The difficulty of finding a big league shortstop


Xander Bogaerts is among several shortstop prospects to be highly touted by Baseball America and crack their Top 100 list over the last three seasons. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t long ago that Major League Baseball seemed to be in it’s shortstop heyday with names like Jeter, Garciaparra, Rodriguez, Larkin and Tejada. When you look around the current shortstop landscape it seems that there is Troy Tulowitzki and then a big drop off to the next group, then another drop off to the next group. In all, of the top 29 shortstops with at least 350 plate appearances in the 2013 season, there were more players with a sub .700 OPS than an OPS over .700 and there were more shortstops with an OPS under .600 than there were over .800.

With such a glut at the big league level of shortstops that can not only play the position defensively, but also hit, it led to the question of just how difficult is it to find Major League quality shortstops at the amateur level. To do that, I decided to go back and take a look at the 2012-2014 Baseball America Top 100 lists and pick out each player who was listed solely as a shortstop on the lists. I made a note of their draft spot or their signing bonus if they were an international free agent. Here is the list:



Xander Bogaerts2009 International Free Agent ($410,000)
Javier Baez 9th overall, 2011 draft
Carlos Correa 1st overall, 2012 draft
Francisco Lindor 8th overall, 2011 draft
Addison Russell 11th overall, 2012 draft
Corey Seager 18th overall, 2012 draft
Chris Owings 41st overall, 2009 draft
Alen Hanson2009 International Free Agent ($90,000)
JP Crawford 16th overall, 2013 draft
Rosell Herrera2009 International Free Agent ($550,000)
Jurickson Profar2009 International Free Agent ($1,550,000)
Billy Hamilton57th overall, 2009 draft
Didi Gregorius2007 International Free Agent ($50,000)
Hak-Ju Lee2007 International Free Agent ($725,000)
Manny Machado3rd overall, 2010 draft
Jean Segura2007 International Free Agent ($70,000)
Zack Cozart79th overall, 2007 draft
Andrelton Simmons70th overall, 2010 draft

Looking at this list we see that there were 18 total shortstops that made the list in that three year time frame (several players made more than one list). Let’s take a look deeper at this by breaking it down into two parts: The players who were drafted and the players from the international market. We will jump into the players who were drafted first.

There were 11 players that were drafted that made the list. Not a single player was drafted beyond the second round, with Zack Cozart being the latest pick, coming in at 79th overall in the 2007 draft. Let’s remember that there are over 1000 players drafted every year. Seven of the 11 players were taken in the top 18 picks of the draft. Basically, if you are going to find an elite level shortstop prospect (those who are good enough to crack the Baseball America Top 100 list), then you need to find one in the first two rounds of the draft, but most likely within the first 20 picks. Those picks are going to cost anywhere from about $500,000-$6,000,000 depending on how high up you draft a guy.

Looking at the seven international signings that made the cut things get a bit more interesting. There are two groups of players here. The top four guys all signed for at least $410,000 and the average cost of signing a player from that group was just over $800,000. These players were all on the radar of just about every team in baseball and had more than a few teams vying for their services. Money talks, but on the international market there are a whole lot of politics and years upon years of relationships that have just as much, if not more to do with where these players wind up signing. Then there is the group of three players who all signed for less than $100,000. These guys weren’t on the radar of all of the teams and were likely only being pursued by a few teams. They were seen more as guys who may one day figure something out, but weren’t close to sure things like the guys from the other group were representing. They were educated lottery ticket buys that wound up paying off quite well.

What does all of this tell us? The first thing is that no matter if you are drafting a shortstop or finding one on the international market, it’s going to be very expensive to bring that kind of guy into your organization. That is of course unless you hit lightning in a bottle and get one of those lottery tickets to pay off on the international side of things who were a lower level signing. At the end of the day, it is very tough to find a Major League shortstop prospect no matter what the route a team goes.