Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fangraphs, BA and BP Top 10 Prospect Rankings

   Now that we've taken the jump and ranked our top 10 Blue Jays prospects for 2014, we thought that we would see how some more august evaluators ranked them.   Here's a comparison of the rankings by Fangraphs, Baseball America, and Baseball Propsectus:

Baseball America
Baseball Prospectus
Aaron Sanchez
Marcus Stroman
Mitch Nay
Daniel Norris
Roberto Osuna
Franklin Barreto
Alberto Tirado
A.J. Jimenez
D. J. Davis
Matt Smoral
Dawel Lugo
Chase DeJong
Sean Nolin
Jairo Labourt

   BP shows they're not afraid to go out on a limb by picking Stroman over Sanchez.  While there's little debate that Stroman is closer to being ready for MLB than Sanchez is, the consensus seems to be that Sanchez ultimately has the higher ceiling.  Nick Faleris of BP isn't sold on Sanchez, however, and is of the opinion that "with Sanchez I feel like I'm constantly teased with "This might be really great when it clicks and he's spotting and consistently executing the curve."  Even with his strong finish in Arizona, there is some truth to that observation.
   Picking Stroman ahead of Sanchez is not a quantum leap, but it's going out on the edge just the same.  There isn't a long list of righthanded starters under 5'10" who have been successful for a prolonged period of time at the major leage level.  BP guru Jason Parks likes Stroman's overall package over Sanchez' just the same:  "I was eventually persuaded to believe the diminutive arm was not only a starter but a superior prospect, one with an upside similar to Aaron Sanchez, with a more mature arsenal, better all-around feel, and a low risk/high floor if the rotation projection failed to actualize."  So, if starting doesn't work out, Stroman's power stuff would play better in the back of a big league bullpen as a fallback position.
   We're not sure we're comfortable with the pick of Stroman over Sanchez, just the same.  There's only a year's difference in age between the two, but obviously Stroman is ahead on the development curve, largely because of his time at Duke, and the Jays' preference for taking things slowly with their top high school arms. We've argued before that Sanchez was probably going through the normal and necessary ups and downs of minor league life this year.  You have to like Sanchez' size, and the seemingly effortless way the ball explodes out of his hand.
   Another surprise was the inclusion of Nay, who was high up on both BA's and Fangraphs' list, but is nowhere to be found on BP's.  Nay had an impressive pro debut, and was named the Appy League's 4th best prospect.  He was called up to Vancouver for the NWL playoffs, and was the final series MVP.
So, there is a lot to like about Nay.  BP didn't share as high an opinion of Nay, and pointed out his lack of speed as being a negative both in the field and on the bases as he progresses.  Nay didn't make our top 10 list, but he did merit serious consideration, and is solidly in the next tier of prospects.  To us, the upside is there, but we would like to see how he fares over a full season of minor league ball before making the committment to him.
  It's interesting to see that Davis was ranked 8th by Fangraphs and BP, but 3rd by BA, who tabbed him the 2nd best Appy League prospect.  While he was one of the youngest players in both his draft class and his league last year, we were expecting a little more from Davis, and after a hot start, it was disappointing that he tailed off, and didn't get a promotion to Vancouver for the playoffs like his teammates Nay and Dawel Lugo did.  This may have owed more to the fact that there was more of a need for infielders in Vancouver than there was for outfielders, but we would have thought that Davis would have at least benefitted from exposure to that atmosphere. We're somewhere in the middle on our opinion of Davis.  The defense is without question, but the bat is still developing. We're talking about a premium athlete, who isn't necessarily a premium prospect just yet.  That the Cubs were rumoured to be asking about Davis speaks to how other organizations view him.
     We were also a bit surprised that Barreto made BA's list, but not the other two.  Barreto turned many heads with this bat this year, and is no longer flying under the prospect radar.  Questions about his defence and his ultimate position must have influenced Fangraphs and BP to leave him off their lists.
   Fangraphs took a flyer on Smoral, who the Jays snapped up as a first round sandwich pick in 2012, after he had missed all of his senior year of HS with a foot injury that delayed his pro debut until this year.  Smoral had trouble finding the plate consistently in the GCL this summer, but 6'8" lefties who throw in the low to mid 90s tend to get a longer look.  Only 19, Smoral likely will spend time in the GCL for at least part of the summer.  We don't doubt his ability, because he showed flashes of it in Florida, but he's so far away that we didn't include him in our top 10.
   Lugo was an interesting choice by BA.  BA loved Lugo's Bluefield Jays, including 7 of them on their top 20 Appy League prospects list, with Lugo coming in #5.  There is no question about the bat, but like Barreto, his future position is in doubt.  BA did name Lugo as having the best infield arm in the organization.  Lugo hit .297/.317/.469 at Bluefield, and after his late-season callup to Vancouver, Canadians manager Clayton McCullough told Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province that Lugo has "some serious juice in his bat."  Only 19, we wonder if the Jays will challenge him by sending him to full-season ball at Lansing next year.
   BA and our list are in agreement about A.J Jimenez.  The defense is there, and there seems little doubt that he could play in the bigs right now defensively, but there are concerns about his offence, enough that while we think he does have a big league future, it will be as a back up, unless his bat comes around.
   When it came to our final pick, we had a difficult time choosing between several players.  We ultimately settled on Tirado, and to our relief, the three evaluators seem to agree with us.  Fangraphs calls him "(A) right-hander (who) does a decent job of commanding his low-to-mid-90s fastball and he induces a lot of ground-ball outs. His second best offering is a changeup and his breaking ball is showing signs of improving."
  It's curious to see that Kevin Pillar didn't make any of the lists. Fangraphs had him at #14 last year (prior to the trades).  Perhaps his 100+ AB in the bigs eliminates his propsect status, but he's still a prospect to us, and you have to give him props for far how he's come in a very short time.
  BP went out a little bit further on a limb by taking DeJong and Labourt at the end of their list, but neither one is that much of a stretch.  Labourt was dominant at times at Bluefied, and struck out 10 in 5 plus innings for Vancouver in the playoffs. DeJong struck out 66 Appy batters in 55 innings.  Both are the long, lean and athletic type of builds that the Blue Jays covet.

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