The Next First Round Shortstops

This is the final part in a three part series on first round shortstops. On Wednesday, I looked at a 15-year history. On Thursday, I looked at the shortstop prospects still in the minors. Today: the 2010 draftees.

If the last two days have proven anything, it’s that scouting directors often use their first pick on a shortstop, but that it doesn’t-so-often result in a future big league regular entering the organization. In 22 years, we have, I think, eight players that I think will go down as elite draft picks: Alex Rodriguez, Chipper Jones, Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra, Chuck Knoblauch, Troy Tulowitzki, Justin Upton and Mike Moustakas. The latter is me going out on a ledge, and you might be able to add 2-3 more guys to the list, but we’re talking about eight stars in 98 attempts. Today, I’ll run through the three consensus first rounders that will try to join that list, before hitting on four that might slip into the first round in the honorable mention section. (Note: These rankings are not my own, but what seems to be the consensus in the industry. You’ll get a feeling on whether or not I agree in my write-up.)

1. Manny Machado, Brito Miami Private School

As best I can tell, Machado is about 10 days from becoming the 22nd player drafted as a high school shortstop in the top five picks. Since he’s from Miami, people always have to mention Alex Rodriguez, but never seem to bring up failed 1979 fifth overall pick Juan Bustabad. Of that group, only the Upton Brothers, Rodriguez, Chipper Jones and Josh Booty were Machado’s size, so he’s in solid company in that regard. I also think his hit tool is probably better than everyone’s except Moustakas and Justin Upton since A-Rod was drafted. He’s going to be a big leaguer.

In watching him on videos, there is no denying his bat speed. Also, the draft video has two different triples on the highlight reel, and Machado makes it from home-to-third in more time than I would have expected. Like Bryce Harper, I do wonder if the desire to keep him at his position will prolong his development: you have to think Machado would move quicker if he was thrown into right field and told to just worry about his hitting. The best compromise is probably third base, where he still gets a positive positional adjustment, can still show off his big arm, and has a chance to be plus defensively.

2. Nick Castellanos, Archbishop McCarthy HS (Fla.)

There are a lot of iffy things in Castellanos’ scouting report that make me worry he might become a bust. At 6-foot-4, there is a chance he isn’t even announced as a shortstop on draft day — he’s a third baseman, realistically. But with the downgrade on the defensive spectrum comes heightened offensive expectations, and I’m not sure Castellanos can deliver. No one seems convinced about either hit tool, and specifically if his raw power will ever develop with a wood bat. We’ve been down this road with prospects in the past, and it doesn’t work out well.

And yet, Castellanos is also fairly unique. There aren’t a lot of players that were drafted as shortstops listed at 6-foot-4, and if you see Castellanos, there is no doubt he has room to fill out. In looking back, maybe he’ll be a bit like Sergio Santos, or a bit like Brandon Wood. Hopefully he avoids the fate suffered by Matt Halloran or Mark Farris, or maybe the team that drafts him tries to make him a catcher, a la Joe Lawrence or Michael Barrett. We can wish for him the minor league success of Kevin Witt and Kevin Orie, the best comps as far as body type go, but better big league success would be nice. I don’t really see it, though.

3. Christian Colon, Cal State Fullerton

I don’t think we can ignore that Colon’s last summer, with Team USA, was one of the best national team performances we’ve seen. He was slow out of the gate this season, but really came back, and continued to show his contact abiliy. In over 700 at-bats at Fullerton, Colon now has a walk-to-strikeout ratio of 73-64, and also has a habit of getting plunked. Defensively, he’s probably a tweener; a below-average shortstop, a solid-average second baseman. I’m guessing his lack of speed will get him moved to second eventually.

Like a right-handed Adrian Cardenas, Colon’s biggest praise comes from his hit tool, and the rest of the praise comes from his work ethic. He showed last summer how good he can be with wood, and I have no question he’ll be able to hit for a high average, and walk enough to post a good OBP. A career path resembling Cliff Pennington‘s wouldn’t shock me, so ultimately, I think a team needs to decide if that is the value they want from their first rounder. Could be.

