The late 1990s to the early 2000s was arguably the golden era for offensive shortstops. The group, spearheaded by the trio of Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra, and Derek Jeter, also featured Edgar Renteria, who peaked in 2003, Rafael Furcal, Jose Reyes, and Jimmy Rollins. Hall of Famer Barry Larkin also chipped in back-to-back five-win seasons in 1998 and 1999 before his decline as well.
While the total production of the aforementioned group may be difficult to match a group of minor league prospects may help usher in what could be the next great era of shortstops. The first six, of which, will likely rank within the top 20 prospects in the game in next season’s rankings.
Cream of the crop:
- Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs
- Easily the biggest power-hitting threat at the position in the minors, Baez smacked a combined 37 dingers between high Class A and AA this season. He also added 34 doubles, four triples, and 20 stolen bases for good measure. His walk rate, which lingered near the 4% mark prior to the year, improved at both stops in 2013.
- Carlos Correa, Houston Astros
- Overshadowed by the player chosen directly after him (Byron Buxton of the Twins), Correa showed an impressive offensive toolkit as an 18-year-old in the Midwest League, showcasing blossoming power, strong walk and contact rates (11.2% and 16.0%, respectively), and a little bit of speed. Overall, he hit .320/.405/.467 and his total offensive production was 48% better than the league average.
- Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox
- A recent call up by the Sox, Bogaerts destroyed Class AA pitching (.311/.407/.502) and more than held his own in the International League (.284/.369/.453). The 20-year-old finished the year with a combined triple-slash line of .297/.388/.477 with 44 extra-base knocks.
- Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians
- Lost the final few weeks of the season due to an injury, Lindor doesn’t have the offensive ceiling of his three previous counterparts, but should settle in as a .300+ hitter with double-digit homerun power, 25 stolen bases, and plus to plus-plus defense.
- Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers
- The younger brother of Seattle third baseman Kyle Seager, the Dodgers’ 2012 first round pick obliterated Midwest pitching (.309/.389/.529) before falling short in high Class A (.160/.246/.320). He just 19-years-old.
- Addison Russell, Oakland A’s
- After a ridiculously slow start to the season, Russell, who batted a meager .213/.312/.410 through the end of May, turned it around the rest of the season by hitting .319/.421/.578 with 37 extra-base hits in 64 games.
Best of the rest:
- Alen Hanson, Pittsburgh Pirates
- Hanson followed up his breakout season in 2012 with another strong showing, hitting .281/.339/.444 as a 20-year-old in high Class A. His production dipped noticeably upon his promotion to Class AA (.255/.299/.380), but has the skill set – solid-average power, good speed, and strong contact and walk rates – to develop into an above-average regular.
- Jorge Polanco, Minnesota Twins
- Cedar Rapids’ home ballpark tends to inflate offensive production, especially homeruns, but the 19-year-old switch-hitter batted .311/.355/.425 on the road against older competition. He also swatted 20 extra-base knocks in 52 away games.
- Rosell Herrera, Colorado Rockies
- The most productive offensive shortstop in the minors last season, Herrera, who batted .343/.419/.515, was nearly 70% better on offense than the league average. The problem, of course, is that his home field, Asheville, is incredibly hitter-friendly and fellow Rockies shortstop prospect Trevor Story slugged .277/.367/.505 there last season before following it up with a subpar line this year (.233/.305/.394) in high Class A.
- Chris Owings, Arizona Diamondbacks
- Owns a career .291/.320/.441 minor league line and has always performed against older competition. The problem, though, is that he rarely – if ever, really – walks. Owings has walked just 73 times in 2079 plate appearances. Still only 21 with solid-average pop and speed.
Photo of Javier Baez Courtesy of Ken Inness/MiLB.com.