B/R's MLB 20 for '20: Projecting Top 20 Shortstops in 2020

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMay 17, 2018

B/R's MLB 20 for '20: Projecting Top 20 Shortstops in 2020

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Baseball is a tough sport to predict day in and day out, and it becomes exponentially more difficult to project when looking years into the future. But that's exactly what we're going to be doing here.

    Back in the summer of 2015, I wrote a series dubbed B/R's MLB 20 for '20, wherein I predicted who the top 20 players would be at each position when the 2020 season rolled around.

    Three years later, it's time for an update.

    In this edition, we look at the shortstop position, where budding young stars Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Corey Seager and Trea Turner join free-agent-to-be Manny Machado as the headliners.

    There's plenty more elite young talent on the way, though. Prospects like Fernando Tatis Jr., Brendan Rodgers, Bo Bichette and Willy Adames could all be making their cases for a spot in that top tier by 2020.

    Before we dive into the top 20, we'll take a look back at that original list with the benefit of hindsight and also shine a light on a few prospects who could be making waves two years from now.

    Enjoy.

                     

    Previous 20 for '20 series entries: Catchers, First Basemen, Second Basemen

The Original List (Published: July 16, 2015)

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    Adalberto Mondesi
    Adalberto MondesiHannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Original Top 20 Shortstops List

    1. Carlos Correa, HOU
    2. Addison Russell, CHC
    3. Dansby Swanson, ARI
    4. Brendan Rodgers, COL
    5. Corey Seager, LAD
    6. J.P. Crawford, PHI
    7. Xander Bogaerts, BOS
    8. Trea Turner, WAS
    9. Francisco Lindor, CLE
    10. Orlando Arcia, MIL
    11. Nick Gordon, MIN
    12. Andrelton Simmons, ATL
    13. Daniel Robertson, TB
    14. Franklin Barreto, OAK
    15. Adalberto Mondesi, KC
    16. Adeiny Hechavarria, MIA
    17. Jose Iglesias, DET
    18. Starlin Castro, CHC
    19. Tim Anderson, CWS
    20. Ozzie Albies, ATL

               

    Hindsight Breakdown

    It was easy to see Carlos Correa was going to be a superstar for the Houston Astros, even during his time in the minors, and a case can certainly be made that he still deserves the No. 1 spot.

    On the flip side, Francisco Lindor has blown past expectations. When this article was written the first time, he was coming off a season in which he hit .276/.338/.389 with 11 home runs in Double-A and Triple-A. Solid numbers, but nothing to indicate the MVP-caliber production to come.

    Corey Seager, Trea Turner, Dansby Swanson and Orlando Arcia were all still prospects when the original piece was written, and they've since emerged as long-term starters for their respective clubs.

    Established starters Xander Bogaerts and Andrelton Simmons have maintained their standing as top options at the position, while Brendan Rodgers and Nick Gordon still fall into the prospect category in 2018.

    The big whiff here was Adalberto Mondesi, as he's failed to carve out a big league role with the Kansas City Royals. That said, he's just 22 and is hitting .278 with an .833 OPS in Triple-A, so there's still time.

    Position changes also played a role here, as Ozzie Albies and Starlin Castro have moved to second base, and it looks like Franklin Barreto will do the same.

    All in all, the original projections have aged fairly well.

Projected Top 10 Shortstop Prospects for 2020

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    Royce Lewis
    Royce LewisBrace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

    Before we get into predicting the top 20 shortstops at the MLB level in 2020, let's take a look at who might top the position's prospect lists two years from now.

                

    1. Royce Lewis, Minnesota Twins (2020 Age: 21)

    Deserving No. 1 overall pick last June despite not having as high a ceiling as Hunter Greene. With a 60-grade hit tool, 70-grade speed, intriguing power potential and the tools to be a standout defender at shortstop or in center field, he looks like a future star.

