MMLN: Top Tools – Infield Defense

InsidePitchMagazine.com turns to the infielders this time to determine who stands out among the best with the glove. Look inside to find out what factors differentiate this group, who has moved up from last year's list, who has moved down and more.

10. 2B, Jordany Valdespin – Valdespin showed plenty of athleticism in the field this season and took plenty of opportunities to show off his very good arm strength which is supported by a quick release. However he often has to compensate with his arm as a result of not playing under enough control. He has good hands, though they could better, but tended to rush plays which got his footwork out of sync and led to a lot of off-balance play making. Valdespin's defensive progression will be based on more discipline play in the field, and if/when he accomplishes that, he should become a more impact defender.

9. 1B, Stefan Welch – Welch does not possesses any stand out tool but does a very solid job of keeping balls in front of him and ranging to make plays. Though a move to first base was born out of necessity this season, he showed good versatility to the move and took to his new position with few miscues. He demonstrated good mobility and reactions to both sides, cleanly playing the ball without too much wasted movement. Three errors in 82 games at a new position made his year with the glove that much more successful.

8. 3B, Richard Lucas – Lucas, like Welch before him, does not bring one real stand out tool to the field, but instead is a well-rounded defender who reads the ball well off the bat. He possesses quick feet which allow him to get to the ball quickly with good balance to set himself for throws. He transfers the ball smoothly and makes up for average arm strength by consistently keeping the ball in a good receiving area for his first basemen. Consistent play is the name of Lucas' name.

7. SS, Robbie Shields – Shields entered the organization still raw in the field, and though he will likely shift more into a utility role next year, he remains one of the ten best defenders in the system. He still to improve on his hands when fielding the ball, but he does a very good job of sucking up balls hit in his area and getting rid of it with a quick transfer. He sometimes falls into a habit of taking one or step extra steps with his throws, but throws with accuracy with the arm strength to play at any infield position.

6. 1B Eric Campbell – Campbell's move to first base this season was rather seamless thanks to good reactions and a quick first step which he brought with him from the hot corner. He was fairly limited to the glove side at first base but that hole has been filled with a move across the diamond, but a smooth back hand gives him a safety net to his right. He also brings him one of the best third baseman arms in the system.

5. 3B, Aderlin Rodriguez – Rodriguez did commit 12 errors in 17 games in the Gulf Coast League, but too much cannot be made out of those numbers. At 6-foot-3, 210-pounds, Rodriguez displays good athleticism around the bag. He also boasts a plus arm to go with it, though that arm ran him into trouble at times as he showed a habit of overthrowing the ball. There is plenty of refinement to do with Rodriguez, including his footwork and his approach to the ball, but early signs have landed him this high with room to grow.

4. SS, Ruben Tejada – Improved footwork and better range to his left carried Tejada's defense a long way in 2009, and better positioning and better reads off the bat were important to that wider range. He is smooth around the bag and gets the ball out of the glove with speed, making him proficient at turning double plays. Despite somewhat of an atypical throwing motion, he has an above average throwing arm with accuracy. He cut his error total from 30 to 21 in 2009, but still burned himself at times by trying to make the play before securing the ball in his glove. It is a correctable flaw that should not diminish his value as a defender.

3. 1B, Ike Davis – Davis backs up his bat with very sound defensive skills that only improve his standing as a prospect. He boasts good range to both sides with soft hands and does a good job of picking the ball, cutting down on wild throws. He does not let the ball play him and is confident going to his back hand. He regularly showed off a strong, accurate throwing arm and is adept at starting double plays.

2. INF, Matt Bouchard – Many may wonder why we continue to stick behind Bouchard and one reason why is his glove. Injuries have cost him opportunities, but when watching Bouchard in the field, it is easy to see his talents. He possesses the best shortstop arm in the organization, reads the ball extremely well, and his compact, athletic frame is ideal for a middle infielder. He has soft hands and is precise from numerous arm angles. He plays on his toes, can range very far to both sides with the ability to charge and throw accurately, and can make the big play.

1. 3B, Shawn Bowman – Bowman has remained atop this list for many years and to date there is not a defender who has shown enough to unseat him. Despite battling back injuries throughout his career, Bowman has not lost a step when it comes to his excellent reactions and ability to dive and stab grounds to either side. Combine those skills with very high defensive acumen and the strongest infield arm in the organization and Bowman ranks number one.


Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\n10. 2B, Jordany Valdespin – Valdespin showed plenty of athleticism in the field this season and took plenty of opportunities to show off his very good arm strength which is supported by a quick release. However he often has to compensate with his arm as a result of not playing under enough control. He has good hands, though they could better, but tended to rush plays which got his footwork out of sync and led to a lot of off-balance play making. Valdespin's defensive progression will be based on more discipline play in the field, and if/when he accomplishes that, he should become a more impact defender.
\r\n
\r\n9. 1B, Stefan Welch – Welch does not possesses any stand out tool but does a very solid job of keeping balls in front of him and ranging to make plays. Though a move to first base was born out of necessity this season, he showed good versatility to the move and took to his new position with few miscues. He demonstrated good mobility and reactions to both sides, cleanly playing the ball without too much wasted movement. Three errors in 82 games at a new position made his year with the glove that much more successful.
\r\n
\r\n8. 3B, Richard Lucas – Lucas, like Welch before him, does not bring one real stand out tool to the field, but instead is a well-rounded defender who reads the ball well off the bat. He possesses quick feet which allow him to get to the ball quickly with good balance to set himself for throws. He transfers the ball smoothly and makes up for average arm strength by consistently keeping the ball in a good receiving area for his first basemen. Consistent play is the name of Lucas' name.
\r\n
\r\n7. SS, Robbie Shields – Shields entered the organization still raw in the field, and though he will likely shift more into a utility role next year, he remains one of the ten best defenders in the system. He still to improve on his hands when fielding the ball, but he does a very good job of sucking up balls hit in his area and getting rid of it with a quick transfer. He sometimes falls into a habit of taking one or step extra steps with his throws, but throws with accuracy with the arm strength to play at any infield position.
\r\n
\r\n6. 1B Eric Campbell – Campbell's move to first base this season was rather seamless thanks to good reactions and a quick first step which he brought with him from the hot corner. He was fairly limited to the glove side at first base but that hole has been filled with a move across the diamond, but a smooth back hand gives him a safety net to his right. He also brings him one of the best third baseman arms in the system.
\r\n
\r\n5. 3B, Aderlin Rodriguez – Rodriguez did commit 12 errors in 17 games in the Gulf Coast League, but too much cannot be made out of those numbers. At 6-foot-3, 210-pounds, Rodriguez displays good athleticism around the bag. He also boasts a plus arm to go with it, though that arm ran him into trouble at times as he showed a habit of overthrowing the ball. There is plenty of refinement to do with Rodriguez, including his footwork and his approach to the ball, but early signs have landed him this high with room to grow.
\r\n
\r\n4. SS, Ruben Tejada – Improved footwork and better range to his left carried Tejada's defense a long way in 2009, and better positioning and better reads off the bat were important to that wider range. He is smooth around the bag and gets the ball out of the glove with speed, making him proficient at turning double plays. Despite somewhat of an atypical throwing motion, he has an above average throwing arm with accuracy. He cut his error total from 30 to 21 in 2009, but still burned himself at times by trying to make the play before securing the ball in his glove. It is a correctable flaw that should not diminish his value as a defender.
\r\n
\r\n3. 1B, Ike Davis – Davis backs up his bat with very sound defensive skills that only improve his standing as a prospect. He boasts good range to both sides with soft hands and does a good job of picking the ball, cutting down on wild throws. He does not let the ball play him and is confident going to his back hand. He regularly showed off a strong, accurate throwing arm and is adept at starting double plays.
\r\n
\r\n 2. INF, Matt Bouchard – Many may wonder why we continue to stick behind Bouchard and one reason why is his glove. Injuries have cost him opportunities, but when watching Bouchard in the field, it is easy to see his talents. He possesses the best shortstop arm in the organization, reads the ball extremely well, and his compact, athletic frame is ideal for a middle infielder. He has soft hands and is precise from numerous arm angles. He plays on his toes, can range very far to both sides with the ability to charge and throw accurately, and can make the big play.
\r\n
\r\n1. 3B, Shawn Bowman – Bowman has remained atop this list for many years and to date there is not a defender who has shown enough to unseat him. Despite battling back injuries throughout his career, Bowman has not lost a step when it comes to his excellent reactions and ability to dive and stab grounds to either side. Combine those skills with very high defensive acumen and the strongest infield arm in the organization and Bowman ranks number one.
\r\n
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