Top MLB teams at each position.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
For this post I was asked to take a look at every position and pick which team has the most overall talent if you look at the organization as a whole. So if a team has a strong shortstop at the major league level but no depth within the organization, it could come in behind a team with a decent shortstop but a couple of really good prospects at the position. So think of this as the sum of current MLB talent plus what's in the pipeline.
It's worth a reminder that strong depth at one position is a good way to fill holes via trades. Anybody saying too much talent at one position doesn't matter because you can't play three shortstops is clueless from a business and personnel standpoint. As a note: outfield and pitching have been consolidated because of how we calculate value at those positions.
The Yankees have more prospect depth at the catcher position than any other team, with Gary Sanchez a potential star if he can improve his receiving enough to remain at the position, while J.R. Murphy is emerging as at least a strong backup. Austin Romine should be getting regular playing time in the majors down the stretch, at least once the Yankees decide their playoff odds are too low to ... well, playing Chris Stewart isn't exactly pushing them toward the playoffs anyway, so why not just play Romine and see what you've got?
That said, the Pirates probably have more present value than the Yankees because of Russell Martin, with Tony Sanchez probably a solid major league backup and 18-year-old Reese McGuire among the game's top dozen or so catching prospects. There is so little catching in full-season minor leagues right now that you would be hard-pressed to identify 10 clear everyday starters without reaching down to short-season leagues.
There just aren't many first-base prospects in the minors right now. Jonathan Singleton of Houston is the only clear top-100 prospect at the position, with Dominic Smith, the Mets' first pick this year, the next-most-likely candidate. The teams in the best shape at this position in the majors -- the Reds (Joey Votto), Diamondbacks (Paul Goldschmidt) and Orioles (Chris Davis) -- are all thin at the position in the minors, with the Orioles boasting the best first-base prospect of those teams in Christian Walker. Call it a split decision between those teams.
The Angels don't have much depth at any position in their minors but at least have some potential at second base, which could make the team willing to move Howie Kendrick or Erick Aybar for pitching this offseason. Grant Green has no position, if we're being honest here, but second base is the least bad option for him. Taylor Lindsey will be a passable defender at second, but his bat will make him a regular, with a pretty left-handed swing and high contact rates throughout his career. Their second pick in the 2012 draft, Alex Yarbrough, looks like a second-division starter, hitting for average in high-A (as he did in college) but with an awful walk rate for an SEC product at that level. Shortstop prospect Jose Rondon, currently raking in short-season Orem, could also end up at second base, with the potential to be an above-average regular or better at either position.
No team has more at shortstop than the Rangers, who have the resurgent Elvis Andrus (.295/.373/.393 since the break) blocking top prospect Jurickson Profar, while Luis Sardinas showed a similar skill set in pitcher-friendly Myrtle Beach before a recent promotion to Double-A. The Rangers' second first-round pick this year, Travis Demeritte, played shortstop in high school but has split time between short and third in rookie league, with third base his most likely destination. Honorable mention goes to Cleveland, who could trade Asdrubal Cabrera this winter if they believe Francisco Lindor is ready, with Dorssys Paulino still promising despite a disappointing first year in full-season ball.
The Cubs were already deep at third base before trading for Texas prospect Mike Olt but are now deeper at the hot corner than any team in baseball. The group is led by Kris Bryant, the second overall pick in this year's Rule 4 draft, now hitting well in high-A Daytona after tearing apart Boise (where he was old for the level). Jeimer Candelario is a work in progress on defense, but has a patient approach and a simple swing that has many evaluators, myself included, believing he'll hit for average when he's a little older. Christian Villanueva, acquired from Texas last year in the Ryan Dempster trade, could end up a second-division starter. And shortstop Javier Baez may end up at third base, just adding to the team's stockpile at third -- which could prove useful for a future trade for pitching.
The Twins have a surfeit of center fielders with Aaron Hicks, whom I still like in the long term despite his rough ride in the majors this year; Byron Buxton, the top overall prospect in the minors right now at age 19; and second baseman Eddie Rosario, who was a full-time center fielder until 2012 and could return to center if the need arose in the future. Cedar Rapids shortstop Niko Goodrum may end up in center field, although his bat has been slow to develop, while the Kernels' right fielder, German-born Max Kepler, is back on the field after missing two months due to injury and is one of the team's top 10 prospects.
