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2017 Top Minor League Defenders

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2017 Top Minor League Defenders

December 22, 2017

While minor league prospects are often evaluated on their long-term outlook at the plate, their performance in the field can often make a more immediate impact upon their promotion to the major leagues. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top performing defensive minor leaguers ranked by Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) in 2017. Please note minor league DRS figures are calculated relative to the major league average at each position for ease of comparability.

2017 Minor League DRS Leaders
Player, Organization Primary Position DRS
Eric Stamets, Cle SS 24
Josh Fuentes, Col 3B 23
Ramon Laureano, Hou RF 22
Braxton Lee, TB/Mia CF 20
Scott Kingery, Phi 2B 20
Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Tex 3B 20

Eric Stamets, a shortstop who spent much of the year at Triple-A Columbus in the Indians farm system, led all minor leaguers with 24 Runs Saved.Third base was the deepest position defensively, as four separate third basemen saved at least 16 runs. Since minor leaguers vary in both age and ability, let’s examine the defensive abilities among minor leaguers within three different age groups: 21 years old and under, between 22 and 24 years old, and 25 years and older.

Top Defensive Minor Leaguers—Age 21 and Under
Player, Organization Primary Position DRS
Carlos Tocci, Phi CF 12
Riley Unroe, TB 2B 12
Willy Adames, TB SS 8
Justin Williams, TB RF 8

The Rangers recently acquired Carlos Tocci via the Rule 5 Draft. They clearly view him at minimum as a useful fourth outfielder, and possibly as a future everyday center fielder if his bat can catch up with his glove. Additionally second baseman Riley Unroe also changed teams via the Rule 5 draft, as the Angels selected him from the Rays in the minor league portion. I wouldn't worry too much about Tampa Bay's future defense though, both Adames and Williams have the potential to be impact defenders at premium positions upon their arrival to the big leagues.

Top Defensive Minor Leaguers—Ages 22 to 24
Player, Organization Primary Position DRS
Josh Fuentes, Col 3B 23
Ramon Laureano, Hou RF 22
Braxton Lee, TB/Mia CF 20
Scott Kingery, Phi 2B 20
Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Tex 3B 20

All of the top defensive minor leaguers between the ages of 22 and 24 are also listed on the overall minor league DRS leaderboard. Two of these players (Ramon Laureano and Braxton Lee) have been traded from the organizations that drafted them within the past six months, as Lee went from Tampa Bay to Miami in June, while Laureano was traded from Houston to Oakland this offseason. It's worth monitoring how this change of scenery affects Laureano and Lee defensively in the upcoming 2018 season.

Top Defensive Minor Leaguers—Age 25 and Older
Player, Organization Primary Position DRS
Eric Stamets, Cle SS 24
Jon Berti, Tor 2B 14
Rocky Gale, SD C 12
Joey Wendle, Oak 2B 12
Dusty Coleman, SD SS 12
Benji Gonzalez, Min SS 12

While he could immediately contribute defensively at the major league level, Eric Stamets is blocked by All-Stars Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Jason Kipnis at their respective infield positions for the foreseeable future. It will be interesting to see what role the Indians see Stamets playing for them at the major league level in 2018. The organization valued Stamets enough to add him to their 40-man roster to protect him from being selected in this past month's Rule 5 Draft, so it’s very possible that Stamets will be up with the Indians this upcoming season. Berti and Gale are both former late round draft picks who, to their credit, provide enough value defensively to get to the Triple-A level. However, Berti and Gale had on-base plus slugging rates of .584 and .693 respectively in 2017. In order for their careers to take the next step, these two, like the rest of the minor leaguers on this particular leaderboard (i.e. Wendle, Coleman, and Gonzalez), need their performance at the plate to become somewhat passable.


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