Now the fun really begins.
Over the course of March, we will be unveiling all of our team Top 20 lists. Today, we will have three (Mondays will be stacked like that as we wanted to avoid going live with these over the weekend): The Atlanta Braves, New York Mets and Miami Marlins.
Along with the Top 20s, we will have reports from Spring Training camps for each team. I’ve been running around Florida for the past week, Teddy Cahill will take the baton from me to finish off Florida and Jim Callis will handle the bulk of Arizona.
With each camp visit, I invariably ended up with way too much information, so I’m going to use this space to share some of the conversations I had with prospects and team executives.
I’m also going to include “One More Guy” — a prospect who didn’t crack the Top 20, but would likely be in the next group, say Nos. 21-25, and could be an in-season replacement when the need arises.
OK, ready for more? Here’s some more from my conversation with Brandon Nimmo:
Were you surprised you got the call to attend big league camp?
Nimmo: It came as a little bit of a surprise, but I knew I was ready for it. I was ready for this opportunity. I’m just trying to take advantage of every opportunity that I get and enjoy this experience. I plan to be here a lot more often, so hopefully this isn’t the only big league Spring Training I go to and I don’t think that’s what they’re planning on, either. They’re just trying to get me around these guys and obviously, I can contribute to the team, too. I have everything I bring to the table, and I’m confident in that, but I’m very humbled to be here.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve been able to glean so far, where you can say, “Clearly, I’m not there yet.” What do you really need to work on to move yourself closer?
Nimmo: They’re very consistent in what they do. That has to do with the routine they get into to get ready for the days. They have specific things they need to do to get ready for the day. They know how to do them and do them very well. I think that’s the biggest difference between Major Leaguers and Minor Leaguers, is that consistency, an ability to perform on a consistent basis. I think that’s the biggest thing I have to improve on just from watching these guys right now.
I also spoke to catcher Anthony Recker about some of the young arms he’s been able to catch in camp. Here’s what he had to say:
Recker: I thought last year when I caught Rafael Montero, he was ready to make the next step. He looked really good. I really liked Jake DeGrom, his ability to spot up, ability to make adjustments. I’d say the same thing for Montero, his ability to make adjustments on the fly. You miss in a certain spot, or you miss up, to be able to make the adjustment and get it down with the very next pitch is really big, especially in Major League Baseball. We have several young guys who have shown the ability to do that. There are a good handful that seem ready to compete for a job, whether its now or later in the season. They look really good.
I spoke at length with Dick Scott, the farm director, and he compared to the Mets system now to a few years ago.
Scott: Before, we had Matt Harvey here, so as far as specific players, we had guys here, guys going to the big leagues and contributing. Lucas Duda was in the minor leagues, you had Harvey in the minor leagues. Now, it’s the volume, it’s Montero, it’s Syndergaard, picking those two guys up in the trade. Plus we got Buccera here as well, a 20 year old who was in the GCL who’s athletic. I thnk our sheer volume has increased. We also have guys down through the younger levels. We have Nimmo, we have Amed Rosario, Ceccchini. We feel we have a long way to go. The other part of that is you do’t know how many of these guys are going to be able to perform at the Major League level.
On the cyclical nature of farm system strength:
Scott: I think that happens in every organization at some point. There are organizations that trade Minor League players to make a run at a big league playoff and you’re going to be thin at some point. You ‘re not going to have as deep a list as maybe you had three years ago. I think ours is getting deeper. It’s a work in progress, but compared to a couple of years ago, [we're improved].
And he had more to say about our breakout candidate, Gabriel Ynoa:
Scott: He’s a strike throwing machine. What’s amazing with him and Montero, they just pound the zone. Sometimes those guys come in and they just have it. He won a lot of games for us last year, so it’s not like nobody’s heard of him, but his stuff is improving. He has a great feel for pitching, he’s athletic, probably 93-94 mph fastball, very good feel for a changeup. He just throws strikes. He’s always in the bottom of the zone, pitches to both sides of the plate. He’s one of those guys, the people who were in the SAL league last year know about him. He’s always thrown strikes, but his stuff has just gotten tighter, his breaking ball is a little tighter, the feel on his changeup. He throws a 2 and 4 seam fastball. He has great poise.