However, for overall system value, including the majors, I'd take the Pirates' outfield crop, with Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte in the majors, Gregory Polanco probably their best long-term option in center field, and first-round pick and five-tool talent Austin Meadows performing very well in the Gulf Coast League. Josh Bell, their big bonus baby from the 2011 draft, still has big offensive potential, although he'll almost certainly end up in left field and lost nearly all of 2012 to a knee injury, while I still think Jose Osuna will end up in the majors as at least a part-time outfielder due to his power. I'd even throw JaCoby Jones in there as a high-ceiling but low-probability center-field candidate, drafted in the third round this year and in need of a lot of help with his swing to help his athleticism translate into performance.
The Cardinals have pitching depth that most other organizations can only dream of (although the Rays and Pirates can stay awake to see something comparable). With Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller, and Lance Lynn locked into the rotation, with Joe Kelly serviceable while they wait for one of their many pitching prospects to take over, they're in superb shape at the major league level. Potential starters who are in or close to the majors include Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, and Trevor Rosenthal, the latter perhaps locked into a relief role that doesn't take full advantage of his arsenal or athleticism. The Cards then added low-ceiling but high-probability lefty Marco Gonzales, a very athletic pitcher with a plus-plus change and above-average curveball, in the first round this year, as well as polished prep lefty Rob Kaminsky, who sits in the low 90s with a future plus curveball as well. They could eventually see some more value from lefty Jaime Garcia or right-hander Tyrell Jenkins, both out with injuries for the rest of this year, or Jordan Swagerty, coming back slowly from March 2012 Tommy John surgery.
The Rays have the strongest major league rotation right now, with David Price, Chris Archer and Matt Moore all showing top-of-the-rotation stuff this year, but top prospect Taylor Guerrieri is out until at least late 2013 after Tommy John surgery, while 2013 first-rounder Ryne Stanek has yet to take the mound in a professional game as he works through some hip soreness. The Pirates' major league rotation isn't as good as it's appeared this year, thanks to huge help from their defense (including positioning), but with Jameson Taillon, Nick Kingham and Tyler Glasnow all marching toward the big leagues, the rotation's eventual quality may end up surpassing its current reputation.
Observations from Perfect Game Classic.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The 11th annual Perfect Game All-American Classic took place Sunday evening at Petco Park, and as usual, it featured a large percentage of the top prep prospects for next year's draft. Here's a rundown of some of the guys who stood out at this outstanding event.
• Shepherd, Texas, right-hander Tyler Kolek, all 6-foot-6, 245 pounds of him, showed big velocity yet again. He worked 93-97 mph, throwing just one off-speed pitch in an 81 mph curveball. Assuming he stays healthy, he'll probably be the first prep pitcher taken next spring because of his sheer size and fastball. However, other guys in the class have better feel or command.
• One of those is Grant Holmes, brother of former South Carolina pitcher and current Atlanta farmhand Colby Holmes. Grant is bigger and taller than his older brother, working from 92-95 on Sunday, including seven straight 93 mph fastballs to open the game, with minimal effort involved. His 81-82 mph slider had promise as well. He is committed to Florida.
• Lefty Justus Sheffield, younger brother of unsigned Boston draft pick Jordan Sheffield, had to drop out of school for a few days to participate in this game -- because Tennessee has some really stupid rules for student-athletes, apparently. He showed a four-pitch mix in his inning of work, with a 90-93 mph fastball and a hard-diving slider at 82-83 the standouts. He's committed to Vanderbilt, where his older brother will continue his rehab from Tommy John surgery this fall. And hats off to Justus for a little civil disobedience.
• Touki Toussaint showed his usual arm strength, although 89-94 is actually a little low for him. His curveball, at 72-73 mph, ranged from a 59-footer to an absolute hammer, but he had no command of anything. That has been the norm for him in showcases. He's lean and athletic with a quick arm and he's hit 97 mph lots of times, but I'd like to see Touki (pronounced TOO-key) show he can pitch too.
