Great article Mike. How do you see Matt Barnes fitting in? He had one of the strongest first impressions I can remember, but simmered once being called up to AA last year. His FIP indicates he’s actually having a very solid season. Is he anywhere near the top 10?
I like the list as a Twins Fan. Yet I have a few questions
1. Is one month of outcomes enough to change prospect rankings which are by nature predicated on tools? While Buxton’s been awesome- I do wonder how one tells the difference between a red-hot month versus actual development?
2. Can a Prospect in Low A really be the best prospect in Baseball due to risk factors involved in their development. While I agree Buxton has the best tools. It would seem hard to think that the Twins shouldn’t trade him for Oscar Tavares since Tavares is more probable and closer to delivering value.
My thoughts are Walker might be 6th. Right now, I want to see how the curveball develops. In June, Walker may very well enter the top-5. If you said, “Walker has to be top-5!” My only question would be who to bump at that point.
Gausman for #1? Not yet. Love the K/BB. It’s insane. However, 30 hits in 26 IP? He has been hittable in a way Walker/Bradley have not been. I could have added Gausman instead of Wheeler, but I really wanted to make a point to discuss Wheeler given he was ranked 11th and the numbers are iffy right now.
Outcomes and their importance depends on the player. I worried about Buxton struggling after seeing a raw player last August. Now, he’s walking more than he’s striking out and dominating full season baseball. Have I scouted Buxton this year? No, but I was not expecting his tools to start showing through so quickly.
For number 2, just look at the list. Players who never played a day of professional baseball have been ranked in the top spot. As for Taveras, I was pretty clear as to why he’s not listed. The Cardinals outfielder probably won’t be prospect eligible next season. If we get to August and Taveras has 0 big league at bats, I just might shift him back to number one. This is a very fluid list.
Knowing how much you love Xander Bogaerts (and for good reason) I am a little surprised to see that you didn’t push the notion that he’d be #1 more in the article. Personally I think it’ll be Bogaerts or Bundy.
Are you sure he’s been “hittable,” and not “allowing hits?” Gausman’s giving up 54% GB and 10% LD so far this year, are you really hanging a “hittable” tag on him based on a .341 BABIP through 28.2 AA innings (fwiw, Bradley’s has been even higher this year)? Obviously you’re doing your own thing, but isn’t this FanGraphs? I see a lot of this kind of thing actually, when it comes to prospects. People seem to get a lot more…traditional with their evaluations, and ignore stuff that would scream fluke if it were true of a MLB player.
For number 2, just look at the list. Players who never played a day of professional baseball have been ranked in the top spot.
Two of them were high school pitchers long before the idea of “TINSTAAPP” and the apparent full realization of the risks of young pitchers. The others were one of the best college players ever, an established professional (but international) player, and a freak.
In your rebuttal, you mentioned LD% in MILB as part of Gausman’s defense. A few years ago, a friend in the industry told me a story about a AA team who hired a new scorekeeper mid season who did not know what a LD was. For two months, no line drives were hit in this park….on paper at least. It’s the most unreliable stat in MILB.
How do you see Wheeler’s development playing out over the summer? His struggles adjusting coupled with the Mets’ terrible bullpen makes me wonder if he might be better off getting seasoned until a late-season call-up. If he’s still eligible next spring, would he crack the top 5?
Comment by Tiers for Fiers — May 3, 2013 @ 5:57 pm
Is Kyle Zimmer even close to being in the discussion?
Honestly, I think September. Even if Beltran or someone else goes on the DL, it only opens up playing time for Matt Adams. I don’t think they’re going to bring up Taveras to get a few spot starts, so he’s dependent on two injuries in the OF/1B mix.
Comment by Sparkles Peterson — May 3, 2013 @ 9:52 pm
How do you figure Xander is going to lose his eligibility by the end of the year? I don’t see the Sox rushing him up, if they need a SS they will bring up Iglesias before Bogaerts.
That’s an amusing story, Mike, but I’m sure you realize my defense of Gausman didn’t hinge on the inerrancy of minor league BIP classifications.
In this context, if you’re gonna dismiss the guy as too hittable, it can only mean that he’s the type of pitcher who’s going to allow a substantially higher than average BABIP going forward. That’s an extraordinary (to be generous) prognostication to make based on 28 innings of AA, and if it’s based solely on hit numbers then it moves well into absurd territory.
You are right Sparkles. Adams doing well pushes Taveras further back. This is why I’ll be monitoring throughout the season. In the spring, I thought his receiving 300 plate appearances or more was a slam dunk. Not anymore. For now, Craig and Jay aren’t playing well and Beltran is always an injury concern. I just don’t know how it’s going to play out.
I don’t think he’ll be eligible. With overreaction to April stats, Wheeler’s situation was an opportunity to educate readers on the situation the Mets faced. Whenever I can associate a player’s struggles with the situation and not so much the player, it’s something I hope readers take note of.
