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Chat: NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Monday November 24, 2014 1:00 PM ET chat session with NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris.

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Nick Faleris just wrapped up the Top 10s for each of the NL Central teams. Ask him about those, or sneak in a question about former Giants prospect Brian Horwitz.

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: Hi everyone! Hope you're enjoying prospect ranking season at BP, and that you came stocked with questions on the lists Mellen and I have already rolled out and the teams still to come!

fabiopao (Italy): Magneuris Sierra: really a potential standout? Should I stash him in a very deep dynasty league? thanks

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: Bret Sayre is the guy to ask about dynasty league baseball questions, as he has a better feel for comparative value of different profiles in that specific context. What I can say is that it's a potential plus hit tool that could move quickly through the system. He's not overly physical, but should be strong enough to have that hit tool play up, and I think he blossoms into a dangerous runner, as well. Probably not a huge power guy, but I assume BA/SB guy that could hit atop a solid run producing lineup is pretty good for your purposes. On an escalated pace he's still three years away, it might end up closer to four or five depending on development and need.

Sam (Richmond): Tim Anderson or JP Crawford?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: Both ranked very closely on our Midseason Top 50, and were actually covered in the debate series I moderated at BP this summer. Here is the link -- I think the article covers a lot of the key questions. It should be outside of the paywall, but if folks can't get to it just ask another question here and I'll go into more details.

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=23964

parrotz1461 (IL): If you took the Cubs' top 5 prospects away, where would their system rank?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: That would be a pretty huge chunk of near MLB ready talent to remove. I wrote that the system is deep enough that they could lose a chunk of talent and still not fall to far in the org rankings at this time next year, but that's based on the fact I expect developmental progress in the remaining prospects and additions via draft/international market to keep the aggregate value high. Without that year of development/acquisitions, you still have a very deep system outside of the top five, but it comes with a fair amount of risk, and the impact talent is centered in the low minors at that point. I would guess it doesn't drop all the way into the bottom third, but probably gets close.

Pelecos (Chicago): What were the improvements Duane Underwood made this season and what future steps does he have to take in order to reach his #2/3 potential?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: Body looked better, velocity was back closer to what he flashed pre-draft, and overall execution was a little more consistent. I viewed the progress more as getting back on track to where we expected him to be when acquired than a large developmental step forward. He needs to improve the consistency of his breaking ball, which still lags and has not manifested in the regular plus form we hoped to see when he was flashing bite and depth on the high school/travel circuit. Also needs to start putting developmental focus on the change. Command/control still below average. Fair amount of clean-up still to come.

Shawnykid23 (CT): What do you think was the most interesting internal debate you guys had for the NL Central lists (Ranking someone 1 vs. 2, On the Rise vs. left off Top 10, etc.)?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: There is always lots of great debate -- way to many to list. A few that jump to mind (both published list and those still to come) are Almora vs Soler, Josh Bell's ultimate positioning on the Pirates list, Michael Taylor vs AJ Cole, Brandon Drury's placement in the 'Zona list, Kyle Crick vs. Tyler Beede vs. Steve Okert (was more of a comparative exercise than straight rankings debate)...

It's a daily joy to kind around evaluative approaches and argue the merits of certain player profiles in the abstract and on a specific player to player basis -- by far my favorite aspect of being involved with BP.

berkoffm (Chicago): Is Kyle Schwarber potentially the most complete hitter in the Cubs system?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: I think that's Addison Russell, but I do appreciate the balance to Schwarber's game and his professional approach.

Howie (NYC): I'm curious to know more about Alexander Reyes' body now. I hadn't heard until I read the Cardinals top 10 that he had thickened in his bottom.

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: Put on a lot of not necessarily good weight in the lower-half during the off-season. Enough that it stood out to evaluators, and not in a good way. Sounds like that is going to be a focus moving forward and I personally expect it to be a non-issue as Reyes continues to progress.