• Hawaiian left-hander Kody Medeiros showed a 93-94 mph fastball from a sidearm slot, so it's hard to think of him as anything outside of a reliever. But he'd be some kind of reliever, with riding life on the fastball and good deception as well. His 78-80 mph slider was also plus, with hard, visible break, a real knee-buckler for left-handed hitters. High school pitchers who project as relievers typically don't go high in the draft, but Medeiros' raw stuff is so good, meaning he could move a little more quickly to the majors, that he might be an exception.
• Brady Aiken was one of two players in the game from San Diego's Cathedral Catholic High School, along with infielder Sean Bouchard. Aiken started for the West team, working from 90-92 with good deception and an average or better curveball at 73-76. He's shown better velocity than that and is one of the more advanced arms in the class.
• Georgia right-hander Dylan Cease produced 93-96 mph velocity despite a stiff delivery with some head violence at release, with the fastball coming out at surprising speed given how his arm works. He threw 28 pitches in his one inning of work, but his only other pitch was a below-average slurvy curveball that he'll have to replace with a slider given his arm slot and delivery.
• The position player crop wasn't as promising as the arms were. Alex Jackson and Jacob Gatewood are the two famous names in the draft class, with Gatewood particularly gaining wider notice after his performance in the home run derby at Citi Field, but neither player looked good this weekend or at the previous week's Area Code Games (which I'll discuss in a separate post). Gatewood seemed to have "homeritis," trying to pull everything as far as he possibly could, even though scouts know he has huge raw power and would prefer to see him make contact and use the whole field more. He does have a plus arm at short that would play at third base. Jackson scuffled behind the plate -- to be fair, I didn't get a throw time under 2 seconds from any catcher during my whole week in SoCal -- and was overrotating at the plate, also trying to do too much. I think he's the better pure hitter, although his future probably isn't as a catcher.
• North Carolina outfielder Braxton Davidson looks like one of the best pure bats in the class, with a simple, direct swing that should produce line drives. He doesn't stride and doesn't get much hip rotation, however, which limits his potential power output unless he starts using his lower half more. He showed an above-average arm in right field and should be fine to play there in pro ball rather than shifting to left field or first base.
• Florida outfielder Michael Gettys showed the best fielding arm, a legit 80 from center field, as well as plus running speed, which he showcased on a line drive to the right-center gap; even though the center fielder cut it off, Gettys never stopped running and ended up with a double.
• Tiquan Forbes has a lot working against him as a prep position player from Mississippi -- a class of players with a pretty high failure rate. He has an inconsistent swing and isn't a plus runner. He did, however, make the play of the game: At third base, he jumped to save an errant throw from the catcher then came down and swept his glove to tag the runner all in one movement. On a day when we needed outs when we could get them, Forbes' move was much appreciated.
(If you're curious, with Billy Hamilton still in Triple-A and having a rough ride, the last Mississippi hitter to sign out of high school and produce at least 0.5 rWAR in the majors is Bill Hall, drafted in 1998 by Milwaukee, who has produced 9.6 rWAR. He's second all-time in this group, behind Charlie Hayes at 10.4 rWAR and ahead of Dustan Mohr at 2.4 rWAR. Only two Mississippi prep bats have gone in the first round in the past 10 years: Wendell Fairley in 2006 and D.J. Davis in 2012. We should evaluate players individually, but the low caliber of prep baseball in Mississippi seems to be a limiting factor for those kids in pro ball.)
• I get a lot of questions from Canadian readers about outfielder Gareth Morgan, who has the hype but not the tools to be a high pick next year. He's strong, but his weight transfer is inconsistent and he didn't show any above-average bat speed, struggling to catch up to 92-93 mph fastballs. He has an average arm and is a below-average runner. I see a left fielder who has power, though he will have to hit a lot more than he did last week to get to that power potential.
• Just a few other names to keep in mind from the game: catcher Jakson Reetz of Hickman, Neb.; right-hander Luis Ortiz of Sanger, Calif.; right-hander Joe Gatto of Hammonton, N.J.; right-hander/shortstop Nick Gordon (son of Tom) of Windermere, Fla.; and right-hander Sean Reid-Foley of Jacksonville, Fla. All are at least potential Day 1 picks.
