Jason tries his hand at his own top prospect list, with rankings and commentary.
It’s not that I’m against prospect rankings; it’s just that they’re not my bag. I stand in awe of those who excel at the process of these classifications, as it takes a balanced approach, one measured against the overall subjectivity of the operation. You have to look at the tools and projection, but you also have to respect and appreciate game production, with each prognosticator assigning their own weight to each variable. National writers like Kevin Goldstein, Keith Law, and Jim Callis have established their bones in this particular brand of prognostication, and I always look forward to their lists.
Last week, a Twitter question coerced me to suggest that Jurickson Profar is the top prospect in the minors, a comment that soon prompted a series of follow-up questions about the prospects who would round out my top five. I never intended to execute a formal ranking, mostly because I like to assign tools and projection more weight than I probably should, and once I fall in love with a prospect, I’m hitched for the long haul. I’m a hypocrite: I try to be as objective as possible when scouting a player, but I struggle to remove the thorns of love when it comes to ranking players against each other. Francisco Lindor was going to be in my top 10 regardless of what he did on the field in 2012. I really like Francisco Lindor, and it’s my article, and that’s my approach. Admittedly, it’s not the best approach. But I’m honest about my intentions, and I did try my best to make this more than just a prospect popularity context. As requested, here are the top 10 players in the minors, with detailed write-ups of the top five.
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These guys are so good, they cut glass. They're razor sharp.
The 2012 minor league season has lived nearly half its life, and over the course of the last two and a half months, provided us with the sensational sights, sounds, and smells of the player development machine. We follow closely to monitor the progress of the supermen of tomorrow, their triumphs celebrated and their failures analyzed in graphic detail, a highly invasive process in which we so eagerly participate. The storylines are vast highways of entertainment, often too complex to appreciate in proper detail, but tantalizing enough in their abstract form to keep us content with snapshots. The following are snapshots of the first-half, painted with a wide and often clumsy brush, as I lack the time or the tools to document the blow-by-blow accounts of the campaign with an ultra-fine point. However, along those same lines, I’m going to use quotes from one of my favorite movies in order to set the scenes of the season, and hopefully add some insight through the vehicle of entertainment. “Too many things too many things too many things... I wanna go for a walk. Let's go for a walk.” -Amber Waves
“Start down low with a 350 cube, three and a quarter horsepower, 4-speed, 4:10 gears, ten coats of competition orange, hand-rubbed lacquer with a huplane manifold….Full f*ckin' race cams. Whoo!”
It’s only taken half of a season, but Dylan Bundy has quickly emerged as one the top prospects in the game. Seen by many as the best player available in the historically stacked 2011 draft, Bundy fell to the Orioles with the number four overall pick, and has shoved it ever since, using a plus-plus fastball, a nasty cut fastball, a curveball, and a very promising changeup to carve up the competition. In his first 11 starts in the minors, the 19-year-old native of Oklahoma has only allowed 18 hits in 45 innings pitched, sending 58 down on strikes and issuing an anemic 6 walks. “Aces” are the blue diamonds of the game, and it doesn’t take a keen scouting eye or a Rolodex full of industry sources to realize that Bundy has all the necessary characteristics to reach the lofty ceiling.
The laws of physics dictate that two objects can't occupy the same space, as these blocked prospects can attest.
As we saw at the end of April, sometimes it takes an injury for a prospect to get his opportunity in the big leagues, even for someone like Bryce Harper. For Mike Trout of the Angels, it took a combination of an injury (Vernon Wells) and a release (Bobby Abreu) to create consistent playing time for him in Anaheim. Sometimes the combinations get even more complicated, which was the case with Will Middlebrooks, who—with Kevin Youkilis returning from the disabled list—has stayed in the big leagues because of the position switch from first base to right field for Adrian Gonzalez. They're hardly the only players faced with this problem, as there are plenty of top prospects in the upper levels of the minors who deserve a shot soon, but figuring out how that happens requires some out-of-the-box thinking.
This past weekend saw some improved control, some extended hitting streaks, and a few prospects who might be worth watching after all.
Manny Banuelos, LHP, Yankees (Triple-A Empire State)
On April 12, in his second start of the year, Banuelos walked six over two innings and then hit the disabled list with a minor back injury. The back was clearly affecting his delivery, but control was an issue in 2011 as well, and whether it's getting healthy or just a good run, he's suddenly turned into a strike-throwing machine. Since his return to the rotation—and including six outstanding innings on Sunday—Banuelos has reeled off 14 2/3 innings without issuing a walk, and he's done it without ratcheting down his stuff in terms of velocity or break. It's too early to get excited here, but with both Banuelos and Betances pitching well of late, maybe the Yankees will trust their own this year when a need arrives.
Kevin shares his picks for Minor League Player of the Year honors.
Making pre-season picks for minor league player of the year honors is a bit more complex than doing the same for big league awards. The biggest issue is, of course, playing time. The trio of Rays lefty Matt Moore and outfielders Bryce Harper (Nationals) and Mike Trout (Angels) are universally seen as the top three prospects in baseball, but none is a good pick for 2012 honors: Moore will open the year in the big leagues, and Harper and Trout will likely follow suit. Instead, you need a player who will spend the entire year away from the majors, either in an environment that is conducive to putting up good numbers, or with an assignment where the player can impress for other reasons. Here are my top ten candidates.
While lot of what Jason sees in Arizona doesn't matter, and some of it's just shadows, there's still a lot to report from Surprise.
Day 8: 10:40 PM
It’s late, Patricia, and I’m sorry for not putting fingers to these keys earlier. The sun was magnificent today, like a big, glowing ball of headaches, disorientation, and fire. My eyes starting stinging early, and by noon I realized I was nearing collapse. After the morning workouts and the 1PM game at the big boy stadium–which I will tell you about in a minute–I bypassed a late lunch in order to cool my thoughts in a long shower. I rushed through step three of the showering process because the symptoms of heat stroke were still present and I didn’t feel confident standing in a slippery basin with my eyes closed while negotiating bouts of dizziness. It’s important to avoid cracking your head open.
Day 8: 11:00 PM
I had to drink a glass of flat water with a slice of cucumber gently floating on top. I would have preferred sparkling, but I’ve become particular about my sparkling water and I’m not about to rush into a sloppy water consumption decision just because the selection is limited and my body needs to fight off dehydration. It’s important to stay hydrated, with style when possible. I watched the Royals earlier today, as I tend to do out here in Surprise, and one player in particular caught my eye, as he has every spring since he was drafted. I sat in the scout section behind home plate, allowing the waves of Americana blasting from the stadium P.A. system to crash into my eardrums, waiting to have my eyes opened by a spectacular play or a spectacular player, when from the sky a heroic figure emerged and slowly lowered his human form onto the playing field and picked up a baseball bat. It was Eric Hosmer, and his face was bronze, and his body draped with the cloth of kings, and his skin was wet with the tears of innumerable virgins. His swing was delicious, with a robust finish that was assertive and aggressive, yet tender and passionate.