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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 1075

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Division Preview: AL Central.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Projected Standings

Team Wins Losses Division Wild Card World Series
Indians 86 76 43% 14% 7%
Tigers 85 77 37% 15% 5%
Royals 79 83 10% 7% 1%
White Sox 78 84 8% 6% 1%
Twins 74 88 3% 3% 0%
With no great teams and only one franchise not really trying to contend this year, this is one of the most up-for-grabs divisions in the sport. Our forecasts suggest that there are two tiers within those going for it, but I think things might be a bit more bunched up than the numbers above suggest. Let’s go team by team.

Cleveland Indians

The Indians have become the trendy sleeper pick, a young team expected to build off their 85 win season a year ago. In particular, their rotation is very easy to dream on, as Carlos Carrasco, T.J. House, and Zach McAllister are classic breakout picks after finishing strong in the second half of 2014. Toss in Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar, and this is a rotation with plenty of hype even before you mention the guy who won the Cy Young Award last year. If even two of the back-end starters turn into what looks possible, the Indians will have among one of the league’s best group of starters, and should make a serious run at the division title.

Of course, there’s no riskier gamble in baseball than betting on young arms with short track records of big league success, and while our projections pencil in the Indians for the AL’s best rotation, it’s not too hard to see things going south. And outside of their rotation, the Indians are mostly more good than great. Yan Gomes and Michael Brantley aren’t exactly traditional offensive cornerstone pieces, and Cleveland got Brandon Moss on the cheap because they A’s didn’t want to bet on an aging old-player skills guy with a bad hip. It’s not a bad collection of position players, but it’s a mostly average one, and not the kind of group that you’d expect to win a division title without strong support from the pitching staff.

With a relatively weak bullpen, that means their season probably comes down to how well the young starters live up to expectations. If McAllister’s velocity bump turns into a sustained improvement or Carrasco’s second half run carries over, this could very well be the best team in the division. But despite the old proverb, the road to hell is actually paved with teams who built their rosters around young pitching; this could also go really, really wrong.

Detroit Tigers

Barring a few more J.D. Martinez-style miracles, this is the last hurrah for the Tigers. Their stars are aging and only getting more expensive, and there just isn’t enough help coming up from the farm system to offset the decline that is growing ever closer. But the end isn’t here quite yet. This team is still pretty good, or at least has the chance to be good if they keep enough of their dinged up players on the field for most of the year.

And despite the core of the team getting long in the tooth, Dave Dombrowski did a nice job of making some upside gambles among the role players. If Shane Greene sustains his second half improvements, the team might not miss Rick Porcello as much as it might appear from the projections. Anthony Gose probably won’t hit, but even a slight improvement at the plate makes him a decent enough center fielder given his speed and defense, and he’s young enough to take a step forward. I remain skeptical on both Nick Castellanos and Jose Iglesias, but there is potential with both. These lottery ticket types all have high enough floors to fill regular jobs — maybe with Castellanos as the exception — and offer enough potential to help offset age-related decline among the team’s better players.

But this team still needs Miguel Cabrera to be great, and Justin Verlander to be not-terrible, if they’re going to keep up with Cleveland. There are good pieces elsewhere on the roster, but if Cabrera starts to get old as quickly as Verlander has appeared to, it will get a lot harder for the Tigers to win the division. Cabrera’s unlikely to age out of being a great hitter any time soon, but guys with his body size often can’t stay on the field for 150 games once they reach their 30s, and this team just isn’t deep enough to afford a few months without their franchise hitter. If the old guys can remain reasonably healthy, though, there’s enough around them to make one final run before it’s time to pay the piper.

Kansas City Royals

Projecting a 10 win decline for last year’s AL champs isn’t a popular forecast, especially with so much young talent that appeared to take big steps forward in the postseason last year. But our projections see a team that played like a .500 club in the regular season, then swapped out James Shields for Edinson Volquez, Billy Butler for Kendrys Morales, and Nori Aoki for Alex Rios.

With an inferior cast of veteran role players, the Royals road back to the postseason now leans very heavily on Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, who both probably need to crush their league average forecasts in order for the Royals to make another run at the division title. Alex Gordon is an excellent player, but he can’t be the only star-level performer, especially with a weakened rotation and a bullpen that just can’t possibly be as good as they were a year ago. There are too many scrubs here for the top of the roster to be led by Gordon, Salvador Perez, and Lorenzo Cain.

The good news for the Royals is that Hosmer and Moustakas have flashed the potential to take steps forward, and it wouldn’t be at all unheard of for two former top prospects to finally put things together in their mid-20s. If Moustakas really did figure out how to unlock his power in September, and if Hosmer’s second half was more indicative of his future than his first half, then the Royals could make these projections look silly, especially if Cain holds on to more of his 2014 performance than the numbers expect. But that’s a lot of ifs and maybes, and we could play this same game with almost any team in baseball.

Maybe the Royals will prove us wrong again. They certainly made us look silly last year, and it’s not like pre-season forecasts are infallible. But there are a lot of legitimate question marks on this roster, and it’s pretty unlikely that everything goes right for the Royals two years in a row.

Chicago White Sox

Rick Hahn and his crew have done a great job of building the White Sox talent base, making a series of shrewd moves that have turned Chicago’s other team into a roster with some of the best talent in the game. But this roster is simply incomplete, and the team looks a year away from legitimate front-line contender to me. Jose Abreu, Chris Sale, and Jeff Samardzija is a hell of a start, but Hector Noesi, Avasail Garcia, Micah Johnson, Conor Gillaspie, and Tyler Flowers are not the kind of guys you want to depend on while making a postseason run.

If the Sox can re-sign Samardzija — and by many accounts, keeping him off the free agent market was their goal when they traded for him — and make a few more nifty role player adds over the next 12 months, I might very well take the White Sox as my 2016 favorites for the division, but I just see too many holes for 2015. If Don Cooper can really make Noesi and John Danks productive, and get anything from the team’s relievers not named David Robertson or Zach Duke, he should go directly into the Hall of Fame. The White Sox five or six best pitchers are terrific, but their next six are as bad as any in baseball.

Perhaps Hahn will pull of a few more in-season pickups to address some of the roster’s issues, and the star power at the top will carry the team until reinforcements arrive. But more likely, this is a team that will be good when their top three starters are on the mound and pretty awful on days they aren’t. Patch a few holes and this team is ready to make some noise in October; I just don’t think they have enough duct tape to get there this year.

Minnesota Twins

Rebuilding often isn’t fun, but it does provide opportunities to take risks that winning teams can’t afford; you can give 500 at-bats to a “AAAA player” to see if the scouts got one wrong, or you can take a gamble on a failed top prospect who once projected as an ace and might be able to find that again. That’s how the Twins ended up with Brian Dozier and Phil Hughes, and those two bets have given them quality above-average players at two difficult positions to fill.

Unfortunately, the Twins have spent nearly every other position on the field not making similar bets, so instead of high-upside gambles, Hughes and Dozier are surrounded by aging mediocrities like Ervin Santana, Ricky Nolasco, Torii Hunter, and Kurt Suzuki. Sure, they’re going to give Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas a look, but in a year where contending is almost impossible, Minnesota probably should have taken some more fliers on upside plays rather than trying to limit their downside potential.

The resulting combination is a team that will not be good nor likely very interesting, and the Twins are mostly just spinning their wheels until Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton are ready. For their sake, those two better live up to the hype and do so fairly soon, because until they arrive, the Twins will likely be mostly irrelevant.

With Coco Crisp Injury, Oakland’s Offense Gets Even Weaker.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Last season the Oakland Athletics had four players qualify for the batting title and seven players take more than 400 plate appearances for the team. With Coco Crisp out for 6-8 weeks for elbow surgery, none of those seven players will be with the A’s when the season starts. The A’s hectic winter, including the additions of Ben Zobrist, Billy Butler, Brett Lawrie, and Ike Davis, clouded somewhat exactly how far backward they went on the win curve. As Jeff Sullivan wrote in December, The A’s Are Just Doing What They Have To Do, but all the moves they made have the A’s taking a potentially significant drop from last season when they were the fourth-highest scoring team in the league. With Reddick out for the first few games and Crisp now out for an extended period, giving more plate appearances to Billy Burns and Eric Sogard further weakens an offense that was already due for a step back.

With Josh Reddick and Coco Crisp out to start the season, not one of the top nine in plate appearances for the A’s last season will begin the season with Oakland.. Of those top nine, six provided very good production with a wOBA above .330 and Reddick is the only returnee among them. In the FanGraphs Depth Charts projections, 93 Major League Baseball players have a wOBA projection above .330, but only Ben Zobrist plays for the A’s. Imports Billy Butler, Ike Davis, and Brett Lawrie should provide above average offense and a hopefully full season of Josh Reddick will help, but the offense could take a big step back this season.
The A’s were probably due for a slight correction regardless of who they brought back as their .312 wOBA was 13th and their 101 wRC+ was ninth in MLB. The projections show Oakland at 659 runs scored this season, down from 729 in 2014. Losing nearly half a run per game would be a big blow to the A’s, currently projected to rank just 12th out of 15 American League teams in scoring. Using the Fangraphs Depth Charts for playing time, the ZiPS projections for the nine highest players in terms of plate appearances with at least one catcher is below, listed from highest offensive projection to lowest before Crisp’s injury.

Ben Zobrist .264 .350 .415
Billy Butler .272 .340 .403
Ike Davis .219 .322 .396
Josh Reddick .245 .308 .433
Brett Lawrie .254 .314 .395
Coco Crisp .253 .326 .391
Marcus Semien .237 .317 .389
Stephen Vogt .251 .298 .390
Sam Fuld .232 .307 .327
AVG .247 .320 .393
Ordered in that manner makes the offense look pretty good, especially when compared to last season’s .245/.321/.382 line, but that line includes no weaker bench plate appearances and last year the A’s were second in the AL with a 117 wRC+ with men on base and also runner-up with runners in scoring position with a 112 wRC+. Taking Crisp away from the lineup further weakens the team. The A’s could give Billy Burns the bulk of the plate appearances in the outfield, but he is projected for a meager .234/.308/.286 line supplemented by a lot of stolen bases. Oakland could let Eric Sogard start against right-handed pitchers and move Zobrist to the outfield, where he will likely be regardless to start the season with Reddick out. The A’s might be able to improve their hitting line a little through appropriate platooning, but without the good luck they had last season with runners on base and the good players they let go, runs scored could go down considerably.

The A’s are one of six teams with 12 players projected to finish with more than 250 plate appearances, the highest in MLB. Of those six teams, the A’s are the only one with a 13th player getting over 200 plate appearances. Oakland figures to spread out plate appearances to maximize platoon splits whenever possible. Ben Zobrist is a switch hitter, and Billy Butler and Brett Lawrie are right-handers who figure to play nearly every day. Marcus Semien figures to get the majority of the plate appearances at shortstop, but the team has four regular left-handed starters in Ike Davis, Josh Reddick, Stephen Vogt and Sam Fuld. The four players figure to lose plate appearances to Craig Gentry, Mark Canha, and Stephen Vogt. Left-hander Eric Sogard could see more playing time with Crisp out, while Billy Burns is a switch hitter, but is not a good addition to the lineup from either side.

Dan Szymborski recently made available platoon split projections so we can see how much of an effect platooning can have in Oakland. Here is the projected lineup (not in projected batting order) against right-handers, nearly identical to the one listed above except Sogard is now in for Crisp and the statistics below are the splits against righties.

Ben Zobrist .259 .347 .414
Billy Butler .268 .331 .393
Ike Davis .225 .332 .414
Josh Reddick .248 .313 .440
Brett Lawrie .252 .312 .389
Eric Sogard .245 .307 .321
Marcus Semien .234 .309 .375
Stephen Vogt .253 .301 .391
Sam Fuld .236 .314 .330
AVG .247 .318 .385
The results take a hit without Crisp in the lineup, who was projected to be above league average in 2015. Against left-handers, Oakland is likely to take a different tact. All five left-handed starters are projected to have sub-.300 OBPs against lefties. Unfortunately for Oakland, they only appear to have three viable hitters to come off the bench and take their spots. That leaves Josh Reddick in the lineup on most days, though not at the beginning of the season, and he is projected for a .177 ISO against lefties so he can still do some damage. Billy Burns is likely to receive more playing time as well, although Sogard could be a full-time starter at second. Neither player helps the offense.

Here is a potential lineup against left-handers with their splits against lefties.

Ben Zobrist .273 .356 .415
Billy Butler .283 .360 .428
Mark Canha .241 .319 .366
Josh Reddick .238 .296 .415
Brett Lawrie .257 .318 .407
Billy Burns .232 .310 .280
Marcus Semien .241 .328 .409
Josh Phegley .233 .275 .369
Craig Gentry .259 .333 .336
AVG .251 .322 .381
Gentry makes a big difference over Fuld, but he does not deserve the full-time job with just a .250/.312/.300 projected line against right-handers. Phegley does not offer much at the plate, while Canha is decent but not an upgrade over Davis against righties. In addition to Gentry, most of the rise against left-handers is due to the everyday right-handed starters gaining the platoon advantage, but slugging moves down with Burns in the lineup. Comparing the everyday lineup without platoon splits to the two with platoon splits help Oakland a little bit, but do not bridge the gap entirely.

w/ Crisp .247 .320 .393
v RH w/o Crisp .247 .318 .385
V LH w/o Crisp .251 .322 .381
Platooning cannot make up for the loss of Crisp without good players to plug in the lineup. Finding platoon players is a useful strategy for Oakland as players like Fuld and Gentry, Davis and Canha, and Vogt and Phegley are cheaper to obtain in salary and in trade without the full-time label. Unfortunately for Oakland, those combinations do not yield much on the field. The A’s should be fine at the catcher position and Fuld and Gentry will be passable in center field, but the A’s will be getting below average production from first base and either left field or second base, wherever Zobrist is not playing.

Since moving Yoenis Cespedes last season, the A’s have also parted ways with Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Derek Norris, Jed Lowrie, and John Jaso. Ben Zobrist can make up for a lot of the lost production. Brett Lawrie can help as well with Ike Davis, Billy Butler, and Marcus Semien all potentially useful players, but the production from last year was going to be very difficult to match before the loss of Crisp. Even a return to form from Billy Butler and a breakout from Brett Lawrie might not make up for the missing players and the high production with runners on from last season.

The Oakland offense was likely to regress no matter who was brought back, but the Crisp injury further weakens a lineup already expected to score less than they did in 2014. They have found surprising sources of offense in previous years. Billy Burns could single and steal his way to a very surprising year or Eric Sogard could improve from a dreadful 2014, but as they enter 2015, they find themselves behind the Mariners and Angels in the AL West.

Christian Yelich: His Upside and His Limitations.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Miami Marlins’ outfield is one of the best and most exciting in recent memory. Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich combine current tools and skills with ample future projection. At 25, Stanton is the oldest member of the group. You might have to go back to the early-’70s San Francisco Giants and their crew of Gary Matthews, Garry Maddox and Bobby Bonds to find a group of flycatchers who filled the stat sheet while turning heads with their tools at similar career stages. Today, let’s put the focus upon Yelich, and attempt to draw a bead on both his current true-talent level and his ultimate upside.
The Marlins drafted Yelich with the 23rd pick in the first round of the 2010 draft out of California’s Westlake High School. Yelich quickly proved to be a steal, as he routinely put up offensive numbers as one of the youngest players at each level. He batted .311/.386/.497 in barely 1,300 minor league plate appearances, and made his major league debut in mid-2013 at age 21.

Each year I compile my own minor league position player rankings, based on OBP and SLG, relative to the league, adjusted for age relative to level. It basically serves as a follow list that is then adjusted based on traditional scouting methods. Yelich ranked very highly on this list in each of his minor league seasons, ranking No. 26 in 2011, No. 12 in 2012 and No. 23 in 2013. This marked him as a player with both a substantial upside and a relatively high chance of reaching it. A very high floor and a pretty sizeable ceiling is not a bad combination.

That’s what the numbers said; the eyes told a pleasant tale. as well. Long, lean lefthander with a sweet stroke who used the whole field, and would very likely grow into above-average power. Above-average speed and strong corner outfield defense filled out a near can’t-miss package. And he certainly hasn’t missed thus far in his brief major league career. He needed no real adjustment period, and he’s been an above-average MLB regular from the start.

So what makes Yelich tick offensively, and how good can he become? To learn more, let’s look at his 2014 plate-appearance outcome frequency and production by BIP type data:

FREQ – 2014
Yelich % REL PCT
K 20.8% 111 67
BB 10.6% 134 82
POP 0.9% 13 2
FLY 17.9% 62 3
LD 22.2% 102 63
GB 59.0% 139 97
Yelich’s K and BB rates were both well higher than league average last season, with percentile ranks of 67 and 82, respectively. For a 22-year-old, this is quite good. Walking at a higher rate than 81% of MLB regulars is pretty darned impressive, and his minor league track record suggests the K rate should improve to an acceptable level.

The batted-ball frequencies clearly indicate that Yelich is quite unique. He hit four — count ‘em, four — popups last year, and his 0.9% popup rate was bettered only by Joe Mauer. He was an extreme ground-ball hitter, with a 97 percentile rank; the only player significantly more grounder-oriented was Nori Aoki. Obviously, this means that his fly ball rate was extremely low, with a 3 percentile rank.

His liner rate was quite strong, with a 63 percentile rank. Liner rates fluctuate more than those of other batted-ball types, but some players are able to consistently post high or low liner rates. Based on Yelich’s minor league track record and his low popup rate — which often runs in tandem with a high liner rate — I’d hypothesize that his 2014 liner rate was not a fluke.

There actually are a few other big leaguers who don’t pop up and who have posted similar fly- and ground-ball frequencies in recent seasons. Since 2008, Derek Jeter‘s fly ball and ground-ball percentile ranks ranged between 1-9 and 95-99, respectively, while Howie Kendrick (fly 3-24, ground 92-98) and Mauer (fly 10-45, ground 69-94) were a bit less extreme. All in all, some pretty good company.

The frequency data only tells us so much. To learn more about Yelich’s present and future, let’s examine his production by BIP type data, which will give us a better feel for his batted-ball authority:

PROD – 2014
FLY .380 .937 183 216
LD .663 .898 103 106
GB .268 .276 115 91
ALL BIP .371 .526 122 119
ALL PA .284 .360 .402 122 119
Yelich’s actual production on each BIP type is indicated in the AVG and SLG columns, and it’s converted to run values and compared to MLB average in the REL PRD column. That figure then is adjusted for context, such as home park, luck, etc., in the ADJ PRD column. For the purposes of this exercise, SH and SF are included as outs and HBP are excluded from the OBP calculation.

This is one interesting cat. While Yelich may not hit the ball in the air very often, he crushes it when he is able to do so. He batted .380 with a .937 SLG in the air last season for a 183 actual REL PRD, which is adjusted significantly upward for context to 216. Marlins Park is quite pitcher-friendly. As an opposite-field oriented lefty hitter, Yelich is driving the ball directly into its more hitter-averse areas.

Let’s take a step back and consider how good a 216 ADJ PRD on fly balls really is. It’s not at the very top of the MLB population; that honor goes to Stanton at 407, with Chris Carter (329) and Chris Davis (321) also exceeding 300. Even teammate Ozuna, at 260, is ahead of Yelich. Still, consider this exclusive group within which a 216 ADJ PRD fits quite neatly; Nelson Cruz (238), Miguel Cabrera (213), Ian Desmond (211), Jose Bautista (203) and Andrew McCutchen (203). Pretty solid. If only Yelich could hit more fly balls. We’ll revisit that point in a bit.

Yelich hits his liners a bit harder than MLB average (106 ADJ PRD); his grounders a bit softer (91). The one weak spot in his batted-ball profile is a cluster of weak roll-over grounders to the pull side, something he could clean up a bit as he matures.

All in all, despite his extreme grounder tendency and its converse, his inability to frequently tap into his fly ball power, Yelich posted a 122 REL PRD and 119 ADJ PRD on all BIP. Those figures remain unchanged once the K’s and BB’s are added back in.

So, the 2014 version of Christian Yelich was a 119 ADJ PRD true-talent offensive player. That version obviously has a great deal of untapped potential. His physical ship still hasn’t fully come in, and at this point, he hasn’t come close to learning the wonders of pull power. His fly ball ratio in the air was 0.36 last season, higher than only Mauer and Kendrick among MLB regulars.

The key variable regarding his future development will be his ability to elevate the baseball. How good would Yelich be if he kept most of his 2014 BIP fundamentals intact, but had a league average fly ball rate? Let’s assume his popup rate trended up a bit as well, to the 20th percentile. Let’s keep his K, BB and liner rates the same, and give a nod to his speed and allow him to retain his 115 REL PRD on the ground. This version of Christian Yelich would be a .286/.360/.482 hitter, with a 142 ADJ PRD, which runs closely in sync with OPS+. That’s a star player, and that’s without normal expected enhancements in K and BB rates and pulling capability.

And there is precedent for such an increase in fly ball rate. In 2008, his first full MLB season, Jacoby Ellsbury had a fly ball percentile rank of 2. It has fluctuated between 27 and 56 since, and was 54 in his 2011 career year. Ellsbury posted that incredible 2011 campaign with ball-striking ability not nearly in Yelich’s league.

Even if Yelich doesn’t ever post a league-average fly ball rate, there are multiple pathways to stardom available. The names Mauer, Kendrick and Jeter keep popping up in this analysis. Kendrick represents his absolute baseline; with zero improvement in his fly ball rate, you’ve got a long-term .285 hitter with gaps power. Low popup rates are golden. With an improved K rate, Yelich can become a perennial .300 hitter, and 15 to 20 homers per year on top of that is pretty sweet. With an average fly ball rate, we’re now talking 30-plus-homer upside once he reaches his physical peak, and the chance of hardware on his mantel in the future.

When people ask me about the Marlins’ outfield, I sum it up thusly: You’ve got Stanton, you’ve got Baby Stanton (Ozuna), and you’ve got 1965 Pete Rose in Yelich. One of the most exciting things about this sport of ours if watching young, burgeoning talent find its legs. For this reason alone, the Marlins are must-see TV in 2015.

The Mets Go Defensive, Lock up Juan Lagares.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
With yesterday’s news that the Mets signed Juan Lagares to a new four-year, $23 million contract, another puzzle piece for the Mets’ future plans was put into place. Calling the deal an extension is a bit of a stretch, as it’s mostly just a buyout of Lagares’ arbitration years with a club option for his first year of free agency, with the contract not officially starting until 2016. Still, it gives us an opportunity to reflect on a similar recent defensive-minded deal, see how Lagares excels on the field, and place the deal in a larger context for the Mets.

The extension is very similar to the five-year, $23.5 million deal the White Sox just agreed to with Adam Eaton. That’s not a surprise, given that Lagares and Eaton are, at face value, pretty similar players: 26-year-old speedy outfielders with some (but limited) offensive upside. There are differences – Eaton’s ceiling on offense may be higher, while the same could be said of Lagares’ defense – but the comparison is a pretty sound one.

We don’t fully know what the future picture looks like for the Mets, but in centerfield, they’re now set with a team-friendly contract on a mainly defensive player that can hopefully be league-average with the bat. That’s a pretty useful thing to have, especially when said player just got done with two of the best defensive seasons by an outfielder in the past five years. Those seasons looked something like this:

It’s easy to see the traits Lagares has in centerfield just by watching the GIF above or by watching a few videos of his highlights. The guy’s really fast. He seems like he takes routes directly to where balls are going to land. He robs homers. He’s got an awesome arm. The eye test lies a lot with outfield defense, making some players look good when they aren’t, but it doesn’t lie with him in regard to the stats: Lagares’ 2013 was the 2nd-best defensive year in the outfield during the past five years by UZR/150 (+34.1) since Nyjer Morgan in 2009 (+35.0), and those two players are over 2.5 runs better than the next closest player. His 2014 was also incredibly good, ranking 12th-best in the past five years (+25.3).

With that said, a caveat: we know UZR in specific years can be inflated or depressed by randomness in the form of a lot of different things, like the fielding chances a player experiences. The data is far from perfect. That’s one of the reasons we recommend heavily regressing UZR. However, when a player like Lagares gets called up and puts up two straight years of incredible UZR while drawing universal praise in scouting reports, there’s probably something to it. Jeff wrote about this specifically with Lagares in mind last year, and it’s a great read to better understand UZR and the guy we’re talking about.

Those two years of fielding data aren’t a whole lot, but they’re something, and they tell us Lagares was one of the best defensive players in the game during 2013 and 2014. To that end, I’ve created a table with the top 10 outfielders by UZR/150 over the past two years. We should keep in mind that a little weight should be given to 2014 over 2013 (Lagares had a lower UZR/150 in 2014) due to aging, so these could fluctuate a little bit, and everyone should be regressed toward the mean (zero):

Name Innings Plays ARM RngR UZR/150
Juan Lagares 1849 390 17.3 25.8 29.9
Lorenzo Cain 2059.2 460 3.1 34.0 24.3
Jason Heyward 2178.2 383 1.1 32.4 20.3
Carlos Gomez 2511.2 553 5.1 24.6 17.5
Josh Reddick 1848.2 302 0.7 22.0 15.8
Gerardo Parra 2516.1 404 14.5 17.1 15.8
Alex Gordon 2737 448 16.5 14.9 15.2
Yoenis Cespedes 2060 315 13.4 3.8 11.5
Leonys Martin 2375 533 18.4 4 10.7
A great arm and elite range are usually the foundation of a defensive wizard, and that is supported by these metrics. There aren’t a lot of surprises on this list: everyone of these players has some sort of reputation for being above-average at defense either with their arm, range, or both.

Now onto the other part of Lagares’ game. This is where the Mets think “anything here is a bonus”. Lagares was about dead-on league average last year, posting a wRC+ of 101. He doesn’t walk much (4.6% since his call up in 2013), strikes out at an average rate (21%, but slightly improved in 2014), and has basically no power (.105 ISO). His high BABIP in 2014 (.341) caused his average to come in at a nice .281, but his OBP was still rough with the limited walks.When he gets on, he’s a threat to steal given his speed, and he swiped 13 bases last year.

The BABIP is a big question, as a regression would pull his on-base marks (and thus his overall offense) down below league-average. His speed is his main ticket to maintaining that high BABIP mark. As it reads on his profile page: any offense he provides is gravy; the Mets didn’t extend Lagares primarily because of his bat.

Finally, we’ll take a look at where Lagares fits in with the rest of the Mets’ salary commitments and players under team control. I’ve charted the players who should make the 25-man roster this coming year, trying to avoid serious injuries. This is a little limited, because the roster is constantly going to change, and there will be trades, demotions, and promotions along the way. However, this still gives us an idea of some of the pieces that should make up the building blocks of the Mets roster for the next few years, barring any sort of huge trade.

The chart should be read as years until free agency, and I’ve simply combined the yearly salaries for all team control years without consideration of arbitration hearings (the pre-arb players should mainly be viewed through a years of team control lens here for that reason). Apologies in advance for leaving Noah Syndergaard off, and for any injuries or moves I might have missed:

I’ll go ahead and say it: there’s reason for optimism in this Mets roster for the first time in many years. Even with the long-term elbow injury to Zack Wheeler, there’s a young pitching core of Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom under team control for at least the next four years (hopefully with Syndergaard soon). Add a few new names to the bullpen, rumblings of a possible extension for the quietly very good Lucas Duda, and the hope that David Wright can get back to being David Wright, and you have a few reasons to hope. The main point that we should take from this is that the team has control over a lot of good, key pieces for an extended period of time. At this point, that’s a big step forward for the Mets, and Lagares is a part of that.

Will Juan Lagares lead the Mets in WAR in 2015, like he did last year? It might be a long shot, but his heroics in the outfield don’t hurt his cause. Even if his defense isn’t quite as amazing as UZR says it is, the Mets still just locked up a many years of team control on a very useful player entering his prime for a reasonable price. You can do a lot worse than having an elite defensive center fielder with a league-average bat: I’m confident Lagares will remind us of that often.

Evaluating the Prospects: Pittsburgh Pirates.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
With 31 players listed, the Pirates system is one of the deeper ones in the game, though a number of the guys listed below already have or will get big league looks next year. That’s obviously better than having the depth be at the low levels since the point of a system is to produce big league players, it just means the list may be less deep a year or two from now.

The Pirates do a nice job in Latin America, with the current regime led by Rene Gayo signing Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Dilson Herrera, Alen Hanson and Harold Ramirez, of the 45 FV or better types. The Pirates spent big in the draft in the years leading up to the bonus pools, but have a lower bar to clear on draft expectations with the big league team’s recent success and the bonus pool system limiting the outlay for domestic prospects.

The last five 1st rounders Pittsburgh has signed (Cole Tucker, Austin Meadows, Reese McGuire, Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon) all have returned positively so far and the big league team’s success is proving to block some MLB-ready prospects, so the organization is in a healthy place after decades in the wilderness.

Here’s the primer for the series and a disclaimer about how we don’t really know anything. See the links above for the ongoing series about how I evaluate, including the series on the ever-complicated hit tool.

Most of what you need to know for this list is in the above links, but I should add that the risk ratings are relative to their position, so average (3) risk for a pitcher is riskier than average risk (3) for a hitter, due to injury/attrition being more common. I’d also take a 60 Future Value hitter over a 60 FV pitcher for the same reasons. Also, risk encompasses a dozen different things and I mention the important components of it for each player in the report. The upside line for hitters is the realistic best-case scenario (a notch better than the projected tools, or a 75% projection while the projected tools are a 50% projection) and the Future Value encompasses this upside along with the risk rating for one overall rating number.

Below, I’ve included a quick ranking of the notable MLB players 27 and under that aren’t eligible for the Pirates prospect list and Dave Cameron shares some general thoughts on the organization. Scroll further down to see Carson Cistulli’s fringe prospect favorite. Up next is the Royals.

27 & Under Big League Assets
1. Gerrit Cole, RHP, Age 24, FV: 70 (Video)
2. Starling Marte, CF, Age 26, FV: 65
3. Gregory Polanco, CF, Age 23, FV: 65
4. Josh Harrison, 3B, Age 27, FV: 60
5. Jung-Ho Kang, SS, Age 27, FV: 50+
7. Vance Worley, RHP, Age 27, FV: 50
8. Jeff Locke, LHP, Age 27, FV: 45
9. Tony Sanchez, C, Age 26, FV: 45
10. Brandon Cumpton, RHP, Age 26, FV: 45

Organizational Overview by Dave Cameron

The Pirates have the foundation in place for a sustained run in the NL Central; in-their-prime stars under team control for multiple years. It’s the kind of nucleus that every low(er) revenue team dreams of, and the front office has mostly done a good enough job of surrounding the core with solid role players. Unfortunately, they happen to reside in the same division as the Cubs and Cardinals, so even building a very good core might not be enough. The team faces stiff competition going forward, and they’d be wise to not squander their 2015 opportunity before Chicago makes winning the division significantly more challenging in the next few years.

50+ FV Prospects:

1. Tyler Glasnow, RHP
Current Level/Age: High-A/21.6, 6’8/225, L/R
Drafted: 152nd overall (5th round) in 2011 out of California HS by PIT for $600,000 bonus
Fastball: 65/70, Curveball: 55/60, Changeup: 45/50, Command: 40/50

Scouting Report: Glasnow was drafted in the 5th round out of high school in 2011 as a low-profile pure projection bet with fringy to average stuff and a limited track record. He blew up in 2013, dominating Low-A with a fastball that hit 97 mph. He continued his progress at High-A in 2014, sitting 93-96 mph and hitting 98 mph, with a plus curveball and improving changeup.

Glasnow’s long limbs create some command/delivery challenges that he’s already made a lot of progress with, but his walks were more a function of deep counts due to swing-and-miss stuff than trouble throwing strikes. As you can see in the above video, I saw him pitch a number of times in 2014 and never wrote once in my notes that I was worried about him throwing strikes, wondering how his walks rates even made it appear that this was the case.

His velo was down a tick in the AFL, with his command and off-speed pitches now quite the same, but that appeared to just be fatigue from a long season for a skinny kid still adding bulk to his frame. It’s worth noting that Glasnow, especially for a guy that has such a long frame, has an uncanny ability to command his curveball, something I’ve only seen from Jose Fernandez among prospects at this level, and Fernandez’s curveball went from a 65 to an 80 pitch in the next couple years.

Summation: Glasnow will head to Double-A for 2015 and likely won’t get a big league look until 2016, but there’s #2 starter upside, with less risk each the day.

FV/Role/Risk: 60, #3 starter, Medium (3 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AA, 2016: AAA/MLB

2. Austin Meadows, CF
Current Level/Age: Low-A/19.9, 6’3/200, L/L
Drafted: 9th overall (1st round) in 2013 out of Georgia HS by PIT for $3.0 million bonus
Hit: 20/60, Raw Power: 55/55, Game Power: 20/50+, Run: 60/50+, Field: 50/50+, Throw: 45/45

Scouting Report: Meadows was compared to his friend and fellow 2013 draft Atlanta-area prep hitter Clint Frazier often; scouts were still split over which one they preferred at draft time. After a full season, Meadows has the edge, but it’s still very early. Meadows missed a lot of the season with a hamstring injury, but showed the sweet lefty swing and above average tools that got him drafted 9th overall.

Meadows is a big, football-strong type athlete at 6-foot-3/200 and appears to have already lost a step from high school, usually running in the 55 range, with most assuming he’ll settle closer to an average runner, though he’ll also turn in a 65 run time to first base every now and then. Since his arm is below average, this would shift him to left field and put more pressure on his bat, which is advanced, but he’s still learning to integrate his raw power into his game swing.

Jay Bruce is a comparison that’s come up often for Meadows and power-hitting corner outfield may be where this ends up in a few years. He’s never been a guy to show scouts all of his raw power in BP, so if he knows he’s headed to a corner, he may grow into plus raw power, which could make him a prototypical #3 hitter.

Summation: Meadows will head to the pitcher friendly High-A Florida State League for 2015 and a healthy full-season could vault him into the top 10 prospects in the game.

Upside: .290/.350/.470, 20 homers
FV/Risk: 55, Medium (3 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: High-A, 2016: AA, 2017: AAA/MLB

3. Jameson Taillon, RHP
Current Level/Age: AAA/22.4, 6’5/245, R/R
Drafted: 2nd overall (1st round) in 2010 out of Texas HS by PIT for $6.5 million bonus
Fastball: 60/70, Curveball: 55/65, Changeup: 40/50, Command: 40/50

Scouting Report: Taillon was one of the more hyped high school pitchers in recent memory, with both the Pirates and Orioles reportedly ranking him first on their draft boards, ahead of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Taillon flashed the same power stuff in pro ball as he did in high school, with an explosive mid-90’s fastball and a curveball that was a 70 at times, though his changeup and command lagged behind. There wasn’t really a question if Taillon could stick as a starter, he just had trouble with some finer points of pitching and consistency.

Then, his elbow popped and he underwent Tommy John surgery last year, knocking out his entire 2014 season. He’ll return in the middle of the season at the upper levels of the minors and should be a big league option in 2016, assuming everything comes back as expected. Before surgery, Taillon sat 94-97 and hit 98 mph with life and late into games in almost all of his outings. His curveball varied from a consistent plus pitch that flashed 65 or 70 grades pretty regularly in 2012, then regressed in 2013 to be more of a 55 pitch, possibly indicating some arm trouble was lingering. Taillon throws his changeup very hard, sometimes up to 90 mph and will likely never be more than average.

Summation: If the stuff comes back and he can make some progress with his feel for pitching, Taillon should be a steady mid-rotation starter, possibly as soon as 2016. Don’t expect much in 2015, as he’ll have about half a season to try to make sure everything feels right before really letting loose. The Pirates are targeting late May to early June for him to be back on the mound in regular games.

FV/Role/Risk: 55, #3/4 starter, High (4 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AAA/MLB

4. Josh Bell, 1B
Current Level/Age: AA/22.6, 6’2/235, B/R
Drafted: 61st overall (2nd round) in 2011 out of Texas HS by PIT for $5 million bonus
Hit: 30/55, Raw Power: 55/55, Game Power: 30/55, Run: 40/40, Field: 40/45+, Throw: 55/55

Scouting Report: Bell was considered unsignable out of a Texas high school in 2011, but the Pirates took him in the 2nd round and signed him for $5 million in the last draft before bonus pools were installed, seeing a dynamic quick-twitch right fielder. He still probably fits best as a right fielder, but the Pirates have three center field-caliber defenders entrenched in their lineup (Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco), a huge outfield that necessitates this kind of player in the outfield, and a hole to fill long-term at first base.

So, since defense was never a big part of his game, Pittsburgh is shifting Bell to first and he’s still new over there, so it’s a little rough at the moment, but he should be fine. He may not be the middle-of-the-order terror the Pirates were expecting, but the bat should be enough to profile everyday at any position. Bell has advanced feel to hit and is best from the left side, getting to his above average raw power in games already. He missed most of 2012 with knee surgery on the meniscus in his left knee, but appears to be fully recovered.

Summation: Bell will head to Double-A to start the year and, if he hits like he did last year, could find himself in the big leagues down the stretch. More likely, he’ll get his extended big league look in 2016 and could get a quick promotion to Triple-A this year in anticipation of that fit.

Upside: .275/.335/.475, 20-23 homers
FV/Risk: 50, Low (2 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AA/AAA, 2016: AAA/MLB

5. Nick Kingham, RHP
Current Level/Age: AAA/23.4, 6’5/220, R/R
Drafted: 117th overall (4th round) in 2010 out of Nevada HS by PIT for $485,000 bonus
Fastball: 55/60, Curveball: 50/50, Changeup: 55/55, Command: 45/50

Scouting Report: Kingham isn’t a sexy prospect, but he’s near big league ready and projects as a steady, league-average #4 starter. What I’m supposed to say now is that this kind of player is worth over $10 million a year on the open market, so this is the key, cost-controlled contributor that smaller market teams like Pittsburgh need. I guess I did say it, I’m just trying to let you know Kingham isn’t the super exciting prospect, if you only read these lists to see the flashy toolsy types.

The 6’5/220 righty sits 91-94 and hits 95 mph, relies on an above average changeup and mixes in a hard, average curveball. He’s doesn’t put up big strikeout numbers and doesn’t have a traditional swing and miss secondary pitch, but fits the lower-upside, big league ready type starting pitcher with a long track record that has been the headliner in big deals the last couple winters. So, there’s significant trade value here if the Pirates’ starting pitching depth holds up and an offensive need proves to be pressing in a pennant race.

Nick’s little brother, RHP Nolan Kingham, has recently been up to 95 mph and is a top couple round prospect for this year’s draft out of the same Nevada high school that produced Nick.

Summation: Kingham will start the year in Triple-A and wait for a rotation spot to open, so he’s very likely to make his big league debit at some point this year.

FV/Role/Risk: 50, #4 starter, Low (2 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AAA/MLB

45 FV Prospects

6. Reese McGuire, C Video: McGuire was the 14th overall pick in 2013 out of a Washington high school after showing advanced contact and catch-and-throw skills for over a year. The lefty-hitting McGuire missed time early in 2014 with a groin contusion, but performed decently at the plate in his full-season debut, with a low strikeout rate but little game power. McGuire has 45 raw power that plays down in games, meaning he’s got 8-12 homer upside, but he’s still filling out and that number could climb.

His calling card is an advanced lefty swing with lots of contact, tremendous feel to catch for his age and a plus arm that should give him an above average defensive package. The Pirates have been hammering young catchers about focusing on defense over offense and McGuire has bought in, so the game power shouldn’t be showing up for a few years. Catchers can develop at unexpected rates, but if McGuire can put up average/on-base numbers and continue the defensive improvements, he’ll easily be a 50 or better FV next year.

7. Cole Tucker, SS Video: Tucker was a surprise 1st rounder last summer out of an Arizona high school. I evaluated him in the 2nd-3rd round range, where many teams had him, but the Pirates didn’t think he’d make it to their 39th overall pick, which it now appears was good intel, so they popped him 24th overall. Tucker is a 6’4/180 switch-hitting shortstop that many scouts, myself included, think is simply too long-limbed to stick long-term at shortstop, despite good actions and the above average arm that would allow a smaller/quicker player to do just that.

Tucker is young for his prep class and won’t turn 19 until July, so there could be more bulk coming, but the Pirates think he’ll stay on the thin and at shortstop longer than expected, like Corey Seager. Tucker’s length limits him at the plate, so he has a contact, gap-to-gap approach so he can make contact, but he has an advanced approach and should grow into more game power with age. His power is below average now but should end up close to average at maturity. Scouts rave about his makeup and when you add together the projection, age and current skills and tools, it’s easy to see why Tucker slid up draft boards late, since he checks the boxes for teams to buy into a player’s high-end projection.

Note: prospects 4 through 7, or even as low as 10, are pretty tightly packed, so by midseason these guys could be in a shuffled order.

8. Alen Hanson, 2B Video: Hanson has been on the prospect radar for awhile, signing in the 2009 July 2nd period out of the Dominican for $90,000, then attracting trade interest as quickly as 2011, when he was an 18-year-old in the GCL. Hanson is 5’11/170, an above average to plus runner and has the feet and hands to play shortstop regularly, but his arm comes up a little short for the position and he relaxes better and hits more when he plays second base.

He’s good enough to contribute at both middle infield spots, but his everyday fit is at second base, provided there’s enough bat. Hanson only has 40 raw power but has learned to tap into it in games and has a solid gap-to-gap approach that fits his skills. He’s blocked by Neil Walker (who will be in his last arb year in 2016) and will spend the year in Triple-A, where he has a few things to work on, hopefully will move past being benched for lack of hustle, which have happened both of the last two seasons.

9. Harold Ramirez, CF Video: The 5’10/205 Colombian signed for $1.05 million in 2011 and has done nothing but hit since then, but there are some concerns about his upside. The righty hitter has a loose swing with above average bat speed, 12-15 homer raw power and plus speed, but a stocky frame that makes some think he’ll lose a step a move to an outfield corner. Since his arm is below average, that would be left field, the same general issue that Austin Meadows is facing, but Ramirez has a couple ticks less raw power than Meadows. He’ll head to High-A at age 20 this year and is easier to get on board with than the swing-and-miss types ranked below him, but 45 power in left field would put a lot of pressure on the profile.

10. Mitch Keller, RHP Video: The 6’3/195 Iowa prep product got $1 million in the 2nd round and began to check a lot of boxes off for scouts after his velocity spiked in the spring. He sits 90-93 and hit 95 mph regularly last year with a curveball that’s above average and an average changeup that he’s still gaining feel for. Keller has projection, athleticism, a good delivery and arm action, good plane and good feel for command and repeating his delivery. Those are the secondary abilities that scouts look for to bet on the projection of a prep arm and Keller also has the benefit of limited miles on his arm from being a cold weather kid with a recent velo bump that wasn’t abused on the showcase circuit.