Finally, here’s One More Guy from the Mets system:
Jack Leathersich: It’s a sign of just how much deeper this system is that this lefty didn’t make the cut. He was No. 17 at season’s end last year. A one-time starter, he’s taken well to relief work as a pro. His strikeout rates are insane (15.2 K/9 in his Minor League career), using stuff and deception to miss bats. His command is just so-so, but he should impact the big league bullpen at some point this year.
The Top 100 season is more or less behind us, with most everyone having put out their version of the list. Some have even put out some version of what I’m going to list below, which is a composite list, smooshing together all of the lists to come up with a consensus ranking.
There are so many lists out there these days, but I’ve decided to limit the uber-100 (plus) to five lists: Ours at MLBPipeline.com (duh); Baseball America; Keith Law at ESPN (subscription needed); Baseball Prospectus, courtesy of Jason Parks; and FanGraphs, from Marc Hulet.
Rather than assign points, I used an average ranking. Anyone not on a list got a 101 ranking.
- 70 players appeared on all 5 lists. Another 11 appeared on 4 of the 5, 18 were on 3 of the 5.
- I did not include the three guys on BA’s list who aren’t eligible for ours (Masahiro Tanaka, Josey Abreu, Carlos Martinez), there were 135 total prospects mentioned on a list somewhere.
- The biggest differences in our list from average, in terms of us having a guy higher on the list than the average: Allen Webster (+41.4), Lance McCullers Jr (+34.4) and Jake Odorizzi (+24)
- The biggest differences between us and the average, with us having a guy lower down on our list: Matt Wisler (-28.2), J.P. Crawford (-25.8) and Braden Shipley (-25).
- There was unanimity only on the top two guys, Byron Buxton and Xander Bogaerts. Four of the five lists had Oscar Taveras at No. 3. The first 62 names did appear on all five rankings.
Food for thought. The list is 135 deep, and I didn’t do anything in particular to break ties. Here it is:
|32||Raul Adalberto Mondesi||SS||KC||36.40||5|
|84||Lance McCullers Jr.||RHP||HOU||86.40||2|
|93||Delino DeShields Jr.||OF||HOU||89.80||2|
|110||Chi Chi Gonzalez||RHP||TEX||94.80||1|
The college baseball season got underway last weekend and even though weather wreaked some havoc, there were enough names from our Draft Top 50 (from the fall) who did get to play. A quick rundown of who did what over the weekend, in order of where they are ranked on the Top 50 (hopefully this will become a regular feature):
1. Carlos Rodon, LHP, NC State: 6 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, L vs. Canisius
2. Jeff Hoffman, RHP, East Carolina: 6 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, ND vs. James Madison
4. Trea Turner, SS, NC State: 3-4, SB vs. Canisius
6. Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt: 5 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, W @ Long Beach State
11. Aaron Nola, RHP, LSU: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, W vs. New Orleans
14. Kyle Schwarber, C, Indiana: 3-for-15, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 K @ Texas Tech
15. Derek Fisher, OF, Virginia: 5-for-11, 5 R, 3 RBI, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 BB, 2 K @ Hughes Brothers Challenge
17. Sean Newcomb, LHP, Hartford: Did not play
19. Bradley Zimmer, OF, San Francisco: 6-for-12, 3 R, 2 2B, 1 SB, 2 BB, 1 K @ UC Riverside
20. Max Pentecost, C, Kennesaw State: 8-for-13, 4 R, 2 RBI, 3 2B, 2 BB vs. Middle Tenn. State
21. Brandon Finnegan, LHP, TCU: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 13 K, W vs. Jacksonville
22. Erick Fedde, RHP, UNLV: 7.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 11 K, W vs. Central Michigan
23. Luke Weaver, RHP, Florda St.: 6 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, W vs. Niagara
24. Kyle Freeland, LHP, Evansville: 5 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, W @ Lipscomb
27. Michael Cederoth, RHP, San Diego St.: 3.2 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 6 K, L @ San Jose St.
