What do the White Sox have at each position after the 2014 offseason? The picture has gotten a bit clearer with the recent cuts and reassignments. Let's take a look at the White Sox's shortstop position to see how it stacks up for 2014 and beyond.
The Cuban Missile
For each of the last six White Sox opening day games, Alexei Ramirez has been the starter at shortstop. At age 32 Ramirez has likely entered the decline phase of his career. While Ramirez has been above league average offensively in only one of his previous six season (based on wRC+), his defense at shortstop has never been in question. Ramirez can make both routine and spectacular plays. He is also half of one of the best double-play combos in the league. Barring any trade or an incredible and rapid drop off in talent, Alexei Ramirez should provide above average defense at a premium defensive position while producing at a slightly below average rate, compared to the rest of league, at the plate.
There isn't much talent to speak of at shortstop that is close to the major leagues. There are some infielders in the system who can play shortstop in addition to their primary position (e.g. Carlos Sanchez, Marcus Semien, etc.). However, most of these players have been pegged for either second or third base.
Tyler Saladino is slated to man the shortstop position for the White Sox Triple-A affiliate, the Charlotte Knights. Saladino was in Baseball America's Top 10 White Sox prospects in 2012. Just two years later he is completely left off the list. It was because he simply stopped hitting after being promoted to Triple-A for the 2012 season. In 2013 he went back down to Double-A and still struggle to produce any offense. Saladino is still only 24 years-old but the clock is ticking as there are a couple guys coming up behind him in the system who could push Saladino completely out of the picture (or more so than he already is).
Chris Curley is not one of these players. Curley has hit well for a shortstop over the last four seasons but that is to be expected of a player who is old for every level he plays in. As a 26 year-old getting his first taste of Double-A, he is a organizational depth guy.
Winston-Salem and Kannapolis
Of all the shortstops in the White Sox organization not named Alexei Ramirez, Tim Anderson is probably the most intriguing. The White Sox first round draft pick in 2013 will be the starting shortstop for the Winston-Salem Dash. Last year in Kannapolis, Anderson hit .277/.348/.363, which becomes more impressive given that he was only 19 years-old. Defensively there are mixed reports. Some think that his athleticism will allow him to stick at the position. His below average arm is the biggest obstacle that could prevent Anderson from remaining a shortstop.
Michael Johnson is the other shortstop at Winston-Salem. At age 25, he is another non-prospect who is on the roster for depth.
Garis Pena and Tyler Shyrock are the two shortstops on the Kannapolis Intimidators' roster. Pena is only 22 years-old but he is already on his second organization. Between his four Rookie and Single-A seasons he has never posted an OPS higher than .558. Shryock was drafted in the twelfth round of the 2013 draft. As a 22 year-old who has only been to Rookie ball, he will need to improve upon his .703 OPS in subsequent minor league levels to move quickly through the system. Cleulius Rondon is another player that can handle multiple infield positions defensively but does not produce much at the plate. While I discussed him in my piece on second base depth, he has the defensive skills to man shortstop as well.
Rookie Ball and the Dominican League
Brad Salgado will start the year on the Great Falls roster. Salgado has already played three seasons between Bristol and Great falls but is still only 21 years-old. Like Garis Pena, he has never cracked an OPS of .600.
Johan Cruz was one of the White Sox international signings out of the Dominican Republic back in 2012. Cruz is only 17 years-old so a slash line of .126/.220/.163 last year is somewhat understandable but still alarming. He is known among scouts for what he produces in the field as opposed to his production at the plate.
There isn't a lot of depth at the upper levels of the minors at this position. This makes Ramirez difficult to move. He would be a prime candidate for a trade if there was someone else ready to fill his shoes both in the field and at the plate. Tim Anderson is the prospect to watch at shortstop but the very young Johan Cruz could be interesting as well.