July 14, 2017
The View From Behind The Backstop
I was chatting with my colleague Meg Rowley recently when Harry Frankfurt’s essay “On Bullshit” came up. This was not actually about our midseason list making process, but it could have been. Frankfurt separates “bullshit” from “lying” by virtue of the speaker’s knowledge of the truth. You lie knowingly. You bullshit merely to convince. No one can claim objective, absolute truth of ordinal rankings or prospect outcomes. Some of us sure act like it of course. But especially within a midseason list I find myself on slipperier footing. The tiers get mushier. “I don’t know” feels like an appropriate answer more often than it should in this line of work. Here are five prospects we ranked last week. I really don’t knowing the numbers are right, but I must still venture to convince.
No. 9 Alex Reyes
One of the pieces of feedback we got from inside the game is that if we were going to rank Reyes at all, he had a case for #1. My response was: “Well, about that…” Funnily enough, there is an argument he has done the least to lower his stock of all our preseason top pitching prospects. Lucas Giolito’s stuff still hasn’t gotten all the way back from a down 2016, Tyler Glasnow still can’t throw enough strikes, Robert Gsellman’s stuff went backwards, and then he got hurt (maybe not in that order), and Josh Hader hasn’t done much to win over those who think he is a reliever long term. Meanwhile, Reyes hasn’t thrown a pitch this season and may not throw another one before our 2018 midseason list. This also means the memories of his frontline stuff and major-league readiness get perfectly preserved while the pitching prospects around him get to show their warts. But we don’t know if it will all be there when he comes back. We think of Tommy John as routine nowadays, but need look no further than Lucas Giolito for a reminder that while the pitcher might return in 18 months or so, the stuff may not. Reyes has a lot of stuff to give back and still be a very, very good pitching prospect. But here, more than any of the other names to come, we don’t know what we don’t know. What we do know is he is definitely the ninth best prospect in baseball.