Yankees vs. Blue Jays: Shortstop Prospects

Cito Culver is an outstanding defensive player

Comparing what the Yankees and Blue Jays have at each position in the minor leagues, we take a look at the crop of shortstop prospects in each system. Which system is deeper? Which prospects have the most power? The highest ceilings? Take a look at this comparison between the AL East farm systems.

The Two Farm Systems: Neither farm system is flush with potential high impact starting shortstop depth right now, but the Yankees might have a little more potential at the lower levels while the Blue Jays have better quality potential utility types spread out up and down the system.

Arguably the most intriguing shortstop prospect in the long-season leagues for either club is Toronto's Ryan Goins. The recently turned 25-year old is Double-A tested after hitting .289 with 44 extra-base hits for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats last season. He is as solid as they come defensively, shows good plate discipline, and he is a pesky out from the left side. He even shows some decent speed too. There's nothing flashing about him but he's solid in just about everything.

Beyond Goins, however, the Blue Jays have a bunch of current minor league shortstops who project best as potential big league utility type players, including Andy Burns, Kevin Nolan, Dickie Thon Jr., and Shane Opitz.

Both Nolan and Burns show Goins-like offensive potential. They can both swing the bat well from the right side, show very good plate discipline, and have more gap power than actual home run power. They can even run a little bit too. However, neither possess the long-term defensive potential to stick at shortstop at the big league level in an everyday capacity but both can play second base and some third base too.

Opitz, an eleventh round pick in the 2010 draft, just turned 21 years old this offseason. He can definitely stick at shortstop long-term, showing above average range, a strong arm, and he can make the spectacular play look routine at times. Offensively though, the left-handed batter has below average power potential, just decent strike zone discipline, and average speed at best. He'll get every opportunity to move up because of the defense but offensively he has a ways to go.

Dickie Thon Jr. is the son of a former big league shortstop and he too shows more solid skills across the board than spectacular. He shows good patience at the plate, solid contact hitting ability, and the power-speed combination is average at best. Now 21 years old, he needs a breakout season in the worst way to get back on to the prospect map after two sub-par seasons.

The Yankees have some current minor league shortstops of their own whose ceiling is that of a potential big league utility type, including Walter Ibarra, Jose Mojica, Addison Maruszak, and Jose Pirela, all of whom have played in high-A ball or higher. However, only Pirela has a strong chance to fulfill that kind of potential after hitting .293 last season with a career-high eight home runs for Double-A Trenton last season. Not a true shortstop though, while he can spell there in emergency situations, he's better suited at second base, left field, or third base.

While New York doesn't have a great stable of high level shortstop prospects in the upper minor league levels, they do have some intriguing depth at the lower levels. Switch-hitting Cito Culver, a first round pick in 2010, hit just .215 for the low-A Charleston RiverDogs last year but defensively he's among the best at the position.

Just 20 years old, he shows great patience at the plate, drawing 73 walks last season as one of the youngest players at the low-A level. His swing needs some more work and he could use some more physical strength. There's some hidden offensive potential here but there's no doubt the glove is way ahead of the bat right now.

Claudio Custodio, a right-handed hitting Dominican native, fits into the Culver mode as a gifted defensive shortstop whose batting potential is better than some pundits realize. He's very aggressive in the strike zone and doesn't draw many walks, but he has plus speed and surprising power. A late signee, at 22 years old he needs to start moving a bit quicker up through the ranks.

Toronto has a high ceiling prospect of their own at the lowest minor league levels in the form of Dawel Lugo who just turned 18 years old in December. He shows above average power potential for a middle infielder and a quick bat, but the offensive approach needs some work and he doesn't have the plus range normally associated with the better shortstop prospects.

Both farm systems have some high upside shortstop prospects coming over from the Dominican Summer League and from their International Free Agent signing classes last season, including New York's Abiatal Avelino, Jorge Mateo, and Yancarlos Baez, and Toronto's Richard Urena and Franklin Barreto, none of whom will be part of the categorical comparisons below until they comes States-side.

Neither Urena nor Barreto have begun their official careers yet and Barreto in particular could be moving to the outfield, but both are reported to have polished bats given their age and very high offensive ceilings. The same can be said of New York's Baez who, unlike Barreto, projects to stick at shortstop long-term.

Avelino is the biggest wild card of the young Latin crop because of his veteran-like feel for the position and solid all-around offensive game, and Mateo, a plus-plus runner, has a very high ceiling of his own on both sides of the ball.

How Do They Compare In...

Power: Just limiting the comparisons to the shortstops currently playing in the United States, the Yankees don't have a lot of depth in the power department. Their better power hitters are more organizational types than starting shortstop prospects, including Maruszak and Pirela. Toronto on the other hand has Goins who, despite not great home run power, can really drive it into the gaps extremely well and Lugo has some solid long-term power potential. Throw in Burns, Nolan and Thon, Toronto has a slight edge here. Advantage: Blue Jays

Hitting For Average: This one is a no-doubter as Goins is clearly the most advanced bat among the shortstops in either organization and both Burns and Nolan can hit well too. This could swing over to the Yankees side a year from now after Avelino, Baez, and Mateo comes States-side, but New York doesn't have it right now. Advantage: Blue Jays

Defense: This is where the Yankees have a clear advantage. As solid as Goins is defensively, he doesn't have nearly the range nor the arm strength compared to the likes of Cito Culver and Claudio Custodio. And this will be an even wider margin of victory once Avelino and Mateo come over. Advantage: Yankees.

Speed: This is another category where the Yankees have a sizeable edge. Toronto doesn't have a real burner at shortstop anywhere in their farm system. In fact there isn't an above average runner among them. The Yankees, however, have Custodio with plus speed and Culver, an average runner overall, has the natural instincts that allows his running game to play a level above. Advantage: Yankees.

Overall Potential: If not the for presence of Goins this would be a big win for the Yankees despite the fact that Toronto has some depth of quality potential utility types or strong organizational players. Culver and Custodio have the requisite defensive games to not only stick at the position long-term but excel there if the bats comes around. If Dawel Lugo can improve his range this would be more of a tie. Advantage: Yankees.

Highest Ceilings: Cito Culver (Yankees), Claudio Custodio (Yankees), Dawel Lugo (Blue Jays), Ryan Goins (Blue Jays), Dickie Thon Jr. (Blue Jays)

Best Power: Ryan Goins (Blue Jays), Dawel Lugo (Blue Jays), Cito Culver (Yankees), Claudio Custodio (Yankees), Andy Burns (Blue Jays)

Best Average: Ryan Goins (Blue Jays), Claudio Custodio (Yankees), Kevin Nolan (Blue Jays), Andy Burns (Blue Jays), Cito Culver (Yankees)

Best Defense: Cito Culver (Yankees), Claudio Custodio (Yankees), Shane Opitz (Blue Jays), Ryan Goins (Blue Jays), Dickie Thon Jr. (Blue Jays)

Best Speed: Claudio Custodio (Yankees), Cito Culver (Yankees), Ryan Goins (Blue Jays), Andy Burns (Blue Jays), Kevin Nolan (Blue Jays).

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