A look at what has changed in the prospect world, viewed through a fantasy lens, since Opening Day.
What can three months teach us about the landscape of talent in the minor leagues? Most of the time, that short span teaches us not to overrate three months of performance. For example, if you had jumped off the Shelby Miller bandwagon at midseason last year, when he had an ERA of around 6.00 in the Pacific Coast League, you probably had a tough time squeezing back onto it when he turned things around. Then again, this isn’t specific to just three months worth of performance—the top of prospect lists are littered with players who had down years and were soured on. Eric Hosmer had a terrible 2009 campaign in Low-A before reestablishing himself as a stud the following season. Wil Myers had an extremely disappointing 2011 season, which caused his prospect star to dim.
And that’s without even getting into the players whose promise wanes without any good reason other than time. As we’ve become more aware of the minor leagues in general, the concept of “prospect fatigue” has taken center stage—and it’s only gotten worse with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper exploding into our consciousness at such a young age. It’s simple: The longer a player remains on the prospect scene, the easier it is to gloss over his talent. You don’t just see this with post-hype prospects like Domonic Brown, Julio Teheran, and Martin Perez (all top-10 talents at one point), but you see it with current members of this list. It’s starting to happen to Billy Hamilton and Jonathan Singleton. The climb for prospects is never one that is straight uphill—and just because a certain player’s stock is down from a fantasy standpoint, that doesn’t mean that the “next big thing” has more value.
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It's a rare player indeed who could make the jump Jose Fernandez made. Jason asks front office executives which ones could handle it next year.
While it might seem silly to speculate about possible 2014 assignments, the unexpected promotion of 20-year-old Jose Fernandez to the major leagues took my mind down a curious path. It’s not every day that a prospect ascends to the highest level without first making a stop in the upper minors, especially when the prospect is only two years removed from high school. It has to start with the opportunity, as unexpected injuries and limited options put the Marlins in a personnel quandary, a situation so distressed that a pitcher with only 11 starts at the High-A level was a reasonable choice to secure a spot in the rotation. What I find more interesting is not the decision itself, but the individual characteristics of the pitcher who made such a decision plausible in the first place.
The jump from the High-A level to the Double-A level is considered the second-largest talent jump in the minors, second only to the jump from Triple-A to the majors, and Fernandez is being asked to make both jumps at the same time. This is a monumental challenge that few prospects in the game could manage, both on a physical level (talent) and an emotional level (makeup). Fernandez has both, with room to spare, which isn’t to suggest his refinement level is up to major-league standards or that the decision to promote him so aggressively should be shielded from criticism; rather, Fernandez possesses the necessary characteristics to make such a leap justifiable, at least from a scouting perspective, and that puts him in elite company in that regard.
The Baseball Prospectus 2013 Top 101 Prospects, by Position, by Organization, and by Age
Yesterday, Jason Parks and the Baseball Prospectus prospect crew released our Top 101 Prospects of 2013, also newly available in printed form in the now-shipping Baseball Prospectus 2013 annual. The festivities were wild and raucous for all, perhaps tempered slightly for fans of the Chicago White Sox. Here is the Top 101 list displayed by position, by organization, and by prospect age. Enjoy!
This year's amateur draft will see a weaker draft class subject to new financial rules, and not everyone--Scott Boras included--thinks that's a good thing.
The general consensus is that this year is a weak draft class, especially when compared to last year's monster collection of talent. For many, the most interesting aspect to this year's draft might not be the usual who is selected by whom, but rather what happens in terms of negotiations between the picks and the teams relative to the new July 13 signing deadline. That deadline isn't the only new rule, as with assigned bonus pools, strict penalties for exceeding them, and the removal of major-league contract offerings, we're entering uncharted waters.
A trio of very highly-regarded pitchers leads off Arizona's top prospect list, but they're not sure things.
Prospect #1: RHP Trevor Bauer Background with Player: My eyes; industry sources Who: Selected with the third overall pick in the 2011 draft, Bauer was seen by many as the most major league ready arm in the class, a pitcher that could ascend to the highest level in short order. Unfortunately known more for his torque-heavy delivery and idiosyncratic warm-up/cool-down routines than his arsenal, Bauer might have the deepest collection of pitches in the minors, a treasure chest of above-average offerings that he creates and crafts like a scientist on the mound; the 21-year-old righty has multiple fastballs thrown with varying velocity and movement, multiple breaking balls (including a plus slider and a plus curve), multiple change-of-pace offerings (including a plus changeup and a trapdoor splitter), not to mention pitches that are unique creations that observations fail to properly identify. His approach and commitment to pitching is as focused as you will find in the game and, despite some early professional struggles with command and control, the total package has a chance to be special. Assuming good health, Bauer will be a number three starter at worst, and if refinement occurs and efficiency improves, he could pitch atop a major league rotation in the very near future.
What Could Go Wrong in 2012: The great irony of Trevor Bauer is that he is viewed as the ultimate baseball rat; he doesn’t breathe oxygen, he actually breathes pitching. From his long-toss routine, to his stretches, to his relentless pursuit of biomechanical-related scholarship, to his home-brewed arsenal, Bauer is consumed by his craft. But one of the knocks on Bauer has been that he often looks more like a thrower than a pitcher, showing an impressive arsenal, but lacking the feel to execute with efficiency. A few scouts suggested that his current inefficiency stems from his laboratory approach to pitching; his need to tinker with his deep arsenal to the point that he forgets his main objective is to coerce outs. These particular sources weren’t sour on his command profile, as they felt he could throw strikes if he made throwing strikes his objective, but they did mention that the poster boy for pitchability was struggling with his pitchability. If it’s really as simple as too much tinkering and not enough touch, Bauer is going to be just fine. He has a ton of toys and he’s still trying to figure out which ones belong in the toy box and which ones belong on the field. The minor leagues are the perfect environment for experimentation, so it’s hard to fault Bauer for striving to examine and refine this particular aspect of his game. However, with a little more focus towards efficiency and strike-throwing, Bauer could be at the major league level, bringing his unique brand of baseball to the biggest stage, and getting the results that could make him a star.
We talk about great pitching prospects being Future No. 1 starters, but what does that really mean?
With both Bryce Harper and Mike Trout getting the call to the big leagues recently, Dylan Bundy is now the official engineer of the Prospect Hype Train, and with good reason. He's faced 52 batters on the young season, and three have reached base, while 25 have struck out. That has prompted the inevitable questions—especially on Twitter—about whether Bundy can become a No. 1 starter. However, becoming a No. 1 starter takes more than just stuff, or more than just command; it takes something that is more than a little bit ineffable.
Kevin Goldstein, ear to the ground, tells you how he hears the draft will go down.
1. Pittsburgh Pirates: Gerrit Cole, RHP, UCLA. Upgrade this call from “lean” to “heavy lean.” It seems clear that Anthony Rendon is out of the picture, so it's between Cole and Danny Hultzen, who did himself few favors by throwing out a big bonus number over the weekend. With no inexpensive option to turn to, Cole is the guy. Last Mock: Gerrit Cole.
Kevin's official Mock Draft will come Monday, but here is the ashcan version, complete with raw notes so you can see how the pieces come together.
What you see below is my current mock draft. Instead of big write-ups, which I’m saving for my final mock draft on Monday, these are the notes from calls and texts in my latest mock worksheet with source names removed. I hope it's a fun look at how the sausage is made.