Teams will always say they are looking for talent up the middle. True shortstops are a rare commodity indeed. One who can hit and field almost automatically goes to the top of prospect lists. This top 10 has an intriguing mix of fantastic gloves, advanced bats that may not stay at the position and some who stand in between those two ends of the spectrum.
1. Manny Machado, Orioles: Machado was the top high school position player in the 2010 Draft and for good reason. He's got the potential to be a very exciting, all-around shortstop who can hit for average and power and field his position well. He got unfair A-Rod comparisons, because he's a big, toolsy shortstop from the Florida prep ranks, but he's got the chance to be very special in his own right.
2. Nick Franklin, Mariners: The No. 27 overall pick in the 2009 Draft, Franklin had a huge first full season, posting 23 homers and 25 steals, while adding 22 doubles as well. It looks like he should be able to stay at short, with decent range and enough arm, though some believe he'd be better at second base. He could leap to Double-A, where he finished in 2010, and jump on the fast track.
3. Jose Iglesias, Red Sox: Had the Cuban infielder stayed healthy all year, the conversation about Iglesias might have been about Boston early in 2011. But he broke a finger when he was hit by a pitch and missed two months. Defensively, he's a highlight reel and is ready to play Gold Glove-caliber defense in the big leagues right now. While he's more glove than bat, he's not a slouch at the plate and should hit for decent average. He might need some more time in the Minors, but not too much more.
4. Dee Gordon, Dodgers: The son of former big league pitcher Tom Gordon successfully made the jump from Class A to Double-A in 2010 and went to the Futures Game. He's a tremendous athlete and has plus speed that's allowed him to steal 126 bases over the past two years. He should be able to hit for average, especially if he improves his plate discipline. That speed works well defensively and he's got a good arm, though he's not polished in the field. He'll move up to Triple-A to refine his skills and wait for that first call.
Top 10 shortstop prospects
5. Jurickson Profar, Rangers: Profar will play all of 2011 at the ripe old age of 18 and is ready to hit full-season ball. He's the type of player to dream on because there's still so much development to come. He's learned how to switch-hit and he's got a good swing from both sides. He should be a good hitter as he progresses and he's got good instincts on the bases and in the field. He emulates Elvis Andrus and while Andrus doesn't have to look over his shoulder just yet, it'll be fun to watch just how fast Profar can reach the Majors and perhaps challenge him.
6. Wilmer Flores, Mets: The Mets sent Flores to full-season ball in 2009, at age 17, and while he wasn't terrible, he didn't stand out. So they sent him back to the South Atlantic League to start the 2010 season and he earned a midseason promotion to the Class A Advanced Florida State League. His best tool is his bat and he started to show some of the extra-base pop he'll continue to grow into. He may not stay at shortstop long-term, but he might hit enough to be a fine third baseman.
7. Adeiny Hechavarria, Blue Jays: Anyone who was in the Arizona Fall League at the right time saw Hechavarria and Jose Iglesias take infield practice together in Peoria in what basically was a "Can you top this?" defensive exhibition. Hechavarria, 21, was signed to a big deal last April and while his debut was just so-so, he's got a tremendous glove and the feeling is he'll hit just fine as he develops.
8. Grant Green, A's: A lot went right for Green in his first full season. He hit .318/.363/.520 with 20 homers and 87 RBIs in Class A Advanced Stockton, earning a promotion to Double-A for the playoffs. He represented the A's at the Futures Game as well. Things didn't go as well with the glove as he committed 37 errors, and there are some who believe a move to second is in the cards. But he'll stay at short for the time being and his bat should keep moving him up the ladder.
9. Christian Colon, Royals: If there was going to be a poster child for signing early, Colon might be it. He signed very quickly with the Royals after being taken No. 4 overall last June, and as a result was able to play 60 games in the Class A Advanced Carolina League. The Cal State Fullerton product has a good idea of what he's doing at the plate and should hit for average and some power. His baseball instincts allow him to play above his tools, especially at shortstop, though some believe he lacks the range to stay there. He's on the fast track and should start the year in Double-A.
10. Chris Owings, D-backs: Owings was having a very solid first pro season, making the Midwest League All-Star team, but was shut down with a foot problem in June. With good bat speed and a short stroke, he's already shown a knack for hitting for contact and hitting for average, though he needs to improve his plate discipline. He's a hard worker who's got enough range, soft-enough hands and a strong-enough arm to stay at shortstop. That's where he'll play as he moves up a level in 2011.
To be eligible for the list, a player must have rookie eligibility. To qualify for rookie status, a player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues, or accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the 25-player limit period, excluding time on the disabled list or in military service.