By Joe Frisaro @ManOn2nd
You can never have too much pitching, right?
Well, the same can be said of quality shortstops. The cost to sign and/or acquire elite shortstops is steep. Just look at the 2021 MLB salaries of Francisco Lindor ($22.3 million), Xander Bogaerts ($20 million) and Trevor Story ($18.5 million).
On the free agent market, Story, Corey Seager and Trea Turner project to join the growing list of $20-plus million a year shortstops.
The Marlins feel they have some strong candidates to be their shortstop of the future. Jazz Chisholm Jr. is already in the big leagues, getting most of his work at second base. Still, Chisholm could become the full-time shortstop. For now, Miguel Rojas has that status.
At the lower levels of the Marlins system, they have a few shortstop prospects with a chance to become big league regulars.
Kahlil Watson, the 16th overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, officially signed a few days ago for $4,540,790, well over the recommended slot value for the pick. The 18-year-old has a chance to be an impactful, top of the order, left-handed hitter with elite speed.
Watson is expected to start his professional career soon at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla.
Once he gets going, he will be another touted 18-year-old shortstop prospect in the system.
Jose Salas and Ian Lewis, Marlins: Currently in the Florida Complex League for the Marlins are 18-year-olds Jose Salas and Ian Lewis. The two are switch-hitters with tremendous potential. Two standouts in the 2019 international class, Salas (Venezuela) signed for $2.8 million, and Lewis (Bahamas) signed for $950,000.
Salas is off to a terrific start in the complex league, hitting .406 with a .506 on-base percentage. He recently hit his first home run, off an 89 mph fastball. Listed at 6-foot-2, 191-pounds, Salas has the frame to add more size, and strength. The question will be if he sticks long-term at shortstop. He has the athletic ability and skills to do so. It will be a matter of how he continues to develop. If not, he can easily slide over to third base.
Of note, Salas has been out of the lineup for a few days. We’re not sure if he’s dealing with an injury or any ailments. But it is something to monitor.
Lewis, listed at 5-10, 177-pounds, is extremely athletic and fast. He is hitting .262 with a .324 on-base percentage. He homered recently on a 92 mph fastball. Lewis doesn’t show the power potential of Salas, but he is impacting the ball, and his swing is sound. There is plenty of upside.
Another shortstop prospect to monitor is Yiddi Cappe, another 18-year-old, who is playing in the Dominican Summer League. Cappe signed for $3.5 million last year.
RHP Taj Bradley, Rays: The Rays keep finding and developing young talent. They have a loaded Minor League system, which allows them to trade their established big leaguers and seemingly not miss a beat. Shortstop Wander Franco, considered the top prospect in the sport, is already in the big leagues, and he’s starting to figure things out.
On the pitching front, Taj Bradley has a chance to be a fixture in the backend of the rotation. The 20-year-old was just promoted from low-A Charleston to High A Bowling Green. His 95 mph fastball has touched 98, and he has a quality slider. Before the promotion, Bradley, statistically, was one of the top pitchers in the Minor Leagues. His record is 9-3 with a 1.76 ERA, with 81 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings. Opponents are hitting just .165 off him, and his WHIP is 0.86.
Bradley was the Rays’ fifth-round pick in 2018 from Redan High School in Stone Mountain, Ga. He signed for $747,500, and is turning into a bargain. He’s already elite, and underrated on most prospect lists. Those will change as lists are update.
1B Triston Casas, Red Sox: The Red Sox’s top prospect, Triston Casas, has been stepping up on the world stage. Playing for Team USA, the left-handed hitting first baseman has been a force in the Olympics. A first-round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, Casas is a South Florida native. He was a star at American Heritage High School in Plantation, not only producing by also showing leadership.
The experience he’s gaining in the Olympics, where he’s repeatedly coming up clutch, should advance his development as he tracks closer to reaching the big leagues.
Casas already is a steady performer at Double-A, but according to reports out of Boston, it is unlikely he will make the jump to the big leagues this season. Regardless, Casas is an emerging threat, who is tracking towards a promising career.