Roundtable Discussion: Midseason Top 75 Prospect List
To go along with our Midseason Prospect List, our authors sat down and talked about the rankings. Well, they sat down and talked as much as seven people scattered all around the country could, but the end result is the same. They shared their thoughts on what they liked on the list, what they wished they had seen, and then branched out to what they’ve seen during the season as a whole. As always, we hope you find the discussion informative and enjoyable.
Which prospect was the toughest for you to rank on this list?
Jeff Reese: Lucas Giolito was the most difficult for me to place. Tommy John surgery is certainly more mundane than in the past, but the uncertainty is multiplied by the fact that the extent of his professional experience consists of a 2 inning start in the GCL. Giolito comfortably making our top 50 should tell you how special he looked as an amateur.
Conor Dowley: Jeff’s answer of Giolito is a very sound one. I have to go with Jorge Alfaro, though. I saw him when he was in the Northwest League a couple of years ago and fell in love. He has a nice swing, good power, and a huge arm behind the plate. I had some concerns with his defensive actions at the time, but what I saw looked very fixable, especially with his athleticism.
Al Skorupa: Jeff hit on it already, but I always have a tough time with injury question guys who have great stuff like Roberto Osuna and Lucas Giolito. I especially had a tough time placing Osuna because so many other BB authors saw him and raved about him.
Evan Rentschler: My vote for toughest placement is split between Roberto Osuna and Kyle Crick. Osuna’s UCL scare makes it difficult to forecast his immediate future, much less a career, and Crick is basically a hold and wait thanks to three borderline meaningless April starts and a bombastic 10-strikeout return from the DL. Both have front of rotation ability, but have to take a backseat to healthier, and in some cases less compelling pitchers for the moment.
Chris Blessing: For me, it was someone who didn’t even make my final 75. Prior to a last minute addition of an omission, Giants prospect Chris Stratton was my 75th best mid season prospect. I had him ranked in half my drafts. Ultimately, while I think he could be a top 50 prospect at seasons end, I kept asking myself whether I liked him more than Zach Lee, CJ Edwards or Gabriel Ynoa. The answer was no. Stratton has underachieved in the South Atlantic League. A college kid with his pedigree should have smashed the competition. He has plenty of stuff that the South Atlantic League should have been merely a speed bump on his progression through the Giants system.
John Verburg: For me, hands down it was Yordano Ventura. His big arm and his results would normally have him much higher, but in the scouting world his size matters, and there is some question as to whether he remains a starter. I’m trying to get over those question marks, and actually placed him ahead of Zimmer by one spot.
Nathaniel Stoltz: Lucas Giolito. Coming off Tommy John surgery, ranking him is really a shot in the dark. I ultimately was far more cautious with him than everybody else, which says less about Giolito than it does about my general aversion to pushing totally unproven guys to elevated spots, especially when the injury factor is thrown in (after all, look at how Michael Ynoa dropped off the ranking map before 2012).
To you, who’s too high on the list? Why?
Jeff: I don’t think anyone stands out as egregiously out of the place. Some players are obviously ranked higher on the averaged list than the one that I submitted, but no one jumps out as being flat out too aggressive. I’ll choose Michael Choice. He has made significant progress cutting down on the swing and miss in his game, but the power production has diminished along the way. I would like to see the power return before putting him quite that high (he didn’t make my top 75).
Conor: I’m going to have to go with Jonathan Singleton. I think he’s a fair hitter, but as a first base-only profile, you have to be a lot more than that to be as high as he wound up. I just don’t buy in to him right now.
Al: I was the only one who excluded Osuna from his top 75… just seems like a pretty big risk to rank someone that high coming off a UCL injury. He’s kind of maxed out, too. That one could look pretty bad in a couple months, though! I also didn’t love Corey Seager breaking the top 50 while Kaleb Cowart missed the list, either.
