10 Prospects Who Could Be the Next Barry Larkin
On Sunday afternoon, Barry Larkin will be welcomed into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame as the Class of 2012’s lone inductee. In his 19-year career, all with the Cincinnati Reds, Larkin batted .295/.371/.444 with 441 doubles, 198 home runs and 379 stolen bases, while registering a 67.1 career WAR. Perennially lauded for his defense and leadership, Larkin won three Gold Glove awards and posted a career 4.62 RF/G while playing 2,085 games at shortstop.
A 12-time All-Star and the 1995 National League MVP, Larkin enjoyed his best statistical season in 1996 when he batted .298/.410/.567 with 32 doubles, 33 home runs, 89 RBI, and 36 stolen bases, as he drew 96 walks compared to only 52 strikeouts.
With Larkin’s legacy set to be enshrined in Cooperstown this weekend, we now look towards the minor leagues to determine whether there’s a player, or players, who has the potential to turn in a similar career. Therefore, I looked for players who have the upside of a .300 hitter capable of annually producing 20 doubles, 10 home runs, 20 stolen bases and a .350 OBP. Additionally, the player must have the defensive skills to profile at shortstop for the majority of their career.
So, here are 10 prospects who have the potential to be the next Barry Larkin.
10. Christian Colon, SS, Kansas City Royals
Height/Weight: 6'1", 180
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (Cal State-Fullerton)
Double-A: .290/.369/.407, 14 XBH, 24 RBI, 11 SB, 22 K/27 BB; 3.81 RF/G (60 G)
Due to his feel for the strike zone and ability to manipulate counts, Colon may hit for a decent average. Despite possessing above-average bat speed, the right-handed hitter really doesn’t have that much power—at times, some to the pull side. At shortstop, Colon struggles at times due to his average speed, and, in turn, fringy range. His arm is only an average tool and may be better suited for second base.
Although his hit tool and plate discipline has improved this season, he still lacks power—though he’s become better at shooting the gaps. Furthermore, for a player—especially a middle infielder—who demonstrates on-base skills like Colon, his stock would receive a boost if he proved to be a more adept base-stealer.
After a brief stint on the disabled list, Colon is in the midst of a rehab assignment and looks to finish his season on a strong note.
9. Chris Owings, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks
Height/Weight: 5’10”/180 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2009, first round (HS—Charleston, S.C.)
High-A: .324/.362/.544, 29 XBH (11 HR), 24 RBI, 8 SB, 63 K/13 BB; 4.20 RF/G (59 G)
Double-A: .254/.277/.365, 8 XBH, 18 RBI, 31 K/3 BB; 4.63 RF/G (27 G)
For his size, Owings is incredibly strong and possesses about as much raw power as any shortstop in the minor leagues. He has a lightning quick bat but has been hindered by an aggressive approach that results in too many swing-and-misses. Even though his numbers are huge improvement this season, he still lacks a consistent approach and has a tendency to chase subpar offspeed pitches in hitter’s counts.
Possessing both above-average speed and range, as well as an accurate, plus arm, Owings can be lackadaisical and make too many careless errors—many of them mental. However, he’s still young and has plenty of time to make the needed adjustments as he ascends the Diamondbacks’ highly talented farm system.
After a breakout offensive season at High-A, Owings recently was promoted to Double-A where his lack of plate discipline has been exploited. Therefore, his pitching recognition will need to improve in order to repeat his success at the plate.
8. Eugenio Suarez, SS, Detroit Tigers
Height/Weight: 6', 180
Drafted/Signed: 2008, Venezuela
Low-A: .318/.417/.464, 37 XBH (29 2B), 15 SB, 76 K/51 BB; 4.91 RF/G (92 G)
A raw player in nearly every facet of the game, Suarez has a quick bat and direct path that projects for an average hit tool. However, only time will dictate the amount of power he ultimately develops, as he’s still a young hitter trying to refine his approach.
Despite committing far too many errors last season, Suarez has above-average range and a strong arm that should keep him at the position. As he gains more experience, his instincts and overall baseball IQ should improve and therefore reduce his error totals.
He’s having an impressive season at the plate this season at Low-A, and flashing consistent gap power. He’s also made noticeable improvements in his plate discipline and has appeared more comfortable hitting behind in the count. At this rate, Suarez could be in store for a promotion to High-A later this season.
