State of the Farm – Shortstop

Shortstop is a position that the Reds recently had a bit of an interesting situation arise with as Walt Jocketty reportedly said that he would be open to trading incumbent Reds starting shortstop Zach Cozart or the guy waiting in the wings at AAA in Didi Gregorius. One of those two players should be manning shortstop for the Reds over the next several seasons.

The top shortstop prospect in the system is clearly Didi Gregorius, who split his minor league time between Pensacola and Louisville before a September call up with the Reds. With Pensacola, Gregorius went out and hit .278/.344/.373 with 29 walks and 49 strikeouts in 349 plate appearances before being promoted to Louisville. His numbers fell off some as he hit just .244/288/.427 with 12 walks and 31 strikeouts in 202 trips to the plate. His BABIP dropped off in Louisville while his power jumped up. He noted after the season that he tried hitting for more power in the second half of the season and was merely trying to be a singles hitter in the first half. Defensively you have the best defensive shortstop in the system with above-average range and a plus arm.

There is a rather large drop off at the position once you get past Gregorius with Billy Hamilton now moved to center. Devin Lohman played shortstop for the Bakersfield Blaze once Hamilton left, though Lohman is viewed more as a second baseman defensively. While he can play shortstop, he is probably a bit below-average there. With the bat, Lohman showed he was capable in the California League with a little bit of power, good speed and some solid plate discipline as he hit .257/.353/.401 with 34 steals. Juan Perez was the other shortstop in full season ball and like Lohman, he likely profiles better as a second baseman than as a shortstop. He hit .253/.336/.398 with Dayton as he showed off a little bit of pop in his bat along with some speed and good plate discipline. Defensively he has had questions about his range at short and his arm, though I believe both would work just fine on the other side of second and will cover you at shortstop if needed. Both guys may have more of a utility player future than a starting future though.

In rookie ball the Reds saw success from both of the main shortstops. In Billings the 37th rounder in the 2012 draft Zach Vincej hit .336/.393/.434 in 163 trips to the plate. His plate discipline was so-so and he didn’t show much power, but Vincej has his game built around defense. Despite good offensive numbers his unsustainable high BABIP along with questionable peripherals leave open plenty of questions moving forward. Down in Arizona the Reds 2012 12th rounder Brent Peterson hit .291/.377/.383 with good plate discipline and showed off some good speed with 15 steals in just 38 games. Unlike Vincej though, Peterson probably won’t remain at shortstop and profiles most likely as a utility guy who can play multiple positions with a solid bat and speed on the bases.

Overall Thoughts

Shortstop is a very questionable position in the system. While Didi Gregorius is arguably a Top 100 prospect in baseball there probably isn’t another shortstop in the system who can stay at the position until you get to rookie ball and there are real questions about his bat. I would say that the position is a Grade C- only because it can be carried by a true prospect and there is at least some depth even if most of the guys won’t stick there, they can at least cover the position in a pinch. The spot has taken a big step backwards from last year with the graduation of Cozart and Billy Hamilton making the move to another position.

For other State of the Farm posts, check out the series here.

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