Evan: It’s funny, because I’m a staunch defender of his, but I’m going to say Kyle Zimmer is too high at 30. And I’m not free of blame here, as I think even my personal ranking of 41 might be a tad too high for now. I absolutely adore the FB/curve combo, and he’s got an ideal starter’s build, but I underestimated how much polish he still requires as a relatively recent convert to the mound. While I love the delivery, he has a tendency to fly open and lose his release point, and I’m less prone to just grant him a future above average command grade when he hasn’t really earned it. I don’t know. I think every player on this list has more promising qualities than negatives, so this is more about having to pick someone than it is an indictment.
Jeff: Zimmer is a good answer, Evan. Whether it’s the lack of polish or the uncertainty of pitching prospects in the Royals system, I find myself a bit more cautious with him than I was a year ago.
Chris: Red Sox prospect Garin Cecchini is ranked too high on here. Don’t get me wrong, Garin is one of the top 75 prospects in baseball. I just am a bit more reserved than my Bullpen Banter colleagues with my love for Cecchini. For the first time as a professional, he is now in an age appropriate league. Let’s see how his skill set plays in Double A before givng him anymore accolades.
John: Gary Sanchez is too high to me. It probably has more to do with the Yankees inability to develop some of their top prospects from the last few years.
Nathaniel: Jorge Alfaro. I’ve seen the Hickory team a dozen times this year, and while Alfaro does flash some big tools–excellent power from a short stroke, and a plus arm–he also is extremely raw on both sides of the ball. In many ways, he’s the least polished player on the star-studded Hickory squad, which is saying something given the rawness of Lewis Brinson, Joey Gallo, Jordan Akins, Nick Williams, Nomar Mazara, and Ronald Guzman. Alfaro’s made precious little progress repeating the level, which is not a good sign. He remains a chaser who will swing at almost anything below the waist, and his nineteen passed balls in 54 games (not to mention the plethora of dropped and mishandled pitches) underscore the troubles he has receiving the ball. While it’s easy to get excited on the occasions he does flash his tools, the alarming frequency of poor plate appearances and defensive mistakes leaves me struggling to project an upside much higher than a J.P. Arencibia-level career.
On that note, who was too low on the list for you?
Jeff: Javier Baez looks a touch low to me. He’s hit extraordinarily well since entering pro ball and has the bat to excel even if he does grow out of short stop. It’s basically the same mold as Xander Bogaerts; I would have him much closer to tenth than twentieth.
Conor: I’d have to go with Victor Sanchez. He’s not quite as good as Osuna, but he’s very, very close. If you’re going to have Osuna as high on the list as he is here, Sanchez has to be on there as well, or at least he does to me. Austin Hedges also stands out to me, as he was in my top 15.
Al: Austin Hedges has some impact potential. I’d take him above a lot of guys ahead of him on the list.
Evan: I’m tempted to pick my answer(s) to Question 1, and I think an especially good case could be made for Crick, who looked like an absolute beast in his start the other day; the 4-seamer came in with such heat and life that I was afraid for right-handed hitters when he threw it. But, just for the sake of variety, I’ll say Rafael Montero. I had him at 28, and I’m a big believer in the chances that his stuff will be enough to support what should be plus command at maturity. It’s more a savvy arsenal than an overwhelming one, and he’s going to have to make sure he stays away from the middle of the plate, but I see potential for a Mike Leake type crafty 3, with the addition of some deception from a delivery that sort of explodes at the hitter. Most underrated of the prospects who are generally held in high esteem by a plurality of followers?
Chris: I think Padres prospect Austin Hedges is too low. I have him ranked as the second best catcher in baseball and a top 25 prospect. I was very shocked to see his ranking in the 40s.
John: I think I was the only one to rank Luis Sardinas and I am a little surprised. Has an above average hit tool, above average runner, and has a chance to be a plus defender at SS.
