So, the prospect ranking season has come and gone. Obviously, it continues all year as prospects on various rankings either live up to, exceed or fail to meet expectations. Over on our Prospect Watch, we will update lists especially as players “graduate” off of them (when they get past rookie status levels).
By now, though, most, if not all, of the big prospect watchers have put out their lists. It’s always fun to compare and contrast the lists — it’s why we do them in the first place, right? It leads to more conversations and debate.
It seems like there is general agreement on a “Big 4” and I’m honored that people put me on this Prospect Mount Rushmore. The others, in no particular order, are the fine folks at Baseball America, Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus and ESPN’s Keith Law. You’ll need a subscription to read some of the stuff, but if you’re a junkie, it’s worth it.
That doesn’t mean, by the way, that there aren’t many, many other prospect rankings to digest out there. There’s Project Prospect and John Sickels’ MinorLeagueBall (list coming out today, it seems), just to name a couple more. Seriously, a search for rankings would keep you busy for a long, long time.
For now, though, lets stick to the first four mentioned. What would a combined list of all four of our rankings’ look like? Would it be the most thorough list ever? I started compiling in a spreadsheet a while ago, thinking I’d post this. Before I got around to it, BaseballbyTom beat me to it with a combined Top 50 list, something he called the Frankenlist.
I’m going to go a little further. It’s a simple process really. Average out the placement on all four of our lists and rank according to that average. For simplicity, anyone who didn’t appear on one of our lists got a 101 ranking. I’m not breaking ties, just running the ranking as is (Matt Moore and Bryce Harper have the same average, for example. Moore has two No. 1 rankings, Harper has one. But Moore has one No. 3 ranking and Harper was ranked No. 2 by the other three who didn’t put him first… you decide who’s No. 1 there). In total by count, 138 players made at least one Top 100. While Yu Darvish and Yoenis Cespedes only made it into one list, I included them (BA’s rankings with 101s from the rest of us). Here’s all 138 with their average score:
The deal is now official and A.J. Burnett is a Pirate. I think this was a good deal for the Pirates, a flier worth taking. Rather than get into that into too much detail, I suggest you read my colleague Matthew Leach’s take on it. He’s smarter than I am anyway.
One of the things that does make it a positive is that the Pirates didn’t give up too much from their ever-improving farm system to get him. Not that long ago, of course, any trade that sent minor leaguers away from Pittsburgh hurt. But there’s so much more depth now. Even if the Pirates don’t have the top system in baseball, it’s come a long way. I noticed it particularly when I was constructing their Top 20 prospects list. It used to be difficult to find 20 guys worthy of being listed on such a rankings. Now there are leftovers who could be legitimate prospects in the future.
When you have some depth, you can trade a couple of pieces away and not have it derail efforts to build a system up. In the past, a player like Diego Moreno, the pitcher going to the Yankees in the Burnett deal, may have been protected on the 40-man roster. But not this past offseason.
The 25-year-old Moreno, signed back in 2006 for $6,000 out of Venezuela, hasn’t exactly moved quickly, with just a smattering of games above A ball. And yes, he had some disciplinary problems earlier. But he does have arm strength that’s allowed him to strike out 9.8 per nine batters. He’s also walked only 2.3 per nine and a scout I spoke with said he’s generally a strike-thrower. When he first signed, he was throwing about 86-88 mph. Today, he’ll touch 98 mph and couples it with a wipe-out slider that breaks bats. He’s started and relieved, with most thinking that his plus two-pitch mix is ideal for bullpen work. He still needs to show he can get hitters out at higher levels, but perhaps his strong showing in the Venezuelan Winter League this offseason will help.
The Pirates spent much more to sign the second player in the deal, outfielder Exicardo Cayones. Both Cayones and Moreno were signed by Latin American scouting director Rene Gayo and scouting supervisor Rodolfo Petit in Venezuela. The Pirates gave Cayones $400,000 in 2008, the most they had paid any player from Venezuela (It had been noted it was the largest payout given to any international amateur player by the Pirates and that was true, at least until they gave Mexican RHP Luis Heredia $2.6 million in 2010.
Cayones is still just 20, so there’s time for him to tap into his solid tools. He’s a graceful player who still needs to develop and mature physically. He’s received comps to Carlos Beltran, both in terms of his actions and temperament. For him to reach his potential, though, he’ll have to show a little more intensity, a little more sense of urgency in his game. He’s spent two summers in the Gulf Coast League and will have to show soon an ability to move up and face the challenge of a more advanced league.
So while the Yankees largely made this deal to rid themselves of Burnett and a chunk of his salary, and while the Pirates didn’t give up anyone “of note” for Burnett, there is the chance that this pair of Venezuelans could pay some dividends. The chances might be slim, the payoff might not be huge and it may take some time, but there is a little talent there to keep an eye on in the coming years.
Well, it looks like this A.J. Burnett to the Pirates trade is all but official. One thing that’s not known at this point is who the Pirates are sending to the Yankees in return, other than what are being considered “low-level prospects.” So the question is: What does low-level mean?
There are some obvious prospects who won’t be on the table either, starting with names on the Top 20 list.I’ve been told by a source that no one on that current Top 20 is involved in this deal. So, Pirates fans who were worried that “low-level” for one person might not be for someone else, you can relax. Anyone from the 2011 Draft is excluded anyway — you can’t trade them yet — so here are the rest of the names of Pirates prospects who will not be included in this deal:
Zack Von Rosenberg
More as I can get info…
If you’ve been over on Prospect Watch the last couple of weeks, I’m hoping you’ll understand why I haven’t been on here in a while. We’ve provided quite a bit of prospect-related content over there:
- Top 10 by position
- Top 100 overall
- Top 20 per organzation
That’s at least 600 player profiles for your perusal. Needless to say, this took a while to put together. It was largely a labor of love (at least that’s what I tell myself). I’d also like to say that every effort like this has unsung heroes, those who do all the heavy lifting but don’t get any credit. For Prospect Watch, that person is Jason Ratliff, who’d likely get annoyed I mentioned him in this capacity. But without him, Prospect Watch doesn’t exist. Plain and simple.
Please look around PW (as we like to call it) and let me know what you like, don’t like, etc. I’ll leave you with 2 questions and with a promise to start blogging more consistently again.
1. Who is the best prospect not listed on a team Top 20? Give a few nominees if you’d like in comments.
2. What else would you like to see on PW? Some things we might have in the works include an international amateur Top 20 and a Draft Top 100… so keep coming back.