11. Elias Diaz, C Video: Diaz signed for $20,000 in November of 2008 out of Venezuela and had an offensive breakout in 2013 at High-A that shot him up the Pirates’ prospect list. He was always pretty advanced defensively and still is, with an above average arm and at least average defensive skills. Diaz flashes average raw power to his pull side, but has a line drive approach in games, so his game power will likely be a full notch lower than that. He doesn’t strike out much and stays within himself at the plate, giving him a realistic upside of something like .255 with 10 homers and solid average defense, which could be a low-end starter. Diaz is 24 and will head to the upper levels of the minors for 2015, but likely isn’t a big league option until 2016.

12. Stephen Tarpley, LHP Video: Tarpley was a wildcard in the 2013 draft, with questions surrounding his consistency, maturity and makeup dating back to his transfer from USC after his freshman year that led him to Scottsdale JC, the Fighting Artichokes (!). He lasted until the 3rd round but, started to find consistency in the 2nd half of 2014 before Baltimore traded him this winter to Pittsburgh in the Travis Snider deal. At his best, Tarpley sits 92-95 and hits 97 mph late in games, with a low-80’s curveball that flashes plus, a solid average changeup and an average slider. The command shows flashes of average, but all five elements can be average at best on Tarpley’s bad days. There are signs that Tarpley is turning it around mentally and off-the-field with his full-season debut coming in 2015 as the next test.

13. Jacoby Jones, SS Video: The 6’3/200 LSU product was a big name out of high school and in college, but scouts just didn’t see enough pitch recognition and a plan at the plate to believe Jones could hit his upside. He played second base at LSU, but I thought third base suited his bigger frame better and center field could be the best option to take all the pressure off of him defensively. After taking him in the 3rd round in 2013, the Pirates decided to move him to shortstop for 2014 and they think he can stick there.

Jones is big and has plus speed and an above average to plus arm, so the tools and athleticism are there, but I’d guess he still ends up fitting best at third base in the end. For a kid with a raw approach at the plate, Jones puts on a polished show in BP, with above average raw power to all fields and an easy swing. Jones performed well in Low-A last year, but struck out more than you’d like to see while one of the older prospects in the league; some guys can make that work at higher levels, but very few. He turns 23 in May and hasn’t played above Low-A, so the Pirates will move him quickly to Double-A if he gets off to a quick start in High-A.

14. John Holdzkom, RHP Video: The 6’7/225 righty was drafted out of high school, then signed in the 4th round the next year with the Mets out of a Utah JC. He got released after reaching only Low-A and played in the independent leagues for parts of three seasons before the Pirates scooped him up last spring and he completed a wild ride by getting called up to the show and dominating out of the bullpen in a pennant race. Holdzkom sits 94-97 and hit 98 mph, rarely using his off-speed pitches, an inconsistent but good above average cutter and a solid average palmball with splitter action combo, along with an even-more-rarely-used slider.

He still has options and will open the season in Triple-A while the Pirates sort out all of the out-of-options relievers still in camp and Holdzkom works on mixing in other pitches, or learns that he’s so good that he doesn’t have to. Holdzkom has good taste in comedians/podcasts and doesn’t mind being honest, so it’s only a matter of time before he’s a guest on Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast or the late night show hosted by a big Pirates fan that looks a lot like him.

40 FV Prospects

15. Trey Supak, RHP Video: The 6’5/210 Texas prep product got $1 million last summer as a 2nd round pick and is the projectable flip-side to Keller. Supak has a loose, swimmer-type body with good extension and a clean arm and delivery, but less now command and stuff than Keller. Supak sits 89-92 and hits 94 mph, with most expecting that number to creep up a few ticks in the coming years. His curveball is above average but he can have trouble locating it, while he’s learning to used his changeup more and it’s average.

16. Willy Garcia, RF Video: Garcia is a tooled-up, prototypical right field prospect with a loose swing, above average to plus raw power and a plus arm. He signed for $210,000 in 2010 out of the Dominican and has performed well enough to be young for each level he’s been at so far in his career, including a 114 wRC+ in Double-A last year as a 21-year-old all season. The big question is if Garcia’s well below average plate discipline will allow this performance trend to continue at higher levels when pitcher’s make less mistakes and can hit their spots more reliably. Garcia’s K rate has been 32% and 31% in full seasons at High-A and Double-A the last two years, with .350+ BABIPs the only way he can put up any numbers. So the question is if Garcia is the rare animal that can do that at the big league level (the Pirates have one of them), or if he learns to produce this year at Triple-A with a lower K rate.

17. Wyatt Mathisen, 3B Video: Mathisen played shortstop and pitcher in high school, but the Pirates took him 69th overall in 2012 from a Texas high school to convert him to a catcher. Mathisen has the athleticism, hands, feet, arm and frame for the position, but he had a torn labrum in 2013 and the catching was taking away from his hitting performance, so he’s now been moved to third base. His tools profile there as well, but there’s still a chance he goes back behind the plate in the future. Mathisen is a fringy runner with an above average arm and good hands, along with fringy raw power and good bat speed and feel to hit. He’s still integrating his power into games, but the hope is the position move will kickstart his bat even more in 2015.

18. Connor Joe, RF Video: Joe was a college catcher/right fielder at San Diego that had a big year at the plate and went 39th overall last summer. He’s rough enough behind the plate that Pittsburgh has no plans to try him back there, but his solid average arm will fit in right field and Joe is more athletic than the average catcher, with enough quickness to play in the outfield. The Pirates plan to experiment with him at third base in 2015, where he has some history playing in the past. Joe didn’t play last summer after signing due to a back issue, but has solid average raw power and an above average bat that should play almost anywhere on the field if he develops as expected.

19. Jordan Luplow, CF Video: Luplow was one of my favorite prospects in the 2014 draft, the Pirates third round pick is an outfield tweener with a smooth swing and a long track record of hitting tough pitching. The 6’1/195 Luplow is an above average runner with an average arm and good instincts that might be able to play center field everyday, but can help at all three outfield positions if needed. His raw power is a 45 (12-15 homers annually in MLB), but the bat is at least a 50, so even if he is a corner outfielder, the combination of offense and defense may make him a starter if the bat plays, along the lines of Norichika Aoki or Coco Crisp. He’ll be 21 this season and will start in Low-A, but may get a promotion if he hits like I think he can.

20. Andrew Lambo, RF Video: The former elite Dodgers prospect found some of that potential with big offensive showings in Double-A and Triple-A in 2013 and 2014. He’s battling for the last bench spot on the big league team right now, but appears to have some trade value and has two options left. The 6’3/225 Lambo has plus raw power from the left side and some feel for the strike zone and the bat head. His power-oriented swing can get a little long at times, but he’s quick enough to play corner outfield along with first base and his solid average arm means he can fit in either corner. There’s been injuries, makeup and maturity issues for Lambo to overcome the past few years, but he appears to be past most of that now and may be a low-cost platoon option for a small market team, if not Pittsburgh.

21. Barrett Barnes, LF Video: Barnes was a sandwich round pick out of Texas Tech in 2012 but hasn’t played much since signing, with oblique and leg issues holding him under 100 PA in 2014. Barnes is a 55 runner with a 45 arm that fits in left field, but his average raw power and advanced righty bat are enough to profile there if they play as expected. It’s hard to say if they will due to the lack of reps in pro ball and Barnes will turn 24 in the middle of the season, so it’s time for him to start performing and moving up the chain to see if he can deliver on his everyday player promise.

22. Steven Brault, LHP Video: Brault was an 11th rounder in 2013 out of Regis University in Denver, with some scouts turning in the plus runner with a plus arm as a hitter, but the Orioles opted to make him a pitcher. Pittsburgh acquired him from Baltimore this winter along with another upside lefty Stephen Tarpley in exchange for Travis Snider. Brault is new to full-time pitching and the velocity will vary at times, sometimes 86-90 and other times 90-91, hitting 93 mph. The better arm speed lets his slider and curveball play to solid average at their best and ups the deception for his above average to plus changeup. There’s also some deception to his delivery; the elements are here for a back-end starter if he can find more consistent arm speed, which you can forgive due to his two-way history.

23. Stolmy Pimentel, RHP Video: Pimentel was acquired from the Red Sox in 2012 with Mark Melancon in the deal that send Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt to the Red Sox. Pimentel was a projection righty starter with subpar numbers and some arm speed at that point and he’s since made strides after a move to the bullpen at the upper levels. He sits 93-96 and hits 98 mph with a 55 splitter and a solid average slider, with enough command to allow those pitches to play. Pimentel had a sprained ankle and shoulder soreness in the last year after converting to the bullpen, but is fully healthy now. Like Caminero, Pimentel is a big league bullpen candidate that’s out of options, so it’ll be tough to keep them both.

24. Arquimedes Caminero, RHP Video: Caminero already has some big league time and is already 27, but is still searching for consistency in location. He throws from a lower slot with some deception from coiling his body, sitting in the mid-90’s and regularly hitting 100 or 101 mph. Caminero’s off-speed pitches are a slider and splitter that are inconsistent as his arm slot varies, with the slider the better pitch and it flashes 55 at times. He’s out of options, had a good March and could spend much of 2015 in the big league bullpen.

25. Casey Sadler, RHP Video: Sadler was a low-profile pick out of an Oklahoma junior college in 2010 and hasn’t put up huge numbers at any stop in the minors, but is the ground ball, pitch-to-contact type starter that can run into a solid big league career without ever being a real prospect. He sits 89-92 and hits 93 mph with his sinker, primarily uses a solid average slider and also mixes in a fringy changeup that’s a little above average at times, though he doesn’t fully believe in the pitch. He got a big league look last year and will likely break camp in Triple-A, waiting for a spot to open. Sadler’s upside is as a 5th starter, with a middle/long relief backup plan.

26. Cody Dickson, LHP Video: The 6’3/180 Dickson was a 4th rounder in 2013 out of Sam Houston State that’s been solid as a pro, but needs to make progress with his command to stick as a starter. Dickson sits 91-94 and hits 95 mph with a curveball that’s above average on good days and a changeup that’s progressed to flash average at times. His command is the issue now and has been for years; he turns 23 in April and hasn’t been above Low-A, so he’s likely a reliever, with a chance to fit late in games.

27. Tito Polo, CF Video: Polo signed in 2012 as a 17-year-old from Colombia and has hit well for his three pro seasons, with 2015 marking his American debut. Polo is 5’11/180 and is a 55 or 60 runner with a shot to stick in center field and a fringy arm. He doesn’t have much power, but his bat is advanced for his age; he has a good approach and makes consistent hard contact.

28. Clay Holmes, RHP Video: Holmes was a little-known pop-up arm that emerged just before the 2011 draft, but Pittsburgh saw upside and gave $1.2 million to the rural Alabama prep product in the 9th round of the last draft before bonus pools were implemented. Holmes is a physical 6’5/220 but has a stiff, upright delivery that affect his command, though it helps give him lots of plane. He missed 2014 with Tommy John surgery, likely getting back on the mound by mid-2015. At his best, Holmes sat 90-93 mph with projection, a curveball that was a 55 at times, but changed and command that needed some work.

29. Gage Hinsz, RHP Video: The 6’4/210 Montana product got $580,000 out of high school last summer as a 11th round pick and surprised the Pirates with how well he hung with the higher profile prep arms in their system. Hinsz sits 90-93 and hits 94 mph, holding that velo later into games, flashing an average changeup and a curveball that’s fringy at times but needs work. He has a good frame with projection and a clean arm action and delivery with some feel to pitch and not a lot of innings given his background, so there should be more coming.

30. Yhonathan Barrios, RHP Video: The 5’11/180 Dominican reliever converted to the mound late in 2013 and played at both A-Ball levels in 2014. His delivery is low effort for a reliever, he sits 94-98 and hits 100 mph with above average life and also mixes in a solid average changeup and a fringy slider. His command that isn’t that bad, given the conversion and arm speed, and he’s still learning to pitch, so there’s more upside here.

31. Luis Heredia, RHP Video: The 6’6/220 Mexican got $2.6 million in 2010 as a 16-year-old but his velocity and weight has yo-yoed, with some scouts concerned about his maturity. He was 88-92 mph during the season and 87-90 mph in instructs, with a 55 changeup and fringy to average curveball when his velo is up, but a near non-prospect when it’s down. He’s still just 20 years old and the talent is in there, but he needs to start performing soon after a four year roller-coaster.

Cistulli’s Guy

Deibinson Romero, 3B

Romero was distinguished this offseason for featuring the top WAR projection among all those players who’d been granted minor-league free agency, rendering him the one most likely to repeat Yangervis Solarte‘s accomplishment from 2014. Solarte didn’t transform into an elite talent, obviously, but he did parlay his assorted skills into a regular major-league job after spending years in the Minnesota and then Texas systems. The 28-year-old Romero’s done at least one of those things: signed by the Twins out of the Dominican as a 19-year-old, he proceeded to then spend nine years within that organization. He’ll begin his 10th season as a professional with the Pirates. Romero possesses nothing resembling a carrying tool, but has exhibited sufficient competence for Pittsburgh to avoid the awful in case of injury to Josh Harrison.

Others of Note

There’s eight more hitters in the upper levels of the system to keep an eye on: CF Keon Broxton (former toolshed projection guy in the Arizona system was a revelation at 24 in Double-A for Pittsburgh; he’s 6’3/195 and can play all three outfield spots as a possible 4th outfielder that the Pirates were concerned they might lose him last winter in the Rule 5), CF Mel Rojas (Video 6’3/215 son of former big league reliever by the same name, Mel Jr. went in the 3rd round in 2010, has above average bat and foot speed with some pop and defensive instincts, but plate discipline issues), 1B Hunter Morris (acquired today from Milwaukee for a PTBNL, Morris has over 900 PA in Triple-A of slightly-below league average performance at ages 24 and 25; being hit with a pitch in the wrist last year scrapped a planned big league call-up with Milwaukee; he shows flashes of a 50 bat and 60 raw power, but never at the same time and he was outrighted off the 40-man this winter before the Brewers cut bait today), 3B Eric Wood (2012 6th rounder has battled injuries, but has solid tools across the board and all fields approach that should play well at higher levels), SS Gift Ngoepe (Video South African shortstop is above average runner and thrower that can play shortstop, but it limited to a possible utility role since the bat is a little light), 1B Jose Osuna (Video 6’2/215 Venezuelan is first base only and has solid average raw power, but just okay hitting ability, so he’ll need to hit at each level to prove he can be a platoon guy), 2B Max Moroff (Video got $300,000 out of high school in 2012 and the switch-hitter has average tools, feel for the game and a little pop, but he has trouble getting to it in games) and C Jin-De Jhang (lefty hitting Taiwanese backstop has above average arm and improving defensive skills along with some feel to hit, even though he didn’t do that much in 2014).

There’s five more hitters in the lower levels of the system to keep an eye on: C Taylor Gushue (Video 2014 4th rounder from Florida is a switch-hitting catcher with solid average raw power and arm strength that has a chance to stick behind the plate and some feel to hit), 1B Stetson Allie (Video powerful 6’2/240 righty got $2.25 million in 2010 as a power arm that hit 100 mph in high school, but his command did him in; he’s now a hitter with plus plus raw power, but questions about contact), CF Michael De La Cruz (Video Dominican signed for $700,000 in 2012 and is easy plus runner with surprising pop from the left side, some feel to hit and an above average arm, but he’s still raw as the GCL numbers indicate), 2B Erich Weiss (got $305,000 out of Texas in 2013 and moved from third base to second base in pro ball, where it looks like he can stay despite a 6’3/180 frame; he has a good offensive approach, fringy speed and an average arm) and CF Elvis Escobar (Video 5’10/180 Venezuelan got $570,000 in 2011 and has above average speed and arm, but is still developing offensively).

There’s five more pitchers in the system to keep an eye on: RHP Adrian Sampson (he has long/middle relief upside with an above average fastball and curveball, fringy changeup and command, heading back to Triple-A in 2015), RHP Chad Kuhl (works 91-95 mph with sink as a starter, along with a fringy slider and changeup that flash average at times with command that’s fringy as well, so he could be a starter with a little more progress), RHP Jhondaniel Medina (Video 5’11 Venezuelan reliever sits 92-94 and hits 96 mph with an above average splitter and solid average curveball, but he’s working on command), RHP Jason Creasy (sits 90-92 and hits 94 mph as a starter with a solid average slider, but no third pitch and fringy command, so his fit is in middle relief, where the stuff should play up) and LHP Orlando Castro (5’11 Honduran pitchability lefty works 88-91 mph with solid average curveball and changeup, giving him a shot to be a 5th starter).

Evaluating the Prospects: Seattle Mariners.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Mariners have done a nice job in amateur acquisition the last few years, evidenced by 4th round, well-below-slot college senior signs LF Patrick Kivlehan and LHP Ryan Yarbrough in the 45 FV group on the list. Seattle has always spent money internationally and there’s clear evidence of that below. As noted in the Gareth Morgan scouting report, the Mariners have shown a clear preference for right-handed power in the amateur markets in recent years, but taking Alex Jackson 6th overall last year was a slam-dunk decision on a guy Seattle didn’t think would make it to their pick. There’s a nice mix of international and domestic, high upside and high certainty, hitter and pitcher, etc. I have this system in the middle third of the org rankings, with plenty of upside guys that could help raise that ranking next year.

Here’s the primer for the series and a disclaimer about how we don’t really know anything. See the links above for the ongoing series about how I evaluate, including the series on the ever-complicated hit tool.

Most of what you need to know for this list is in the above links, but I should add that the risk ratings are relative to their position, so average (3) risk for a pitcher is riskier than average risk (3) for a hitter, due to injury/attrition being more common. I’d also take a 60 Future Value hitter over a 60 FV pitcher for the same reasons. Also, risk encompasses a dozen different things and I mention the important components of it for each player in the report. The upside line for hitters is the realistic best-case scenario (a notch better than the projected tools, or a 75% projection while the projected tools are a 50% projection) and the Future Value encompasses this upside along with the risk rating for one overall rating number.

Below, I’ve included a quick ranking of the notable MLB players 27 and under that aren’t eligible for the Mariners prospect list and Dave Cameron shares some general thoughts on the organization. Scroll further down to see Carson Cistulli’s fringe prospect favorite. Up next is the Pirates.

27 & Under Big League Assets
1. Kyle Seager, 3B, Age 27, FV: 70
2. Mike Zunino, C, Age 23, FV: 60 (Video)
3. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Age 22, FV: 60 (Video)
4. Brad Miller, SS, Age 25, FV: 55 (Video)
5. James Paxton, LHP, Age 26, FV: 50+
6. Dustin Ackley, LF, Age 27, FV: 50+
7. Chris Taylor, SS, Age 24, FV: 50 (Video)
8. Roenis Elias, LHP, Age 26, FV: 45
9. Jesus Montero, DH, Age 25, FV: 45
10. Danny Farquhar, RHP, Age 27, FV: 45
11. Dominic Leone, RHP, Age 23, FV: 45 (Video)
12. Logan Morrison, 1B, Age 27, FV: 45

Organizational Overview by Dave Cameron

After years of rebuilding, the Mariners finally look ready to win. They possess a couple of top-end superstars, a few underrated supporting cast members, and finally have enough depth to not have disastrous performances drag down the overall totals. They currently project as slight favorites in the AL West despite the forecasts not being particularly high on either of their two hyped up young starters; if either take a step forward, the Mariners have a chance to be one of the best teams in the American League. But while there is a lot of young talent around the field, this is also a team with a narrowing window, as their two best players can only really get worse, and there isn’t a clear franchise player in the system to replace those lost contributions if age finally starts to catch up to Robinson Cano or Felix Hernandez. As long as those two remain MVP candidates, however, this team should contend for the division title.

50+ FV Prospects:

1. Alex Jackson, RF
Current Level/Age: RK/19.2, 6’2/215, R/R
Drafted: 6th overall (1st round) in 2014 out of California HS by SEA for $4.2 million bonus
Hit: 20/60, Raw Power: 65/65, Game Power: 20/60, Run: 45/45, Field: 45/50, Throw: 60/60

Scouting Report: Jackson was known as a sophomore in high school as he showed and advanced feel to hit to all fields, huge raw power and a huge arm behind the plate. He held that lofty perch until his draft year, as a legitimate contender to go #1 overall, but ultimately slipped to the Mariners at 6th overall. Jackson was the 8th first round pick from Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego, joining Cole Hamels, Hank Blalock, Marlins prospect RHP Trevor Williams and Yankees prospect 2B Gosuke Katoh as alums.

Jackson has easy plus raw power and arm strength, but the separator here is his advanced feel to hit to all fields and get to his power in games. Like Wil Myers and Bryce Harper before him and Kyle Schwarber from his draft class, Jackson’s bat is too advanced to wait on his glove to develop behind the plate, so the Mariners will just stick him in right field and let him hit his way to the big leagues.

Some evidence of Jackson being new to right field materialized after he signed, when he lost a ball in the lights and it hit him in the face. He sustained a sinus fracture and has said he misses catching a bit, but has moved on. Seattle said they didn’t even consider playing him behind the plate in pro ball, so that won’t be revisited.

Summation: Jackson is about as elite of a prep bat as we’ve seen in years, so the expectation is he’ll spend a full year in Low-A to adjust to pro ball, then his performance will dictate how fast he moves.

Upside: .285/.350/.500, 25 homers
FV/Risk: 60, High (4 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: Low-A, 2016: High-A/AA, 2017: AA/AAA, 2018: AAA/MLB

2. D.J. Peterson, 1B
Current Level/Age: AA/23.2, 6’1/205, R/R
Drafted: 12th overall (1st round) in 2013 out of New Mexico by SEA for $2.759 million bonus
Hit: 40/50+, Raw Power: 65/65, Game Power: 40/60, Run: 45/40, Field: 45/50+, Throw: 55/55

Scouting Report: Peterson emerged in his draft year at New Mexico as a guy that scouts saw both advanced hit-ability and raw power, with some comparing him to Billy Butler and Jeff Bagwell for an unexpectedly loose swing in a stout frame. D.J wasn’t a big prospect out of his Phoenix-area high school, but his younger brother Dustin, traded from San Diego to Atlanta in this winter’s Justin Upton deal, went in the 2nd round in the same 2013 draft as D.J. out of that same high school.

Peterson plays third base now and has the hands and arm to hang around there for awhile, but every scout I’ve talked to sees him moving over to first base at some point in the next few years. He has a stout frame and limited mobility that make him fringy at best at the position. His big raw power has always played in games and Peterson has already hit 44 homers in 178 regular season minor league games.

Summation: Peterson is 23 and should head to Double-A and/or Triple-A in 2015, setting the stage for a potential late-season 2015 big league look with a chance to stick in 2016 as a middle of the order masher.

Upside: .270/.340/.485, 25 homers
FV/Risk: 55, Low (2 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AA/AAA, 2016: AAA/MLB

45 FV Prospects

3. Ketel Marte, SS Video: The Dominican shortstop signed for $100,000 in August, 2010 and had a breakout 2014, proving he was more than a glove-first, slap-hitting speedster. Marte is a 65 runner that plays shortstop now and some scouts think could be a .300 hitter due to his speed and approach to hitting. He added weight before 2014 and now shortstop isn’t a sure thing, with his focus and arm strength both coming and going at times, causing some scouts to project him as a Luis Castillo-type second baseman. He’ll head to Triple-A this year for his age-21 season, aged like a college junior, so he’s clearly ahead of schedule but the 6’1/165 switch hitter can be too aggressive at the plate and has limited offensive upside, maybe 8-10 homers at maturity.

4. Edwin Diaz, RHP Video: Diaz was a 3rd rounder in 2012 out of a Puerto Rican high school that’s steadily improved since signing. He was rail-thin as an amateur, but added 25 lbs. last season, now measuring at 6’2/180 with some concerns he’d have to move to relief if he couldn’t add bulk now gone. Diaz is a confident strike thrower that’s a student of the game, though he’s still growing into his frame and the command will vary day-to-day. He sits 91-94 and hits 96 mph with his fastball and backs it up with an above average to plus slider. His changeup is fringy but coming along and his fastball/slider combo will flash plus to even better at times in short stints, seeming to indicate there’s still more in the tank.

5. Patrick Kivlehan, LF Video: Kivlehan was a safety for four years at Rutgers and was a baseball player for just his senior year, but he was good enough to go in the 4th round in 2012, with a couple teams in line behind the Mariners. He’s made strides after signing, focusing only on baseball for the first time in his life and becoming a real prospect. Kivlehan wasn’t even a notable prospect until later in his senior season, sneaking up on some scouts when he stood out versus St. John’s draft-eligible RHPs Kyle Hansen and Matt Carasiti. Kivlehan had given up on football before his senior spring, but only got a chance to play because the regular third baseman tore his hamstring, then Kivlehan won the Big East Triple Crown in his only season.

Seattle was pleasantly surprised after signing to see how well Kivlehan tracked breaking stuff despite not playing much baseball since high school. Scouts rave about Kivlehan’s hard-nosed 80 makeup and ability to make adjustments, typical for a former high-level football player. When in Seattle after signing, Kivlehan didn’t seem as enthusiastic as most players about seeing the clubhouse and left quickly, saying he hadn’t earned this yet.

Scouts noticed that Kivlehan gravitated to Hunter Renfroe and Jace Peterson in the AFL this year, both former football players and three of the only players to not look worn down by the end of the long season. One Mariners exec joked that they won’t have to worry about Kivlehan complaining about a coach being too strict when he played four years for Greg Schiano. Kivlehan went to the New Jersey high school that produced long-time MLB catcher John Flaherty and Cardinals prospect LHP Rob Kaminsky; Kivlehan was the shortstop on his team and Cubs IF Tommy La Stella was the second baseman on the same team.

Kivlehan has told scouts his confidence was helped by going in the 4th round, as he didn’t see himself as that kind of prospect, but he’s now a slam-dunk big leaguer of some kind. He likely fits best in left field, but he’s a fringy runner with a solid average arm and decent hands that can fit at all four corners in the big leagues. Kivelhan has above average raw power that can play down a bit in games due to a line drive approach. His swing is a little awkward, with one scout saying he has a “nervous bat” and scouts are always wary of non-consensus guy that do it a little differently. It’s likely league-average-to-above offense with good makeup and positional versatility.

6. Austin Wilson, RF Video: Wilson was a high profile prospect in the 2010 draft at the same Los Angeles area high school that’s since produced prep 1st rounder Lucas Giolito, Max Fried and Jack Flaherty. Wilson was known as a prep underclassman on the showcase circuit and started three years at Stanford after turning down seven figures in 2010, signing for $1.7 million in the 2nd round in 2013. The 6’4/250 athlete is a monster physically with plus raw power and arm strength and deceptive solid average speed that makes his a little above average in right field.

None of those tools have ever been in question for Wilson, as the concerns has centered around his bat. The swing is fine and the strike zone knowledge is good, but his approach has been inconsistent and problematic, with Stanford’s emphasis on hitting ground balls to the opposite field slowly getting worked out of Wilson’s system. Wilson has been bothered by minor injuries, with an elbow injury before the 2014 season in the same elbow that had a stress reaction in 2013, then a forearm strain that late in 2014 that canceled his planned promotion to High-A.

Scouts think Wilson is a hard worker, smart and a good kid, but the injuries, inconsistency at the plate and no experience above Low-A through his age-22 season despite being on the radar for half a decade adds up to give them a lack of conviction on projecting him. He’ll head to the Cal League for his age 23 season this year, with an expectation he’ll rake his way into a Double-A promotion at some point in 2015, which should give us a better chance to evaluate his considerable talent.

7. Ryan Yarbrough, LHP: Yarbrough has traveled the most improbable journey to being in the top 10 on a prospect list in this org and maybe of any players with this grade I’ve profiled this far. Yarbrough was an almost complete unknown last spring to anyone other than area scouts when Seattle took him in the 4th round last summer, signing the senior for a way-way-under-slot $40,000 bonus. That’s the parameters that describe a solid org guy that may or may not even be mentioned in the others section on my list, likely never make the big leagues and was just a guy the team would’ve wanted in the 10th round, but took that high (with a 10th round type bonus) to bank some savings for later picks, which in this case was the bonus for #15 prospect on this list, 2014 over-slot 2nd rounder Gareth Morgan.

Yarbrough was seen in high school by many scouting directors, as he matched up with some top central Florida prep prospects in high school and Vanderbilt standout Carson Fulmer was a sophomore when Yarbrough was a senior at the same school. Mariners executives give credit to their area scout pushing them with Yarbrough’s name all spring and getting him crosschecked, leading to him being ranked atop their senior sign list, which came in play when they picked Morgan and needed to save some money. There was still some split in the draft room as to whether Yarbrough was a starter or reliever, but the consensus was starter by the end of the summer when his velo ticked up.

Yarbrough sat 88-91 mph most of the spring and may have jumped on the national stage when a matchup with 2014 9th overall pick Jeff Hoffman materialized, but fell apart when Yarbrough was moved to Saturday. After signing, Yarbrough was sitting 91-94 mph and in short stints would go 93-95 mph for an inning or two. He throws from a 3/4 slot and hides the ball well, creating deception, has an solid average slider and an above average to plus changeup that plays up with the new velocity.

As you’d guess with a 6’5/205 crafty lefty, Yarbrough commands his pitches well and repeats his delivery, with the deception helping his fastball sneak up on hitters and his three pitch mix keeping them honest. Since he was a late-blooming college senior, Yarbrough is already 23 and the Mariners plan to move him quickly; he should be in Double-A by the end of the year if he keeps performing like this.

8. Gabriel Guerrero, RF Video: Guerrero is the nephew of Vladimir Guerrero and you can see the resemblance in their physicality, mannerisms and how they play the game, though Gabriel likely won’t he a Hall of Famer (you’re welcome). He signed for $400,000 in 2011 and was 20 in the Cal League last year putting up good numbers as one of the youngest guys on the circuit.

He’s a lanky 6’3/190 with projection and quick-twitch in his frame, projecting for above average to plus power, he already has at least above average bat speed, an easy plus arm and below average speed that’s enough to be average defensively in right field. The issue with Guerrero is how much contact he’ll make, because his plate discipline is pretty bad. His numbers don’t necessarily show it yet, because he’s talented enough to hit almost any pitch he’ll see in A-Ball, but the current version of Guerrero will be exposed at higher levels, so he needs to make adjustments.

9. Brayan Hernandez, CF Video: The 6’1/170 Venezuelan signed for $1.85 million last July 2nd after having a breakout performance in January’s MLB Showcase in the Dominican. I have Hernandez with the same 45 FV as Tampa Bay’s Adrian Rondon, essentially tied for second-best prospect from last year’s July 2nd period. Hernandez is an above average to plus runner with an average arm, long strides and good defensive instincts to profile in center field.

He has an advanced feel for the bat head, switch hits, and already hits well in games, confidently holding his own at the plate while facing the big kids in instructs after signing. Hernandez had fringy raw power before signing, is around average now and may be slightly above at maturity; he’s the rare 17-year-old with average or better tools across the board and the instincts for them to play up.

10. Luiz Gohara, LHP Video: Gohara is 18 and has an enormous upside, signing out of Brazil in 2012 for $800,000. He’s listed at 6’3/210 but he’s been body comped to C.C. Sabathia and has weighed as much as 250 lbs at times. He’s a good athlete with an easy, deliberate delivery and has run his fastball up to 97 mph already, but sits 90-93 mph. Gohara has an above average changeup, but an inconsistent breaking ball that morphs from slider to curveball and back again, flashing solid average at times with the curveball type the best version.

His command and focus vary a good bit, with flashes of brilliance and immature indifference, but some scouts anticipate a breakout coming any day. Some sources really question Gohara’s attitude and dedication to getting better, with his work ethic a question mark, though he’s just turned 18, so it’s early to write him off. He’ll need to keep his weight in check and both of his parents are pretty big, meaning Gohara may be destined to have a workhorse type frame as well. The ceiling is mid-rotation starter, he’s aged like a high school senior and he’ll head to Low-A next year, so we’ll learn a lot about him with a full year in a full-season league; he could be a 50 FV by midseason.

11. Tyler Marlette, C Video: Marlette got an over-slot $650,000 bonus in 2011 out of the Orlando-area high school that produced 2012 1st rounder, current Phillies RHP Zach Eflin. Marlette has a powerful 5’11/205 frame, solid average raw power, an above average arm and the tools to stick behind the plate. He’s still working on some of the finer points of catching and there’s some question about how much contact he’ll make and how much raw power he’ll get to in games. Marlette has been steadily making progress behind the plate and earned a late-season promotion to Double-A at age 21, where he continued hitting as he has at every stop along the way.

40 FV Prospects

12. Danny Hultzen, LHP Video: Hultzen went 2nd overall in a loaded 2011 draft and got an $8.5 million big league deal, the type of deal that’s impossible today on both counts. He got to Triple-A in his first full season (where the linked video is from), though his trademark sharp command was inconsistent. He seemed to have turned a corner early in 2013 before he went on the shelf for left shoulder surgery for a torn rotator cuff and labrum. I’m always wary of young pitchers that seemingly needlessly throw across their body, which Hultzen did pre-surgery, due to stress on the shoulder, though this was far from the outcome anyone expected, even if they knew it was possible.

Hultzen is back on the mound and the stuff appears to be back after a solid instructs and impressive Spring Training, hitting 95 mph this spring with his trademark easy plus changeup. His angle to the plate is much more straight to the plate, which will ease the stress on his shoulder. At his best, Hultzen sat 91-94 mph with above average to plus two-seam life, an above average curveball, solid average slider, 65 changeup and above average command: you can see why he was so high profile as an amateur. I’m cautiously optimistic that he can regain and keep his above average stuff and at least average command, but shoulder surgery doesn’t have the generally positive reputation of elbow surgery, so I’ll need to see him do it for a month or two before I climb back on the bandwagon. That said, he may be a 45 or 50 FV by midseason.

13. Tyler O’Neill, LF Video: O’Neill drew Brett Lawrie comparisons as an amateur, due to his powerful 5’11/210 frame, above average bat speed from the right side, his salty demeanor and his Canadian high school background. Like Lawrie, O’Neill didn’t stick in some short looks at catcher, with O’Neill moving to left field last year. The 2013 3rd rounder broke his hand punching a dugout wall (a very Lawrie-ish injury) during a big year at Low-A last year as a teenager.

The Mariners liked what he showed at the plate and think he tracks the ball well, with his strikeouts a product of an aggressive, power-based approach rather than a lack of pitch recognition. O’Neill has above average to plus bat speed and raw power and a solid average arm that’s enough for right, though Seattle likes him in left field. The question is if his approach will allow him to hit for enough average to get to his power in games at high levels.

14. Carson Smith, RHP Video: Smith is a 6’6/215 righty that slings from a low 3/4 slot with some effort and funk but has surprisingly good command. He was an 8th rounder in 2011 out of Texas State that moved quickly to the big leagues, making his debut last year. Smith sits 91-93 and hits 95 with lots of life that helps generate lots of ground balls, backing his heater up with a slider that’s easy plus at times, with some comparing him to Luke Gregerson. He froze Mike Trout on a slider that prompted Trout to ask “what the f— was that?” so it has his seal of approval.

15. Gareth Morgan, RF Video: Morgan was a Canadian high school product that was watched closely on the high school showcase circuit for years before the M’s gave him a well-over-slot $2 million in the 2nd round last summer. Morgan checks all the boxes physically with a musculara 6’4/220 frame, a low-effort smooth cut, 65 raw power and an above average arm that fits in right field. He’s also a fringy runner underway and he’s played some center field in pro ball, but that won’t happen many more times.

The problem is all of these tools get undermined by Morgan’s approach at the plate, which is sometimes too aggressive and other times is too passive. He squared up Brandon Morrow‘s mid-90’s fastball last spring in a game and also struggled mightily at Area Codes last summer, chasing out of the zone and making weak contact. Seattle sees him as a premium ball of clay to be formed by player development. He’s flashed pitch recognition at times and Seattle is encouraged that the ability is in there, chalking some of his amateur struggles to being in a funk, though Morgan’s numbers in the AZL didn’t inspire hope in rival scouts.

Morgan went upper deck in Safeco in the pre-draft workout and fits their pattern of righty power bats high in the draft: Alex Jackson, D.J. Peterson, Tyler O’Neill, Mike Zunino, Joe DeCarlo, Patrick Kivlehan, Kevin Cron (unsigned), Rich Poythress and Austin Wilson, with GM Jack Zdurencik taking Ryan Braun, Matt LaPorta, Brett Lawrie and Jonathan Lucroy in Milwaukee when he was the scouting director.

16. John Hicks, C Video: The M’s dipped into the UVA pool in 2011, taking Hultzen in the 1st round and Hicks in the 4th, then again with Chris Taylor in the 5th round in 2012. Hicks and Taylor have both exceeded expectations while Hultzen may soon finally live up to his. Hicks is a solid defender that’s improved in pro ball after limited reps as an amateur and he’s average now, posting good CS% numbers thanks to a plus arm. It’s still a backup type profile, but there’s more in there than was expected, with a fringy bat and power upside to around 10 homers in a full season.

17. Julio Morban, RF Video: Morban got $1.1 million from Seattle out of the Dominican in 2008 and is now creeping up on his big league debut. The 6’1/210 lefty has the tools of a 4th outfielder–solid average raw power, fringy speed, solid average arm–but the hit tool is advanced enough that he might get to all his power in games and hit enough to be a low-end regular. He’s been age-appropriate or a year young for his level his whole career and still has trouble hitting for power in games. Morban had very good numbers in 2012 and 2013, was sidetracked by an ankle injury in 2014 and will open 2015 in Triple-A, where his short stroke could stand out in the hitter-friendly PCL; Seattle execs think he’s a sleeper that could breakout this season.

18. Austin Cousino, CF Video: Cousino was a 3rd rounder out of Kentucky last year and the 5’10/180 athlete is lefty hitter and plus runner with above average bat speed and double digit homer power, but his plate discipline backed up in his draft year undermining some of these tools. He has excellent instincts to take advantage of his speed in all aspects and a fringy arm that’s fine in center field. Cousino had a power-based pull approach early in college and he hit more than his share of homers, then he played more gap-to-gap later in his college career, though his walk/strikeout numbers were never good, so some see more of a 4th outfielder here.

19. Jack Reinheimer, SS Video: Reinheimer was a 2013 5th rounder out of East Carolina that’s hit a little more than expected after signing. He’s still seen as more of a utility guy, as his solid average arm is a little less than what you want at shortstop, there’s very little power and the bat is a little light as well. Reinheimer is a solid average runner that has the hands and feet to play short, is age appropriate for his level and has performed well so far, with some shades of another Mariners overperforming college shortstop, Chris Taylor. I also have trouble getting this out of my head when writing about Reinheimer.

20. Stephen Landazuri, RHP Video: Landazuri has flown way under the prospect radar for years after signing for $95,000 in 2010 as a 22nd rounder out of a California high school. The 6’0/195 righty’s stuff has slowly ticked up and he has three solid average pitches that’ll flash 55 at times. His four-seamer is 91-93 and hits 94 mph with some cut, he mixes in a sinker and cutter in the high-80’s, a solid average slider at 79-81 mph and an average changeup in the mid-80’s. The command is good enough to be a starter and there’s shades of Reds RHP Anthony DeSclafani (45 FV) here, though Landazuri has a little less stuff, feel and upper minors experience.

21. Tyler Pike, LHP Video: Pike was one of my favorite pitchers in the 2012 draft; he signed for $850,000 in the 3rd round as an athletic 6’0/180 pitchabilty lefty. Pike flashed an average fastball and curveball at his best, but his above average feel and 65 changeup were the separators, along with excellent deception caused by his unusual arm action. Pike’s command has surprisingly been an issue in pro ball but Seattle isn’t worried long term, with some thought that the Cal League caused some of his problems, such as pitching away from contact. Pike sat in the high-80’s at times, particularly when he struggled, and he’s maxed-out physically, but he was 88-91, hitting 93 mph in instructs and looks to be making progress on the mental and mechanical fronts.

22. Ji-Man Choi, 1B Video: The 6’1/230 Korean is a first-base only fit that got on the prospect radar with a massive 2013 at High-A and Double-A. His 2014 got a late start with a 50-game steroid suspension early in 2014 and he never really got going in Triple-A. Choi is a hit over power guy with advanced feel for the strike zone and bat head, along with average raw power, but his line drive approach in games makes it hard to get to his power. He needs to rake to matter and if he can hit a few more homers in Triple-A, there’s enough here to be the good side of a platoon.

23. Jordy Lara, 1B Video: The 6’3/215 Dominican started slowly, spending four years in short-season leagues and making his full-season debut at age 22. He’s performed well of late, including huge numbers in High-A last year, but the tools aren’t huge. Lara has good bat control and fringy to average raw power, but his swing can get long and there’s isn’t a ton of bat speed. Lara needs to hit and hit a lot to matter since he’s likely no more than the wrong side of a platoon in the big leagues and he’ll be 24 in Double-A next year. He has an above average arm, but isn’t quick enough to play regularly in the outfield to take advantage of it.

24. David Rollins, LHP Video: 2014 Rule 5 pick from Houston was busted for steroids last week and will serve an 80-game suspension starting on Opening Day, after which the Mariners will attempt to keep him long enough to get his full rights. The 6’1/210 25-year-old sits 90-93 and hits 95 mph, with a slider that’s a 55 at times, a fringy changeup and decent command. The Astros wanted Rollins to throw a curveball and be a starter, but Seattle thinks he fits better in relief with a slider.

Cistulli’s Guy

Tyler Smith, SS

The Mariners feature a particularly robust collection of compelling fringe-type prospects. Corner outfielder Dario Pizzano, for example, both produced a walk-to-strikeout ratio above 1.0 and also played collegiately at Columbia University. Unsurprisingly, he was among the top players on the author’s arbitrarily calculated Fringe Five Scoreboard last year. Outfielders Aaron Barbosa, Jabari Blash, and Jabari Henry have all also exhibited some promising combination of tools and performance. Smith distinguishes himself among the group, however, for his defensive skills: in addition to producing strong plate-discipline numbers (including walk and strikeout rates of 12.6% and 16.2% across High- and Double-A in 2014), Smith has also made 161 of his 171 minor-league appearances at shortstop. Statistically, at least, there’s little to separate him from either Brad Miller or Chris Taylor at this particular stage in their careers.