Nathaniel: Eddie Butler. I was impressed with Butler in my viewing, as he works legitimately in the mid-90s and his slider is occasionally an electric second power pitch. He keeps the ball down and has amassed excellent ground ball numbers this year in addition to solid strikeout numbers. His extremely long arm action and still-developing changeup are warts, but I found Butler to be a more complete and more electric arm than the more highly-rated Rafael De Paula.
Which one prospect that didn’t make the list would you force on to it?
Jeff: I would force Kaleb Cowart onto the list. There’s no question that he has struggled in double-A, but my opinion hasn’t changed much on him from the beginning of the year. He’s been moved very aggressively over the last year — he was playing in the MWL at this time last year — so he may just need half of a season (or perhaps even a full season) to adequately adjust to the older, improved competition.
Conor: I’d have to go with Victor Sanchez. He’s not quite as good as Osuna, but he’s very, very close. If you’re going to have Osuna as high on the list as he is here, Sanchez has to be on there as well, or at least he does to me.
Al: I’m going to cheat and name three! (ed – Of course you did, Al. It wouldn’t be you if you didn’t!) I’d take Henry Owens over a lot of arms that made our top 75. Brian Goodwin of the Nats is better than his numbers this year. Nick Williams impressed me as an amateur and has taken off as a pro, but I’d still take Hickory teammate Lewis Brinson first.
Chris: I was really surprised that Marlins prospect Andrew Heaney didn’t make the top 75. I’m sure the time spent on the disabled list contributed to his exclusion. I take him everyday over Nationals prospect AJ Cole, who squeaked into the top 75. Very glad to see Rockies prospect Eddie Butler squeak in too
John: Probably Eduardo Rodriguez. He certainly doesn’t have the ceiling that most do, but there is plenty of polish for a young lefty, and the stuff is plenty good.
Evan: I’m completely with John on Eduardo Rodriguez. 20 until next April and handling the FSL with aplomb. If there’s something keeping him off it’s the modest strikeout rate (though he has five six-strikeout games and a high of eight in thirteen starts) and control that wavers from plus to dicey. I’d also nominate a favorite in fellow High-A lefty Edwin Escobar. Stout of build with a deliciously low 3/4 arm slot, he hides the ball well and slings it a bit, with an arm that works very well. The breaking ball need to a little more brisk (which will also serve to tighten its rotation), but the FB is sharp and well-commanded and he’s got good feel. Rumblings about getting rattled with runners on plants some seeds as well.
Nathaniel: I was the only one to rank Kevin Plawecki in my top 75 (#60), but I do feel that he definitely should be included. He’s a solid two-way catcher with soft hands, excellent contact skills, solid power, and a solid arm. There aren’t a whole lot of four-tool catchers out there, but Plawecki fits that bill and could evolve into a rock-solid starting catcher.
Of the prospects you’ve seen this season, who’s become one of your favorites?
Jeff: Hands down, Roberto Osuna. I was blown away when I saw him earlier this year. He came into the season trimmer than 2011, showed overpowering stuff, and was able to command it. If not for the UCL concerns, he would have probably made the top 25.
Conor: I haven’t been able to see many games this year due to a variety of bad circumstance, but D.J. Peterson is quickly establishing himself as a favorite for me this year. I have my concerns as to his ultimate upside, but for the time being watching him hit is all kinds of fun.
Al: Miguel Sano was pretty damn impressive. The ball explodes off his bat and he actually moves well at third base for a gigantic human being.
Evan: Like Conor, I haven’t seen many players this year, so I’ll jump the tracks and say that my looks at Kevin Gausman (back in the majors as I type) have been impressive. His penchant for missing over the plate is still lingering, but he’s much improved from where he was just a year ago when I saw him in Lexington, with a dazzling array of pitches, all of which feature plus velocity and/or movement. Every interview reveals a surprisingly craftsman-like manner and a casual confidence that bodes well for his ability to weather the struggles that come with such rapid advancement.
