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November 13, 2012

Prospect Debate

Who Are the Rockies' Top and Fifth-Ranked Prospects?

by BP Prospect Staff

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As Jason Parks noted in his prospect rankings primer, this year’s rankings are the product of a collaborative process. Before each system’s prospect list is finalized, members of the BP prospect team trade emails about the players involved, enriching the rankings with their own opinions and perspectives. We’ll be publishing excerpts from the best of those discussions throughout the offseason, generally the day after the prospect lists in question appear. Some exchanges have been edited for language or trimmed to stay on topic.

Link to Colorado Rockies prospect rankings

The top spot: Trevor Story vs. David Dahl

Jason Parks: I need to open this up again. Based on all the reports I've been given, both Dahl and Story seem like good candidates for the top spot in the Rockies system. But when I was writing up the Dahl evaluation, it seemed clear that he had the higher ceiling, and that risk was the only thing keeping him behind Story. Perhaps my sources were too liberal with their grades, but I have Dahl down as a future 7 hit tool/5 power at a premium position on the diamond. High risk because of age and level, but he has more polish than the average 2012 HS bat. Story is a damn fine prospect (and from Texas), but the tools aren't as loud and the risk isn't all that safer than Dahl given their refinement level. 

I don't know. I want to start the debate again. If my Dahl reports are close to the mark, and his stick has a 7 projection, it seems hard to rank him behind Story if he can in fact stick in CF long term. It's a close race, but if they both profile up the middle, the better stick should win out, right? 

Do you prefer Dahl or Story?

Jason Churchill: Story. When Dahl shows advanced production versus advanced pitching, maybe he takes over. Not on that wagon yet because he hasn't been tested to that extent. I can't give him credit for something he hasn't done, and I see a 60 hit tool, 55 power.

Hudson Belinsky: I'd go with Dahl. I only got one source on him, but that source was an area scout who wanted him in the top five this year.

Nick Faleris: I have been roundly unimpressed with Dahl's on-field demeanor, but did not see him after he signed. Maybe it was just a case of not being interested in/challenged with HS ball. I think Story's baseball instincts are better. I think Dahl has the higher ultimate ceiling. I'm not sold he's a center fielder, long term. He was much faster than Almora and covered markedly less ground in the same outfield. I know his arm has received solid grades; he was relegated to left field on his travel teams, including his tournament team which had Almora in center (fine, I love Almora) and Jesse Winker in right field (yes, Jesse Winker). If your reports give you confidence Dahl will do what he needs to do in order to grow his game, by all means slot him at #1. I haven't personally seen it, but that doesn't mean it isn't there. I understand why people love him. I think he's an excellent young ball player. For me, personally, if someone tells me I can only have one of them for my farm system, I'm taking Story.

Mark Anderson: I made no secret of my affection for Dahl the first time around. I think the CF profile is there with the tools and I received good reports on his defense after he signed. With that profile and a bat that I see more power in—20 HR and tons of doubles—I think he's a star in the making. On top of that, he's got a strong approach for his age and I think he moves really quickly.

JP: Haha. This is great. We are still locked up. I've asked about 20 people so far and it’s split in that vote as well. This is what I wrote on Story and Dahl (below), based on outside sources (haven't spoken to Rockies yet. It's close. Let's go with Story #1. He has a longer professional record, and the numerous reports about his feel and instincts for the game lessen the risk, IMO. You can make a very good case for Dahl, but the professional sample is just too small right now.

***

The fifth spot: Will Swanner, or someone else?

JP: Did anybody put eyes on him last year during the season? I have looks in the spring; numerous reports from sources. I spoke to a scout who saw a healthy chunk of games. Had raised eyebrows about his #5 ranking. He said Swanner has very little chance of sticking behind the plate; lots of raw power, but an approach that will get destroyed by pitchers who have a plan. That's the most extreme report so far. Most have been mixed about his future behind the plate; all agree on power; approach needs work; hit tool isn't great; 3 runner at age 21.

It's not a good system, but is this the profile of a #5 prospect in any system? Can we make a case that Kyle Parker, Chad Bettis, and Tyler Anderson are better prospects than Swanner?

