Lindor heads short Draft list of middle infielders
Florida high schooler, Hawaiian second baseman impress
Finding up-the-middle talent is always a top priority for a Major League organization, from the big league club all the way down the system. Building depth at catcher, center field and, of course, second base and shortstop, are vitally important for long-term success.It's also easier said than done. Drafting and developing a player who can stay at a premium position like shortstop can be very challenging. Often a player who plays that position as an amateur does not have the defensive tools to stay there at the next level. That's the case with the group of middle infielders in this year's Draft class. There are only a handful who project to be potential first-round picks, and only one who looks for certain like a long-term shortstop. And after the initial group, there appears to be a bit of a drop-off. "With those four guys in particular, of that group, only one of the four is going to stay at short," one scouting director said. "One is already at second, another is probably going to move there and one will move to third. If you want a middle infielder, you'll have to take one early because you won't have too much luck later on.
To see when the middle infielders go, tune into live coverage of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, beginning with a one-hour preview show on Monday, June 6, at 6 p.m. ET on MLB.com and MLB Network, followed by the first round and supplemental compensation round. MLB.com will provide exclusive coverage of Days 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player. You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.For now, though, feel free to peruse a closer look at the top middle infielders, with their ranking among the 2011 Draft Top 50 prospects in parentheses. Francisco Lindor, SS, Montverde Academy, Fla. (9)
There's plenty to like about this exciting high school shortstop. Lindor has tools on both sides of the ball. He has the ability to hit for average and some power, with the strike-zone knowledge and discipline to perhaps be a leadoff hitter, even though he's merely an average runner. He's outstanding defensively with above-average to plus range and arm. He gets high marks for his energy and personality and exudes the ability to lead at a premium position. Some believe there is nothing he can't do well on the field and has the chance to be an All-Star shortstop when all is said and done, a future that should entice someone to take the Florida-based infielder at some point early in the first round. Javier Baez, SS, Arlington Country Day, Texas (16)
It would be a mistake to overlook Baez. While most don't see him staying at shortstop, he's shown enough offensively that at least some teams think he'd be just fine at third base. He's got a good approach, though he's perhaps a bit too aggressive at times, but he doesn't get cheated at the plate. The ball jumps off his bat and he can hit line drives to all fields and should develop above-average power. He's not bad defensively, with a solid arm and good hands, but his range isn't what it needs to be to remain a shortstop. No matter, though, with his bat and excellent baseball instincts, he has the chance to be an everyday player at another position, and that's enough for him to be in many first-round conversations. Kolten Wong, 2B, Hawaii (25)
When you're 5-foot-9, already a second baseman and play your college ball at the University of Hawaii, it's easy to get overlooked. But that would be a mistake with Wong. Teams interested in Wong will be so because he has the chance to be a very good hitter at the next level. Though he's not big, he does have some pop and could profile as a perfect No. 2 hitter who can keep pitchers honest with a little power. He's also an above-average runner who should steal some bases along the way. He's not a plus defender at second, but he'll be solid there. It's not a great year for college bats, but Wong's is one that stands out and should get him off the board at some point in the first round. Levi Michael, SS, North Carolina (34)
Over the past couple of years, Michael has gone from a serviceable college middle infielder to a potential first-round pick. He's a good line-drive hitter from both sides of the plate. He's gotten stronger and his gap power has improved. When he's healthy, he's an above-average runner with the ability to steal bases, though he's played hurt following an ankle sprain that's impacted his speed and range. Range is a question for him defensively, even when he's 100 percent, with many scouts thinking he won't be able to play shortstop full-time at the next level. He's got an OK arm and good hands, the type of player who might either be a good second baseman or a utility type who could fill in at shortstop if needed and not hurt a team, though there are some who believe he has the chance to stay at short. The lack of depth in college bats should help Michael in terms of when he hears his name called. Others: Philip Evans, SS, La Costa Canyon HS, Calif.; Tyler Greene, SS, West Boca HS, Fla.; Christian Lopes, SS, Edison HS, Calif.; Brandon Martin, SS, Santiago HS, Calif.; Trevor Story, SS, Irving HS, Texas.