Chris: Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig because he makes me money on Youtube every time he does something with the Dodgers. Kidding aside, Cubs prospect Arismendy Alcantara is my favorite prospect that I’ve covered this season. Smooth at third, smart overall player. Great bat control from the left handed batter box. Looks ugly batting from the right handed box. Honorable mention to Dodgers prospect Joc Pederson who is just fun to watch.
John: It would be easy to say Byron Buxton, because what’s not to love. Another guy on Cedar Rapids that I have enjoyed who isn’t on this list though is Jorge Polanco. May not ever be a top 100 guy, but he can play.
Nathaniel: There are so many guys I could name for this, and a lot of them are fun relief pitchers who either throw ridiculously hard (Daniel Webb) or have some sort of crazy out pitch (Alex Claudio, Jose Leclerc, Storm Throne). But for something a little bit more applicable to a prospect discussion, I’ll go with Savannah outfielder Eudy Pina, who’s a 22-year-old A-baller with light production but a really interesting toolset. He’s a bulky guy with big time power too all fields and a huge arm in right field, and while he appears clunky athletically at times, he has a nice second gear that turns him into a base running and defensive asset when it engages.
Finally, who’s your dark horse to go shooting way up these lists come the end of the season?
Jeff: Predicting someone to shoot up the list is difficult. There will likely be a few in short season as the prep class gets their induction into pro ball and international free agents move out of the complex leagues. Someone who I think could steadily move up the list — as opposed to shooting — is Nick Kingham. I was surprised that I was the only one to rank him (and just barely at 74!). He’s having a great 2013 season so far, recently moving up to Double-A, Altoona. Glasnow is the sexier prospect with top-of-the rotation upside, but Kingham’s stuff is good enough for him to rank inside of the top 75 by the end of the year.
Al: Tyler Glasnow and Kyle Crick are two arms that could take another leap forward, I think. J.O. Berrios and Miguel Almonte both come to mind as guys who have a strong chance to end up in the top 50 or so.
Evan: My first thought is of Tyler Glasnow and his tremendous upside, but there’s a good chance that he’ll be shut down early, and I think most would like to see a stretch of improved control before going all in. And while there are some I think could make longer jumps (Crick again, if he shows control to go with the overpowering stuff), I’m actually picking Noah Syndergaard. If he continues to pitch anywhere near the level he did in his Double-A debut for the rest of the year he’ll have to be viewed a serious top five pitching candidate. For reference he is over a year younger than Jameson Taillon, and the same age as Archie Bradley (which is to say that they’re all behind Taijuan Walker in precocity). I believe he can deliver, and every shift upward for a player already in the Top 20 means jumping a highest-level talent.
Conor: There’s been some great names put forward, but I have to give a shout to Luis Sardinas here. He only just missed the back end of my list, and between his tools and the things he’s done this season, I think people are about to take notice of him in a big, big way.
Chris: Marlins prospect Andrew Heaney and Mets prospect Cesar Puello. I think Heaney is just a superior prospect to many of the pitchers on the list. Puello has been one of my favorite prospects since seeing him four seasons ago. Not many kids are blessed with his tools. Of course, his link to PED’s and the investigation of Biogenesis clouds his status some.
John: Tough to say who is a darkhorse these days. I mean is Luiz Gohara a darkhorse? But he is a guy that I could see shoot up prospect lists. I will go with Dilson Herrera of the Pirates however, I think he is on the same sort of path as guys like Alen Hanson and Gregory Polanco.
Nathaniel: I’ll go with yet another Savannah player for this one: right-hander Matt Koch, who has a ridiculous 56/2 K/BB ratio this year. He’s not just a finesse strikethrower, though–Koch works at 91-94 mph and touches 96 from a picture-perfect delivery, and his changeup shows plus potential. He needs to come up with a better breaking pitch, as he currently uses a cutter/slider hybrid that only occasionally looks good, but he’s got a lot of current skills and time to develop others.