A look at recent lists and whether floor or upside wins out.
What’s better, a high floor or high upside? It’s a discussion we have with ourselves in almost every aspect of life. Do you invest in that safe stock or the promising startup with big potential? Do you choose buy the property that will maintain its value over the next ten years or find a redone house with room to grow? Do I take the steady paycheck or put my resources into this new app I think might blow up? Heck, will I go to that new Mexican place or just stick to the consistency of Chipotle?
While these situations have varying degrees of importance, the answer to the risk vs. reward debate is one that’s not definitive. This is also true when evaluating prospects.
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A look behind the curtain at our process for ranking the Phillies dynamics hurler.
Here’s a peek inside the ranking process for the top pitching prospects in the game: we’re throwing darts here. We ranked Alex Reyes as the top prospect in the game before the season because Reyes had it all: 80-grade fastball, killer curve, above-average change, developed command, success against higher-level hitters all the way to MLB, projectability as a durable 200-inning pitcher. He blew out his elbow the day after the list went live. (He was, in fact, such a great pitching prospect that we’re still ranking him as the best pitching prospect in baseball in the middle of Tommy John recovery.)
The simple fact of the matter is that under the umbrella of injury prevention, professional baseball as an industry has decided that good young pitchers are too valuable a commodity to throw very much in the minors. The effectiveness of this is still a matter of enormous debate, but it does mean that our certitude about whether any of these guys can handle a MLB starting assignment has been decreasing over time. We can guess based on injury history, mechanics, build, pitch selection, makeup, and general soothsaying. But simply put, no pitcher on this list has thrown more than 143 innings in any professional season, and one of the most major parts of their placement on our list is their projection to be able to throw 175-200 on a consistent basis. It would be far easier to just rank hitters on one list and pitchers on another list—John Sickels has done so for many years—but the conventions of this operation don’t really permit such an easy way out, and aside from that it’s a challenge worth undertaking.
There were seven candidates for the top spot. How did we arrive at No. 1?
It’s a fun time in baseball, with a lot of elite talent floating around, much of it close to the majors. We discussed seven of those elite talents as potential top overall prospects for this midseason list—not surprisingly, the top seven guys on the list. I’d suggest that the top eight or nine prospects (depending on your feelings about Tommy John recovery with regard to Alex Reyes) form a top tier, and they could be jumbled in nearly any order without being abjectly wrong. But part of the job here is to find an order in the mayhem, and after some great internal debate, we came up with a list. Here’s how that top prospect debate developed...
The ground rules haven’t changed here, folks. Our midseason list update does not include 2017 draftees, 2017 J2 signings, or any prospect-eligible player currently in the majors. This is going to change again in two months, so it’s a little more fluid than our offseason lists, but Craig tells me that the people love lists. So lists they shall have - Jeffrey Paternostro
Why He’ll Succeed: Moncada is a true five-tool player, with potential plus or better grades in all five slots. Slot that in at an up-the-middle-spot, throw in a dash of 70-grade pop, and you have the recipe for a perennial all-star.
Why He Might Fail: Moncada may end up more of a four-tool player, and when the missing tool is hit, the profile can get volatile. There’s potential for a lot of swing-and-miss here, and while a .230 or .240 hitting second baseman with pop is still a regular, it’s not an impact one. There’s also more true ‘bust’ potential than you’d like as your number one prospect, but hey, we put a pitcher who immediately blew out at one preseason. Risk doesn’t bother us.
Golden Globes aren't the only thing Atlanta won this year.
N.B. These will vary a bit from the rankings in the 2017 Annual. Some of that is due to trades that happened after we went to press, but some of it is also due to my just not liking those rankings anymore. I guess I am taking the whole “snapshot in time” thing very literally. As with last year’s, we have organized them into tiers, described—unsurprisingly—with lyrics from noted singer-songwriter, author, and Cubs fan, John Darnielle.
“But you cannot run / And you cannot hide / From the wreck we've made of our house / From the mess inside”
A new list for a new year. From Yoan Moncada to Anderson Tejeda, it's the cream of the crop in dynasty leagues in 2017.
We decided to do things a little differently this year.
For the past few seasons, we have published separate top-101 dynasty lists. Largely, these lists have been similar, with the exception of chunky first basemen ranking much higher on Bret’s iteration and Ben giving dramatic boosts to any middle infielder who can run even a little. For the 2017 list, we decided to balance those biases by creating separate rankings, compiling them and then debating minutia for like a month over gchat. Fantasy prospect rankings are nothing if not scientific.
This is an interesting year for said rankings. There’s less premium talent at the top, and even the top-20 gets pretty thin near the end. But there’s more depth than there was last year, with a solid, meaty middle chunk of the list that’s chock-full of OF4s, SP5s and the like. There might not be a ton of prospects who will win you a dynasty league in this year’s iteration, but there are plenty who can help you along the way. Another consequence of that lack of premium talent? We got a little aggressive in trying to predict who the next generation of dynasty studs will be, bumping up some players with extreme risk/reward profiles. If that’s not your thing, feel free to adjust down, but if you can get in on the next Victor Robles or Ronald Acuna, well, you’ll want to.