               

    2. Wander Javier, Minnesota Twins (2020 Age: 21)

    Secured franchise-record $4 million bonus as part of 2015 international free-agent crop. Has a chance to develop into a legitimate five-tool talent. Hit .299/.383/.471 with 18 extra-base hits in 180 plate appearances in his stateside debut last year.

              

    3. Jasrado Chisholm, Arizona Diamondbacks (2020 Age: 22)

    Signed out of the Bahamas in the same class as countryman Lucius Fox. More hit than power at this point, but still has room to fill out his 5'11", 165-pound frame. Smooth defender who is a lock to stay at shortstop. Has an .858 OPS with 14 extra-base hits in 108 plate appearances in his second season at Single-A and should be in line for a midseason promotion.

                  

    4. Wander Franco, Tampa Bay Rays (2020 Age: 19)

    Ranked on upside alone as he's yet to make his pro debut. Was given $3.825 million bonus last summer. Switch-hitter with potential to be a top-of-the-order table-setter and a standout defender up the middle. Still has significant physical projection remaining.

               

    5. Luis Garcia, Washington Nationals (2020 Age: 20)

    Hit .302 with 12 extra-base hits and 11 stolen bases in 49 games of rookie ball last year. Already playing at Single-A and will be 18 for the entire 2018 season. Quick-twitch athlete who could develop into a leadoff threat thanks to his solid hit tool and plus-plus speed.

             

    6. Andres Gimenez, New York Mets (2020 Age: 21)

    Quickly emerging as the top prospect in Mets organization. Opened eyes when he hit .350/.469/.523 over 62 games in the Dominican Summer League in his pro debut in 2016. Will likely never hit for much power but has a 60-grade hit tool, and his speed plays on the bases and in the field. Could push Amed Rosario for the long-term gig.

           

    7. Carter Kieboom, Washington Nationals (2020 Age: 22)

    Taken No. 28 overall in the 2016 draft and hit .297/.396/.493 with 25 extra-base hits in 255 plate appearances during his first full season as a pro. Hamstring injury cost him roughly a month last year but didn't stop him from jumping to High-A this year. Could outgrow the position and move to third base.

            

    8. Brice Turang, 2018 Draft Prospect (2020 Age: 20)

    Entered the spring as the top prep bat in the 2018 class. Stock has dropped a bit due in part to lofty expectations. Could honor commitment to LSU if he slips out of the first round. No clear standout present tool, but he does everything well and offers plenty of upside.

            

    9. Freudis Nova, Houston Astros (2020 Age: 20)

    Signed $1.2 million bonus as part of Astros' massive $17.5 million spending spree on 2016 international market. Will make stateside debut this year and could shoot up prospect lists thanks to five-tool potential. Has earned comparisons to Edgar Renteria and Hanley Ramirez, according to MLB.com.

            

    10. Isaac Paredes, Detroit Tigers (2020 Age: 21)

    Acquired from the Chicago Cubs last summer in the Justin Wilson/Alex Avila trade. Slugged 28 doubles and 11 home runs as an 18-year-old at Single-A last year. Still a work in progress defensively and could eventually move to third base, but for now, he'll get every chance to stick at shortstop.

            

    Honorable Mentions

    • Aramis Ademan, CHC
    • Nick Allen, OAK
    • Gabriel Arias, SD
    • Jean Carmona, MIL
    • Yu-Cheng Chang, CLE
    • C.J. Chatham, BOS
    • Jeter Downs, CIN
    • Jeremy Eierman, 2018 draft
    • Lucius Fox, TB
    • Arquimedes Gamboa, PHI
    • Nicky Lopez, KC
    • Gavin Lux, LAD
    • Kevin Maitan, LAA
    • Ronny Mauricio, NYM
    • Chris Seise, TEX
    • Christopher Torres, MIA
    • Ryan Vilade, COL
    • Logan Warmoth, TOR

Honorable Mentions and Notable Veteran Omissions

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    Amed Rosario
    Amed RosarioJohn Bazemore/Associated Press

    Next 5

    Tim Anderson, CWS
    Brandon Crawford, SF
    Amed Rosario, NYM
    Marcus Semien, OAK
    Cole Tucker, PIT

                 

    Excluded Because of Age and Expected Regression

    Alcides Escobar, KC
    Adeiny Hechavarria, TB
    Jordy Mercer, PIT
    Troy Tulowitzki, TOR

20. J.P. Crawford, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 25

    J.P. Crawford has been viewed as a top prospect and the shortstop of the future in Philadelphia since he was taken No. 16 overall in the 2013 draft.

