(Author's Note: Hey guys, I used to comment around here a lot and I assume that you guys would be interested in another discussion point. Here's my top-15 first basemen prospects that I did for MLB Daily Dish, SB Nation's rumors and news website. You can find the actual post itself here.)
Prospect lists are a bit of a hip fad these days. I've determined this based on the roughly 50 lists that I've found purporting to rank the sport's best young players. I've also recognized that those 50 lists only sort the prospects in one way- by organization- when fans are often quite concerned with comparing prospects across different organizations. Why make a 51st list that sorts players in a similar manner? Here at MLBDD, we'll be rolling out prospect lists by position, rather than by organization, because we want the 51st prospect list that you read this month to be a little bit different.
MLB Daily Dish's Top 15 Middle Infield Prospects For The 2012 Season
1. Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles
I'm going to start here by noting that second basemen will be included in this list, because it's easier to simply look at middle infielders as a singular group. Machado stands out to me given his stunning offensive potential combined with his improving defensive skills; my biggest fear is that he plays for the Orioles, to be honest.
You could swap Profar and Machado, I probably wouldn't say a thing. I prefer Machado's offensive potential to Profar's superior defensive skills and makeup, partially because I believe that Machado can still be an All Star even if he's not a shortstop. Profar won't have nearly the speed/power combo that Machado might offer.
3. Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians
It's not clear how much power Lindor will hit for, but it's not hard to project him as a quality defender at shortstop that fits well at the top of a batting order. He has all of the tools to be plus defensively at shortstop, including range, a plus arm and soft hands, which helps to offset his limited power potential. He's got a nice, short swing that should produce lots of contact, though.
Like Lindor, his power potential is the only major red flag, but everything else looks so damn good. Lee projects as a plus to plus-plus defender at shortstop given his tools, which include a 70-grade speed tool that should make him an impact player on the bases. Factor in good bat speed that should allow for strong batting averages, and this is a potential impact player given the skill set.
While there's little power potential in his slappy swing, it's kind of hard to describe just how fast this guy is. As Keith Law said in his top-100 list, "Hamilton's run grade isn't just an 80 -- it goes to 110." That's on a 20-80 scale, so he was basically implying that this is historically unique running ability. That alone makes him ridiculously intriguing, especially when he's likely to stick at shortstop and showed legitimate improvement as a hitter in the second half of last year.
6. Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox (possible 3B)
He's probably not a shortstop long-term, but scouts absolutely love his swing and the power potential is jaw-dropping. He's still developing in terms of his approach as a hitter, but there's so much to love in the tools that it's not hard to project a future impact hitter. And while he's unlikely to stick at shortstop, he should be able to play third base.
7. Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs (possible 3B)
Baez is a somewhat similar prospect to Bogaerts in that his prospect status mostly lies with his offensive potential given that he might need to change positions if he gets too big. He's only 19 at this point, but he already flashes plus power with his stunning bat speed. He's athletic and a solid runner, but there's real concern that he'll outgrow shortstop, even though he's flashed solid instincts at the position.
2011 was pretty disappointing for Segura, as expectations were huge for the toolsy infielder with his assignment to the hyper-hitter-friendly California League. Injuries got in the way, though, limiting Segura to just 52 games. He's still expected to be able to stick at shortstop, but there are concerns that he's a better fit at second base, where his value would be somewhat limited.
Like Segura, Franklin's 2011 season was marred by injuries, but scouts still really like his offensive potential. He's a switch-hitter that could have above-average power, and while his footwork at shortstop is considered subpar, he still has the tools to stick there for the time being. And even at second base, he's highly intriguing given the power.
10. Cory Spangenberg, San Diego Padres (lock for 2B)
He's not going to have much power and he's definitely not a shortstop, but he's athletic, runs well and has good hitting skills. At second base, he should be able to be very solid defensively, with the potential to be a very good top-of-the-order hitter given the potential OBP and base-running skills.
11. Zack Cozart, Cincinnati Reds
He's basically MLB-ready at this point and his role in Cincinnati this season should be significant, but he needs to stay healthy and he's not likely to be better than a solid-average regular. That's still extremely valuable given the position scarcity, though, and his offensive numbers could be inflated a little by playing in the Great American Ballpark.
He's an absolutely superb defender that could likely play the position at the big league level right now, but it still remains to be seen whether he'll have the bat to play regularly in the majors. He showed some improvement in 2011, hitting .311/.351/.408 in High Single-A while flashing great contact skills, but it's unclear if he'll be able to challenge pitchers at higher levels given his lack of pop.
He's comparable to Spangenberg, but without the same level of athleticism. Regardless, the hitting skills are absolutely superb and he should be a solid defender at second base, and those things alone can make him into a good regular. Probably won't become a star without the power, though.
He's raw for someone that just spent more than half of a season in Double-A, but you can't ignore how good this guy could be if the tools come together. There are very real concerns relating to his contact ability and general polish, but this is an explosive athlete that has the tools to stick at shortstop.
15. Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies
He's years from being ready to hit the majors, but he has the tools to emerge as an elite prospect at the position if his development goes well. With above-average power and a plus arm, Story has excellent raw tools, but scouts are concerned that his swing will make him prone to swinging-and-missing.
OTHERS: Chris Owings, Arizona; David Nick, Arizona; Sean Coyle, Boston; Jose Iglesias, Boston; Tyler Pastornicky, Atlanta; Eduardo Escobar, Chicago (AL); Marcus Semien, Chicago (AL); Junior Lake, Chicago (NL); Marco Hernandez, Chicago (NL); Ronald Torreyes, Chicago (NL); Ronny Rodriguez, Cleveland; Didi Gregorius, Cincinnati; Dixon Machado, Detriot; Josh Rutledge, Colorado; Christian Colon, Kansas City; Scooter Gennett, Milwaukee; Levi Michael, Minnesota; Reese Havens, New York (NL) Freddy Galvis, Philadelphia; Tim Beckham, Tampa Bay; Ryan Brett, Tampa Bay; Jonathan Galvez, San Diego; Joe Panik, San Francisco; Roughned Odor, Texas; Ehire Adrianza, San Francisco; Adeiny Hechavarria, Toronto;Steve Lombardozzi, Washington (I'm sure that I missed some guys, most good prospects tend to stick in the middle infielder until they're forced off the position for some reason)