Written By: Michael Richards
Follow Him on Twitter: @MPRichards1981
Follow Prospects Worldwide on Twitter: @ProspectsWorldW
An unprecedented 60-game season is in full swing at this point and winding down. If you are playing in a dynasty league, you should have a good understanding of where your franchise stands relative to the competition. If you find yourself within striking distance of the leader, with a realistic chance to move up, by all means, make the necessary trades to fill your most glaring holes.
But for everyone else who is already thinking about 2021, this would be an extremely good time to start stockpiling assets for the future. Assets come in different shapes and sizes and you must be able to identify them to have success long-term. They can be anything from a young Major Leaguer who is on the verge of breaking out, to a late-round prospect pick. Anything that could theoretically turn into a franchise-altering piece.
Today I will be looking at a group of prospects who didn’t get a chance to play on the world stage this season. The cancellation of the Minor League season has put a hold on the development of thousands of players. On the flip side of that, some of the most exciting and intriguing players are getting the opportunity to spend time around Major Leaguers they normally wouldn’t have the chance to. Within the dynasty game, there is an opportunity to speed up the rebuilding process by aggressively targeting certain types of prospects. Since there aren’t any new statistics, promotions, and hype surrounding most prospects, you may find fantasy managers in contention more willing to part with certain players, at what amounts to a discount for the strategic rebuilder. Essentially you are trying to target players who have the potential to cost significantly more once scouts can see them play in competitive situations again.
The shortstop position has long been a coveted place to find one of the future gems of fantasy baseball. There was a time, not long ago, that the position was relatively thin and you had a huge advantage versus the competition if you had one of the elite players. With so much young, high upside talent coming through in recent years, the position is now relatively deep, and you need to have a great hitter there to keep up. There is no doubt that team needs and defensive concerns will shift some of these players off the position down the road, but all of these players have a professional skill-set that should transfer to another position, if necessary. Players such as Carter Kieboom and Nico Hoerner, whom I expect to surpass the rookie limits before next season will not be on this list.
These Rankings are focused on Dynasty Leagues only. And specifically leagues that focus on OBP over AVG as a statistic.
1. Wander Franco, Rays | Age : 19 | Level : AAA
Height : 5’10” | Weight : 190 | Bats : S | Throws : R
The crown jewel of the position, as well as the entire prospect world at the moment. It is hard to find anyone who has something negative to say about Franco. A potential superstar in the making, he possesses 5-category fantasy upside and could become a cornerstone for dynasty owners for years to come. Signed for $3.9 million as the top international player in 2017, he is a switch-hitting infielder who can also play second base and third base. Tampa Bay will no doubt use his versatility to keep him in the lineup early in his career before likely finding him a permanent home. He possesses the rare combination of elite bat speed, elite hit tool, and plus speed that would make any dynasty manager drool. Despite not turning 20 until next March he is considered a polished product who is on the verge of making his highly-anticipated Major League debut. With his elite upside, defensive versatility and the Rays desire to contend, don’t be shocked to see him debut before the year is over.
2. Marco Luciano, Giants | Age : 18 | Level : A
Height : 6’2″ | Weight : 180 | Bats : R | Throws : R
Signed out of from the Dominican Republic in 2018 for $2.6 million, Luciano has done nothing but hit, impress and move into top 10 overall consideration, despite not playing above A-ball yet. The right-handed hitter oozes power potential, that some scouts think could reach 70-grade at his peak. He ranked third in the AZL league in home runs (10), fourth in SLG% (.616), and his 15.2% walk rate is outstanding for his age. He is an above-average runner and is expected to chip in double-digit steals, particularly early in his career. He possesses elite bat speed and makes plenty of loud, hard contact.
Because of his large frame, which is expected to fill out as he ages, many scouts expect Luciano to end up at third base or the outfield long-term, although the Giants will continue developing him as a shortstop as long as the phenom can handle it defensively. Regardless of what position he ultimately ends up, Luciano has all the necessary ingredients to eventually be the top overall prospect in the game before graduating into a perennial all-star and dynasty cornerstone.
3. CJ Abrams, Padres | Age : 19 | Level : A
Height : 6’2″ | Weight : 185 | Bats : L | Throws : R
Drafted sixth overall in the 2019 first-year player draft, Abrams is a premium athlete with legitimate 80-grade speed that could lead to outstanding stolen base totals for fantasy managers. Besides his speed, he also carries a plus hit-tool. Abrams’s full array of tools was on display in his 32-game debut last season in the AZL league. The left-handed hitter won league MVP, the batting title, and had as many steals as strikeouts. Expectations were that he would eventually develop decent power, but he put those projections to shame while posting a .261 ISO.