    He struggled to make the jump to the upper levels of the minors, which pushed back his arrival in the big leagues. He finally made his MLB debut in the second half last season.

    Plate discipline is his biggest asset and the reason many feel things will click for him offensively. He had nearly as many walks (311) as strikeouts (340) over 2,373 plate appearances in the minors.

    If nothing else, he has the glove to make an impact defensively.

19. Jean Segura, Seattle Mariners

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 30

    Jean Segura signed a five-year, $70 million extension last summer that includes a 2023 team option, so it's safe to assume he will be manning the shortstop position for the Seattle Mariners when the 2020 season rolls around.

    The speedy Segura was traded for the third time in his career prior to the 2017 season, joining the Mariners in the deal that sent Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte to the Arizona Diamondbacks and also brought Mitch Haniger to Seattle.

    He hit .300/.349/.427 with 30 doubles and 11 home runs in his first season in Seattle. While he failed to duplicate his huge 2016 numbers, he made his presence felt as a catalyst atop the lineup with 22 steals and 80 runs scored.

    Aside from the offensive production, he made a smooth transition back to his natural position of shortstop after playing second base in Arizona.

18. Nick Gordon, Minnesota Twins

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    Brian Blanco/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 24

    Nick Gordon was taken No. 5 overall in the 2014 draft, and he's steadily climbed the ranks in the Minnesota Twins system as the shortstop of the future.

    As the son of former All-Star closer Tom "Flash" Gordon, he has the baseball bloodlines.

    With a .340/.386/.511 line and 15 extra-base hits in 158 plate appearances at Double-A so far this year, he could be knocking on the door for a taste of the majors before the season is over.

    While he has the tools to at least be an average defender at shortstop, a move to second base remains a possibility. That decision could be largely tied to what happens with free agent Brian Dozier this winter.

    If Dozier re-signs, Gordon should break into the league as a shortstop.

    If Dozier walks, Gordon will likely slide over to second base as Jorge Polanco holds down the shortstop position until Royce Lewis is ready.

17. Orlando Arcia, Milwaukee Brewers

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 25

    After a shaky debut, Orlando Arcia showed why he was such a highly regarded prospect for the Milwaukee Brewers with a massive step forward last season.

    While his 89 OPS+ still made him a below-average contributor overall, it was a marked improvement over the 66 OPS+ he posted the previous season, and it came with 17 doubles, 15 home runs, 53 RBI and 14 stolen bases.

    On top of his increased offensive production, Arcia tallied six defensive runs saved last year. He's off to a brilliant start defensively this season with eight DRS and a 15.3 UZR/150 in 293.2 innings of work.

    He's still young enough for everything to click. If it does, he has a chance to be Francisco Lindor-lite for a Brewers team on the rise.

16. Addison Russell, Chicago Cubs

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 26

    Addison Russell slugged 21 home runs and drove in 95 runs during his age-22 season in 2016, posting a 4.1 WAR and establishing himself as one of the most promising young players in the game.

    Unfortunately, his development has stalled in the years since.

    Injuries and off-field issues no doubt played a role in a disappointing 2017 campaign, and he has an 89 OPS+ with just one home run in his first 142 plate appearances so far this year.

    While his offensive game has not progressed as hoped, he remains one of the game's elite defenders at the shortstop position, racking up 49 DRS in his three-plus seasons in the majors.

15. Paul DeJong, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Hunter Martin/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 26

    It didn't look like Paul DeJong would make a significant impact for the St. Louis Cardinals heading into the 2017 season.