Honorable Mention

I wrote about Derek Dietrich a couple weeks ago, and he could slide into the supplemental first round if a team thinks he could play second base. The most encouraging thing about his All-American season was the drastic slash in strikeouts … Some people really like Utah high school product Marcus Littlewood, a 6-foot-3 switch-hitter. But to me, his left-handed swing is a mess, and he swings through a lot of pitches. I almost think you let him go to college and check back in three years … I do like Yordy Cabrera, another big “shortstop” that will eventually move to third or the outfield. One look at a video of Cabrera and you see his power, which seems more present than his peers. He seems to be someone that is worth the seven figure risk … Finally, I think we’ll see Indiana shortstop Justin O’Connor in the first round, as he has real believers in a lot of his tools: plus-plus arm strength, a good-looking swing, some power projection. His ultimate position is in question, and while he looks very raw behind the plate, it might be worth it for a team to dedicate development time to that endeavor.

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8 Responses to “The Next First Round Shortstops”

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  1. walklightwhite says:

    This is the first time I’d read any questioning of Castellanos’ hit tools. Who are the “no one” you are referring to?

    In fact, just about everything I’ve read/seen suggests his bat will play at whichever position he lands at… even if that happens to be 1B/LF.

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    • Bryan Smith says:

      Yeah, that’s harsher rhetoric than Castellanos deserves. Some people really do seem to believe in his bat, otherwise he wouldn’t be getting top 15 play.

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  2. nmh says:

    This series has been great. It seems that every year there is some en vogue first round SS that ultimately fails to deliver on expectations. It seems to be a product of the position more than poor scouting, but the idea of getting a premier SS to anchor a franchise is often too appealing to pass up.

    Based on past talents, it seems that, ultimately, the risk outweighs the reward when it comes to spending big with an early draft pick on such a difficult prediction.

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  3. Shoeless says:

    Something to point out: HS SS’s are widely considered the best athletes on their team. In HS, when you are toolsy, coaches most often put you at either CF or SS. As these players get older and fill out more, most lose the ability to stay at SS. How many of those HS drafted SS’s stayed at SS? Those guys you mentioned… A-Rod, Chipper, Preston Wilson, BJ Upton, Cuddyer, Kelly Johnson… they all had to move to the OF, 3B, or 2B. By the time you get to college, however, you’re usually playing the position you will play if you go onto the bigs. College SS’s usually stay at SS in the bigs. If you draft a college SS you are *usually* planning on him playing SS in the majors. If you draft a HS SS you are really just looking at his bat potential, and project him to play elsewhere. The fact is, most of the really good HS SS’s go on to play other positions, in college and the pros. That’s why you see such a difference in quality MLB SS’s from HS’s and U’s.

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    • matt w says:

      Nitpick: A-Rod played eight full ML seasons at SS, and moved to 3B when he was traded to a team that already had a SS. So I don’t think he counts as a guy who had to move to 3B.

      Your larger point is interesting though.

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      • Shoeless says:

        This is a good point and can’t be ignored. A-Rod was defensively an above average SS. He could move back now and probably not butcher it. Tell you what, take A-Rod out and add Sergio Santos, Kyle Drabek, and Mike Moustakas (Maybe Brandon Wood also?) — HS players drafted in the first round as SS’s that have since moved.

        As a counter point, look at Khalil Greene, Stephen Drew, Troy Tulowitzki, Cliff Pennington. — College players drafted at SS’s in the first round that have stuck. I think it’s a valid point to make.

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  4. JH says:

    I know he’s not draft-eligible for a few years yet, but how does Deven Marrero compare to Manny Machado?

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  5. This is the first time I’d read any questioning of Castellanos’ hit tools. Who are the “no one” you are referring to?

    In fact, just about everything I’ve read/seen suggests his bat will play at whichever position he lands at… even if that happens to be 1B/LF.

    Vote -1 Vote +1