeit his rights, as well as 12 other prospects. The penalty seemed excessive, but this lead to the Angels signing Maitan as a free agent. At 6’2″ 190lbs, the 18 year-old is going to grow into his frame and has the makings of a superstar. Maitan’s strong arm, and size, have him destined to play third base, and his makeup remind me of young versions of Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols. His makeup made him one of the most sought after international players. There’s no doubt the Angels need to replenish their minor league system, and signing Maitan gives them a great start to getting support to Mike Trout. Did I mention he’s a switch-hitter?
Royce Lewis – Minnesota Twins
Minors: .279/.381/.407/4 HR/27 RBI
I couldn’t leave Lewis off this list. The number one overall pick from the 2017 draft was sought after by every organization. Lewis’ athleticism allow him to consistently barrel the ball, and his line-drive stroke will eventually turn into power. He’s shown patience in the small sample size of minor league action, and stole 18 bases in 21 attempts. Lewis gives the Twins another athletic player in line with Nick Gordon and Byron Buxton. Lewis has the athletic ability to stay at shortstop, play second, or even move to the outfield. Honestly, I see him sticking at shortstop for the long term. He’s another player to monitor for the next few seasons as all scouts have him graded as that of a superstar.
2018 Minor League Maestros:
Major Fantasy Basbeall Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Thursday March 8th, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #104 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.
Our guests this week are Todd Zola and Joe Iannone. Todd is the owner of mastersball.com. He is also a well known and respected man in the fantasy baseball community. Joe is a tenured writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com. Click on his name to see his portfolio of writing. His main focus is in the pitching arena and his articles publish every Sunday morning at 7am EST.