Others of Note

There’s six pitchers at the upper levels to keep an eye on:RHP Mayckol Guaipe (6’4/235 Venenzuelan signed with Seattle in 2006 as a 16-year-old and will head to the Triple-A bullpen for 2015; he doesn’t have a huge upside, with improved command helping his 55 fastball and solid average slider play up), RHP Sam Gaviglio (Video acquired from St. Louis this winter for 3B Ty Kelly, Gaviglio is a sinker/slider inventory swing man with an 88-91 mph sinker, solid average slider, fringy changeup and some feel), LHP Mike Kickham (lefty reliever has bounced a couple teams recently but has solid stuff, sitting 90-93, hitting 95 with sink, a solid average slider that comes and goes and an inconsistent changeup and command), LHP Edgar Olmos (Video 6’4/220 lefty reliever was on waiver roulette this winter and still has some command issues, but has four pitches from his starting days: 90-93, touching 95 mph with some life, an above average curveball, average slider and fringy changeup), LHP Tyler Olson (6’3 lefty was $10,000 7th round senior sign in 2013 out of Gonzaga and will start in Triple-A in 2015 if he doesn’t win a big league bullpen spot; he has a fringy to average four pitch mix with deception and feel to pitch that profiles in the pen) and LHP Brian Moran (brother of Colin Moran was Rule 5 pick that the Angels returned to Seattle when he missed 2014 for Tommy John surgery; he sits 86-90 mph with fringy stuff but lots of command and deception that’s helped him put up huge numbers in Triple-A).

There’s four pitchers at the lower levels to keep an eye on: RHP Daniel Missaki (Video Brazilian teenager signed for a $150,000 bonus and already has advanced feel to pitch despite limited high-level innings; he sits 89-91 mph with life, working in an solid average changeup and curveball that’s average at times; he was a late cut and also isn’t a director), RHP Dan Altavilla (2014 5th rounder from D2 Mercyhurst sits 91-94 and hits 97 mph with an above average slider, but the changeup, command and consistency will vary; he’ll go out as a starter but quick-moving reliever may be the fit), RHP Trey Cochran-Gill (Video 2014 7th rounder out of Auburn is 5’10 fast-track reliever; often he’s 90-93 but has touched a few notches higher and lower at times; he also has an above average slider in the mid-80’s and some effort to his delivery) and RHP Ramon Morla (Video converted to the mound last year after reaching AA as a hitter; he sits 95-99 mph with life, a slider that flashes above average, but he’s still very raw).

The story of Dominican SS Chris Torres deserves its own paragraph (Video). The Yankees backed out of a $2.1 million verbal deal with Torres before last July 2 due to conditioning issues and a shoulder injury and Torres settled for $375,000 from Seattle, as others teams had already spent most or all of their pool money. Torres is back in shape, has really impressed Seattle since signing, has some projection, great instincts, solid average speed, a smooth cut from both sides of the plate and a chance to stick at shortstop. I’d like to see him healthy and play a full season before I toss him on the list, since the Yankees backed out due to those concerns, but Torres will probably be solidly on the list next year after likely playing 2015 in the AZL.

There’s five position players to keep an eye, on, though in the next paragraph there’s some secondary bats to monitor: 3B Joe DeCarlo (5’10/210 2012 2nd rounder has had a slow start to his career, including a left pinkie fracture last season, but he has above average bat speed, raw power and arm strength with hands to fit in the infield), SS Tyler Smith (2013 8th rounder was senior sign that’s performed more than expected and now may be a big league utility guy that has enough glove to fill in at shortstop, making him tailor made to be this system’s Cistulli’s Guy), LF Jabari Henry (he’s old for the level, the Cal League/High Desert is super hitter-friendly and there’s some length to his swing, but Henry has an average arm, some feel for the strike sone, above average raw power and he hit 30 bombs last year), RF Jabari Blash (6’5/225 specimen looks like an NFL tight end and has above average arm, power and bat speed along with average foot speed; he served a drug suspension last year; Blash has improved his feel for the game and will be in Triple-A in 2015) and CF Leon Landry (above average runner is standout defender in center, but arm and power are below average and he’s a couple years old for the level, so he needs to continue the offensive progress to become a 4th outfielder).

Normally, this is the part where I narrow down a handful of interesting Latin prospects to the one or two I tell you to keep an eye on, but the Mariners had ten such guys in contention, so I figured I would mention them all and you can pick the one you want to bet on: RF Jose Leal (6’3/215 classic power right field prospect got $1.925 million, has easy plus raw power, an above average arm and some problems with contact), RF Estarlyn Morales (played alongside Leal and was a lower profile signing that’s a couple years older, but has a much better chance to hit and enough power that it matter), SS Erick Mejia (average runner has enough glove to stick at short and enough bat that it matters, just turned 20), CF Luis Liberato (above average bat speed and plus foot speed, but feel for the game is lacking), SS Rayder Ascanio (smaller guy without much offensive upside, but a wizard defensively at shortstop) and RHP Freddy Peralta (only 5’11 and right-handed isn’t a good start, but he’s up to 94 mph with a clean arm action and delivery with a chance to start) are the six that have played in America already.

Drawing from the recent July 2nd signings and players in the DSL, there are four others that make up this group of ten: C Onil Pena (Video Dominican got $385,000 and is offensive-oriented catcher with some pop that’s still raw behind the plate but has tools to make it work), 3B Greifer Andrade (Video Venezuelan outfield prospect got $1.05 million and was moved to shortstop, with third base the likely long-term fit, has solid average speed and arm, good instincts and advanced bat), C Juan Camacho (6’3/215, 18-year-old catcher was just signed out of Mexico and stood out for his bat in instructs) and C Ismerling Mota (Video Dominican catcher got $295,000 last year and shows well-rounded skill set with the bat and receiving ability standing out).

Evaluating the Prospects: Cleveland Indians.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Indians are deep. I list 50 prospects below and their 27 and under list is among the deepest in the game, along with a surprising amount of recently-emerging high-end talent. That’s good scouting and it’s come from big league moves, trades, the draft and international signings: one team exec said this is the deepest they’ve been on the farm since 2005. The Tribe’s last five first round picks are prospects 1-4 and 6 on this list, with the 5th prospect a 1st rounder they acquired from another club. After Lindor there isn’t an elite prospect, but there’s plenty of upside types in the top half of the list that could make the jump this year.

Here’s the primer for the series and a disclaimer about how we don’t really know anything. See the links above for the ongoing series about how I evaluate, including the series on the ever-complicated hit tool.

Most of what you need to know for this list is in the above links, but I should add that the risk ratings are relative to their position, so average (3) risk for a pitcher is riskier than average risk (3) for a hitter, due to injury/attrition being more common. I’d also take a 60 Future Value hitter over a 60 FV pitcher for the same reasons. Also, risk encompasses a dozen different things and I mention the important components of it for each player in the report. The upside line for hitters is the realistic best-case scenario (a notch better than the projected tools, or a 75% projection while the projected tools are a 50% projection) and the Future Value encompasses this upside along with the risk rating for one overall rating number.

Below, I’ve included a quick ranking of the notable MLB players 27 and under that aren’t eligible for the Indians prospect list and Dave Cameron shares some general thoughts on the organization. Scroll further down to see Carson Cistulli’s fringe prospect favorite. Up next is the Mariners.

27 & Under Big League Assets
1. Michael Brantley, LF, Age 27, FV: 70
2. Yan Gomes, C, Age 27, FV: 65
3. Jason Kipnis, 2B, Age 27, FV: 65
4. Danny Salazar, RHP, Age 25, FV: 65
5. Carlos Carrasco, RHP, Age 27, FV: 65
6. Jose Ramirez, SS, Age 22, FV: 55
7. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, Age 26, FV: 55
8. Trevor Bauer, RHP, Age 24, FV: 55
9. Zach McAllister, RHP, Age 27, FV: 50
10. Cody Allen, RHP, Age 26, FV: 50
11. T.J. House, RHP, Age 25, FV: 50
12. Bryan Shaw, RHP, Age 27, FV: 45
13. Zach Walters, LF, Age 25, FV: 45

Organizational Overview by Dave Cameron

The Indians are both exactly where an organization wants to be — a legitimate 2015 contender built around young players who aren’t anywhere near free agency — and in a bit of a precarious position, given the number of low-floor players they are relying on in both the short-term and the long-term. The starting pitching is easy to dream on, but most members of their rotation have about half a season of good Major League performance, and young pitching is always a shaky foundation around which to build. Even their best players have already significantly outperformed expectations and might not be able to sustain their 2014 performances going forward. The Indians feature a lot of assets with both significant risk and upside, and few contenders have more things that could plausibly go wrong. But if it goes right, this team could be very good, and stay good for quite a while.

50+ FV Prospects:

1. Francisco Lindor, SS
Current Level/Age: AAA/21.4, 5’11/190, B/R
Drafted: 8th overall (1st round) in 2011 out of Florida HS by CLE for $2.9 million bonus
Hit: 40/60, Raw Power: 40/40, Game Power: 30/40, Run: 60/60, Field: 60/65, Throw: 60/60

Scouting Report: Lindor was seen as a solid 1st rounder in his draft spring, then took a step forward down the stretch, with some of his pre-draft workouts, particularly for the Mariners, being the thing of legend. The Mariners took Danny Hultzen and Lindor was the backup choice for a number of picks, which helped him slide to 8th overall, where the Indians were thrilled to get him.

He’s met or exceeded expectation since then, with plenty of contact, speed and defense to comfortably project as an everyday player with a likely 2015 big league look. Lindor is an easy plus runner, defender and thrower with no real questions on any of those skills and that was the case soon after he was drafted. He moved quickly through the system, young for each level, making lots of contact and showing solid plate discipline and a smooth swing, but not a ton of offensive impact due to his lack of power.

Linor is a gap-to-gap, line drive hitter that doesn’t try to do too much at the plate. It exactly what you’re looking for from a guy like this; to hit and show this kind of feel for the game, which is evident in all aspects of how he plays. He’s aged like a college junior this year and he’s basically big league ready, with his only weakness that his swing can get a little too big at times, though not even that often. His biggest need is to get big league time and have the opportunity to make adjustments against the highest level of pitching.

Summation: Lindor needs to show a little more offensive consistency in Triple-A, but he should be up around mid-season this year. I don’t think the bat will be a huge impact, with the below upside line (think 75% projection) similar to current Ben Zobrist, but the speed, defense and position turn an above average but not outstanding offensive profile into a potential star.

Upside: .290/.350/.410, 7-11 homers
FV/Risk: 60, Very Low (1 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AAA/MLB

2. Clint Frazier, CF
Current Level/Age: Lo-A/20.6, 6’1/190, R/R
Drafted: 5th overall (1st round) in 2013 out of Georgia HS by CLE for $3.5 million bonus
Hit: 20/50, Raw Power: 65/65, Game Power: 20/60, Run: 60/60, Field: 50/55, Throw: 60/60

Scouting Report: Frazier was the most fun player to watch in the 2013 draft class, with an out-of-control red mop of hair and Gary Sheffield-level 80 bat speed that allowed him to put on ridiculous batting practice displays at his small home park. Frazier had some trouble making contact in high school against soft-tosser because it causes problems for him to try to slow down his incredibly fast hands. I wasn’t worried about this, as I saw Byron Buxton, Addison Russell and other elite bats have the same problems in high school.

The concerns were about his frame (no projection), his up-and-down spring (with more swing and miss than you’d like to see) and his relative rawness defensively in center field. Frazier played shortstop until his senior year of high school and had some arm soreness that made is arm range from 40 to 60 from day-to-day. The defense still needs some work as expected, but most scouts I talked to think he’ll be a plus runner with a plus arm and at least average in center field.

The main problem Frazier had in his pro debut was making consistent contact, but you can see Javier Baez, another 80 bat speed prospect, is also having some trouble syncing everything together in his first few seasons before a breakout in his second full year. As a 19-year-old, Frazier hit 20% above league average in Low-A with double digit steals and walks, so it wasn’t a failure by any means, but his 29.7% K rate needs to be closer to 20% to make this work at higher levels.

Scouts will give Frazier another year or two to work on adjusting to better pitchers, adjust his mechanics and adjust his approach and I think he’ll figure it out in that time frame. His strikeouts last year came from chasing out of the zone, common early in a power hitter’s career, not swinging through strikes, which would be more worrisome. He’s shown the ability to go to the opposite field in games, which was an adjustment he needed to make after a pull-happy high school career.

Summation: Frazier’s position gives him some leeway with the bat, as guys like Drew Stubbs and Mike Cameron showed that center fielders don’t have to always make tons of contact if they can hit it out of the park and play solid defense. I think Frazier ends up at the higher end of that range, with more power and bat speed than almost any center field prospect in recent memory; the breakout could be coming at any moment.

Upside: .270/.345/.470, 25 homers
FV/Risk: 50, High (4 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: High-A, 2016: AA, 2017: AAA/MLB

3. Brad Zimmer, RF
Current Level/Age: Lo-A/22.3, 6’4/185, L/R
Drafted: 21st overall (1st round) in 2014 out of San Francisco by CLE for $1.9 million bonus
Hit: 20/55, Raw Power: 50/55, Game Power: 20/50, Run: 60/55, Field: 50+/50+, Throw: 60/60

Scouting Report: Zimmer was another highly athletic first rounder out of the University of San Francisco like his brother Royals RHP Kyle Zimmer, another first rounder. Brad is a hitter that’s drawn comparisons to Marlins OF Christian Yelich for his long frame, deceptive speed, and contact approach. Zimmer can play a solid center field now, but likely moves to right field eventually, with further physical projection and/or adding loft to his swing potentially making him a really good starter, if he can hit for average and power in games.

Zimmer doesn’t quite show you everything he has in BP, but it’s around average power now and he should add a decent amount of bulk in the coming years. His swing is very relaxed, almost looks lazy at times and a scout’s instincts is to discount a hitter that’s this big, but Zimmer has hit and hit well at every level he’s ever been. Predictably, he raked again after signing and should get an aggressive assignment to High-A to start 2015.

Again, deceptively, he’ll sneak up on you with plus run times despite his size and has long strides and good reads in center field. The Indians will keep him there, but the expectation is that he’ll lose a step, slide over to right and be above average over there, due in part to his plus arm. Zimmer is also good on the bases and at that point it makes you wonder how a college performer with five above average tools laster until the 21st overall pick. I ranked Zimmer 10th pre-draft and other than some high-level scouts going in, seeing a bad contact weekend and pushing him down the board, I don’t know why he slipped.

He was making the most consistent contact last summer on a strong Team USA squad that included Alex Bregman (soon to be 2015 1st rounder) and 2014 1st rounders Trea Turner, Michael Conforto and Matt Chapman, along with multiple mid-round guys like Sam Travis, Grayson Grenier and Taylor Sparks. Zimmer is big and can look a little awkward physically at times, but when you see the performance and tools and check the track record, you can look past that as a guy growing into his frame, not an un-athletic player.

Summation: I mentioned Yelich above, who is a great comp for the overall skill set. Both slipped about 10 picks later that most expected in the draft and I think both will steadily move up prospect lists before becoming an above average everyday player.

Upside: .280/.350/.450, 15-20 homers
FV/Risk: 50, Medium (3 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: High-A, 2016: AA, 2017: AAA/MLB

45 FV Prospects

4. Tyler Naquin, CF Video: Naquin went in the first round in 2012 out of Texas A&M with the reputation of an outfield tweener that has a smooth lefty stroke and makes tons of contact. He’s still basically seen that way, but has more believers that he can stick in center field and has more momentum with the bat. Naquin is an above average runner with good instincts that looks like he’ll be able to stick in center field, but his above average arm is plenty for right field if he can’t, which is where he played in college.

Naquin has fringy raw power that plays down in games due to his line drive approach, but he wasn’t able to work on that in the second half of 2014 as his season ended by a broken index finger on his right hand. The Indians were starting to see Naquin reaching his potential in 2014–going from a pure hitter with an oppo approach to a more well-rounded hitter with some pull power–and hope to see him pick that up in 2015.

5. James Ramsey, CF Video: Ramsey was somewhat of a surprise 1st rounder by St. Louis in 2012, taking him 23rd overall out of Florida State, then shipping him to Cleveland at the deadline last summer for RHP Justin Masterson. Ramsey was seen as a 2nd rounder by most scouts as a tweener type with feel to hit. His physical, 6’0/200 build made plus run times to first base seem like the product of quick jumps out of the box, but he’s shown more than expected ability to play center field in pro ball.

Ramsey has an average arm and average raw power, with Ramsey trying harder to tap into it in games more than he did in college, which also raised his K rate and exacerbated his problems with tough lefties. If he sounds similar to Naquin, that’s because their tools are almost exactly the same, but Ramsey is a year and a half older with a stockier build. Ramsey turned 25 this winter and has hit at every level of the minors, with some scouts still seeing the 4th outfielder they saw in college, so he has things to work on; with the Indians big league roster full, Ramsey will head back to Triple-A.

6. Justus Sheffield, LHP Video: Sheffield jumped on the scouting radar when he hit 94 mph in October before his junior high school season in relief of his older brother (and current Vanderbilt pitcher) Jordan in front of dozens of scouts. Justus is listed at 5’10/195 but it probably a bit bigger than that, so height isn’t on his side, but he has suitable bulk to start if his stuff and command are enough to overcome his lack of plane. Sheffield looked like a first rounder entering his senior year in high school and then he struggled for most of the season, with some teams not scouting him down the stretch. This was due to inconsistency (his velo dipped into the 80’s at times and command came and went) and the assumption he would go to Vanderbilt to play with Jordan.

Teams that stuck around saw Sheffield regularly hitting 95 and peaking at 96 mph late; the Indians grabbed him at the end of the first round in June. He sits 90-93 with life, hitting 95 at times, with a curveball and changeup that are both above average and, when his delivery is low effort as usual, shows above average command as well, though he’s still working on that. Sheffield was arrested this winter, but the Indians write it off as underage drinking and wrong place, wrong time, with their coaches and officials raving about his on-field makeup and how he immediately came clean with remorse about the arrest. The upside is a #3/4 starter and he could be a quick mover if the feel to pitch regularly comes back in 2015.

7. Mitch Brown, RHP Video: Brown was a 2nd rounder in 2012 out of a Minnesota high school that had a maxed-out frame (6’2/205) and limited miles on his arm, but solid average stuff that flashed better at times. He struggled throwing strikes consistently until he broke though this year, dominating as a 20-year-old in Low-A, racking up a 50.5% ground ball rate and almost a strikeout per inning. Late in the year and in instructs, the stuff had ticked up considerably, sitting 92-95 and hitting 96 mph with a curveball that flashed plus at times, a slider that’s average at times and changeup that’s fringy, but still coming along. Brown attacks hitters aggressively with his newly-improved stuff and now he can put it where he wants it. The upside is a #3 starter, but it would be nice to see him replicate his late season surge in 2015 at High-A.

8. Erik Gonzalez, SS Video: Gonzalez was seen a slick-fielding shortstop with a very light bat that was a utility guy at best, then he suddenly starting hitting in 2014 and became a real prospect. He’s 2nd only to Lindor in terms of shortstop defense in the system, with 60 run, field and throw tools. The power is a 40 at best, but the bat might be a 50, which would make Gonzalez an everyday player. The Indians chalk up the improvements to an incredible work ethic combining with a bulk of reps finally hitting a tipping point. Gonzalez has good eye-hand and bat control, but needs to keep the approach within himself. He’ll head back to the upper levels for his age-23 season and now has a real big league future.

9. Giovanny Urshela, 3B Video: The Colombian third baseman signed for $300,000 in 2008 and the bat has slowly come along while the defense and arm strength have both always been above average to plus. Urshela is quick more than fast (he’s a 40-45 runner) and he also has average raw power. There’s plenty of tools here for an everyday player and Urshela is starting to make adjustments with the bat to control the zone better. He doesn’t strike out much, but he’ll chase out of the zone and make weak contact as an early-count hitter, in part due to his advanced eye-hand and bat control. The Indians see progress and think there’s enough here to be an everyday option, but he may be a Pedro Feliz like without many changes; he’ll head back to Triple-A this year.

10. Francisco Mejia, C Video: Mejia signed for $350,000 out of the Dominican in 2012 and made a huge impression in his two short-season campaigns at age 17 and 18. The 5’10/175 switch hitter has a plus plus arm, at least average raw power and feel to control the zone to get to his power in games as a teenager. The concerns are on contact, as he’s a power over hit type, and defensively, where he has the raw tools to catch, but still needs to make progress in multiple mental areas, like leading a staff, framing, calling a game, etc. There isn’t a long track record of Dominican catchers in the big leagues, so some scouts are still cautious about this ultimate position; first base may be the only other fit, given his below average speed. He’ll head to Low-A this year as a 19-year-old, so it’s still very early to count out this kind of tool package.

11. Bobby Bradley, 1B Video: Bradley was a 3rd rounder last summer out of a Mississippi high school, a profile without much success in the past. He’ll be limited to first base long term, putting him and Papi into a no-room-for-error type of position as prospects. Bradley made a ton of progress last season after being just okay on the showcase circuit, showing improved strength and raw power, which is now a 60. Bradley has advanced feel for the strike zone, an all-field approach that bodes well for tapping into that raw power in games and enough bat speed to allow him to wait for everything to get deep in the zone. He should play at Low-A this year at ages 18/19 and has to keep hitting, but he raked all of last year.

12. Mike Papi, LF Video: Papi was the 38th overall pick last summer out of Virginia and the tools aren’t insane; you’re mostly buying polish and feel to hit. He’s a below average runner with a below average arm that profiles in left field and has played some first base before. Papi’s raw power is solid average (17-20 homers annually) and he should get to all of it in games, but that may take a few years, as he’s an advanced lefty bat with an all-fields, line-drive type approach. Papi likely gets to High-A at some point next year, in his age-22 season and projects as a low-end everyday player with a high floor.

13. Cody Anderson, RHP Video: Anderson was a late-blooming kid from Idaho that the Tribe signed out of a California junior college for $250,000 in the 14th round in 2011. He was a multi-sport kid who had just starting relieving when he got drafted, so he got most of his pitching experience in pro ball. There’s still some fastball command issues, so he may end up in relief, but the 6’4/235 righty will be developed as a starter. The arm action and delivery are both good and he normally sits 91-93 with some sink, hitting 95 mph, but can sit in the mid-90’s in short stints. His slider is above average, the curveball is average but inconsistent and the changeup is fringy but flashes average sometimes. Anderson will head back to the upper levels as a 24-year-old this year and could become a #3/4 starter with some command improvements or a set-up guy if that doesn’t work.

40 FV Prospects

14. Luis Lugo, LHP Video: Lugo signed for $415,000 out of Venezuela at age 17 due to his velocity coming on after he was already eligible to sign at age 16. The projectable 6’5/210 lefty put up great numbers in his first extended look at full-season ball in 2014 and the stuff is there to think this can continue. He sits 90-92 now, hitting 94 mph but scouts think there will be more velocity coming due to the frame and some inefficiencies in his delivery. His curveball and changeup are both already around average regularly, with the changeup the better of the two at this point. Command is the question for Lugo, but big guys take longer to develop body control and he just turned 21.

15. Dylan Baker, RHP Video: Baker signed out of a Nevada JC in 2012 for $200,000 in the 5th round; after getting some top few round buzz earlier in the spring, his stuff tailed off down the stretch. In 2013, he showed those flashes once again as a starter in Low-A and repeated it last year in High-A, but the command is enough of a question that many see a reliever long-term. Baker sits 92-94 and regularly hits 96, getting as high at 100 mph in short stints, along with a hard slider that’s a 55 at times but is erratic. His changeup and command are both below average with a chance to be fringy, but scouts think Baker’s mentality fits better in a late-inning role while Cleveland still thinks they can figure out how to make him a starter.

16. Yu-Cheng Chang, SS Video: Cleveland signed Chang out of Taiwan for $500,000 in the summer of 2013. He’s 6’1/175 and good at shortstop now, but likely ends up at third base, with second base still a possibility. Chang was impressive in his pro debut in the AZL last summer, showing the ability to lash liners all over the field, though he has over-the-fence raw power that should be average eventually. He has an advanced feel for the strike zone for his age and the tools and skills you’re looking for from a teenage shortstop.

17. Jesus Aguilar, 1B Video: The 6’3/250 Venezuelan slugger has slowly moved up the farm and has had to prove it at every level given his position and size, but has now done it at every level except the big leagues. Aguilar struggled in a late MLB look last year; he has very limited speed, below average arm strength and surprisingly good hands, but this is a bat-only prospect. Aguilar has plus raw power from the right side, but there isn’t tons of bat speed, it’s more of a pure strength type of power, so his power approach reveals some holes on the inner half. Aguilar has some hitability and feel for the strike zone, so he should be at least a platoon guy, with most scouts thinking that’s all he’ll be.

18. Carlos Moncrief, RF Video: Moncrief has had an unusual path; he got $150,000 in the 14th round in 2008 out of a Florida Juco to be a pitcher, then converted to hitting in 2010. He’s older than his peers and behind them in bulk of reps, but Moncrief has real tools, with above average raw power from the left side, average speed and a plus arm. The question comes down to contact and how much of his power he’ll get to, which will decide if he’s a starter, reserve or 4A guy. His strikeouts rose and his ISO dropped last year at Triple-A, evidence that he needs more seasoning, but Moncrief uses the whole field and could be on the verge of figuring things out.

19. Willi Castro, SS Video: The Puerto Rican-born and Dominican-trained shortstop turns 18 soon and got $825,000 in 2013. He’s polished for his age, as his father Liliano was a coach for the Mets and Tigers, and the 6’1/165 switch-hitter is an average runner with the tools to stick at shortstop. Castro is a hit over power type that’s doesn’t have much now but could grow into some. There’s enough here to be an average defensive shortstop and make contact with some gap power, so it isn’t a huge impact type and it’s very early, but there’s lots to like.

20. Grant Hockin, RHP Video: Hockin got $1.1 million as a 2nd rounder out of a SoCal high school last summer. The 6’4/200 righty got a little bigger before the spring and his velo ticked up as a result, but he’s still more of a pitchability guy. Hockin sits 88-92 with life and hits 95 mph, his slider is above average, the changeup is average and he’ll mix in an average curveball at times. There’s still some projection, so the stuff could get a little better, but you’re likely looking at a polished, quick moving #4 starter type with a chance for a little more.

21. Roberto Perez, C Video: Perez got an extended big league look last year and should be the regular backup this year. The Puerto Rican backstop was a 33rd rounder in 2008 and has really flown under the radar, but fits the mold of the defensive-minded backup. He’s an above average defender with an above average arm that’s a favorite of pitchers. His 2013 was marred by a diagnosis of Bell’s Palsy shortly after getting to Triple-A. He played through it and really struggled, but it not almost all the way back and tore the cover off the ball in Triple-A in 2013. Perez has always had feel for the bat head and the strike zone, but 2014 was the first flashes of getting to those skills in games. He’s blocked by Yan Gomes, but Cleveland thinks Perez may be an everyday player.

22. Luigi Rodriguez, CF Video: Rodriguez signed for $200,000 out of the Dominican in 2009 and the 5’11/160 switch hitter is quick-twitch and an easy plus runner still learning how to harness it on the field yet. Rodriguez has surprising pop for his size and the bat speed to give him some margin for error along with the wheels to outrun defensive and base running mistakes. He was a little more selective this year and has always drawn his fair share of walks. Rodriguez will head to Double-A this year for his biggest test yet.

23. Tony Wolters, C Video: Wolters went in the sandwich round ($1.35 million bonus) out of a San Diego-area high school in 2010. He was a shortstop then that looked likely to move to second base, but due more to his fringy speed/range than his above average hands, instincts and arm. The 5’10/180 grinder had the advanced feel at the plate to still profile as a usable piece anywhere up the middle, but ended up moving to catcher on a suggestion from manager Terry Francona. The conversion has stuck as Wolters has taken to catching, but, as is common with young catchers, the focus to catch up on the defensive side has weakened the bat. The isn’t impact bat speed or power, but feel to hit is present, so Wolters will head back to the upper levels this year and hope to regain some offense, with big league backup his likely result.

24. Ryan Merritt, LHP Video: Merritt has flown well under the radar since getting $150,000 in the 16th round out of a Texas JC in 2011. He sits 88-91 mph with excellent fastball command, and above average changeup and a slurve that’s often average. Merritt is a command lefty that’ll be 23 in Double-A this year and got added to the 40-man. The numbers don’t stand out, but he’s the low-walk rate, pitch to contact, ground ball type that will put up similar numbers at every level and sneak up on people. He isn’t huge at 6’0/170, but the org thinks they have something here.

25. Levon Washington, CF Video: Washington had a lot of hype out of high school, but turned down the Rays as a 1st rounder out of a Florida high school, signing with the Indians the next year in the 2nd round for $1.2 million out of a Florida junior college. He’s regressed some since signing, but the real problem has been various injuries that limited him to 351 PA or less each pro season. He’s a plus plus runner with quick-twitch athleticism and surprising power for his 5’11/170 frame. There’s some feel for the strike zone and bat speed, so Washington could be an everyday guy if he stays healthy and taps into these tools. He’s still a little raw and will turn 24 this year likely getting his first look at Double-A.

26. Sean Brady, LHP Video: The Indians gave the Florida prep lefty $800,000 to turn pro in 2013 after a spring velo spike. He sat 85-88 mph as a pitchability lefty over the summer/fall, then the 5’11 lefty starting hitting 93 mph in the spring, sitting at 89-91 regularly. His standout changeup from the summer was still above average, but his soft slurve now was also flashing above average with the added arm speed, helping Brady project as a back-end starter. He’ll head to Low-A this year at 21 and his pitchability and above average stuff should help him move quickly.

27. Adam Plutko, RHP Video: Plutko was in a rotation at UCLA with Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer, but his stuff lagged well behind his more well known counterparts, getting him $300,000 late in the 2013 draft. He sat in the high-80’s in college and his velo ticked up a bit in pro ball, sitting 88-92 and hitting 94 mph. He has an above average changeup, excellent feel to pitch and a good delivery, but his curveball and slider are both fringy and there isn’t much room for error. He’ll head to Double-A this year at 23 and should be a 5th starter with a couple more adjustments.

28. Austin Adams, RHP Video: Adams signed for $70,000 in 2009 as an older prospect from a small college in Alabama, but shot through the system, reaching AA in two years and looking like a future rotation piece for the Tribe. He missed the 2012 season with shoulder surgery, but came back with all of his velocity. The 5’11/200 Adams doesn’t have much plane, but has good life to his fastball and still has four pitches from his starting days, though the consistency of his secondary stuff and command are still issues. The 28-year-old sits 95-98 and hits 99 mph with slider that flashes 55, but plane, command and consistency vary too much for him to be more than a middle reliever.

Cistulli’s Guy

Yandy Diaz, 3B

It’s essentially a tie for this particular distinction between Diaz and catcher Jeremy Lucas. Both exhibit a strong combination of patience and contact while also occupying a place towards the more challenging end of the defensive spectrum. One argument against the latter, however, is that catcher Jeremy Lucas might, at some point soon, become first baseman Jeremy Lucas. Diaz is interesting for other reasons, too: a Cuban defector signed very quietly by Cleveland, he was named best defensive third baseman in the High-A Carolina League, per Baseball America.

Others of Note

Four hitters at the upper levels to keep an eye on: 3B Yandy Diaz (Cistulli’s guy above was the last cut from the list, making him the least fringy player in this series; Cuban signed for $300,000, flashes average bat/arm/glove, ability to play all over the field, good plate discipline, but old for his level, very little game power and ordinary bat speed), CF Tyler Holt (big league ready center fielder is a plus runner and advanced defender, but it looks like a 4A bat, limiting him to 5th outfielder status), SS Ronny Rodriguez (slick defender can play anywhere and is above average runner with solid average raw power, but he hasn’t hit a lick in two years and the plate discipline has always been a problem, but there’s lots of tools) and C Eric Haase (5’10/180 backstop is very athletic, has solid average raw power and some chance to stick behind the plate, but the plate discipline is still problematic).

Four infielders at the lower levels to keep an eye on: SS Ivan Castillo (19-year-old Dominican shortstop is above average runner, thrower and defender with enough feel to hit to be a prospect, but there isn’t a ton of offensive upside), 1B Nellie Rodriguez (6’2/225 and limited to first base only, but Rodriguez has above average raw power and some feel to hit along with solid age-appropriate performances), C Simeon Lucas (Video 2014 prep 7th rounder has chance to stay behind the plate, has average raw power and a smooth lefty cut) and SS Alexis Pantoja (Video 2014 9th rounder is rail-thin Puerto Rican prep shortstop with flashy glove, good instincts and feel to hit, but needs to add weight).

Four outfielders at the lower levels to keep an eye on: LF Dorssys Paulino (signed for $1.1 million in 2011 out of the Dominican and had positive early returns as an advanced bat that could play a middle infield position; Cleveland moved him to left field to take pressure off the bat and he’ll stay there until he regains form, with a chance to return to second base), CF Greg Allen (2014 6th rounder is smaller switch hitter with easy plus speed and advanced defense, with everyday upside if he can stay within himself at the plate), RF Anthony Santander (Venezuelan switch hitter is still only 20 and has five average tools, but has had trouble staying on the field) and CF Gabriel Mejia (5’11/160 teenager performed well in the DSL last year with 72 stolen bases and more walks than strikeouts; there’s a predictable lack of power and he hasn’t faced the best pitching, but there’s something here).

Three righties at the upper levels to keep an eye on: RHP Will Roberts (6’5/220 righty sits 90-93 with fringy to average slider and changeup, good makeup and some feel to pitch, but he’s already 24 with limited strikeout numbers), RHP C.C. Lee (28-year-old Taiwanese reliever has been around for awhile, sits 91-94 and hits 96 mph from a low slot with a solid average slider and usable changeup) and RHP Shawn Armstrong (6’2/225 reliever sits 91-95 and has touched 100 mph before, has a slider that flashes 55 and a usable changeup with a likely 2015 MLB chance, but the command and consistency are real issues; there’s a chance for a setup guy but more likely a fill middle relief type).

Three lefties at the upper levels to keep an eye on: LHP Kyle Crockett (Video 2013 4th rounder made the big leagues last year; sits 88-91 mph from low 3/4 slot with solid average slider and above average command that makes life tough on lefties), LHP Shawn Morimando (5’11/195 lefty is athletic, young for AA and has a shot to be a 5th starter, but the stuff is just okay; solid average fastball/slider and fringy changeup with okay command) and LHP Nick Maronde (Video Angels’ 2011 3rd rounder was rushed to MLB as a reliever, Cleveland got him on waivers last summer and plans to start him this year; his 90-95 mph fastball, solid average slider and fringy changeup are enough to start but the fastball command has backed up).

Four pitchers at the lower levels to keep an eye on: RHP Dace Kime (2013 3rd rounder was converted from college reliever to pro starter; 6’4/200 righty has solid average four pitch mix and fringy command), RHP Leandro Linares (21-year-old Cuban got $950,000 last year and 6’3/205 righty sits 90-93, hits 94 mph with life, an above average curveball and average slider and changeup; command is still coming along but stuff flashed even better at times), LHP Sam Hentges (2014 prep 4th rounder way 6’6’/230 two-way talent from Minnesota; he’s still growing into his frame/delivery and three pitch mix is fringy, though it flashes above average at times) and RHP Casey Shane (Video 2013 6th rounder is 6’4/200 after slimming down, with good feel and three average pitches).

Evaluating the Prospects: Milwaukee Brewers.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The top of this list is muddled; I could see the top eight guys in almost any order by midseason and I predict I’ll be changing some of these 45 and 50 FV grades in-season. The Brewers haven’t had a great farm system in recent years, but the big league club had a mini-rebuild and the amateur talent acquisition has seem positive early returns from a more aggressive approach. Gilbert Lara is the consensus best player in last summer’s July 2nd crop and he took a notable step forward after signing with an impressive showing at instructs.

From the 2014 draft, I think 3B Jacob Gatewood is a little too risky for $1.83 million, but the early returns on CF Monte Harrison are excellent and there’s plenty to like about LHP Kodi Medeiros, even if he was a bit worn down after signing. All of these three were part of an aggressive approach, so I’d expect one to work out in a big way. The depth is drastically better now than the past few years and the arrow is pointing up in general. There isn’t a super elite prospect in the system and this is still a system in the bottom third of baseball, but the Brew Crew are deep in that second tier of talent and there’s plenty of depth and upside here to see a higher ranking in next year’s list as a likelihood.

Here’s the primer for the series and a disclaimer about how we don’t really know anything. See the links above for the ongoing series about how I evaluate, including the series on the ever-complicated hit tool.

Most of what you need to know for this list is in the above links, but I should add that the risk ratings are relative to their position, so average (3) risk for a pitcher is riskier than average risk (3) for a hitter, due to injury/attrition being more common. I’d also take a 60 Future Value hitter over a 60 FV pitcher for the same reasons. Also, risk encompasses a dozen different things and I mention the important components of it for each player in the report. The upside line for hitters is the realistic best-case scenario (a notch better than the projected tools, or a 75% projection while the projected tools are a 50% projection) and the Future Value encompasses this upside along with the risk rating for one overall rating number.

Below, I’ve included a quick ranking of the notable MLB players 27 and under that aren’t eligible for the Brewers prospect list and Dave Cameron shares some general thoughts on the organization. Scroll further down to see Carson Cistulli’s fringe prospect favorite. Up next is the Indians.

27 & Under Big League Assets
1. Wily Peralta, RHP, Age 25, FV: 60
2. Jean Segura, SS, Age 24, FV: 55
3. Jimmy Nelson, RHP, Age 25, FV: 55
4. Scooter Gennett, 2B, Age 24, FV: 55
5. Khris Davis, LF, Age 27, FV: 50
6. Gerardo Parra, LF, Age 27, FV: 45
7. Will Smith, LHP, Age 25, FV: 45
8. Jeremy Jeffress, RHP, Age 27, FV: 45

Organizational Overview by Dave Cameron

The Brewers, more than any other team out there, are caught in the trap of mediocrity. They’re not a bad team, and have some very good core pieces in place, which should keep them hanging around the periphery of the Wild Card race for most of the season. However, there are enough weaknesses that it would take a lot of good fortune to get the Brewers into the postseason, and this also isn’t a particularly young team where you can project significant upside for the future. The Brewers are neither good nor bad, and are not obviously trying to win now or build for the future. They’re decent enough to put a solid team on the field this year, but with the Cubs, Cardinals, and Pirates looking much stronger at the top of the division and with better young cores to build around going forward, it isn’t clear when the Brewers are going to be in a position to be a strong bet for the postseason again.

50+ FV Prospects:

1. Orlando Arcia, SS
Current Level/Age: High-A/20.6, 6’0/165, R/R
Signed: IFA at age 16 on October 22, 2010 out of Venezuela by MIL for $95,000 bonus
Hit: 20/50, Raw Power: 45/45+, Game Power: 20/45, Run: 55/55, Field: 55/60, Throw: 60/60

Scouting Report: Orlando is the younger brother of Twins OF Oswaldo Arcia and has been beating expectations since he signed out of Venezuela in 2010 for $95,000. After signing, he immediately looked like a steal as a skinny kid that could play shortstop and hit a bit, but he took another step forward this year, hitting 13% better than league average, stealing 31 bases and posting great plate discipline numbers in a full season at High-A at age 19.

There’s still plenty of room for Arcia to improve offensively, as the speed and defense are carrying his prospect status for now, but the tools are here for more impact at the plate. Arcia is a gap-to-gap, line drive type hitter, but his power started to show up more regularly in games last year and it continued this winter, where he hit 7 homers in 55 games in Venezuela. Arcia missed some time in 2014 with a minor ankle injury, but the Brewers stuck with him at a challenging level and he rewarded them with a solid performance in a pitcher’s league and park. Some in the organization think he’ll add a lot more muscle, with some think he may even get taller.

Summation: Arcia will head to Double-A next year at age 20, he has the look of a solid everyday shortstop and he’s just scratching the surface.

Upside: .275/.335/.435, 15 homers
FV/Risk: 50, Medium (3 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AA/AAA, 2016: AAA/MLB

45 FV Prospects

2. Gilbert Lara, 3B Video: Lara was the top player in the last July 2nd period as a physical 6’3/205 Dominican infielder with easy plus raw power and bat speed, despite just turning 16. The Brewers gave him $3.1 million, the biggest bonus in his class last year, and the early returns have been outstanding. Lara’s issue as an amateur was a wild swing that could get out of control with aggression in games and some bulk to his frame that would certainly move him to third base and maybe left field or first base eventually.

He’s made strides in both areas, shocking even Brewers officials with how good he was at shortstop in instructs after cutting some weight, forcing their hand to develop him there for at least another year or two. He had the highest batting average in instructs (the stats aren’t public), showed an advanced ability to lay off tough pitches given his age (he turned 17 just after instructs) and he hit some massive homers in games, including one off a team of older Mexican professionals.

The Brewers are raving about Lara’s makeup, energy and his work ethic to shore up his two areas of concern so quickly and so convincingly against players mostly 5-7 years older than him.Hitting in an instructs BP group with Harrison and Gatewood probably helped push him to perform more than being a man-child amongst his Latin peers in amateur showcases. The ultimate fit is still third base and Lara likely starts in extended spring, but will probably get Low-A time at some point because he appears to be a man on a mission.

3. Kodi Medeiros, LHP Video: Medeiros was one of the most unique pitchers in the 2014 draft, as a skinny 6-foot prep lefty from Hawaii that threw from a near sidearm angle, but hit 95 mph with an easy plus slider. Scouts weren’t sure where to rank such a unique prospect, but he steadily moved up boards into the mid-to-late first round, with a sterling pre-draft workout in Milwaukee prompting the Brewers to draft him at 12th overall. Medeiros also had a growth spurt after showcase season and now stands 6-foot-2. He sat 90-94 mph in most outings over the summer and in the spring, but his velocity dipped after signing and he lost his delivery/command as well. This isn’t a long-term concern as most prep pitchers will struggle after signing given the length of the season.

Given his slot, Medeiros can throw a 4-seamer in games because the slot creates life on it’s own, though he can get around the ball too much at times. Adding some bulk should help him hold up later in the season and repeat his delivery more often given the funk, but the knockout slider is a rare gift you don’t see often at this age. He also throws a changeup that’s improved to flash solid average at times, so the 3/4 starter toolkit is present, there’s just some uniqueness and risk to consider. There’s a chance the Brewers take it slow and open with Medeiros in extended spring training, but that decision hasn’t been made yet. There’s mid-rotation or closer upside and it’s too early to have a good idea of what he’ll turn into.

4. Clint Coulter, RF Video: Coulter was a late 1st rounder in 2012 out of a Washington high school that had a physical 6’3 frame with above average power and arm strength, but the state wrestling champ had some concerns about whether he could stick at catcher long-term. Some in the organization still want to play Coulter behind the plate, but he still has lots of work to do and he looked good exclusively playing right field in instructs. His arm and caught stealing numbers were good in Low-A in 2014, but the release quickness and receiving need work and the rigors of catching wore on his bat later in the season.

