10 Shortstop Prospects Who Could Be the Next Derek Jeter
Who's the greatest shortstop to ever play the game of baseball?
That's the kind of question you ask if you want to start a small war among baseball fans. Derek Jeter definitely has a strong case, though, and it really doesn't need to be argued that he's accomplished more in his career than any other shortstop who came before him.
All Jeter's done in his career is make 12 All-Star teams, win five Gold Gloves, collect 3,000 hits and win an All-Star Game MVP and a World Series MVP. And of course, he's won five championships. His career achievements are unparalleled.
Jeter's career is going to be over in the very near future. When it is over, everyone will start frantically searching for the "next" Derek Jeter.
The next Derek Jeter will have to do a lot of things. He'll have to consistently be one of the best hitting shortstops in the league for a long period of time, and he'll have to show off both power and speed. In the field, the next Jeter will have to always be good, and occasionally brilliant.
Most important of all, the next Jeter will have to win. He'll need to be the cornerstone player of a very successful franchise for a long time.
So then, who could be the next Jeter?
Here are 10 shortstop prospects who might just fill his shoes.
10. Jean Segura, Los Angeles Angels
2012 Level: Double-A
The Angels moved quickly to lock up Erick Aybar to an extension this season, signing him for another four years at $35 million, as reported by Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com.
By the time Aybar gets to the end of his deal, Jean Segura is going to be in his mid 20s. It's therefore questionable whether his future is at short with another club or with the Angels at another position. He's going to be in the big leagues sooner rather than later either way.
For now, Segura needs to worry about staying healthy. Hamstring issues robbed him of a lot of playing time last year, and those same hamstring issues lead to some doubt as to whether he can stay at short long-term (think Jose Reyes).
The book on Segura, according to Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus, is that he has a very quick bat and that he's capable of making consistent contact with it. His stats suggest as much, as he has a career average of .311 in six minor league seasons, according to MiLB.com. He showed off his speed in 2010, stealing 50 bases for Single-A Cedar Rapids.
Segura's quick bat is a very Jeter-like asset. What's unclear is if he has the rest of the goods to emulate Jeter's success.
9. Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox
2012 Level: High-A
The Red Sox have had a revolving door at shortstop ever since they traded away Nomar Garciaparra in 2004. They could have had a star at short if they had held on to Hanley Ramirez, but they traded him away.
It's past time for the Red Sox to develop a star shortstop, and Xander Bogaerts is their best shot at doing so.
Bogaerts is in this discussion because of his bat. Keith Law of ESPN wrote that Bogaerts has "excellent" bat speed and good pitch recognition, and these things helped him hit .260 with 16 homers in his first full pro season with Single-A Greenville, according to MiLB.com.
He's doing pretty well with High-A Salem this year, batting .287 with three home runs in 23 games.
The bad news? Bogaerts is a terrible fielder, so it suffices to say he's going to need to put a lot of infield work in if he wants to stay at shortstop. If he moves over to third, his path to Boston could be blocked by Will Middlebrooks.
This is why Bogaerts is so low on this list. He has talent, but he's not the complete package. He has hope of becoming the next Jeter, but not much.
8. Nick Franklin, Seattle Mariners
2012 Level: Double-A
The Mariners don't have a long-term answer at shortstop. Brendan Ryan is a nice player, but he's nothing special. If the Mariners can replace him with a young star, they should.
Nick Franklin has it in him to be a young star. He proved as much in 2010, when he hit .283 with 23 home runs and 25 stolen bases, according to MiLB.com.
Franklin followed that up by having a disastrous 2011 season. He suffered through a broken jaw, mono and food poisoning, playing in just 88 games at three different levels.
He's back strong and playing well this year, as he's hitting .294 with a .362 OBP with Double-A Jackson.
According to Keith Law, Franklin is a better hitter than a fielder, as he doesn't have a ton of range and he doesn't have a great arm.
If the Mariners need to keep him at short to take advantage of his bat, they will. If they can get him and Dustin Ackley on the same infield, they'll be set up for plenty of success moving forward.
7. Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs
2012 Level: Low-A
The Cubs have their long-term answer at shortstop. His name is Starlin Casto, and he is one heck of a player.
The Cubs are lucky enough to have another exciting young shortstop prospect in their system in Javier Baez. They took him with the ninth-overall pick in the 2011 MLB draft.
It's agreed that Baez's best asset is his bat. Kevin Goldstein wrote that Baez has "blinding bat speed, excellent hand-eye coordination, and projects for average to plus power as he learns how to drive balls." He was regarded as the best high school hitter in the 2012 draft class, and the Cubs are looking forward to seeing him live up to that billing.
Baez may have to change positions down the road, and the Cubs may actually want to make him change positions if they want to have both Baez and Castro on their infield. If the Cubs keep him at short, though, his value will be higher if they choose to trade him later.
When he gets to the show, Baez's bat could help him put up Jeter-like numbers.
6. Hak-Ju Lee, Tampa Bay Rays
2012 Level: Double-A
The Rays don't have a long-term answer at shortstop, so things are set up quite nicely for Hak-Ju Lee to take over at short one day and never give the position up.
Opinions on Lee are mixed, but Keith Law is a big-time believer in him. He has him at No. 12 on his countdown of the Top 100 Prospects in baseball, and he praises Lee as a "four-tool" prospect who is a lock to stay at short. His only real shortcoming is power.
Lee's best asset is probably his defense. Kevin Goldstein is skeptical about whether Lee will ever win a Gold Glove, but he definitely has the range, hands, arm and intelligence to be an above-average defensive shortstop.