Having some doubt.

JC: Very little chance to catch, IMO. I didn't see him live during the season, but no scout likes him defensively... assuming he's a 1B/RF/DH with average defensive value, there's still a nice bat in there. I just don't think he's a fast tracker—it's going to take some time. I also am not a fan of Parker, however. I'd still go Swanner over Parker, but Bettis and Anderson could make more sense ahead of Swanner.

NF: I guess, for me, it's a question of Bettis/Anderson/Swanner/Parker all having warts. If I am picking one prospect between Swanner and Bettis I go Swanner because of the unpredictability of Bettis rebounding from injury (healthy Bettis, I think, could have been #3). Anderson is still a non-dominant stuff guy that gets points for deception and left-handedness, but is a college kid that hasn't advanced out of A-ball and will be 23 next year. Parker had a really nice year in the Cal league, but is likely going to be 24 before he reaches the bigs and I'd like to see more than a season in the Cali before I'm convinced the offensive approach questions are quelled. Absolutely Swanner has big issues, but he didn't turn 21 until after the season ended and has at least a chance to be a backstop. I could see arguments for re-arranging these four—just keep in mind it's a real possibility that Swanner in the Cali with some adjustments could look a lot like Parker in the Cali, only a year younger and with a shot to be a catcher. My biggest concern with ranking would be assigning too much value to the chance Swanner sticks behind the plate. To my mind, he controls a lot of that outcome in how much he wants to work on his body and flexibility. If you believe the makeup and the approach give him a shot to be a C, he's got to be #5 to me. If there are concerns he's a 1b, he's maybe 7 or 8.

JC: Hit tool: Parker 45 with a 50 ceiling; Swanner 35-40 now, 45/50 absolute ceiling, but with a full grade more power. I'm suggesting I'd rather take the risk that Swanner is Ryan Ludwick or better than settle for a similar player with less power to offer.

IMO, neither are everyday players, but reserves generally need to bring something plus to the table. Parker doesn't have it. It's pretty clear Swanner has done more in his pro career than has Parker, considering the age/experience/level factors.

Probability means squat to me when the likely end-result is a bench guy. If we were putting together a 25-man MLB roster, Parker would make more sense. But Swanner has so much more room to grow than Parker. If you tossed 10 players at me for a draft in which I had the No. 1 pick and Parker and Swanner were the best two, there's no chance I'm taking Parker. Not much projection left there. All I'm sacrificing, IMO, is an extra outfielder, if Swanner peters out in Double-A and ends up on the scrap heap in the PCL.

NF: Thanks, that makes sense and, I think, is the real crux of the issue. What's the calculus in comparing these players? To be honest, I'd raise an eyebrow at a system with Bettis, Tyler, Swanner or Parker at #5. They all have big questions, with Bettis having the best profile but being a bit of an unknown coming off this summer. Jason, how much weight do you give to this negative scout's opinion? Is he generally a strong evaluator when it comes to projecting out the areas upon which he's opining? Mixed bag?

JP: The evaluator is solid; a bit old-school with his developmental checklists: "Catcher doesn't look like a catcher at this stage of the game, he's not going to be a catcher." I trust his opinions, just like I trust the opinions of people on this email list, but he has his built-in biases and he doesn't back off evals very often. 

But the reports on Swanner's progress behind the plate haven't been glowing, even when the attitude of the source was a little more optimistic. He has good arm strength, but doesn't throw all that well; he isn't a very good receiver; his footwork can look clumsy; shows some of the intangible qualities, but the package isn't there. He's a bat. The question is how good a bat? 4/5 hit; 6+ raw that probably plays lower; not enough speed for the outfield; 1B/DH type. Damn, that profile doesn't offer much when you spell it out. 

Bettis is looking like a better #5 candidate and he didn't pitch last season because of an injury. That's rough.

JC: I bet we could get a halfway objective injury update from the club on Bettis that might help...

JP: Good timing. I'm supposed to call [redacted] about some stuff. I'll ask about it. If he's healthy and feeling good, I'd lean towards him over Swanner/Parker, even if he's a reliever, which I believe he will be. Could be nasty with that mid-90s cheese and the upper-80s slider.