Coulter seems more comfortable and fresh as a right fielder, and he will end up there long-term at some point, even if he dabbles behind the plate in 2015. He has a solid sense for the strike zone, above average raw power and enough bat speed and bat control to project at least an average bat, which would profile him as an everyday player in right field. One scout compared the upside to Matt Holliday if the bat comes all the way along. A Brewers official pointed out that Ryan Braun hit better in the big leagues than at the challenging pitcher’s paradise of High-A Brevard County, Coulter’s 2015 assignment.

5. Monte Harrison, CF Video: Harrison was a high-profile Missouri prep wide receiver commit to Nebraska, but the 6’3/200 athlete committed to baseball when Milwaukee gave him and over-slot $1.8 million bonus in the 2nd round last summer. Despite limited baseball reps in a state without much high level baseball, Harrison was much better at the plate than Gatewood at Area Codes last summer and performed much better in Rookie-ball after signing, underlining his raw athleticism. His plate discipline still needs some work, as he’ll chase breaking stuff out of the zone a little too often, and his swing is still progressing, as his mechanics will vary at times.

Harrison has the intense football mindset on the field, is coachable, competitive, picks things up quickly and is freaky athletic. He’s a plus runner now, though some think he may lose a step due to his physical build, but his above average arm is plenty for right field. Harrison added bulk last spring that improved his average raw power from showcase season to above average and he has the bat speed and feel for the bat head to make contact even when his mechanics and pitch recognition isn’t quite there. He’ll get at least some sort of chance to play at Low-A as a 19-year-old in 2015 and, if he puts up big numbers, we could be looking at an elite prospect.

6. Tyrone Tavlor, CF Video: Taylor was a 2nd rounder out of a SoCal high school in 2012 that had a physical 6’0/185 frame and a football background as a running back. With two years of control left on Carlos Gomez, some in the organization think Taylor can take over center field in 2017. Taylor is an above average to plus runner with an average arm and good defensive instincts that profiles in center field, though he doesn’t have a huge margin for error and some think he may end up in a corner eventually.

If he ends up in that defensive tweener category, Taylor will have to hit, but his power is below average and he’s more of a gap-to-gap hitter. He’s been a year young for each of his levels, has had excellent plate discipline numbers and the bat speed and swing are there to support those skills. Scouts aren’t super enthusiastic about the upside, but there’s likely a low-end everyday player here of some sort. He’ll be 21 in Double-A to open 2015 and his offensive performance could tell us how quickly he may be able to get to Milwaukee.

7. Corey Knebel, RHP Video: Knebel was acquired as the headline piece form Texas this winter in the Yovani Gallardo deal, after being traded at the trade deadline from Detroit to Texas in the Joakim Soria deal. His star dimmed a big after arriving in Texas when it was revealed he had a sprained UCL, but Milwaukee’s doctors cleared him to pitch immediately, with a good chance he breaks camp in the big league bullpen.

Knebel drew a lot of attention in the months leading up to the 2013 draft with two team suspensions, though scouts shrugged them off as a fiery kid being emotional (verbal fight with coach) and loyal (covering for a teammate in a drug test). He went a little higher than expected to Detroit, a team renowned for taking the hardest thrower available.

Knebel’s stuff is electric, with a fastball that sits 94-96 and regularly hits 98 mph and a plus curveball. His delivery is funky, but it works for him, as Knebel commands his pitches better than you’d guess. His changeup and command are both below average, but his two primary pitches and deception are good enough that only slight adjustments should allow him to reach his closer upside, though he’s a strong bet to be at least a setup guy.

8. Taylor Jungmann, RHP Video: Jungmann has been on a roller-coaster development journey since going 12th overall in 2011 out of Texas. He slipped that far despite a 6’6/220 frame, track record and mid-rotation stuff because scouts were scared off by his short, abrupt, awkward arm action, which the Brewers corrected after signing him. Some teams don’t even consider changing arm actions because they can quickly lead to injury and, in Jungmann’s case, his velocity did dip. I saw him 91-94 mph early in 2012, then saw him 88-91 mph by the end of that year.

His velo has ticked up since then, working 90-91 with sink and hitting 94 mph last season, then he had a very strong finish to the 2014 season in Triple-A, with the career-high strikeout rate to prove it. In his final 49.2 innings last season, Jungmann struck out 56 batters and the stuff was there for scouts to explain the improved numbers. Jungmann moved around on the rubber, which unlocked a little more velo and curveball sharpness.

His fastball was 90-93 with above average sink, his above average slider would flash plus at at times and his changeup would flash above average at times as well. He has more confidence and is more coachable after his struggles and delivery adjustments and is the 6th starter at the moment, likely breaking camp in Triple-A, but first in line if a rotation spot opens.

9. Jorge Lopez, RHP Video: The super-lanky 6’4/165 Puerto Rican righty was a 2nd rounder in 2011 picked out of high school. His numbers haven’t been flashy, but he’s still got projection left, pitches to contact and also had a tough personal situation last year with a sick infant that he drove to see in Miami in between starts for Brevard County. He’ll head to Double-A this year at age 22 after a nice showing the Puerto Rican Winter League and has the stuff to be a #4 starter with a chance more is coming.

Lopez sits 91-94 mph with some life, a solid average mid-80’s changeup and an above average low-80’s curveball that flashes plus for some scouts. There’s a shot that if he can put on more weight that it could be two plus pitches and a #3 starter projection and he’s still young, so it can’t be ruled out. As is, he’s looking like a solid league-average starter that’s only a couple years away from contributing.

10. Devin Williams, RHP Video: Williams was a 2013 2nd rounder with some late helium as 6’3/165 projectable Missouri prep arm that hit the mid-90’s regularly down the stretch with an above average changeup. Williams was solid as a 19-year-old at short-season Helena, sitting 90-94 mph with solid average stuff, but he ticked up late and showed his best stuff in instructs. There, Williams sat 92-95 mph with an above average to plus changeup and his slider was now flashing above average at times. He’s long, lanky and athletic and has limited miles on his arm coming from a cooler climate, so it was expected things may take a little while to come. He’s made some delivery changes that help explain the improvement and some in the organization are predicting Williams’ 2015 Low-A assignment will be his breakout campaign.

11. Taylor Williams, RHP Video: The 5’11/195 Williams isn’t a traditional-looking top prospect, but the Brewers took him in the 4th round in 2013 out of Kent State. Due to his size, big fastball/slider combo with a changeup that lags behind and effort in his delivery, Williams has always been seen as a future reliever, but the Brewers like to develop big league type arms as starters to develop their pitches.

Williams will continue as a starter and will get a look in Double-A this year, but the Brewers know he could be an asset, if needed, in the big league bullpen down the stretch and know that’s almost certainly his ultimate fit. In a three-inning instructs outing, Williams sat 95-96 and hit 99 mph, with an above average slider and and aggressive approach. His changeup and command are both fringy and his fastball will play a tick or two lower in longer outings.

40 FV Prospects

12. Luis Sardinas, SS Video: The 21-year old shortstop is a plus runner, fielder and thrower and has already had a cup of coffee, so the road to having some big league value isn’t too long. He has well below average power and has had trouble creating an offensive impact in the past few years. Sardinas strikes out too much for the type of player that he is; he also doesn’t walk enough and doesn’t have enough power to punish mistakes.

He’s the age of a recently-draft college junior and he’s held his own offensively at Double-A and Triple-A, so there’s some hope that he can progress, but feel to hit doesn’t normally fall from the heavens. It was rumored Texas was shopping him hard this winter and Milwaukee got him in the Gallardo deal, along with Knebel and Diplan. Scouts are confident Sardinas can be a good utility guy (and he probably is already) along the lines of Cesar Izturis, but there’s some elements here that could lead to a bit more.

13. Michael Reed, RF Video: Reed signed for $500,000 out of a Texas high school in 2011 and the question then was if there was enough impact with his tools to be an everyday player. Almost four years later, Reed has proven his tools play, but there’s still a question about how much impact he’ll have. At both A-Ball levels, he’s drawn a lot of walks, not struck out too much, put the ball in play, but shown limited game power. Reed has fringy raw power to all fields and that bodes well for it showing up in games later, but that’s still 15 homers per year at best.

Reed is an average runner with a solid average arm that profiles as a 4th outfielder that can play center in a pinch. It’s worth noting that Reed is similar to Tyrone Taylor, with a notch more power and a notch less speed, so there’s some reasonable outcomes where Reed is a better player, assuming Taylor can’t stick in center field. There’s still a chance Reed could be a 55 bat with a high OBP and below average power type starting corner outfielder like former Brewer Nori Aoki, but more reasonably he’s a very good reserve outfielder.

14. Tyler Wagner, RHP Video: The 6’3/195 Wagner was a 4th rounder in 2012 out of Utah, where he was the closer. Milwaukee converted him to a starter and the results have been excellent so far. He’ll start 2015 at age 24 in the Double-A rotation and may be in line for a big league look later in the year, given the thin MLB rotation depth.

Wagner sits 90-93 with above average sink and hits 95 mph, backing up his sinker with a solid average slider that’s a 55 at times and a fringy changeup that’s average at times. Wagner’s delivery is a little funky and his arm path is longer, but it plays up deception and nothing about Wagner is conventional. I’m inclined to see a 5th starter here as it’s starting to look like Wagner is the sneaky guy that holds down a rotation spot for five years before anyone notices.

15. Jacob Gatewood, 3B Video: Gatewood was a huge name nationally as a prep underclassman after showing massive raw power at Area Codes, a projectable frame and the skills to stick in the infield. He showed even bigger tools early in his final showcase season, but revealed even bigger holes in his swing. Gatewood has 65 or 70 now raw power, almost all to his pull side, and with a good bit of effort in batting practice, but there’s projection for a little more in the tank.

He’s a solid average runner with an above average arm that isn’t bad at shortstop, but his 6’5/190 frame and longer actions will dictate a move to third base soon, though Milwaukee will leave him at short a little longer. The issue with Gatewood is contact: he went 0 for the Area Codes in his senior year, with lots of swing-and-miss and weak groundouts, a similar story to other major events and his spring performance. There were flashes of adjustments and one hot streak during the spring, but the fundamental problems are still there with pitch recognition and toning down his max effort BP swing. He would be well-served to simplify completely, sell out for singles contact, then slowly build himself back up in a better way.

He’s doing a version of what’s giving Javier Baez so much trouble in the big leagues, but has nowhere near the same bat speed to make up for it. He’ll likely go back to extended spring and play short season this summer; he’s just 19 and there’s still time for things to click, but he’s already been passed by draft-mate Monte Harrison, even though he’s played very little baseball. All indications are that Gatewood is a good kid that should be able to figure this out, but the positive reinforcement of his current swing via all the praise from Home Run Derbies (including the junior Derby one he won before the All-Star Derby in Citi Field) hurt more than help.

16. Brandon Woodruff, RHP Video: Woodruff was maddeningly inconsistent in his three years at Mississippi State after enrolling with plenty of hype out of high school. He got a handful of starts for the Bulldogs, but injuries, command problems and inconsistency had him in the bullpen or buried altogether. At his best (like fall 2013) he sat 92-95 and hit 97 mph with plus life and a slider and changeup that were both at least average.

The Brewers gambled on the power arm that needed a change of scenery in the 11th round last summer and that gamble has already paid off hugely. Woodruff was excellent after signing, with a buzzed-about instructs outing where he sat 94-97 mph with a plus curveball and at least average changeup. In other outings, he worked 93-94 mph with above average sink, showing a surprising amount of polish given his background. His 2015 assignment hasn’t been decided yet, but an educated guess is the rotation at pitcher-friendly High-A Brevard County.

17. David Denson, 1B Video: The 6’3/255 lefty-hitting Denson was well-known for his raw power, hitting a 515-foot homer with an aluminum bat at the Power Showcase as an amateur. Given his physical limitations, some swing-and-miss to his game and his patient approach that made him hard to scouts, Denson was scooped up by Milwaukee for $100,000 in the 15th round in 2013 out of a SoCal high school.

Denson is deceptively quick, has an average arm, plate discipline so advanced that low minors umps frustrate him with their inconsistent zones, easy plus raw power and makeup that coaches love. He already looks like a steal after a strong 19-year-old season at Low-A and there’s still work to do, but the elements are here.

18. Marcos Diplan, RHP Video: Diplan was acquired this winter from Texas in the Yovani Gallardo deal and the 18-year old Dominican righty has plenty of pedigree, signing for $1.3 million on July 2nd, 2013. He earned Octavio Dotel comparisons as an amateur, given his 5’11 or 6’0 height and slight build, along with an electric arm. Diplan sits 90-94 and hits 95 mph with life and an above average curveball, along with a usable changeup and some feel to pitch. He’s small, there isn’t much projection, there’s some effort to the delivery and he still hasn’t pitched in an American league yet, so there’s plenty to doubt, but the stuff is here for a steady back-end starter or late-inning reliever

19. Miguel Diaz, RHP Video: Diaz was a low-profile signing out of the Dominican in December, 2011 that took a big step forward last year in the AZL as a 19-year-old. The 6’1/175 righty isn’t that physical, but his the arm is clean and he has big stuff, sitting 92-95 and hitting 97 mph with an above average curveball. The changeup and command are below average and he’s likely a reliever. Diaz will get a long look at Low-A this year, though that may be delayed a bit so he doesn’t have to deal with the cold weather.

20. Wei-Chung Wang, LHP Video: Wang was an unexpected Rule 5 pick last winter as the Brewers plucked him from the Pirates Rookie-ball team. He was only eligible because his initial deal in 2011 for $350,000 out of Taiwan was voided and by signing a new deal, he became Rule 5 eligible immediately. He was good in 47.1 innings in 2013 in the GCL after returning from the Tommy John surgery that caused his first deal to be voided and survived in the bigs so Milwaukee could keep his rights.

Wang has been up to 96 mph in short stints, but sits 88-92 and hits 93 mph in most starts. His above average changeup is his best off-speed pitch, his average curveball is a bit ahead of his fringy slider and his command projects to be at least average, bolstered by his aggressive approach. There’s a back-end starter in here somewhere and he likely heads to High-A and/or Double-A for 2015.

21. Victor Roache, RF Video: Roache was a projected 1st rounder entering his 2012 draft spring has a power hitter with contact questions, then he broke he wrist a handful of games into the season. He wasn’t able to answer those contact questions, but the Brewers had seen him enough to pop him 28th overall for $1.525 million. Roache has 60 raw power and a solid average arm, so it’s classic everyday right field tools if he can make contact, which he hasn’t really so far.

He struck out in 29% of plate appearances in High-A last year and his swing got long, with some speculating the pitcher friendly environment caused him to press, with other suggesting he wasn’t fully back from his wrist injury yet. A 2015 assignment to Double-A will be a big one, because he looks like a 4A hitter as is, so he needs to show significant progress to change that perception.

22. Kyle Wren, CF Video: The son of fired Braves GM Frank Wren probably didn’t want to hang around the organization much longer, so the Braves traded him to the Brewers soon afterwards. The 5’10/175 Wren is an overachiever, who went in the 8th round in 2013 as a senior sign out of Georgia Tech and hit his way to the upper levels in his first full year. He’s a plus runner with below average power and arm strength that profiles in center field, with his ultimate role depending on how much contact he makes. The likely outcome is a solid average bat and a solid 4th outfielder and he may get a big league look late in 2015.

23. Johnny Hellweg, RHP Video: The 6’7/235 righty came over with Jean Segura and Ariel Pena from the Angels in the Zack Greinke deal in 2012. He predictably has trouble repeating his delivery and throwing strikes and also has had some injury issues, including a Tommy John surgery last April; he’s now back on the mound but is still rehabbing. Hellweg hit 100 mph in short stints before surgery and flashed an average slider and changeup at times. He may start this year to stretch him out and get innings to work on his stuff, but the fit is in relief. An 80 fastball with average off-speed stuff and command issues is probably a middle reliever, but there’s a chance for more.

24. David Goforth, RHP: Goforth was a lower-profile draftee that was mostly an arm strength guy, getting $100,000 out of Ole Miss in the 7th round in 2011. He’s still mostly that guy, but the velo has improved a bit, hitting 100 mph last season, and there’s a little more feel now. Goforth sits 95-98 mph and works in a 90-92 mph cutter that’s a 55 pitch at times, but the consistency and command vary and his curveball and changeup are below average; his upside is as a setup guy. He’ll open 2015 in Triple-A and, as long as he throws a decent amount of strikes, he should get a big league look late in the year.

25. Nathan Orf, 2B Video: Undrafted senior from Baylor was signed in 2013 and hit way more than expected at short-season Helena. He was pushed in 2014 at age 24 to High-A and the 5’9/180 Orf hit well again, posting a .288/.388/.386 line. Orf is a plus runner with a simple, compact stroke and gap power. He’s played center field and second base for the Brewers and actually caught some in college, so he’s a great fit as a utility guy and emergency catcher that grinds out at bats and has the makeup coaches love. He’ll head to Double-A in 2015 and could be on the fast track to a big league utility look.

Cistulli’s Guy

Austin Ross, RHP
Generally speaking, the last thing to return for a pitcher who’s been compelled to undergo Tommy John surgery is his control. Ross, for whatever reason, appears to have been spared this particular side effect. Over 195.2 innings between July of 2010 and April of 2012 — after which month he was sidelined with an elbow injury — he produced strikeout and walk rates of 21.3% and 7.3%, respectively. In 180.2 innings since August of 2013, however — which date marked his return from the aforementioned procedure — he’s improved those rates to 22.6% and 6.6%, respectively, while also facing generally more talented competition. In a recent spring-training appearance, he sat in the low-90s while topping out at 94 mph, suggesting that he possesses adequate arm speed. Moreover, he throws a slider effective enough to strike out Elliot Johnson.

This slider, specifically:

Others of Note
There are six position players at the upper levels to keep an eye on: 1B Hunter Morris (Milwaukee still believes in Morris, but he’s had over 900 PA in Triple-A of slightly-below league average performance at ages 24 and 25; being hit with a pitch in the wrist last year scrapped a planned big league call-up; he shows flashes of a 50 bat and 60 raw power, but never at the same time and he was outrighted off the 40-man this winter), 1B Jason Rogers (6’1/255 and 27 years old with almost no big league experience and solid average raw power isn’t a great profile, but Rogers is deceptively athletic with feel to hit), SS Yadiel Rivera (Puerto Rican shortstop has 6’3/180 frame and flashy actions with some pop, but the contact has always been an issue), C Cameron Garfield (Video the 2009 2nd rounder hasn’t hit much in the last few years but he checks the boxes with solid average raw power, an above average arm and the ability to catch; catchers typically take longer and he’s confident), SS Hector Gomez (Video perpetual prospect had a bounce-back season at age 26 in Triple-A last year, he can still play short and he has a little pop; there may still be something here) and C Juan Centeno (he was claimed from the Mets this off-season and is likely no more than a backup long-term, but he’s a plus defender with a plus arm and a quick release, evident by throwing out Billy Hamilton last year).

There are six position players at the lower levels to keep an eye on: 3B Sthervin Matos (Dominican athlete will get his first real taste of full-season ball this year at age 21 and could be on the verge of a breakout; he’s still improving defensively, but flashes average or better hit, raw power and arm strength tools; it’s pronounced “servin”), 3B Tucker Neuhaus (Video he hasn’t quite regained the form of his breakout in fall 2012, but the tools still show up–above average at times in all but speed–but the approach and contact haven’t been there often enough), CF Troy Stokes (Video 2014 4th rounder is 5’8/185 with a stout frame, but is a plus runner that profiles in center and has some raw power), 3B Dustin DeMuth (2014 5th rounder was a senior-sign, bat-first third baseman with a chance to stick there, but doesn’t have much power to his game swing), CF Omar Garcia (2013 7th rounder is a righty-hitting 80 runner with no power and is still a bit raw, but has feel for the bat head) and CF Brandon Diaz (2013 8th rounder is another righty hitter with at least 70 speed, some pop and some feel to hit, but it’s still early).

There are three lefties to keep an eye on: LHP Michael Strong (was added to the 40-man after a strong AFL made him a real Rule 5 option; solid average fastball, slider and command isn’t flashy but gets results), LHP Jed Bradley (2011 first rounder had bounce-back 2014 season as a sinker/slider starter, but he’ll move to the bullpen for 2015, where he hits 95 mph in short stints) and LHP Hobbs Johnson (5’11/230 lefty sits 88-90 mph with sink and great deception with an average four pitch mix and some chance to be a #5 starter).

There are five righties to keep an eye on: RHP Damien Magnifico (2012 5th rounder was a fireballing reliever at Oklahoma that hit 100 mph often, but was converted to a starter in pro ball despite big secondary stuff and command issues; he’s added some life to his heater and hit 99 in long outings, but is mostly a fastball/slider guy and will move back to relief at some point soon), RHP Austin Ross (Video Cistulli’s fringe favorite above has solid average four pitch mix that may play up in the pen, though there’s a shot he turns into a 5th starter), RHP Michael Blazek (he hasn’t quite put it all together, but has big league time, sits 94-96 and touches 98 mph along with a sharp but inconsistent breaking ball), RHP Ariel Pena (is making the long-anticipated move to the bullpen for 2015, which could help his fastball that’s been up to 98 mph and slider that flashes 55 to play better in short stints) and RHP Tyler Cravy (will open in Triple-A, has great feel for his craft and five pitches, but works primarily with solid average sinker/slider combo and could be 5th starter or swingman).

Evaluating the Prospects: St. Louis Cardinals.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Cardinals have their own way of doing things, from the types of pitchers they draft, how they develop them and their recent history of turning unheralded prospects into productive big leaguers. For a team that hasn’t spent big in the international market and always picks in the back half of the first round, this is a nice, balanced system with upside/certainty, pitching/hitting, domestic/foreign and depth at each tier of talent and level of the minors.

There’s a lot of solid infielders, specifically shortstops, at the lower levels, but Cardinals personnel told me that was more outcome than plan. There’s also a lot of young big league talent, evident from the list a couple paragraphs down. This may seem like an intro full of vague generalities, but this is another workmanlike effort of a farm system from an organization with a a farm in the middle third of the game.

Here’s the primer for the series and a disclaimer about how we don’t really know anything. See the links above for the ongoing series about how I evaluate, including the series on the ever-complicated hit tool.

Most of what you need to know for this list is in the above links, but I should add that the risk ratings are relative to their position, so average (3) risk for a pitcher is riskier than average risk (3) for a hitter, due to injury/attrition being more common. I’d also take a 60 Future Value hitter over a 60 FV pitcher for the same reasons. Also, risk encompasses a dozen different things and I mention the important components of it for each player in the report. The upside line for hitters is the realistic best-case scenario (a notch better than the projected tools, or a 75% projection while the projected tools are a 50% projection) and the Future Value encompasses this upside along with the risk rating for one overall rating number.

Below, I’ve included a quick ranking of the notable MLB players 27 and under that aren’t eligible for the Cardinals prospect list and Dave Cameron shares some general thoughts on the organization. Scroll further down to see Carson Cistulli’s fringe prospect favorite. Up next is the Brewers.

27 & Under Big League Assets
1. Jason Heyward, RF, Age 25, FV: 70
2. Lance Lynn, RHP, Age 27, FV: 60
3. Michael Wacha, RHP, Age 23, FV: 60
4. Carlos Martinez, RHP, Age 23, FV: 60
5. Trevor Rosenthal, RHP, Age 24, FV: 55
6. Kolten Wong, 2B, Age 24, FV: 55
7. Matt Adams, 1B, Age 26, FV: 50
8. Peter Bourjos, CF, Age 27, FV: 50
9. Jordan Walden, RHP, Age 27, FV: 45
10. Pete Kozma, SS, Age 26, FV: 45
11. Tyler Lyons, LHP, Age 27, FV: 45
12. Seth Maness, RHP, Age 26, FV: 45
13. Kevin Siegrist, LHP, Age 25, FV: 45

Organizational Overview by Dave Cameron

While the A’s and Rays are the most often cited examples of franchises who were smart enough to build consistent winners despite their payroll restrictions, the Cardinals are the franchise that seemingly everyone in baseball is trying to emulate. They’re an annual contender with a pipeline of talent that rarely dries up, and when it does, they just turn non-prospects into stars anyway. The current core is starting to get a little long in the tooth, but their player development staff has ensured that there’s a wave of talent not far off to keep the Cardinals from falling too far. With the Cubs and Pirates making a strong push, St. Louis probably won’t own the division like they have the last decade, but they should be able to avoid any kind of full tear down even once this group ages out of contention, and any retooling shouldn’t take too terribly long.

50+ FV Prospects:

1. Alex Reyes, RHP
Current Level/Age: Low-A/20.6, 6’3/185, R/R
Signed: IFA at age 16 on December 3, 2012 out of Dominican by STL for $850,000 bonus
Fastball: 60/65, Curveball: 50/60, Changeup: 45/50, Command: 40/45+

Scouting Report: Reyes grew up in New Jersey then moved to the Dominican, where he signed with the Cardinals for an $850,000 bonus after he emerged later in the signing period. Reyes showed signs of the pitcher he could be as an amateur, but has taken another step forward in pro ball.

He checks all the boxes as a young power arm, with a projectable 6-foot-3/185 frame, a solid delivery, and easy plus fastball that sits 92-95 and hits 97 mph along with a curveball that flashes plus in nearly every outing. Reyes is still learning the finer points of his craft, with his command and consistency of his off-speed stuff varying start-to-start.

His changeup will flash average in many outings but still comes and goes and there’s still the night when his feel deserts him for innings at a time. This is the kind of pitcher where 5.0 BB/9 early in his career doesn’t bother you, because all the elements are here for a breakout and it could click at any point. Reyes has mid-rotation upside as is and the physical projection could possibly turn him into a frontline type arm.

Summation: Reyes will be 20 almost all of next season in High-A and could be on the fast track to the big leagues with some key adjustments.

FV/Role/Risk: 55, #3/4 starter or Closer, High (4 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: High-A, 2016: AA, 2017: AAA/MLB

2. Stephen Piscotty, RF
Current Level/Age: AAA/24.2, 6’3/210, R/R
Drafted: 36th overall (sandwich round) in 2012 out of Stanford by STL for $1.43 million bonus
Hit: 45/55, Raw Power: 55/55, Game Power: 35/50, Run: 45/45+, Field: 50/50, Throw: 60/60,

Scouting Report: Piscotty was a name prospect at Stanford for the 2012 draft that had three years of good performance, a chance to play third base in pro ball and the excuse of the Stanford Swing to potentially pull more out of his bat. He’s been a steady performer in pro ball and settled in at right field, but still hasn’t tapped into his above average raw power in games consistently.

Piscotty is a fringy runner with a plus arm that should be at least average defensively. He has a good swing and advanced feel for the strike zone, with comically low strikeout rates. He will hit enough to be a big leaguer of some impact, but the Cards would like to see him trade some strikeouts for home runs so he can more traditionally profile in right field. Piscotty hit nine homers in a full Triple-A season last year, so with little progress and in today’s muted offensive environment, that’s one of the top 60 corner outfielders in the game, but the raw power is there for 20 homers, which would make him a middle of the order type bat.

Summation: Piscotty will almost certainly open the year in Triple-A, but will have a chance to break into the big leagues if Bourjos or Grichuk falters. Particularly Piscotty and Grichuk are both the reason Jason Heyward was acquired, since neither were ready for full-time right field duty, but may also be the reason St. Louis is okay letting Heyward walk if one or both of them takes a big step forward in 2015.

Upside: .275/.335/.450, 15-20 homers
FV/Risk: 50, Low (2 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AAA/MLB

Video Credit to Baseball Instinct

3. Marco Gonzales, LHP
Current Level/Age: MLB/23.1, 6’1/195, L/L
Drafted: 19th overall (1st round) in 2013 out of Gonzaga by STL for $1.85 million bonus
Fastball: 50/50, Slider: 45/50, Curveball: 50/50, Changeup: 55/60, Command: 45/55

Scouting Report: In the 2013 draft, Gonzales was seen as a quick-moving college lefty with above average command and a plus changeup, but probably just #4 starter upside. Different teams value that type of player in different ways, so there were a handful of teams on him in the middle of the first round, while others saw him as a later 1st round or sandwich round option while they opted for more upside.

Gonzales pushed his way to the big leagues in his first full season and had some trouble with his command for the first time in his career in the big leagues. Scouts don’t see that as a long-term concern, as the delivery, athleticism and feel to pitch are all there for the command to come back in his next big league look.

Gonzales sits 88-91 and hits 92 mph with life down in the zone, along with an average slider and curveball and a knockout plus changeup. Gonzales normally shows above average command, though breaking pitches are still developing more consistency, so another half-to-full year in Triple-A may be what he needs to further polish his stuff. It’s hard to see more than a #4 starter here, but he may reach his upside by midseason this year and could end up the type of guy whose command helps him perform higher than his traditional scouting ceiling.

Summation: Gonzales looks like a longer shot to win the #5 starter job out of camp and in that case would likely head back to Triple-A to wait for a chance to join the big league rotation.

FV/Role/Risk: 50, #4 starter, Very Low (1 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AAA/MLB

Video Credit to Cubs Prospect Watch

4. Rob Kaminsky, LHP
Current Level/Age: Low-A/20.5, 5’11/190, R/L
Drafted: 28th overall (1st round) in 2013 out of New Jersey HS by STL for $1.785 million bonus
Fastball: 50/50+, Curveball: 55/60, Changeup: 45/50+, Command: 40/50

Scouting Report: Kaminsky stood out on the showcase circuit before the 2013 draft, showing an average fastball, some feel to pitch and a knockout plus curveball from a smallish frame. His velocity ticked up a bit in the spring and his changeup emerged, helping him stick in the late first round.

Kaminsky isn’t the typical 1st round high school pitcher as he’s listed at 5-foot-11/190, but the stuff is big and there’s advanced feel to pitch. He sits 89-92 and hits 95 mph now and his changeup took a step forward in his first full year, now flashing solid average pretty regularly. Kaminsky fearlessly attacks both sides of the plate and can add and subtract well from his fastball. His plus curveball is still the separator and is a now-weapon that could get big leaguers out.

Summation: The Cardinals have a good track record with developing young pitchers and Kaminsky is about as advanced as cold-weather bred 20-year-old arm can be, so he may move quickly after a nice full-season debut.

FV/Role/Risk: 50, #4 starter, Medium (3 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: High-A, 2016: AA, 2017: AAA/MLB, 2018: MLB

5. Jack Flaherty, RHP
Current Level/Age: RK/19.4, 6’4/205, R/R
Drafted: 34th overall (1st round) in 2014 out of California HS by STL for $2.0 million bonus
Fastball: 50/55, Slider: 50/55, Curveball: 40/45+, Changeup: 50/55, Command: 40/50+

Scouting Report: Flaherty was a sophomore on the same high school team as Lucas Giolito and Max Fried in 2012 and Flaherty was seen as a a high-profile and often scouted two-way prospect that early in his career. Last summer on the high school showcase circuit, Flaherty was seen as a top-three round caliber third baseman with a athletic and projectable with plus speed despite his 6’4/205 frame along with a silky smooth swing. Scouts knew he also pitched, but he didn’t throw over the summer and he had fringy to average stuff often times as a junior.

In his senior year, Flaherty took a big step forward on the mound, flashing three above average pitches and above average command with a clean delivery, that same a projectable athletic frame and limited miles on his arm. There isn’t a plus pitch right now and he hasn’t thrown a ton in the last year, but Flaherty has just about everything else going for him. He sits 90-92 and hits 94 mph, working both sides of the plate, mixing in an above average slider and changeup and a 4th pitch curveball that’s fringy. Both the slider and changeup have flashed plus at times for some scouts, but the separator is the advanced feel to command and set up hitters with so little experience on the mound.

Summation: He may hang back in extended spring training to get more reps in a controlled environment, but Flaherty should get a good look at Low-A this year and the talent may dictate a faster timetable that St. Louis intends.

FV/Role/Risk: 50, #4 starter, Medium (3 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: Low-A, 2016: High-A, 2017: AA, 2018: AAA/MLB

45 FV Prospects

6. Magneuris Sierra, CF: Sierra was thisclose to being a 50 FV on this list and may get an early bump with a strong start in Low-A this season, after signing for just $105,000 in July, 2012 out of the Dominican. At the same age as a high school senior, Sierra had a massive season in the GCL last year and allows scouts to dream, as he flashes five above average tools, unusual to see in a 5’11/175 frame.

Sierra is strongly built, so some think his plus speed may go down a tick with maturity, but he profiles in center field for now. One scout said you can see some Carlos Gonzalez in Sierra on the right days, but looks still widely vary this early in Sierra’s career. The L/L outfielder already shows the ability to hang in versus tough lefties, has incredibly strong wrists and forearms for his age and has above average raw power and arm strength. The tools are here to hit along with some sense of the strike zone, so keep a close eye on him in 2015 as the big breakout could be coming.

7. Randal Grichuk, RF Video: Grichuk was the Angels 1st rounder that they took one pick ahead of Mike Trout in 2009, though Grichuk has turned into a solid prospect in his own right. They inexplicably basically gave Grichuk away in the Peter Bourjos-David Freese deal in 2013 and now Grichuk is knocking on the door of the big leagues. The tools are everyday quality, with above average bat speed and raw power to go with solid average arm strength and fringy speed that’s better underway.

Grichuk can play center in a pinch but fits in right field, while the question is how much he’ll hit and how much he’ll get to his raw power in games. He can get aggressive and chase out of the zone, but he’s been young for his last three levels and he’s hit 65 homers in that span, though his strikeout rate has risen at each level. He’s big league ready and got an extended look last year, likely splitting the reserve outfield duties this year with Bourjos while Piscotty heads back to Triple-A. With a big year, Grichuk would make it easier to let Heyward walk after this year.

8. Luke Weaver, RHP Video: Weaver popped up in his sophomore year at Florida State when the skinny 6’2 right-hander’s average velocity flashed plus, which helped his changeup play even better. He stood out for Team USA last summer, sitting 91-95 and hitting 96 mph with life, a 55-60 changeup and a slider that was a 55 at times. Weaver regressed a bit during his draft spring, sitting mostly 90-93 and hitting 95 mph with the same changeup but a slider that only flashed 50 every now and then.

He slipped from mid first round into the 2nd round for some teams, but the Cardinals saw the athletic pitcher with feel for an out-pitch that they covet and popped him 27th overall last summer. St. Louis loves his makeup and that he’s changeup over breaking ball, like Gonzales and Wacha, who they were able to help with their breaking balls. He was tired after signing due to a heavy workload with the Seminoles, so he only threw 9.1 innings after signing. The expectation is that he’ll open 2015 in High-A at age 21, turning 22 at the end of the season.

9. Sam Tuivailala, RHP Video: His name is pronounced tui-va-LAYLA, though most call him “Tui.” He was an intriguing, late-rising two-way talent out of the California bay area in the 2010 draft that St. Louis took in the 3rd round and sent out as an third baseman for two summers, but the hitting wasn’t going so well and he was converted back to the mound. In his first two summers back on the mound, Tui threw 48.1 relief innings at the lower levels and had some trouble with command, but racked up a lot of strikeouts, while his velo steadily grew with physical maturity and more experience on the mound.

He took off last year in his third year on the mound, sitting 95-99 and hitting 100 mph, jumping from High-A to the big leagues as a 21-year-old. Tui compliments his 80 fastball with a 55 curveball that sometimes flashes better, and a rarely used but below average changeup. His command has improved at every level, so he would be a closer if that continues and he’s only thrown just over 100 pro innings, so there should be more growth in there. Even with no progress, he should be a solid setup guy that can rely on his big fastball.

10. Tim Cooney, LHP Video: Cards execs call Cooney a poor man’s Marco Gonzalez, as the stuff is pretty similar, but there isn’t quite as much impact. Cooney was drafted in the 3rd round in 2012 out of Wake Forest and has moved quickly through the system to where he’s big league ready now and will get a look for the 5th starter job, but will likely break camp in Triple-A waiting for a spot to open in the rotation. Cooney works 89-92 mph with good life, a fringy to average curveball, a below average slider and an above average changeup. His control and command are both above average and the life on his heater along with plane from being 6’3/195 help his ground ball rate, with hopes to reach his 4th starter upside in 2016.

11. Carson Kelly, C Video: Kelly got $1.6 million in the 2nd round out of an Oregon high school in 2012 and moved from an amateur shortstop to a pro third baseman and then last year converted to catcher. He’s taken well to the conversion so far and posted a 100 wRC+ in Low-A last year (league average with the bat) as a 19/20 year old that was learning how to catch at the same time. Kelly has a plus arm, a chance to be an average defender and he has a good swing with average raw power and good bat speed, so all the tools are here for an everyday player.

12. Jacob Wilson, 2B Video: Wilson was an under-the-radar senior sign in 2012 out of Memphis that got $20,000 in the 10th round as a 5’11/180 infielder with some tools and solid numbers. The Cards moved him to second base in the last few years and the below average runner has made strides to where he’s now average at the position, but he can also fill in at all four corner positions with a solid average arm. Wilson has above average bat speed and solid average raw power, and had a big year as at age 23/24 last year, hitting well in High-A, Double-A and the Arizona Fall League. He projects around average with the hit and power tools along with the defense; average across the board at an up-the-middle position is hard to find these days. He should play in the upper levels this year with a chance to contribute in 2016.

40 FV Prospects

13. Charlie Tilson, CF Video: Tilson got over $1 million as a 2nd rounder out of an Illinois high school in 2011 and has performed the whole way, though he missed the 2012 season with a right shoulder injury. He’s an easy plus runner that profiles well in center field with an average arm and uses his speed on the bases, getting almost as many triples as doubles for his career, though he’s still learning how to steal bases more effectively. Tilson has very little power, but solid plate discipline and contact skills. He’ll be an age-appropriate 22 in Double-A this year with a chance to become a table-setting leadoff guy, but, unless he really hits, will be more of a 4th outfielder and defensive replacement.

14. Zach Petrick, RHP Video: Petrick was signed as an undrafted free agent out of NAIA Northwestern Ohio in 2012 that put up huge number that summer, jumped from Low-A to Double-A in 2013, then was in big league spring training in 2014. He sits 89-92 and touches 94 mph, a couple ticks higher than college, which adds contrast to his above average changeup and improved his now-average curveball. Petrick excels with pitchability, fastball movement and location; he should be a 4th/5th starter and maybe as soon as 2015, after a nice 2014 in Triple-A.

15. Austin Gomber, LHP Video: The 6’5/205 lefty came on early last spring, jumping from the mid-80’s in high school to sitting around 90 mph at Florida Atlantic, all while being over 6 months younger than most of his peers. His stuff and command wandered a bit down the stretch and he had some arm soreness that pushed him to the 4th round, where he was a great value. Gomber sits 89-92 and hits 94 mph with some life, a 55 changeup and an inconsistent slider that’s usually around average but also flashes 55 at times. He’s a strike thrower with good control that’s still adjusting to his new velo, particularly with fastball command, but the elements are here for a 4th starter with physical projection for a little more.

16. Aledmys Diaz, SS Video: Diaz is a Cuban defector who got four years and $8 million after buzz he would get more than double that, due in part to a depressed market by signing during Spring Training last year. His 2014 was marred by a shoulder injury, which limited him to DH when he played and also affected his swing. Diaz is healthy and will head out as a shortstop this year, with enough tools that there’s a chance it works, though most scouts thought he would be a long-term second baseman when he signed. Diaz is an above average runner with a solid average arm and good hands that allow him to play up the middle and put the ball in play, with a chance to hit 10 homers at maturity. Diaz is 25 and will likely open the season at Double-A, with a chance for a big league look late in the season if the season goes to plan.

17. Juan Herrera, SS Video: Herrera was acquired from the Indians at the deadline in 2013 for LHP Mark Rzepczynski, then got his first real shot at Low-A in 2014. He’s a glove-first shortstop with a flashy glove and plus arm, but can stick at shortstop due to only fringy because of his quick first step and good instincts. Herrera has very little power, but has good bat-to-ball skills and a gap-to-gap contact approach.

18. Edmundo Sosa, SS Video: The Panamanian shortstop got $425,000 on July 2, 2012 and raked in the DSL in 2013, but is the skills over tools type of middle infielder the Cardinals seem to target. Opinions still vary on wether Sosa can stick at shortstop, as he doesn’t have huge defensive tools, with solid average speed and arm strength, and his well below average raw power in a 5’11/170 frame doesn’t help that profile. Sosa has excellent defensive instincts and general feel for the game that extends to the plate, where he makes lots of contact gap-to-gap and rarely strikes out.

19. Ronnie Williams, RHP Video: Williams was just another athletic pitcher with fringy stuff worth monitoring entering last spring, then his arm speed exploded and he sat 92-95, hitting 97 mph for much of the spring. He faded a bit down the stretch to 90-93 mph, but there’s some projection in his athletic 6’0/170 frame with a very clean arm action and solid delivery. Late last spring, his curveball progressed from fringy to flashing above average while his changeup had flashed above average before his arm speed improved, though he could get all three pitches and his command to click at the same time. Williams has 3rd/4th starter upside and checks all the boxes except for height, but it’ll probably take a few years to put everything together.

20. Patrick Wisdom, 3B Video: Wisdom went 52nd overall out of St. Mary’s in 2012 and the 6’2/210 athlete has easy everyday tools, but his performance has gotten worse at each level. The Cardinals see a guy that needs some time at each level to adjust to the higher level of pitching, while some scouts see a guy that a 45 bat at best. The raw power is above average to plus, the arm is a 70 and the defense is at least average at third base, with a similar profile to Matt Dominguez, who stalled out once he reached the big leagues. Wisdom’s swing isn’t bad, but it can get long and open up holes when he tries to hit for power, so he’ll likely have to choose to hit for contact or power.

21. Rowan Wick, RF Video: Wick is a Canadian that got $75,000 as a 9th rounder out of a SoCal JC in 2012 and the 6’3/220 monster has 65 arm strength and 60 raw power to all fields. He’s a former catcher that’s moved out to right field, where he should be average. The issue is how much contact he’ll make, as he can get too aggressive chasing off-speed stuff and will need time at each level to adjust, as Low-A was a big jump for him last year and he looked overmatched at times.

22. Breyvic Valera, 2B Video: Valera fits the mold of skills over tools Venezuelan middle infielders of the past, though Valera fits best at second base. He signed for only $1,000 in May of 2010 and has an uncanny ability to make contact, with comically low strikeout rates along with a solid walk rate and BABIP, all at an age appropriate for a prospect at each level. There isn’t much power and he’s more of a utility fit defensively that’s played all over the field, but he’s getting close to big league ready: another grinder utility infielder in the Cardinals mold.