He certainly has the stuff to crack the top-5, but it will be tough for him to post the gaudy numbers needed in that park.
I heard great things about his stuff while out in Arizona. Remember, this was a look at a few guys primed to make a run at the top prospect in all of baseball. It’s not a, “Hey, this guy is off to a good start” piece. Zimmer is top-20, top-15 maybe, but I can’t form a viable argument to say Zimmer at 21 is better than Archie Bradley or Taijuan Walker at 20.
I don’t think Gausman should or will be #1 by any stretch, I’m only taking issue with the hittable thing (which was the reason you gave). It’s the process, not the conclusion. He’s allowed more hits, that’s a statement of fact. He’s more hittable, that is a subjective assessment. All things being equal, he should allow more hits because he strikes out fewer batters, but you seemed to be hinting at something more than that and I was trying to figure out what that was. H/IP is an extremely incomplete picture.
Mike – you were quite clear you believe Gausman is more hittable, but like some others, I don’t find your evidence persuasive.
It is true that in a tiny sample size this year Gausman is giving up about a hit an inning while Walker has given up close to a hit every two innings.
But Walker is repeating AA and if you look at his performance there the first time around in a far bigger sample size last year, Walker gave up 124 hits in 126.2 innings — basically the same hit per inning that Gausman has shown so far this season in his first go-around in AA.
I’m not sure why you don’t consider Walker’s hits/per inning last year and rely instead on this year’s small sample size, but here are some cautionary words:
All five are pitching in AA this year, none of them are anywhere close to anyone’s top 10 list of prospects, some aren’t even whiffing top 100 and all of the are giving up just as few or even fewer hits per inning than is Walker.
Clearly, Walker is a better prospect than those five but not because he’s given up few hits in April, a trait they all share, but because he has an electric arm that leaves scouts drooling and an age-to-level ratio that suggests he has ample time to overcome issues with command. For those same reasons he may be a better prospect than Gausman. But none of that is good reason to put so much weight in the number of hits given up in a single month.
When Taijuan Walker work up this morning, he was 19-months younger than Kevin Gausman. In baseball years, Walker is in his Age-20 season versus Gausman’s Age-22 season.
You are asking me to compare Gausman’s first stint in Double-A (at 22) to Walker’s at 19. None of the contacts I have look at players this way. It’s an apples-to-oranges comparison.
The fair comparison is to take Gausman NOW and compare to what Walker projects to be two years from now. That’s the real apples-to-apples comparison.
You mention SSS with Walkers H/9 and that’s fine. But with his start, do you really envision him giving all those hits back – Especially when most peak in the summer months? I’d be willing to bet he doesn’t.
Plus, your cautionary names include players I’ve seen before. Workman and Ramirez are both is their age-24 seasons. Neither has half the talent of Walker.
These are all things I adjust for because I spend so much time at the park in general. If you want to ding me for not discussing Gausman’s age WITH my response to the hits allowed, fine, but understand I was literally prepping for Brian Johnson vs. Mauricio Cabrera in Rome at the time I attempted to respond to a few of these comments.
Mike — thanks for your thoughtful reply, which lays out a much more compelling case for favoring Walker over Gausman. I obviously agree with the importance of age relative to league. And thanks too for mentioning the time constraints — It is a challenge to reply in fulsome detail to every comment when you are working on your next piece.
I do expect to see some regression in Walker’s hits per inning — his current level isn’t sustainable — but agree that we should expect him to improve on last year.
I haven’t look at his and Gausman’s batted ball data, which as you note, may not be entirely reliable, but to the extent that Gausman induces more groundballs we’d expect a higher BABIP (with off-setting advantages that come with keeping the ball out of the air).
Walker’s progress from now will depend on his continuing health — as for all pitching prospects — and his capacity to improve his command: In addition to working in his curve Walker has sometimes struggled with his fastball command. His youth and arm are both reasons to be optimistic.
None of my comments were meant to take Walker down notches in the prospect rankings, for example, his repetition at AA. His pathway to the majors may have gotten shorter too with the questionable left shoulder of Danny Hultzen. But of all the reasons to love Walker as a prospect, his hits per inning so far in a SSS aren’t high on my list — I’d like him just as much with his electric arm, age and general performance even is he was giving up more hits per inning mover a SSS.
Keep up the good work — most of the rest of us, myself included, are armchair observers of prospects, so your firsthand reporting can provide insight.
I’m actually watching Gausman pitch right now while working on a piece for tomorrow and he’s being hit around pretty good. The stuff is big, without a doubt, but I still think the Gausman > Bundy talk this spring might have hyped him up a bit much.
As M’s fan I like that Walker is working on his pitches to become a more complete pitcher rather than just make it to the bigs. I suspect he could be good enough to make it but needs this time to complete the project. Thanks for your insights.
Who are some guys who have Helium’d their way from the 30-50 range into top 15-20 discussion now?
Looking for some potentially still unowned prospects to target in ottoneu that will be hot names as the year goes on.