The Two Farm Systems: Boston is not known for their great overall depth at the minor league level at most positions but it's certainly not true at the shortstop position -- they have some very impressive depth and it starts right at the top with now Double-A tested Xander Bogaerts. The Yankees also have some impressive depth at shortstop too but it's all at the lower minor league levels right now.
Bogaerts, an International free agent signing out of Aruba back in 2009, is not only the best shortstop prospect at the higher minor league levels in either organization but also the highest ceiling shortstop between the two farm systems. All he did was hit a combined .307 with 20 home runs and a ridiculous 37 doubles between high-A Salem and Double-A Portland in 2012.
Oh, and he just turned 20 years old this offseason. A smooth defensive player too with a strong arm, the only question mark in his game is not whether he can stick at shorstop -- because defensively he surely can -- but at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, and still growing, will he physically outgrow the position at some point? A young Alex Rodriguez type player tools-wise, he will stick at shortstop at least in the short-term.
While there is a big drop off after Bogaerts talent-wise, it's not like Boston doesn't have other shortstops who project to stick at the position long-term and that is usually half of the battle at the minor league level. Even more big league ready than Bogaerts, especially defensively, is Cuban native Jose Iglesias. A plus-plus defensive player in every sense of the term, one who is a Gold Glove caliber player right now, the question is whether or not he'll hit enough to be an everyday shortstop and for now he seems more likely to be a seat warmer for Bogaerts in Boston.
Boston also has an intriguing shortstop at the A-ball level too in Dominican native Jose Vinicio, a 2009 International free agent that signed for nearly $2 million. The 19-year old switch-hitter conjures up images of a young Jose Reyes type with perhaps a bit less speed and slightly less home run power. Like Reyes he has great bat speed, good command of the strike zone despite not being overly patient, and he can really put a charge into his swing to pile up extra-base hits. He has some rough edges to smooth out but the ceiling is huge.
Giving the Red Sox great depth at shortstop up and down the organization are Tzu-Wei Lin, an International free agent out of Taiwan who signed for $2.05 million last summer, and Deven Marrero, last year's first round pick out of Arizona State University, both of whom played in the short-season leagues last season.
Lin, a left-handed batter, is nearly an Iglesias clone in that he's a plus defensive player with a somewhat limited offensive ceiling. He's a lot faster than Iglesias, however, and Lin also shows better contact hitting skills and a sound offensive approach, but at 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds he has way below average power potential that should limit his offensive upside.
Marrero on the other hand has a bit more offensive potential. He shows a discernible eye at the plate and good pitch recognition, the right kind of balance to be a very good long-term on-base guy if he can remain patient consistently. He has plus bat speed, uses the whole field, and while the power is below average overall, it is more of the average range for a shortstop. Throw in steady to even sometimes plus defense, he can do a bit of everything on both sides of the ball.
The Yankees don't have a potential impact shortstop prospect anywhere close to the higher minor league levels right now; Addison Maruszak, Walter Ibarra, and Jose Mojica project to be utility players at best long-term and are more likely solid organizational types at this point. In fact, you have to go all the way down to the low-A level to find the first potential impact shortstop for the Bombers.
Switch-hitting Cito Culver, New York's first round pick in 2010, is the highest level, potential impact shortstop right now and he's coming off of a season that saw him hit just .215 for the low-A Charleston RiverDogs. The 20-year old is right up there defensively with anybody the Red Sox can throw out there and he can get on base at a good clip [he had 71 walks last season], but the swing needs more work. Like Marrero, he could have a decent but not great power impact if he can get the bat going, and he too can steal some bases.
Coming up right behind Culver is right-handed hitting Claudio Custodio. The Dominican native fits in the Vinicio mold as a smallish shortstop with plus defensive skills, power that is better than folks realize, and even better speed. He too is aggressive in the strike zone, one who doesn't walk very much but can command the zone when he swings.
Where the Yankees can start picking up the slack depth-wise is in 2013 after high-upside shortstops Abiatal Avelino, Jorge Mateo, and Yancarlos Baez begin to make their way States-side from the Dominican Summer League. Avelino and Mateo in particular are already plus defensive shortstops who can hit, show plus speed, and especially in the case of Avelino could hit for decent power.
How Do They Compare In...
Power: Even throwing in the likes of Iglesias and Lin, who are players with the scarcest power around, Boston still has a big edge here and it's mostly due to Bogaerts and his immense power potential. Don't discount Marrero and Vinicio too though. Advantage: Red Sox
Hitting For Average: The Yankees don't have a player States-side who hit .300 last year and while Avelino and Mateo could be those types of hitters long-term, it's not enough to offset Bogaerts, Marrero, Lin, and company. Advantage: Red Sox
Defense: Here is where the Yankees make it more of a race. Whether it's Culver, Custodio, or Mateo, and definitely the case with Avelino, long-term the Yankees have as talented a quartet of defensive shortstop prospects as there is. However, considering they are so far away from the big leagues right now, Boston has an advantage depth-wise with the likes of Iglesias and Bogaerts being tested at the highest minor league levels [Note: Iglesias is the best defensive shortstop overall but gets dinged in the rankings below because the limited bat might keep him out of long-term starting discussions]. Advantage: Red Sox
Speed: This is another area where the Yankees keep it close. Neither Bogaerts nor Iglesias are base stealers, therefore keeping this comparison to the A-ball guys and below. Vincio is more above average than plus in the speed department and Marrero is more average than anything, and Lin's plus speed alone is not enough to offset the likes of Custodio, Avelino, and Mateo. New York has a slight advantage here. Advantage: Yankees
Overall Potential: Until Bogaerts graduates to the big leagues this one is a 'no contest'. He's just too good and too close to the big leagues for the Yankees to compare. The tide could shift, however, once he does lose his rookie status and after the likes of Avelino, Mateo, and Baez [all of whom we'll keep out of the categories below for now] come States-side. Advantage: Red Sox
Highest Ceilings: Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox), Jose Vinicio (Red Sox), Cito Culver (Yankees), Claudio Custodio (Yankees), Deven Marrero (Red Sox)
Best Power: Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox), Cito Culver (Yankees), Deven Marrero (Red Sox), Jose Vinico (Red Sox), Claudio Custodio (Yankees)
Best Average: Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox), Deven Marrero (Red Sox), Claudio Custodio (Yankees), Jose Vinicio (Red Sox), Tzu-Wei Lin (Red Sox)
Best Defense: Cito Culver (Yankees), Tzu-Wei Lin (Red Sox), Claudio Custodio (Yankees), Deven Marrero (Red Sox), Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox)
Best Speed: Claudio Custodio (Yankees), Tzu-Wei Lin (Red Sox), Jose Vinicio (Red Sox), Cito Culver (Yankees), Deven Marrero (Red Sox)
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