Scouting the Giants' top draft picks.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
I stopped by the Arizona League Giants' home game on Monday to see their top two picks from this June, first-rounder Christian Arroyo and second-rounder Ryder Jones, as well as a few lower-tier prospects.
Arroyo was the most impressive of the group, primarily for his swing and ability to put the bat on the ball. He squared up several pitches and also showed he could foul off a lot of pitches that were too tough to hit well. He's already rotating his hips when his front leg lands, but otherwise his swing is very simple and direct, with a small load and quick path to the ball. Arroyo also has a great follow-through for line-drive power. His actions at shortstop are fine as long as the ball is hit to him or to his left, but to his right, his first step isn't quick enough and he doesn't have the arm for the long throw from the hole.
I think he ends up at second base, but has a chance for a grade-60 bat or better, which would make him at least a solid regular. For Giants fans looking for a comparison, I like him more than I liked Joe Panik when the Giants took him at the end of the first round in 2011, viewing Panik then (and now) as a utility man at best, whereas Arroyo has a good chance to exceed that.
Jones is raw, more of a long-term lottery-ticket kind of play. It seems like it'll take a lot of work just for him to be able to hit. His lower half is very noisy, with his back leg almost fully collapsing through contact, while his front leg is never quite stable enough for him to drive off it. He loads deeply, creating a long path to the ball from that position. His recognition of pitches and locations wasn't good on Monday -- he swung through a couple of high fastballs and also pulled his hands in a few times as if he were expecting a pitch on the inner half, only to get something out over the plate.
While he didn't square anything up in this one game, I would imagine when he does get a hold of a pitch it takes off, as he's very strong and rotates his hips heavily. That, though, might make him a 4 bat/6 (or 7) power guy. He's very rough at third base, playing the position like an outfielder just converted to the infield. He whiffed on a routine grounder a little to his left by failing to move his feet into position and then failing to grab the ball cleanly with his glove. He generally reacted to groundballs like a player who's uncomfortable at that spot. He's a project.
Jonah Arenado is Nolan's younger brother, drafted by the Giants this year in the 16th round out of high school. He has pretty strong hands and a very short path to the ball. His hand-eye coordination didn't look great on Monday, and he's so short to the ball that it limits his ability to drive it. With a ball up that he could have whacked to the gap, he was more likely to foul it off or pop it up (slamming his bat on one pop-up in disgust with himself). This was the briefest look I got at any player, in terms of the number of swings I saw, so I'd rate my level of confidence in this assessment as pretty low. I mention him primarily, because his brother's in the majors, and he looks better than your average 16th-rounder.
The Giants started 21-year-old Venezuelan lefty Luis Ysla, who signed last year for just $7,500 as an older free agent and is making his pro debut this year. I think he's a big league reliever if he stays healthy, as he was 88-93 from a low slot and could sweep a slurvy breaking ball away from left-handed hitters, filling up the strike zone and doing all of this even though he might as well have been playing catch. With some work just to help him get his arm action more consistent and to use his legs a little more, he could become more than that, but he has a floor as a lefty specialist.
Scouting top Dodgers, Padres prospects.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
LAKE ELSINORE, Calif. -- En route from Long Beach, where I was at the New Balance Area Code Games all week, to San Diego, for the Perfect Game All-American Classic, I stopped in Lake Elsinore on Friday night for a look at the Dodgers' top prospect, shortstop Corey Seager, younger (but bigger) brother of Mariners infielder Kyle.
Seager, 19, was recently promoted to high Class A Rancho Cucamonga, and the Quakes were in town to play the Lake Elsinore Storm (Padres).
Seager's swing and stance have only slightly changed since he was a first-round pick last year out of Northwest Cabarrus High School in Concord, N.C. A left-handed hitter, he's always had a wide base after his stride, rolling over his front foot slightly through contact, but the stride is a little longer now and that front side goes a little softer due to his overrotation. It's a minor issue, maybe something to address if he's still hitting .190 in a few weeks, but otherwise the hand strength and leverage that made him a top prospect as an amateur are all still present.
His athleticism is evident when he's out at shortstop, but his actions aren't good enough for him to stay there, and his size is a major factor working against him -- at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds he'd be the largest shortstop in major league history if he played even one full season at the position, and his body isn't going to become faster or looser in time. I think he goes to third base and becomes an impact bat there with 25-plus-homer potential.