Some scouts believe his big, athletic frame is more suited for center field and he may end up there if he gets too big. From a dynasty perspective, we are looking at an elite prospect with an extremely desirable skillset. Hitters with plus-plus speed, elite hit tools, and raw power don’t come along often.
4. Bobby Witt, Royals | Age : 20 | Level : A
Height : 6’1″ | Weight : 190 | Bats : R | Throws : R
Selected second overall in the 2019 draft as the top high-school player available, Witt is considered a potential 5-tool player. He combines plus-plus raw power with plus speed to profile as an intriguing power/speed prospect. While it can be difficult to project how high school hitters will fare against professional pitching, his Major League bloodlines (father is former White Sox pitcher Bobby Witt) and loud tools give a reason for optimism. The biggest concern some scouts have is that his hit tool will never become plus. While that could lead to a lot of strikeouts and relatively low batting averages, the power and speed element of his game will be valuable regardless. If the hit tool develops more quickly or is better than advertised, he will be a fantasy superstar who could put up 35 homerun, 25 steal seasons at his peak.
5. Royce Lewis, Twins | Age : 21 | Level : AAA
Height : 6’1″ | Weight : 185 | Bats : R | Throws : R
The first overall pick of the 2017 First-Year Player draft, Lewis has held a steady spot among the top shortstop prospects for three years now. He struggled during his age 19/20 season in High-A and Double-A but was able to bounce back in a big way during the Arizona Fall League. Blessed with plus-plus bat speed, Lewis can make hard contact to all fields when he is on. He does use a big leg kick and has some moving parts to his swing that occasionally lead to slumps. Most intriguing to dynasty owners is his 70-grade speed, which will help him contribute effectively in stolen bases. A quick-twitch athlete who could end up moving to centerfield down the line, Lewis possesses several qualities that make him a desired fantasy asset. If he reaches his potential, we are looking at a well-rounded, 5 category contributor.
6. Oneil Cruz, Pirates | Age : 21 | Level : AA
Height : 6’7″ | Weight : 205 | Bats : L | Throws : R
Reportedly the tallest shortstop to ever play the position in Double-A, it seems inevitable that Cruz will eventually have to change positions, although he’s made it work thus far. Most scouts expect the slugger will end up at third base or in right field, but the power should play regardless of his defensive position. As with all tall players, there are concerns about whether he will be able to make consistent enough contact to reach his ultimate upside. Besides having the potential for 70-grade power, Cruz also has above-average speed which should help him chip in steals early in his career. If the power-hitting lefty reaches his full potential, there are some scouts who believe he could be comparable to Aaron Judge.
7. Noelvi Marte, Mariners | Age : 18 | Level : A
Height : 6’1″ | Weight : 180 | Bats : R | Throws : R
Another elite prospect from the loaded 2018 J2 class, Marte signed with the Mariners out of the Dominican Republic for $1.55 million. He possesses elite bat speed which helps his plus power show up in games at an early age. Taking a similar path as other high-profile international signees, Marte slashed .309/.371/.511 in the Dominican Summer League, with nine home runs and 17 steals, showing his immense fantasy upside. His speed is considered above-average at present, but he is expected to add weight to his growing frame and eventually become an average runner. Many scouts believe the added size will lead to moving to third base, or potentially the outfield, but the bat profiles anywhere. This is a premium bat-first prospect who you should target before the asking price becomes outrageous.
8. Jeter Downs, Red Sox | Age : 22 | Level : AAA
Height : 5’11” | Weight : 180 | Bats : R | Throws : R
Selected with the 32nd pick by the Reds in 2017, Downs has been the key prospect returned in two blockbuster deals thus far. Most recently dealt from the Dodgers to the Red Sox in the Mookie Betts trade, he is expected to be a key piece for Boston going forward. After an initial adjustment period, Downs hit .313/.398/.594 with 24 home runs, 19 steals, 11.9 BB%, and 18.1 K% over his final 101 games, while ending the season in Double-A. He projects to have an above-average hit tool, potential plus-power, and while he is not a huge speed threat, he steals bases at a 75% success rate, which should help him chip in there. With Xander Bogaerts signed long-term to play shortstop, it is expected Downs will break into the Major Leagues as a second baseman and become a top 10 player at the position in his prime.
9. Maximo Acosta, Rangers | Age : 17 | Level : Rookie
Height : 6’1″ | Weight : 170 | Bats : R | Throws : R
When Acosta signed in January of 2019 out of Venezuela, he was the smallest prospect in the international class at 5-foot-9, 145 pounds. Since that point, he has grown four inches and added 25 pounds, and scouts and dynasty owners have begun taking notice. The right-handed hitter’s signing bonus was a modest $1.65 million, likely due to his small stature at the time, which is reminiscent of the development of Fernando Tatis Jr. After scouts were able to watch him play in the Tricky League in the Dominican Republic, they came away impressed. Acosta carries a plus-hit tool, developing power, plus bat speed, and 60-grade speed at present. Combine those traits with an outstanding work ethic, high baseball IQ, and praise for his leadership qualities, and it becomes evident why he is often compared to Gleyber Torres.