28. Michael Conforto, OF, Oregon St.: 5-for-10, 5 R, 8 RBIs, 1 2B, 4 BB @Husker Classic
30. Matt Chapman, 3B, Fullerton: 4-for-13, 2 R, 3 BB, 3 K, 1 2B vs. Washington St.
33. Nick Burdi, RHP, Louisville: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, W @Homewood Suites Tournament
36. Dylan Davis, OF, Oregon St.: 4-for-12, 1 R, 5 RBI, 1 @B, 2 BB, 3 K @Husker Classic
45. J.D. Davis, OF/RHP , Fullerton: 5-13, 4 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 3 K, 1 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR; 1 IP ,1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K, W, vs. Washington St.
Some feedback from scouts:
- Two mentioned Erick Fedde’s performance against Central Michigan as being impressive (and thought Jordan Foley from Central Michigan was pretty good, though he’s more of a 2nd-3rd round type).
- While Luke Weaver’s numbers looked good agaist Niagara, one scout thought he was just so-so. Weaver pitched at 90-91 with a short slider and a decent changeup.
Yes, you heard me. You might be reading this while looking out at snow and ice, but not only are pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training, but the amateur season has started in some of the warm weather areas.
Over the past week or so, I’ve been starting to get some info from scouts who are already hitting the road and making sure they’re seeing as many players as they can between now and the Draft. And I’ll try to relay any pertinent information when I can, hopefully in a slightly more timely fashion. But I do have reports on early outings from a pair of intriguing high school arms.
Sean Reid-Foley, ranked No. 31 in the Draft Top 50 we released last fall, made his first outing recently in Florida at his Sandalwood High School’s kickoff tournament. The right-hander wasn’t really sharp, but that’s not so surprising given how early it is. For his first outing of the year, he was still fairly efficient, throwing his fastball 90-94 mph while also using an 82-87 mph slider and 82-85 mph changeup throughout his three innings.
Heading way out west, Kodi Medeiros also got a lot of early attention for his first outing. Several scouting directors made the trip out to Hawaii (who wouldn’t?) to watch the lefty ranked No. 25 on that Top 50). He didn’t disappoint, striking out seven in 2 2/3 innings. His fastball sat in the 92-94 mph range with good arm side life and his slider was really tough to hit, a 79-81 sweeping breaking ball.
Obviously, it’s early and there’s much, much more to come. But I thought this might whet the appetites of the Draft fans out there.
Our most recent Pipeline Perspectives is up on the MLBPipeline.com now. Jim Callis and I debate which teams have the best trio of prospects in the game. I went for the Cubs combination of Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Albert Almora. Jim advocated for the Twins trio of Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Alex Meyer.
As we’ve tried to get in the habit of doing, both of us are blogging about the subject as well. Jim ranked his favorites. By now, you know me… I like using our Prospect Points system to see how things shake out. So I took the top trio from every organization that had three or more prospects in the Top 100 (the Red Sox could have had three trios, for example, but I only took one) and ranked them using our points system. A quick refresher: 100 points for the No. 1 prospect, 99 for No. 2, all the way down to one point for the last prospect in the Top 100. Here’s what the “standings” look like:
|1||Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Alex Meyer||MIN||270|
|2||Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora||CHC||269|
|3||Carlos Correa, Mark Appel, George Springer||HOU||257|
|4||Gregory Polanco, Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow||PIT||247|
|5||Xander Bogaerts, Henry Owens, Jackie Bradley||BOS||238|
|6||Kyle Zimmer, Yordano Ventura, Raul Alberto Mondesi||KC||205|
|7||Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, Rafael Montero||NYM||185|
|8||Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Eduardo Rodriguez||BAL||184|
|9||Jonathan Gray, Eddie Butler, David Dahl||COL||177|
|10||Francisco Lindor, Clint Frazier, Trevor Bauer||CLE||172|
|11||Corey Seager, Joc Pederson, Zach Lee||LAD||170|
|12||Andrew Heaney, Colin Moran, Jake Marisnick||MIA||158|
|13||Austin Hedges, Max Fried, Matt Wisler||SD||158|
|14||Oscar Taveras, Kolten Wong, Stephen Piscotty||STL||144|
|15||Archie Bradley, Chris Owings, Braden Shipley||ARI||142|
|16||Jorge Alfaro, Rougned Odor, Michael Choice||TEX||133|
|17||Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, Roberto Osuna||TOR||132|
|18||Jake Odorizzi, Hak-Ju Lee, Taylor Guerrieri||TB||69|
In today’s MLBPipeline Perspectives, Jim Callis and I debated which teams we thought had the best pitching prospects tandem in baseball. Jim went with Jon Gray and Eddie Butler of the Rockies. I opted for the right-handed combo of Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow from the Pirates.