Mike (Texas): How many of your NL Central Top 25 do you expect to make it on the top 100 list when BP publishes it? Average would be around 16 or 17 assuming talent is evenly distributed, right?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: I did say I'd throw a top 25 NL Central Prospects list out there during this chat. With the understanding this is a work in progress (Mellen and I are starting to dig in on the framework for the Top 101), this is my own personal ranking of the prospects covered in our NL Central rankings:

1. SS Addison Russell
2. 3B Kris Bryant
3. RHP Robert Stephenson
4. OF Jorge Soler
5. OF Albert Almora
6. OF Stephen Piscotty
7. LHP Marco Gonzales
8. RHP Tyler Glasnow
9. RHP Jameson Taillon
10. OF Jesse Winker
11. OF/1B Josh Bell
12. RHP Alex Reyes
13. C Kyle Schwarber
14. RHP Michael Lorenzen
15. SS Orlando Arcia
16. OF Tyrone Taylor
17. OF Billy McKinney
18. RHP Pierce Johnson
19. SS Gleyber Torres
20. RHP Jack Flaherty
21. OF Yorman Rodriguez
22. C Reese McGuire
23. RHP Nick Howard
24. RHP Devin Williams
25. LHP Rob Kaminsky

I think all of those guys will be in the discussion for the 101, and expect there to be some shuffling in order of course. Definitely more than the average of 16 or 17.

Paul (Reno): With a 65 grade power tool thrown on Renfroe, does he have enough hit tool to make that power work in MLB?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: I think it plays, and Renfroe grows into a solid middle-of-the-order bat. Most recently good reviews from the AFL as to quality of contact when he makes it.

Josh (Oakland): What do you expect to see from Brandon Finnegan in 2015 if KC makes him a starter?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: I don't like Finnegan as a rotation bet -- the quality of his stuff fell of sharply in college as he worked deeper into games, and there are some lingering questions as to how he'll hold up physically in that role. I get wanting to see if there is a starter in there, but based on my evaluative history with the player and analysis of both the scouting side and analytics side, I don't think it's a profile likely to thrive as a starter. Doesn't mean it's impossible, it just isn't where I'd put my money.

For reference, I was a very strong proponent of Sonny Gray starting regardless of the constant questions regarding height, so it isn't just a physical bias on my part.

mbeemsterboer (Chicago): What's the deal with Aledmys Diaz for the Cards? Not in the top 10 - is that b/c he isn't prospect or isn't top 10 worthy?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: Addressed this in the comments section of the article. He was often cited as someone to consider in the "On the Rise" section, but it was very difficult to find someone willing to stick their neck out with strong support of the profile. Most want to see more of the player, and universally the comments mentioning Diaz were immediately followed by "I'm not entirely sure what to make of it yet" or "I can understanding wanting to wait and see more before aggressively pushing the guy." If it was a weaker system he probably would have been an On the Rise guy at minimum.

Mario66 (Pittsburgh): Which pair of draftees would you prefer to have: Mitch Keller / Trey Supak or Carson Sands / Justin Steele?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: I love this question. My suggested allotments for each pairing was separated by about $400 K, with Keller/Supak getting the nod. Sands has best probability, I think Keller has the best blend of potential impact stuff and likelihood to stick as a starter.

Alex (Anaheim): Is it just a matter of time before Soler adapts to big league pitching?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: I think it's more complicated than that, but ultimately I do believe he makes enough contact to be a contributing piece in the middle of the lineup regardless of whether he reaches his ceiling as a line-up anchoring power bat. Worst case I think he bats sixth or seventh and gives you above-average power production, but I don't expect a worse case outcome. My bigger question may be whether he proves capable of staying on the field with enough regularity for that production to have an annual impact on the Cubs' fortunes.

Ryan (Cincy): What kind of MLB line could we expect to see from Jesse Winker in his prime?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: I think he provides above-average corner production in on-base ability and right around average in power production (not just HR totals but ISO and ability to move runners via extra bases). Don't think there isa clean comp but solid expectation is maybe somewhere between what Yelich, Marte, and Holiday did in 2014? Call it .285/.365/.430, which would generally be above-average production for the position in the NL, and there's a chance the hit and the power plays a notch better.

berkoffm (Chicago): Based upon the Chicago top 10 talents under 25 list, should we believe that Starlin Castro has the highest upside of all the Cubs shortstops?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: No, I think the takeaway from Mau's write-up in the 25U list is that a young, established, cost-controlled player at a high-value defensive position might be slightly more valuable at present than a wonderfully enticing profile like Russell's. I'd have to think about whether I agree -- there are really strong cases on both sides of that argument. As to direct comparison, Russell has a chance to hit for more power and show more value with the leather, but Castro has already proven capable of providing solid value at the position over multiple years at the major league level. There's a lot to be said for probability.

