These days, there may be more value placed on defense and certainly more time spent on evaluating and quantifying it than ever before. When MLBPipeline.com surveyed front-office officials as to which prospects stood out most for their glovework, there was no shortage of candidates.
mlb pipeline all defense teams
In fact, there were so many talented defenders that among the 18 votes we received, no player garnered more than Padres outfielder Manuel Margot's three and a half. Thirteen players received at least a half a vote -- we allowed executives to split their picks -- and another five were brought up as worthy of discussion.
Top 10 Prospects by Position
While MLBPipeline's 2016 All-Defense balloting yielded almost all up-the-middle players, this year's group included a pair of standout corner infielders in Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger and Athletics third baseman Matt Chapman. A scouting official with an American League club opined that Bellinger might have the best chance among all prospects to win a future Gold Glove, while Chapman may have the strongest arm in the Minor Leagues.
Below is our 2017 All-Defense Team, accounting for the results of our voting as well as separate conversations with scouting personnel:
Catcher: Carson Kelly, Cardinals
The Cardinals drafted Kelly as a third baseman in 2012 and began converting him to catcher during instructional league following the 2013 season. He made a strong first impression on big league manager Mike Matheny, a four-time Gold Glover, and since has developed into a gifted receiver with a strong arm, not to mention the leadership skills to run a staff.
First Base: Cody Bellinger, Dodgers
Not only is Bellinger the best power-hitting prospect in baseball, but he's one of the top defensive first basemen to come through the Minors in years. He moves well around the bag, scoops throws out of the dirt, owns solid arm strength -- and as a bonus, he can play all three outfield positions if needed.
"I realize first base isn't a premium position, but he has the potential to be one of the best defenders I've seen at the position," a special assistant with a National League team said. "Add in the fact he's a very capable outfielder, and he gets my vote."
Second Base: Ozzie Albies, Braves
Most shortstops who move to second base do so because they lack something, but that's not the case with Albies, who got pushed there by Dansby Swanson. Albies has the actions, quickness, hands and arm to be an asset at shortstop and exceptional at second base.
"He's an electric athlete with plus range and a plus arm," a second NL special assistant said. "He can be a plus defender at shortstop or an elite defender at second base."
Third Base: Matt Chapman, Athletics
Chapman stands out most for his cannon of an arm, which once delivered 98-mph fastballs during his brief stint as a pitcher with the U.S. college national team. Add in his good hands and range, and he makes routine plays with consistency and spectacular plays with regularity.
Shortstop: Kyle Holder, Yankees
Amed Rosario (Mets), J.P. Crawford (Phillies) and Swanson also got votes at shortstop, the most hotly contested position on this list. Holder doesn't have the same high profile because his bat isn't in the same class, but the former junior college basketball player has smooth actions, soft hands, enough arm and a tremendous internal clock.
"I haven't had more people rave about a prospect's defensive prowess to me since the days of Omar Vizquel coming up with Seattle," a second AL scouting official said. "I've had scouts say they look forward to watching Holder take pregame ground balls like they would watching a guy with 80 raw power take batting practice."
Outfield: Manuel Margot, Padres
Built to play center field at Petco Park, Margot combines well above-average speed with quality jumps and routes to chase down almost any fly ball in either gap. He also has a plus arm, which is uncommon for center.
Outfield: Bubba Starling, Royals
Starling's offensive shortcomings have prevented him from living up to his status as the No. 5 overall pick in the loaded 2011 Draft, but his defense has been as good as advertised. The one-time Nebraska quarterback recruit makes it look easy in center with his solid speed and keen instincts, and he, too, possesses a plus arm.
Outfield: Victor Robles, Nationals
Robles may have the best all-around tools in the Minors, and his defensive ability is a big part of that. He has well above-average speed and the arm strength to match, and he already shows a lot of polish for a 19-year-old.