Four National League arms had notable performances this week, including the two most talked about young guns.
Week two of the baseball season is the time when poor performance from elite players starts to become concerning, and when multiple standout starts from young players begins to elicit Joy-Joy feelings that they have ascended to a new talent tier. Whereas it's easy to dismiss the whims of the first week as single-game outliers, by now most of the top pitchers have toed the rubber multiple times, and the repetition of head-scratching performance can lead us humans down the natural path of assigning causation, whether or not it exists.
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George and J.J. share their bold predictions, featuring two starter sliding into the elite and a potential well-kept secret star on the left side of the infield.
Forecasting the future is notoriously difficult. Just ask PECOTA. One of the most compelling reasons we watch baseball is that it serves as a daily reminder that reality is infinitely complex and nothing is ever certain. Mike Trout’s greatness is the lone constant in the baseball universe. This week at Baseball Prospectus, we're giving a new look and feel to the bold predictions pieces that generally are written in the second half of March. Yes, those are written to help you with drafts, but those drafts are ancient history at this point. What we're aiming at here is what we still believe to be true after two weeks of games are in the books. So, call them bold predictions if you will, but these are some things that we believe.
Jurickson Profar makes his first appearance, but Gregory Polanco remains at the top.
The worst thing for a player who is performing at a high level in the minor leagues is to have a player (or players) ahead of him who is also getting the job done. This goes triple for position players, as a starting pitching prospect will force his way in there if his performance dictates that he deserves a job. If you look at the top names on this list (specifically the first five prospects), part of the reason why they are so prominently ranked is that they are significantly better from a talent perspective than what is ahead of them on the depth chart. Those five players, who are potentially going to be phased out, are (roughly) Travis Snider, Jon Jay, Luis Valbuena, Marc Krauss, and Cody Asche. Those are not impediments, they are placeholders.
The waters get much more murky when you have a player like Alexander Guerrero, who from a talent and performance standpoint should probably get a shot at major league playing time, but is behind Dee Gordon on the depth chart. Normally this wouldn’t be a huge obstacle, but Gordon (and his .385 on-base percentage) has been one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball this season. So while Guerrero ends up in the Honorable Mention section again because he would likely get the call in the event of a Gordon injury, that’s a much less likely outcome than a near replacement player playing like a near replacement level player.
We’ll keep the introduction short this week, but it’s the perfect time to touch on a very important topic, both when trying to predict which prospects will have both 2014 and long-term value.
Minor league statistics are deceiving. That’s not to say they can’t be informative, because they do tell the story of what has actually happened in professional games, but they don’t come close to explaining the whole picture. Take Eddie Butler for example—he’s been pitching well in Triple-A, but with the lowest strikeout rate of his minor league career. You could read this as a bad sign when you’re flipping through his Baseball Reference page, but the reality is that the stuff is still just as good as 2013 (if not better), and the Rockies are asking him to pitch to contact more.
Javier Baez retains the top spot, but there's a new hot prospect ranked second.
Yes, there was no Stash List for the past two weeks, but that was all part of the plan. Any changes would be extremely minimal, as no one wants more overreaction to small sample sizes and there was never going to be much roster movement. Of course, then the Astros go and call up George Springer, and now everyone is eyeing the prospects on their benches and asking “why not me?”
Well, realistically, not for a while. The most impactful area of this column for the first two months of the season deals with prospects, and if you haven’t read Zachary Levine’s analysis on service time, it’s extremely important for stashers like you and me. We all know about Super Two, approximately when the deadline is and why teams do it. But it’s often forgotten that there are some big prospects who come up in the second half of April, once their teams have ensured that they don’t lose a full year of control.