• The Storm had two hitting prospects of note in their lineup in shortstop Jace Peterson and outfielder Travis Jankowski. (Top prospect Austin Hedges was promoted to Double-A 10 days earlier.)
Peterson stood out in a good way, especially on the triple he smoked in his final at-bat. His approach is quiet and simple, with good hand acceleration from his load position, and he rotated his hips very well to drive the ball the other way. After that, his plus running speed took over and he made it to third easily.
Peterson was a supplemental first-round pick in 2011 and a two-sport player at McNeese State, also playing football, but despite a lack of major conference baseball experience, he's shown solid feel for the game, including strong plate discipline and good hands at short. (He was the DH on Friday night, so observations on his fielding come from other scouts who've seen him.)
My only real concern on him is that he's old for the level, 23 in the hitter-friendly Cal League, and the Padres haven't promoted him yet even though he's not blocked in Double-A. San Antonio's shortstop is Jeudy Valdez, who has a .302 OBP and was outrighted off the Padres' 40-man roster earlier this year. It's time to move Peterson up so we can all see if he might be a long-term answer for the Padres up the middle.
• Jankowski, on the other hand, looked weak, almost frail, with less bat speed than he had when I saw him in the Cape Cod League All-Star Game two years ago. He can still run, but he's slugging all of .359 despite playing in the Cal League, and even that is a touch misleading because many of his extra bases are due to his speed, not power.
I can't see him being more than an emergency call-up guy unless he gets a lot stronger, as pitchers at higher levels are going to pound him on the inner half.
Top prospects whose stock is falling.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
I've been asked recently about a number of prospects having disappointing years, especially players who were on my preseason top 100 list but missed my midseason top 50 rankings due to poor performance coupled with negative scouting reports. I've talked to a number of pro scouts over the past few days about these players to get some updated takes on their futures and whether any of these players' ships have sailed already.
This omits players who will fall from their 2013 rankings due to injury, including Dylan Bundy (Tommy John surgery), Taylor Guerrieri (same), Casey Kelly (it's like an epidemic), Rymer Liriano (we should just quarantine the Padres), Tyler Austin (wrist), Adam Morgan (shoulder) and Hak-Ju Lee (ankle). I'm also giving a pass to Courtney Hawkins, who was promoted too aggressively, starting the year in high Class A at age 19 when he probably belonged in extended spring training, yet who still has a very high ceiling if he can recover from a year when he'll be lucky to strike out in only 40 percent of his plate appearances.
Trevor Bauer, RHP | Cleveland Indians
While Didi Gregorius hasn't exactly lit up the National League, so far he's provided a better return to Arizona than Bauer has to Cleveland, which is more a function of how bad Bauer's been since the trade.
Bauer has two major issues -- his velocity is way down, and he can't make an adjustment when it's clear that he can't locate near the strike zone. Bauer was still sitting in the 92-93 range in his few outings in the majors, but in Triple-A he has been more in the 89-90 range, which, for a guy who hit 97 mph regularly in college but never had great life on the fastball, is a serious problem.
Just three of his 350 fastballs thrown in the majors this year clocked in above 94 mph, and one of those came in above Michael Young's forehead. Add to that his severe trouble locating the fastball, especially when he's working at the higher end of his velocity range, with more than half of his fastballs 92 and up coming in belt-high and above, and you've got a recipe for ... well, Trevor Bauer's 2013 season.
Bauer needs to hit the reset button, and probably to let the Cleveland coaching staff help him do it, or else he's a future fifth starter at best.
Bubba Starling, OF | Kansas City Royals
Starling was one of the most athletic high school prospects I've ever seen, but he's been an enormous disappointment in pro ball, looking "lost at the plate" with "no approach or feel" according to one of several scouts I talked to about him, none of whom wrote him up as even an average regular.
He can still run and he's playing solid defense in center field, but he's a train wreck at the plate, with no silver linings to be found unless you want to find hope in him improving his contact rate in the second half while having less success when he makes contact. He just turned 21 on Sunday and doesn't look ready for a promotion to high Class A, so he's well behind where the fifth overall pick of the 2011 draft should be on the development curve.