    Jedd Gyorko and Jhonny Peralta were set to battle for playing time at third base, and shortstop Aledmys Diaz was fresh off an All-Star appearance as a rookie.

    By midseason, Peralta had been released and Diaz was playing in Triple-A after a frigid start at the plate, opening the door for DeJong to make his MLB debut May 28.

    He wound up posting a 121 OPS+ with 26 doubles and 25 home runs in 443 plate appearances to finish second in NL Rookie of the Year voting to Cody Bellinger.

    A natural third baseman, he'll probably never win a Gold Glove at shortstop, but he proved more than capable at the position last year. That undoubtedly played a role in the Cardinals' handing him a six-year, $26 million extension that could keep him in St. Louis through 2025 if a pair of options are exercised.

14. Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 31

    It's not often a player explodes for a career year during his ninth season in the majors.

    That's what Elvis Andrus did last season for the Texas Rangers, though, setting career highs in hits (191), doubles (44), home runs (20), RBI (88), runs scored (100) and WAR (4.7).

    The 20 home runs were especially surprising, as he had never hit more than eight in a single season prior to that and had a grand total of 35 homers over 5,203 plate appearances in his first eight seasons.

    While he's no longer the elite defender he was early in his career, he's still a capable shortstop, and he'll be just 31 years old when the 2020 season arrives.

    In the fourth season of an eight-year, $120 million extension, Andrus looks like a cornerstone piece for a Rangers team that could be headed for some retooling.

13. Willy Adames, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 24

    Willy Adames was just 18 when he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays as part of the three-team, five-player deal that sent David Price to the Detroit Tigers at the 2014 trade deadline.

    Four years later, he's one of the game's top prospects.

    After hitting .277/.360/.415 with 30 doubles, 10 home runs and 62 RBI in a full season at Triple-A last year, it's only a matter of time before he gets the call for a Rays team in the process of retooling.

    There has been some question whether he might shift to second base at the next level, but it looks like he'll get every chance to prove he can handle shortstop. His smooth footwork, soft hands and plus instincts go a long way toward offsetting his average athleticism.

    There's All-Star upside here if he can make the necessary adjustments against MLB pitching.

12. Dansby Swanson, Atlanta Braves

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    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 26

    Dansby Swanson entered last season as the NL Rookie of the Year front-runner after hitting .302/.361/.442 over 145 plate appearances in 2016.

    Instead, he struggled to a .232/.312/.324 line while managing just 31 extra-base hits in 551 plate appearances and posting a minus-0.3 WAR.

    Chalk it up as a learning experience for the former No. 1 overall pick.

    He's hitting .289/.336/.430 for a 110 OPS+ in the early going this season. All signs point to his joining Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna as core offensive pieces.

    Swanson was lauded as much for his on-field skills as he was for his intangibles and leadership ability coming out of Vanderbilt, so that carries plenty of value as well in a young locker room.

11. Didi Gregorius, New York Yankees

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 30

    It's been quite the roller coaster for Didi Gregorius in 2018.

    His month of April was otherworldly:

    • 121 PA, .327/.421/.735, 8 2B, 10 HR, 30 RBI

    His month of May has been an unmitigated disaster:

    • 54 PA, .118/.167/.157, 2 2B, 0 HR, 1 RBI

    That makes him tough to peg going forward, but a look at his 2017 season gives an idea of the kind of player he is and can be going forward.

    In his third season with the New York Yankees, he posted a 105 OPS+ with 27 doubles, 25 home runs and 87 RBI for a 3.7 WAR.

    He's still capable of another step forward, but with so much elite young talent at the position, he falls outside the top 10.

10. Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox

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    Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 27

    Xander Bogaerts won back-to-back Silver Slugger awards in 2015 and 2016 when he hit .307/.355/.434 and averaged 34 doubles, 14 home runs and 85 RBI for a 109 OPS+ and 4.2 WAR.

