Sizing Up The Shortstop Prospects

Eduardo Nunez Could Skip A Level In 2006

PinstripesPlus.com analyzes the Yankees' shortstop prospects. Which shortstop prospects has the highest upside? Which are the ones ready to make a Major League impact soon? Who needs to make their mark quickly?

Highest Ceiling

C.J. Henry: The Yankees' first round pick in 2005 is one of the elite athletes in the farm system, possessing arguably the highest offensive ceiling of any prospect in Yankee pinstripes. Henry has five-tool talent, drawing comparisons to some of the game's elite offensive players. He projects to be a safe bet to be a solid 30-30 contributor at his peak. The weakest part of his game however is his defense at the shortstop position.

Even before being drafted out of high school in Oklahoma, many scouts thought that Henry would eventually have to move to either the outfield or to third base because of the combination of the fact he'll likely outgrow the shortstop position and because his footwork needs work. He has a solid arm which makes the possibility of moving even greater. However, as special an offensive prospect as he is, the Yankees are going to give Henry every opportunity to remain a shortstop. If he can improve his work there defensively, Henry's upside at shortstop is limitless.

Eduardo Nunez: While Henry gets most of the attention among the shortstop prospects, everybody in baseball seems to be a little more sold on Eduardo Nunez. Nunez doesn't have the power projection of Henry, but many scouts believe his footwork, agility, glove work, and arm makes him a safer bet to stick at shortstop. He is still very raw defensively, as evidenced by his 28 errors with the Staten Island Yankees in 2005. But few infield prospects in the Yankee farm system have as strong an arm and Nunez boasts a plus range in the field.

Offensively, the switch-hitting Nunez is an excellent gap hitter with above average speed. He has proven to provide in the clutch situations and the Yankees are so high on his upside, the prevailing thought is that he'll skip a minor league level and break Spring Training camp with the Tampa Yankees as one of the youngest players in the Florida State League. Like Henry, Nunez projects to hit for a high average and develop into a big-time run producer.

Closest to the Majors

Ramiro Pena: It is hard to believe that a 20-year old switch-hitting shortstop playing his first full year of affiliated baseball in 2005 would be one of the prospects who is closest to the Major Leagues. However, as advanced as he is defensively, not many prospects can touch his glove work. Many scouts believe he is so polished defensively that he could not only play in the big leagues right now, but he could be better than half of the Major League shortstops. He projects to be a Gold Glove defensive shortstop and he is a much better offensive player than his .249 average last year showed. Pena projects to be an Omar Vizuel type someday, but perhaps with not as much speed.

Andy Cannizaro: The 'steady Eddy' of the shortstop prospects, Cannizaro is as solid as they come. He doesn't have the best tools in the system nor does he project to be starting shortstop at the big league level someday. Cannizaro doesn't even have the greatest range in the field either. He makes all the plays he should in the field, and at the plate, there aren't many better contact hitters in the Yankee farm system. Cannizaro has struck out just 137 times in 1,689 career at-bats, walking more times that he has struck out. His lack of power relegates him to a bench role at the Major League level where he could prove to be quite valuable.

The "Sleepers"

Walter Ibarra: The Yankees are very high on the potential of Walter Ibarra. A special defensive shortstop who compares very favorably to Ramiro Pena, many believe his offensive upside is much higher. Ibarra is a switch-hitting shortstop that, despite being somewhat small, gets good wood on the ball and puts a charge into his hits. He may never become a power hitting middle infielder, but he projects very favorably to Jose Reyes of the Mets - albeit with much less speed.

HIS DEFENSE WILL CARRY HIM: Ask any of his GCL teammates in 2005 about his defense and just about everybody will say Luis Nunez saves a ton of runs. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)
Luis Nunez: Completing the stock of great defensive shortstop prospects in the Yankee farm system is Nunez. An absolute vacuum, not much gets by Nunez in the field. With the ability to play second base, third base, and even the outfield, Nunez projects to be more of a utility player despite shortstop being his natural position. He doesn't have the offensive upside of the likes of Henry, Nunez, Pena, or Ibarra, Nunez will have a hard time taking away at-bats from them as a shortstop.

Need to Make Their Move

Grant Plumley: The Oral Roberts standout defensive shortstop assumed more of a utility role in the Yankee organization in 2005, playing nearly as many games at third base as he did at shortstop, even playing a game at second base. Possessing the heart of a champion, Plumley is a throwback player who hustles on every play. He doesn't post the sexy numbers but his contributions to the team shouldn't be overlooked.

Hector Made: Made battled injuries in 2005, and as a result, it allowed the likes of Ramiro Pena and Eduardo Nunez to seize their opportunities to shine in the organization. His defensive game hasn't developed as quickly as the Yankees had hoped and he doesn't have the offensive potential of others on this list. He'll need to put together a solid offensive season in 2006 to secure his place in the farm system.

The Jury is Still Out

Ryan Haag: Like Plumley, Haag contribues more to his teams than is shown in the box scores. And like Plumely, Haag has been thrusted into more of a utility role as a professional. He has a very strong arm and he does have a knack for coming up with a big hit or a huge play in the field at the right time. However, he doesn't have the offensive juice to force his way into consistent playing time. He needs a few things to bounce his way to do that, and if it happens, he could possibly surprise some people.

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