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Minor-league Depth Check: Shortstop

A look at the shortstops in the minors.

Matthew Lugo
Kelly O’Connor;

Among the weirdest parts of the 2020 season was that we didn’t get any minor-league season, and thus an entire season of development was lost for a whole lot of prospects. A few were able to participate in Pawtucket, but for the most part they were left on their own with just Zoom calls with coaches in the organization. Along with the lost development, players down on the farm have also fallen out of consciousness for some fans. That brings us to this series. Over the next two weeks, as we head into an offseason where the Red Sox may be looking to boost their farm system in some areas and trade out of it in others, we’re going to go position-by-position to reacclimate ourselves with the minor-leaguers all across the organization. Today, we look at the crop of shortstop.

Top Prospect

Matthew Lugo

If we were including everyone who might play some shortstop in 2021, then Jeter Downs would be a sure bet for this spot and Nick Yorke would probably be number two. However, both were mentioned already in our second base roundup as that’s where they’re likely to end up long-term. For guys who, at least as of now, look likely to stick at short, it’s Matthew Lugo in this top spot. He’s a little bit under-the-radar as of now and missing the 2020 season didn’t help his public perception, but make no mistake about the skillset. There’s a long way to go, but if it all comes together this is a very good prospect.

The young shortstop, who was drafted out the Carlos Beltrán Academy in Puerto Rico, was the team’s second selection in the 2018 draft but was the more highly-regarded between himself and Cameron Cannon, their first selection. Defensively, Lugo is smooth and while there were questions from some about his ability to stick at short out of the draft all indications I’ve gotten is that he has the tools to stay there and even be above-average if he puts the proper work in. At the plate, he has a chance to develop a very good hit tool and solid power, but both are ways away.

Brainer Bonaci
Kelly O’Connor;

Lugo doesn’t turn 20 until next May and while there is a potential five-tool player in here there is far too much time to go to be too confident about him hitting that ceiling. That said, the Red Sox were excited about him falling to them in that 2018 draft and they are just as excited about his future. Patience will be required here, but don’t be surprised if he’s creeping high up on the list of top Red Sox prospects within the next couple years.

Sleeper Prospect

Brainer Bonaci

This one feels like cheating a bit because Bonaci had been getting plenty of hype late last winter heading into the spring, but he didn’t really get a chance to fully break onto the map due to the lost season. So, I’m putting him here but it’ll probably be the last chance we can call him a sleeper. The 2018 signing from Venezuela didn’t have a ton of hype coming into the organization, though his $290,000 isn’t anything to sneeze at. Scouts liked what they saw in the DSL in the summer of 2019, though, leading to a potential big 2020.

Obviously we didn’t get a chance to see what he could do Stateside this past summer, but the tools are still there. Bonaci, who doesn’t turn 19 until next July, is obviously still far away. But as with Lugo, there are tools about which we can be excited. Bonaci is a very good athlete who has looked good at shortstop, though a move to third base long-term isn’t out of the question. Offensively, he packs some surprising power despite his small frame and makes solid contact.

Others of Note

  • Ryan Fitzgerald is more likely to be an organizational piece than one who makes an impact in the majors, but he’s a solid guy to keep an eye on. The former Indy Ball signee has been able to hit through the low minors and he could surprise some people and sneak onto a bench for a few years if that continues in Portland next summer.
  • Grant Williams is not everybody’s favorite Celtic dork, but rather a former 10th round draft pick. Like Fitzgerald, there’s probably not a major-league future here but Williams can hit for a solid average and plays good defense around the infield.
  • Antoni Flores entered the organization with a good amount of hype after signing a big bonus out of Venezuela. Unfortunately, his stock has gone backwards. His physical shape has gotten worse and his defense has declined since then, and he has not shown an ability to make contact against professional pitching. He’ll still only be 20 next year so we can’t give up on him, but he has to show something in 2021.
  • Kevin MacKenzie was one of the many undrafted free agents signed this year after the shortened draft, and for my money he was the most exciting of that group. The shortstop out of Fordham doesn’t provide much pop, but he flies on the bases and hits for a high average. He could move quickly and surprise some people.
  • Lyonell James was part of the 2019 international free agent class, getting a sizable $440,000 bonus. He hasn’t played as a pro yet, but there is excitement about his power potential on the infield.
  • Kelvin Diaz was another guy in that 2019 class, and he received a $300,000 bonus. The athletic ability here is palpable, but the tools are very, very raw.
  • As mentioned above, guys like Jeter Downs, CJ Chatham, Cameron Cannon and Nick Yorke could be mentioned here but are viewed more as second basemen at this point.