Jim went on to blog his rankings for the top pitching prospect duos in the game over on Callis’ Corner. I must admit I’m a bit dismayed he put my Taillon-Glasnow third on his list, but I’ll get over it.
To extract some measure of revenge, however, I wanted to provide my own rankings, of a sort. I used it in my argument in picking Taillon and Glasnow: the Prospect Points. That’s the system we used to provide an organizational standings from the Top 100 list. I used the same idea — 100 points for the No.1 prospect, 99 for No. 2 (Jon Gray gets 87 points for being No. 14, as a result)., etc. Using this system, here’s how the top tandems in the Top 100 (only one pairing for an organization listed eve if they have more than two pitchers in the Top 100) stack up:
1. Taillon and Glasnow, Pirates: 165 points. I rest my case.
2. Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, Orioles: 159 points. Jim’s not the only one who can put the O’s No. 2.
3. Gray and Butler, Rockies: 147 points. A distant third.
4. Kyle Zimmer and Yordano Ventura, Royals: 142 points. A lot of power coming towards KC.
5. Alex Meyer and Kohl Stewart, Twins: 134 points. Stewart’s development could raise their stock.
6. Mark Appel and Lance McCullers Jr.: 133 points. Even if McCullers ends up a reliever, this is a good tandem.
7. Henry Owens and Allen Webster, Red Sox: 126. First lefty mentioned on this list.
8. Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman, Blue Jays: 124. If you told me this duo would outperform some ahead, I wouldn’t argue.
9. Archie Bradley and Braden Shipley, D-backs: 118. Shipley is one of my picks for guys in the 51-100 range who could jump up the list in his first full seaosn.
10. Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero, Mets: 106. Music to Mets fans ears as both are close to contributing in New York.
11. Andrew Heaney and Justin Nicolino, Marlins: 92. The only double-lefty combo; both could be established in Miami’s rotation by 2015.
12. Lucas Giolito and A.J. Cole, Nationals: 89. I’d keep an eye on this pair, they could move up this ranking in a hurry.
13. Max Fried and Matt Wisler, Padres: 81. I think Fried could establish himself as top lefty by end of year.
14. Kyle Crick and Edwin Escobar, Giants: 75. Interesting combination of power (Crick) and more pitchability (Escobar).
15. Zach Lee and Julio Urias, Dodgers: 75. Urias is so young, but if the lefty keeps doing what he’s done so far, he’ll move up quickly.
16. C.J. Edwards and Pierce Johnson, Cubs: 60. Chicago known more for its hitting prospects right now, but this is still a solid duo.
17. Jake Odorizzi and Taylor Guerrieri, Rays: 52. Guerrieri’s suspension and injury hurt their standing.
Jim Callis and I just duked it out in our most recent Pipeline Perspectives (I hope you guys are enjoying this series as much as we are writing them). The topic: The best hitting/pitching prospect duo in baseball. In case you missed it, I picked the Twins’ combination of Byron Buxton and Alex Meyer. Jim chose the Astros’ Carlos Correa and Mark Appel.
Here’s the video version of our debate:
Obviously, I’m right.
