Projecting the Next Wave of NL East Shortstops
Like the point guard position in basketball, the list of young superstars playing shortstop in Major League Baseball is seemingly endless. It’s no coincidence that among the final four team’s in last year’s postseason, three had elite, youthful shortstops in Lindor, Russell, and Seager.
Set to join this group is a quartet of shortstops aiming to take over the National League East. With Dansby Swanson of the Atlanta Braves and Trea Turner of the Washington Nationals having already made their big league debuts, the division has been given a glimpse of the future.
Amed Rosario of the New York Mets and J.P. Crawford of the Philadelphia Phillies are set to enter at the big leagues at some point in 2017, injecting a sense of enthusiasm into their fan bases.
Swanson, Rosario, and Crawford currently rank 4th, 5th, and 6th on the MLB top 100 prospect watch. So, both long and short term, how do these players rank?
1. Trea Turner
We already know that Trea Turner is sensational. Turner, who actually played center field last season, is blessed with generational speed. He stole 33 bases in 73 games during the 2016 campaign in which he came second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. Turner also proved he is more than capable of handling the bat, slashing .342/.370/.567 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI’s. Over a 162 game schedule, these numbers equate to roughly 70 steals and 30 home runs, an ungodly projection.
Clearly, Turner will undergo a slight regression when he is forced to play an entire season. But still, Turner seems to be a perennial All-Star whose flashy skill set will transcend the field, making him a fan favorite.
The knock on Turner is his arm strength. It will be interesting to see if his defensive metrics become appreciably worse at shortstop than they were in center field, but Turner’s overall package makes him the most appealing of the players on this list.
2. Amed Rosario
Entering 2016, Rosario was known as an elite defensive prospect. No matter how he projected offensively, his glove was good enough carry him onto a Major League roster. But thankfully for Rosario, last year his bat took off.
Rosario batted .324/.374/.459 in 120 games games over two levels. His numbers actually improved when he got to AA Binghamton, where he batted .341/.392/.481. Rosario possesses exceptional contact skills and in 2016, his ability to hit for extra bases began to develop. He has a long, athletic frame that should be able to add power once he fills out.
For the Mets organization, Rosario is most highly anticipated offensive prospect since David Wright. The 21-year-old is currently being mentored in Spring Training by Jose Reyes, whom he idolized growing up in the Dominican Republic. Rosario is set to become a superstar in New York and for Mets fans, his arrival could not come soon enough.
3. Dansby Swanson
Like Turner, Swanson had a brief coming out party in 2016, batting .302/.361/.442 in 38 games. Swanson was the number one overall pick in the 2015 draft and quickly shot himself through the minor league system, going from Class A Advanced all the way to the Major Leagues.
Swanson is a proven winner. During his college career at Vanderbilt, he led his team to the 2014 National Championship and was the runner-up in the College World Series in the subsequent season. After becoming the number one pick in the draft for the Arizona Diamondbacks, he was shockingly traded to the Braves in a deal centered around Shelby Miller.
Though some feared that Swanson was rushed to the big leagues, he proved to be more than ready to handle every day shortstop duties. Swanson is the type of player where the entire package is greater than the sum of his parts. Scouts rave about his intangibles and high baseball IQ. It appears as though Swanson, who is from the Atlanta area, is set to become the face of an up and coming Braves team.
4. J.P. Crawford
Crawford’s offensive statistics took a small step backwards in 2016. He batted .250/.349/.339 in two levels last season after posting a .288/.380/.414 slash line in 2015.
His high on-base percentage is an encouraging sign and according to scouts, his patient approach at the plate will help him develop an improved batting average as he ages.
Crawford’s defensive ability is what makes him special. The shortstop has phenomenal range, exemplary footwork, soft hands, and a cannon arm- a package that should make him a perennial Gold Glove award contender. He projects to be an All-Star level shortstop once he settles into the big leagues.
The Phillies are hoping that this season, Crawford can have an offensive outburst like Rosario did last year. Crawford’s questionable skills at the plate make him the last player on the list, but he is by no means anything less than an elite prospect. He ranks as the 6th best prospect in the game according to MLB.com, and should complement Maikel Franco beautifully on the left side of Philadelphia’s infield for years to come.