Gary Sanchez, C | New York Yankees
Sanchez was just promoted to Double-A Trenton after a so-so first half-plus in high Class A Tampa, hitting for just moderate power (although the Florida State League in general dampens power) and a .315 OBP. This was contrary to earlier rumors that the Yankees wanted Sanchez to catch their better prospect arms in high Class A.
His main problem is, and has been, his effort level, with one scout calling him "lazy" and another saying he was "playing like he's on major league rehab." I do think his raw power will emerge more now that he's out of Tampa, but he'll need to show more energy behind the plate, where his receiving lags behind his throwing, and more discipline at the plate to fulfill his All-Star promise.
Kaleb Cowart, 3B | Los Angeles Angels
Cowart is the one player on this list for whom I received some positive comments from scouts during this exercise. His year at the plate has been abysmal, hitting .217/.281/.304 for Double-A Arkansas, worse against right-handed pitchers (which is bad, as there are a lot of them around the majors), showing no improvement as the year has gone on.
He's loading very late, and his timing has been off consistently -- something the Angels' player development staff should notice and look to fix -- leading to his poor results on contact this year. He's still a plus defender at third with an 80-grade arm (on the 20-80 scouting scale), and he's added some strength this year which should help him increase his power slightly if and when he improves that timing element. The Angels need to clean this one up, as he remains the highest-ceiling hitting prospect in the system.
Matt Purke, LHP | Washington Nationals
Purke hasn't been the same since TCU overused him his freshman year in college, although a delivery that put too much stress on his shoulder to begin with didn't help his cause. Back from shoulder surgery that ended his 2012 season, Purke is now working with just an average fastball for high Class A Potomac, 89-93 on his best nights, and is struggling to command the pitch. Scouts I talked to pegged him as a reliever at best, between the loss of velocity, the arm slot and swing, and lack of command.
Cody Buckel, RHP | Texas Rangers
Buckel came into the year as a low-ceiling but apparently high-probability prospect who threw strikes with an arsenal of solid-average pitches, but no projection or wipeout pitch. Unfortunately, he now has the yips, also known as The Thing, and sometimes called Steve Blass Disease (although that term is falling into disuse as people forget that Blass was Patient Zero).
The prognosis isn't great -- he walked 28 in 9 1/3 innings at Double-A this year before being sent to extended spring training -- as few guys who've had that problem have been able to recover their previous command or control, probably because the causes of the yips are still not well understood. It could be an underlying injury, but in Buckel's case that doesn't appear to apply, leaving his future very cloudy.
Daniel Corcino, RHP | Cincinnati Reds
Corcino posted a 3.01 ERA in Double-A last year with 126 punchouts and 65 walks in 143 1/3 innings, giving no indication that he'd flop to a 5.76 ERA through 111 innings this year with just 72 strikeouts and 55 walks at Triple-A.
Scouting reports coming back are consistent -- he's been reduced to just one solid-average pitch, his 88-94 mph fastball, with the changeup and slider both going backward. He's also struggled to make any kind of adjustment, although I'm not sure what adjustment he could make that could make up for the fact he doesn't have an off-speed weapon to get hitters out. At this point he looks more like a reliever than a starter, and that even assumes the fastball will play up in shorter stints.
Trevor Story, SS | Colorado Rockies
I was a real skeptic on Story's bat when he was coming out of high school in 2011, tabbing him as a potentially plus defender at shortstop who'd need work to develop into any kind of hitter. All he did from the moment he signed through the end of last year was hit, and I ranked him in my overall top 100 last winter, only to find out that the Rockies decided that he needed to hit for more power and remodeled his swing to resemble Troy Tulowitzki's.
While his numbers last year were inflated by the hitter's haven that is low Class A Asheville, he still had an isolated power of .193 on the road, very good for a 19-year-old middle infielder in the Sally League, so I'm not sure why the Rockies felt they needed to tinker with his swing. The results have been hideous -- a .219/.290/.362 line with 148 strikeouts in 446 plate appearances for high Class A Modesto.
At age 20, he has time for someone to try to undo what's been done to his mechanics, but it's time to scrap that plan and let Story go back to what worked for him before 2013.