While the evaluation of prospects is still very much a subjective exercise, there is more and more data, and more people interpreting that information, to help in assessing talent. But most of that has come on the offensive side of the game.Defensive metrics have come a long way, but there
While the evaluation of prospects is still very much a subjective exercise, there is more and more data, and more people interpreting that information, to help in assessing talent. But most of that has come on the offensive side of the game.
Defensive metrics have come a long way, but there is a general consensus they provide less certainty at this point than their counterparts for hitting. So when asking scouts about the top fielding prospects in baseball, the opinions, even about the same player, can vary greatly.
mlb pipeline all defense teams
Even with all of the variables, however, certain players stood out and were mentioned frequently in polls about the top defensive prospects. Braves outfielder Cristian Pache was mentioned more than any other prospect, so he lands on the All-Defense Team for the second year in a row after making the 2018 squad. He, the Nationals' Victor Robles (a three-time All-Defense selection), the Mariners' Evan White and the Tigers' Jake Rogers are all on the team for a second time.
Catcher: Jake Rogers, Tigers
While he didn't hit in his first full season with the Tigers after coming over as part of the return from the Astros for Justin Verlander, he continued to show just how good he is behind the dish. Rogers threw out 55.6 percent of potential basestealers in the Double-A Eastern League in 2018. That brings his career mark up to 48.5 percent thanks to his arm strength, quick release and accuracy.
MILB Video - Title: Rogers sets caught stealing mark - Url: http://www.milb.com/r/video?content_id=2416576183
"He deserves consideration as the best defensive prospect overall," an American League pro scouting director said. "He's the best defensive catcher by a wide margin."
Top 10 Prospects by Position
First base: Evan White, Mariners
It's rare to have a first baseman mentioned as a contender for best overall defender, but White's name did come up in conversations. He is athletic with outstanding footwork, a plus arm and speed that allows him to have plus range at the position.
"It's game-changing defense at first," one AL scouting executive said. "He makes every defensive player on the field better."
Second base: Nick Madrigal, White Sox
The No. 4 overall pick in the 2018 Draft was known as the most advanced hitter in the class, but he can also flat-out play second base. He actually has the hands and actions for shortstop, and he could see some time there, though it's unclear if his arm will play from that spot. He could be a Gold Glove-caliber defender on the right side of the infield.
MILB Video - Title: Madrigal gets crazy out - Url: http://www.milb.com/r/video?content_id=2443649483
Third base: Ke'Bryan Hayes, Pirates
The son of Charlie Hayes, Ke'Bryan entered pro ball as a very talented defender, with great hands and a plus arm. The 2015 first-round pick got even better when he committed himself to conditioning, becoming more athletic and agile and adding plus range to his overall outstanding defensive toolset.
Shortstop: Andres Gimenez, Mets
Gimenez reached Double-A as a teenager, partially because of an advanced approach at the plate, but also because of his glovework at the premium position. He has the hands, arms, range and internal clock to play the position long-term, even if he has to slide over to second in deference to Amed Rosario.
Outfield: Cristian Pache, Braves
Pache was on the list a year ago thanks to his reputation of having plus range (thanks to his speed and tremendous instincts) to go along with a strong arm in the lower Minors. Not only did he make it to Double-A in 2018, but he really got to show off his defensive chops in front of all 30 teams in the Arizona Fall League. He is smooth and confident, and most feel he's ready for the big leagues defensively right now.
"He's a potential 70 grade defender in center field, where every aspect of his defense is an asset," another AL scouting executive said. "A true ball-hawking, gap-closing center fielder who plays with a reckless abandon to go along with a plus arm. He has a rare combination of athleticism and instincts for the position; he can really slow the game down."
MILB Video - Title: Watch: MiLB Video - Url: http://www.milb.com/r/video?content_id=2363719983
Outfield: Victor Robles, Nationals
While 2018 was in many ways a lost season for Robles -- he played in just 73 games between the Minors and Washington -- that did nothing to diminish his abilities in center field. If Pache has nominally become the No. 1 pick in the defensive prospect camp, no one would complain about getting Robles' plus arm and range at No. 2. "Robles is one of the more special outfielders I've seen," the AL pro scouting director said.
Outfield: Buddy Reed, Padres
Like the other two outfielders on this list, Reed has the somewhat rare combination of center field ability to go along with a plus arm. He racked up 12 assists in 2018 thanks to that arm and he showed off his range on a national stage, robbing his organization-mate Fernando Tatis Jr. with a spectacular catch in the Futures Game.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.