The 2012 draft class is absolutely loaded with talent at several positions; however, shortstop is not one of them. This year, the top shortstop prospects are without a doubt Carlos Correa (Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, P.R.), Deven Marrero (Arizona State) and Gavin Cecchini (Barbe HS, La.), while the rest of the field is comprised of players who may have the ability to stick at shortstop, but likely best project at a corner position.
However, that’s not to say that this crop of prospects isn’t immensely talented. They possess some of the best power in the class and are likely to reach the majors earlier than many other players who are regarded as potential early draft picks.
Here is look at the top 10 shortstops in the 2012 draft class.
College: North Carolina State
Diaz is a highly athletic infielder with smooth actions, soft hands and above-average range. His approach at the plate is still rather raw, but he has a quick bat and knows how to use the whole field. He profiles more as a second baseman at the next level, and possibly even third baseman if he shows enough power.
One of the top prep prospects in the state of Virginia in 2009, Taylor didn’t emerge as an everyday player for the Cavaliers until his sophomore season. Like some of the other shortstops on this list, he doesn’t have a plus tool, per se, but is a well-rounded player who has been endlessly praised by coaches and scouts for his work ethic and on-field demeanor.
Taylor is most impressive on defense, where his plus speed and smooth defense will give him the opportunity to play there at the next level. Furthermore, he has soft, giving hands and a strong arm that could play anywhere on the field.
A right-handed hitter, Taylor’s bat is behind his speed and defense, though there is room for improvement. He has a very controlled and sound swing and consistently uses right field due to an inside-out approach. He has some present gap power that may evolve into below-average power, so don’t expect him to be a power-hitting shortstop.
Stanford shortstop Kenny Diekroeger is arguably one of the best athletes in this year’s college crop. He is basically a 60 across the board player in the “athlete” tools as well as with the glove. He has all of the tools necessary to be a key up-the-middle contributor with a very good chance to be average at short or plus at second.
Diekroeger posted a .293/.364/.356 slash line for the Cardinal in 2011 after a .356/.392/.491 line as a freshman. Many have used the new bat regulations to explain this drop in production. I think there is more to it. Kenny’s bat speed is easily at least a plus, but he creates very little loft with his swing mechanics and produces entirely too many groundballs because his hands drop as he loads.
For most belt-high pitches and above, Kenny is a below-the-ball hitter. This is not necessarily an easy fix, and it could be a problem that he will fight the rest of his days on the diamond. It’s not necessarily as though he will ever be a bad hitter with his current mechanics, but he cannot be elite with them either, and with a frame as large as the one he currently has, sliding to third or the outfield is a real possibility.
An average or below-hit tool on a 60 runner is not a first-round player in many organizations’ opinions. Diekroeger fails to transfer all of his weight and tends to close his lower half off as well. This is usually an easier fix than the bat track issues, but is much tougher to do when also attempting to correct upper body flaws.
Height/Weight: 5’11”/190 lbs
Although none of his tools stand out more than the others, Fontana is an all-around solid ballplayer. He possesses excellent plate discipline and an ability to make contact that could make him a second-division reserve infielder in the major leagues. His speed is a bit of a drawback, as he’s only an average runner.
He’s a sound defender at shortstop who takes care of the baseball. However, his lack of arm strength and range might call for a switch to second base in the future, where his bat and ability to get on base will be a premium.
High School: Klein Collins (Texas)
College Commitment: Texas
Although he’s not a physical specimen, Hinojosa has impressive tools that play up due to his high baseball IQ. A patient hitter who has advanced pitch recognition for his age, he has plus bat speed that allows him to jump the yard to all fields; it's especially appealing as a middle infield prospect. He’s only an average runner, but takes a good first step in the field and compensates for any lack of range with slightly above-average arm strength.
After a disappointing start to his senior season, Hinojosa underwent surgery to repair loose and damaged ligaments in his left shoulder. Therefore, given the three to five-month recovery timetable, his 2012 season was essentially over before it began.
Hinojosa still seems adamant on attending Texas next year, as he even considered graduating high school a semester early to begin his college career this spring. The injury has made it difficult to project Hinojosa’s future as a big-leaguer, and many believe that attending college will be crucial towards his overall development.
Height/Weight: 6’2”/205 lbs
High School: Palm Desert (Calif.)
College Commitment: San Diego
Rahier isn’t your typical prep prospect; he doesn’t actually play for his high school team. Rather, the 6’2”, 205-pounder has played his spring seasons in a wood bat league with the ABD Bulldogs.
A plus runner, Rahier is highly athletic with excellent instincts that give him a chance to stick at shortstop despite his larger frame. His range isn’t spectacular, but it’s more than enough for the time being. He has a plus arm that’s been clocked in the low-90s, that, if he’s eventually moved form shortstop, should get him looks at several different positions.
But what makes Rahier a special prospect is his bat. He has extremely strong wrists and forearms, which generates considerable bat speed and line drives that jump off his bat. He has the chance to develop a plus hit tool, while his power will likely be above-average with more doubles than home runs. However, given the pull-happy approach he’s shown over the last three seasons, he’ll probably always have plus power to the pull-side.
Often compared to Evan Longoria due to his California roots, large frame and savvy on the field, Rahier employs a bizarre workout regime that includes flipping tractor tires and swinging an ax—a routine designed by his father. His final position will ultimately determine how soon he reaches the major leagues, but don’t expect to see him until the 2015 or 2016 season.
High School: Pace (Fla.)
College Commitment: Auburn
A thicker player whose body doesn’t call for much projection, Russell has the arm strength to stick on the left side of the infield, likely third base.
As a hitter, Russell has above-average bat speed and, in turn, projectable raw power. However, as one expects from a prep prospect, his swing mechanics and bat path vary from day-to-day, and he lacks the all-around consistency that would make him an early first-rounder. Furthermore, his plate discipline leaves something to be desired.
Russell is a player with all the tools to be a big-league third baseman, but is a long way from reaching his high-risk ceiling.
Height/Weight: 6’1”/180 lbs
College: Arizona State
Marrero is in the midst of an all-around down year, as he’s struggled at the plate all season and grown increasingly frustrated. Arguably the most advanced shortstop in the 2012 draft class, Marrero has developed an outstanding reputation for his soft hands and 60-grade range. His defensive prowess makes him a lock to continue his career there at the next level.
At shortstop, he has soft hands, as well as average range and a plus arm. Scouts remain divided about whether his hit tool profiles as a big-league shortstop, but regardless, he’ll need to improve his contact rate. Marrero will never hit for much power, but should be able to collect 15-25 doubles annually.
High School: Barbe (La.)
College Commitment: Mississippi
A right-handed hitter, Gavin has quick wrists and compact swing that allow him to drive the ball from line-to-line. The ball jumps off his bat due to a direct and fluid bat path. He doesn’t have a ton of present power; however, he’s gotten considerably stronger over the last year and a half, which has aided his overall power projection. Furthermore, Cecchini understands his swing as well as any hitter in the draft.
He’s not an exceptionally fast runner, but Cecchini’s above-average speed plays up both on defense and on the bases due to his natural instincts and high baseball IQ. He has true hands and quick, natural actions at shortstop, as well as a strong, accurate arm that will allow him to remain at the position.
The younger brother of Boston Red Sox prospect Garin Cecchini—a fourth-round selection by the Red Sox in 2010—Gavin has a chance to have a better career, which says a lot. His father, Glenn, was his high school baseball coach at Barbe High School in Louisiana.
Cecchini is more polished than the typical prep shortstop and has drawn comparisons to the Orioles’ J.J. Hardy due to his upside on offense. He may not need as much seasoning in the minors compared to some other prospects and could conceivably reach the majors by late-2015.
High School: Puerto Rico Baseball Academy (Puerto Rico)
College Commitment: Miami
The top position prospect in the 2012 draft class outside of Byron Buxton, the 17-year-old Correa possesses a highly projectable frame and an assortment of electrifying tools.
His plus arm may be his most noticeable tool, as he was clocked at 97 mph across the infield at the Perfect Game World Showcase. However, Correa isn’t all arm strength; he has smooth actions on the infield with above-average range and true instincts.
At the dish, Correa, a right-handed hitter, has raw power in all directions thanks to plus bat speed and excellent hand-eye coordination. However, he’ll need to improve his weight transfer upon entering professional baseball, as he retains too much weight on his backside after contact rather than employing a high-pivot finish and really driving through the baseball. But that’s something that can easily ironed out with a big-league hitting coach.
Correa has drawn comparisons to Alex Rodriguez given his background, frame and tools, which, for the most part, is fairly accurate. A-Rod was more polished at the time he was drafted, but Correa doesn’t lag too far behind. If his development goes as expected, he could be ready to make an impact in the major leagues by 2016.