April 22, 2014
AL Central U25 Lists
For the previous editions in this division-by-division series, click below:
For this exercise, we're each going to rank our top 30 U25 fantasy players by division before we collaborate on a top-150 list once this portion of the project is complete. For each division, we'll give you our individual rankings and then discuss any major discrepancies in our rankings, talk about some sleepers we wanted to rank higher and take cheap shots at each other along the way. It will be like the TINO podcast, but for your eyes, complete with an imaginary Bret Sayre breaking up our fights.
Just like with the preseason organizational top prospect lists, players will have to be born after April 1, 1988 to qualify, and just like with the preseason lists, there is of course an element of subjectivity that comes with these rankings. But unlike the preseason lists, these rankings are all about fantasy.
Disagreement One: Francisco Lindor
Craig’s Take: I’ll admit that having seen him on Friday may be coloring this ranking a bit. He didn’t get to field much in the look but had a nice night with the bat, with impressive bat speed, an up-the-middle approach and even some aggressiveness on the basepaths. The biggest reason he’s ranked this high for me though is that I think he gets to the majors really quickly. A September call-up isn’t out of the question and a major role in 2015 seems reasonable at this point. He’s so good defensively that I think his bat gets ignored a little too much.
Lindor should be able to hit for average, moderate pop, steal some bags, do a little bit of everything offensively, plus benefit from a ton of playing time because his glove will be hard to take out of the lineup. Cleveland boasts a solid lineup that should help him with contextual stats, as well. I’ll absolutely acknowledge that it’s not the most valuable package in the world, but given the position, I think he’s more valuable than the guys I have immediately behind him.
Ben’s Take: I really like Lindor, and if this was a real-life ranking and not a fantasy one, he’d probably be fourth on my list. But as good as Lindor is, he’s an overrated fantasy asset. I believe in his ability to eventually hit for high averages, and the hope is that his speed plays up enough for him to get to 25-plus steals with regularity, too. But there’s only average pop here—I don’t expect him to exceed 10 homers with regularity—and while I agree with Craig’s timetable, I don’t expect Lindor to produce at his ceiling immediately. That leaves you with an MI option for the next few years, and top-10 shortstop—not top-five —upside thereafter. I think he’ll be an awesome, reliable player for a long time to come, but his best-case fantasy outcome seems to be the good Elvis Andrus, and while that’s good, it’s not all together super thrilling.
Craig’s Take: I think comping him to Andrus is going to be light on his power. I’m more in the 12-15 camp for home runs to him, which obviously changes the valuation. I’m not sure he gets to 25 stolen bases with regularity but something in the 18-22 range seems reasonable. Put the whole package together and it ends up being really valuable, given the position. I agree it might not be a top-five value, but again, I don’t think the people ranked ahead of him warrant his necessitating top-five value at his position. Top 10 is more than enough for me to value him over Zimmer, Eaton, etc, in this situation.
Lindor isn’t a small guy. He’s well built and the bat speed to allow his power to play up a bit, especially if we both agree he’s going to hit. Again, this isn’t about saying his fantasy value will match his real life value—it won’t—but precisely because it won’t, I think people are undervaluing just how good he’ll be at the dish.
Ben’s Take: I’ve yet to see Lindor in person, so if you’re telling me you see something in his bat that makes you think 15 homers is a possibility, I don’t have grounds to stand on and dismiss it. I just think that’s a higher estimate than what I’ve read elsewhere, and if he ends up being a .285-10-50 guy with 20 steals most of the time, that’s nice, but it’s replaceable. If you think it’s going to be closer to .300-15-60 with 20-plus steals, then fine, I get why it looks like I’m underselling him. And I agree with your point that his defense will give him a ton of PA, because no one is going to want to take him off the field.
We both love Arcia, who’s in the majors now, so I’m a bit surprised you have him behind Lindor. I really like Eaton as a four-category threat and I think Zimmer is a no. 2 starter, so that’s why I have Lindor behind those players. I’m fine with Lindor above Frazier—I think I had them ranked within three spots of each other on my personal prospect rankings—I just went with the upside.
Craig’s Take: Those are fair, and they’re bunched very closely for him. Frankly, I think there’s a very small chance Lindor is better than even I’m allowing for and I wanted to leave room for that. I like Eaton and Arcia a ton, but I don’t think either are elite options for their position, which has a little more depth overall. We’ve been far too nice to each other and it’s weirding me out.
Ben’s Take: I can’t think of a single position in any context in which I would refer to you as elite.
Imaginary Bret: You’re both elite at wasting people’s time. Move on.
Disagreement Two: Mike Moustakas
Ben’s Take: When we broke down the U25 list for the AL West a few weeks ago, I ranked Neftali Feliz at 22, while Craig left him off the list altogether. I didn’t think either of us were nuts, and I think we’re headed for a similar conversation with Moustakas here. If you think there’s any chance he regains his 2012 form, this is where he belongs, as someone who could perhaps be a back-end top-10 option at his position some day. I know he’s been awful for his last 550-plus PA, but he’s still only 25 and the power is there and still makes him interesting. Am I worried that he’s a platoon bat at third base who will never hit for a high average? Absolutely, and I fully acknowledge that’s probably his future. But there’ still room for more, and considering the guys behind him are either prospects or average MLBers in their own right, I’ll roll the dice on the upside here.
Craig’s Take: That’s fair, as I think like the Feliz situation, this comes down to belief. I believe Moustakas is done. I don’t want people to think this is a reaction to his cold start to 2014, because as Ben said, it’s 550-plus at-bats of being pretty horrible at this point. I agree with all the points you make above, to be honest, I think it’s just that I’m more pessimistic. The way I looked at leaving him off the list - even in favor of prospects - was: “am I willing to trade Mike Moustakas for Miguel Almonte?” and my honest answer was yes. In a dynasty league, I’d prefer to have Almonte and his mid-rotation ceiling as a probability, even with the depth in starting pitching, than a crumbling Mike Moustakas. There’s plenty of risk in preferring that, but I just can’t buy in anymore.
Ben’s Take: I get it, and I made drafts of this list without Moustakas on it. I’m just comfortable gambling on Moustakas’ upside over a large collection of no. 4 starters, which I think is what you have with the Smyly/Johnson/Porcello collection. And guys like Rosario, Mondesi, Bonifacio, et al are great, but they’re not locks to be productive either. I disagree on Almonte - I think mid-rotation starters are very replaceable fantasy assets, and I’d rather gamble on a corner bat with upside. Even if Almonte hits his ceiling, he’s a pretty standard fantasy piece.
Craig’s Take: I’m not arguing that Almonte isn’t a replaceable fantasy asset, my contention is that Moustakas is significantly worse than that.
Ben’s Take: So you’re saying Moustakas can’t be replaced?
Craig’s Take: I’m saying he might not be rosterable.
Imaginary Bret: I need more from you two going forward.
Craig’s One Player He Wanted to Rank Higher: Francisco Mejia, C, CLE
Ben’s One Player He Wanted to Rank Higher: Jorge Bonifacio
Ben, say something nice about Craig: He probably wouldn’t be the first person to die in a Zombie Apocalypse. He has some stalkerish Twitter fans.
Craig, say something nice about Ben: His inability to talk is the best part of TINO.
Ben Carsley is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @bencarsley