As Jason Parks noted in his prospect rankings primer, this year’s rankings are the product of a collaborative process. Before each system’s prospect list is finalized, members of the BP prospect team trade emails about the players involved, enriching the rankings with their own opinions and perspectives. We’ll be publishing excerpts from the best of those discussions throughout the offseason, generally the day after the prospect lists in question appear. Some exchanges have been edited for language or trimmed to stay on topic.
Jason Parks: I need to open this up again. Based on all the reports I've been given, both Dahl and Story seem like good candidates for the top spot in the Rockies system. But when I was writing up the Dahl evaluation, it seemed clear that he had the higher ceiling, and that risk was the only thing keeping him behind Story. Perhaps my sources were too liberal with their grades, but I have Dahl down as a future 7 hit tool/5 power at a premium position on the diamond. High risk because of age and level, but he has more polish than the average 2012 HS bat. Story is a damn fine prospect (and from Texas), but the tools aren't as loud and the risk isn't all that safer than Dahl given their refinement level.
I don't know. I want to start the debate again. If my Dahl reports are close to the mark, and his stick has a 7 projection, it seems hard to rank him behind Story if he can in fact stick in CF long term. It's a close race, but if they both profile up the middle, the better stick should win out, right?
Do you prefer Dahl or Story?
Jason Churchill: Story. When Dahl shows advanced production versus advanced pitching, maybe he takes over. Not on that wagon yet because he hasn't been tested to that extent. I can't give him credit for something he hasn't done, and I see a 60 hit tool, 55 power.
Hudson Belinsky: I'd go with Dahl. I only got one source on him, but that source was an area scout who wanted him in the top five this year.
Nick Faleris: I have been roundly unimpressed with Dahl's on-field demeanor, but did not see him after he signed. Maybe it was just a case of not being interested in/challenged with HS ball. I think Story's baseball instincts are better. I think Dahl has the higher ultimate ceiling. I'm not sold he's a center fielder, long term. He was much faster than Almora and covered markedly less ground in the same outfield. I know his arm has received solid grades; he was relegated to left field on his travel teams, including his tournament team which had Almora in center (fine, I love Almora) and Jesse Winker in right field (yes, Jesse Winker). If your reports give you confidence Dahl will do what he needs to do in order to grow his game, by all means slot him at #1. I haven't personally seen it, but that doesn't mean it isn't there. I understand why people love him. I think he's an excellent young ball player. For me, personally, if someone tells me I can only have one of them for my farm system, I'm taking Story.
Mark Anderson: I made no secret of my affection for Dahl the first time around. I think the CF profile is there with the tools and I received good reports on his defense after he signed. With that profile and a bat that I see more power in—20 HR and tons of doubles—I think he's a star in the making. On top of that, he's got a strong approach for his age and I think he moves really quickly.
JP: Haha. This is great. We are still locked up. I've asked about 20 people so far and it’s split in that vote as well. This is what I wrote on Story and Dahl (below), based on outside sources (haven't spoken to Rockies yet. It's close. Let's go with Story #1. He has a longer professional record, and the numerous reports about his feel and instincts for the game lessen the risk, IMO. You can make a very good case for Dahl, but the professional sample is just too small right now.
The fifth spot: Will Swanner, or someone else?
JP: Did anybody put eyes on him last year during the season? I have looks in the spring; numerous reports from sources. I spoke to a scout who saw a healthy chunk of games. Had raised eyebrows about his #5 ranking. He said Swanner has very little chance of sticking behind the plate; lots of raw power, but an approach that will get destroyed by pitchers who have a plan. That's the most extreme report so far. Most have been mixed about his future behind the plate; all agree on power; approach needs work; hit tool isn't great; 3 runner at age 21.
Having some doubt.
JC: Very little chance to catch, IMO. I didn't see him live during the season, but no scout likes him defensively… assuming he's a 1B/RF/DH with average defensive value, there's still a nice bat in there. I just don't think he's a fast tracker—it's going to take some time. I also am not a fan of Parker, however. I'd still go Swanner over Parker, but Bettis and Anderson could make more sense ahead of Swanner.
NF: I guess, for me, it's a question of Bettis/Anderson/Swanner/Parker all having warts. If I am picking one prospect between Swanner and Bettis I go Swanner because of the unpredictability of Bettis rebounding from injury (healthy Bettis, I think, could have been #3). Anderson is still a non-dominant stuff guy that gets points for deception and left-handedness, but is a college kid that hasn't advanced out of A-ball and will be 23 next year. Parker had a really nice year in the Cal league, but is likely going to be 24 before he reaches the bigs and I'd like to see more than a season in the Cali before I'm convinced the offensive approach questions are quelled. Absolutely Swanner has big issues, but he didn't turn 21 until after the season ended and has at least a chance to be a backstop. I could see arguments for re-arranging these four—just keep in mind it's a real possibility that Swanner in the Cali with some adjustments could look a lot like Parker in the Cali, only a year younger and with a shot to be a catcher. My biggest concern with ranking would be assigning too much value to the chance Swanner sticks behind the plate. To my mind, he controls a lot of that outcome in how much he wants to work on his body and flexibility. If you believe the makeup and the approach give him a shot to be a C, he's got to be #5 to me. If there are concerns he's a 1b, he's maybe 7 or 8.
JC: Hit tool: Parker 45 with a 50 ceiling; Swanner 35-40 now, 45/50 absolute ceiling, but with a full grade more power. I'm suggesting I'd rather take the risk that Swanner is Ryan Ludwick or better than settle for a similar player with less power to offer.
IMO, neither are everyday players, but reserves generally need to bring something plus to the table. Parker doesn't have it. It's pretty clear Swanner has done more in his pro career than has Parker, considering the age/experience/level factors.
Probability means squat to me when the likely end-result is a bench guy. If we were putting together a 25-man MLB roster, Parker would make more sense. But Swanner has so much more room to grow than Parker. If you tossed 10 players at me for a draft in which I had the No. 1 pick and Parker and Swanner were the best two, there's no chance I'm taking Parker. Not much projection left there. All I'm sacrificing, IMO, is an extra outfielder, if Swanner peters out in Double-A and ends up on the scrap heap in the PCL.
NF: Thanks, that makes sense and, I think, is the real crux of the issue. What's the calculus in comparing these players? To be honest, I'd raise an eyebrow at a system with Bettis, Tyler, Swanner or Parker at #5. They all have big questions, with Bettis having the best profile but being a bit of an unknown coming off this summer. Jason, how much weight do you give to this negative scout's opinion? Is he generally a strong evaluator when it comes to projecting out the areas upon which he's opining? Mixed bag?
JP: The evaluator is solid; a bit old-school with his developmental checklists: "Catcher doesn't look like a catcher at this stage of the game, he's not going to be a catcher." I trust his opinions, just like I trust the opinions of people on this email list, but he has his built-in biases and he doesn't back off evals very often.
But the reports on Swanner's progress behind the plate haven't been glowing, even when the attitude of the source was a little more optimistic. He has good arm strength, but doesn't throw all that well; he isn't a very good receiver; his footwork can look clumsy; shows some of the intangible qualities, but the package isn't there. He's a bat. The question is how good a bat? 4/5 hit; 6+ raw that probably plays lower; not enough speed for the outfield; 1B/DH type. Damn, that profile doesn't offer much when you spell it out.
Bettis is looking like a better #5 candidate and he didn't pitch last season because of an injury. That's rough.
JC: I bet we could get a halfway objective injury update from the club on Bettis that might help...
JP: Good timing. I'm supposed to call [redacted] about some stuff. I'll ask about it. If he's healthy and feeling good, I'd lean towards him over Swanner/Parker, even if he's a reliever, which I believe he will be. Could be nasty with that mid-90s cheese and the upper-80s slider.
NF: I have no issue with Bettis at 5 with solid health reports.