    Seemingly on the precipice of stardom, he instead took a disappointing step backward last year.

    He hit .273/.343/.403 for a 94 OPS+ and turned in well-below-average defensive metrics (-11 DRS, -0.9 UZR/150) on the other side of the ball.

    The question now: Has the young shortstop peaked, or is he still capable of making the leap to stardom?

    He has the potential to do the latter, and the No. 10 spot seems like a reasonable landing spot given his uncertain long-term outlook.

9. Brendan Rodgers, Colorado Rockies

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    Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 23

    Brendan Rodgers has done nothing but hit since going No. 3 overall in the 2015 draft.

    The top two picks in that draft class—Dansby Swanson and Alex Bregman—beat him to the majors as more polished college players, but Rodgers has the highest offensive ceiling of the bunch.

    In parts of four seasons in the minors, he's hit .300/.352/.506, and last season he slugged 26 doubles and 18 home runs in 400 plate appearances between High-A and Double-A.

    His best fit defensively might be third base, but with Nolan Arenado blocking his path, he's remained at shortstop in the minors. While he lacks the speed and range most look for at the position, he had the instincts and arm strength to stay there.

    What the team decides to do with incumbent second baseman DJ LeMahieu when he reaches free agency this coming offseason and the developmental path of shortstop Trevor Story could determine where Rodgers lands defensively.

8. Andrelton Simmons, Los Angeles Angels

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    Ryan Kang/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 30

    Andrelton Simmons is the best defensive player in baseball.

    Period.

    Dating back to the 2013 season—his first as an everyday player—here's how far out ahead of the pack he is in a few notable defensive metrics:

    • DRS: 147 (Nolan Arenado, 101)
    • UZR/150: 16.2 (Jason Heyward, 15.5)
    • DEF: 111.2 (Brandon Crawford, 70.6)

    His improving offensive game is icing on the cake.

    Simmons entered the 2017 season with a career .261/.308/.363 hitter for an 86 OPS+.

    Last season, he hit .278/.331/.421 with career highs in hits (164) and doubles (38), along with 14 home runs, on his way to a 102 OPS+ and a gaudy 7.1 WAR.

    His game should age well, and he'll be just 30 in 2020.

7. Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres

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    Andy Hayt/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 21

    The 2016 trade that saw the Chicago White Sox acquire veteran starter James Shields in exchange for a 17-year-old prospect who had yet to make his pro debut has a chance to go down as one of the most lopsided in baseball history.

    That prospect was Fernando Tatis Jr., and he's emerged as the top prospect in a stacked San Diego Padres farm system.

    In his full-season debut last year, he hit .278/.379/.498 with 27 doubles, 22 home runs, 75 RBI and 32 stolen bases, finishing the season with 14 games at the Double-A level as an 18-year-old.

    After a sluggish start this season back at Double-A, he's hitting .333/.441/.719 with five doubles, five home runs and 11 RBI in 14 games this month.

    MLB.com wrote: "Tatis Jr.'s bat gives him the ceiling of a perennial All-Star, possibly even an MVP candidate in his prime."

    The precocious slugger could make his debut later this season.

6. Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 22

    It speaks to how good Bo Bichette was last year that a .279/.353/.421 line as a 20-year-old in Double-A this season has been mildly disappointing.

    A second-round pick in 2016, the son of former All-Star Dante Bichette posted an eye-popping .362/.423/.565 line with 41 doubles, 14 home runs, 74 RBI, 88 runs scored and 22 stolen bases between Single-A and High-A last season to announce himself as one of the game's elite prospects.

    He has some moving parts to his swing, but he's made consistent hard contact and shown an advanced overall approach with a 70-grade hit tool and 55-grade power that has a good chance to play thanks to his electric bat speed.

    While a move to second or third base could come at some point, the Toronto Blue Jays have shown every intention to give him a chance to be the long-term answer at shortstop.

