Thursday, January 4, 2018

Beyond the Top 30: Shortstops

As the old year fades away and the new season approaches, it's time to start looking at those players of interest who are beyond the Top 30. These players may not ever make a Top 30 list (or they may), but a combination of projections, actual results, incremental improvements and intangibles keep them in the mix as interesting players to watch. I am not including any players in these posts who have already made their major league debuts since, presumably, anyone reading my blog is already very familiar with those players.

Note: Most of the 2018 player rankings haven't been released yet so I will be using the MLB Pipeline postseason list and the Baseball Prospectus Top 10+ list to denote those players who are currently considered Top 30 type players in the Astros system. Once Baseball America and FanGraphs weigh in, and MLB Pipeline posts their 2018 pre-season list, I will post a consensus top prospect list.


SHORTSTOPS IN THE TOP 30 (in alphabetical order)

Jonathan Arauz - August 2016
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Jonathan Arauz (S/R) - BP #6, FG #16, MLB #22, BA #23
Arauz is currently ranked by Baseball Prospectus at number 6 and by MLB Pipeline at number 23. After missing the first 50 games of the 2017 season on the restricted list (tested positive for a methamphetamine), Arauz was sent to Quad Cities where he hit a less than robust .220/.331/.276 in 36 games and was subsequently demoted to Tri-City for the remainder of the season. He hit .264/.341/.364 at the lower level. But keep in mind that he is a solid defender who only turned 19 toward the end of the 2017 season. Look for Arauz to start the 2018 season back with Quad Cities where he will try to catch up with full season A pitching.

Freudis Nova (R/R) - BA #5, MLB #5, FG #7, BP #11+
The Astros were able to sign Nova in July 2016 for 1.2 million, roughly half of his projected bonus after Nova tested positive for steroid use and was thought to have a potential issue with his elbow. Nova was cited by Baseball America as being one of the top athletes in the 2016 class. In his first season with the Dominican Summer League in 2017, Nova split his time between shortstop and third base. He may very well be moved to the hot corner as he is projected to have the bat and the arm for the position. He started off the season extremely hot before cooling off in his final month of play, hitting .247/.342/.355 with six doubles, four home runs, eight stolen bases and 15 walks to 33 strikeouts in 47 games while his defense improved throughout the season. The Dominican-born Nova won't turn 18 until January 12th. Nova is currently listed as number 11 by MLB Pipeline and in the 11-20 range by Baseball Prospectus.

Miguelangel Sierra (R/R) - BA #30, FG #28+
Miguelangel Sierra, however, does not currently project to move out of a middle infield position. In his third season of playing since signing for $1 million in July 2014, Sierra exhibited plus defense at short with a bat that lagged behind in his 57 games at short season A Tri-City (.178/.260/.297). He is not ranked by Baseball Prospectus and will likely fall from his current number 16 ranking by MLB Pipeline based on his regression with the bat. Having turned 20 on December 2nd, Sierra will need to show a more disciplined line drive, high contact approach at the plate in his fourth season.

SHORTSTOPS BEYOND THE TOP 30 (in alphabetical order)

Kristian Trompiz - July 2017
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Cody Bohanek (R/R)
As the only signed shortstop in the 2017 Astros draft class (30th round, University of Illinois at Chicago), Bohanek impressed the front office enough with his excellent fielding at rookie level Greeneville that he was rewarded with a promotion to the Quad Cities full season A club for the last 10 games of the regular season (and the postseason). Bohanek also displayed a decent bat in his first 56 pro games, hitting .246/.353/.332 with a little pop (8 doubles and 3 home runs).
Key: Keep up the good work defensively, cut down on the strikeouts (18BB:54SO) and show enough consistency/improvement with the bat to enable the 22-year old to move quickly through the system.

Deury Carrasco (L/R) - FG #28+
Although Carrasco is nowhere near as polished a fielder as Bohanek, what he did at age 17 in his first professional season in the Dominican Summer League was nothing short of remarkable. In 64 games, Carrasco hit .266/.407/.319 with nine doubles and one triple. But what really stood out was his 50 walks to 48 strikeouts and his 32 stolen bases to 14 caught stealing. It is little wonder that Carrasco was given a $480,000 bonus when he signed in 2016. At that time he was lauded for his athleticism, speed and plus arm.
Key: Improve defensively and build on that initial offensive success as he moves to the more advanced levels of competition.

Yorbin Ceuta (S/R)
Ceuta, who won't be 18 until the 14th of this month, signed for a reported 1 to 1.2 million in 2016. He was ranked #11 in that signing class by Baseball America with his hit and fielding tools projected to be his best assets. He did not disappoint on either front, showing excellent fielding skills and a bat that improved as the season continued. His .248/.349/.293 batting line (with 27BB:39SO) in 60 games in the Dominican Summer League matched the scouting reports of a disciplined bat with little power projection. Although his speed was said to be average or a little lower, he managed to steal 11 bases and was caught six times.
Key: Build on his early success. At this point, he hits considerably better from the left side of the plate. Any improvements he can make as a right-handed hitter will increase his stock even more.

Kristian Trompiz (R/R)
Trompiz originally signed with the Astros in 2012 for a $320,000 bonus and just completed his fifth season in the system. However, he just turned 22 in early December and finished his 2017 season with the full season A Quad Cities squad, an appropriate level for his age. Trompiz can play (and has played) at any of the infield positions so I considered placing him on my list of utility players, but his solid defense and improving bat keeps him on this list for now, particularly considering the dearth of true shortstops at the higher level of the system. Trompiz started his 2017 season at Corpus Christi and was demoted to Tri-City after only 17 games. But he was way too advanced for short season A and ended up at Quad Cities for the final 40 games of the season where he hit a very respectable .261/.331/.310 and .258/.324/.258 in nine postseason games (.275/.340/.322 for the season as a whole). He also managed to swipe 22 bases while getting caught 8 times in only 82 games. The one thing that has eluded Trompiz has been consistency with his bat and it feels as though he had a breakthrough with that this past season. In addition, Trompiz is one of the most respected players in the system for his work ethic, selflessness and leadership by example. Those intangibles help all of his other skills play up.
Key: Going into his 6th season, time is not on Trompiz's side. He will need to show (quickly) that the improved consistency at the plate was not a fluke and he will need to be able to display that consistency at AA and possibly AAA.

Next up: Second Base


  1. Very interesting group. Thanks for the info Jayne. Astros look good at shortstop but it always helps to have a backup plan.

    1. Backup PLUS system strength if you happen to need another Justin Verlander! Thanks for reading.