7. Jace Peterson, SS, San Diego Padres
Height/Weight: 6’/190 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (McNeese State)
Low-A: .278/.377/.392, 24 XBH (16 2B), 37 SB, 44 K/41 BB; 4.19 RF/G (76 G)
One of the best athletes in the low-minors and the best in the Padres’ system, Peterson was a two-sport star at McNeese State. After turning pro and focusing on baseball full time, he has turned countless heads both with his performance at shortstop and as a top-of-the-order hitter.
For someone with considerably less baseball experience than almost everyone at Low-A, Peterson has an advanced feel for the strike zone and consistently draws more walks than strikeouts. A left-handed hitter, he has a short, quick swing that lacks lift but still yields lots of extra-base hits thanks to his plus speed. He’s a smart and aggressive base stealer who already has an idea on how read pitchers and steal bases.
Defensively, he’s still somewhat raw at shortstop. However, his work ethic and sheer athleticism should allow him to become an elite defender as he receives more experience. Even if his defense doesn’t improve to big-league standards, his speed and above-average arm are enough to comfortably play center field.
6. Hak-Ju Lee, SS, Tampa Bay Rays
Height/Weight: 6'2", 170
DOB: 11/4/1990 (Age: 21)
Drafted/Signed: 2008, South Korea
Double-A: .271/.338/.348, 20 XBH (7 3B), 34 SB, 78 K/96 BB; 4.34 RF/G (94 G)
Lee is an exceptional fielder—one of the best defensive shortstops in the minors. He has both plus range and a plus arm with outstanding instincts and smooth actions. His bat lags behind his defense, and he will never provide the thump to be the consistent All-Star that some other shortstop prospects likely will. However, his hit tool continues to develop and should be at least average by the time he reaches the major leagues.
Across two stops in 2011, Lee posted a .292/.365/.416 slash line with 33 swipes and 37 extra-base hits. A left-handed hitter, he’s an adept base-stealer and should consistently collect more doubles and triples than home runs.
After batting .248 in April and .220 in May, his bat exploded in June to the tune of .330/.387/.450 with seven extra-base hits and 14 stolen bases. He’s kept pace so far in July and should continue to turn his season around and boost his overall stats with a strong the second half.
5. Jean Segura, SS, Los Angeles Angels
Height/Weight: 5'10", 165
Drafted/Signed: 2007, Dominican Republic
Double-A: .291/.342/.394, 20 XBH (7 HR), 40 RBI, 33 SB, 57 K/22 BB; 4.36 RF/G (92 G)
The No. 2 prospect in the Angels' system headed into the season, Segura is an undersized (5'11", 185 lbs.) middle infielder with exciting tools. Thanks to his raw bat speed and compact swing, he will surprise people with the amount of pop in his bat. His quick wrists allow him to sit on offspeed offerings, and he's become increasingly comfortable hitting to all fields.
By the time he settles in at the major league level, the right-handed hitter could flirt with a .300 batting average, as well as 10-15 home runs. With healthy legs, Segura has the potential to be a stolen base threat and should leg out many more extra-base hits. Although he’s always had a high contact rate, Segura could better utilize his speed by drawing more walks—something that he’s done at an eight percent clip in his best seasons.
With enough range to play both middle infield positions for the time being, it's Segura’s plus arm that makes him more attractive as a shortstop. He plays both positions aggressively and has good instincts on the field.
Segura’s impressive first-half performance at Double-A Arkansas garnered Texas League midseason All-Star honors, and he was selected to his first Futures Game in July. Having been plagued by various leg and lower-half injuries over his career, he’s remained healthy this season and on pace for the best season of his career.
4. Manny Machado, SS, Baltimore Orioles
Height/Weight: 6'3", 185
DOB: 7/6/1992 (Age: 19)
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (HS: Brito, Fla.)
Double-A: .257/.342/.412, 34 XBH (8 HR), 50 RBI, 12 SB, 61 K/40 BB; 4.36 RF/G (88 G)
Machado was impressive in 2011, his first full professional season, despite suffering a dislocated kneecap and subsequently missing a month. His 6'3", 185-pound frame is extremely projectable, and this season he’s drawn rave reviews from scouts despite not posting overly impressive numbers.