Jeff (Ohio): Hi NIck, Do you think Amir Garrett can take an even bigger step next year now that he's focused solely on baseball? Did you or anyone on your staff get any looks at him this year? Other than the stats how different did he look from the guy he was in 2013?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: I think there's a high likelihood it's a relief arm. It was cleaner this year, and there was a little more consistency with the slider and the overall package, but I'm not yet a believer in the change-up long term, and there's still a pretty big gap between his current skill set and where he needs to be to take the ball every fifth day for a big league club. I expect continued growth, but that more advanced bats will eventually force him to the pen.

Will (Sacramento): Where does Seager rank offensively with SS prospects like Russell, Correa, Lindor, etc. if he can stick at SS short term?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: You could put him up there with Correa and Russell, but there's a pretty sharp divide as to whether he has the chops to stick at short even in the short term. The more nuanced question on that front is whether he provides more value in the aggregate with fringy defense and impactful bat for short, or a very good glove and very good bat for third? Obviously, a team's other options at those positions plays a pretty big role in the decision-making process, as well.

jardinero (West Coast): Thanks for the chat. How would you rank these five teams based on position players only? The Cubs are obviously first, then...

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: Thanks for participating! Tough question because the breakdowns across the teams provide widely differing upside/probability. The Cubs are a clear step or two above, and then it comes down to evaluative preference: I'll go Cubs, Cardinals, Pirates, Reds, Brewers, but could argue almost any ordering of the bottom four.

jdc1989 (Missouri): Does Josh Bell's possible/impending move to 1B change anything prospect wise about him? I guess will the bat play better/worse at 1B?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: Since it's driven more by team need than serious flaws in the profile, I don't see it as an issue. If Bell were to be traded to another organization I would assume that organization is looking for an outfielder. Obviously the further down the defensive spectrum you move the higher the bar is set for expected offensive production (there are some added subtleties, but that's a good baseline rule). His production would be more valuable in a vacuum if it came from an outfield spot, but Pittsburgh may be better on the whole with him providing it at first base.

greywilliams (little rock): Your "Almora vs Soler" debate remark reminded me of a question I've had about Almora- is his floor around David DeJesus, solid but unspectacular for years? What is the corresponding ceiling?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: Ceiling for Almora is above-average defense up-the-middle, positive value on the bases, elite contact bat with 20-25 home runs.

Landon (NY): No Frederis Parra mention in the Cardinals' top 10 list?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: Discussed in the comments section; some interesting aspects to the profile but inconsistent performer who doesn't appear to be fast tracking. May see a MWL assignment next year but could just as easily stick in extended and ship off to short-season ball. Not a top ten guy in that system, and there were more interesting profiles to discuss On the Rise.

Stephen (Baltimore): Dilson Herrera or Alen Hanson?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: Herrera; I like the probability slightly more.

Mario66 (Pittsburgh): Glasnow has been pretty highly ranked based on TOR stuff / upside. What made you prefer Gonzales?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: Proximity/probability and I think Gonzales' change-up has the potential to be an elite weapon once he settles in at the big league weapon. It's still only mid-rotation upside but I like the odds he gets there.

Nate (Indy): Do you think that Schwarber can be good enough defensively to eventually catch at the major league level? If not, do you see him as trade bait to an American League team that needs a designated hitter or is he athletic enough to play a corner outfield spot?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: He can stick in a corner, sure. I think 1B is probably the best fit, with a chance he develops enough to catch 50 or so games a year. But I don't see a team looking to him as their regular backstop, and even if he could handle it I would be hesitant to use passable defense as a reason for potentially limiting the impact of his bat, be it through physical wear and tear or the fact that as a full time catcher he might be limited to 130 games on the season taking into account regular rest.