In all seriousness, that’s a very close call. And there are a number of other very interesting duos around baseball that should be exciting to watch in the future:
Gregory Polanco (OF) and Jameson Taillon (RHP), Pirates: Polanco is No. 13 on the Top 100; Taillon is No. 16. They’re the only other tandem in the Top 20.
Travis d’Arnaud (C) and Noah Syndergaard (RHP), Mets: d’Arnaud is the highest rated catcher, at No. 22; Syndergaard is No. 11 overall.
Xander Bogaerts (SS) and Henry Owens (LHP), Red Sox: Bogaerts, complete with his World Series experience, is No. 2. Owens is the 2nd-highest rated lefty on the list at No. 30.
Others in the Top 100 (taking the top hitting and pitching prospect from each organization, and only listing one pairing per system):
Chris Owings, SS (77) and Archie Bradley, RHP (5), D-backs
D.J. Peterson, 3B (88) and Taijuan Walker, RHP (6), Mariners
Javier Baez, SS (7) and C.J. Edwards, RHP (42), Cubs
Francisco Lindor, SS (10) and Trevor Bauer, RHP (73), Indians
David Dahl, OF (71) and Jon Gray, RHP (14), Rockies
Nick Castellanos, 3B (15) and Robbie Ray, LHP (97), Tigers
Billy Hamilton, OF (37) and Robert Stephenson, RHP (19), Reds
Austin Hedges, C (24) and Max Fried, LHP (43), Padres
Adalberto Raul Mondesi, SS (38) and Kyle Zimmer, RHP (25), Royals
Maikel Franco, 3B (26) and Jesse Biddle, LHP (53), Phillies
Colin Moran, 3B (51) and Andrew Heaney, LHP (29), Marlins
Corey Seager, SS (34) and Zach Lee, RHP (63), Dodgers
Hak-Ju Lee, SS (84) and Jake Odorizzi, RHP (56), Rays
Christian Bethancourt, C (82) and Lucas Sims, RHP (60), Braves
Matt Davidson, 3B (80) and Erik Johnson, RHP (70), White Sox
As most of you hopefully know, we released the MLBPipeline.com Top 100 Prospects list on Thursday night. Check it out, peruse it, pick it apart, if you haven’t already done so.
As is always the case, a number of players don’t make it that you could make a case for inclusion. And then there are some you may feel you like, or want to see what they do this year (having the potential to jump onto the list). Jim Callis has created his own list over at Callis’ Corner. I’m going to do the same (without looking at his first).
Keep in mind, this should not be regarded as a ranking for 101-115. It’s really more of a “guys I like” list (lots o’ 2013 draftees) — many of them could end up in the Top 100 as others graduate out, but this certainly isn’t a guarantee of who’s next.
J.P. Crawford, SS, Phillies: The Phillies’ top pick at No. 16 overall, if Crawford goes out this year and shows he can hit like he did in his pro debut, he’ll make believers out of all who weren’t 100 percent sure about the bat.
Rafael De Paula, RHP, Yankees: Just missed the cut of this year’s Top 100, has gotten past all the identity nonsense, missed a ton of bats in 2013. He has the chance to have three average or better pitches and could start moving fast.
Hunter Dozier, 3B, Royals: I know what you’re thinking: I’m doing this just to get back in the good graces of the Royals after many felt I buried this pick at the Draft. Not so (well, not entirely). He had a terrific debut with the bat and should hit for average and power while playing a solid third base.
Marco Gonzales, LHP, Cardinals: The No. 19 pick in last year’s Draft, not only is the Gonzaga product as media savvy as they come, he has the kind of feel for pitching (especially since he’s not hitting anymore) that could allow him to move quickly to St. Louis.
Brian Goodwin, OF, Nationals: I’m a sucker for toolsy outfielders (as you’ll see). I will say this, though: It’s time for him to start matching performance with his raw tools. The clock is ticking.
