For the past six weeks we’ve taken a look at the elite Class of 2013 baseball prospects by ranking the Top 5 players at each position. Our final installment this week focuses on the Top 5 middle infielders led by Gaither (Tampa, Fla.) shortstop Oscar Mercado, whose fielding alone could make him an early-round pick next year.
1. Oscar Mercado, SS, Gaither High School (Tampa, Fla.)
Mercado, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound Florida State commit, has outstanding tools that already show up defensively, including good hands and an above-average arm. He projects to hit for some power, but his swing is a bit lengthy at present. He is consistent, however, and times pitches well, suggesting an understanding of sequences and advanced pitch recognition.
2. Tim Richards, SS, Wilson High School (Long Beach, Calif.)
One scout called Richards "a flat-out baller," which is never a bad thing in the game of baseball. He's taller, at about 6 feet, but reminds some of Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia for his high-energy approach to the game. Richards uses a wide setup with his feet but throws his hands at the ball with above-average bat speed, producing more power than expected. He's committed to Cal State Fullerton.
3. Sheldon Neuse, SS, Keller Fossil Ridge High School (Fort Worth, Texas)
Neuse is also a prospect on the mound and could ultimately move to third base or the outfield, but he has the hands, present lateral range and arm strength to stock at shortstop. He does throw off a stiff left leg and hasn't polished off his work around the bag at second. At the plate, Neuse has power from gap to gap and has quiet hands and a limited load, though I don't know how much clubs will like how he uses his front foot as a timing mechanism.
4. Elliott Barzilli, SS/2B, Palisades Charter (Calif.)
Barzilli has terrific hands and a quick release to go with enough range to play shortstop, though his arm may not be ideal for the position. His swing is short and produces line drives and he's an above-average runner, if not plus. The 6-foot-, 165-pound Barzill is committed to Georgia Tech, but if he has a big senior year, he could be a Day 1 consideration.
5. Kramer Robertson, 2B/SS, Midway High School (Waco, Texas)
What Robertson lacks in ideal size -- he's 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds -- he makes up for in actual tools. The LSU commit has a plus arm -- he's hit the 88-90 mph range from the mound -- and is an above-average runner. He's also full of good instincts and plus makeup and projects to hit for enough power -- mostly doubles -- to play regularly. He handles all balls he gets to, but profiles better at second base, at least as a pro.
Others to Watch
Brock Hartley, SS, Pinnacle (Phoenix)
Wesley Jones, SS, Redan (Stone Mountain, Ga.)
Andrew Rosa, SS, Owasso (Okla.)
Jamie Westbrook, 2B, Basha (Chandler, Ariz.)
Brandon Whiteford, 2B, Chapel Hill (Douglasville, Ga.)
Jason A. Churchill covers scouting, player development and the MLB draft for ESPN Insider, as well as Prospect Insider, where he's the founder and executive editor. You can follow him on Twitter @ProspectInsider and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.