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:
Jim Callis and I are dilligently working on digging up names that seem likely/possible to go in Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft. That list will be live on the site later today. For now, I thought I’d play with the research I did on the Rule 5 Drafts 2006-2013. In a recent post, I talked about how pitching is always popular in Rule 5 Drafts. Now I want to look at team involvement.
It probably surprises no one that the Houston Astros are at the top of the list, with nine Major League phase selections since 2009. But they’re tied with the Phillies. The Nationals are next with eight, the Mets and Orioles at seven, the Pirates and Padres at six. Here’s the complete list.
There must be something in Los Angeles… Neither the Dodgers nor the Angels have made a Major League phase pick in the past seven Rule 5 Drafts.
OK, what about the flip side? Which organization has been raided the most? Houston and Seattle are the two teams who haven’t had a player taken from their systems. The Angels make up for not taking any players by having the most taken, at 10. The Yankees, Red Sox and Indians have each been raided nine times. Again, here’s the complete list:
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — One of the bigger rumors that’s been floating around the lobby here has been that the Marlins are looking to 1. Trade Logan Morrison and/or 2. Bring in a third baseman.
Juan Uribe has been mentioned, though he’s reportedly looking for a three-year deal. No specific names have surfaced in terms of trade returns for Morrison, though there has been some talk of them wanting a big-league ready, or close to big-league ready third baseman in return.
One thing, though, that the Marlins do need to consider, is that they have a pretty good third base prospect in their system already. Miami drafted Colin Moran with the sixth overall pick in the 2013 Draft with the hopes that he could be a fairly quick to Miami advanced college bat. He fared well in full-season ball during his debut, then went on to the Arizona Fall League and we named him the No. 14 prospect in the AFL after he started slowly, but adjusted and finished well. He’s currently the No. 72 prospect on MLB.com’s Top 100, No. 4 on the Marlins Top 20 and fifth among third base prospects.
The question is, of course, just how quickly he can be ready for the big leagues. There seems to be some debate over that. The Marlins took him that early clearly believing it would be a short trip up the ladder and they hope he can hit Miami in 2015 and that has entered into their internal discussions about moves to make. Does that mean Uribe and his three years are off the table? Not sure yet, but I bet it’s being talked about with Moran in mind.
I talked to some scouts who saw him in the Fall League and got some different feedback. One scout thought back end of 2015 was reasonable. Another didn’t see him as quite a quick a riser, saying he thought it would take 2-3 years, with the more conservative projection more likely. Our own Bernie Pleskoff is more in line with that evaluation after having seen him multiple times in Arizona. It’s not that Bernie (follow him on Twitter @BerniePleskoff) doesn’t like him at all, but he’s skeptical about his ability to get there quickly and will need some development time to iron his game out.
A couple of days ago, I wrote a preview on the Rule 5 Draft that included some numbers on how many Rule 5 picks since 2006 (when the rules dictating roster protection changed) stuck in the big leagues the following year and/or remained in the big leagues (hint: more than you probably thought).
Now here at the lovely Dolphin & Swan in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, I had some time to play with the research a little more. It shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise that a vast majority of players taken in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 have been pitchers. To be precise, of the 121 players taken from 2006-2012, 88 were pitchers. Most of them (61) were right-handed. Here’s the breakdown, keeping in mind the infielders groupings are little loose as many of those taken played, or were asked to play, multiple positions (for instance, there are a few guys who are listed as “INF”):
That’s a breakdown of all the guys taken. What about the guys who stuck inn the big leagues the next year, a total of 38 players? Here’s how that looked:
What’s the takeaway from all of this? If you’re looking at Thursday’s Rule 5 picks and trying to guess which ones have a shot, go with the pitching.
And that’s one to grow on.
My colleague Jesse Sanchez recently wrote a good story on the next wave of Cuban prospects on its way to Major League Baseball. One of them, who recently defected, is former Cuban National Team shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena.
