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Tatis leads talented group of Top 10 SS prospects

January 22, 2019

MLB Pipeline will unveil its 2019 Top 100 Prospects list with a one-hour show on MLB Network and MLB.com on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.They may not be the equal of the Holy Trinity of

MLB Pipeline will unveil its 2019 Top 100 Prospects list with a one-hour show on MLB Network and MLB.com on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.
They may not be the equal of the Holy Trinity of Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez from two decades ago, but today's crop of young shortstops stacks up well against most in history.
In 2018, Francisco Lindor, Manny Machado and Trevor Story became the first trio of 25-and-under shortstops to hit 30 homers in the same season. Story, Machado and Xander Bogaerts became only the second threesome in that demographic to reach 100 RBIs. Javier Baez would have been a member of both clubs if he had become a full-time shortstop a little sooner than mid-August, and Corey Seager might have if he hadn't undergone Tommy John surgery. Another young shortstop, Trea Turner, couldn't quite match those slugging exploits, but he swatted 19 homers while leading the National League with 43 steals.
Top 10 Prospects by Position
More premier young shortstop talent is on the way. Three of the four best prospects at that position are expected to make their debuts in 2019, and Fernando Tatis Jr. (Padres), Brendan Rodgers (Rockies) and Bo Bichette (Blue Jays) all rank among the game's top dozen prospects. Royce Lewis (Twins), Carter Kieboom (Nationals), Andres Gimenez (Mets), Jazz Chisholm (Diamondbacks) and Gavin Lux (Dodgers) all project to arrive in 2020, and some of them may force the issue this season.
The Top 10 (ETA)

  1. Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres (2019)
  2. Royce Lewis, Twins (2020)
  3. Brendan Rodgers, Rockies (2019)
  4. Bo Bichette, Blue Jays (2019)
  5. Wander Franco, Rays (2021)
  6. Carter Kieboom, Nationals (2020)
  7. Andres Gimenez, Mets (2020)
  8. Jazz Chisholm, Diamondbacks (2020)
  9. Gavin Lux, Dodgers (2020)
  10. Luis Garcia, Nationals (2021)
    Complete list »
    Top Tools
    Best Hitter: Franco (70)
    The beginning of Franco's career resembles that of fellow prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr.'s, as does his hitting ability. Though Franco was the second-youngest regular in the Rookie-level Appalachian League last summer at age 17, he won the Most Valuable Player Award and batted .351/.418/.587 with more extra-base hits (28) and walks (27) than strikeouts (19).

Best Power: Tatis (60)
His father famously hit two grand slams in one inning en route to a 34-homer season for the Cardinals in 1999, and Tatis Jr. has the tools to challenge that total -- while projecting as a much better all-around player. With explosive bat speed and tremendous leverage and strength in his 6-foot-3 frame, he outhomered his age in 2017 (22 homers, 18 years old) and only missed last year (16, 19) because he broke his left thumb in July.

Fastest Runner: Lewis (70)
The top selection in the 2017 Draft, Lewis has plus-plus speed and uses it to beat out hits, steal bases and cover ground at shortstop. It's not often that a No. 1 overall pick may have been underestimated, but he showed more power and defensive ability than expected in his first full pro season.

Best Arm: Tatis, Rodgers, Gimenez, Garcia (60)
All four of these guys can make throws from deep in the hole, with Tatis, Rodgers and Gimenez all ranking as the best infield arms in the Minor Leagues last year in Baseball America's annual Best Tools survey. If we have to pick one, Tatis would get a slight edge over Rodgers.
Best Defender: Gimenez (60)
Gimenez advanced to Double-A at age 19 in large part because of his defensive ability. His actions, quickness, soft hands and arm give him all of the ingredients to become a Gold Glove shortstop, and he could wind up with solid or better tools across the board, with the exception of his power.

Superlatives
Highest Ceiling: Tatis
Tatis is in the discussion of baseball's best prospect because he's a rare five-tool shortstop. When he was younger, there were concerns he might outgrow the position, but he has gotten quicker and become a fluid defender. He has the upside of a 30-30 player -- a feat only four shortstops have accomplished.
Highest Floor: Tatis
With Tatis' tools, he can profile offensively and defensively at almost any position. He made adjustments and succeeded in Double-A at age 19, then continued to thrive in winter ball against even older and better competition. It's hard to envision a worst-case scenario any harsher than him becoming a 20-homer third baseman.
Rookie of the Year Candidate: Rodgers
The departure of DJ LeMahieu leaves the Rockies without a veteran at second base. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 Draft behind fellow shortstops Dansby Swanson and Alex Bregman, Rodgers has the best all-around ability of any of Colorado's candidates, and he spent 24 games at second base last season.

Highest Riser: Lux
The No. 20 overall pick in the 2016 Draft, Lux struggled offensively (.244/.331/.362) and defensively (19 errors in 65 games at shortstop) in his first full pro season. He rebounded in 2018 to lead Minor League shortstops in all three slash categories (.324/.399/.514), reached Double-A at age 20 and batted .424 in the playoffs to help Tulsa win the Texas League championship. His throwing accuracy remains a work in progress, however.

Humblest Beginning: Chisholm
While the other nine shortstops on this list averaged $2.74 million in bonuses, Chisholm signed for a mere $200,000 out of the Bahamas in 2015. Injured for much of his first year in full-season ball in '17, he smacked 25 homers to top all Minor League shortstops in his second.

Most to Prove: Gimenez
Gimenez batted .281/.347/.409 while reaching Double-A at age 19, but he didn't impact the ball when he got there and looked exhausted while hitting .125 in the Arizona Fall League. He lacks physicality at 5-foot-11 and 161 pounds, and he must prove he can handle quality pitching and a long pro season.
Keep An Eye On: Oneil Cruz, Pirates
Acquired from the Dodgers in a 2017 trade for Tony Watson, Cruz is bidding to become the first 6-foot-6 shortstop in big league history. While that may be a stretch, he hit .286/.343/.488 with 14 homers as a teenager in low Class A last season and is a better defender than would be expected for someone of his size. He profiles better at right field or third base with his well-above-average raw power and arm strength.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.