Presently, Lee is still figuring things out at Double-A Montgomery. Per MiLB.com, he's only hitting .243. Still, that's an increase over the .190 he hit at Double-A in 24 games last season.
Ideally, Lee will a very good defensive shortstop who hits over .300 every year. He'll be playing on a Rays team that seems to always be stocked with young talent, so the pieces will be in place for him to enjoy some nice career success once he arrives in the majors.
If Lee helps lead Tampa Bay to a World Series early in his career, that's when things will get scary.
5. Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta Braves
2012 Level: Double-A
The Braves are going with Tyler Pastornicky at short this season, and he's been just so-so to this point. He's hitting .268 this season, and he has a -3.4 UZR in the field.
Andrelton Simmons nearly stole the starting shortstop gig from Pastornicky during spring training. He put on a heck of a show with both his glove and his bat, and he left an impression on Chipper Jones.
Here's what Jones said about Simmons, via MLB.com:
This kid has got it all. When you haven't played a game above [Class] A ball and everybody who sees you says you're Major League-ready defensively, that's saying something.
The Braves decided to send Simmons to Double-A to start the season, and he hasn't stopped putting on a show. Per MiLB.com, he's hitting .325 in 20 games, and he's made a habit of collecting multi-hit games recently.
The buzz surrounding Simmons is very positive. You just get the sense that he's been underrated to this point in his career and that he's going to be something special in the majors.
4. Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds
2012 Level: High-A
The Reds are going with Zack Cozart at shortstop this season, and he's a good young player. I doubt he'll become a star, but he's probably going to be in the big leagues for a long time.
Once Billy Hamilton is ready, however, Cozart will have to step aside. Hamilton is a guy who definitely has star potential.
Hamilton has stupid speed, and I mean that in a nice way. Look up his profile on MiLB.com, and you'll quickly notice that he stole over 100 bases with Single-A Dayton last year.
So far this year, Hamilton has 30 stolen bases in 25 games. He's ahead of schedule, which is remarkable.
Hamilton definitely has the speed and the range to play short, but Keith Law worries about his arm. He has a funky throwing motion that needs to be corrected.
Obviously, Hamilton is not a carbon copy of Derek Jeter. He's more like a Dee Gordon clone, except faster.
The reason Hamilton is in this discussion is because the Reds are building something special at the big-league level. When Hamilton arrives in a couple years, they're going to have enough talent to compete for a championship. Hamilton will be atop their lineup when they go for it.
3. Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians
2012 Level: Single-A
The Indians have a pretty good shortstop in Asdrubal Cabrera, but they could very well lose him when he becomes a free agent after the 2014 season.
That's when they could bring up Francisco Lindor, who has as many tools as any shortstop prospect in baseball.
Lindor is a switch-hitting shortstop with surprising pop for a guy who goes 5'11" and 175 pounds. He also has good speed that will allow him to steal bases regularly when he reaches the majors. In the field, Kevin Goldstein says Lindor has all the things you look for: range, hands, arm, you name it.
Lindor impressed in a handful of games with Low-A Mahoning Valley last season. Per MiLB.com, he hit .316 with a .350 OBP, earning himself a ticket to Single-A Lake County this season.
He's still performing well. In 24 games, he has a .327 batting average and a .379 OBP.
Skills-wise, Lindor has everything he needs to be like Derek Jeter. Down the road, he could be part of an infield featuring Lonnie Chisenhall at third and Jason Kipnis at second. The three of them could be the core of a new Indians dynasty.
2. Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles
2012 Level: Double-A
A couple weeks ago, I did an interview with Dereck Rodriguez, a prospect in the Minnesota Twins organization and the son of the great Ivan Rodriguez. I asked him who the best prospect in baseball is, and he told me it was Manny Machado.
He's not alone in his admiration of Machado's talent. Keith Law has Machado down as not just the best shortstop prospect in baseball, but the No. 4 overall prospect.
Machado has impressive plate discipline for a player his age, and he has good speed and developing power. If he continues to pack muscle onto his 6'3" frame, he's going to have 25-30 home run power. In the field, he has great instincts.
Machado is off to somewhat of a slow start with Double-A Bowie this season. Per MiLB.com, he's hitting just .241 in 25 games with a pair of home runs. The good news is that his OBP is over .350.
If there is one big fear about Machado, it's that he might outgrow shortstop someday and will have to be moved to third base. That will likely happen after he makes it to the big leagues, which could be as soon as next season.
Once he arrives, the Orioles will be glad to have him. It's been too long since they had a homegrown superstar in their midst.
1. Jurickson Profar, Texas Rangers
2012 Level: Double-A
The Rangers have a very good young shortstop on their major league roster in Elvis Andrus. He's gotten better every year he's been in the big leagues, and he already has tons of experience for a player his age.
The book on Profar is that he can do it all. He's a very good hitter with quick wrists who promises to hit for power once he fills out, and he can make all the plays in the field thanks to his range, hands and arm.
Profar opened a lot of eyes in his first full professional season in 2011. Playing for Single-A Hickory, he hit .286 with 12 home runs and 23 stolen bases, according to MiLB.com. He also dazzled in the field. He got off to a slow start at the plate this year with Double-A Frisco, but he's coming around.
Andrus is going to hit free agency in a couple years. When he does, that's when the Rangers could bring Profar up and hope they enjoyed just as much success with him at short as they did with Andrus.
Profar is going to be a better player than Andrus, so the Rangers wouldn't be asking for too much.
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