10. Orelvis Martinez, Blue Jays | Age : 18 | Level : Rookie
Height : 6’1″ | Weight : 190 | Bats : R | Throws : R
Inked during the 2018 international signing period for $3.5 million, the largest bonus given out that season. Toronto aggressively jumped him over the Dominican Summer League, sending him directly to the Gulf Coast League as a 17-year old. Martinez stepped up to the challenge, solidifying his spot as an extremely promising prospect in the process. He shows the potential to be a power-hitting infielder who has quick bat-speed and demonstrated a good understanding of the strike zone, which oftentimes is the missing link for young players. Nicknamed Baby Beltre, he is expected to fill-out as a matures, and most scouts believe he will end up at third base. While the young slugger doesn’t have the speed to contribute in steals, he shows all the necessary components to be a 4-category contributor playing half his games in a hitter’s park.
11. Geraldo Perdomo, Diamondbacks | Age : 20 | Level : AAA
Height : 6’2″ | Weight : 185 | Bats : S | Throws : R
Signed for just $70,000 back in 2016, Perdomo has taken an unconventional approach to become a top prospect in the Arizona organization. The switch-hitter shows potential for plus bat speed and should develop at least 20 home run power, particularly from the left side of the plate. Scouts believe he has at least 55-grade speed, though his success rate stealing bases has dropped as he has moved up levels. The key to his profile is his advanced understanding of the strike zone, combined with a plus hit tool. Perdomo is expected to stick at shortstop long-term and makes for an intriguing dynasty option at the position, considering his hitter-friendly home park and the well-rounded skill-set.
12. Ed Howard, Cubs | Age : 19 | Level : Rookie
Height : 6’2″ | Weight : 185 | Bats : R | Throws : R
A toolsy infield prospect selected 16th in the 2020 draft, Howard first showed up on the national scene leading his Chicago-based Little League World Series team to a championship as a 12-year old. Howard combines good size and plus raw power with above-average speed to form a compelling skill set. He recently turned 19 years old, so his development may be fast-tracked a bit more than the typical prep a year younger. Although he does not have elite range, his glove and throwing arm will allow him to remain at shortstop most of his career. The righty uses elite bat speed, top-notch exit velocities, and advanced bat-to-ball skills to make consistent hard contact. As with most prep hitters, it is hard to predict how they will transition to professional baseball, but Howard has the tools, pedigree, and organization worth investing in.
13. Luisangel Acuna, Rangers | Age : 18 | Level : Rookie
Height : 5’10” | Weight : 155 | Bats : R | Throws : R
The brother of Major League all-star Ronald Acuna, there’s little doubt he has bloodlines on his side. While he doesn’t have the same physical tools as his older brother, Acuna makes up for it with polish. Possessing elite plate discipline which led to more walks than strikeouts in the Dominican Summer League, Acuna uses his command of the strike zone very effectively in combination with his advanced hit tool. He slashed .342/.438/.455 with two home runs and 17 steals on 23 attempts, showing the potential for at least above-average speed. While his diminutive size will scare some folks off, the totality of the package makes for an intriguing prospect that is worth a well-timed prospect pick or targeted in a trade before he reappears on the scene next year.
14. Jazz Chisholm, Marlins | Age : 22 | Level : AAA
Height : 5’11” | Weight : 165 | Bats : L | Throws : R
Signed for $200,000 in 2015 by the Diamondbacks, Chisholm is not a physically imposing figure but he plays bigger than his size. An above-average runner with elite bat speed, the young shortstop was traded to the Marlins for Zach Gallen, showing the type of player they believe he can become. After the trade, he cut his strikeout rate down significantly, rediscovered his line-drive stroke, and finished the season strong. Despite nearly two months of mediocrity in Double-A, the toolsy shortstop still managed to hit 21 home runs and steal 16 bases. There seems to be an adjustment period each time he is challenged with more advanced pitching but Chisholm seems to figure it out eventually. He is expected to remain at shortstop long-term, solidifying his spot on this list.
15. Liover Peguero, Pirates | Age : 19 | Level : A
Height : 6’1″ | Weight : 160 | Bats : R | Throws : R
Acquired from Arizona in the Starling Marte deal in January, Peguero was very productive in rookie ball last season, slashing .326/.382/.485 and showing he is ready to make his debut in A ball. The right-handed hitter is intriguing for dynasty purposes because he combines average power with above-average speed, while not having any concerns about a position switch. His hit tool has the potential to be plus, with top-end bat speed and the ability to use the whole field. Peguero also shows a willingness to talk walks (8.0 BB%), and the totality of his skill set is a starting shortstop who could have similar value to Dansby Swanson long-term.
