Top middle infielders are evaluated first from a defensive standpoint, and then from an hitting standpoint. The most important factors when evaluating an elite middle infielder defensively are speed, quickness, good hands, and arm strength. Coaches at the top levels will look for middle infielders that display outstanding defensive ability in all of these categories. While having a fast 60 time is important, college coaches will also look for an agile middle infielder that can cover a lot of ground laterally, this is often referred to as range.
Having great range allows the middle infielder to field ground balls that may deep in the hole or up the middle. Top middle infielders will also be able to hit at a high level. The prototypical elite middle infield recruit can hit for a high average as well as steal a lot of bases and occasionally hit for power.
MIFs at this level must be polished in at least one phase of the game (fielding or hitting), but more often than not they are more of an asset defensively and have things to work on from a hitting standpoint. Speed is still a quality that coaches will look for.
Athleticism, knowledge of the game, and leadership skills are necessary for shortstops at this level. Defensive skills are the focus for shortstops, with offensive skills being a bonus. Shortstops at this level will be missing a few elements of the top shortstop, but they still make plays and contribute in the line-up.
A good shortstop is always in need for a college coach and for programs at this level it’s no different. This should be the best athlete on the field, but these shortstops aren't playing at higher levels because of a lack of speed and lateral quickness. They make the plays, but don't have the best range. A batting average may be sacrificed for a great leader in the field.