NF: I have no issue with Bettis at 5 with solid health reports.

8 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Behemoth

These articles are really good. Was the decision to put Matzek at 4 pretty clear for everyone? Also curious if Arenado came into the discussion for 1/2 at all, or not? He appears to have dropped a fair way in the last year.

Nov 13, 2012 03:01 AM
rating: 1
 
tlpacker

These articles are great. Any chance you release one for the Astros?

Nov 13, 2012 03:39 AM
rating: 0
 
jmoultz
(440)

I'm surprised to see so much negative pub on Parker. All caveats mentioned are valid but I have been giving him the benefit of the doubt because of his focus on football in college (greener than most prospects his age) and the fact that Modesto is a bit of a pitcher's park in the Cal League which heavily suppresses home runs. I'm sure you guys took this into consideration but I was curious if you had any reaction to my observations?

Nov 13, 2012 12:35 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

I don't think it's negative as much as I think its honest. Opinions will vary, of course, but Parker is an average talent. That's not a knock on him despite sounding like a knock. He could develop into a major league caliber player, which would make him a succes. He's just not an impact talent because he lacks high impact tools. He's a 5, which is still a hell of a player.

Nov 13, 2012 12:43 PM
 
jmoultz
(440)

Sorry, when I read "I also am not a fan of Parker, however" I found that surprisingly negative. I know your team has scouted Parker and checked your sources, and you're still hanging a 5 on him which is good grade considering context, but I've yet to hear about any sub 5 grades on him with the lone exception being speed.

I'm surprised he's not a 6 when you consider the following:
1. focused on football in college
2. 2012 only second season in pros
3. just turned 23 on 9/30 so totally age appropriate for High A, especially considering points 1 and 2
4. (min 200 PA) ranked 8th in OPS and 8th in HR despite having a fantastic 66/88-BB/SO ratio and playing in the worst HR park in the Cal League (74 index)...sounds like a potential 6 power tool to me unless there's some flukiness I'm not aware of
5. dramatically improved BB%, SO% and ISO from Low A to High A
6. other scouting reports mention a very strong arm so maybe it's a 6 too even if the range is 4/5

I'm not the president of the Kyle Parker fan club, Professor, and I know you're basing your eval more on the tools/scouting reports, I'm just curious if there's something else I'm missing because I'm not finding the ding in your report or reports from other sources. I expected him to rank 3rd or 4th on your COL list with a bullet. Any additional insight is MUCH appreciated.

Nov 13, 2012 13:57 PM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

1. His focus on football over baseball isn't a positive development in my opinion, and certainly not a reason to raise his overall grade;

2. He's still 23 year-olds and physical mature, so lack of professional experience doesn't create tool growth opportunity;

3. Top prospects are rarely age appropriate for their league; hence, not exceptional; average;

4. You shouldn't use stats to measure the quality of the power tool, especially if you use California League numbers;

5. He did make improvements from the previous season. Doesn't change his ceiling.

6. It's a strong arm that will play in RF. A 6 arm won't change his overall grade.

He's a good prospect, but he's more of an average major leaguer than anything special. He might continue to hit well in Double-A, and that might even raise his prospect stock some. But I think the end result will be the same: a solid-average major league regular ceiling

Nov 13, 2012 14:12 PM
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Also, when I say I don't like a prospect or I'm not that high on a prospect, very rarely is it personal. It usual means I'm not all that thrilled with their profile or ceiling, or likelihood to reach that ceiling. Major league regulars are fantastic and they have a ton of value in those first six seasons, but after you profile first-division/all-star talents, everything else is substandard. That's one the negative aspects of prospect rankings. People should be thrilled to have role 5 players on their farm. But a role 5 isn't as sexy as a role 6, so it changes the discussion.

Nov 13, 2012 14:17 PM
 
jmoultz
(440)

Thanks for the additional comments, Professor. I understand everything you're saying and by no means would I suggest purely stats from the Cal league to be an indicator of tool potential, I just found those stats to support other reports I've read of 50 current/60 potential power, prior to this last season. I guess we'll see what happens in Tulsa next year...

Nov 13, 2012 15:15 PM
rating: 0
 
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