As MLB.com continues its 2017 prospect watch rankings, today they released their list of the top 10 shortstops heading into the new season. Both Gleyber Torres (#1) and Jorge Mateo (#8) made the cut, so we’ll take a quick look at both of them.
Hit: 65 | Power: 55 | Run: 50 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 65
As you may remember, Torres came over from the Cubs at the trade deadline last season as part of the return for Aroldis Chapman. He was the organization’s top prospect in MLB’s 2016 preseason rankings. Torres gives us a lot of reasons to be excited with his excellent performance at the plate and defense that MLB’s report says, “Scouts … seem to gain a greater appreciation for … with each passing season.”
He performed very well last season at High A for both the Yankees and the Cubs, where at just 19 years old he was more than 3 years younger than the average player at that level, but it was his Arizona Fall League stint that really showed us what he’s capable of, becoming the youngest player to earn the league’s MVP award. There he slashed .403/.513/.645 and posted an excellent BB% (18.4%) and K% (10.5). That’s one of the most encouraging things to see in a prospect: plate discipline. Torres sees the ball well, is a contact hitter to all parts of the field, and has even shown 20 HR power, all tools that could potentially make him an elite MLB shortstop.
After playing a full season at High A, Torres figures to start 2017 at AA Trenton. Even before then though, it’s essentially a sure fire bet that Torres gets a spring training invite from the club, so I’m eager to see how he fares against some of baseball’s other top talents in March.
Hit: 50 | Power: 40 | Run: 80 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 55
Mateo signed with the Yankees as an international free agent back in 2012 at the age of 16. He’s 21 now and just finished his first full season at High A. It was a down year for Mateo numbers wise, but his raw talent alone has been enough to keep him afloat at the top of many prospect lists, and that’s due largely in part to his speed on the base paths. In 2015 in 96 games of Low A ball he stole 71 (!) bases. Last season with Tampa he stole 36 bags in 113 games. Still nothing to sneeze at. Obviously pitchers and catchers at a higher level are going to be more aware and better able to address the type of havoc that Mateo can create when running the bases, so at this point it’s all about him making adjustments. Before he could get by on pure speed alone. Now he’s just going to have to learn how to become a better, smarter base runner. Mateo has shown flashes of power as well, with MLB’s scouting report projecting him at a ceiling of 15 HR per season.
Is Mateo a true shortstop though? That remains to be seen. With the addition of Torres last July and his arrival in Tampa, Mateo had to move over to second base to make some room for the club’s new top prospect. This was the obvious move given Torres’s ability combined with Mateo’s less than sturdy defensive track record at the position. Second seems like a likely landing spot for Mateo, although that 60 arm grade and 80 speed makes him an excellent candidate for center field. Fangraph’s Eric Longenhagen recently said his gut tells him that’s where he ends up when it’s all said and done. Who knows though.
2017 is going to be a big year for Mateo and could seriously solidify his prospect status moving forward as he climbs the system ranks. The raw tools are clearly there, it’s just a question of whether or not he can put it all together. Hell, guys like Billy Hamilton have shown that it’s possible to get MLB playing time on an 80 speed grade alone, but if he wants to be an everyday starter Mateo still has some stuff he needs to figure out. He’s still got time though.
The Yankees have now doubled their number of players in MLB’s positional top ten prospect rankings. The running list now includes: LHP Justus Sheffield (#8), 3B Miguel Andujar (#7), SS Gleyber Torres (#1) and SS Jorge Mateo (#8).