Courtney Hawkins, OF, White Sox: Toolsy, outfielder, see? After a tremendous summer debut post Draft backflip, a lot went wrong for Hawkins in 2013, though Chicago aggressively pushed him to the Carolina League. I think he bounces back in 2014 and shows why he was worthy of going No. 13 overall in 2012.
Nick Kingham, RHP, Pirates: More good news for the Pirates. He’s a big, strong right-hander who reached Double-A in 2013 (meaning he could be ready to contribute this season) while finishing second in the system in strikeouts, fourth in ERA, third in WHIP and second in batting average against.
Reese McGuire, C, Pirates: Fellow high school first-round pick by the Pirates Austin Meadows made the Top 100, but McGuire isn’t far behind. Good chance to be an excellent all-around receiver; can’t wait to see how he follows up on his stirring pro debut.
Dorssys Paulino, SS, Indians: Paulino cracked the Top 100 late last year, just missed (in my opinion) this time around. He’ll play all of 2014 at age 19. He might end up at 2B, but he could be a good one there.
Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, Red Sox: Just what we need, another Red Sox prospect, right? Ranaudo had a terrific 2013 and should be ready to contribute in the big leagues this year. He might be one of those guys who never is valued that highly on lists, but who goes on to be very productive as a Major Leaguer.
Hunter Renfroe, OF, Padres: I liked him as a rare toolsy college guy in the 2013 Draft. I’m very curious to see how he adjusts to more advanced pitching over the course of his first full season. But the tools are all there for him to be an exciting player to watch.
Marcus Semien, INF, White Sox: This isn’t a result of this tweet, which led to a longer back-and-forth:
While I still like Wong more, I do like Semien. Some power, some speed, has shown an ability to play three infield positions. And he’s going to help in Chicago this year.
Dom Smith, 1B, Mets: I think we got more questions about his proximity to the Top 100 than anyone else. The No. 11 pick in last year’s Draft had a solid pro debut and most feel the first baseman is going to hit. If he does as expected, look for him to be the next 1B to hit the Top 100.
Bubba Starling, OF, Royals: Even though he fell off the Top 100, I’m not ready to give up on him yet. He’s still only 21 and he has a ton of raw tools. He’s going to have to show he can hit advanced pitching, but I’m not going to throw in the towel just yet.
Jesse Winker, OF, Reds: This guy just hits. Period. He has the chance to be a batting leaders type of hitter with some pop and run-producing ability. His bat + the California League could equal big numbers, and I could see him finishing the year in Double-A.
It’s hard to believe that it’s here! But it is — MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects list will be live on the site on Thursday (Jan. 23). Jim Callis and I will join Greg Amsinger and John Hart in the MLB Network studios for the now annual look at the Top 50 on that list. The show is airing on the Network and streaming on MLB.com at 10 p.m. ET.
That, of course, is just part of the coverage. We will be tweeting during the show and will be joined by a number of the top players as well. Use the hashtag #MLBPipeline to join us. Or, if you’re in NY, join Jim and I at Foley’s in the city. We’re doing a tweet up there and will be happy to discuss the list with you. Then, on Friday, at 2 p.m. ET, Jim and I will be doing a live video chat on MLB.com.
As I’m hoping you’ve already seen and checked out on MLBPipeline.com, we began the rollout with new Top 10 by position lists. There’s been healthy voting on the polls and debate in the comments of these stories. And, of course, people claiming that there are missing names for the list. So I decided to pick who my No. 11 for each position would be (Jim did it as well over on Callis’ Corner). Here it goes and hope to see you on Twitter, at Foley’s and/or on MLB.com on Friday! I went in reverse order of how they went live on the site.
Outfield: This is a deep position, so whoever comes next is still on the Top 100 list. But I think I’ll go with the Pirates’ Josh Bell, who missed nearly all of his first full season when he hurt his knee, then came back in 2013 and showed the kind of offensive potential that made the Pirates give him a record bonus.
Third base: I’m a big Ryan McMahon fan. Have been since I saw him play in the National High School Invitational at USA Baseball. A former high school quarterback, McMahon had an impressive pro debut last summer with the Rockies and I can’t wait to see what he does in his first full season.