He has the actions to remain at shortstop for the time being, but his physical development will ultimately dictate his position. He has a plus arm from the left side as well as average range, so expect Machado to be projected at multiple positions over the course of his minor league career.
His plus bat speed suggests potential for above average power, and he has already shown an impressive feel for the strike zone at a young age. After a slow first half of the season, expect Machado to turn in a strong finish as he becomes increasingly acclimated to Double-A pitching.
3. Alen Hanson, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates
Height/Weight: 5’11"/152 lbs
DOB: 10/22/1992 (Age: 19)
Drafted/Signed: 2009, Dominican Republic
Low-A: .326/.389/.571, 51 XBH (15 HR), 49 RBI, 23 SB, 81 K/38 BB; 3.78 RF/G (91 G)
Despite being undersized at 5’11”, 152 pounds, Hanson is an exceptional athlete with projectable baseball skills. He has insanely quick feet and plus speed that in turn give him exceptional range at both shortstop and second base. His slightly below-average arm is his weakest tool, so while he’s currently manning shortstop in Low-A, he may be second-base-bound once he reaches a more advanced level.
An aggressive switch-hitter with a short and direct bat path from both sides of the plate, Hanson has some serious little-man pop, as he projects to tally plenty of doubles and triples as well as a surprising number of home runs. He’s absolutely raking at Low-A this season and has been one of the more impressive position prospects in the South Atlantic League and considered by many to be the premier breakout prospect of the 2012 season. At this rate, Hanson should finish the season at High-A.
2. Jurickson Profar, SS, Texas Rangers
Height/Weight: 5'11", 165
DOB: 2/20/1993 (Age: 19)
Drafted/Signed: 2009, Curacao
Double-A: .297/.372/.494, 40 XBH (11 HR), 47 RBI, 10 SB, 59 K/44 BB; 4.35 RF/G (89 G)
Halfway through the season, Profar has shown exactly why he’s the top prospect in all of baseball. The 19-year-old is thriving at Double-A, making easy adjustments without showing any flaws in his game. He possesses an above-average hit tool from both sides of the plate that’s highlighted by quick wrists and an advanced feel for the strike zone. As we all saw in the XM Futures Game, Profar has surprising pop for his size that, when bundled with his quick wrists, could yield 15-20 home runs in his prime.
Although his speed only grades out as above-average, he continues to make strides as a base stealer. It’s more noticeable on defense, as Profar has excellent range at shortstop and has clean actions through the baseball. He is a plus defender with soft hands and also possesses a strong arm that will allow him to remain at the position.
After a slow start, including batting .253 in April, Profar posted nearly a .900 OPS in May and continues to demonstrate plate discipline well beyond his years. Recently, the switch-hitting youngster was named a Texas League Midseason All-Star and turned in a jaw-dropping performance—homering form the left side, singling from the right side—in his second XM Futures Game.
The top position prospect in the minor leagues, Profar has the potential to be a superstar given his natural ability as a switch-hitter and defensive prowess at short. While he’s still young and would benefit from considerable experience, it’s conceivable that he’ll be big-league-ready by late 2013.
1. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
Height/Weight: 5'11", 175
DOB: 11/14/1993 (Age: 18)
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (HS: Montverde Academy, Fla.)
Low-A: .267/.362/.386, 27 XBH (19 2B), 30 RBI, 19 SB, 52 K/43 BB; 4.58 RF/G (83 G)
One of the most promising young shortstops in the game, Lindor, 18, is already on the fast track to the major leagues.
The best defensive shortstop in the 2011 draft class, he has drawn rave reviews for his athleticism and actions at short, making plays that are unexpected of a player of his age. The combination of his range and plus arm has the Indians convinced that Lindor will be able to stick at shortstop for the duration of his career.
A switch-hitter, Lindor’s offensive value will come from his hit tool. He’s already showing the ability get on base at a decent clip thanks to plate discipline well beyond his years. He’ll never hit for much power, but he has enough pop to produce at least 10 home runs and 20-plus doubles per season.
Despite being just a slightly above-average runner, Lindor projects to steal 20 bases annually due to his aggressiveness, instincts and high baseball IQ.