May 6, 2014
AL East U25 Lists
To read the earlier editions in this 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: Chris Archer
Craig’s Take: This seems absurdly high on Archer even for me, but there’s a distinct drop-off after the first set of names in this division, and not knowing what else to do, I panicked and went with upside. Archer had a beautiful first two starts to the season, which he followed up by sucking out loud ever since. He’s also not as young as he seems to be, already at 25. Still, I think he’s somewhat raw, and he underuses his changeup to the point that if he can learn to trust it, there’s another breakout coming. He’s got the tools to be a potential number two starter, and he’s in the majors right now. That gives him a little more ceiling than Tillman with a little more now value than Stroman (who is in the bullpen/less track record), hence his placement here. It really is a toss up between those guys to me, but I do believe Archer has another jump left in him, even though I must acknowledge I’m not entirely confident he makes it.
Ben’s Take: I struggled with where to rank Archer myself, and while I think No. 7 is as high as you can feasibly rank him, I get why the temptation to put him there exists. But while Archer has no. 2 starter upside, I’m not convinced the command profile ever comes around to the point where he reaches that ceiling, or at least not to the point where he reaches the ceiling often enough to be a true no. 2. I love the swing-and-miss potential and the athleticism, but Archer can lose his delivery point at a moment’s notice, and the control issues that led many to believe he’d be a reliever still rear their ugly heads a bit too often for my taste. Archer may very well make me look silly one or two years in his prime, but overall, I think he breaks more fantasy hearts than he wins championships. That being said, I don’t have any great confidence in a few of the names I listed above him either.
Craig’s Take: Yup. This is less about Archer than it is the names behind him for me (ahead of him for you). Those just aren’t difference makers in my eyes, or even have the potential to be a difference maker with the exception of Stroman, and he carries plenty of risk for other reasons. I opt for the potential impact guy who, even if he fails, can still provide value in those cases.
Ben’s Take: That’s fair, I just don’t think Archer’s upside is so great that it outweighs Tillman’s production and I really like Stroman. You can talk me into ranking Archer ahead of Lawrie or Middlebrooks pretty easily, but I still think Lawrie is going to have a streak of successful fantasy seasons and I still think there’s a small chance that Middlebrooks becomes something like the AL’s version of Pedro Alvarez. My god that last sentence is depressing.
Craig’s Take: I think the streaks on Lawrie’s underwear will be longer than any streak of successful seasons he has.
Ben’s Take: #asspamphlet
Imaginary Bret: I’m not going to search for that hashtag at work.
Disagreement Two: Garin Cecchini
Ben’s Take: This is going to be more a diatribe against the general anti-Cecchini crowd than it is Craig’s ranking in general. With that disclaimer out of the way, people are way too focused on Cecchini’s lack of power and not focused enough on his ability to contribute modestly in the other four—yes, four—categories. Cecchini is going to reach base all the time (think .360-plus most years, .400 in his best years) and could easily become Boston’s No. 2 hitter of the future. Yes, I wish he had 20-homer pop, but if he hits .285 with 10 homers, 90 runs scored, 75 RBI, and 10 steals, are you really going to care? Maybe Cecchini won’t be a top-five third baseman in non-OBP leagues, but I think he will be a top-12 option for a long time. Plus, he’s only 23, and while his swing isn’t geared to generate a ton of loft I’m not going to rule out his ability to settle for 15-plus bombs a year during his peak.
Craig’s Take: I’m not against those potential outcomes so much, but I don’t love to factor in runs/RBI too much as part of a future valuation. Certainly they matter on some level, but there’s just as good a chance that Cecchini is traded as there is that he’s in Boston, which could absolutely impact the runs/RBI portion of your argument. If those two categories are more league-average than they are above-average for Cecchini, he just isn’t that valuable. He walks a tough line where I think he’s going to be underrated when he can accrue the context-dependent stats and overrated when he can’t. Sort of like Matt Carpenter? That being the case, I prefer the pure upside or now-value of the guys I put ahead of him, though I admit I’ll likely look dumb in some seasons and smart in others.
Ben’s Take: Without getting into a huge contextual argument, I’ll say that Cecchini is in Triple-A and raking: I don’t think there’s as good a chance as he gets traded as he’s in Boston, but that has more to do with how I read the Sox’ depth chart than it does with Cecchini himself. But unless he goes to a truly horrible offense, I don’t think the R/RBI totals will fall all that much, because I think he has a top-of-the-order profile no matter where he plays. A more valid concern has him moving to the OF or 1B, which would obviously hurt his value, and that’s the biggest reason I didn’t rank him even higher.
Craig’s Take: That’s fair re: the Red Sox’ plan with him, as you’re closer to Boston than I am, but if he does stay in Boston I think those position changes are more present than if he gets traded, so it’s basically six of one, half-dozen of the other in terms of potential damage to his value in that sense.
Ben’s Take: I would prefer to never hear or witness you use the term “position changes” in any context ever again.
Craig’s Take: I guess I won’t tell you about my weekend then.
Imaginary Bret: I’m going to be fired for hiring you two, aren’t I?
Craig’s One Player He Wanted to Rank Higher: Manuel Margot, OF, BOS
Ben’s One Player He Wanted to Rank Higher: Manny Banuelos, LHP, Yankees
Craig, say something nice about Ben: He’s got a quality hashtag game. I respect his hatred of the various spellings of “Jared.” His mispronunciations are a highlight of my week.
Ben, say something nice about Craig: He’s making time for me on Friday night so that The People are not deprived of my voice. I occasionally enjoy his rants when they are not directed at me.
Ben Carsley is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @bencarsley