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2017 Draft Preview: organizational infield depth

For previous entries, see the 2017 Draft Storystream

Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The final grouping of these pre-draft organizational depth check-ins is the infield, broken down in middle infielders and corner infielders. In some cases the dividing line is blurred, but it's better than sticking them all together. This is another area where the system is looking much better than last year.

The preamble/background that follows is identical to previous entries, so those familiar can skip to the next section. For each grouping, players are displayed on a chart according to both major league upside and experience level (an approximate proxy for risk). This is not an exact science, so take the positioning with a grain of salt, but it looks something like this:

position template 2

Keep in mind that "reasonable upside" is not the same as likely or base case projection, and most players at the lower levels won't come anywhere close it. Basically, if the player's development goes well, this is what he could become. And conversely, it's not an absolute ceiling either and there is potential for upside surprise. Kevin Pillar would be a prime example.

For the purposes of this exercise, I'm including not only players with rookie eligibility, but also players ~25 or under contributing or established at the major league level with 3+ years service time to give a better sense of the total organizational depth. As a general rule, I've kept players included last year for comparative purposes.

Middle Infielders

2017 depth MIF

The big addition is obviously Bo Bichette, who should stick on the infield if not SS, but the high ceiling comes from the bat which has far exceeded any expectations. Richard Urena is struggling in AA, but has shown some offensive pop and is still young for the level. Cavan Biggio is another recent addition, his performance has been more solid than exceptional but has also been moved aggressively.

UPDATE: As pointed out in the comments, I omitted Lourdes Gurriel Jr. In all honestly, I have no idea where he would even go on the above given that he still has barely played games, but he certainly has value, perhaps somewhere in the Urena/Biggio axis.

The next tier would include Jason Leblebijian, who has really asserted himself the last 12-18 months and could get a promotion to the Jays at some point this year. Yeltsin Gudino, Kevin Vicuna and Jesus Severino are international bonus babies who have not done much with the bat, but for the most part have been moved aggressively and are strong defenders who should stick at SS which gives them potential. Tim Lopes and Gunnar Heidt have been solid if unspectacular performers at AA.

After that is a tier of players who are either close, or have something going for them that could potentially lead to a major league opportunity at some point. This tends to be the case for middle infielders, since they can become utility players and handle less demanding positions.

Corner Infielders

2017 depth CIF

Vladimir Guerrero Jr has not only mashed for the last year, but the odds of him being able to handle and stick at the hot corner seem more optimistic (though it's really about the bat). Rowdy Tellez is struggling in AAA, but the same was true this time last year in AA. If all goes right, he could still be an above average 1B/DH. Max Pentecost is here because if he can't be a full-time catcher, first base is the likely alternative (maybe he could play some outfield?). His bat is well regarded, but more as a good hitting catcher than a masher, so that limits his ceiling.

There's some other interesting bats, mostly lower draft picks and under the radar international signees. Ryan McBroom has hit a bit of a speed bump at AA, but still has plus power and his swing and miss hasn't been out of control. Juan Kelly likewise is having some trouble at high-A. Bradley Jones profiles similarly to McBroom.

Removed from last year: Jesus Montero and Matt Dominguez (free agents); Andy Burns (Korea); Jorge Flores (AAA Rule 5 loss); Christian Williams and Bryan Lizardo (lack of performance); Matt Dean (back in high-A)