The Predator (The Jungle): Nick - Love the lists so far. By the way, I'm camouflaged in a tree about 100 yards out. Which prospect to date best compares to my most worthy opponent, Major Alan "Dutch" Schaefer?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: Jorge Alfaro -- physical and dynamic, with the ability to defeat and dominate in all facets. Plus, just enough flaws for adversaries to underestimate him.

Ron (Texarkana): is Ben Lively able to keep his deception through the MLB-level, or does he really showcase as a #4 starter? Is his upside closer to dominant or more of an average MLB pitcher?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: I think the deception plays, but the upside maxes out as a mid-rotation type with a higher likelihood he gives you solid innings in a number 4 package. The fastball/slider aren't quite impressive enough for me to view it as a shut-down closer type in the pen, so the back of a rotation seems like the most realistic fit based on skill set and value offered.

Teddy (Granville): Has any other team tried the Reds tactic of converting big-bodied college closers to starters, and if so what were the results? What are your thoughts on that approach?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: It's not uncommon for teams to try to take physical college relievers and convert them to starters at the pro game. Since you are generally monitoring usage (in particular at the outset of the developmental arc) you aren't worried about injury, and the extra innings logged have significant developmental utility. I'm not generally a fan of the approach, because the cost of acquiring that player (slot/bonus where you acquire them) doesn't jive with how I view the risk tied to that profile. But I have no significant issues with what the Reds have done, though I like it at a $1.5 MM price tag a lot more than I do at $2 MM.

Hansford (Mansfield, tx): What have you heard on Ismael Guillon? Can he start or is he a reliever?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: Gullion made the Reds rankings piece as a Factor on the Farm. Relief profile for me, but I think he's close to being ready to contribute in that capacity. He is out of options after this year and I don't see him smoothing out the wrinkles on the starter side in that time, so a shift to the pen makes sense, and the fastball/change could be highly effective there.

Probably Handsome (Internet, SC): About where do you think that Alex Reyes will be in the top 101? Is he as valuable of an asset as some of the top arms in the 2014 MLB Draft?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: It will be a lively debate -- chance to fit in the Top 50 and I can't see him outside of the Top 75 (though that's admittedly more feel based on the profile type). I am looking forward to debating the comparative merits of Reyes and Reynaldo Lopez, personally. Might need to start another debate series when the 101 is preparing to publish.

Shawn (Pittsburg): Pick two offensive prospects not yet on the radar that you expect to break out in a big way in 2015.

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: I don't know what qualifies as off the radar, but there is a lot of talent in the lower levels right now. Just grabbing a few at random Forest Wall, Ti'Quan Forbes, Jakson Reetz, Gleyber Torres, could all have impactful 2015s. New college acquisitions I think Derek Fisher has been overlooked some in the public arena.

justarobert (Santa Clara, CA): We know Kevin Goldstein loved second basemen who could hit, and Jason Parks had a collection of prospect markers that always caught his eye (Texans, Venezuelan shortstops, etc.). What archetypes do you and Chris Mellen especially favor?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: I think I tend to place a high level of import on foundational value -- what sort of value is intrinsic to the profile in question separate from developmental expectations. High baseball IQ, quality defense at present (not just potential), high contact rates and natural bat-to-ball ability, are all big in my book.

JJ (Virginia): Speaking of Soler. How would you compare him and Sano as players? Who has more power, who has the better hit tool? Ultimately, who do you think will be the better player and why?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: Sano has more raw; Soler probably a slightly better hit. Future value depends somewhat on how what Sano looks like when back and healthy, and if he can provide average defense at third base. Assuming he does, I'd give him the nod.

greywilliams (little rock): do you see Addison Russell as more of an A-Rod type of ss who can theoretically stay there deep into the career? If not, which direction does he move- to 4 or 5?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: Russell isn't the big body that Rodriguez was at the same age, but I do think Addy has a good chance to stick at short long term. The lower-half and hands both work and he shows a high level of comfort out there. I would assume the shift would be to third if it does come, as I imagine it would be body/range pushing him in that direction. If the Cubs were to move him to second right now I think he'd handle the position well.

Matt (Kansas City): Is 20 HR in MLB the best case scenario for S. Piscotty in STL?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: I wouldn't go much higher. More likely 15 HR but enough extra-base production otherwise to get the overall power output up around average. Might be driven by hit tool.

