When you’re talking about a shortstop prospect, the first question is always the same: can he stick at shortstop? When the answer is no, the prospect in question is going to have to really hit. When the answer is yes, however, then you have something to build on. For Tampa Bay Rays 18th rounder Alec Sole, the defense is there and the offense may be good enough to make him a player to watch.
Sole, a junior at Saint Louis, is a bigger shortstop at 6’2″, 200, but he has not let that stop him. He is not particularly fast, but he has a quick first step, solid hands, and a rocket for an arm. Sole was an interesting prospect as a pitcher coming out of high school, and he uses that same arm strength to make throws other shortstops can’t make. He may not be a plus defender, but his arm makes up some of his other deficiencies and he makes enough plays to stay at the position. We have seen the Rays use Ben Zobrist at shortstop despite not having your typical shortstop speed (at least these days) and not the softest hands. Sole could play shortstop in a similar vein, and that is enough for him to play the position moving forward.
Sole also impressed at the plate this season. The lefty swinger hit to a .352/.419/.436 line, and that .352 average was tops on the team. The negatives are that he hit for very little power, had a mediocre 19-15 strikeout to walk ratio, and stole only 10 bases in 16 tries. Sole was mostly an empty hitter for average, and he will have to improve his plate discipline and pitch recognition to remain such a hitter. But as a solid defensive shortstop, Sole does have a larger margin for error, and he could carve out a big league future if he can turn into just a decent hitter.
Way down in the 18th round, the Tampa Bay Rays found a player in Alec Sole with a chance to be a big league utility player. That may not be the most exciting proposition, but the Rays deserve congratulations once again for finding such a player.