Top Prospects, Part 2

March 27, 2013

 

 

One of the truest maxims of prospect evaluation is that the farther one gets from the major leagues, the less meaningful the statistics are.Sure, you get some no-doubt performances that match the tools, but more often than not a playerís true talent level isnít revealed until theyíve spent a few years in the major leagues.There are number of factors that contribute to this but the two biggest are probably the lack of uniformity within each level of competition, and players are often asked to forsake their strengths in order to improve other aspects of their overall game, i.e. throw their change-up more even though they have a great fastball and slider, hitting the other way, etc.

 

Anyway, the primary goal of a prospect list, in my view, is not to identify which players will merely make the majors but to identify the players who, given an opportunity, will make the greatest impact.I feel this is especially true for those who peruse these lists with the intention of building a farm system for their dynasty and keeper fantasy teams.Drafting a player whose tools will peak as a $15 player makes no sense to me because that player will never generate a great deal of savings even if they defy the odds and peak quickly.For me, Iíd rather draft a player who has the tools to produce a $30+ season, even if it means accepting the greater risk that he will never achieve it.I acknowledge there needs to be some consideration given to the likelihood that a player will make the show, but for the most part players with outstanding tools will be given plenty of opportunities to showcase them.I also favor players with power over players who have speed or make contact, and pitchers with great fastballs over pitchers with great control or great breaking pitches.In short, I abide by the old scouting adage that you can teach a guy to throw strikes but you canít teach a guy to throw 100 mph.

 

This is why in the following list youíll find some players with extraordinary tools ranked higher than players who are both closer to the majors and have a good chance for regular playing time.For those players who might seem out of place, Iíll do my best to explain my reasoning.Without further adieu:

 

1)Jurickson Profar

2)Oscar Taveras

3)Dylan Bundy

4)Wil Myers

5)Xander Bogaerts

6)Taijuan Walker

 

I donít see much difference between Taijuan Walker and Jose Fernandez.Both guys were 19-years old last year with Walker playing all of his games at AA; Fernandez splitting time between A and High A.Fernandez pitched in the Sally League (home to three of the toughest minor league parks to homer in) and in the Florida State league (league-wide notoriously difficult to homer in) including pitching his home games in the third toughest pitcherís park in the minors.I give the edge to Walker because he is more athletic and there is no concern about his future conditioning as there is with Fernandez.Iím not concerned about his switch to a different breaking pitch because 1) heís physically gifted enough to eventually master it, and 2) in the meantime he will be forced to further hone his fastball command, which in the end can only be a good thing.

 

7)Jose Fernandez

8)Gerrit Cole

9)Zack Wheeler

10) Shelby Miller

11) Miguel Sano

12) Tyler Skaggs

13) Christian Yelich

14) Javier Baez

15) Jameson Taillon

16) Travis D'Arnaud

17) Carlos Correa

18) Anthony Rendon

 

A lot of prospect lists downgrade players significantly because of injuries but unless itís something like recurrent muscle pulls or hamstring pulls or shoulder problems, Iím not overly concerned.So for players like Anthony Rendon, I have no qualms about rating him according to his talent rather than worrying about his injuries.I do downgrade slightly but not nearly as much as other evaluators.As he showed in the Arizona Fall League and this spring, the dude can flat out hit.

 

19) Addison Russell

20) Byron Buxton

21) Mike Zunino

22) Trevor Bauer

23) Kyle Zimmer

24) Billy Hamilton

25) Yasiel Puig

 

I really like Puig.Several sources in spring noted that he doesnít miss pitches in the zone and when he connects it stays hit.Iíve watched a couple of his games and he barreled up pretty much everything in the strike zone.Granted, this was spring training, but not many guys hit over .500, even in spring.In fact, I canít find a record of anyone doing it, although admittedly Iíve only gone back to 2006.In a game against the White Sox, he ran a routine outfield single into a double, and muscled up a broken bat into an outfield bloop.I also watched him get called out on a check swing in which the umpire thought there was no way he could have held up given the violence of his swing; instant replay revealed that he hadÖ easily.The conundrum will be how quickly the league stops throwing pitches in the zone and subsequently how quickly he stops chasing those pitches.Vin Scully remarked that he has never seen a player so physically gifted and noted broadcasting homer Hawk Harrelson couldnít even talk about his White Sox in a game against the Dodgers he was gushing so much over Puig.If he figures it out and forces teams to pitch to him, heís going to be an incredible offensive force with the kind of speed and power he possesses.

 

26) Lucas Giolito

 

The Rendon Connundrum (are injuries really that big a concern?) is why Lucas Giolito is as high on my list as he is.Before the 2012 draft, there was quite a bit of speculation that he would become the first high school right-hander ever drafted first overall. His combination of stuff, size, command and control was comparable to the elite talents of the last decade and that includes guys like Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg.However he got injured, required Tommy John surgery and now all the talent lists are staying away from him in droves.Tommy John recovery is close to 100% these days in terms of the returning the physical ability so it makes little sense to worry about him coming back.Heís still very young, very advanced and should move quickly enough to still debut at a young age.He is a future ace.

