Examining Top Prospect Lists
By Jay Blue
Blue Jays from Away
The offseason is a wonderful time for writers to take a look at revising top prospect lists for their favourite organization. In the past few seasons, this has given Blue Jays fans lots of hope when they contemplated lists of the deep and talented pool of minor league players that the Blue Jays had amassed. This year, however, fans are reveling in the successes at the major league level while showing some consternation over the massively depleted minor league system.
We look at two top prospect lists for the Blue Jays coming from a couple of the biggest outlets, Baseball America and MLB.com. Both lists will probably have some surprising names in the top 10 (BA only does a top 10) and this can be seen as a direct result of the very high number of minor leaguers shipped out over the course of the year.
An additional note is how the publications do their lists. Baseball America rolls out their lists in the offseason, revising it every year. MLB.com appears to run a rolling list, updated as soon as players are added and/or subtracted. It’s a little unclear when they’re going to update the list for 2016 and if they will even do so in the offseason.
The biggest differences in the two lists are right at the top. Baseball America has Anthony Alford as the Jays’ #1 prospect while MLB.com has 2015 first-round pick Jon Harris at #1 (and #80 overall in MLB). While Alford is safely ensconced at #2 for MLB.com (and #97 overall in MLB), Baseball America has him all the way down at #6. This helps push Alford into the top spot if one were aggregating the rankings but Harris’s low ranking on Baseball America is due to a couple of things. The first was his poor result in 2015.
Most people ascribe that to his fatigue after a long college season and the Blue Jays are hoping that an increase in strength and starting the season in a professional environment will help that in 2016. The second is how evaluators see his tools. MLB.com loves his fastball (65 grade on the 20-80 scale) and give him slightly above average ratings on his three other pitches but BA evaluators see it the heater as at least a tick lower while his other pitches grade in at average. MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo was raving about the Jays’ selection of
Another point of discrepancy between the two lists is the ranking of Conner Greene. Greene is one of the big beneficiaries of the major trades, emptying our the organization of a ton of pitching depth. Greene, however, did a lot to improve his status and the 20 year old moved up two levels after starting in Lansing. He earns high marks from BA for his his fastball (which is now touching 97 mph, which I can attest to) while his changeup is above average. If his curve improves a little it could be a third plus pitch. MLB.com rates his changeup as average and his curveball as below average although those ratings could be a little bit on the older side.
Still, coming in at #8 on the MLB.com list means that either they still don’t think as highly of Greene as other sites do or they haven’t gotten around to revamping the list for 2016.
Catcher Max Pentecost features on both lists despite not playing in 2015 due to shoulder surgery. Pentecost is ranked at #4 on MLB.com and #8 on Baseball America. Undergoing another shoulder surgery in the fall, Pentecost is falling quickly and it looks like the MLB.com ranking is likely a holdover from the preseason, or they think so highly of him that, despite his injuries, he’s actually moved up a spot from his preseason rank of #5.
Richard Urena features on both lists, at #4 for Baseball America and #6 for MLB.com. The most interesting part of 2015 for Urena was the fact that, as a 19 year old, he hit 15 home runs despite a slim, athletic build. Clearly Urena has some pop in his bat and with improving abilities from the right side of the plate, he’s got a bright future.
Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. is also on both lists, coming in at #3 for Baseball America and #5 for MLB.com. Clearly there’s some consensus here with both sites understanding that a kid with the kind of raw power he has is rare and, making his pro debut at 17, Guerrero could surprise people by where he is by the age of 20.
Rowdy Tellez has impressed evaluators for both publications and lands at #7 on both lists. His position (first base) and general lack of speed (despite several stolen bases last year) push him further down the list despite the fact that his bat could make him a far more elite prospect if he played a position that was higher on the defensive spectrum.
Sean Reid-Foley figures at #5 for Baseball America and #3 for MLB.com, mirroring the Guerrero positions. Having seen him several times last year, I think the MLB.com evaluation is a little generous but his young age (he turned 20 in August) and physical build gives him a lot of room for improvement. Baseball America sees some mechanical issues that afflict the young righty that could affect his ceiling and potential role as a starter, noting that “he fits the closer profile well.”
MLB.com has Mitch Nay and Ryan Borucki rounding out the top 10. Both players had reasons to drop on lists last year and, because of that, both players are out of the top 10 for BA. For Nay, it was a rather poor year with the bat, facing High-A pitching and for Borucki, it was another year plagued by injury.
Baseball America has 2015 third-round pick Justin Maese at the #9 slot and the high schooler earned his spot by being the best pitcher on the Jays’ Rookie-level GCL club. BA returns D.J. Davis to the list at #10 after had a rebound season for Lansing. At 21 years old, Davis is still not too young and is starting to show a little more polish on his raw tools.
Overall, I’d have to conclude that we may have not seen an updated Blue Jays list from MLB.com just yet. The fact that the list does not seem to take into account the 2015 seasons of several players (Nay, Borucki, Greene) screams this. Baseball America’s list is interesting, considering how low they have ranked Jon Harris, who MLB.com has considered at Top-100 talent.