16. Jose Garcia, Reds | Age : 22 | Level : AAA
Height : 6’2″ | Weight : 175 | Bats : R | Throws : R
Acquired as a free agent in 2017 out of Cuba, Garcia was picked up by the Reds who gave him a $5 million signing bonus. He began his career off slowly but had a breakout last season at High-A in the Florida State League. This season he was expected to report to AA, which would have been more age-appropriate and given evaluators a better understanding of where he stands in his development. His main calling card for dynasty will be his ability to steal bases at a high rate combined with excellent bat-to-ball skills. He doesn’t seem to possess great patience (5.5 BB%) and lacks power upside. With manager David Bell saying Garcia could debut this season, it won’t be long before we get our first glimpse at the Reds shortstop of the future.
17. Ronny Mauricio, Mets | Age : 19 | Level : A
Height : 6’3″ | Weight : 170 | Bats : S | Throws : R
A tall, projectable prospect who came onto the scene when the Mets inked him for $2.1 million as part of the international signing period in 2017. Mauricio is a switch-hitter who has good bat-to-ball skills but hasn’t developed enough strength yet to tap into his power upside. He still has to learn how to hit the ball in the air more and has a well-below average hard hit %, so he very much remains a work in progress. Physically he looks the part of an elite shortstop who should add good strength to his frame, but the statistics thus far leave much to be desired. He likely won’t bring much speed to the table and could potentially move to third base if he outgrows the position. Considering that Mauricio has been playing against older competition, it is far too early to give up on him. He would be an excellent, cheap lottery ticket to get thrown into a deal.
18. Luis Garcia, Nationals | Age : 20 | Level : AAA
Height : 5’11” | Weight : 170 | Bats : L | Throws : R
Originally signed for $1.3 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2016, it has been a roller coaster ride for the young Nationals infielder. Upon signing he was praised for his glove and arm, while it was expected his offense would take time to develop. He surprised scouts with his bat in rookie ball and has been given aggressive assignments ever since. He played last season as a 19-year old in Double-A, which is extremely rare. He would have been the youngest player at High-A, so the aggressiveness of the assignment can’t be overstated. While he is never expected to be a great source of walks, Garcia could develop into a multi-position infielder capable of chipping in 20 home runs and 15 steals. His value noticeably increases if you are playing in a batting average league, as he could regularly bat around .300 in his prime.
19. Robert Puason, Athletics | Age : 17 | Level : Rookie
Height : 6’3″ | Weight : 165 | Bats : S | Throws : R
Puason received an impressive $5.1 million signing bonus as the second-rated international prospect in 2019, behind the highly touted Jasson Dominguez. He is a quick-twitch athlete who possesses the prototypical body to add good strength to his frame. Similar to Ronny Mauricio, there is room to improve his hitting approach and pitch recognition. The most appealing aspect of his game is his plus-speed, which could end up being combined with above-average raw power. There is a wide range of outcomes with this profile, but if his hit tool develops better than expected, he has 20 home run, 30 steals upside. He is the definition of a high-upside lotto ticket.
20. Greg Jones, Rays | Age : 22 | Level : Rookie
Height : 6’1″ | Weight : 190 | Bats : S | Throws : R
Selected 22nd overall in the 2019 First-Year Player Draft, Jones was the fastest college player from his class, with at least 70-grade speed. Players with his physical gifts are typically drafted out of high school, so the fact he went to college shows the hit tool is a question mark. He exceeded expectations in his professional debut, showing the potential of becoming an effective leadoff hitter capable of stealing upwards of 40 bases in his prime. While he is never expected to become a slugger, he does show serviceable power during batting practice. The hit tool will make or break Jones long-term. If it never fully develops, we are looking at a Dee Gordon type player. If it does develop, we are looking at a potential dynasty force for years to come.
SS Ranking Breakdown
1. Wander Franco, Rays
2. Marco Luciano, Giants
3. CJ Abrams, Padres
4. Bobby Witt, Royals
5. Royce Lewis, Twins
6. Oneil Cruz, Pirates
7. Noelvi Marte, Mariners
8. Jeter Downs, Red Sox
9. Maximo Acosta, Rangers
10. Orelvis Martinez, Blue Jays
11. Geraldo Perdomo, Diamondbacks
12. Ed Howard, Cubs
13. Luisangel Acuna, Rangers
14. Jazz Chisholm, Marlins
15. Liover Peguero, Pirates
16. Jose Garcia, Reds
17. Ronny Mauricio, Mets
18. Luis Garcia, Nationals
19. Robert Puason, Athletics
20. Greg Jones, Rays
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Featured image credit to ESPN