In a strong year for the South Atlantic League in terms of prospects, one position is particularly strong for the amount of impact talent.
The SAL has several shortstops drawing scouts’ attention for their athleticism and potential as impact players in the higher levels.
The first name to jump out is Asheville’s Rosell Herrera, who has been reborn as a prospect in his second attempt at a full-season assignment. Herrera is near the top of the league in several hitting categories, including a .344 batting average and .996 OPS.
The tall, lanky switch-hitter signed with the Colorado Rockies out of the Dominican Republic at 17 years old and made his stateside debut at 18. His prospect stock fell considerably in 2012 after struggling mightily in his first taste of the SAL. But Herrera has made adjustments and is pushing for a promotion to Class-A Advanced at 20 years old.
Herrera has the potential for above-average power from a swing that generates lift and solid contact. He also has above-average speed, stealing 16 bases in his first 63 games this season.
Lexington’s Raul Adalberto Mondesi has received the most attention among shortstops in the league for his advanced defensive profile and overall potential ability at only 17 years old. Mondesi is hitting just .243, but he has flashed ability with the bat that leads many evaluators to believe he won’t be a glove-only infielder.
While only 17, Mondesi has shown some of the best defensive chops in the minor leagues, flashing major league quality tools across the board. One scout said Mondesi was the best shortstop in the league, which was affirmed by other evaluators.
Augusta’s Matt Duffy doesn’t have the name recognition of other shortstops in the league, but he has been one of the most consistent. Duffy is hitting .298 with a .410 on-base percentage, walking in 15 percent of his plate appearances. His average hasn’t wavered by more than 10 points for most of the season, which pairs well with his steady defense.
Duffy’s tools play up because of his natural baseball instincts and work ethic. While he may never have the household name of a Mondesi, he’s one of the better bets to succeed in the higher levels because of the skill in gaining from his tools. One scout confirmed this observation, naming Duffy as one of the better shortstops in the league.
Rome’s Jose Peraza is a smaller shortstop at 165 pounds, and this leads to questions regarding whether his bat will be strong enough to succeed in the higher levels. But the overall package is enough to leave many scouts satisfied.
Peraza is hitting just .253 with 12 extra-base hits, but he has shown the propensity to work counts and avoid strikeouts. His defense is at least above average across the board, enough to propel him to the upper levels on this profile alone. He also has some of the best speed in the league, stealing 18 bases in his first 46 games.
His defense and speed, along with some bat potential, have resulted in a top-10 ranking in most Atlanta Braves minor league systems.
Charleston’s Cito Culver, a former first-round pick, continues to struggle as a professional, hitting .211 with six home runs in his second season in the league. Culver’s athletic tools play well, but he has yet to make adjustments at the plate.
Lakewood’s Roman Quinn, a second-rounder, is doing enough at the plate to let his speed show, stealing 29 bases in his first 58 games. The fastest shortstop in the league will have to continue working at the plate, but his speed should give him an edge in the minors.