23. Malik Collymore, 2B Video: Collymore was an overslot 10th rounder that got $275,000 in 2013 as a Canadian prep standout that came on in his draft spring. He’s surprisingly well built for a 5’11/190 second baseman and has double digit homer raw power if his line drive game stroke allows him to get to all of it in games. Collymore is an above average runner with a below average arm that fits best at second base and is making progress there defensively. He had a big year with gap power in the GCL last year and, while he isn’t Mookie Betts, there’s feel to hit and a good shot he steadily moves up this list in the coming years.

24. Bryan Dobzanski, RHP Video: The Cardinals gave $700,000 to Dobzanski in the 29th round last summer out of a New Jersey high school. He’s even more raw than the typical northeastern arm as the 6’4/220 athlete was a two-time state champion wrestler that has limited miles on his arm. At his best, Dobzanski sits 90-93 and hits 95 mph with sink and a curveball that’s a 55 at times, but the command, changeup and consistency all varied for obvious reasons. The delivery needs some work to avoid a move to the bullpen, so he won’t be a quick mover, but all the raw tools are here.

25. Oscar Mercado, SS Video: Mercado has mid-first round hype leading into his draft spring (2013), but bad body language, focus lapses and a subpar performance at the plate caused him to slip to the 2nd round, where St. Louis gave him an overslot $1.5 million bonus. He hasn’t really added any weight to his 6’2/175 frame since his junior year in high school and some question his work ethic, but it’s hard to walk away from his average average speed and arm strength along with his silky smooth plus glove. The power isn’t a factor now and he needs a lot of reps at the plate, but the ingredients are here.

26. Vaughn Bryan, RF Video: Bryan signed for $100,000 as a 35th rounder in 2013 out of a Florida JC with big tools and questions about polish, but he’s performed more than expected so far. He’ll head to High-A next year as a 22-year-old after a league average performance in Low-A last year, but the tools say there may be more coming. He has solid average raw power and arm strength along with above average speed that’s enough to play center field for now, though he’s a right fielder long term. Bryan is still raw at the plate and he needs more reps, but he’s showing some signs, so he’s someone to watch closely in 2015 for a breakout.

Cistulli’s Guy

Tommy Pham, CF

Well-known bully Kiley McDaniel has endeavored to bully the author into selecting right-hander Dixon Llorens for the distinction of Cistulli’s Guy in the Cardinals system. Llorens’ low ceiling is made lower still, however, by the fact that he’s confined merely to a relief role. Moreover, there exists throughout the organization what Cotton Mather would have likely called a “frigging surfeit” of other compelling fringe prospects. Shortstop Dean Anna and utility-type Ty Kelly, both acquired this offseason, are both well acquitted by the projections. Outfielder Mike O’Neill recorded just an 8.8% strikeout rate in 2014 — which figure somehow represented a decline from his 2013 campaign. The catching triumvirate of Ed Easley, Cody Stanley, and Louis Voit all also merit some attention. As for Pham, however, he possesses enough of speed and power to almost resemble a major leaguer. And regard: in every level since 2010 at which he’s recorded at least 100 plate appearances, he’s also posted a .333 BABIP or higher. Steamer and ZiPS regard that as an actual skill for him, projecting him for a .317 and .333 BABIP, respectively, in 2015.

Others of Note

Five position players at the upper levels to keep an eye on: 2B Mason Katz (Video 2013 4th rounder out of LSU was underslot special as a 5’10/190 infielder with advanced feel to hit and fringy raw power; there isn’t huge bat speed, but he gets the most of his tools and has played every position, including an experiment behind the plate), 3B Ty Kelly (will be 26/27 this season, has no big league time, no clear position and below average speed, arm and power; he was acquired from Seattle this winter and his value is tied to his bat, like Katz, but Kelly is big league ready as a utility guy), C Cody Stanley (Video he’s a bit of a late bloomer as a defender that is now around average defensively, but he always could make contact and has some pull power; you’re looking for an offensive backup here), 2B Greg Garcia (Garcia got a cup of coffee last year and can fill-in at shortstop, but fits better as a utility guy; he has less pop than Kelly but a lot more defensive value and he also shares a name with the creator of My Name Is Earl) and 1B Mike Ohlman (Video he was picked up in a recent trade for cash considerations from Baltimore and still plays some catcher, but his 6’5/215 frame won’t allow it much longer; he’s a well below average runner that can only play first long-term, which wastes his above average arm, but the real concern is if he can corral his long arms well enough to make contact to get to his above average raw power in games).

Four position players at the lower levels to keep an eye on: CF C.J. McElroy (Video son of former big league reliever Chuck McElroy turns 22 this year, is still raw, is a natural righty hitter still tinkering with switch-hitting and has very little power, but the upside is still here since he’s an 80 runner; at this point you’re hoping for a solid 4th outfielder like Charlie Tilson), C Steve Bean (2012 sandwich rounder hasn’t made a ton of progress with the bat, but is an above average defender with an easy plus arm), CF Blake Drake (2014 18th rounder out of NAIA school has above average to plus speed and arm along with average raw power, so if he hits there’s a big league fit) and RF Ricardo Bautista (19-year-old lefty-hitting Puerto Rican outfielder got $150,000 in 2013 as a high schooler young for his class and has 4th outfielder type tools with an above average arm).

Three pitchers at the upper levels to keep an eye on: RHP Nick Petree (quintessential pitchability righty works 86-89 and touches 91 at times with fringy curveball and slider, but advanced feel and a plus changeup; it’s probably a swing man at best, but it’s hard to count him out), RHP Mike Mayers (6’3/205 righty was 3rd rounder out of Ole Miss in 2013 and reached AAA last season; he’s a potential fifth starter with a solid average sinker/slider combo but inconsistent fastball command and changeup) and RHP Chris Perry (the 17th round pick in 2013 from a D3 school sits 92-94 with a solid average curveball and enough command and deception to put up some ridiculous numbers in A-Ball, with enough stuff to think it might continue)

Six pitchers at the lower levels to keep an eye on: RHP Junior Fernandez (18-year-old 6’1/180 Dominican made his first American apperance in instructs this fall and saw his DSL velo jump from 88-90 to 94-96 mph; the slurve is solid average at times, the changeup shows some flashes and the command has improved, so there’s a chance he’s a starter), RHP Andrew Morales (5’11 righty was senior sign comp 2nd rounder last year and has solid average fastball/slider combo with usable changeup and lots of moxie; upside is limited to 5th starter), RHP Luis Perdomo (6’2/160 Dominican turns 22 this year and hasn’t had much full-season success, but sits 92-95 and hits 97 mph at his best, though his slider, changeup and command lag behind), RHP Jorge Rodriguez (20-year-old Dominican will head back to the GCL in 2015 and has similar stuff to Perdomo, with a plus fastball but a better chance to start due to more feel and a better curveball), RHP Juan Perez (Venezuelan 19-year-old sits 90-93 and hits 94 mph with a curve, changeup and command that all flash average at times, but he still may move to the pen) and LHP Ian McKinney (Video 5’11 lefty was 2013 5th rounder out of Orlando-area high school with fringy fastball and slider, but above average changeup and feel).

Evaluating the Prospects: Detroit Tigers.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
I mentioned in some of the top 200 prospects content that this process inherently values the organizational approaches some teams have, while punishing others. The Tigers are a team that gets punished. The cutoff of a certain amount of big league playing time means that I’m ranking guys that Detroit sees as trade chips to help the big league team, whereas a team like Tampa Bay sees the farm as the only way they’ll be able to survive three years from now.

Of guys that would be on this list, the Tigers originally signed then traded RHP Jake Thompson 55 FV, Rangers), SS Willy Adames (50 FV, Rays), 2B Devon Travis (45+ FV, Blue Jays), RHP Corey Knebel (45+ FV, Brewers), RHP Jonathon Crawford (45 FV, Reds) and 2B Domingo Leyba (40+ FV, Diamondbacks), with White Sox RF Avisail Garcia, Rays LHP Drew Smyly and Reds SS Eugenio Suarez all recently traded and recently losing prospect status.

I point this out because the perception from casual fans via perennially low rankings of their farm system is that Detroit’s scouting and development people aren’t good. If the big league team’s strategy was to keep all their prospects and then add some here and there, they’d be somewhere around the middle of the pack in these rankings. Detroit has a clear type of player they like: big, physical power pitchers and up-the-middle type defenders with instincts and some feel to hit. Given that they don’t spend huge internationally but keep finding solid prospects and always draft in the back half of the first round, rarely with extra picks, I think Detroit’s system (for acquiring players) is underrated, even if the current prospect list is in the back third of the league, as usual.

Here’s the primer for the series and a disclaimer about how we don’t really know anything. See the links above for the ongoing series about how I evaluate, including the series on the ever-complicated hit tool.

Most of what you need to know for this list is in the above links, but I should add that the risk ratings are relative to their position, so average (3) risk for a pitcher is riskier than average risk (3) for a hitter, due to injury/attrition being more common. I’d also take a 60 Future Value hitter over a 60 FV pitcher for the same reasons. Also, risk encompasses a dozen different things and I mention the important components of it for each player in the report. The upside line for hitters is the realistic best-case scenario (a notch better than the projected tools, or a 75% projection while the projected tools are a 50% projection) and the Future Value encompasses this upside along with the risk rating for one overall rating number.

Below, I’ve included a quick ranking of the notable MLB players 27 and under that aren’t eligible for the Tigers prospect list and Dave Cameron shares some general thoughts on the organization. Scroll further down to see Carson Cistulli’s fringe prospect favorite. Up next is the Cardinals.

27 & Under Big League Assets
1. J.D. Martinez, LF, Age 27, FV: 60
2. Nick Castellanos, 3B, Age 23, FV: 55 (Video)
3. Shane Greene, RHP, Age 26, FV: 55 (Video)
4. Jose Iglesias, SS, Age 25, FV: 55
5. Anthony Gose, CF, Age 24, FV: 50 (Video)
6. Ian Krol, LHP, Age 23, FV: 45
7. Josh Zeid, RHP, Age 27, FV: 45

Organizational Overview by Dave Cameron

This particular Tigers team is reaching the end of its run, with an aging and expensive roster that no longer looks to be the clear favorite to win the American League Central. There is still enough talent to make a run in 2015 and maybe even in 2016, but the window is closing, and the long-term financial commitments to post-peak players is going to make it difficult to avoid a significant collapse. But, as the saying goes, flags fly forever, and I’m sure everyone in Detroit will take a few rough years in the future if it results in the franchise’s first championship since 1984. The Tigers have at least one more shot at throwing a huge parade before they have to figure out when they need to blow this all up. That time is coming, but it isn’t here yet.

50+ FV Prospect:

1. Derek Hill, CF
Current Level/Age: SS/19.2, 6’2/195, R/R
Drafted: 23rd overall (1st round) in 2014 out of California HS by DET for $2.0 million bonus
Hit: 20/50, Raw Power: 50/50+, Game Power: 20/45+, Run: 80/70, Field: 55/65, Throw: 50/50

Scouting Report: Hill went in the first round this summer out of a NorCal high school, but that wasn’t surprising since his father, Orsino Hill, is a Dodgers scout and went in the 1st round in 1982. Derek had a big summer on the showcase circuit as a standout defender with some highlight reel plays in big events, lots of hard contact and multiple 80 run times at the Area Code Games. Hill added some strength this spring without losing a step, which allowed him to add more raw power; he put on quite a display in a pre-draft workout in Detroit, easily hitting many balls out in BP.

I grade hit hit tool as pure hitting ability, but his speed will create infield hits and prop up his stats further. He has a simple, line-drive, gap-to-gap swing but I think he’ll slowly grow into his raw power as his body and swing develop. He struggled down the stretch last summer after signing, but Tigers sources say he was tired from a long season.

Hill has a massive upside and has the tools to shoot up this list if/when he puts it all together in one season, which could well be 2015. Scouts that had face time with Hill noted that his handshake is incredibly strong, helping to explain where his power comes from. Having a father that’s a scout and former professional player also led to many predictable reports of Hill’s great makeup.

Summation: Hill should start in Low-A next spring and is a potential impact center fielder with game-changing speed and defense to go with enough power to turn into a better version of Austin Jackson.

Upside: .290/.350/.450, 15-18 homers
FV/Risk: 50, High (4 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: Low-A, 2016: High-A, 2017: AA/AAA, 2018: AAA/MLB

45 FV Prospects

2. Steven Moya, RF Video: Moya is an outlier in more than a few ways, but mostly it’s that he’s 6’7/260 with easy 70 raw power from the left side and he hit 35 bombs last year in Double-A. He’s also shockingly quick for his size, an average runner, and has the plus arm to profile well in right field. As you may have guessed, the question here is consistent contact, in part because of his power-based approach but mostly because of his size/length of his arms. Moya was born in Puerto Rico but trained/signed from the Dominican in October, 2008 for a $220,000 bonus, continuing Detroit’s trend of finding good Latin prospects for low six figure amounts. His power, if he gets to all of it in games, project for 30+ homers annually and his raw power is among the top few in all of the minor leagues.

Moya is an aggressive hitter in part because he has the plate coverage via his long limbs to make contact with almost anything and his swing is low effort because he can lift it out to all fields with a flick of the wrist. The problems come from Moya’s fireplace-sized strike zone, some holes to his swing (especially in) and his tendency to chase pitches on the edges of the zone. Obviously, if he can clean some of this up, he would be terrifying and he’ll be 23 all of this season, so there’s still some hope. He’ll open the season in Triple-A and will get another cup of coffee at some point this year, maybe an extended look if injuries give him a clearer shot at playing time.

3. Buck Farmer, RHP Video: Farmer was drafted with little fanfare, as a 5th round senior sign from Georgia Tech in 2013. He started in college and had three solid average pitches, but the delivery and arm action screamed reliever to many. Farmer has proven those scouts wrong, shooting from Low-A to the big leagues in 2014. He sits 91-94 and hits 96 mph with above average life and an aggressive approach. His changeup is above average and his slider is solid average, so there’s plenty here for a league average/#4 starter as long as the command holds up. Farmer has a sturdy frame at 6’4/225 and hasn’t missed a start in his career. He’ll likely open the season in Triple-A and may get his next big league shot in the bullpen and he may even be a setup guy long-term, but there’s clearly more here that scouts weren’t seeing out of him at Georgia Tech.

4. Bruce Rondon, RHP Video: The 6’3/275 Venezuelan flame thrower had the inside track to break camp in 2013 as the big league closer, but his command wasn’t quite there, so he was sent to Triple-A to start the year. He had a couple stint in the big leagues that season, then was shelved with a elbow soreness that ended up leading to Tommy John surgery, knocking him out for the 2014 season. He’s eligible for this list because he’s only pitched 28.2 innings in the big leagues, but he’s been hanging around the upper levels of the minors since 2011 with big league buzz since the winter of 2012.

Rondon’s arm speed has already proven to be back in the early going in Florida and, at his best, he sat 96-100, hitting 102.8 mph on Pitch F/X. The command will never be great, his slider is a 55, but it’s inconsistent and he’s working in a 90-91 mph changeup that’s rarely used but around average. Indications are Rondon will break camp with the club and it makes sense to get big league value ASAP from this kind of risky reliever before the arm starts barking again, as very few arms can regularly move that fast and stay healthy.

5. Kevin Ziomek, LHP Video: Ziomek was part of a loaded Low-A West Michigan rotation that included Farmer, Kubitza, Crawford and Green, along with a liberal helping of prospects in the bullpen and lineup. Ziomek was a 2nd rounder in 2013 out of Vanderbilt that was a pitchability lefty with some funk that flashed above average stuff at times. He put up huge numbers with strikeouts and ground balls as 22-year-old in Low-A last year and could hit multiple levels in 2015. Ziomek works 89-93 and hits 95 mph with an above average slider that flashes plus at times, along with an average changeup that needs more consistency and solid average command. It’s probably just a 4th starter, but the stuff may play up some from that with the deception and command and we’ll learn more about how that will play at the upper levels in 2015.

6. Austin Kubitza, RHP Video: Kubitza is an outlier in terms of specific skillset and performance. He had 67% groundball rate in 131 innings in Low-A last year, created from his 90-91 heavy sinker with plus life that hits 93 mph. He also has an above average to plus slider that may be even better than his sinker. Kubitza is 6’5/225 and comes from Rice, the school that chews up and spits out young pitcher’s arms like the Cloverfield monster. Kubitza is the one of the few notable pitching prospects in over a decade to come out completely unscathed, but he slid to the 4th round in 2013 due his velo sitting in the high 80’s because he threw his slider so much, losing 4-5 ticks on his fastball from his freshman to his junior seasons at Rice.

There’s still some worry with his crossfire angle to the plate creating some shoulder stress as well, his command being behind his control and his changeup is still below average, but it’s really hard to ignore the size and standout sinker/slider combo. He’s already 23, so he may not stay in High-A long into 2015, with one Tigers source saying Kubitza could easily pitch one inning stints in the big leagues right now.

7. James McCann, C Video: McCann was a 2nd rounder in 2011 out of Arkansas as a glove first backstop. He had his best offensive season last year in Triple-A, earning a quick big league look, further underlining that catchers take longer to develop that other positions due to the wear and tear and the complexities of calling a game and being a catcher taking away from time to focus on hitting. McCann has below average power and speed, but projects as an above average defender and has a plus arm, so he just needs to put the ball in play semi-often to have real big league value. McCann should be a 45 to 50 bat with 35 to 40 power, which is plenty to be a solid backup, with a chance to be a low-end everyday guy for a stretch.

8. Dixon Machado, SS Video: Machado was seen as an advanced glove, only behind Iglesias in the whole organization, that had a very light bat. He took a step forward with the bat this year, hitting well in High-A, then raking in Double-A and put himself back on the prospect map. Machado is an average runner with a plus glove and a 55 arm, but 40 raw power and a bat that’s still a bit of a question mark even after a solid showing in Double-A. Good indicators for the Venezuelan glove man include his consistently good BB/K numbers, added strength in recent years and 2014 being his first full healthy season in years. He’ll head to the upper levels this year and may become a real trade chip should the big team need to add more weapons down the stretch.

40 FV Prospects

9. Hernan Perez, SS Video: Perez signed in 2007 as a 16-year-old from Venezuela and has steadily progressed through the system, with a cup of coffee last year and a chance to break camp as a super utility guy this year. Unlike Machado, Perez has played all over the field and is a better fit in a reserve role. Perez is fine at shortstop, but is more of a fill-in type: he’s a 50 runner with a 55 arm that can play a solid shortstop, but is more comfortable at second base. Perez’s raw power is a 35, but he draws his share of walks and doesn’t strike out, understanding his limitations at the plate. His career likely includes years as a solid super utility guy, then maybe a couple seasons where he’ll hit enough to be a low-end everyday guy; it’s low upside but very high probability.

10. Grayson Greiner, C Video: I first saw Greiner as a freshman as South Carolina and I almost laughed when I saw a 6’6/220 catcher taking infield with the gear on. Scouts ask questions if a guy is too big to catch at 6’3 or 6’4, so how could a 6’6 guy possibly stick back there? A good start is a 70 arm, uncanny accuracy and a quick release, but Greiner is actually a pretty solid receiver with the tools to stick back there. He has 55 raw power and some feel for the bat head and the strike zone, though he predictably strikes out a bit and doesn’t always get to the power in games.

The questions boil down to his size hindering his defense and contact and the position causing health/durability issues down the line, but the tools and performance are hard to ignore. His summer was ended early by a broken hamate bone, but he’ll play in High-A in 2015 and everyone I’ve talked to about Greiner raves about his makeup. The Tigers have a nice recent history with SEC catchers, including Alex Avila (Alabama) and James McCann (Arkansas).

11. Drew VerHagen, RHP Video: VerHagen was a 4th rounder in 2012 out of Vanderbilt (one of six Commodores in the system) and the 6’6/230 righty already got a big league look late in 2014. He’s put up okay numbers all the way up the chain, but he’s the type of guy that can replicate those numbers at each level, working overwhelmingly with a 90-94 heavy sinker that hits 96 mph. His curveball is average most of the time while his changeup is usually below average, so with some minor adjustments, he could be a 5th starter, one of the rare ones that never struck many guys out at any level but kept making it work. At the very least, he should be a solid long reliever/spot starter than can go multiple innings and get ground balls.

12. Tyler Collins, LF Video: Collins was a 6th rounder in 2011 out of a Texas JC and the 5’11/215 left fielder has steadily progressed, getting a big league cup of coffee last year. He may break camp with the team this year, so Collins is already a reserve outfielder, but he likely tops out as a platoon option. He has an average bat, average raw power and solid feel for the strike zone, but is a below average runner with a fringy arm. If the bat ends up being a 45, he’s just an extra guy and if its 50 to slightly better, he’s a fringe everyday guy on the better side of the platoon as a left-handed batter.

13. Javier Betancourt, 2B Video: Like how hard-throwing relievers Nesbitt and Valdez are lumped together as prospects (listed below), scouts lump Fuentes and Betancourt together due to position, age and country of origin, with Shepherd having some similarities as well. Betancourt signed for $200,000 out of Venezuela in 2011 and while he’s okay at shortstop, his pro future is at second base. Betancourt is Edgardo Alfonzo‘s nephew and has some of the same tools and instincts as his uncle. Betancourt is a hit over power type with advanced feel for the bat head, 45 raw power that plays down a bit in games, 45 speed and a 50 arm. It isn’t a sexy upside, but an average or better bat up the middle with decent other skills is an everyday player.

14. Spencer Turnbull, RHP Video: Turnbull came on last spring, developing from a big arm strength guy into more of a pitcher, helping the Alabama product go in the 2nd round last summer. Turnbull’s delivery is still a little awkward, but he’s a good athlete and there’s little effort, somewhat of an achievement for a 6’4/230 monster with huge velocity. Turnbull sits 92-95 mph deep into games and has hit 97 mph, with above average to plus life down in the zone. His slider regularly flashes above average and his changeup will flash average in most games, though he’s still more of a thrower than pitcher. If the command and feel to pitch can progress, there’s a potential 3/4 starter here, but more likely he’ll end up as a late inning reliever.

15. Zach Shepherd, 3B: The 6’3/185 Australian has big tools and was already converting them into performance as an 18-year-old in the GCL last year. Shepherd has a strong frame, solid average speed, above average defensive ability and arm strength along with raw power that could be a bit above average as well. He made a lot of hard contact in the GCL and has as much ceiling as Fuentes while showing some of the feel of Betancourt, despite fewer professional reps. It’ll be easy to group these three infielders together the next few years, but it’s anyone’s guess who comes out on top at this point.

16. Steven Fuentes, 3B Video: The 20-year-old Venezuelan will make his full-season debut in 2015 and has shown a solid skill set in short season leagues. Fuentes is a 5’11/180 switch-hitter that signed for $210,000 out of Venezuela in 2011 that shifted from shortstop to third base, where he profiles as a potential big leaguer, though he can fill in all around the infield. Fuentes has an easy plus arm, advanced defensive ability, solid average speed and above average raw power potential. The question is how much contact he’ll make as he’s still working to be more consistent with his approach at-bat to at-bat, but there’s everyday tools here.

17. Angel Nesbitt, RHP Video: Nesbitt sat in the mid-to-upper-80’s when he signed in April of 2009 out of Venezuela. The velo has ticked up a bit since then, as he now sits 94-97 and has hit 99 mph. Nesbitt is a year younger than Valdez and was his setup man at Erie, but scouts are split on who’s the better prospect. Nesbitt throws more strikes, but his above average slider is behind the best version of Valdez’s slider; I’ll lean to the younger guy with more feel to pitch.

18. Jose Valdez, RHP Video: The Dominican righty will flash huge stuff when he’s at his best, sitting 95-98 mph with plus life and an above average to plus slider. The problem is the slider and rarely used changeup vary drastically in quality in each outing, along with the command. The 6’1/200, 25-year-old righty will head to Triple-A in 2015 and should get a big league look if he can keep throwing enough strikes.

19. Wynton Bernard, CF Video: Bernard was a 35th round senior sign out of Niagara by the Padres in 2012 and was treated as such: he got 267 PA in a year and half as a backup at four different levels, then was released. A Tigers scout based in SoCal, Tim McWilliam, saw the San Diego native, worked him out, then called his bosses and said they needed to see this kid, so they invited him to their annual open workout in Lakeland. At the open workout, Bernard ran in the 6.5’s and hit balls over the batter’s eye off a pitching machine throwing 90 mph.

Bernard signed after the workout, went to Spring Training and beat out prospects that got big bonuses for the regular center field job in Low-A in 2014. Bernard got 582 PA and hit .323/.394/.442 with 6 homers and 45 stolen bases while striking out in only 14.8% of plate appearances en route to winning Midwest League MVP. He’s 6’2/195 with 70 speed, plus defense and raw power and a 50 arm, though his game approach doesn’t tap into his power much. Bernard will head back to Lakeland in 2015 at age 24 and may move quickly if he keeps hitting like this. It’s hard to figure where this is headed next, but two Tigers execs compared him to Rajai Davis, which would be a remarkable career given the background.

20. Joe Jimenez, RHP Video: The younger brother of Blue Jays C prospect A.J. Jimenez was a middling Puerto Rican prep arm in 2013 that came on pre-draft, but went undrafted due to a mid six figure price tag. The Tigers had a relationship with the kid and his agent and grabbed him post-draft for a $100,000 bonus, but even Detroit has been shocked at the progress he’s made since signing. Before his draft spring, Jimenez was sitting in the high-80’s and touching the low-90’s, then hit 94 mph with some regularity pre-draft, then sat 95-97 and hit 100 mph with above average life in 2014.

The 6’3/220 righty has worked hard to get in better shape, has put up huge numbers in short season leagues and had a very nice stint in the Puerto Rican Winter League, striking out 15 and allowing 4 base runners in 12.2 innings. He has a slider that’s a 55 at times and fringy command that’s coming along; he’ll head to full-season ball in 2015 and could move quickly, but there’s clear risks with a young minor league reliever.

21. Chad Green, RHP: Green signed for $100,000 out of Louisville in 2013 and has made nice progress since then, with his velocity ticking up a bit. He now sits 91-94 with above average life and has hit 96 mph, with and slider and changeup that are both fringy and flash average at at times. The 6’3/215 righty will head to High-A in 2015 and continue to start, but will turn 24 this season, so he’ll need to move faster or shift to the pen, but likely will continue starting since it’s hard to pass on back-end starter potential.

22. Adam Ravenelle, RHP Video: Ravenelle was a power reliever for Vanderbilt for three years and likely will move fast in the minors on the same track, but he has three pitches, so Detroit will consider starting him. At his best, Ravenelle sits 92-95 and hits 96 mph with a 55 slider and a fringy changeup that flashes average, with some effort to the delivery and below average command. He likely ends up as a middle reliever, but there’s a chance for setup or a back-end starter if the command comes along.

Cistulli’s Guy

Jason Krizan, OF
Occasionally, during one of his appearances on FanGraphs Audio, McDaniel will suggest with regard to this or that prospect that he “checks all the boxes.” For a batter, that probably indicates some combination of major-league-caliber offensive and defensive skills; for a pitcher, that he exhibits command of a 50-plus fastball and at least one other usable pitch. Kriznan checks another set of boxes — not those generally associated with top, but rather fringe, prospects. Attended college through his senior season? Check. Signed for just $50 thousand in the eighth round? Check. Features offensive profile largely based on contact skills and discipline? Check. Is probably more of a corner outfielder but has also played center a little? Check and check and check. Krizan’s ceiling is pretty low, but he also receives a better WAR projection for the 2015 season than Steven Moya.

Others of Note
There are three position players in the lower levels to keep an eye on: LF Daniel Fields (Fields got $1.625 million out of a Detroit-area high school in 2009 and has been up and down since then; he’s 6’2/215, has average raw power, speed and arm strength, but his numbers have varied as he was rushed to High-A at 19, then played there for three years; he’s 24 and has performed in AA but had injury problems in 2014 with the upside as a platoon outfielder), RF Connor Harrell (Video big athletic kid was 7th round senior sign from Vanderbilt in 2013 and performed more than expected; above average speed and solid average raw power but tons of trouble making contact, though he hit 21% above league average in High-A at age 23, with 14 homers and 15 stolen bases) and LF Tyler Gibson (signed for $525,000 out of a Georgia HS in 2011 and still has big tools, but lost some playing time due to Bernard’s breakout last year; he’s an above average runner with a fringy arm and solid average raw power to go with solid bat speed and he’s still 21, but he needs reps and numbers).

There are six position players in the lower levels to keep an eye on: 3B/C Joey Pankake (Video 80 name was seen as a prime candidate to convert from college infielder to pro catcher, but Tigers needed him in the infield after signing; the arm is plus, the feet are quick for his size and Pankake is game to convert, so look for that to come soon, flashes average raw power and some feel to hit), C Shane Zeile (nephew of Todd Zeile was 5th rounder last summer from UCLA and had his pro debut shortened after breaking his thumb from a backswing in the GCL; he’s still relatively new to catching but the tools to stick are here and he’s a contact bat in games that’ll show some raw power in BP), RF Mike Gerber (15th rounder last summer was senior sign out of Creighton, but he had tools, with 55 raw power and solid average speed and arm strength; he lasted that long due to crude plate discipline, but this already looks like a bargain pick), 1B Dominic Ficociello (thin 6’4/185 athlete has played all over the diamond but fits best at first base, has smooth lefty cut, had nice full-season debut, but raw power is mostly projection at this point and he’s been older for his league), RF Julio Martinez (signed for $600,000 out of the Dominican last July 2nd, which is almost the highest bonus they’ve given in years; 6’2/195 righty hitter has present raw power and some feel to hit; will spend 2015 in the DSL) and C Arvicent Perez (Venezuelan backstop just turned 21 and will head to Low-A this year; was seen as a catch-and-throw guy with a light bat before a breakout 2014 with a short look at Low-A filling in for an injured Grenier successfully; Perez has a plus and and will stick behind the plate; if he keeps hitting, he’s a guy).

There are three lefties in the upper levels to keep an eye on: LHP Kyle Ryan (6’5/210 lefty has fringe to average stuff but gets ground balls, had a a cup of coffee last year and may turn into a #5 starter, but is likely a swing man), LHP Kyle Lobstein (is often lumped with Ryan as big lefties with fringe stuff that are big league ready and get by with moxie and feel, with minor differences, like Lobstein using four pitches) and LHP Blaine Hardy (Video older lefty has three usable pitches and sits 88-91 mph with solid average stuff in short stints, but can go multiple innings if needed).

There are three righties in the upper levels to keep an eye on: RHP Edgar De La Rosa (6’8/235 monster works in the mid-90’s as a starter, but his slider, changeup and command are all fringy, so he likely fits in middle relief), RHP Endrys Briceno (the super lanky 6’5/175 Venezuelan has the stuff to start with a 92-94 mph fastball, solid average curve and changeup that flashes average, but his command comes and goes due to his length, which may push him to the bullpen) and RHP Melvin Mercedes (jumbo 6’3/250 righty got cup of coffee in 2014, sits 92-95 mph with plus life but his slider is below average, flashing average at times, so he’s limited to middle relief).

There are seven pitchers in the lower levels to keep an eye on: RHP Artie Lewicki (2013 Tommy John and 2014 oblique injuries hindered his progress, but Lewicki found his stride late in 2014 for UVA, sitting 90-94 mph with an above average slider; he could be a steal for $60,000 in the 8th round), RHP Josh Laxer (Video another 2014 pick with a relief profile, Laxer sits 92-94 and hits 96 mph with effort but a breaking ball that flashes above average, giving him setup upside with more command), RHP Jeff Thompson (Video 6’6’/245 monster was 2013 3rd round pick out of Louisville and has some arm trouble in 2014, but flashes three 50-55 pitches at his best, though he’s still growing into his frame), LHP Gabe Speier (acquired with Yoenis Cespedes in the Rick Porcello deal this winter, average-sized lefty will flash solid average stuff and command, but is still inconsistent), RHP Zach Reininger (Video 6’3/170 righty is aggressive with 91-93 mph heater and solid average slider; he could move quickly as a middle relief type), LHP Joe Mantiply (solid average stuff, feel and moxie from 6’4/200 lefty gives high probability to reach middle relief ceiling that’s a nice 27th round find from Virginia Tech, will open 2015 in the upper levels) and RHP Sandy Baez (20-year-old Dominican power righty sat in the mid-90’s in the GCL and flashed and average curveball, but it came and went and the changeup and command lag behind; he’ll keep starting but likely ends up in relief).

Evaluating the Prospects: Toronto Blue Jays.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Jays have had a steady strategy for amateur player acquisition: spend early and often and take risks. That obviously will lead to some busts, but GM Alex Anthopoulos has had a consistent vision in this regard for his six years running the team and the farm is now flush with talent. The Latin program has developed shortstop and power arms and has done a nice job turning low- and mid-level bonuses into real prospects. The gambles in the draft have also paid off with risky bets on Daniel Norris, Anthony Alford and Aaron Sanchez delivering in some form already while top 2014 pick Jeff Hoffman could be better than all of them if his rehab goes well.

It’s also worth noting that the 40 FV group on this list is filled with high upside talent. These prospects are ranked based on trade value, so they’re worth the same as the less exciting, lower upside, higher certainty 40 FV players on other lists, but this means the Jays have a wider range of possibilities in outcomes for their lower level prospects. With a strong development season, a half dozen of these prospects could take a step forward, and, with another strong year of signing amateur talent, could move a top 10-12 system another step forward.

Here’s the primer for the series and a disclaimer about how we don’t really know anything. See the links above for the ongoing series about how I evaluate, including the series on the ever-complicated hit tool.

Most of what you need to know for this list is in the above links, but I should add that the risk ratings are relative to their position, so average (3) risk for a pitcher is riskier than average risk (3) for a hitter, due to injury/attrition being more common. I’d also take a 60 Future Value hitter over a 60 FV pitcher for the same reasons. Also, risk encompasses a dozen different things and I mention the important components of it for each player in the report. The upside line for hitters is the realistic best-case scenario (a notch better than the projected tools, or a 75% projection while the projected tools are a 50% projection) and the Future Value encompasses this upside along with the risk rating for one overall rating number.

Below, I’ve included a quick ranking of the notable MLB players 27 and under that aren’t eligible for the Blue Jays prospect list and Dave Cameron shares some general thoughts on the organization. Scroll further down to see Carson Cistulli’s fringe prospect favorite. Up next is the Tigers.

27 & Under Big League Assets
1. Marcus Stroman, RHP, Age 23, FV: 65 (Video)
2. Drew Hutchinson, RHP, Age 24, FV: 55
3. Aaron Loup, LHP, Age 27, FV: 45
4. Liam Hendriks, RHP, Age 26, FV: 45
5. Kyle Drabek, RHP, Age 27, FV: 45
6. Kevin Pillar, CF, Age 26, FV: 45

Organizational Overview by Dave Cameron

A team loaded both with inexperienced and too experienced players, the Blue Jays could be described both as a team on the rise and a team that needs to win now. This season is possibly their last run with their current core, but it also will serve as a changing of the guard, as the young guys are theoretically ready to step in and give the team a strong future. In the ideal outcome, the Jays have a seamless transition that involves a winning 2015 season with the young guys performing well enough to establish themselves as the new core for the future. It’s an outcome that is possible, but there’s also a lot of risk involved; struggles from several of the youngsters being counted on could derail the 2015 season and also raise questions about the team’s ability to win going forward. The Blue Jays might have as wide a range of outcomes as any contender this year, with both a World Series and a frustrating implosion easily within reach.

50+ FV Prospects:

1. Daniel Norris, LHP
Current Level/Age: MLB/21.9, 6’2/195, L/L
Drafted: 74th overall (2nd round) in 2011 out of Tennessee HS by TOR for $2.0 million bonus
Fastball: 55/60, Curveball: 55/60, Slider: 50/55, Changeup: 45/50+, Command: 45/50+

Scouting Report: Norris was a well-known prospect coming out of a Tennessee high school, both for his above-average stuff dating back to his sophomore year of high school, but also his troublesome delivery. He slipped to the second round in 2011, but the Jays scooped him up at the 74th overall pick with a $2 million bonus. Norris took the Jays development staff a couple years to clean everything up and unlock his athleticism. Like Dalton Pompey, Norris shot from High-A to the big leagues last year in his age 21 season.

Norris sits 91-95 mph with occasional life and a hard, plus 74-76 mph curveball that’s really improved the last couple seasons from a softer version. Norris also adds a 83-85 mph slider that flashes above average with clearly differentiated shape from his curve, along with a mid-80’s changeup that’s average to slightly above at times.

Norris still isn’t perfectly online, he can elevate at times when he locks his landing knee and these things lead to a flatter fastball and giving up more hard contact. That said, he’s athletic enough to make all of this work and, when it’s right, the stuff is electric. There’s 2/3 starter upside and Norris now has the command to get there much faster than many would’ve guessed before this season. It’s also worth noting that Norris is quite a character, the real life Matt Foley, literally living in a van that is often near a river.

Summation: Norris is getting a chance to compete for the #5 spot in the rotation out of camp, along with Aaron Sanchez. It’s likely he’ll spend some meaningful amount of 2015 in Triple-A, but he’ll probably settle into the rotation by this time next year.

FV/Role/Risk: 60, #3 starter, Medium (3 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AAA/MLB

2. Jeff Hoffman, RHP
Current Level/Age: None/22.2, 6’4/185, R/R
Drafted: 9th overall (1st round) in 2014 out of East Carolina by TOR for $3.08 million bonus
Fastball: 60/70, Curveball: 55/65, Changeup: 50/55, Command: 40/50+

Scouting Report: Hoffman was a known power arm for the 2014 draft at East Carolina, then he broke out in the summer before the draft on the Cape (see the video), flashing an 80 fastball and 65 or 70 curveball from an athletic delivery, projectable frame and shockingly good feel to pitch given the power stuff.

He didn’t look the same in the spring and just as he was making adjustments to his delivery to regain prior form, his elbow popped and he got Tommy John surgery. Even with the surgery taking Hoffman out of #1 overall pick contention, the Jays thought he wouldn’t get out of the top 5, so they were pleased to land him with the 9th overall pick.

Hoffman drew comparisons to Adam Wainwright and Justin Verlander when he was at his best on the Cape, so if he regains that form, he could shoot to the top of this list in short order. In the 2014 spring at ECU before he got hurt, Hoffman’s tempo was a little too quick, so while his velocity was the same, the curveball was mostly 50 or 55 and rushing through his delivery caused him to leave the ball out to his arm side.

Summation: It’s impossible to know what version of Hoffman will emerge when rehab is over; he won’t return until mid-season in 2015. He won’t be expected to be back to full speed until later in 2016 or even 2017, so he’ll likely hover in this range on my lists until it becomes clear what type of pitcher he’ll be going forward.

FV/Role/Risk: 55, #3/4 starter, Medium (3 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: Low-A, 2016: High-A/AA, 2017: AA/AAA/MLB, 2018: AAA/MLB

3. Aaron Sanchez, RHP
Current Level/Age: MLB/22.7, 6’4/200, R/R
Drafted: 34th overall (sandwich round) in 2010 out of California HS by TOR for $775,000 bonus
Fastball: 65/70, Curveball: 55/60, Changeup: 45/50+, Command: 45/45+

Scouting Report: Sanchez has a sturdy 6-foot-4/200 frame and loose arm that helped him go in the sandwich round in 2010 out of a southern California high school. He was a raw pitcher with flashes of power stuff then, but Sanchez has really grown into his velocity since then, sitting 95-98 and hitting 99 mph in 33 big league relief innings at the end of 2014.

Sanchez sits 93-97 and hits 99 mph has a starter with good life to his plus plus heater. His curveball often flashes plus but could be more consistent, while his changeup has made strides in recent years to now flash solid average, but it will back up at times when he’s more thrower than pitcher. Sanchez has worked hard at the upper level sto try to develop the starter traits necessary to stick in a rotation, but the question remains if he fits better there or as a closer.

Summation: Toronto wanted to limit Sanchez’s innings in 2014 and planned before the season to get his feet wet in the big leagues with a bullpen look late in the year. The Jays’ #5 starter spot is still an open competition along with at least one bullpen slot, so Sanchez has the opportunity this year to prove where he fits.

FV/Role/Risk: 55, #3/4 starter or Closer, Medium (3 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AAA/MLB

4. Dalton Pompey, CF
Current Level/Age: MLB/22.2, 6’2/195, B/R
Drafted: 486th overall (16th round) in 2010 out of Canadian HS by TOR for $150,000 bonus
Hit: 40/50+, Raw Power: 45/45, Game Power: 35/40, Run: 60/60, Field: 50/55, Throw: 45/45+

Scouting Report: Pompey is a great example of players that are young for their high school class having hidden upside: he didn’t turn 18 until 6 months after he was drafted in 16th round by the Jays in 2010. Pompey has taken a huge step forward this year, jumping all the way from High-A to the big leagues in his age 21 season, surprising both scouts and Blue Jays executives. They said the plan was to promote him to give him a better challenge, then he kept excelling and demanding a new challenge until he ended up in the big leagues, where he hit a homer off Felix Hernandez.

Pompey is a plus runner with a very good defensive instincts that should make him an average defensive center fielder in short order, though reviews on his arm differ. Power isn’t a part of his game and while he has ordinary bat speed, the bat control and feel to hit are advanced enough to see at least a 50 bat. He toned down his hitting mechanics a bit and his timing really came together in 2014. Pompey had been bothered by minor injuries early in his career but started to break out late in 2013 when he was able to get regular reps.

Summation: Pompey looks likely to open the season as the Opening Day center fielder, but at the very least should spend the majority of the season in Toronto. He’s the center fielder of the future and the Jays are clearing the way for him.

Upside: .275/.335/.410, 12 homers
FV/Risk: 50, Low (2 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AAA/MLB

5. Max Pentecost, C
Current Level/Age: SS/22.0, 6’2/190, R/R
Drafted: 11th overall (1st round) in 2014 out of Kennesaw State by TOR for $2.888 million bonus
Hit: 20/50+, Raw Power: 20/45+, Game Power: 45/50+, Run: 55/50+, Field: 45/55, Throw: 60/60

Scouting Report:Pentecost was the breakout prospect in last summer’s Cape Cod League as a super-athletic catcher from a small school, Kennesaw State. He was very close to signing with the Rangers out of high school for a lower six figure bonus, but the deal was axed over a so-so physical.

I was the high guy on Pentecost much of the spring on the heels of his breakout Cape, with the industry catching up when Theo Epstein was spotted at a Pentecost game and rumors spread that he may go #4 overall. Pentecost ended up going #11 overall and has unusual tools for a catcher with a ridiculous amount of energy (watch the end of the linked video) and every tool solid average or better.

Pentecost has feel to hit, a smooth cut and the athleticism scouts are looking for. His line drive approach in games causes his raw power to play below average now, though some mechanical adjustments could help that. Defensively, he projects to be at least average and his above average to plus arm is plenty to neutralize the running game. There aren’t many catchers with this level of tools and when you combine the makeup and energy (I’ve seen him back up first base on a routine grounder and beat the runner to the base), it’s hard to pass up.

