With the rankings now complete, is our resident prospect man about to turn his back on who he ranked at the top of each position?
Right-Handed Starters Shelby Miller (Cardinals) The Case For: First and foremost, Shelby Miller is a Texan, and therefore already has an advantage over his competition for this title. I’m open about my bias. See the second rule.
From a scouting perspective, Miller has everything I look for in a future top-of-the-rotation arm. With prototypical size (6-foot-3, 195 pounds) and room for additional strength, Miller has the body and the delivery to log innings and maintain his stuff deep into games. His fastball is a legit plus pitch, and can show plus-plus velocity, as he touches the upper 90s at times. The curveball is another above-average offering, flashing plus more than it flashes the potential to be plus, with excellent depth to the break and a tight spin. As with most young power pitchers, Miller’s changeup was underdeveloped in relation to his other offerings when he was drafted, but it has quickly emerged as another plus-potential pitch. It plays well off his fastball with good weight and some arm-side fading action.
While Bryce Harper is the cream of the crop in right field, as it turns out, there are other legit corner outfielders in the minors.
Well, friends, this is it, the final installment in the series (although I am planning on doing a recap article, so I guess that’s not entirely true). It’s been an exercise within an exercise, and by this point in the minor-league season, the initial lists in the series are obsolete. I’d hang myself with the arbitrary noose of the process, but I thought it was fun to compile, and the constant [read: pestering] correspondence with my sources strengthened my willingness to correspond with my sources. Let’s call it professional growth.
Throughout the 11-part series, I’ve tried to put a spin on traditional rankings by mixing up the formula, either by manipulating the display or profiling players based on characteristics other than their present skill level. At times the waters were murky, but I’m a lake man, so I prefer the dangerous swill of that liquid to the pellucid waters of the norm. I wanted to create conversation and consternation, rather than consensus and contentment. One of my biggest pet peeves is the need to make everything black and white, right or wrong, good or bad. Baseballs might come in a box, but the end result should never fit comfortably back into one, so I try to encourage the debate that stems from dissatisfaction, even when the debate is firmly rooted in general ignorance and internet chest inflation.
Though left field may be where players head when they can't play anywhere else on the diamond, there are still some solid prospects at the position.
By the time my phone stopped ringing, and the text messages stopped being texted, and the e-mail stopped finding my inbox, I was left with over 100 outfield prospects with a vote of scout approval listed in my notes. That’s a sprawling canvas to work with, and the opinions were so varied that I needed to alter my approach to this article. So far in this sprawling prospect series, I’ve made every effort to narrow the positional class, usually starting with the “Leader of the Pack (Present),” continuing to the “Leader of the Pack (Future),” followed by the high-ceiling talents, the middle-tier talents, the sleepers, and finally the head-scratcher of the group, leaving a tally of 10-15 players, all of whom have legitimacy in their class. But the talent pool in left field is abstract, as it’s a position that is usually occupied with the deficient spoils of other positions, (center field, second base, etc.), and that opens the queue to a wide range of talent. That puts the onus of positional projection on those I asked, and those opinions were too varied to follow the established construct. So for this specific section of the Positional Primacy series, we have to take another road home.
Here’s my idea: Instead of trying to fit the collection of talent into the established tiers [read: those cute little aforementioned tiers], let’s just make it simple and present the prospects in two categories: “High-Ceiling Division” and “Not-Quite-the-Ceiling-of-the-‘High-Ceiling-Division’-but-Still-Packs-a-Prospect-Punch Division.” Let’s offer up the material in scouting snapshots rather than full-length scouting essays, and let’s free ourselves from the burden of listing every middle-tier prospect at the position, which would keep me here for the rest of my life, writing reports on players like Angelo Songco or Jake Smolinski, and basically drinking myself to death to dull the pain in my fingers. I had to make some choices.
Just because many third basemen are failed shortstops does not mean there isn't an abundant supply of talent at the hot corner.
Leader of the Pack (Present): Anthony Rendon (Nationals) The case for: Even though he has yet to play a professional game, Rendon’s combination of tools and polish make him the face of the position. At the plate, the native Texan (another plus attribute) is able to generate tremendous bat speed; his hands and hips work at near elite levels, and his raw strength is above average. Rendon’s hit tool projects to be plus-plus (70 grade)—which should allow him to become a perennial .300 hitter—with the overall approach to work counts, set up favorable hitting counts, and reach base at a high clip. His power potential ranges from average to plus, with a swing that some believe is better suited for gap-to-gap power, rather than a swing with the necessary loft and backspin to produce 25-plus homers per season without selling out his approach.
In the field, Rendon projects as an above-average defender at third, with both the leather and arm grading out as plus tools, and the instincts necessary to bring the physical package together. Speed isn’t a part of Rendon’s game, but his feet aren’t heavy, and he shows good first-step quickness and reactions. Despite not being a physical force, Rendon has all the attributes necessary to become an All-Star talent at the hot corner, with the ability to hit for average, reach base, hit for some power, and play above-average defense. It remains to be seen if Rendon ends up at third base for the Nationals, but that’s a byproduct of organizational depth, not a developmental deficiency in Rendon’s skill set.