I just talked to a scout who is in the Dominican Republic watching the 23-year-old Arruebarruena to see if he’ll be worth pursuing. From his evaluation, it sounds like he will certainly bring some Major League-caliber skills to a team, but he doesn’t see him as a true impact player, like a Cespedes, Puig or Chapman. Here’s his thoughts on what he’s seen of Arruebarruena:
“He’s what you’ve been reading. He’s a very good defensive player. His glove is very close to the big leagues. The bat, you kind of think he’s one of those guys who’ll bat down in the order. He can really play shortstop, if that’s the type of player you’re interested in. He’ll be a quality defensive shortstop in the Major Leagues, but you wonder if he’s going to hit. Some of the others who have come recently – Jose Iglesias, Adeiny Hechavarria — I felt more confident about the bat. We’ll have to hear what the money is. This isn’t like watching Aroldis Chapman or Yeonis Cespedes. You’re not going to hear from 15 teams. You’ll hear from teams that are hurting a little bit at shortstop.”
Our first look at the Class of 2014, a Draft Top 50, is live and ready for your perusal over on Prospect Watch. You can also read Jim Callis’ look at the class and my feature on No. 1 prospect Carlos Rodon over on MLBPipeline.com.
Just for fun, Jim and I decided to do a quick Top 10 Mock Draft. Yes, we realize it’s a fool’s errand. Yes, we understand that a whole lot can and will change in the spring. But we figured, why not? It’s a fun exercise. Check out Jim’s Top 10 at Callis’ Corner and compare to mine here. You can check out the full Draft order as well.
So here it goes…
1. Houston Astros: Carlos Rodon, LHP, NC State: About as no-brainer as it can be at this point, it’d be more of a surprise if he didn’t go No. 1.
2. Miami Marlins: Alex Jackson, C/OF, Rancho Bernardo HS, Calif.: The top high school player in the class and the Marlins haven’t shied away from taking exciting young bats (see Yelich, Christian).
3. Chicago White Sox: Jeff Hoffman, RHP, East Carolina: The White Sox like their athletes, but they also like big, strong starting pitching. After Rodon, Hoffman is the best in the class.
4. Chicago Cubs: Trea Turner, SS, NC State: How about a future left side of the infield featuring Kris Bryant, the No. 2 pick in the 2013 Draft, and Turner, a leadoff type with 80 speed?
5: Minnesota Twins: Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt: A former first-round pick back in 2011, look for Beede to answer questions about his command this spring and be among the top college arms taken in June.
6. Seattle Mariners: Jacob Gatewood, SS, Clovis HS, Calif.: The power is more than legit, but there are some questions about the hit tool… not enough to keep him out of Top 10 consideration.
7. Philadelphia Phillies: Michael Gettys, OF, Gainesville HS, Ga.: The Phillies have taken a high schooler with their first pick in each of the last six Drafts. They seem to like toolsy position players and Gettys fits that description perfectly.
8. Colorado Rockies: Aaron Nola, RHP, LSU: After nabbing Jonathan Gray at No. 3 in 2013, adding Nola could give them a very nice 1-2 punch that could get to Coors Field in a hurry.
9. Toronto Blue Jays: Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd HS, Texas: It might be too easy to give the Blue Jays the top high-ceiling high school arm available, but they don’t shy away from rolling the dice in that fashion.
10. New York Mets: Derek Fisher, OF, Virginia: After going the high school position player route in the first round for the last three Drafts, maybe the Mets go for a more advanced player. If not a pitcher, then a bat like Fisher, relying on the fact that UVa. bats tend to perform better in the pro game. (more…)
My colleagues Jim Callis (@JimCallisMLB) and Bernie Pleskoff (@BerniePleskoff) have already weighed in on players they liked in the Arizona Fall League who didn’t make MLBPipeline.com’s Top 20 list. Jim mentioned five players in his blog while Bernie filed two reports, one on outfielder Henry Urrutia and one on lefty Eduardo Rodriguez, both from the Orioles organization.
Teddy Cahill (@tedcahill), who also helped out with the Top 20 along with Jim and Bernie, listed these names when asked who were his non-Top 20 favorites: Eduardo Rodriguez, Andrew Susac, Brian Goodwin and Mason Williams. He also liked Richie Shaffer as a bit of a sleeper pick, not a guy who belongs on a Top 20, but one who “seemed to rebound from a so-so season” and who walked as much as he struck out in Arizona.