Summation: Pentecost will start the season on the shelf with shoulder surgery and should miss about three months. This doesn’t change his projection or prospect status at all, unless he comes back and the arm strength has regressed significantly. Catchers typically take longer to develop anyway, so he should be a level-at-a-time guy to start his career.

Upside: .280/.340/.450, 15-18 homers
FV/Risk: 50, High (4 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: Low-A, 2016: High-A, 2017: AA, 2018: AAA/MLB

6. Miguel Castro, RHP
Current Level/Age: High-A/20.2, 6’5/190, R/R
Signed: IFA at age 17 on January 5, 2012 out of Dominican by TOR for $180,000 bonus
Fastball: 65/70, Slider: 40/50+, Changeup: 50/55, Command: 40/50

Scouting Report: Castro signed for a smaller bonus as a projection bet in 2012; he sat in the low 90’s with rough off-speed and not a ton of feel, but a clean arm and projectable frame. He’s taken off since then with 2014 his breakout season. Castro sat 93-96 mph the entire season and got even stronger as the year wore on, sitting 96-98 mph in a short instructs outing in the fall.

Castro is still young, very long-limbed and a power arm more than a pitcher at this point, so there’s still plenty of work to be done but the starter traits are here. Castro’s changeup is his best off-speed pitch and it consistently above average, helped by the deception from fastball arm speed and also hitters cheating to catch up with the heater. The question, along with the command, is the breaking ball. Castro’s slider is below average in some outing and flashes solid average in others, and it is best at his peak velocity, with the arm speed making the pitch crisper.

Summation: There’s a lot of elements of Yankees RHP Luis Severino here and there’s more projection, but the command, consistency and changeup are all a little behind at this point. I got some very late positive reports and slid him up a bit from where I had him on the top 200; Castro could be a top 100 prospect by the middle of 2015 with continued progress.

FV/Role/Risk: 50, #4 starter/Closer, High (4 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: High-A/AA, 2016: AA/AAA, 2017: AAA/MLB

7. Roberto Osuna, RHP
Current Level/Age: High-A/20.1, 6’2/230, R/R
Signed: IFA at age 16 on August 3, 2011 out of Mexico by TOR for $1.5 million bonus
Fastball: 55/60, Cutter: 55/60, Slider: 50/55, Changeup: 50/55, Command: 40/45+

Scouting Report: Osuna signed for $1.5 million in 2011 as a 16-year-old out of Mexico with big league bloodlines from his uncle Antonio Osuna. He had a mature frame and had hit 95 mph, but sat around 90 and relied on pitchability and an above average to plus changeup. His elbow popped in 2013 and he returned from Tommy John surgery late this year with a surprising velocity spike.

Osuna’s fastball jumped a couple ticks, to the surprise/delight of Blue Jays execs. He’s now sitting 92-94 and hitting 97 mph, sitting a few ticks higher in short stints, with a slider and cutter that are both above average and the same changeup as before. The command hasn’t quite come back but that usually happens in year two or three after surgery, so Osuna could shoot up this list soon if that all comes together. Some scouts doubt the velocity and command can coexist and assume he moves to the bullpen, but it’s still a little early for firm opinions on that.

Summation: Osuna should head back to where he finished 2014, in the High-A Dunedin rotation, with a chance to move quickly if/when the command returns, though Toronto isn’t looking to rush him.

FV/Role/Risk: 50, #4 starter/Closer, Medium (3 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: High-A/AA, 2016: AA/AAA/MLB, 2017: AAA/MLB

45 FV Prospects

8. Devon Travis, 2B Video: This list is full of big bonus players that signed with plenty of hype and Travis is the exact opposite. He signed as a senior out of Florida State in 2012 for $200,000 in the 12th round with the Tigers. Travis smoked both A-Ball levels in his first full season, then performed well in Double-A last year at age 23. That put him on the fast track as a big league option for 2015 and Toronto traded the mercurial Anthony Gose to Detroit for Travis this off-season.

Travis doesn’t have flashy tools but has lots of feel and makes the most of his ability. His hit tool is a 55 or 60 and the raw/game power is a 40, with average run, defense and throwing. The plate discipline is solid, but if Travis doesn’t hit, there isn’t much here. That isn’t a massive gamble as Travis’ all-fields, gap-to-gap lie drive approach should translate well to the big leagues; he will get a clear shot to take the big league second base job in 2015 if he hits enough.

9. Anthony Alford, CF Video: Alford was a high profile prospect out of a Mississippi high school in the 2012 draft; Toronto gave him $750,000 to play baseball in the summers and play football for Southern Miss then Ole Miss the rest of the year. Alford was an option quarterback and safety on the gridiron, but has decided to fully commit to baseball for 2015. Some scouts said he was a top 10 overall pick level prospect in 2012 if he had completely committed to baseball and the tools are obviously very good.

Alford is a plus-plus runner with above average raw power and a solid average arm that easily profiles everyday in center field if he hits. You’d think that would be a big question since he’s had 110 plate appearances in pro ball, but scouts were shocked how much feel to hit he showed in instructs last fall and reports were positive from his stint in the Australian Winter League. If that progress continues this month in Spring Training, expect to see Alford head to Low-A to start the season. Despite the lack of baseball experience, he’ll be an appropriately-aged 20 for Low-A much of the season and could be one of the buzziest prospects in the minors.

10. Sean Reid-Foley, RHP Video: The Jays were the only team to take my top available player with their top three picks in the 2014 draft; getting Reid-Foley for a slot bonus in the 2nd round was quite surprising. Reid-Foley had mid-1st round buzz all year, but some weaker outings late in the year along with some concerns about his arm action conspired to knock him down the board. Reid-Foley has a sturdy 6’3/220 frame, aggressive demeanor and power fastball that sits 91-95 and hits 97 mph at it’s best. The fastball can get a bit straight and his changeup is inconsistent but flashes solid average at times.

Reid-Foley’s primary out-pitch is an above average to plus slider and he also mixes in an average curveball at times. His arm action is a little worrisome (high back elbow), his fastball can get straight and he’s more of a thrower than pitcher, but Reid-Foley has always thrown strikes. His velocity was more 89-93, touching 94 mph leading up to the draft and last summer after signing, but that’s pretty normal for prep pitchers. He has #3 starter or closer upside and may get a chance to head to Low-A in 2015 at age 19.

11. Mitch Nay, 3B Video: Nay signed fro $1 million out of an Arizona high school in 2012 in the sandwich round and comes with bloodlines, as his grandfather Lou Klimchock played 12 big league seasons. Nay is 6’3/200 and is a solid athlete with a plus arm and above average raw power. He also has advanced feel to hit to all fields and is more of a contact-oriented line drive type at this point, but should integrate the power more in the coming years. Nay is solid at third and should be able to stay at the position with his grinder makeup helping make that more likely; he’ll head to High-A next year at age 21.

12. Jairo Labourt, LHP Video: Labourt signed for $350,000 out of the Dominican in 2011 on his 17th birthday. He’s made a lot of progress since then, now sitting 91-94 and hitting 95 mph with life along with an above average slider and starter traits. Labourt was chubby but has dropped some bad weight and now has projection remaining at 6’4/200. Toronto sent him to Low-A to start 2014 and the cold weather bothered him, with more walks than strikeouts, but he rebounded later that summer in Vancouver. Labourt’s changeup is average and his control is usually at least average, but his command is still a bit behind. The elements are here for a 3/4 starter, but there’s still some work and Labourt’s 2015 assignment to Low-A should give the 21-year-old a nice challenge.

13. Ryan Borucki. LHP Video: Borucki was a low-profile 15th rounder in 2012 from an Illinois high school that got an over-slot $426,000 to sign. He missed 2013 with Tommy John surgery, but the 6’4/175 lefty took a step forward in his return to the mound in 2014. Borucki sits 90-94 with plenty more in the tank and has a solid average curveball and changeup. He’s just starting to scratch the surface coming back from surgery and with projeciton remaining. Borucki has solid feel to pitch and is regarded as a sleeper to breakout in the system in 2015 with his full-season debut coming.

14. Dwight Smith, 2B Video: Smith’s father Dwight Sr. had an eight-year big league career and Dwight Jr. had a breakout season in High-A in 2014 making it more likely he can do the same. Smith has a high leg kick and active hands in his swing, but he’s hit, drawn walks and kept the strikeouts down, along with working in some power in games in 2014. He’s a solid average runner with fringy power and a below average arm, so his left field put him in a corner, which has been helped by a conversion to second base. He made progress with the change in the AFL and Toronto thinks he can make it work there as a Frank Catalanotto type 2B/LF with an advanced lefty bat and enough power to punish a mistake.

15. Matt Smoral, LHP Video: Smoral was a high profile prospect in the 2012 draft out of an Ohio high school who slipped to the sandwich round (where he got an over-slot $2 million bonus) due to only pitching in one game in his senior year. Smoral had high first round hype and looked solid early but was sidelined by a broken bone in his foot, which was likely caused by a high school growth spurt for the 6’8/220 giant. Smoral has also had trouble with blisters and a cracked fingernail, so he’ll be making his full-season debut in 2015 at age 21.

At his best, Smoral sits 91-95, hitting 96 mph with a slider that flashes plus, but his changeup and command both lag behind. Given the size, physical issues and command issues, most assume he’ll end up as a reliever, but there’s #2/3 starter upside if Smoral can right the ship. If he doesn’t, this could end up like a left-handed Alex Meyer, but Smoral needs to stay healthy and throw strikes to get there.

16. Jesus Tinoco, RHP Video: Tinoco signed for $400,000 in September of 2011 out of Venezuela and, despite signing for the least, is the best of the triumvirate of top shelf Venezuelan pitching prospects below, ahead of Meza and Cardona. Tinoco is 6’4/190 and projectable, but already sits 92-95, hitting 97 mph with heavy sink.

His slider and changeup both flash above average and some in the organization think his upside is right there with Smoral and maybe even higher since Tinoco is a year younger and has more feel. The starter traits are here, but it’s still early in the process. Tinoco was 90-92 mph in instructs, evidence that he’s still working on adding stamina in anticipation for his 2015 full season debut.

17. Alberto Tirado, RHP Video: Tirado signed for $300,000 in 2011 out of the Dominican and has progressed into an intriguing power arm. The 6’0/180 righty has effort to his delivery that leads to command inconsistency and those two things make most scouts project him in the bullpen. If that’s the case, Tirado has plenty of stuff to profile in the back end of the pen: he sits 93-95 and hits 98 mph with life and a wipeout, easy plus slider. The changeup flashes average but is far behind the other two pitches. The fastball command is the next hurdle for Tirado to clear and if he can conquer that, then he’s still got a chance to work into a starting role. He just turned 20 and will get another shot at Low-A in 2015.

40 FV Prospects

18. Clinton Hollon, RHP, Video: Hollon was a high profile prep underclassman, hitting 95 mph in his junior season. The 6’1/195 righty has a loose arm and is highly athletic with an above average to plus fastball and two-plane slider, but he hasn’t been on the mound much in the last couple years. He has some elbow soreness leading up to the 2013 draft where the Jays took him in the 2nd round, but was healthy enough to pitch that summer. He then missed all of 2014 getting Tommy John surgery after problems flared up again.

Hollon slipped in the draft due to concerns on his arm health and makeup issues that have followed him for years. He’s smaller and has some effort to his delivery, so it seems likely he’ll end up in the bullpen, but he has shown some feel to pitch and he just turned 20. He also mixes a curveball and changeup that are around average and flash a bit better at times. It’s so early that Hollon could still make the necessary adjustments if he gives himself a chance by staying healthy. The Jays say Hollon should be ready around midseason and he’ll likely head to a short-season club.

19. Dan Jansen, C Video: Jansen signed for $100,000 in the 16th round in 2o13 from a Wisconsin high school and the cold weather athlete emerged quicker than expected, putting up nice numbers in his first full season. Jansen has a powerful frame at 6’2/215 and has average raw power that he’s learning to integrate into his game, but he isn’t all tools: he has more walks than strikeouts for his career. The swing is good and he was limited by a knee issue in 2014, but has a 55 arm and enough ability to stick behind the plate. His full-season debut comes in 2015 and he’s a favorite of many in the organization to take a big step forward this season.

20. Richard Urena, SS Video: Urena signed for $725,000 in 2012 out of the Dominican as yet another toolsy big money July 2 signing for the Jays. Either Urena or Gundino is the best defensive shortstop in the organization and both are having some trouble with the bat, but Urena is bigger, a year older and has a much better track record of hitting, though it isn’t exactly sterling.

At 6’1/170 and with a solid lefty swing Urena checks the boxes, but some scouts see too much weak contact and aren’t bullish on the offensive upside. Jays sources are more bullish: thinking there’s 15 homer upside and calling Urena one of the best bets to shoot up the list next year, with some arguing he should be in the top 10 right now. The swing is good and he’ll make his full-season debut next year at age 19, so he’ll get the opportunity to show what he can do.

21. Yeltsin Gudino, SS Video: Gudino signed for $1.2 million in 2013 out of Venezuela and was one of my favorite players from the class due to his silky smooth swing and defensive prowess. The question then and now is if he can add bulk to his frame, as he’s a rail thin 6’0/150 right now. Gudino may be the best glove in the system, projecting as a plus defender and thrower with above average speed. The Jays challenged him in his first full season, sending him to the GCL at 17 and he didn’t perform at all (.386 OPS). If he can put on 20 pounds over the next couple years, we could be looking at a Raul Mondesi or Francisco Lindor level talent, but it’s hard to bear down too hard until he bulks up.

22. Juan Meza, RHP Video: Meza trained with Carlos Guillen and was one of the top arms available last July 2nd; the Jays got the Venezuelan righty for $1.6 million. He’s got projection at 6’3/190, a good delivery, very advanced feel for his age, above average life on his 88-91 sinker that’s hit 93 mph and an above average changeup. His slurvy breaking ball flashes solid average but is inconsistent and the weakest point of this game right now. With continued health and further projection coming through, you can see a mid-rotation starter coming from this, but it’s still very early.

23. Lane Thomas, 2B, Video: Thomas was a favorite prospect of mine last summer, but pre-draft buzz is there wasn’t a team that would meet his asking price. The Jays swooped in and gave him $750,000 in the 5th round last summer to buy out a commitment to Tennessee. The Jays converted Thomas from a prep shortstop that played center field for his travel team to a pro second baseman.

Thomas is a plus runner with fringy raw power that plays down in games due to a line drive game approach. He has above average but not outrageous bat speed and advanced feel for the bat head. If the conversion to second continues going well, he profiles at two up-the-middle positions and as an everyday guy, if the bat continues to come along as it has so far.

24. Dawel Lugo, SS Video: Lugo signed for $1.3 million in 2011 out of the Dominican and has progressed nicely, still showing big tools, but the performance has been a little uneven. He can play shortstop for now, but is a fringy runner with limited range that likely slides him to third base, possible to second base, though that would waste his 65 arm. Lugo has fringy raw power that may be average to slightly above at one point, but he’s still having some trouble combining these elements into an offensive approach at this point. He can hit for power in games when he’s more aggressive and sits on fastballs, but the walk/strikeout numbers get out of whack, so he’ll need to make more adjustments, but he just turned 20 so there’s plenty of time.

25. A.J. Jimenez, C Video: Jimenez isn’t a real exciting prospect. He’s a glove first catcher that’s close to big league ready, is an above average receiver with a plus arm, but he has trouble staying on the field and making an offensive impact. His power is well below average in games and the approach is gap-to-gap contact without many strikeouts, so when the numbers aren’t strong that means it’s a lot of weak contact. Jimenez has had trouble with nagging injuries and durability, so he’s limited to a backup role, though his bat isn’t enough to play everyday anyway. He’s ready for a big league look in 2015 but is blocked at the moment, so this is a good season for him to get a healthy year under his belt and force the issue.

26. Adonys Cardona, RHP Video: Cardona was the consensus top arm in his July 2nd class and the Jays gave the Venezuelan righty $2.8 million in 2010. When he signed, he had average big league stuff as a 16-year-old with a clean arm and all kinds of projection, and that’s mostly held up. Cardona has run his heater into the high-90’s, his curveball was scrapped for a slider when he lowered his slot and it’s consistently above average while his changeup also flashes above average.

He hasn’t had surgery, but his elbow keeps getting sore and shutting him down, limiting Cardona to 83.1 IP over 4 pro seasons, with 31.2 IP in 2011 a career high. If they can get to the underlying cause of the soreness, Cardona’s raw ability is at least a mid-rotation starter, but this type of story usually ends as a reliever, and the stuff is closer level if he can stay on the mound.

27. Rowdy Tellez, 1B Video: Tellez was on a loaded Elk Grove High School team in 2013 that had Rockies C Dom Nunez (40 FV) and Tigers CF Derek Hill (50 FV), a 2014 1st rounder, with other notable alumni including Buck Martinez and Scott Boras. Tellez is listed at 6’4/220 and he’s probably a bit bigger than that, but he used to be way bigger than that as an amateur.

His carrying tool is 65 raw power from the left side and Tellez also has a solid approach at the plate to go with some looseness to his swing, along the lines of a taller version of the Cubs 1B Dan Vogelbach (45+ FV). Tellez is a little more conventionally athletic than Vogelbach and is fringy to average at first base, but scouts will want to see his size stay under control along with huge numbers. Tellez will get his first extended look in full-season ball next year at age 20.

28. Jake Brentz, LHP Video: Brentz popped up in the fall before his draft year as an athletic prep outfielder than ran it into the mid-90’s and flashed an above average curveball and changeup in his first few times on the mound, which is the outing from the linked video. As a prep kid from Missouri, Brentz didn’t face great prep competition or warm weather when scouts went back to see him in the spring. The Jays scooped him up in the 2013 draft for $700,000 in the later rounds because Brentz had trouble throwing strikes and showing consistent stuff, which continued in 47.1 pro innings.

Jays sources says Brentz has cleaned up his delivery this off-season, allowing his athleticism to play and command his stuff better; he’s a sleeper for many in the organization who expect a 2015 breakout. Late in 2014, scouts that saw him last year all said reliever only, so the range of possibilities is wide, but he would sit 92-94 mph with an above average to plus curveball, though the changeup had regressed. Even with just marginal improvements, he has the look of a late-inning option and he’s still new to pitching.

29. Matt Boyd, LHP Video: Boyd was a senior sign out of Oregon State in 2013 that got $75,000 in the 6th round after making real progress in his last amateur year. He’s always been a little funky, but Boyd went from LOOGY-type to possible starter after raising his arm slot and smoothing out the delivery a bit, which helped him hit 95 mph.Boyd got to Double-A in his first full season (age 23) with excellent numbers, but some scouts still think there isn’t enough here to stick as a starter.

He sits 88-92 and hits 94 mph with a solid average changeup, a fringy curveball and a below average slider. He has good feel for his off-speed stuff and his breaking pitches will flash average at times, but fastball command and a consistent breaking is what’s holding him back. The likely outcome is a spot starter/long man that can match up on lefties and be a valuable member of a staff, but the lack of a breaking ball would make him a non-traditional LOOGY.

30. D.J. Davis. CF Video: Davis was a 1st rounder out of a Mississippi high school in 2012 that was seen as a high risk/high reward from a state with a terrible track record in the draft. Davis hasn’t come around yet, but he’s still just 20 and the tools are still outstanding. He has above average raw power, easy plus speed and a fringy arm that comfortably profile everyday in center field if Davis can make progress with his feel for the game and contact rate. That’s a pretty big if, but some standout big leaguers with big tools developed late, so it’s too early to give up on Davis.

31. Conner Greene, RHP Video: Greene was a 7th rounder that signed for $100,000 in 2013 out of Santa Monica High School. I mention the high school because that’s one of the wealthiest areas around Los Angeles and I’m told Greene’s dad is friends with Charlie Sheen. Greene has an IMDB page that lists an appearance on Sheen’s post-Two and a Half Men show on FX, Anger Management.

Greene has developed into a good projection bet on the mound, with his velo ticking up since his amateur days, now sitting 88-92 mph. His changeup is the better of his off-speed pitches, flashing above average, while his curveball is average at times but isn’t consistent and can get soft in the mid-70’s. Greene has good feel to pitch, a smooth delivery and a near ideal pitcher’s frame, which explains why he drew some trade attention at least year’s deadline; there’s a potential 3/4 starter if this all comes together.

32. Angel Perdomo, LHP: Perdomo is a bit of a late bloomer, pitching in the GCL last year at age 20, but the big guys typically take longer and Perdomo is pretty big at 6’6/210. His delivery is solid given the size and age, he’s made strides with it in recent years and is able to pound the bottom of the zone. Perdomo’s fastball is already hitting 97 mph now, sitting 92-94 regularly with more projection left in his frame. Scouts give different account of whether his slider or changeup is better at this point, but both will flash average at times. There’s still a long way to go with command and consistency to his secondaries, but the ceiling is still high and there’s some elements already here.

33. Nick Wells, LHP: Wells was the Jays’ 3rd rounder last year out of a Virginia high school and the super projectable 6’5/175 lefty was completely off the scouting radar entering the spring. Wells didn’t go to any of the major events and threw 84-89 mph in October at a big tournament, but popped up regularly sitting around 88-91 in the spring and hitting 93 mph. He’s still very skinny but the velocity has held and he hit 94 mph in instructs this fall. The arm action and delivery are good, the curveball flashes average to slightly above at times but the changeup is still a work in progress, so there’s still a ways to go.

34. John Stilson, RHP Video: Stilson has been in the upper levels of the minors the last few years and is the typical risky reliever with a big arm that’s near big league ready. He has some shoulder issues around the draft in 2011 then a ribcage injury in 2013 and more shoulder soreness down the stretch in 2014. Stilson sits 92-96 and hits 97 mph with an inconsistent slider that’s above average at times, along with a changeup with splitter action that’s an average pitch. He needs to stay healthy and get more consistent, but he’s close to being a big league 7th or 8th inning guy with some improvements.

35. Matt Dean, 1B Video: Like Brentz, Dean was another later round prep gamble for the Jays; Dean signed for $737,500 in 2011 out of a Texas HS. As a big, projectable third baseman, Dean has taken a little while to get going offensively and got bigger (6’3/215 now) in the interim; he flashes plus raw power potential from the right side with some feel to hit and a nice swing, but his aggressive approach needs to be toned down a bit as there’s some swing-and-miss to his game. The power is starting to show up in games as Dean has shifted across the diamond, but he has an above average arm, so he can still play passably at all four corner spots right now, though third base long-term looks unlikely.

Cistulli’s Guy

Taylor Cole, RHP
Strikeout- and walk-rate differential is among the most quickly stabilizing of pitcher metrics that’s also predictive of future run prevention. Daniel Norris, who sits atop this list, produced the best such mark (23.9 points) last year among all qualified starters at High-A or above. The right-handed Cole finished second (22.6 points) by that same critera. The two were actually teammates at High-A Dunedin until mid-June. While Norris eventually earned a series of promotions that brought him to the majors, however, Cole was relegated to a pair of Double-A starts in early August before returning to the Florida State League. It’s not shocking: the 25-year-old Cole is older and also lacks Norris’s arm speed (sitting at 87-91 mph according to McDaniel). His advanced age relative to level is a product in part, however, of the two years he spent on a Mormon mission. Furthermore, he features a changeup that acts as an outpitch.

Others of Note

There are five pitchers in the upper levels to keep track of and they were all recent waiver claims: RHP Matt West (recent waiver claim from Texas converted to the mound in 2011, had Tommy John in 2012-2013, then reached the big leagues in 2014; huge arm speed has hit 100 mph and rushed him to big leagues, so he never really learned to pitch; plus plus fastball, average slider and below average command is enough for middle relief), LHP Juan Oramas (recent waiver claim from San Diego is a power lefty sits 90-92 mph as a starter but ticks up in short stints where he fits in the big leagues; also mixed in solid average curveball and fringy changeup), RHP Preston Guilmet (recent waiver claim from Pittsburgh has ordinary stuff, sitting 88-91, touches 92 mph with an average slider and above average changeup, but he’s aggressive and has lots of deception that has helped him put up huge numbers), LHP Jayson Aquino (Video recent waiver claim from Colorado sits 89-91, touching 94 mph with sink, a solid average changeup and average slider; there’s 5th starter upside but at least swing man value) and LHP Scott Barnes (recent waiver claim from Texas is lefty reliever has bounced around upper levels and waivers, can be matchup lefty with 91-93 heater that hits 95 mph, funk, deception, a crossfire delivery and a decent slider, but command comes and goes).

There are five righties in the lower levels to keep an eye on: RHP Chase DeJong (Video 6’4/200 righty was prep 2nd rounder in 2012 and has fringy to average fastball but a clean arm and projectable frame that means there could be more coming; his above average to plus curveball is his best pitch now, his changeup is fringy and his overhand slot can cause command issues), RHP Jimmy Cordero (6’3/215 Dominican has hit 100 mph but was 22 in Low-A last year and is still working on his slider, command and consistency), RHP Carlos Ramirez (Video 23-year-old converted to pitching in 2014 and took to it well; he’s 6’5/205, works 93-95 mph with plus life and an above average slider but given the size, life on his stuff and newness to pitching, the command lags behind), RHP Justin Shafer (three-year starter at UF as an outfielder only pitched sparingly, but made progress in his draft year on the mound and after signing, sitting 90-92 mph with an above average to plus slider and usable changeup), and RHP Tom Robson (Canadian-born 4th rounder from 2011 took a huge step forward in 2013 with many looking forward to his 2014 full-season debut, which was cut short by shoulder surgery; it’s hard to guess if the stuff will come back, but it was premium before the injury, sitting 92-95 with plus life, a 55 changeup and a curveball that was average at times).

There are three lefties in the lower levels to keep tabs on: LHP Evan Smith (6’5/190 lefty was 4th rounder in 2013 out of Alabama HS, sits 91-92 with heavy sink and has hit 95 mph, he has deception and the curveball and change show flashes, but mechanics/command need more work and that should unlock his potential, but there’s Matt Thornton type upside as is), LHP Patrick Murphy (underslot 3rd rounder in 2013 came from the same Arizona HS as Mitch Nay one year later and was drafted from looks Toronto got in his junior year because he missed the whole 2013 season with Tommy John rehab; he came back very late in 2014 and should be set for 2015; at his best, he sat 90-92 mph with a solid average curveball, starter traits and projection in his 6’4/200 frame) and LHP Grayson Huffman (2014 6th rounder from Texas JC is a strike thrower with feel that sits 89-91 mph with a solid average changeup and a fringy slider that flashes average, though he faded a bit late in 2014).

There are five more infielders to keep an eye on in the organization: SS Emilio Guerrero (enormous kid is listed at 6’4/190 but is likely even bigger; he’s not terrible at shortstop but fits better at third base or right field, has plus raw power and arm strength along with average speed but his long limbs create contact challenges), 3B Andy Burns (Video unspectacular potential utility infielder is solid at third, fine at second and can fill in at shortstop, has average speed and below average power but some feel to hit), C Matt Morgan (4th rounder in 2014 was raw as a receiver due to not catching almost any premium velocity in his amateur career, but the tools are there to catch, so he should improve from a poor defensive showing this summer; also had lots of trouble making contact but his swing is good and his raw power and arm strength are above average), 3B Bryan Lizardo (Video Dominican got $250,000 in 2013, has a mature frame but a good chance to stay at third with an average arm, potential average power, a good sense of the strike zone and a smooth lefty cut) and SS Kevin Vicuna (Venezuelan’s name is pronounced “vie-****-ya,” he signed for mid-six-figures last summer and still needs to add bulk, but has feel for the bat head, is an above average runner and has the tools to stick at shortstop).

There are four more outfielders to watch: RF Derrick Loveless (high school football athlete is plus runner and strong at 6’1/200 with a chance for average raw power and a solid swing, but he’s still raw and instincts limit him to a corner for now), LF Freddy Rodriguez (signed for $500,000 in 2013 out of Venezuela and carrying tool is the bat, which is very advanced for his age; he’s a 55 runner with a 40 arm that fits in left field, is a little too aggressive at the plate and the power isn’t quite there yet. but the hit tool is the one that matters), CF Josh Almonte (tools are reminiscent of Cameron Maybin with potential above average power, plus speed and plus arm strength in a lanky 6’3 frame, but real contact issues that hold back his progress) and LF David Harris (36th rounder in 2013 from Southern Arkansas surprised last year with improved tools–plus bat speed and above average raw power–but he’s a 50 runner that fits in left field and is 23 with only a half-season of full-season experience with mixed success).

Evaluating the Prospects: Los Angeles Dodgers.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Dodgers; system isn’t especially deep, but that should be changing soon. The new regime made a shrewd deal with Miami to add underrated youngsters C Austin Barnes and SS Enrique Hernandez. This illustrates both the focus on value from the top two Dodgers execs’ small market backgrounds (Andrew Friedman in Tampa and Farhan Zaidi in Oakland) but their willingness to leverage the Dodgers’ financial advantage to acquire young players. I wrote two days ago about the latest intel on the Dodgers’ plans to spend big in the international market.

While the depth should be shored up soon, the high level talent is as abundant here as any other system in baseball, with my 4th, 6th and 11th prospects in baseball. This top three offers upside, certainty and a short-term MLB ETA, with Holmes and Verdugo just behind them offering upside in the lower minors from the 2014 draft class. I have the Dodgers’ system as 5th in the game right now, but I’ll give a final answer on that when I finish all 30 lists.

Here’s the primer for the series and a disclaimer about how we don’t really know anything. See the links above for the ongoing series about how I evaluate, including the series on the ever-complicated hit tool.

Most of what you need to know for this list is in the above links, but I should add that the risk ratings are relative to their position, so average (3) risk for a pitcher is riskier than average risk (3) for a hitter, due to injury/attrition being more common. I’d also take a 60 Future Value hitter over a 60 FV pitcher for the same reasons. Also, risk encompasses a dozen different things and I mention the important components of it for each player in the report. The upside line for hitters is the realistic best-case scenario (a notch better than the projected tools, or a 75% projection while the projected tools are a 50% projection) and the Future Value encompasses this upside along with the risk rating for one overall rating number.

Below, I’ve included a quick ranking of the notable MLB players 27 and under that aren’t eligible for the Dodgers prospect list and Dave Cameron shares some general thoughts on the organization. Scroll further down to see Carson Cistulli’s fringe prospect favorite. Up next is the Blue Jays.

27 & Under Big League Assets
1. Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Age 26, FV: 80
2. Yasiel Puig, RF, Age 24, FV: 70 (Video)
3. Hyun-Jin Ryu, LHP, Age 27, FV: 60
4. Kenley Jansen, RHP, Age 27, FV: 60
5. Yasmani Grandal, C, Age 26, FV: 55
6. Enrique Hernandez, SS, Age 23, FV: 50
7. Brett Anderson, LHP, Age 27, FV: 50
8. Paco Rodriguez, LHP, Age 23, FV: 50 (Video)
9. Mike Bolsinger, LHP, Age 27, FV: 45
10. Chris Withrow, RHP, Age 25, FV: 45

Organizational Overview by Dave Cameron

The Dodgers overhauled both their front office and their roster this winter, and the result is now one of the scariest behemoths in baseball. The Dodgers are currently one of the best teams in baseball with a strong young core, have three of the top 11 prospects in baseball, the league’s highest payroll, and a front office that still challenged themselves to find value and spend efficiently this winter. Every team will make mistakes, and the Dodgers roster certainly isn’t perfect, but it’s hard to find an organization in a better position to win both now and in the future. And they have Vin Scully.

50+ FV Prospects:

1. Julio Urias, LHP
Current Level/Age: High-A/18.6, 5’11/180, L/L
Signed: IFA at age 16 on August 17, 2012 out of Mexico by LA for $1.0 million bonus
Fastball: 60/65, Curveball: 60/65, Changeup: 55/60, Command: 45/55
Scouting Report: The Mexican-born Urias signed when he turned 16 in August 2012, as part of a package deal from his Mexican team, where he was the headline player, signing for $1.0 million (the Dodgers paid another $800,000 for the other players in the package). The Dodgers brass signed Urias on a now-famous trip to Mexico. A group of executives and scouts went to see Urias’ teammate C Julian Leon (a solid prospect listed below), but the 15-year-old Urias sat 90-92 mph with a loose delivery, crisp curveball and good feel to pitch, a couple ticks higher than he had months earlier. Later on that same trip, the Dodgers also signed Yasiel Puig, making it one of the most notable scouting trips of all time.

The reason Urias was still available what that he had a serious condition in his left eye (and still does–check out his official photo) after a tumor was removed, and some teams were worried about future blindness, though it doesn’t appear to be a problem now. It’s hard to fathom how good Urias is at such a young age. He’s aged like a young high school senior in the 2014 draft class and Urias steamrolled through the hitter-friendly High-A California League. Urias sits 91-95 and touches 97 mph with three plus pitches and advanced command, and he’s still just 18. Given the background and talent, it’s hard to ignore the Fernando Valenzuela parallels.

Summation: He’ll start 2015 in Double-A and when he’s called up is simply a function of when the Dodgers want to start his arbitration clock. Urias could’ve easily pitched in Double-A last year, while his American age-group peers were in Rookie ball; it’s unclear how aggressive the new Dodgers regime will be with him, but there’s something to saying he needs to be challenged and fail before we know what his upside truly is.

FV/Role/Risk: 65, #2/3 starter, Medium (3 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AA/AAA/MLB, 2016: AAA/MLB

2. Corey Seager, 3B
Current Level/Age: AA/20.9, 6’4/215, L/R
Drafted: 18th overall (1st round) in 2012 out of North Carolina HS by LA for $2.35 million bonus
Hit: 40/55, Raw Power: 55/60, Game Power: 40/55, Run: 45/40, Field: 50/50+, Throw: 60/60

Scouting Report: Seager is the younger brother of Mariners 3B Kyle Seager and, in the last few years, both have emerged as a couple of the best infielders in the world. Corey was identified as such earlier, as he went in the middle of the first round in 2012 out of a Charlotte-area high school, but even the Dodgers were surprised by how much and how quickly Seager excelled offensively. He hasn’t failed in any meaningful way yet, including an impressive late-season run in 2014 at Double-A at age 20.

If you have to nitpick, the strikeouts are a little higher than some would like, but Seager is 6-foot-4 and that’s to be expected if a bigger guy is going to hit for some power in games.The Dodgers think Seager is fringy to average defensively at shortstop and will try to keep him there as long as possible, but he should slide over to third base at some point. Most scouts and I think that’ll be in the next year or two, while the Dodgers are holding out hope that can get some meaningful MLB years of average shortstop play out of Seager until he loses a step. He’ll offer some value with the glove either way, so the real question with Seager is how much the bat is going to play and how much of his power he’ll get to in games and at what age.

Summation: Seager will start the season in Double-A or Triple-A and won’t need to be rushed with Jimmy Rollins, Juan Uribe, Howie Kendrick and Justin Turner ahead of him on the infield depth chart, with a chance Cuban 2B Hector Olivera joins that group soon. Seager is the most talented of that group but also the least developed. Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi finally don’t have to obsess over service time of top prospects, so Seager should get a chance to play once he’s deemed big league ready, likely at some point late in 2015.

Upside: .280/.350/.460, 20-25 homers
FV/Risk: 65, Medium (3 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AA/AAA/MLB, 2016: AAA/MLB

3. Joc Pederson, RF
Current Level/Age: MLB/22.9, 6’1/185, L/L
Drafted: 352nd overall (11th round) in 2010 out of California HS by LA for $600,000 bonus
Hit: 45/55, Raw Power: 60/60, Game Power: 45/55, Run: 55/50, Field: 50/50+, Throw: 50/50+

Scouting Report: Pederson emerged late in his draft year and wasn’t a consensus prospect out of high school. Pederson wasn’t seen as having much upside, but flashed average tools and good feel for the game. Something clicked in 2012 and the Dodgers sent him straight to High-A as a 20-year-old, where he became a top 100-type prospect. He raked again in Double-A in 2013, then again in 2014 in Triple-A, with only the Dodgers outfield surplus keeping him on the farm so long. The short version of what happened is that Pederson’s tools got a little better and his high-energy approach to the game has allowed hit tools to play up.

Pederson has average to above average tools across the board, with only his raw power showing plus, though that’s with effort in batting practice, so it isn’t really usable game power. He can play a decent center field for now and the Dodgers will do everything they can to let him play there, but most scouts assume Pederson will settle as a right fielder by his mid-to-late-20’s, similar to Seager at shortstop/third base. Pederson’s offensive projection will come down to what kind of hitter he wants to be–the 55 future hit/power tools grades is a bit of a hedge, but he should post high OBPs either way.

Summation: Pederson looks like the Opening Day center fielder, so the Dodgers will need him to be at least fringy in center field; his combination of speed and instincts should allow that to work in the short-term.

Upside: .280/.370/.460, 20-25 homers
FV/Risk: 60, Low (2 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AAA/MLB

4. Grant Holmes, RHP
Current Level/Age: SS/18.9, 6’1/215, R/R
Drafted: 22nd overall (1st round) in 2014 out of a South Carolina HS by LA for $2.5 million bonus
Fastball: 55/65, Curveball: 55/60, Changeup: 45/50+, Command: 40/50, FV: 50

Scouting Report: Holmes emerged as a top prep arm in the 2014 class while an underclassman, when he ran his fastball into the mid-90’s. He held that position wire-to-wire regularly hitting the mid-90’s, then getting as high as 100 mph at the beginning of his draft spring. Holmes is maxed-out physically, there’s a little effort to his delivery and his velocity settled at 91-95, hitting 96 mph in most outings, but his feel for pitching and health track record are excellent for his age. In some outings, Holmes will cut his fastball so much that it looks like a separate pitch and could morph into a regularly-used weapon.

Holmes hard, low-80’s curveball flashed 65 in many of his outings last spring and his changeup flashed 55, but not regularly. I’ve hedged a bit here given the risks with prep arms, but Holmes had the best combination of now stuff and feel in the draft, even ahead of #2 overall pick Marlins RHP Tyler Kolek. If the 100 mph version of Holmes from the early spring comes back, he could be a top 10 prospect in baseball, but the above-average-across-the-board version that we see more often still offers a solid mid-rotation upside.

Summation: Holmes could perform well enough to warrant be a quick mover, but it’s unclear how the new Dodger regime will handle prep arms. He’ll start in Low-A and I’d guess he spends the whole year there, but could either skip High-A or get a quick Double-A promotion in 2016 if all goes to plan

FV/Role/Risk: 50, #4 starter, Medium (3 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: Low-A, 2016: High-A/AA, 2017: AA/AAA, 2018: AAA/MLB

45 FV Prospects

5. Alex Verdugo, RF Video: Verdugo was a famous prep prospect, standing out on travel teams as an underclassman and showing early round upside on the showcase circuit as a hitter and pitcher. I preferred him as a hitter, with most of the industry preferring him as a pitcher, so I was surprised to see the Dodgers take him in the 2nd round last summer and announce him as an outfielder. It wasn’t just to let Verdugo do what he wanted to do in pro ball, the Dodgers preferred him there, but also knew there was a solid backup plan on the mound, as Verdugo flashed three above average pitches at times. Verdugo was outstanding in his pro debut, akin to his standout performance in last August’s Area Code Games showcase where he flashed above average power potential and speed, along with a plus arm and advanced feel for contact.

He has above average to plus bat speed and the Dodgers said he hit a ball off a tee with an exit velocity of 98 mph before the draft, further proving the quickness of his bat. Some scouts were hesitant due to some maturity issues, but the Dodgers see a confident, good kid that just needs to grow up a bit. There’s a lot of Joc Pederson parallels here, as a kid that’s a tweener defensively that’s average to above across the board and has a high-energy, instinctual style that gets the most out of his tools.Verdugo will head to Low-A this year and with more performances like this will find himself on everyone’s top 100 next summer.

6. Chris Anderson, RHP Video: Anderson popped up in his draft year (2013) out of Jacksonville U. in Florida, going in the middle of the first round after delivering on his physical projection by flashing a plus fastball and slider with starter traits. Anderson’s changeup was average in most outings in his draft year, but it’s coming and going in pro ball. His command also wandered a bit and it showed in his numbers, but getting out of the hitter-friendly Cal League for 2015 should help in that regard. Anderson made a mechanical change late in 2014 to revert back to his pre-draft mechanics and it looked to help both issues. There’s #3 starter upside if it all comes together and a 2015 campaign in Double-A could be the place that happens.

7. Jose De Leon, RHP Video: De Leon is the success story you’re hoping for when you read a report about a low minors power arm that flashes big stuff at times but has trouble with consistency. De Leon exploded in 2014 with ridiculous numbers, better stuff and better command after an okay pro debut in 2013. De Leon’s profile has raised in a big way (he signed for $35,000 as a 26th rounder out of Alabama State in 2013) and he now sits 93-95 mph with life, hitting 97 mph, his slider is a 55 and his changeup is at least average on most nights.

The stuff got a notch better in 2014 with help from a smoothed out delivery, but there’s also some deception and outstanding makeup and smarts helping everything play up. De Leon is now 22 and has only made four starts in full-season ball, with the Dodgers saying he should be at multiple levels this year, possibly even three.

8. Austin Barnes, C Video: Barnes is a unique prospect that had industry value and, when the Dodgers acquired him in the Dee Gordon trade, it had many executives mad that Friedman beat them to the versatile Barnes. He’s a bit of a late-bloomer as a 5’9/185 catcher that signed for $95,000 out of Arizona State in 2011. Barnes emerged in the upper levels as an advanced bat with feel for the strike zone, but below average power that’s most unique because he can catch at a big league level and also is a 45 runner that plays second base and third base to keep fresh and keep his bat in the lineup.

He’s the third catcher for the Dodgers right now, starting in Triple-A, and will continue to play in the infield. That said, he’s apparently an excellent framer, with one exec telling me he’s top 25-30 in the minor leagues, so the plan is to develop him as a potential everyday catcher but know that he can also be a utility guy if needed.

9. Zach Lee, RHP Video: Lee was a super high profile prep prospect as a four star quarterback recruit for LSU that skipped out on the gridiron to sign with the Dodgers as a first rounder in 2010 for $5.25 million. After signing, the 19-year-old Lee headed to Low-A and sat 92-94, hitting 96 mph with a plus slider and the athleticism you expected to see, but all three attributes have backed up since then.

Lee now sits 88-93 mph with an average fastball from a less athletic, east-west delivery designed to create deception but that also stresses his shoulder more than his former free-and-easy delivery. His slider is solid average at it’s best, his changeup has improved to flash above average and his fourth pitch curveball is also average at times, but the stuff is no more than a 4th starter at this point; he should get a big league look this year.

