Prospect Positional Reviews: Shortstops

Just prior to last year’s holiday season I wrote a piece for FanGraphs+ that ranked the Top 50 Fantasy Prospects for 2015 by position. Because it’s in the middle of the offseason, it’s often an exercise in futility to properly project playing time for rookies — especially considering the large number of free agent signings and trades that have yet to take place. It’s quite fun, nonetheless, and still serves as a good starting point for understanding who might be turn into a unexpectedly valuable fantasy player for the coming year.

And with every preview, must come a review. With the regular season now behind us and the heart of the postseason underway, I present to you a review of the projected Top 50 Fantasy Prospects for 2015. I’ve already written about the catchers, first basemen, second basemen and third basemen. Today, we wrap up the infield with the shortstops.

Actual Weighted Runs Created (wRC+) Results
133 — Carlos Correa, Astros
128 — Francisco Lindor, Indians
112 — Ketel Marte, Mariners
91 — Tim Beckham, Rays
90 — Addison Russell, Cubs

*Jung-ho Kang was included in the third basemen’s piece.

Marc’s Top 4
Addison Russell, Cubs
Francisco Lindor, Indians
Corey Seager, Dodgers
Deven Marrero, Red Sox

Honorarble Mentions
Hak-Ju Lee, Rays
Tim Anderson, White Sox

The above list of rookie shortstops would be somewhat different if I ranked by WAR, rather than Weights Runs but defence has such little value in fantasy baseball so I focused on offence with Weighted Runs Created. It bears mentioning, though, that many impressive young defensive shortstops entered the game in 2015 — led by Lindor and Russell.

There continues to be a trend among these lists that I’m reviewing: Teams were collectively far more aggressive in promoting good, young talent in 2015 than in years past. Correa, for example, was clearly the best offensive shortstop prospect in baseball but he had appeared in exactly zero games above A-ball prior to the ’15 season (and just a total of 64 contests that year due to injury) — leaving me to believe he would spend most of the year in the minors (also not anticipating a significant injury to Jed Lowrie).

However, the young Puerto Rican ended up appearing in 99 games in The Show and slugged 22 home runs — which was fourth amongst rookie hitters in a very impressive rookie class – despite being the youngest player on the list during the season (20 years old). His arrival in the Majors gave the Astros’ offence a much-needed boost with the loss of Lowrie and George Springer.

Linder arrived on the scene a tad bit later then Correa did and even less was expected from him from an offensive standpoint. In both areas, though, he didn’t disappoint. He was a whiz in the field and hit much better than his minor league numbers suggested he would. Despite a career Isolated Slugging rate in the .100-.110 range in the minors, he popped 12 home runs in 99 MLB games, which was good for a .169 ISO. He also produced a .353 on-base percentage and hit more than .300. He showed value as a base runner too, and had 12 steals 14 attempts.

Marte is a name that not many people were familiar with prior to the ’15 season, although I first wrote about him (and ranked him as the Mariners 15th best prospect) back in 2013. He doesn’t have the loud tools that the Correas, Lindors, and Russells possess but the 22-year-old switch-hitter does a lot of things well and has a solid overall game. He made a significant impact on the Mariners club despite appearing in just 57 games. Prospects like Nick Franklin, Chris Taylor and Brad Miller have appeared on scene with much more fanfare but Marte might end up as the best of the bunch.

Russell was a huge player for the Cubs in 2015 and solidified the infield defence; his presence was definitely missed (thanks to injury) in the National League Championship Series that saw the Mets sweep Chicago in four games. Just 21 during the season, the young shortstop was rushed to the Majors out of necessity and his bat wasn’t quite MLB-ready (although the glove certainly was). His extra base pop was a nice surprise and he could eventually develop into a 20-20 (homers-steals) threat even if he hits just .250-.260.

It’s impressive that Beckham even made this list. He was more of a role player in 2015 and appeared in just 83 games. He also hit a paltry .222 and his on-base percentage was just .274. Oh, and he struck out almost 31% of the time. However, the former first-overall pick — now 25 — produced a lot of power in his limited playing time and produced an Isolated Slugging rate of .207 — in part due to his nine homers in 203 at-bats. Power is an increasingly difficult skill to acquire so Beckham — and his ability to play three infield positions — should continue to be the “new Ben Zobrist” for the Rays in 2016.

Considering the left side of the infield that Dodgers opened up with in 2015, I expected the club to be more aggressive with Seager than they were. However, he showed why I was so impressed with him during his 27-game debut (175 wRC+). Marrero fell victim to the (regrettable) Pablo Sandoval signing, which shifted Xander Bogaerts to shortstop and blocked the rookie from having any significant playing time.

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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These alwasy great thank you! One question tho. I know you mentioned Kang was included in the 3rd Basemen section, but doesnt having him in the shortstop section make the most sense? More likely than not youre starting Kang at SS rather than 3B