As a failed fantasy owner, I realized my shortcomings stemmed from the inability to draft good hitters at key positions, especially the middle infield. In this week's edition of the Kids Are Alright, we take a look at three highly rated second base/shortstop prospects that could help you in your drafts if all the elite middle infielders are off the board when your pick comes up: Chicago White Sox second baseman/shortstop Carlos Sanchez, Oakland Athletics shortstop Addison Russell, and Baltimore second baseman/shortstop Jonathan Schoop.
Carlos Sanchez, SS/2B, CWS - Sanchez has climbed the ladder steadily since the White Sox signed him in 2009 and enjoyed a breakout year in 2012. He won the Advanced-A Carolina League batting title with a .315 average, then hit .370 in 119 at-bats in Double-A before ending the year in Triple-A Charlotte.
Sanchez is a perfect fit up the middle at 5'11" and 175 pounds. He has the tools to play any infield position and has significant time at third, short, and second on his resume. He walks well, plays solid defense, and has almost no power, so he profiles as a table setter. He would work best as a leadoff man in Chicago.
Chicago has Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham in the middle infield and for Sanchez to fit in there, the team would need to replace the power numbers lost from a potential trade to make room for Sanchez. However, Jeff Keppinger is apparently the answer for the White Sox at third, and both Beckham and Sanchez have experience there. Chicago could keep Ramirez, Beckham, and Sanchez with some creative shuffling.
Sanchez needs more time in Triple-A so he will start the year there. Watch him closely as he could emerge in Chicago before the end of the year.
Addison Russell, SS, OAK - Russell tore the cover off the ball this summer, more than justifying Oakland's first round draft choice. Ever since the A's snapped him up with the 11th overall pick, Russell has done nothing but hit. He blazed through the rookie Arizona League, hitting .416 with six home runs and five triples in 106 at-bats and picked up another 108 at-bats between short-season rookie Vermont and Class-A Burlington. Russell finished the year with a .369 average, 7 homers, 45 RBIs, 16 steals, and a .432 on-base percentage. Not bad for a high school kid.
Russell has a fine baseball pedigree. He played on the 18u squad for Team USA and won the Pan-Am championship with the club in 2011. He has plus power, speed, and defense. Russell is an aggressive hitter who can hit to all fields. His speed translates to quick feet as well as smarts on the base paths. He has the potential to hit in the heart of the lineup and become a 20-20 guy.
He leapfrogged the other prospects in the A's system to become the #1 name to watch there. Let's be real about Oakland for a minute. Most positions there are basically fill in the blank and shortstop is no exception with Hiroyuki Nakajima and Jed Lowrie there right now. Shortstop is there for Russell the second he's ready and he's on the fast track, set for a 2015 arrival if all goes well.
Jonathan Schoop, SS/2B, BAL - Schoop is the best position player in the Orioles organization, ranking behind the two key arms of the O's future in Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman. He's an aggressive hitter with power potential that just has begun to blossom. His power came along in the last two seasons. Unfortunately his strikeouts have concordantly gone up. Schoop also hit .316 in Class-A Delmarva in 2011, so keep an eye on him in Triple-A Norfolk this year to see if he can keep up the power and match the high batting average.
Schoop is bigger than Sanchez and Russell (though not by much with Russell) and is the most balanced of the three. While Sanchez will likely be a leadoff guy and Russell can become a third place hitter, Schoop has the tools to hit for power and average.
He could pair with a familiar face in Baltimore. His longtime minor leagues teammate Manny Machado is entrenched at third base. Schoop has focused on second base in the last two seasons and has a history of playing short. Right now in Baltimore, it's Ryan Flaherty at second and J.J. Hardy at short. Hardy is likely to stick there, while Flaherty is expendable. He came over to Baltimore before the 2012 season from the Cubs org and had 191 at-bats between Norfolk and Baltimore last year. Flaherty had a 20-homerun year back in 2009 in Class-A ball. He has not come close to that kind of production since. Enter Schoop at second. Look for him to get the call as soon as he's ready, as early as this season.
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