If you can throw right handed and are good at baseball, there is a decent chance you started life as a shortstop (if you are a lefty you likely started in center field). That doesn’t mean everyone continues on as a shortstop, with some progressing through the minors in name only before moving to second, third, or center. Others can fill the defensive side of the requirements, but struggle to have a bat worthy of being in the lineup. The rare player is the one that can do both at a high level. Despite the high level of shortstop play by young players in the majors right now, the Phillies may have a guy at the top of this list who can match them, possibly as soon as the 2017 season.
This list represents a collaboration between Dan, Jay, Victor, and myself. I mention this because we only agreed about the #1 guy on this list. Then we couldn’t agree on the next 5.
1. J.P. Crawford
LHV: .244/.328/.318 4 HR 7 SB 10.9% 15.3% K%
REA: .265/.398/.390 3 HR 5 SB 18.1% BB% 12.7% K%
Crawford entered the season as one of the best prospects in baseball. He leaves it as one of the best prospects in baseball, just not as shiny. Injuries and some poor swing changes led to poor contact despite his plate discipline numbers remaining stellar. Crawford continues to get better on defense and profiles as a plus defender in the majors. His power will need to come naturally as he gets bigger, as opposed to him trying to artificially create it. If he can get back to where he was to start the year he is a player who should hit in the .280 range with a great on base percentage and average-ish power. Given the current wave of shortstops, that might only be a star and not a superstar.
2. Malquin Canelo
CLW: .246/.294/.330 4 HR 13 SB 6.1% BB% 19.2% K%
Canelo is a bit of a mixed bag. He has the raw tools to be an everyday shortstop, and he showcased that ability in Lakewood during the 2015 season. This season was back to previous form of Canelo who was inconsistent on defense despite a good glove and plus arm. Canelo’s offense went backwards as he continued to be overaggressive at the plate. He has above average speed, but continues to be a poor baserunner in Clearwater. Canelo has solid bat speed and enough strength to get close to 10 home runs a year if he can make enough contact. His ceiling is more towards the best parts of 2015 Freddy Galvis, which depending on the consistency of his glove could be an everyday regular.
3. Arquimedes Gamboa
WPT: .200/.254/.292 2 HR 5 SB 6.1% BB% 19.0% K%
If you like projection, then Gamboa is the shortstop prospect for you. In the field he has the raw ability and athleticism to be an impact defender. The Williamsport coaching staff worked with him this year to play more under control and simplify things and the result was a much more consistent defensive player. The Phillies knew that sending Gamboa to Williamsport was a tough assignment. Gamboa looked overmatched to start but hit a groove, flashing some raw power, and a much improved approach. Gamboa still needs to get stronger and has a while to go at the plate, but he looks to be more than a zero there. On the base paths Gamboa is a plus runner and has showed some base stealing acumen. There is still a long way to go for Gamboa, but he is a toolsy athlete with the foundation to be very good. His breakout may still be multiple years away, but he could be special.
4. Cole Stobbe
GCL: .270/.337/.405 4 HR 3 SB 8.3% BB% 17.9% K%
Cole Stobbe is the Phillies best third base prospect, he just isn’t there yet. The Phillies kept him at his natural position of shortstop in the GCL, but he started to get work at third doing Fall Instructs. Stobbe does not have any standout tools, but he has average to above average tools across the board. Stobbe’s average range (and likely to drop below that as he gets larger) is what will move him off the position. He should be a good defender at third base long term. At the plate Stobbe showed a solid approach and he projects to have an above average hit and power tool. The combination means that at his peak Stobbe could hit somewhere in the .270/.280 range with 20+ home runs. That may not quite be an all-star every year, but that is a first division regular if he can keep up his progress.
5. Jonathan Guzman
DSL: .300/.370/.346 0 HR 13 SB 7.6% BB% 9.0% K%
At the beginning of this I brought up the rare shortstop who can both field and hit, Guzman could be that player. Guzman played the year in the Dominican Summer League at age 16 (he turned 17 at August 17) and more than held his own. He has the defensive skills to stick at shortstop long term. At the plate Guzman is still undersized and his bat lacks impact due to his lack of size. Despite his lack of strength, Guzman put up great plate discipline numbers for his first time in pro ball. Long term Guzman probably won’t have a ton of power, but if he can continue to hit and field he could be a very valuable player, not bad for a $60,000 bonus.
6. Brayan Gonzalez
Gonzalez isn’t quite the opposite of Gamboa, but he is certainly the other end of the spectrum. Gonzalez shows an advanced feel for hitting with a good control of the strike zone and feel for contact. He has a line drive swing with gap power, and his frame does not indicate he is going to grow into big power in the future. He has the tools to stick at shortstop right now, but if any of them slip he probably moves over to second base. He has a smaller frame and less power projection, but his profile is reminiscent of former Phillies prospect Jonathan Arauz.
Honorable Mention: Grenny Cumana, Nicholas Torres, Jose Tortolero
Cumana is a tiny quick 2B/SS who is generously listed at 5’5”. He has very little power, but is a good defender and can really run. Torres was the second highest bonus of the Phillies shortstops signed this summer. His game is built around plus plus speed and solid contact from the right side. His lack of arm strength might move him to second base. Tortolero also got a mid 6 figure bonus from the Phillies. It seems scouts are more optimistic about Tortolero sticking at short than Torres as his arm strength ticked up around the signing period. Like Gonzalez and Torres he shows some feel to hit, though he lacks Torres’ high end speed. At least one of Torres or Tortolero likely starts in the DSL alongside the 4th of the Phillies decent money shortstops in Luigi Mujica.