Where does that leave me? I, too, like Rodriguez and Susac, but I wanted to find a few players not mentioned by anyone else (a benefit of being late in posting this). So I’m definitely going more of the “sleeper pick” route, though all of these guys are prospects in their own right. In no particular order:
Chris Taylor, SS/2B, Mariners: Not saying he’s going to be a superstar or anything, but he’s hit everywhere he’s been, reaching Double-A this past year. He has good on-base skills and can play second and short. He’s the type of utlity guy (maybe an every-day 2B?) who helps teams win and I’m becoming a firm believer in University of Virginia guys hitting at the next level.
Yorman Rodriguez, OF, Reds: There were signs that the 21-year-old corner outfielder was starting to figure things out during the 2013 season as he reached Double-A for the first time. Yes, there’s swing and miss aplenty, but the tools are very much still there and he’s starting to use them. Oh, and he won’t turn 22 until mid-August.
Mike Montgomery, LHP, Rays: Yeah, I know what you’re going to say. Him again? Been there, done that. But he’s still big and left-handed, and he threw pretty well this fall. He’s still only 24 and has decent stuff. It’s all about command, and it was pretty good in the AFL.
Nick Wittgren, RHP, Marlins: OK, I have to admit. I’m kind of stealing this from Bernie Pleskoff, who really likes Wittgren. So do I, though maybe not quite as much as Bernie does. Wittgren put up video game numbers during the 2013 season (0.77 ERA, .198 BAA, 9.5 K/9, 1.5 BB/9), then did it some more in a much more hostile pitching environment in the AFL (0.66 ERA, .130 BAA, 19 K, 2 BB in 13 2/3 IP). He had 26 saves during the regular season, but he’s likely not a closer in the big leagues. But he could be pitching there in 2014.
We’re less than an hour away from this year’s Fall Stars (previously called the Rising Stars Game). You can watch on MLB Network and the game will be streaming on MLB.com. I hope you watch the entire game, but if you’re curious, I’ll be sitting in with Paul Severino and Joe Magrane for the 4th-6th innings.
Batting practice was quite a show. Jorge Alfaro (Rangers) probably was the most impressive for the West Division Fall Stars. His raw power is just ridiculous and he was putting balls way up on the berm in left-center consistently.
The East Division’s first group turned into a home run hitting contest between C.J. Cron (Angels) and Kris Bryant (Cubs). Cron hit a light post above the berm and one that nearly left the stadium completely. Bryant wasn’t far behind, but Cron might have been the “victor” in this round.
Cardinals outfielder James Ramsey is the leadoff hitter and isn’t a power guy, but he clearly had fun trying to muscle up. He blasted a couple out to right, though he did swing through a pitch with an all or nothing swing at the end.
Ramsey knows his role, though, tonight and in general. He’s hitting atop a lineup followed by the Nats’ Brian Goodwin, Bryant, Cron, Angels 2B Taylor Lindsey, fellow Cardinal Stephen Piscotty, Cubs right field Jorge Soler, Yankees catcher Peter O’Brien and A’s shortstop Addison Russell (any lineup with Russell hitting ninth is insane). Ramsey turned to Goodwin at the start of BP and said, “All I have to do is get to first base and the rest is easy.”
Alex Meyer and the rest of the West Division pitching staff might have something to say about that, and the West isn’t exactly devoid of firepower (Byron Buxton’s BP was pretty impressive as well).
Should be a fun night. Hit me on Twitter (@JonathanMayoB3) if you want to chat about the game. And join me over on MLB Network. Enjoy the game!
I spent last week running around the Arizona Fall League during the opening days of the season. Six games in three days (stay tuned for AFL team reports — video and written — that stemmed from those efforts). While my focus was on getting the 30 interviews we had planned done (check), I was able to watch some exciting players in action, both in batting practice as well as during games.
I’ll try to sprinkle some early thoughts here in a series of blog posts. Here’s the first one.
- Kris Bryant is really good. Not only has the Cubs prospect (and No. 2 overall pick) started his Fall League by going 8-for-18 with two homers and a double, he puts on a ridiculous batting practice show. The power is beyond legit. He’s also an early member of the All-Interview Team: very engaging and thoughtful. He even was happy to talk to me about how he started with his wide stance (sophomore season). I was particularly curious because my 12-year-old son, Ziv, has been using something very similar.
In case you were curious, Bryant is the first one. And yes, I know Ziv has his hands too high (We’re working on it. Jeez, he’s only 12).
More to come…