Second base: This list thins out as you go down , but there are some guys who intrigue me. And I’m going to go with a guy who’s actually spent more time playing shortstop than second thus far, though the Mariners’ Chris Taylor did split time between second and short in the Arizona Fall League (and has seen some time at second in the Minors). Most importantly, he’s hit: .316/.411/.449 since being a fifth-rounder in the 2012 Draft and .294/.351/.426 in the AFL.
First base: Speaking of weak lists… Matt Skole might be the best one next, and we talked about him in “Next Up.” But I’m going to actually give the Brewers’ Hunter Morris some love. He’d previously been in the Top 10, but he kind of backed up a bit with his year in Triple-A in 2013. He’s 25, so the time is now, but the power is legit. He’s hit 52 homers the last two years and 20 or more in each of the last three seasons. Even in last year’s disappointment, he was not bad against right-handed pitching, so maybe there’s a platoon in his future.
Catcher: I like the options here, actually. I’m going to join Jim and go with Tom Murphy of the Rockies here. He’ll have to show that his .590 SLG wasn’t just an Asheville mirage. He hit OK after a double-jump to Double-A and could move fairly quickly in 2014.
Right-handed pitcher: So many choices, but I think I’ll head to Toronto and Marcus Stroman. Last year was his first full one (and was suspension-shortened). But he was dominant in Double-A, then was solid in the AFL. He should help the Blue Jays out at some point in 2014 and I’m still a firm believer he can start.
Left-handed pitcher: It’s not quite as deep as the righties, but still some good names here. I want to see what the Mariners’ James Paxton does in 2014. He pitched fairly well in a brief look in the big leagues last year after a not-so great year in the Minors. Is he a starter or is he a reliever? That’s a big arm from the left side, so he’s going to have a role somewhere soon.
Shortstop: We’ve mentioned on more than one occasion that this is a renaissance at shortstop, and it’s deeper now than it’s ever been. Hak-Ju Lee of the Rays was off to a torrid start during his first taste of Triple-A when he tore up his knee. The question about the defensive whiz has always been how much he’ll hit… and if he can continue what he did last year pre-injury, he’ll be ready for the big leagues soon.
Interesting deal announced today, no? A young big league closer for a solid third base prospect. So, who’s the winner?
Twitter was blowing up about it, with most people feeling the White Sox by far got the better end of the deal by getting Davidson, who should have every chance to be Chicago’s starting third baseman in 2014. I had some good back-and-forth with Jason Parks from Baseball Prospectus (@ProfessorParks) and Mike Newman (@ROTOScouting) of RotoScouting.com about it, if you want to check that out.
I think I’m probably the biggest fan of Davidson of the three of us (he was No. 64 on our Top 100, for whatever that’s worth), though I’m not delusional about him. There’s some question about whether he can stay at third — some think he can’t — but I think he’ll be adequate there. And I think there’s enough bat there for him to be a solid regular at the hot corner.
Does that mean the White Sox won this deal? I’m not quite ready to go there just yet. Reed is a 25-year-old closer with 69 saves over the past two years, including 40 in 2013. It also should be noted that he won’t be arbitration eligible until 2015, so the D-backs have two years of closing on the cheap. And they can let Brad Ziegler go back to setting up if they so choose (or the other way around). Or J.J. Putz could reclaim the role and Arizona could have a very solid pen. So I can see the value there.
The larger question is: Does an everyday third baseman trump a relief pitcher? Assuming you believe Davidson can be a regular at third, then it depends on how productive he can be. I think he has the chance to be good enough offensively to give Chicago a slight edge in this deal, though maybe not by as much as some on Twitter were initially saying.
I’ve had the pleasure of doing stories on both of these guys over the years. I dug up a feature I did on Reed when he had gone from being San Diego State’s closer to replacing some guy named Strasburg in their rotation.
I wrote about Davidson this past summer, when he won the Futures Game MVP Award. And here’s the on-field video interview I did with him: