The 2019 MLB Draft class was absolutely stacked with talented shortstops. Two of them, Bobby Witt Jr. and CJ Abrams, were selected within the top 10, and a total of eight were selected in the first round. This year’s draft class isn’t nearly as heavy on high-end shortstops, but there’s still a solid amount of talent at the position and at least a few shortstops who figure to be decent big-league starters. (A heads-up: New Mexico State’s Nick Gonzales has played some shortstop at the collegiate level, but for the purposes of this exercise we’re considering him a second baseman.)
Here are the top five shortstops in this year’s MLB Draft class:
Ed Howard, Mount Carmel (IL) High School
While he has no chance to be the first pick in this year’s draft, Howard bears a lot of resemblance to Carlos Correa when he was taken at No. 1 overall eight years ago. Howard is a right-handed hitting shortstop who has the defensive skills to stick at the position long-term and who is tall and skinny but muscular with a body that looks like it will eventually fill out and allow him to hit for power as a pro. The former Little League World Series star has a ton of upside and could be a real steal in the likely event that he falls to the middle of the first round later this month.
Nick Loftin, Baylor University
In the modern game, Loftin — a solid but versatile defender who does a great job of hitting for contact but doesn’t hit for substantial power — may be more of a super-utility player as a major-leaguer. But a player with a similar profile, the Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu, was a legitimate AL MVP candidate in 2019, so that’s perfectly fine. He may be a more natural fit at second base, but Loftin seems to at least have the defensive skills to capably fill in at shortstop as a big-leaguer, and the .311/.370/.479 collegiate hitter should make enough of an offensive impact to earn frequent at-bats. In a relatively weak shortstop class, he’s widely regarded as the top college shortstop in the draft pool.
Casey Martin, University of Arkansas
With his lack of size (a listed 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds), some inconsistency as a contact-hitter, and a lack of discipline on defense, it’s understandable why Martin is polarizing to some evaluators. But the 21-year-old has unbelievable upside — he hit 30 homers in two-plus seasons at Arkansas, and he possesses elite speed. It’s possible that he won’t stick at shortstop, which would cut down on his value a bit, but even if he ends up as a center fielder, his rare combination of power and speed would be extremely valuable. The .310/.389/.542 collegiate hitter could be a tremendous steal late in the first round or at some point in the second.
Jordan Westburg, Mississippi State University
Even though he’s a collegiate prospect out of arguably the most competitive baseball conference in the country, the 21-year-old Westburg is much more of a high-ceiling than a high-floor player. The 6-foot-3, 191-pound shortstop recieves frequent praise for his power potential, despite the fact that he hit just 10 homers in 124 games at Mississippi State. And while his athleticism will give him a chance to stick at the position just as players like Correa, Brandon Crawford, and Corey Seager have done, his size doesn’t really make him a natural fit at short — so he’d better grow into that power-hitting ability in case he ends up getting moved to third base. The .285/.385/.446 career hitter doesn’t look like a guy who is going to rise quickly to the big leagues, but his natural athleticism, upside, and success against elite college competition make him intriguing enough to take late in the first round or shortly thereafter.
Alika Williams, Arizona State University
Williams is probably a glove-first, low-offense starter at best, but shortstops who can play major-league-caliber defense aren’t exactly in abundance, so the 6-foot-2, 180-pounder does have some solid value. While he’s been inconsistent as a contact hitter in college, he hit .333 as a sophomore and ultimately finished with a .300 average over two-plus seasons in Tempe. He’s always shown strong patience at the plate and had a .383 OBP at Arizona State, but he’s probably not going to hit for much power, as he slugged .400 with five homers during his college career. Overall, he’s not viewed as an elite hitter or runner. With the prevalence of the shift, defense-first infielders are becoming less valuable with each passing year, but good defensive shortstops are never going to go out of style, so Williams is worth taking a chance on in the second or third round.