 

27) Jonathan Singleton

28) Francisco Lindor

29) Julio Teheran

30) Aaron Sanchez

31) Kevin Gausman

32) Archie Bradley

33) Aaron Hicks

34) A.J. Cole

 

A.J. Cole has huge upside but suffered from the nasty combination of losing his mechanics last year and pitching in the hitterís paradise of the California League.Heíll be pitching most of this season in either the Eastern League or Carolina League, far more pitcher friendly environments for him to get his mechanics and confidence back.Before last season, his performance by age was not that different from that of Jarrod Parker.The biggest difference between the two was that Parkerís best breaking pitch (his slider) was more impressive and consistent than Coleís (a curve), but Coleís change-up was better.Parker has the higher upside but itís not by much.

 

35) Mike Olt

36) Jorge Soler

37) Carlos Martinez

38) George Springer

39) Alen Hanson

40) Jackie Bradley

41) Trevor Rosenthal

42) Alex Meyer

 

Many evaluators suggest that Meyerís future is in the bullpen because pitchers his size often have trouble repeating their mechanics.This is generally true but I prefer to give Meyer the benefit of the doubt given the tremendous strides heís made over the last two years to get under control.Thereís still the issue of developing a consistent change-up to go along with his plus fastball and slider, but his upside is awesome.

 

43) Nick Castellanos

44) Allen Webster

45) David Dahl

46) Gary Sanchez

47) Kaleb Cowart

48) Chris Archer

49) Jedd Gyorko

50) Mason Williams

51) Jon Schoop

 

In the Orioles milieu, Schoop gets overshadowed by Manny Machado and rightly so as Machado is a spectacular talent.However, Schoop is no slouch.He performed extremely in the Arizona Fall League despite being one of the youngest players there, and was a key cog in the Netherlandsí successful run in the World Baseball Classic.Whether he stays at shortstop or not long-term, plus power from a middle infielder is a valuable commodity.

 

52) Oswaldo Arcia

53) Bubba Starling

54) Albert Almora

55) Delino DeShields Jr

56) Max Fried

57) Taylor Guerrieri

58) Hyun-Jin Ryu

59) Robert Stephenson

60) Brian Goodwin

61) Gregory Polanco

62) Noah Syndergaard

63) Tyler Austin

64) Casey Kelly

65) Matt Barnes

66) Mark Appel

 

I put Appel on this list even though heís still in college because whichever team drafts him will not have to wait very long for him to contribute at the major league level.He has been compared to a young Justin Verlander due to his stuff and size, but thatís a bit unfair to both parties as it sets the bar of expectation too high for Appel and doesnít give enough due to how amazing Verlander really is.Letís just leave it as this: Appel will very likely be the best starting pitcher on the team that drafts him by next season, and by a substantial margin.(Note: thatís largely because the teams that have the top six spots in the draft donít have very good pitching.)

 

67) Slade Heathcott

68) Kyle Crick

69) Yordano Ventura

70) Nick Franklin

71) Luis Heredia

72) Michael Wacha

73) Jake Odorizzi

74) Danny Hultzen

 

Maybe Iíve been unlucky every time Iíve watched Hultzen and heís just been off on those days, but I just donít see why he gets so many raves.Heís certainly polished but I just donít see much upside in his stuff; his fastball is a little above average and he has a good change-up, but his breaking pitches just arenít very exciting.Heís middle of the rotation for me.

 

75) Kyle Gibson

76) Matt Davidson

77) Justin Nicolino

78) Nolan Arenado

79) Jake Marisnick

80) Kolten Wong

81) Austin Hedges

82) Tony Cingrani

83) Wily Peralta

84) Trevor Story

85) Jesse Biddle

86) Daniel Corcino

87) Courtney Hawkins

88) Arodys Vizcaino

89) Lewis Brinson

 

Lewis Brinson is as physically gifted as any of the big named high school outfield prospects (Bubba Starling, Byron Buxton, etc.), yet is not on many prospect lists due to his performance in high school showcases and concern about his ability to make contact.However, the Rangers tinkered with his swing and the results were respectable enough to generate a good deal of optimism that heíll realize his potential as the next BJ Upton/Chris Young/Mike Cameron.

††

90) James Paxton

91) Adam Eaton

92) Rymer Liriano

93) Zach Lee

94) Brandon Maurer

95) Andrew Heaney

96) Martin Perez

97) Avisail Garcia

98) J.R. Graham

99) Bruce Rondon

100) Lance McCullers

 

So there it is.Enjoy the Show!