Shortstop is an incredibly tough position to play, which is why many players are ultimately unable to stick there. A player that starts off as a shortstop usually has the ability to play anywhere else on the diamond. But one of the hardest finds in the game is a “natural” shortstop.
For example, let's take a look at the current Cubs roster. Some of the lineups the Cubs have run out there of late feature three players that came up through the ranks as shortstops: Junior Lake, Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro. You may also include Emilio Bonifacio, who plays short on occasion.
Digging deeper, let's look at a couple of the Cubs top minor league prospects: Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara. If Baez were to be called up today, he would in fact be playing a position other than short. Alcantara has already moved from shortstop to second base so that he and Baez can play in the same infield in Iowa. Now comes news that Alcantara is getting some time in the outfield; if he is able handle the move, he becomes even more valuable. He's a switch hitter to boot, so that helps too.
With all that said, top prospects like Baez and Alcantara were never viewed as locks to stay at short. In fact, the only name mentioned in the Cubs system as a “true shorstop” is Marco Hernandez.
A player like Troy Tulowitzki is very rare. It is not easy to find a guy that can play a good shortstop and hit the cover off the ball, but that is what every team's blueprint is now. Gone are the defense-first shortstops that teams can hide in the lineup; these guys now need to do it all. It all started to change in the 90's.
Looking at drafts, teams usually focus on players up the middle of the field (C, P, 2B, SS, CF) because those are the players that give a team the most value. You never see third basemen or second baseman move to short for a career but you do see the opposite, where shortstops move to another position. Shortstops usually have good arms, skill and athleticism that allow teams to try them out at other positions that may better suit them.
In Baseball Prospectus' top 100 prospects, half of the top 10 are shortstops. The hope is that a player can stick at the position for which he is drafted, but a lot of times that doesn't end up being the case, as seen below from this list of players who were once slotted at shortstop before going on to play another position.
As you can see, it really is never a bad idea to have an abundance of shortstops. The Cubs system is a good example of that, with both the players on their MLB roster and within their system.
The list above proves that this isn’t exactly a new idea. However, we have also seen the likes of Cal Ripken Jr., Alex Rodriguez, and Robin Yount, all legends at short, who were easily moved off the position later in their career due to age or other circumstances.
Don't worry about having too many shortstops or where they are going to play. It's a great problem to have, really.
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Filed under: Minor League News