10. Chris Reed, LHP Video: Reed also has pedigree as a first rounder out of Stanford in 2011 where he was a reliever, but the Dodgers drafted him to develop him as a starter. While the stuff is there, four years later it looks like Reed’s best fit is in relief and that may happen at some point in 2015. As a starter, Reed sits 91-94 and hits 96 mph with an above average slider but a changeup and command that are often below average.

In relief, scouts think he’s sit 93-96 mph and his slider may play up to plus, so the upside is there to try it and you’d think it would’ve happened last year with the Dodgers bullpen imploding. The 6’4/195 lefty will get a big league look at some point this year, almost definitely in relief, and if he has some success, he may stick in the big league bullpen for awhile.

40 FV Prospects

11. Zach Bird, RHP Video: The athletic 6’4/205 righty is looking to buck the trend of Mississippi high school prospects busting in pro ball. He signed for $140,000 in 2012 and has made a lot of progress in his few years in pro ball. Bird sat 88-91 mph when he was drafted and he now sits 91-95, hitting 97 mph often, with reports of 100 mph. Scouts laud his makeup and smarts for pitching, but his delivery, command and off-speed will determine if his big league future is as a starter or reliever, with some calling a LaTroy Hawkins-type relief career a median outcome. The delivery isn’t the most natural and he’s still working on control/command, but he’s still just 20 years old, his curveball flashes 55 and there’s flashes of a changeup and feel to pitch.

12. Darnell Sweeney, CF Video: Sweeney signed for $100,000 in the 13th round in 2012 out of UCF. He’s slid down the defensive spectrum from shortstop to second base to center field due to his spotty hands. Sweeney is a plus runner with an average arm, more pop than you’d expect from his skinny 6’1/180 build and feel for contact and the strike zone from both sides of the plate. He’ll be big league ready by the end of 2015 in Triple-A and fits as a 2B/CF/LF utility guy that may end up hitting enough to be a low-end starter in the Frank Catalanotto mold.

13. Julian Leon, C Video: Signed from the same Mexican club at the same time as Urias and on the same trip that netted the Dodgers Puig, Leon has symbolic value but he’s also a very good prospect in his own right. The stout 5’11/215 righty has above average raw power, good feel for the strike zone and advanced feel to hit, so the bat should profile almost anywhere. He’s still a work in progress behind the plate and his solid average arm is just enough to stick back there if the glove comes along. He’s bilingual and smart, but there are still questions if he has the quickness, range and energy to stick behind the plate long-term.

14. Scott Schebler, LF Video: Schebler signed for $300,000 in the 26th round in 2010 out of an Iowa junior college, then followed up a breakout 2013 in the hitter-friendly High-A Cal League with another outstanding stat line in 2014 in Double-A. One scout put a Brandon Moss comp on Schebler and a bat-first, lefty-hitting outfielder with a fringy to average bat and above average raw power. Schebler is listed at 6’1/208 but will actually flash plus speed at times, though his arm and instincts are below average, limiting him to left field. He doesn’t have big bat speed, so some scouts are still wart, but he fits the bill of an under-the-radar performer who could surprise. Schebler could be knocking on the door of the big leagues as early as late in 2015.

15. Joe Wieland, RHP Video: Wieland was acquired this winter from San Diego in the Matt Kemp trade. He missed the 2013 season due to Tommy John surgery and returned late in 2014, showing the same stuff from before surgery. Wieland sits 90-93 and hits 94 mph with an above average curveball, fringy slider and average changeup. He had solid feel to pitch before surgery and that’s usually the last thing to come back, so that will the the thing to watch in 2015 as he’ll likely get some big league innings while waiting for a rotation spot to open up.

16. Ross Stripling, RHP Video: Stripling signed for $130,000 as a senior sign from Texas A&M in the 5th round in 2012 and looked big league ready in Double-A in 2013 before he needed Tommy John surgery that knocked him out for all of 2014. He should be back at some point in the first half of 2015 and some in the organization had him above of Zach Lee before he got hurt. At his best, Stripling sat 91-93 and hit 94 mph with an above average slider, average curveball and changeup along with at least average command. He projected as a 4th starter then, but expectations have shifted down to a 5th starter until we see how he looks coming off surgery.

17. Alex Guerrero, 2B Video: The Dodgers signed the Cuban infielder before last season for four years and $28 million. Guerrero, along with SS Erisbel Arruebarrena, who signed for $25 million and is listed in the others section below, represent an over-correction to the recent success of many Cuban hitters, with the Dodgers essentially setting over $50 million on fire in search of the next Puig. Guerrero isn’t completely worthless as he has big league tools and some positional versatility, but 2014 was a rough start to his career. Guerrero will be 28 this season and, despite his salary, barely got a cursory big league look last year.

He hit in Triple-A but he was older than his competition and was hitting around the ball with a pull-heavy approach that many scouts don’t think will work in the big leagues. Guerrero is fringy defensively at second base and third base, his best fits, and there’s some stiffness to his actions on both sides of the ball, but he has 55 raw power that easily profiles in either spot. If Guerrero can figure out a way to make some contact and hit a few out, he can salvage a career as a solid contributor.

18. Pedro Baez, RHP Video: Baez was on some prospect lists as a toolsy third baseman short on results as recently as 2010. He converted to the mound in 2013, something the Dodgers knew was an option when they signed him for $200,000 as a hitter (as a late-blooming 19-year-old) because he threw 94 mph from third base in his pre-signing workout. Baez had all the tools as a hitter but simply couldn’t hit; as a reliever he has a lot of the raw tools as well, headlined by a fastball that sits 93-97 and touches 99 mph.

He backs that up with a slider that flashes above average, a rarely changeup and command that’s improving but still limits him to the bullpen. Baez shot to the big leagues with just 100 minor league innings, so he’s still learning, but his cleaner and more compact arm action with more arm speed give him the edge over Frias, despite not as impressive numbers.

19. Carlos Frias, RHP Video: The 25-year-old Frias got extended big league innings last year, along with a couple spot starts, so he barely qualifies for this list. He’s 6’4/170 and sits 92-95, hitting 97 mph with heavy life and his sinker is his primary pitch. Frias’ slider flashes 55 and he also throws a fringy curveball and changeup. His arm action isn’t as clean as you’d like and the command could be better, so there’s no telling how long this will last, but he has solid makeup and he’s already contributed at the big league level.

20. Cody Bellinger, 1B Video: Cody is the son of former Yankees 3B Clay Bellinger and the key for the Cody is how much he can fill out his 6’4/180 frame and tap into his power potential at the plate. Clay’s strong build gives some hope that more bulk is coming for Cody, but there’s already the expected polish for the son of a former big leaguer. Bellinger is an advanced defender at first base that’s already big league quality and has a plus arm that had him sitting 88-92 mph on the mound in high school.

Right now, Bellinger has a line drive approach with advanced feel to hit and draws James Loney comparisons for both his likely upside and amateur background as a Dodgers prep selection with a two-way background and limited raw power. Bellinger will head to Low-A next year, but is still growing into his frame and is more of a multi-year project to see how his frame and power develop.

21. Joey Curletta, RF Video: Physical monster (6’4/245) is compared to Mark Trumbo for his frame, plus raw power and plus arm that helped him hit 94 mph in high school, all similar to Trumbo’s two-way amateur profile. Curletta is still working on getting to the power in games but there is feel to hit and easy upside as an everyday player if he can put it all together.

22. John Richy, RHP Video: At his best while at UNLV, Richy would show a 55-60 fastball and curveball with a changeup that flashed average. He sits 90-95 mph and commands all three pretty well despite a head whack in his delivery. Richy threw a lot in college, so after the Dodgers took him in the 3rd round last summer, they limited his innings. The org is optimistic he can be a quick-moving #4 starter type prospect with a solid 2015 season.

23. Kyle Farmer, C Video: Farmer was a college shortstop at Georgia, but has taken well to being converted to a catcher, with a solid average arm and a chance to be a solid average defender. One Dodgers exec compared him to A.J. Ellis as a guy without huge tools that has feel for the game. Farmer doesn’t have much offensive impact, which is why he lasted until the 8th round as a senior sign that got $40,000 in 2013, but the backup catcher profile gives him big league upside.

Cistulli’s Guy

Jharel Cotton, RHP
The difference both in age and arm speed render them different sorts of prospects, but the right-handed Cotton nevertheless produced the same strikeout- and walk-rate differential (about 20 points) as the top-ranked Julio Urias at Rancho Cucamonga last year. Nor ought Cotton’s appeal suffer because of Urias’s precociousness: last year represented Cotton’s age-22 season, a very reasonable age for a propect at High-A. As McDaniel notes below, the velocity is of some concern for the Virgin Island native. What doesn’t appear to be of any concern is his changeup.

Others of Note

Four arms from the upper levels to keep an eye on: RHP Jharel Cotton (5’11/195 righty is an enigma that sits in the mid-90’s at times and sits 90-91 other times; he’s a starter now that fits in relief long-term and flashes a solid average curveball), LHP Danny Coulombe (5’10/185 lefty got a quick big league look last year and fits as a situational lefty; he sits 90-93 and hits 94 mph with a curveball and slider that both flash above average at times), RHP Yimi Garcia (Video sits 90-93 and hits 95 mph with an average slider, fringy changeup and solid average command that allows his stuff to play up, though the delivery is just okay) and RHP Ralston Cash (2010 2nd rounder finally got healthy after breaking his pelvis, sits 92-94 mph with a slider that’s a 55 at times, but who knows how long it’ll last)

Six arms from the lower levels to keep an eye on: RHP Jacob Rhame (sits 94-96, hits 98 mph and mixes in average slider; quick worker should move through system fast in relief role, but is more middle relief than late innings), RHP M.J. Villegas (sleeper righty sits 88-92 with an average curveball and fringy changeup, but has youth, athleticism and projection to see more coming), RHP A.J. Vanegas (Stanford product turned down seven figures out of high school then long college medical led him to take $100,000 as a senior in 2014; 6’3/205 righty has hit 97 mph with an above average to plus curveball but will be built up in short stints), RHP Jeff Brigham (premium athlete had TJ as an underclassman, then popped up last spring at U Washington, running his fastball up to 97 mph with a slider that he’s working back into his repertoire that flashes solid average at times; likely a relief fit), LHP Victor Gonzalez (Mexican teenage lefty has some pitchability and sits 89-92, but is more control over command right now with three average pitches to project in the rotation) and RHP Kam Uter (Video Wake Forest wide receiver recruit signed for $100,000 last summer and is very raw, but is big, athletic, projectable and flashes two solid average pitches, with shades of Zach Bird).

Two bats from the upper levels to keep an eye on: SS Erisbel Arruebarrena (slick-fielding Cuban shortstop signed for 5 years and $25 million a year ago and was compared to Tigers SS Jose Iglesias, but has been far worse than that so far; average runner has plus plus glove and plus arm but turns 25 later this month and has little offensive impact) and C Chris O’Brien (Video the son of long-time MLB catcher Charlie O’Brien is an advanced catch and throw guy with a little bit of offensive ability; he’s a decent bat to carve out a career as a backup with a few more offensive adjustments).

Five bats from the lower levels to keep an eye on: 1B Justin Chigbogu (pronounced chi-BAGO, Justin has the most raw power in the organization, easy plus juice to all fields from the left side, but is still raw and has some trouble dealing with the K’s that will come with an aggressive power approach), 3B Jared Walker (2014 5th rounder from an Atlanta-area high school flashes average raw power from the left side, some feel to hit and a chance to stick at third), RF Michael Medina (18-year old Dominican right fielder flashes above average bat speed, power potential and arm strength, but is predictably raw skills-wise), 2B Lucas Tirado (Video Dominican got $1 million last July 2nd and has smooth lefty swing, but can’t stick at shortstop and struggled at the plate in the AZL at age 17 last year) and RF Romer Cuadrado (Dominican got $750,000 this past July 2nd, so he hasn’t played a pro game yet, but is the classic projectable-framed right field type with power potential).

Evaluating the Prospects: Los Angeles Angels.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Angels system is on the rebound, adding Andrew Heaney in a trade for Howie Kendrick this offseason and getting arguably the top value in the the 1st round of the 2014 draft with Sean Newcomb (though Royals LHP Brandon Finnegan is another solid option). The previous regime under Tony Reagins was focused on upside at all costs in the draft, which gets you some guys like Mike Trout, but also a boom-or-bust system with lots of holes and minor league free agents added to fill those holes. That starts to show up on the big league team when the inventory starts to get thin, but that necessary depth is now developing via trades and better amateur talent acquisition. The system is still in the bottom third of the league, but they’ve likely pulled out of the bottom five once I rank all 30 systems, with things looking to be trending up.

Here’s the primer for the series and a disclaimer about how we don’t really know anything. See the links above for the ongoing series about how I evaluate, including the series on the ever-complicated hit tool.

Most of what you need to know for this list is in the above links, but I should add that the risk ratings are relative to their position, so average (3) risk for a pitcher is riskier than average risk (3) for a hitter, due to injury/attrition being more common. I’d also take a 60 Future Value hitter over a 60 FV pitcher for the same reasons. Also, risk encompasses a dozen different things and I mention the important components of it for each player in the report. The upside line for hitters is the realistic best-case scenario (a notch better than the projected tools, or a 75% projection while the projected tools are a 50% projection) and the Future Value encompasses this upside along with the risk rating for one overall rating number.

Below, I’ve included a quick ranking of the notable MLB players 27 and under that aren’t eligible for the Angels prospect list and Dave Cameron shares some general thoughts on the organization. Scroll further down to see Carson Cistulli’s fringe prospect favorite. Next up is the Dodgers.

27 & Under Big League Assets
1. Mike Trout, CF, Age 23, FV: 80
2. Garrett Richards, RHP, Age 26, FV: 65
3. Kole Calhoun, RF, Age 27, FV: 60
4. Hector Santiago, LHP, Age 27, FV: 50
5. Tyler Skaggs, LHP, Age 23, FV: 50
6. C.J. Cron, 1B, Age 25, FV: 50 (Video)
7. Josh Rutledge, 2B, Age 25, FV: 45
8. Mike Morin, RHP, Age 23, FV: 45
9. Cory Rasmus, RHP, Age 27, FV: 45

Organizational Overview by Dave Cameron

A generational talent like Mike Trout covers a multitude of sins. It’s a testament to Trout’s performance that such a weak supporting cast can still project as a contender, but Trout is essentially the equivalent of two All-Stars by himself, so he doesn’t need as much help as every other player in the game. But that roster structure also opens them up to significant risk, so if Trout gets hurt or struggles, the Angels short-term future gets a lot weaker in a hurry. But as long as he stays Mike Trout, the Angels will be contenders in 2015. They’ll need to start doing a better job of surrounding him with talent for the future, though, and the Angels longer-term future is filled with a few more question marks. For now, though, this one man band should be good enough to contend again.

50+ FV Prospects:

1. Andrew Heaney, LHP
Current Level/Age: MLB/23.7, 6’2/185, L/L
Drafted: 9th overall (1st round) in 2012 out of Oklahoma State by MIA for $2.6 million bonus
Fastball: 55/55, Slider: 55/55, Changeup: 50/55, Command: 45/50+

Scouting Report: Heaney was heralded in his draft year out of Oklahoma State as an advanced pitchability lefty with above average stuff that could turn into a #3/4 starter in short order and that’s almost exactly what’s happened. He got a big league look in 2014 with Miami, who are typically pretty aggressive with prospects. He was then traded to the Dodgers in the Dee Gordon trade this off-season, then immediately flipped to the Angels for Howie Kendrick. Heaney’s fastball works 90-94 with life and both the fastball and slider will both flash 60 in his best outings, but Heaney relies more on his feel to pitch than his raw stuff to get strikeouts and grounders.

Summation: Heaney should be up at some point in 2015 depending on the big league need, with a good chance he spends the entire season in the big leagues, possibly in the rotation.

FV/Role/Risk: 55, #3/4 starter, Very Low (1 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AAA/MLB

2. Sean Newcomb, LHP
Current Level/Age: Lo-A/21.7, 6’5/240, L/L
Drafted: 15th overall (1st round) in 2014 out of Hartford by LAA for $2.518 million bonus
Fastball: 60/65, Slider: 50/55, Changeup: 50/55, Command: 40/50

Scouting Report: Newcomb was the Hunter Dozier of the 2014 draft, a player that clubs liked higher than the media consensus had them, partly because teams weren’t sure if they were the only team that had him so high, so they kept it pretty quiet. Sources have indicated that the Mariners probably would’ve taken Newcomb at the 6th pick if RF Alex Jackson wasn’t there and there were a couple more spots where he was the backup choice, before the Angels stopped the slide at 15th overall.

The things scouts like so much about Newcomb are easy to see: he’s huge (6-foot-5/240), athletic, left-handed, has a fresh arm (New England multi-sport kid), flashes three plus pitches (sits 91-94, hits 97 mph) and shows surprising pitchability considering his background. His off-speed stuff plays more to a 55 on a consistent basis, but both the slider and changeup flash plus at times, though usually not in the same start. Newcomb has good control, feel for sequence and a repeatable delivery, but the’s still working on the finer points of pitching and consistency with command and crispness to his stuff. The raw elements are here for an ace if Newcomb can make all the necessary adjustments and stay healthy.

Summation: He should spend all of 2015 in A-Ball, but many scouts see the ability here to be on the fast track by the end of the year and rush to the big leagues faster than I suggest in the projected path below. Many of these scouts pushed for Newcomb over Heaney for this reason and I ranked them close in the top 200 (51 vs. 55), but couldn’t pull the trigger to put an A-Ball pitcher over a possible 2015 200-inning MLB starter. That said, it shows how good Newcomb can be that I have them that close and almost listed them in opposite order.

FV/Role/Risk: 55, #3/4 starter, High (4 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: Low-A/High-A, 2016: High-A/AA, 2017: AA/AAA/MLB, 2018: AAA/MLB

45 FV Prospects

3. Roberto Baldoquin, SS: 20-year-old Cuban shortstop was lower profile than many of the hyped defectors, but Baldoquin had positive workouts for months and got an-at-the-time-record $8 million bonus late in 2014. One scout compared him to Reds 2014 1st rounder SS Alex Blandino while the Angels use Nationals SS Yunel Escobar as a comparable (with better makeup). Baldoquin’s tools aren’t enormous: he’s a 45 runner with enough tools to stick at short, but not so much that some don’t think he might play second or third long-term. He has average raw power that plays down a bit in games, advanced feel for the strike zone, an all-fields approach and projects for an average or better bat, so there’s plenty here to profile everyday if he can play a premium position.

Since he hasn’t played games in over a year, he’ll likely start at Low-A in 2015 and take it slow. Angels officials were really impressed by his private workouts: Baldoquin would call balls and strikes more accurately while he was hitting than the umpire did, he didn’t move the first baseman’s glove once during the 500 ground balls he took and he didn’t swing and miss once despite facing wild DSL pitchers in simulated games. Perhaps most impressively, despite not knowing English, knew about even low-profile MLB players and would casually talk about a lot of them, like Dodgers CF Joc Pederson.

4. Nick Tropeano, RHP Video: Tropeano was acquired from Houston this off-season in the Hank Conger deal and his delivery isn’t pretty, but he commands his pitches well and competes. Tropeano sits 88-92 with sink and will run it up to 94 mph, using a fringy to average curveball and a plus changeup. Scouts round up on the their projections due to the swing-and-miss changeup, the deception and feel to pitch along with the bulldog approach of the NYC native.

5. Kyle Kubitza, 3B Video: Kubitza was acquired this offseason from Atlanta for talented young lefty Ricardo Sanchez, another product of the Angels Latin program that’s trending up. Kubitza is a near-big-league-ready third baseman without huge tools, but is solid across the board with everyday upside. He’s 6’3/210 with longer limbs, has been a bit old for his levels, has some strikeout issues and his actions are a little stiff, but he makes the plays defensively and makes enough contact at the plate. Kubitza has a plus arm, average raw power he’s still learning to tap into in games, and knows how to draw a walk. Scouts like his makeup and the Angels think he can replace David Freese when that contract ends after 2015; Kubitza will start 2015 in Triple-A.

6. Cam Bedrosian, RHP Video: The son of former Braves pitcher Steve Bedrosian was a 1st rounder out of an Atlanta-area high school in 2010. He got hurt soon after signing and missed about a year and a half with Tommy John surgery and came back from surgery sitting at 89 mph, looking uncomfortable and like a different player. The Angels moved him to relief to let him throw hard short stint and get right and Bedrosian took to it quickly, zooming through the system in 2014 to the big leagues, with the Angels holding him at Double-A longer than they wanted to just to make sure everything was in order before promoting him twice more.

Bedrosian sits 92-96 and hits 97 mph with a fairly straight fastball that he often loactes up in the zone, along with a slider that’s about average consistently, but flashes plus, after scraping his curveball that stood out in high school. He rarely uses his changeup, which flashes 55 at times and his command broke down in the majors, though that may have been due to post-TJ fatigue and jitters. Bedrosian has confidence and good makeup and could be a closer but more likely fits in the 8th inning. Teams ask about him in trades pretty often and he could break camp in the big league pen, but guys like Cesar Ramos may fit immediate team needs better, so Bedrosian will have time to fine-tune his command in Triple-A.

7. Joey Gatto, RHP Video: Gatto was a 2nd rounder from a New Jersey high school in the 2014 draft and, like most prep arms, particularly from cold weather states, his stuff backed up a bit after signing, though there’s still positive indicators going forward. Gatto was 90-94, hitting 95 mph with an above average to plus curveball, an inconsistent changeup that was solid average at times, good plane and surprisingly good command for a northern arm with limited innings, due in part to his deliberate, athletic delivery. As expected, he was more 88-91 mph in instructs due to the long season, but it’s more indicative of future returns to look at his mid-season 2015 velocity and there’s mid-rotation potential if this all comes together.

8. Alex Yarbrough, 2B Video: Yarbrough isn’t the most exciting prospect, but he’s close to the majors and has a chance to be a low-end everyday player. He’s has below average power, is a fringy runner and a fringy defender at second base with a below average arm, but you’ll put up with all of that if he keeps hitting and playing a premium position. Yarbrough’s plate discipline isn’t fantastic; he’s an early count hitter that doesn’t walk very much. This is a function of his advanced bat control, so he may need to make some adjustments to lay off that borderline pitch that, in the big leagues, will produce weaker contact that in the minors. Yarbrough will compete with Johnny Giavotella, Josh Rutledge, Grant Green and Taylor Featherston for the big league second base job and may be the guy that wins that job, so it’s hard to call him a 40 FV, but the upside is limited and some offensive adjustments are likely needed.

40 FV Prospects

9. Trevor Gott, RHP Video: Gott has been counted out at each level for being a smallish righty reliever, but now he’s knocking on the door and appears to have figured out a way to succeed. He works 93-96 and hits 97 mph with his four-seam fastball, which he locates well up in the zone, drawing awkward swings as it jumps on hitters. Gott’s 80-82 mph curveball is consistently above average, flashing plus for some, with a rarely used changeup. The Angels have Gott very close to Bedrosian internally and think Gott is better than the recently-traded R.J. Alvarez due to having the same stuff with better command. Gott will be in the upper levels in 2015 and could be a big league option late in the season with a likely 8th inning type role down the road.

10. Chris Ellis, RHP Video: Ellis has 1st round hype after an excellent summer on the Cape, but his curveball deserted him for the entire draft spring at Ole Miss, allowing him to last until the 3rd round last summer. The breaking ball was back in instructs, though it had morphed into a hard slider at 83-85 mph and it flashed above average at times. Ellis works 90-94 mph and his best pitch is an above average to plus changeup. He made the most positive impressions in instructs of all the non-Newcomb picks from the 2014 draft and could be moving up a few spots on this list next year.

11. Nate Smith, LHP Video: Smith doesn’t have huge stuff but is close to the big leagues, has feel and looks to be a good bet to fill some kind of multi-inning role. He works 88-92 and hits 93 mph with an above average changeup, average slider and fringy curveball he uses to move hitter’s eye level. Smith has a solid delivery and good feel for pitching, a nice find for an 8th rounder that signed for $12,000 in 2013 that’s already succeeded in Double-A. Smith should become a big league starting pitcher inventory piece as early as late 2015.

12. Taylor Featherston, SS Video: Featherston was a savvy Rule 5 pick this winter from Colorado that has a real chance to stick as a steady utility infielder. He can play shortstop, but isn’t fantastic and is more of a fill-in than an everyday option, which is fine because the bat profiles more in a utility role as well. Featherston is that typical grinder baseball rat type, though he has a little more size and athleticism than you may expect at 6’1/185 with average raw power, and above average arm and solid average speed. The power plays down in games due to a more line-drive type approach and there’s some awkwardness to his actions, but Featherston fits the bill of under-appreciated utility guy that might surprise people and be a little more.

13. Kyle McGowin, RHP Video: McGowin dominated in 2013 in lots of innings at Savannah State, the Angels took him in the 5th round and he’s continued to perform in pro ball when he’s been healthy. He was shut down in 2014 with elbow soreness but the stuff is here for a starter. He sits 90-93 and hits 95 with sink and an above average to plus slider along with a changeup that flashes average. McGowin is lean physically at 6’3/180 but flashes all the ingredients to be a league average starter and he’ll move up on next year’s list if he can stay on the mound for a full season in 2015.

14. Carlos Perez, C Video: Perez was acquired from Houston in the Hank Conger deal with Tropeano and had a big winter in the Venezuelan League. With the low offensive bar for catchers to clear, Perez’s defensive savvy, his closeness to the big leagues and his upward trend from this winter, Perez looks like a solid bet to be a big league backup in short order with a chance for a little more. The Angels said that after the acquired Perez, they’ve been asked about him more in trades than any other player in the organization, evidence of the industry taking notice of his winter performance. There’s a good chance he breaks camp as the backup catcher, though he has three options left so there’s no rush. Perez has a plus arm and projects to be solid average defensively, though some scouts see some lazy habits to clean up at times. There isn’t tons of bat here, but there’s enough power to punish a mistake and catchers typically take longer to develop on both sides of the ball, so we may see a new player offensively this spring.

15. Scott Snodgress, LHP Video: Snodgress was non-tendered by the White Sox this winter for some reason and the Angels scooped him up, seeing flashes of dominance in short stints that weren’t there when Snodgress was a starter. His stuff was fringy as a starter, which he made work with solid command and made it to the big leagues, but the Angels saw something in short stints from him in 2014 that makes them think his home is in relief. Snodgress was a setup guy at Stanford as an amateur and ran his fastball up to 95 mph before being made a starter, but he works more 90-93 in relief with life and a solid average slider and changeup. If he can do that consistently this year, Snodgress would be a nice pickup and adding some much-needed lefty depth to the Angels pen.

16. Kaleb Cowart, 3B Video: Cowart was a high-profile 1st rounder in 2010 as one of the most talented kids in his prep class, flashing 1st round ability as a hitter and pitcher. He was good as recently as a 20-year old in 2012 in the Cal League, but he hasn’t hit a lick since then and there are rumors he’ll head to the mound soon, but the Angels say it won’t be in 2015. There was some expectation that Cowart would take over the big league third base job in 2015 (when Alberto Callaspo‘s deal ended) after Cowart’s strong 2012, but Kyle Kubitza has now jumped ahead of him in that pecking order. Cowart has solid average raw power, is a little awkward at third base but makes enough plays to stick there and he has a plus arm.

The Kubitza trade has motivated Cowart to prove what he can do in 2015, with some suggestion his problems have come from getting too mechanical and taking too many suggestions. Some offensive issues have been with his approach and some come from the maintenance of being a switch hitter; he dropped hitting righty for awhile to clear his head, but is back to switch hitting now. He’ll be 22/23 this season, so he is still age appropriate for the upper levels (he may for to Double-A or Triple-A for 2015) and this is a make-or-break year to prove he’s still a prospect. There’s some argument to leave him off the list, but the tools/age are still right and the pitching upside is still considerable, even if it’s been awhile since he was on a mound. A majority of teams had him turned in as a pitcher in 2010, so there will be more than a few that would like to take a shot at him if Cowart if he’s available and willing to convert to the mound.

17. Natanael Delgado, LF Video: Delgado was a lower profile signing for $280,000 in September, 2012 just before he turned 17, but his tools have further developed since then. Delgado went from a maybe center fielder when signing to a no doubt left fielder that needs some defensive work, but he’s added muscle and now has plus raw power with developing feel to hit. Savvy clubs are already asking about him in trades as he’s still a teenager, but Delgado still has work to do across the board, including making sure that added weight doesn’t turn into bad weight.

18. Hunter Green, LHP Video: Green checked a lot of boxes in the 2013 draft as an athletic, projectable lefty that was very young for his class and with starter stuff that was ticking up before the draft. The Angels took him in the 2nd round, but he’s only pitched 16.2 innings in pro ball since then due to a lower back issue. It isn’t anything structural, but it flared back up at one point when Green may have been pushing too hard to return quickly. He’s a hard worker making progress in side sessions and has looked good off a mound in minicamps. At his best, Green worked 90-93 and hit 95 mph with at least an average curveball and a changeup that was above average to plus at times. There’s lots of upside left and he’ll likely stick to short season leagues for 2015 as a 19/20 year old.

Cistulli’s Guy

Sherman Johnson, 2B
Johnson appears in this season’s inaugural edition of the Fringe Five (available as part of FanGraphs Plus), and much of what make him compelling him is discussed there. In brief, though, here’s what one finds with regard to the Angels infield prospect:

As a collegiate player, he was most notable for his capacity to draw walks.
Walk rate isn’t really predictive of future peformance until Double-A.
Johnson, nevertheless, has been productive in other ways as a professional.
Also, he plays both second and third base competently.
All told, he produced the equivalent of roughly 4.0 WAR in 2014 with High-A Inland Empire.

Others of Note

There are three position players in the upper levels of the system to watch: SS Eric Stamets (Video he’s an easy plus defender and runner and he’ll be in Triple-A next year, but the bat is light and there’s very little power, so the upside is utility guy and he may be more of an emergency, glove-first type), C Jett Bandy (still needs to make more solid contact, but 6’4/235 catcher has above average power, a plus arm and an average glove) and RF Chad Hinshaw (a little old for his level, but has 4th outfielder tools and has produced so far, making 2015 in Double-A a nice test for the Collin Cowgill comparisons).

There are five position players in the lower levels of the system to watch: SS Julio Garcia (top international signing pre-Baldoquin got $565,000 to wait to sign in next signing period and is drawing raves from Angels officials despite underwhelming DSL stats; switch-hitter is contact oriented with fringy speed and plus glove/arm), 2B Kody Eaves (Video profile is somewhat limited by second base only fit, but performed well offensively as 20-year-old in Low-A; Angels officials say he has 80 makeup and Eaves has a little more pop, speed and defensive ability than Yarbrough, but the hitting tools are behind), CF Johan Sala (Video signed for $300,000 last July 2nd and the above average runner can stick in center field, has already bulked up since signing and his solid average tools play up due to his instincts), CF Ayendy Perez (Video 5’9/160 center fielder is a 70 runner with little power, but stays within himself at the plate and has a solid approach, defensive upside) and CF Bo Way (2014 7th rounder from Kennesaw State surprised with post-draft performance but the tools are more 4th outfielder type; would continue momentum with big 2015 in the Cal League).

There are five pitchers in the upper levels of the system to watch: RHP Danny Reynolds (smallish righty reliever has some funk to his delivery and his slider ranges from below average to above average with some feel issues, but his 92-96 fastball that he runs up to 99 mph makes up for a lot of shortcomings), LHP Tyler DeLoach (6’6/240 lefty was 26th rounder in 2012 and expected to be a fill arm, but his fringy stuff has missed bats as a starter due to deception and a low 3/4 slot; it plays up in short stints and he’s likely a matchup bullpen fit), RHP Austin Wood (he has huge stuff with a plus plus fastball and curveball that flashes plus, but he just got back on the mound after TJ and has always had command/consistency problems; he’ll head to Double-A for 2015 and it’s a make-or-break season), RHP Austin Adams (above average fastball and plus slider is plenty to fit near the back of a bullpen as a Luke Gregerson type, but the command is a 20 at times) and RHP Drew Rucinski (Cleveland signed him out of the Indy Leagues, then released him, then the Angels signed him out of the Indy Leagues in 2013 and he reached the big leagues in 2014; works 92-94 with a splitter that’s above average at times that helped post good numbers as a starter in Double-A in 2014).

There are eight pitchers in the lower levels of the system to watch: RHP Victor Alcantara (21-year-old righty flashes mid-90’s heat with above average life and has hit 100 mph, but works 90-94 as a starter with a fringy slider and below average changeup and command; he likely fits in relief and has a big arm, but still has work to do), RHP Jeremy Rhoades (2014 4th rounder will be developed as a starter but his below average changeup and command likely lead to relief, where his above average fastball/slider combo can play up), LHP Greg Mahle (2014 15th rounder will move quickly as LOOGY that varies from submarine to high 3/4 with his slot and 83-93 with his fastball; he’s super confident with deception, an average breaking ball that’s tough on lefties and tons of different looks) and RHP Jake Jewell (2014 5th rounder has limited experience on the mound and will be developed as a starter due to a fastball, slider and curveball that all flash plus along with a starter’s delivery, but he’s a long way off).

RHP Garrett Nuss (Video has three average pitches that will flash better at times; he’s a strike thrower that can out-sequence young hitters but it isn’t clear how that will play at higher levels; he was shutdown late in 2014 with shoulder soreness), RHP Keynan Middleton (2013 3rd rounder out of an Oregon Juco also played hoops there as well and is the most athletic guy in the system; still raw but sits 91-93 and hits 94 mph, flashing a 55 curveball and slider, but there’s a long way to go), RHP Jared Ruxer (Video he was trending up before the 2014 draft, sitting 90-94 mph with a solid average slider and changeup, then had TJ right before the draft and the Angels scooped him up for $100K in the 12th round as a rehab gamble) and RHP Austin Robichaux (2014 18th rounder got $100,000 and is crazy skinny at 6’5/170 but has an average fastball and curveball with an above average changeup and feel to pitch but durability questions may push him to the pen).

2015 Positional Power Rankings: Relief Pitchers (#16-30).
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The rankings of power being conducted by this site have almost concluded. Today, we turn our attention to relief pitchers. We begin by turning our attention, specifically, to this graph:

Included here are the bullpens which feature the 16th to 30th most power in the major leagues. Jeff Sullivan will consider Nos. 1-15 later in the morning. Or, he probably will, at least. One oughtn’t get in the habit of assuming that everything will work out nicely. As Werner Herzog has almost certainly said at some point, disaster is inevitable.

Now, relief pitchers!

#16 Orioles
Zach Britton 65.0 7.7 3.2 0.7 .293 74.5 % 3.24 3.54 0.5
Darren O’Day 65.0 9.1 2.5 1.0 .286 77.3 % 3.18 3.66 0.5
Tommy Hunter 55.0 7.5 1.9 1.0 .293 74.3 % 3.41 3.63 0.3
Brian Matusz 55.0 8.6 3.0 1.1 .296 75.4 % 3.61 3.85 0.3
Brad Brach 45.0 9.1 3.5 1.2 .291 75.6 % 3.75 4.06 0.0
Wesley Wright 40.0 7.7 3.3 0.9 .303 73.0 % 3.81 3.93 0.0
T.J. McFarland 35.0 6.1 2.8 0.7 .306 71.1 % 3.88 3.91 0.0
Ubaldo Jimenez 30.0 8.4 4.3 1.1 .297 72.5 % 4.21 4.32 -0.1
Oliver Drake 25.0 8.9 3.5 0.9 .301 74.6 % 3.61 3.81 0.0
Ryan Webb 20.0 6.5 2.8 0.9 .301 71.3 % 3.93 3.97 0.0
Dylan Bundy 15.0 6.8 3.6 1.1 .298 71.3 % 4.43 4.60 0.0
Evan Meek 10.0 6.0 3.6 1.0 .298 69.6 % 4.47 4.59 0.0
The Others 43.0 7.9 4.0 1.0 .324 69.7 % 4.73 4.40 -0.1
Total 503.0 8.0 3.1 1.0 .298 73.6 % 3.72 3.91 1.5
It was originally the author’s intent to suggest that the current iteration of the Orioles’ bullpen differed substantially from that one which, in 2012, produced the highest Win Probability Added (WPA) figure in the recorded history of bullpens, contributing in no small part to the club’s first postseason berth since 1997. Playing off a theme originally established, it seems, by the now defunct auto manufacturer that this isn’t your father’s Oldsmobile, I was going to submit that this isn’t your slightly older brother’s Orioles bullpen. Mild amusement, is what would have ensued.

Except that amusement would have been founded in some combination both of lies and perfidy. Zach Britton, Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz, and Darren O’Day are expected to record the most relief innings for the Orioles this year: all four of them played roles of varying importance on that 2012 team, as well. Jim Johnson and Troy Patton and Pedro Strop have all departed, but it’s not as if there’s absolutely no continuity between the two groups.

Of some interest is Ubaldo Jimenez, who appears likely to assume a role in long relief. His next relief appearance will be only the fifth of his entire 10-year career. His ability to prevent runs has been tied pretty strongly to his velocity and he recorded the highest average fastball last year (by kinda a lot) in one of his three relief appearances. That’s somewhat promising.

#17 Indians
Cody Allen 65.0 10.9 3.4 0.9 .308 77.3 % 3.14 3.19 0.9
Bryan Shaw 65.0 8.1 3.1 0.8 .305 72.1 % 3.71 3.64 0.2
Scott Atchison 55.0 6.6 2.2 0.8 .306 70.8 % 3.79 3.65 0.2
Marc Rzepczynski 55.0 7.8 3.5 0.8 .312 71.5 % 3.93 3.84 0.0
Nick Hagadone 45.0 10.0 4.1 1.0 .309 74.1 % 3.75 3.74 0.2
Josh Tomlin 40.0 7.2 1.7 1.2 .313 69.4 % 4.26 3.94 0.0
Kyle Crockett 35.0 8.3 2.7 0.8 .310 73.1 % 3.56 3.52 0.0
Anthony Swarzak 30.0 6.3 2.6 0.9 .311 70.0 % 4.13 3.89 0.0
Zach McAllister 25.0 7.3 2.6 0.9 .313 70.0 % 4.11 3.79 0.0
C.C. Lee 20.0 8.6 3.3 0.9 .311 71.8 % 3.88 3.77 0.0
Austin Adams 15.0 8.5 3.3 0.9 .312 71.4 % 3.97 3.74 0.0
Shawn Armstrong 10.0 9.5 4.1 1.0 .314 71.8 % 4.10 3.93 0.0
Charles Brewer 10.0 7.1 2.4 1.1 .313 69.9 % 4.30 4.09 0.0
The Others 26.0 7.9 4.0 1.0 .324 69.7 % 4.73 4.40 -0.1
Total 496.0 8.3 3.0 0.9 .310 72.1 % 3.84 3.71 1.4
Cleveland’s pitching staff recorded the second-highest collective WAR in the league last year. That’s excellent, but it was also mostly a function of the team’s rotation — which produced whole months of Cy Young-level quality — and less because of the bullpen, which finished 16th overall by WAR.

More of the same, appears to be a reasonable expectation for the 2015 edition of the club. The rotation, addressed yesterday by Miles Wray, profiles as one of the league’s five best. The bullpen, meanwhile, is no great shakes — but not particularly bad shakes, either.

Key to its success is right-hander Cody Allen. Signed for $125,000 after having been selected in just the 23rd round of the 2011 draft, Allen became the second player of his draft year — after only current teammate Trevor Bauer — to debut in the majors. He’s been excellent since then, striking out nearly 30% of the 700 batters he’s faced since his promotion in 2012.

Right-hander Austin Adams continues to bear watching, as well. He recorded the highest average fastball velocity among all Cleveland pitchers in 2014 and has benefited, it would appear, from a full-time move to the bullpen at the beginning of 2013.

#18 Angels
Huston Street 65.0 8.4 2.5 1.1 .290 76.2 % 3.40 3.68 0.3
Joe Smith 65.0 7.9 2.7 0.7 .295 74.8 % 3.17 3.43 0.5
Fernando Salas 55.0 8.2 2.6 1.0 .301 73.3 % 3.63 3.66 0.2
Vinnie Pestano 55.0 9.2 3.4 0.9 .300 76.2 % 3.43 3.65 0.3
Mike Morin 45.0 7.9 2.6 0.8 .302 72.5 % 3.54 3.55 0.2
Cory Rasmus 40.0 8.5 4.3 1.0 .298 73.9 % 3.97 4.17 -0.1
Cam Bedrosian 35.0 9.9 4.3 0.8 .305 74.0 % 3.62 3.63 0.0
Hector Santiago 30.0 7.5 3.6 1.0 .295 73.1 % 4.02 4.29 0.0
Nicholas Tropeano 25.0 7.6 2.8 0.9 .302 70.8 % 3.98 3.87 0.0
Cesar Ramos 20.0 7.3 3.3 1.0 .298 71.8 % 4.05 4.10 0.0
Drew Rucinski 15.0 7.1 2.5 0.9 .304 71.5 % 3.84 3.83 0.0
Jeremy Mcbryde 10.0 8.3 3.5 1.0 .302 73.1 % 3.86 4.01 0.0
Matt Lindstrom 10.0 6.3 2.9 0.7 .308 70.8 % 3.90 3.79 0.0
The Others 11.0 7.9 4.0 1.0 .324 69.7 % 4.73 4.40 0.0
Total 481.0 8.2 3.1 0.9 .299 73.8 % 3.64 3.76 1.4
Much like a divorced father who’s always forgetting when it’s his day to pick up the kids from school, Angels reliever Huston Street has become accustomed to stranding people. In the case of Street, however, it’s not children suffering the baleful effects of their parents’ legal separation who he’s stranding, but rather major-league baseball runners. Between 2013 and -14, Street produced a left-on-base rate (LOB%) of 96.1% — the highest such mark among the nearly 500 pitchers to compile at least 50 innings during that interval.

Depending on how one looks at it, Street’s accomplishment is either good news or not-so-good news. It’s good in the sense that it has allowed Street to produce one of the top-20 park-adjusted ERAs over the last two seasons. It’s not so good in the sense that LOB% from one season is barely predictive of LOB% in the next — and rates above 80% are rarely (if ever) sustained. It won’t be surprising, in other words, if Street’s ERA skews decidedly closer to his FIP in 2015.

Unlike many modern bullpens, the Angels’ actually features a pretty even distribution of talent among its top-four or -five members. Vinnie Pestano, Fernando Salas, and Joe Smith are all roughly Street’s equal — in terms of product, if not necessarily process.

Of some interest towards the back of the pen is right-hander Drew Rucinski. Undrafted out of college, he was eventually signed out of the independent Frontier League in 2013. He averaged nearly a strikeout per inning as a starter with Double-A Arkansas last year and acquitted himself quite well in a brief September audition. He not not a candidate to start for the Angels, even.