There are a few list-specific disclaimers to go over before we jump in. Again, these rankings are for fantasy purposes only, and do not directly take into account things like an outfielder’s ability to stick in center or a catcher’s pop time. Of course, these things do matter indirectly as they affect a player’s ability to either stay in the lineup or maintain eligibility. Additionally, home parks need to be factored in, just as when we are talking about a major-league player. We can’t pretend that these prospects operate in a vacuum, unaffected by park factors. Of course, there’s no guarantee that they will reach the majors with their current organization, so while it is not a heavy consideration, it is reflected. Most importantly, the intention of this list is to balance the upside, probability, and proximity of these players to an active fantasy lineup.
Ten names that came close but couldn't land that cigar.
What lies below are ten prospects who were in the batch of names that came closest to our Top 101 but ultimately landed on the cutting room floor. To be very clear: The prospects below are not the next ten names in order on our list. They are ten of the next group of names, so please do not take it to mean a name not mentioned wasn't considered. The universe of relevant prospects is unfortunately larger than we can devote time and space to. That said, please enjoy! —Craig Goldstein
Josh Lowe, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays
Lowe is massive. Sometimes you hear about a body before you first see it and it doesn't really live up to the hype. Stand next to Lowe and he lives up to the hype. He has the ideal slugger's frame with room to become even more ideal (if that were possible). With the frame and present strength come some of the best raw power in his draft class and now in the Tampa Bay system. When he catches the barrel, it arcs to the moon. At the same time, Lowe faces the typical hit tool questions often paired with impressive power. There's some length to the swing and he sometimes relies on his bat speed to get by. There are also initial questions about his defensive future as he works to stay at third base. The arm is obviously more than enough for any position, so a move to right field is possible. Regardless, he'll need to prove he can handle pro pitching, because the power will play anywhere. Right now, it's a boom-or-bust profile, and the chances are good that he'll hang at the plate. Factors such as athleticism, bat speed and flashes of barrel awareness are on his side. The outcome could be a very solid corner slugger. —David Lee
Dylan Cease, RHP, Chicago Cubs
Cease has been a hot topic within prospect circles over the last year-plus, and his performance with short-season Eugene in 2016 did little to dissuade folks from discussing him further. Any time you play for one of the game’s most popular franchises while also owning an electric fastball that can reach 100 mph, you are going to garner attention. Cease lacks consistency beyond the fastball, though his curveball made strides in 2016 and could give him a second plus pitch to torture hitters with. Both the command and changeup lag considerably behind which is the primary reason he missed the back of the Top 101 despite his obvious gifts. As an undersized right-hander with a history of injuries, many in the scouting community are already projecting him for a relief role, which is never a good sign this early in a career, even if that relief projection lands him as a top shelf closer. Cease is going to continue to be a high-profile prospect and one that tantalizes with a potential impact fastball-curveball combo, and as he quiets the concerns around his secondary traits and projection, he may no longer appear in “Just Missed” articles, but rather in the entrée piece as a member of the Top 101. —Mark Anderson
Luis Castillo, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
I know what you all are thinking: a 24-year-old, pop-up arm who spent the majority of the year in High-A being a potential 101 guy? If we ignore some context and focus on the profile, the stuff is worthy of top 101 consideration. Castillo packs a pure 80 fastball that holds velocity through games, a potential plus slider, a changeup that has flashed average to better, and the results to go with it. But we do not ignore context and because of the factors mentioned above, Castillo is in the just missed portion. While the slider should get to plus with more consistency, the changeup hasn’t been there on a consistent basis, which could push him towards a relief future. Fortunately for Cincinnati, this is an arm with a chance to have a major impact on their roster, either sooner in a bullpen, or perhaps in 2018 in a starting rotation. —Steve Givarz
Breaking down Baseball Prospectus' top 101 prospects list.
Today, Jeffrey Paternostro and the BP Prospect Staff released our Top 101 Prospects of 2017. Here is the Top 101 list displayed by position, by organization, by prospect age, and by their means of entering professional baseball. Enjoy!
While it's entirely likely you'll skip right ahead to the rankings, we wanted to provide some context for the list. As always, prospect lists are a snapshot in time—in this case January 1, when the list was compiled. It's possible a prospect's situation has changed since then, or that our evaluator's feelings on a prospect have changed, due to new information. Within a week of the list being submitted, Jeffrey Paternostro told me there were only seven rankings he hated already. I'm guessing that number has risen as time's gone on. We hope you enjoy reading and debating the list as much as we enjoyed putting it together. —Craig Goldstein