RMR (Guelph, ON): Jesse Winker sounds an awful lot like another guy Reds fans have had their eye on for quite some time: Nick Markakis.

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: Markakis was a better runner early in his career than I expect Winker to be, but from a pure offensive production standpoint it's not a completely off-base comp. I don't think Winker's doubles totals match what Markakis put up in his early years, so the overall power would be shy of what Niko produced. They are different enough I wouldn't tie the two profiles, but maybe the career slash lines end up in the same territory.

Mario66 (Pittsburgh): Austin Meadows sounds a lot like Austin Kearns: no standout tool, and the whole is less than the sum of the parts. Hopefully he avoids having his career derailed by a fat guy sitting on his shoulder. What percentage would you put on (1) him developing, say, 20HR / .160 ISO, or (2) sticking in CF (or a Marte-like LF), respectively, so that he enjoys a solid career as an above average regular?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: I have much more confidence he'll hit for power than I do he'll stick in center. When I saw him the spring of his draft year he already had a thick lower-half, broad and thick build, and wasn't particularly graceful. For me the tools have always outdistanced the in-game product, and while I love tools I'd like to see everything come together on the diamond with regularity before buying in fully.

Toggle switch (Rhode Island): Was Rowan Wick in the conversation for the Cardinals prospect list? Seems to be a legit power prospect.

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: There's juice, but also big time swing and miss and a limited defensive profile.

Hank Scorpio (Springfield): With Hanley now going to Boston does that open up a spot for either Alex Guerrero or Darnell Sweeney to move into second base with Dee moving to short?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: The Dodgers could go a lot of different ways, including a short-term bridge to Seager with Gordon staying put. In any event, Guerrero and Sweeney could both impact the Dodgers in a reserve capacity, and each has a chance to be an adequate contributor at the keystone if that's the direction LA elects to pursue.

Hal (Seattle ): What kind of offensive player do you expect DJ Peterson to become, and does he have the hit/power to stick at 1B now that K. Seager is locked up long term?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: Potential 6 hit/6 power; definitely enough bat to profile at first base.

Nate (Indy): What kind of impact do you see Kris Bryant having on the big league club for 2015? Do you see better production than Alcantara/Baez in 2014? I have read a few posts about the Cubs being a potential sleeper in the division and I think that there is going to be a lot of pressure on these guys to perform immediately.

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: As noted in his write-up, I think there is a danger that Bryant goes through not insignificant ups and downs during his first run at the league. There are holes in the swing that MLB arms could better exploit with sequencing and precision, and Bryant is going to have to adjust and figure out how to regularly work for pitches in his kill zone. That said, he's going to punish mistakes right off the bat, and the power is impactful even if it's only in that capacity. In short, his ability to make adjustments at the highest level will determine whether he is a significant offensive contributor right away or hot/cold bat that ends with impressive power numbers for a rookie, but struggles through the course of the season to avoid slumps/strikeouts.

Cal Guy (Cal): Nick, The year is 2040. You've just written your latest bestseller, comparing the great shortstops of one generation (ARod, Jeter, Garciaparra and Tejada) to the next generation (Correa, Russell, Seager and Lindor). Does the second generation even come close to the first when all is said and done?

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: This just popped into my queue and is a good one to end on (I'm sorry I don't have time for more today as there are many, MANY worthy questions remaining on my screen *Commandant Eric Lassard voice*). It will be difficult to compare the raw numbers across those two eras, as I'm not sure we'll ever see that kind of production from the position from another grouping -- I mean, you could argue we'll never see ARod level production again, which basically makes any comparison moot.

That said, is it crazy to envision a book cover with pairings of Jeter/Lindor, Tejada/Russell, ARod/Correa, Nomar/Seager splashed across the front, MLB Ace/Off style? Nope.

NL Central Top 10s With Nick Faleris: Thanks again for all of the great questions; promise next time I'll stick around longer! And thanks for all the great feedback and comments on this year's BP rankings pieces. Mellen, myself, and the whole BP staff from top to bottom have put a lot of effort into the process and I'm glad they are being well received! Happy and safe Thanksgiving to everyone!


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