#19 Red Sox
Koji Uehara 65.0 10.5 1.6 1.0 .292 81.3 % 2.57 2.86 1.5
Junichi Tazawa 65.0 9.0 2.5 0.8 .307 74.5 % 3.28 3.23 0.7
Edward Mujica 55.0 6.5 2.1 1.1 .303 71.3 % 3.97 3.96 0.0
Craig Breslow 55.0 6.4 3.8 1.0 .303 71.2 % 4.42 4.55 -0.4
Anthony Varvaro 45.0 7.0 3.4 0.8 .303 71.7 % 3.98 4.01 -0.1
Alexi Ogando 40.0 7.8 3.4 1.0 .300 73.2 % 3.93 4.06 -0.1
Tom Layne 35.0 7.7 4.2 0.8 .302 72.4 % 3.95 4.10 -0.1
Robbie Ross 30.0 6.9 2.9 0.8 .308 73.0 % 3.68 3.81 0.0
Matt Barnes 25.0 7.6 3.1 0.9 .306 72.0 % 3.98 3.98 0.0
Brandon Workman 20.0 7.7 2.8 1.1 .304 72.1 % 4.07 4.08 0.0
The Others 66.0 7.9 4.0 1.0 .324 69.7 % 4.73 4.40 -0.2
Total 501.0 7.9 3.0 0.9 .305 72.8 % 3.83 3.86 1.3
One finds in the depth-chart image above that the Red Sox bullpen is projected to produce about 1.3 wins as a group in 2015 while Koji Uehara is projected to produce 1.5 (i.e. more) wins all by himself. Uehara, one is able to conclude while asking no more questions, is better than all the rest of Boston’s relief corps combined.

It’d be ideal for Boston if Uehara could throw roughly all their relief innings this year. At this point, unfortunately, it appears as though he’ll begin the season by throwing much closer to none of them. A strained hamstring suffered in mid-March has left Uehera unable to throw yet at 100%, and now it appears inevitable that he’ll begin the season on the disabled list.

The advantage of a top-heavy bullpen such as Boston’s is that it allows the manager to reserve his best relievers for the highest-leverage moments. If those best relievers are unable to pitch, however, the result is a vulnerable bullpen. In Uehara’s absence, Edward Mujica appears likely to fill the closer role. Given the projections, however, allowing Junichi Tazawa to pitch in high-leverage situations would also appear to have some benefits.

#20 Mets
Jenrry Mejia 65.0 9.1 3.3 0.8 .312 73.8 % 3.55 3.47 0.4
Bobby Parnell 65.0 7.9 2.7 0.7 .306 72.8 % 3.41 3.33 0.6
Jeurys Familia 55.0 8.9 3.8 0.7 .302 74.4 % 3.37 3.50 0.3
Vic Black 55.0 9.6 4.8 0.8 .304 74.2 % 3.75 3.91 0.1
Jerry Blevins 45.0 9.1 3.2 0.8 .294 75.5 % 3.34 3.56 0.1
Alex Torres 40.0 9.4 5.0 0.7 .298 73.7 % 3.66 3.86 0.0
Carlos Torres 35.0 8.3 3.0 1.0 .301 73.7 % 3.71 3.83 0.0
Scott Rice 30.0 7.6 4.7 0.7 .305 72.0 % 4.09 4.18 -0.1
Rafael Montero 25.0 8.7 3.0 0.9 .301 73.8 % 3.62 3.68 0.0
Josh Edgin 20.0 8.8 3.8 0.8 .302 73.4 % 3.73 3.76 0.0
Steven Matz 15.0 7.9 2.9 0.8 .306 72.1 % 3.72 3.67 0.0
The Others 23.0 7.9 4.0 1.0 .324 69.7 % 4.73 4.40 -0.1
Total 473.0 8.7 3.7 0.8 .304 73.5 % 3.64 3.69 1.2
If the current post were published last week and not this one, the Mets entry would look substantively different. Consider: left-handers Jerry Blevins and Alex Torres are currently projected to post the fifth- and sixth-highest innings totals, respectively, among Mets relievers. As recently as Monday morning, they were employed by other clubs.

The costs weren’t negligble. Outfielder Matt den Dekker, sent to Washington for Blevins, produced about a win last season in under 200 plate appearances. That performance probably overestimates his true-talent level, but he’s almost certainly a capable fourth outfielder. Right-hander Cory Mazzoni, meanwhile — traded to San Diego for Torres — was one of the Mets’ most major-league-ready prospects. He could be of some use to the Padres bullpen starting now.

Those moves by Sandy Alderson et al. suggest that the club regards itself as occupying some place on the win curve where the acquisition of one or another bullpen piece might separate them from the playoffs. Broadly speaking, the projected standings support this supposition. If they can dispatch with the Miami, the Mets will be contending with the Cubs, Giants, Padres and Pirates to qualify for the play-in game.

#21 Giants
Santiago Casilla 65.0 7.6 3.2 0.7 .293 74.5 % 3.31 3.60 0.2
Sergio Romo 65.0 8.8 2.2 0.8 .295 76.1 % 3.02 3.24 0.7
Jeremy Affeldt 55.0 7.0 3.1 0.5 .301 72.6 % 3.31 3.42 0.2
Javier Lopez 55.0 6.7 3.5 0.6 .299 71.7 % 3.65 3.75 -0.1
Yusmeiro Petit 45.0 8.2 2.0 1.0 .300 73.2 % 3.47 3.45 0.2
Jean Machi 40.0 7.2 2.7 0.7 .294 72.8 % 3.38 3.55 0.0
George Kontos 35.0 8.3 2.7 0.8 .298 74.7 % 3.22 3.36 0.0
Erik Cordier 30.0 10.3 4.8 0.6 .302 74.3 % 3.39 3.54 0.0
Hunter Strickland 25.0 9.3 2.4 0.7 .303 75.9 % 2.89 2.95 0.1
Tim Lincecum 20.0 8.0 3.5 0.9 .305 70.7 % 4.14 3.96 0.0
Brett Bochy 15.0 7.8 3.7 0.9 .297 72.8 % 3.81 4.02 0.0
Ryan Vogelsong 10.0 6.9 2.9 0.9 .300 71.0 % 4.04 4.05 0.0
The Others 4.0 7.9 4.0 1.0 .324 69.7 % 4.73 4.40 0.0
Total 464.0 7.9 3.0 0.7 .298 73.5 % 3.39 3.52 1.2
Sabermetric orthodoxy suggests that signing aging left-handed relievers to three-year contracts — such as the Giants have done in recent offseasons with both Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez — isn’t a particularly great use of resources. Regarding the wisdom of those decisions, however, San Francisco general manager Brian Sabean might take it upon himself to direct one’s attention to the nearest scoreboard.

Sabean’s Giants have claimed three of the last five World Series and, insofar as winning championships is mostly the point of competing in the majors leagues, these San Francisco teams have almost by definition been designed well.

The relief corps that helped San Francisco win its most recent Series returns almost wholly unchanged. In fact, all six of the club’s relievers who recorded positive WAR figures last year are expected to figure prominently in 2015, as well. The top reliever by that measure, Yusmeiro Petit, remains a mystery — but a mystery that’s really good at preventing runs out of the bullpen.

#22 Diamondbacks
Addison Reed 65.0 9.3 2.6 1.0 .302 74.2 % 3.48 3.46 0.7
Brad Ziegler 65.0 6.6 3.1 0.6 .300 73.5 % 3.42 3.72 0.2
Oliver Perez 55.0 10.4 3.8 0.9 .307 75.9 % 3.37 3.55 0.4
Randall Delgado 55.0 8.4 3.3 1.1 .303 72.7 % 4.03 4.07 0.0
Evan Marshall 45.0 8.9 3.4 0.7 .309 73.5 % 3.43 3.41 0.2
Daniel Hudson 40.0 7.9 2.6 0.9 .306 69.9 % 3.88 3.62 0.1
Vidal Nuno 35.0 7.4 2.4 1.2 .298 72.2 % 4.04 4.15 0.0
Enrique Burgos 30.0 9.9 5.7 0.9 .308 71.9 % 4.31 4.26 -0.1
Andrew Chafin 25.0 7.2 3.6 0.9 .305 71.6 % 4.13 4.19 0.0
Matt Stites 20.0 7.9 3.1 1.1 .301 72.0 % 4.10 4.17 0.0
Robbie Ray 15.0 7.4 3.8 1.1 .305 70.7 % 4.53 4.54 0.0
Matt Reynolds 10.0 7.7 2.6 0.9 .304 73.0 % 3.61 3.60 0.0
David Hernandez 10.0 10.2 3.3 1.0 .297 77.3 % 3.26 3.53 0.0
A.J. Schugel 10.0 6.7 3.5 1.0 .306 70.1 % 4.37 4.33 0.0
The Others 41.0 7.9 4.0 1.0 .324 69.7 % 4.73 4.40 -0.1
Total 521.0 8.4 3.3 0.9 .305 72.7 % 3.83 3.85 1.1
Right-hander Evan Marshall produced the best FIP mark among Arizona’s regular relievers in 2014. He’s projected to do the same thing in 2015, as well.

His resume is worthy of comment. Consider, for example, Marshall’s strikeout rates over three recent and consecutive seasons in the minors:

2012: 12.6%
2013: 21.6%
2014: 30.7%

Those numbers are from Double-A, Triple-A, and then Triple-A again — in that order. One notes that the trend is decidedly upward. “What happened?” is a question one is compelled to ask. It’s the literal question I was compelled to ask of the Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro — and one Piecoro asked of Marshall himself last September.

Marshall’s success with the changeup appears to be key. Indeed, in terms of changeup usage, Marshall finished among the top-10% of all relievers last year. Despite throwing the pitch with some frequency, Marshall still produced a swinging-strike rate of about 19% with the changeup — about four points above league average.

#23 White Sox
David Robertson 65.0 11.7 3.1 0.8 .314 77.0 % 2.99 2.82 1.4
Zach Duke 65.0 9.0 2.9 0.9 .313 73.3 % 3.64 3.52 0.5
Zach Putnam 55.0 7.9 3.7 0.8 .304 71.9 % 3.94 3.92 0.0
Javy Guerra 55.0 7.1 4.0 1.0 .309 69.6 % 4.66 4.51 -0.3
Dan Jennings 45.0 8.5 3.8 0.9 .313 72.6 % 4.05 3.95 0.0
Jake Petricka 40.0 6.9 4.3 0.8 .307 71.7 % 4.16 4.19 -0.1
Matt Albers 35.0 6.7 3.5 0.9 .303 71.3 % 4.19 4.23 0.0
Daniel Webb 30.0 7.9 5.2 0.9 .307 70.8 % 4.57 4.47 -0.1
Eric Surkamp 25.0 7.8 3.1 1.3 .309 70.9 % 4.44 4.40 -0.1
Maikel Cleto 20.0 9.4 6.0 1.2 .309 71.0 % 5.06 5.03 -0.1
Onelki Garcia 15.0 8.5 6.1 1.0 .311 70.9 % 5.00 4.96 -0.1
Erik Johnson 10.0 6.1 4.2 1.3 .309 67.7 % 5.37 5.16 0.0
Michael Ynoa 10.0 7.5 5.5 1.2 .309 69.1 % 5.34 5.17 0.0
Kyle Drabek 10.0 6.5 3.3 1.4 .305 69.0 % 4.94 4.90 0.0
Raul Fernandez 10.0 6.8 6.0 1.3 .307 68.6 % 5.78 5.74 -0.1
Total 463.0 8.3 3.9 1.0 .308 72.0 % 4.12 4.06 1.0
The White Sox were one of three clubs in 2014 to produce a negative bullpen WAR. That’s not great, obviously. On the other hand, it’s almost a badge of honor for a team with little hope of contending for the playoffs. Relief pitchers are really the last area into which a team ought to be investing resources, and the White Sox invested hardly any of their resources in relievers last year, instead assembling a group of pitchers who either remained under team control or who were committed to just one-year deals.

After the acquisitions this offseason of Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche, and Jeff Samardzija, however, the White Sox appear to regard themselves as contenders within the AL Central. Accordingly, they’ve upgraded their bullpen, committing seven years and $61 million to Zach Duke and David Robertson. Those two have immediately become the club’s strongest relief options, accounting for roughly 200% of Chicago’s projected bullpen WAR. If they remain healthy, the bullpen will be almost nearly average; if they don’t, it could very well transform into a carnival of miseries.

#24 Twins
Glen Perkins 65.0 9.7 2.3 0.9 .310 74.7 % 3.22 3.12 1.2
Casey Fien 65.0 8.3 2.3 1.1 .307 73.1 % 3.76 3.68 0.5
Brian Duensing 55.0 6.9 3.1 0.9 .314 70.4 % 4.18 3.94 0.1
Tim Stauffer 55.0 7.3 3.2 0.9 .319 69.8 % 4.29 3.94 -0.1
Mike Pelfrey 45.0 5.6 3.2 1.1 .316 67.5 % 4.99 4.63 -0.3
J.R. Graham 40.0 6.2 3.1 0.9 .315 69.2 % 4.47 4.21 -0.1
Blaine Boyer 35.0 7.1 2.5 1.0 .310 70.3 % 4.13 3.91 0.0
Caleb Thielbar 30.0 7.2 3.3 0.9 .307 71.2 % 4.14 4.04 0.0
Alex Meyer 25.0 8.8 4.1 0.9 .315 71.5 % 4.16 3.97 0.0
Michael Tonkin 20.0 8.0 3.0 0.8 .316 71.0 % 3.97 3.71 0.0
Stephen Pryor 15.0 7.7 5.4 1.1 .311 69.6 % 5.09 4.93 -0.1
Ryan Pressly 10.0 6.7 3.1 0.8 .310 69.9 % 4.19 3.96 0.0
Logan Darnell 10.0 6.3 3.2 1.2 .315 68.1 % 4.98 4.68 0.0
A.J. Achter 10.0 7.4 3.4 1.0 .310 70.6 % 4.33 4.18 0.0
The Others 12.0 7.9 4.0 1.0 .324 69.7 % 4.73 4.40 0.0
Total 492.0 7.6 3.0 1.0 .313 70.7 % 4.15 3.94 1.0
Too frequently, internet webloggers say of this or that player that he “sucks.” It’s an instinct, that, lacking seriously in generosity. Whatever the shortcomings of the player in question, he’s still revealed himself as an excellent ballplayer merely by virtue of finding his way to the majors. That alone renders him one of the thousand or so best in the world.

If we take for granted that no major leaguer really sucks, it’s also essential to note that some of them are better than others in a pretty conspicuous way. With regard to the Twins bullpen, for example, it’s manifestly correct to say that none of them suck. It’s also probably right to say that, outside of Perkins and (maybe) Fien, that none of them are particularly great, either.

On the plus side, the team is projected to win just 70 games, meaning that the bullpen is structured in proportion to the rest of the club.

#25 Tigers
Joe Nathan 65.0 8.5 3.5 0.8 .306 73.0 % 3.80 3.71 0.3
Joakim Soria 65.0 8.8 2.6 0.8 .311 73.4 % 3.43 3.33 0.9
Al Alburquerque 55.0 10.4 3.9 0.9 .311 74.4 % 3.69 3.61 0.2
Joba Chamberlain 55.0 8.0 3.6 0.9 .312 70.1 % 4.17 3.91 0.0
Bruce Rondon 45.0 9.5 4.1 0.8 .311 73.0 % 3.82 3.65 0.1
Tom Gorzelanny 40.0 7.9 3.2 1.0 .311 72.2 % 4.01 3.96 0.0
Kyle Ryan 35.0 4.7 2.7 1.3 .308 66.8 % 5.20 5.00 -0.2
Angel Nesbitt 30.0 7.1 3.9 1.1 .308 69.4 % 4.74 4.65 -0.1
Blaine Hardy 25.0 7.9 3.3 0.9 .307 73.0 % 3.82 3.87 0.0
Ian Krol 20.0 8.0 3.0 1.1 .309 71.1 % 4.21 4.10 0.0
Buck Farmer 15.0 6.8 3.2 1.4 .310 68.2 % 5.06 4.85 -0.1
Kyle Lobstein 10.0 6.3 3.2 1.1 .312 68.4 % 4.76 4.47 0.0
Alex Wilson 10.0 6.7 3.6 1.0 .302 71.2 % 4.35 4.43 0.0
Josh Zeid 10.0 7.7 4.1 1.2 .312 70.1 % 4.77 4.62 0.0
Total 459.0 8.2 3.4 1.0 .309 71.7 % 4.04 3.93 1.0
It’s difficult to tell the story of the 2014 Tigers without citing the club’s bullpen woes. Both the hitters and starting pitchers finished among the majors’ top-10 clubs by WAR; the relievers, 30th. Unfortunately, their weakness was strongest in the postseason: in three ALDS games against Baltimore, the Detroit bullpen conceded 11 runs over just 4.2 innings — and, notably, two of those were scoreless innings recorded by usual starter Anibal Sanchez. Bleak, is the word for which you’re searching.

For all that unpleasantness, however, it wasn’t obvious that Detroit’s relief corps would so fabulously implode. Last year, in this same exercise, the bullpen was ranked 15th overall in the league. Which, that’s not ideal for a club very intent on winning the World Series, but it’s also not an invitation to disaster. Furthermore, Dombrowski et al. theoretically improved the bullpen at midseason by acquiring Joakim Soria.

The effects of regression alone render it unlikely that the Tigers bullpen will plumb last year’s awful depths. It’s probably unsettling for fans of the club, however, that most of last year’s key pieces are returning. A possible exception to that is Bruce Rondon, although some neck and shoulder problems this spring are marring his comeback, as well.

#26 Marlins
Steve Cishek 65.0 10.1 3.1 0.6 .310 76.0 % 2.91 2.86 1.1
Bryan Morris 65.0 7.2 3.4 0.8 .304 72.3 % 3.81 3.92 -0.2
Mike Dunn 55.0 9.9 3.7 0.7 .307 75.2 % 3.23 3.27 0.6
A.J. Ramos 55.0 9.5 4.8 0.6 .299 73.9 % 3.56 3.66 0.0
Sam Dyson 45.0 6.9 3.3 0.6 .308 72.1 % 3.63 3.69 0.0
Brad Hand 40.0 7.3 3.8 0.9 .302 71.7 % 4.11 4.16 -0.2
Andre Rienzo 35.0 6.9 3.9 0.9 .309 69.9 % 4.45 4.30 -0.1
David Phelps 30.0 7.8 3.3 0.8 .303 72.1 % 3.77 3.80 0.0
Carter Capps 25.0 10.2 3.2 0.7 .314 75.1 % 3.27 3.16 0.0
Andrew Mckirahan 20.0 8.1 3.4 0.9 .303 72.6 % 3.76 3.83 0.0
The Others 59.0 7.9 4.0 1.0 .324 69.7 % 4.73 4.40 -0.2
Total 494.0 8.4 3.7 0.8 .308 72.8 % 3.73 3.71 1.0
Last year, only 11 relievers reached the two-win threshold. In part, that’s an illustration of the sort of value they provide (or don’t provide). Two wins — i.e. the production of an average hitter — is an elite level for a reliever (with certain obvious caveats about leverage, etc.) It’s also to note, however, that Marlins right-hander Steve Cishek was one of those 11 relievers.

Selected in the fifth round of the 2007 draft out of Carson-Newman College, Cishek’s signing was obscure enough that a French Wikipedia entry is one of the few sources that contains information about the bonus he received. Over the last three years, however, he’s been among the top relievers in the majors, ranking within the top-10 both by Shutdowns and Win Probability Added. It’s probable that, if he remains healthy in 2015, he’ll continue to perform like one of the league’s top relievers.

After Cishek and teammate Mike Dunn, unfortunately, there’s little substantive help. Which isn’t to say that there’s no possibility of help. (Right-hander Carter Capps, for example, throws quite hard and has produced excellent fielding-independent numbers.) It’s just that the source of that theoretically help isn’t immediately apparent.

#27 Brewers
Francisco Rodriguez 65.0 9.6 3.1 1.2 .299 74.9 % 3.67 3.79 0.2
Jonathan Broxton 65.0 7.9 3.0 0.9 .297 74.0 % 3.64 3.83 0.3
Will Smith 55.0 10.7 3.2 0.9 .312 76.3 % 3.23 3.22 0.5
Brandon Kintzler 55.0 6.0 2.9 0.9 .305 71.3 % 4.02 4.06 -0.1
Jeremy Jeffress 45.0 8.6 4.1 0.7 .310 72.8 % 3.75 3.74 0.1
Jim Henderson 40.0 10.1 3.7 1.0 .307 74.3 % 3.74 3.67 0.2
Tyler Thornburg 35.0 8.5 4.0 1.0 .302 72.7 % 3.98 4.06 0.0
Rob Wooten 30.0 7.0 2.8 0.9 .308 70.7 % 4.05 3.93 0.0
Neal Cotts 25.0 9.3 3.3 0.8 .302 75.6 % 3.36 3.48 0.0
Corey Knebel 20.0 10.5 4.0 0.9 .305 75.4 % 3.46 3.54 0.0
Michael Blazek 15.0 7.9 4.3 1.1 .303 72.1 % 4.35 4.49 0.0
David Goforth 10.0 6.5 4.3 1.0 .304 70.5 % 4.59 4.65 0.0
Mike Strong 10.0 8.7 4.7 1.2 .304 71.6 % 4.52 4.59 0.0
The Others 28.0 7.9 4.0 1.0 .324 69.7 % 4.73 4.40 -0.1
Total 498.0 8.6 3.4 0.9 .305 73.3 % 3.81 3.84 1.0
Right-hander Jim Henderson has been surprisingly effective for a player who made his major-league debut at the age of 29. One assumes that, given his extensive experience in the game — and his obvious desire to remain within it despite adversity — that he’s also considered how he’ll pass the time when he’s no longer able to play. This spring, he’s shown early signs that he might have some interest in management, having taken the initiative to decide the Mariners shortstop competition all by himself.

#28 Rockies
LaTroy Hawkins 65.0 6.3 2.2 1.0 .312 70.8 % 4.03 3.89 0.4
Rex Brothers 65.0 9.5 4.8 0.9 .316 73.2 % 4.15 4.05 0.1
Adam Ottavino 55.0 9.5 3.1 0.9 .316 74.1 % 3.57 3.44 0.6
John Axford 55.0 9.3 4.4 1.0 .315 71.8 % 4.24 4.02 0.0
David Hale 45.0 5.2 4.0 1.1 .314 68.7 % 5.13 5.02 -0.3
Boone Logan 40.0 9.7 3.6 1.0 .315 73.0 % 3.98 3.77 0.1
Chad Bettis 35.0 7.2 3.3 1.1 .318 69.7 % 4.63 4.34 -0.1
Gus Schlosser 30.0 5.9 3.4 1.1 .313 68.9 % 4.88 4.72 -0.1
Jairo Diaz 25.0 7.9 3.8 1.1 .314 70.3 % 4.51 4.34 0.0
Tommy Kahnle 20.0 8.8 4.7 1.0 .308 71.4 % 4.39 4.25 0.0
Brooks Brown 15.0 7.4 2.9 1.1 .309 71.5 % 4.20 4.17 0.0
Greg Burke 10.0 8.0 3.6 1.2 .312 71.1 % 4.47 4.35 0.0
Rafael Betancourt 10.0 7.0 3.3 1.3 .306 69.9 % 4.69 4.64 0.0
The Others 46.0 7.9 4.0 1.0 .324 69.7 % 4.73 4.40 -0.1
Total 516.0 8.0 3.7 1.0 .315 71.2 % 4.33 4.16 0.5
As this site has gained a larger readership among the general public and in front offices, it’s also gained one within clubhouses. Which, that’s not to say — not at all — that the average major-league locker room is now occupied exclusively by giant and talented players buried in their laptops and exporting custom leaderboards to Excel so that they might better work with the data. What it does mean, however, is that more players read the words we write.

It’s always wise to be respectful in one’s analysis — there’s really no excuse for being flippant or dismissive or rude — but one feels an even greater responsibility when he’s aware that the player about whom he’s writing might be on the other side of the words he’s typing.

Right-hander Adam Ottavino is the sort of player who’s occassionally on the other side. Last season, he initiated a discussion with Eno Sarris — something even Sarris’s friends are loath to do — and wanted to talk about Steve Cishek’s success. More recently, he provided enough material for David Laurila to craft two posts about it.

The point of this entry, then, isn’t to dissect the Rockies bullpen. It’s to make this awkward statement about how Adam Ottavino is maybe right now reading about Adam Ottavino.

#29 Blue Jays
Brett Cecil 65.0 10.4 3.5 0.8 .311 75.1 % 3.29 3.26 0.8
Aaron Loup 65.0 7.5 3.0 0.8 .300 73.4 % 3.57 3.82 0.4
Marco Estrada 55.0 8.0 2.3 1.5 .293 73.1 % 4.18 4.31 -0.1
Todd Redmond 55.0 7.8 2.9 1.0 .304 73.2 % 3.90 3.95 0.1
Miguel Castro 45.0 7.3 5.0 1.1 .302 70.0 % 4.85 4.83 -0.4
Roberto Osuna 40.0 7.8 4.8 1.0 .303 70.6 % 4.61 4.59 -0.2
Colt Hynes 35.0 7.5 2.1 1.1 .307 71.8 % 3.92 3.86 0.0
Liam Hendriks 30.0 7.0 1.6 1.2 .308 70.5 % 4.08 3.94 0.0
Steve Delabar 25.0 10.1 4.6 1.1 .304 73.5 % 4.12 4.18 0.0
Aaron Sanchez 20.0 7.3 4.7 1.0 .298 70.6 % 4.54 4.62 -0.1
The Others 52.0 7.9 4.0 1.0 .324 69.7 % 4.73 4.40 -0.1
Total 487.0 8.1 3.4 1.0 .305 72.1 % 4.09 4.10 0.4
In the middle of last month, Dave Cameron wrote about the Reds and, specifically, about manager Bryan Price’s suggestion that he was inclined to install veterans Paul Maholm and Jason Marquis in the rotation instead of Tony Cingrani or Anthony DeSclafani or Raisel Iglesias. Maholm and Marquis have merit insofar as their likely performances are easier to project than those of their younger, less experienced teammates. The problem, of course, is that those performances will almost certainly be mediocre. The Reds, meanwhile, will likely require something better than mediocre from the back of their rotation in order to qualify for the postseason. The greater uncertainty provided by Cingrani and DeScalfani and Iglesias is actually a benefit in this case, while Maholm and Marquis are essentially human white flags.

This is perhaps somewhere at the root of Toronto’s decision to enter the season with both Miguel Castro and Roberto Osuna on the 25-man roster. Neither has been treated with particular warmth by the projections here — but, then again, neither has the Blue Jays bullpen as a whole. Remove Castro and Osuna, and the club’s relief ranking ascends up only to the 22-27 range. So, not much more excellent.

The Blue Jays are a team hoping to contend, though, and they’ll probably need something better than mediocre from their bullpen. While the most likely outcome from both Castro and Osuna is something slightly below replacement level, those two — like Cingrani and DeScalfani and Iglesias — also offer a greater range of possible outcomes than other possible options for the Jays’ pen. Some of those outcomes would render Toronto’s relief corps a more effective group overall.

#30 Rangers
Neftali Feliz 65.0 8.1 3.6 1.0 .298 74.1 % 3.91 4.14 0.2
Shawn Tolleson 65.0 8.8 3.6 1.1 .299 74.0 % 3.93 4.09 0.0
Tanner Scheppers 55.0 7.4 2.9 1.0 .305 71.9 % 4.01 4.16 0.1
Roman Mendez 55.0 7.2 4.0 1.1 .300 70.8 % 4.44 4.54 -0.2
Alex Claudio 45.0 7.1 2.6 0.9 .309 71.2 % 3.93 3.86 0.0
Phil Klein 40.0 9.6 4.4 0.9 .300 73.9 % 3.85 4.04 0.0
Anthony Ranaudo 35.0 6.3 3.5 1.3 .299 71.0 % 4.74 4.92 -0.1
Kyuji Fujikawa 30.0 8.7 3.3 1.1 .313 71.8 % 4.11 4.04 0.0
Joe Beimel 25.0 5.9 3.6 1.0 .301 71.0 % 4.47 4.60 -0.1
Jonathan Edwards 20.0 8.4 6.3 1.0 .307 71.1 % 4.92 4.95 -0.1
Lisalverto Bonilla 15.0 9.3 3.9 1.0 .305 72.5 % 4.00 3.97 0.0
Juan Oviedo 10.0 7.8 3.7 1.0 .302 70.6 % 4.27 4.29 0.0
Jamey Wright 10.0 6.9 3.4 0.8 .311 70.4 % 4.15 4.06 0.0
Spencer Patton 10.0 8.9 3.7 1.2 .305 71.6 % 4.24 4.23 0.0
Matt Harrison 10.0 6.0 3.1 1.0 .304 70.7 % 4.37 4.35 0.0
Nick Tepesch 10.0 5.4 2.8 1.2 .304 69.0 % 4.71 4.70 0.0
The Others 5.0 7.9 4.0 1.0 .324 69.7 % 4.73 4.40 0.0
Total 505.0 7.8 3.6 1.1 .303 72.1 % 4.17 4.26 -0.3
At one point in the not very distant past, the discussion regarding Neftali Feliz was whether he would develop into a dominant starter or a dominant reliever, such was the quality of his arm speed and the ease with which he produced it. Entering the 2015 season, the expectations concerning Feliz are different. After working as a starter in 2012, Feliz tore his UCL and was compelled to undergo Tommy John surgery. Returning at the beginning of last July, he featured something less than his characteristic fastball velocity and his career-low strikeout rate of 17.2% was indicative of that.

If there’s a bright spot, it’s that Feliz threw harder in September (94.6 mph over 9.0 innings) than in July (92.0 mph over 13.1 innings) — and the reports from spring appear to skew closer to the latter number than the former. Still, it’s little consolation when one must resort to this sort of logical breakdancing in order to make positive comments about this team’s best reliever. The club’s other top two relievers, meanwhile — Tanner Scheppers and Shawn Tolleson — are dealing with non-negligible injury concerns.

Of some considerable interest in this bullpen — both for his aesthetic virtues and his ability, it would appear, to prevent runs — is left-hander Alex Claudio. Sitting at roughly 84 mph with his fastball, he throws a changeup roughly 20 mph slower than that. He was excellent, nonetheless, in a 12-inning audition with the parent club last September.

There are Intentional Walks in Spring Training.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The other day, Lloyd McClendon got himself ejected from a spring-training game when he argued with an umpire. Following some earlier events, Bruce Chen threw consecutive pitches behind Rickie Weeks, and after the second one, the umpire issued warnings to both dugouts. McClendon took exception to this, figuring a warning should’ve come a pitch earlier. So then, after the second pitch, Chen should’ve been thrown out, and McClendon didn’t like that he wasn’t. After voicing his displeasure, McClendon walked 400 feet to leave the field, which might’ve given him enough time to remember that it’s March, and if anything, you might want your team to have more at-bats against Bruce Chen in the Arizona sunshine.

It’s all kind of silly, on account of how the games don’t mean a single thing. It seems ridiculous for a manager to get ejected arguing that an opposing player should’ve been ejected, in March. The stakes just aren’t there to justify the emotional response. But on some level, you can see how perhaps a manager wants to be able to defend his own player. Good for the trust. And to some degree, managers just can’t help being managers, no matter the setting. Being a baseball manager is something you can’t fully turn off, and this all brings me to the point that there are intentional walks in spring-training games.

Maybe that’s something you already knew. Maybe that’s something you didn’t know, but would’ve guessed. Probably, it’s something you’ve never really noticed, given that intentional walks tend to come later in games, and no one watches the last few innings of anything this time of year. To be honest, odds are you’ve never really thought much about whether there are intentional walks prior to Opening Day. But it’s something that occurs to me every spring, because it’s silly, even if it’s not totally inexplicable.

On, we’re provided spring-training numbers going back to 2006. So, we have a handy decade, allowing that this current spring training is still in progress. How many intentional walks have there been? This is what you might want the data to look like, in a sensible world:

This, though, is what the data actually looks like:

How many intentional walks have there been? Some. There have been some intentional walks, in spring training, over the course of the past 10 years. So far this year, there have been eight. Eight is not very many, but eight is eight more than none, which seems the ideal. If you’re looking for a glimmer of optimism — if optimism can even apply to this in any way — the highest observed total was in 2006. The second-highest observed total was in 2007. Maybe that’s a trend. But then, in 2012, there were twice as many spring-training intentional walks as there were in 2008. This is a thing that most definitely happens. I don’t know if it always has, but all we really care about is the present and the most recent of the past.

Which pitchers have issued this spring’s intentional walks, in which situations? Here’s a table, the likes of which you probably never thought you’d see and consume. Of some interest: the intentional walk that Will Ferrell caught for Jean Machi doesn’t qualify as an event that happened. You could make a weak argument, then, that there have been nine walks. Anyway:

Date Pitcher Batter Inning Bases Outs
7-Mar Edgar Ibarra Andy Parrino 9 1-3 0
16-Mar Cory Mazzoni Blake Tekotte 9 -23 1
20-Mar Blake Smith Billy Butler 9 -23 0
22-Mar Brock Huntzinger Jay Bruce 8 -23 1
23-Mar Phil Klein Joey Votto 9 -23 1
27-Mar Matt Belisle Kirk Nieuwenhuis 8 -23 2
29-Mar Randy Choate David Wright 5 -2- 2
31-Mar Ross Wolf Mitch Haniger 9 -23 1
Thing is, these are all normal intentional-walk situations. Of course they are. While I didn’t list anything about pitcher or batter handedness, the handednesses were what you’d expect. Take Randy Choate, for example. The lefty specialist walked the righty David Wright with a base open so he could face the lefty Lucas Duda. That’s absolutely what you’d expect in a baseball game. But, that’s what you’d expect in a baseball game that matters. Why a few days ago? Choate’s already faced Duda five times in his career. Also, he’s Randy Choate. You kind of know what you’re getting. Choate has actually pitched to Wright once, ever. Maybe you could learn something from letting that play out. Even if Wright reaches base, Choate still faces Duda, and it’s not like runs would matter.

Really, I do get it, kind of. Spring training is about practice, and you want the players to practice in situations they’ll face when things count. Choate will throw meaningful pitches to lefties like Duda. He won’t throw many meaningful pitches to righties like Wright. All these situations mirrored potential regular-season in-game situations, and managers want to see how pitchers respond. Fine! What I don’t get is why the numbers are so low. I don’t quite get the half-measures, or the, I don’t know, one-tenth-measures. Last year, around baseball, the fewest intentional walks issued in any month was 156. In spring training, there were 10. So, in almost all intentional-walk situations in the spring, managers let pitchers just pitch. It was only some of the time, rarely, that the catcher was told to stand up.

Yeah, there are more arms at your disposal in spring. It’s easier to shuffle through relievers. But, take that Matt Belisle intentional walk. In the eighth inning of a close game, he walked a lefty to face a righty with the bases loaded. The very next inning, Jordan Walden pitched out of the same bullpen. The game was still close. With runners on second and third and a righty on deck, he didn’t issue an intentional walk. Walden pitched through it, with the same manager as Belisle, and, I don’t know. I’m sure there was a reason. There’s always some kind of reason.

These spring-training intentional walks — they’re not stupid. Managers don’t do things that are obviously stupid. To some degree, every single one makes sense. But the infrequency also demonstrates that managers usually don’t give a damn, which makes it curious that, sometimes, they do. It might be no more than the fact that managers can’t stop managing. You can’t help what you are. You can’t help but treat Randy Choate the way you’ve always treated Randy Choate. Who’s really going to notice, anyway? Besides me, I guess, but it’s not like I’m actually watching these games.
post #32222 of 72994
Originally Posted by Jewbacca2 View Post

Beer snobs and craft brew guys are the ******* worst. You're drinking beer, get off your damn high horse.

Some guys are annoying but if craft beer is available, there is no way I am getting another beer. laugh.gif

Only way I am getting a Coors light is if there is no hard liquor or wine available. Yes, I would get a glass of wine at a baseball game before a Coors light. laugh.gif
post #32223 of 72994
Heading to the Ballpark today pimp.gif
post #32224 of 72994
Originally Posted by bbllplaya23 View Post

Some guys are annoying but if craft beer is available, there is no way I am getting another beer. laugh.gif

Only way I am getting a Coors light is if there is no hard liquor or wine available. Yes, I would get a glass of wine at a baseball game before a Coors light. laugh.gif

I can't do Coors either.
post #32225 of 72994
Shock Top and Blue Moon are my go to at Games
post #32226 of 72994
Never tried a craft I losing? nerd.gif
post #32227 of 72994
Originally Posted by Mr Marcus View Post

Never tried a craft I losing? nerd.gif

post #32228 of 72994
I don't have a set rule for drinking at a game.
Take a train/uber to the game and drink as much as you want. Unless you'e one of those dudes who doesn't how to act after a few brews laugh.gif
post #32229 of 72994
Originally Posted by erupt107th View Post

I don't have a set rule for drinking at a game.
Take a train/uber to the game and drink as much as you want. Unless you'e one of those dudes who doesn't how to act after a few brews laugh.gif

Angels have the new train station opened a few feet from the stadium. Super easy to take I hear.
post #32230 of 72994
Originally Posted by erupt107th View Post

I don't have a set rule for drinking at a game.
Take a train/uber to the game and drink as much as you want. Unless you'e one of those dudes who doesn't how to act after a few brews laugh.gif

idk how to act regardless :lol



beer can only get me drunk if i hold my piss the whole time , and then its not a fun buzz, so I really dont understand the point of it even existing *shrugs*





BUNCH OF STUFF FOR SALE Including BC3 WC4 Oreo 6 Carmine 6 and many many more

See pics and prices on my Instagram: itsnotme1_3
BUNCH OF STUFF FOR SALE Including BC3 WC4 Oreo 6 Carmine 6 and many many more

See pics and prices on my Instagram: itsnotme1_3
post #32231 of 72994
Safeco has over 100 beers smokin.gif
Kicks 4 Sale |Seattle Seahawks |Seattle Mariners |LA Lakers (Long live the Supersonics) | Instagram = Jetliferivas
Kicks 4 Sale |Seattle Seahawks |Seattle Mariners |LA Lakers (Long live the Supersonics) | Instagram = Jetliferivas
post #32232 of 72994
Originally Posted by Jumpman II View Post

Shock Top and Blue Moon are my go to at Games

No fruits in my beer please. laugh.gif
post #32233 of 72994
Originally Posted by shirt1995 View Post

Originally Posted by erupt107th View Post

I don't have a set rule for drinking at a game.

Take a train/uber to the game and drink as much as you want. Unless you'e one of those dudes who doesn't how to act after a few brews laugh.gif
idk how to act regardless laugh.gif

beer can only get me drunk if i hold my piss the whole time , and then its not a fun buzz, so I really dont understand the point of it even existing *shrugs*


laugh.gif I meant moreso the guys that grt drunk amd try to start fights. If you're just one of dudes that get drunk and try to get the wave started then by all means have a few beers laugh.gif
Originally Posted by Ecook0808 View Post

Originally Posted by erupt107th View Post

I don't have a set rule for drinking at a game.
Take a train/uber to the game and drink as much as you want. Unless you'e one of those dudes who doesn't how to act after a few brews laugh.gif

Angels have the new train station opened a few feet from the stadium. Super easy to take I hear.

Yep! Will be taking advantage of this when I go make it out to the games.
post #32234 of 72994
I can't wait to go to baseball games. Hurry!!!
“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
post #32235 of 72994
Originally Posted by bbllplaya23 View Post

Originally Posted by Jumpman II View Post

Shock Top and Blue Moon are my go to at Games

No fruits in my beer please. laugh.gif

Got to get my vitamins in laugh.gif
post #32236 of 72994
Originally Posted by Jumpman II View Post

Got to get my vitamins in laugh.gif

Same logic applies to veggies on burgers. Gotta get your micro game up for optimal gainz.
post #32237 of 72994
Pulled pork at citi field >
post #32238 of 72994
Usually get the grilled chicken sandwich @ ATT Park pimp.gif
post #32239 of 72994
Originally Posted by Jumpman II View Post

Usually get the grilled chicken sandwich @ ATT Park pimp.gif

Lots of hype behind the garlic fries.

post #32240 of 72994
Originally Posted by Jewbacca2 View Post

Originally Posted by Jumpman II View Post

Usually get the grilled chicken sandwich @ ATT Park pimp.gif

Lots of hype behind the garlic fries.


Always a favorite of mine there pimp.gif
post #32241 of 72994
“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
post #32242 of 72994


Now I have to see this guy flailing wildy at the plate four times a night. Anyway MLB can appeal this?
post #32243 of 72994
Doing us NO favors. laugh.gif
4L 8O 15S16 T23 !42
L. A. A N G E L S, L. A. L A K E R S, U K W I L D C A T S, L. A. R A M S, L. A. S P A R K S.
"This game is in the refrigerator! The door is closed, the lights are out, the eggs...
4L 8O 15S16 T23 !42
L. A. A N G E L S, L. A. L A K E R S, U K W I L D C A T S, L. A. R A M S, L. A. S P A R K S.
"This game is in the refrigerator! The door is closed, the lights are out, the eggs...
post #32244 of 72994

Surprised he didnt get any time


Especially if he failed a test....hope he gets back on track though

You whole crew's ravishing, team's untouchable
In the jungle banging Nas, Mobb Deep and Wu
"My Ohhh My"
You whole crew's ravishing, team's untouchable
In the jungle banging Nas, Mobb Deep and Wu
"My Ohhh My"
post #32245 of 72994




hope he has a good season though.....I feel for people who struggle with addiction

post #32246 of 72994
The Angels are gonna go after Hamilton line the Yankees have with A-Rod. Anything to void that contract.
post #32247 of 72994
Mike DiGiovanna @MikeDiGiovanna
· 6m 6 minutes ago
#Angels not exactly welcoming OF Josh Hamilton back with open arms. This could get ugly.

No surprise.
“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
post #32248 of 72994
if Hamilton gets cut or contract voided I'd like to see him on the Mets if he could handle NY.
post #32249 of 72994

Wasn't something in his contract very specific towards a relapse? I thought I remembered hearing something like that.

Vikings | Timberwolves | Mariners | Twins | Huskies


aka 651


Vikings | Timberwolves | Mariners | Twins | Huskies


aka 651

post #32250 of 72994

they might can get some money but he's still gonna get the bulk



Buster said they didn't mind him getting suspended because it would've saved some money for just this season 



edit: teams need to stop giving out all that money only to start acting like ******* when the decline comes.....they act like he was 26 when he got that contract lol

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