    Regardless, his bat will play anywhere. As MLB.com put it: "Much like his teammate and friend Vladimir Guerrero Jr., there seems to be no limit to Bichette's offensive ceiling. His career-to-date points to a bright future as a perennial All-Star who could regularly compete for batting titles."

5. Trea Turner, Washington Nationals

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    Denis Poroy/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 27

    Byron Buxton is statistically the fastest player in baseball this season.

    However, a case can be made that Trea Turner does more damage with his speed than any player in the game.

    The No. 13 pick in the 2014 draft after a standout career at NC State, Turner burst onto the scene in 2016 when he hit .342/.370/.567 with 35 extra-base hits and 33 stolen bases in 73 games to finish second in NL Rookie of the Year voting.

    He stole 46 bases in 54 attempts last season and scored 75 runs despite being limited to 98 games by a fractured wrist. Healthy once again this season, he's seen his walk rate spike from 6.7 to 14.6 percent for a .380 on-base percentage, and he's already swiped 13 bases in 14 tries.

    There might not be a more dangerous table-setter in the game, and his overall offensive game continues to improve. He's a solid defensive shortstop to boot.

4. Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 26

    Corey Seager put together one of the best rookie seasons in recent memory in 2016 when he hit .308/.365/.512 with 40 doubles, 26 home runs, 72 RBI and 105 runs scored. He finished third in NL MVP voting and won NL Rookie of the Year unanimously.

    He was a 5-WAR player once again last season, raising his walk rate (7.9 to 10.9 percent) and playing stellar defense (10 DRS, 11.6 UZR/150) in the process.

    Unfortunately, his 2018 season came to an abrupt halt early in May due to season-ending Tommy John surgery.

    There's no reason to think he won't return to his pre-injury form next season, and the young shortstop is already one of the best pure hitters in the game.

    Expect to see him contend for both batting titles and Gold Glove awards in the years to come.

3. Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 27

    After spending his first six seasons in the majors manning third base, Manny Machado has moved back to his natural position of shortstop ahead of his impending free agency.

    Machado suffered through a down offensive season last year, posting a 107 OPS+ that was his lowest since his first full season in the big leagues.

    He's back to raking this year, though.

    The former No. 3 overall pick is currently the AL Triple Crown leader with a .350/13/38 line. At the same time, he's made a smooth transition back to shortstop.

    As the Orioles fall out of contention, Machado figures to be the prize of this summer's trade deadline before signing what could be a record deal in free agency next winter.

2. Carlos Correa, Houston Astros

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 25

    One of the game's most exciting young players, Carlos Correa took his game to another level last season.

    Here's a look at his career trajectory:

    • 2015: 135 OPS+, 22 HR, 68 RBI, 4.3 WAR
    • 2016: 124 OPS+, 20 HR, 96 RBI, 6.1 WAR
    • 2017: 157 OPS+, 24 HR, 84 RBI, 6.3 WAR

    His counting numbers last season were made even more impressive by the fact that he played just 109 games due to a torn thumb ligament.

    More than a few talent evaluators were surprised when the Houston Astros took him No. 1 overall in the 2012 draft ahead of Byron Buxton and Mike Zunino.

    Six years later, it's clear they made the right choice.

1. Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians

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    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 26

    Francisco Lindor is off to as hot a start as any player in baseball this season.

    The two-time All-Star is hitting .316/.394/.608 with 14 doubles and 12 home runs in 41 games. Coupled with his standout defense, that has been good for a 3.0 WAR.

    Always viewed as an elite defender dating back to when Cleveland selected him No. 8 overall in the 2011 draft, Lindor has far exceeded expectations offensively.

    His home run total spiked from 15 to 33 last season, and he's proved that uptick in over-the-fence production was the real deal with his big numbers in 2018.

    There might not be a better two-way player in the game today, and he'll be entering the prime of his career in 2020.

    That earns him the top spot at a position that is overflowing with exciting talent.

                  

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted, and accurate through Tuesday's games. A player's 2020 age refers to how old he will be on July 1 of that year—roughly the midway point in the season.