Reviewing the Top 100 Prospects List, 25-1

We’re wrapping up the review of my pre-season Fangraphs Top 100 Prospects list. You can read the previous three parts of this series by clicking the links below:

Prospects 100-76
Prospects 75-51
Prospects 50-26

25. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP, Atlanta: Vizcaino was haunted by elbow injuries in previous years and finally succumbed to Tommy John surgery at the beginning of the year. He should return to full strength in 2013 and it will be interesting to see if Atlanta views him as a long-term starter or reliever. (Value Down)

24. Hak-Ju Lee, SS, Tampa Bay: I ranked Lee very aggressively on this list and fully expected him to breakout in 2012 after flashing good speed, the ability to hit for average and plus defensive tools (both fielding and arm strength). Unfortunately he scuffled early and is just now starting to really turn things around. I still believe he’ll develop into a solid big league regular at shortstop. (Value Down)

23. Jarrod Parker, RHP, Oakland: Getting traded from Arizona to Oakland is about the best thing that can happen to a young pitcher, as Parker went from a hitter’s environment to an extreme pitcher’s environment. The young right-hander has made 14 big league starts in 2012 and currently has a 2.86 ERA. His fly-ball tendencies have been muted by his home park and it’s helped him survive with an above-average walk rate (4.34 BB/9). (Value Up)

22. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado: Just 21, Arenado is having a decent season in double-A but his wRC+ is right around average at 101. His power output is down from last year, with his ISO dropping from .190 to .120. There have also been concerned raised over his makeup and maturity… and it’s not the first time that these issues have been raised. (Value Down)

21. Anthony Rendon, 3B, Washington: Rendon, an injury magnet in college, appeared in just two games before his entire season was wiped out by an ankle injury. His lack of durability is a major red flag but guys like Paul Molitor have bounced back from repeated injuries to have productive careers. (Value Down)

20. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle: Just 19 years old, Walker is holding his own in double-A He has a 4.50 ERA but his FIP sits at 3.59 in 70.0 innings. His walk rate is a little high but he’s struck out 9.13 batters per nine innings. The youngster has a very high ceiling and could be ready for the Majors by the end of 2013. (Value Static)

19. Danny Hultzen, LHP, Seattle: After signing late in 2011, Hultzen did not make his pro debut until 2012 (although he pitched 19.1 innings in the Arizona Fall League) and has already reached triple-A. He’s spent the majority of the year, though, at double-A and has a strikeout rate of 9.44 K/9 with a 1.19 ERA. (Value Up)

18. Jacob Turner, RHP, Detroit: The Tigers organization has been suffering from a lack of minor league depth for a number of years now and the club has attempted to compensate for that by rushing many of its prospects through the minors. It hasn’t worked well at all for the Tigers and Turner has been inconsistent in 2012. (Value Down)

17. Zack Wheeler, RHP, New York NL: I couldn’t believe that the Giants organization gave Wheeler away in a trade with the Mets for a half season of veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran – and the swap still baffles me to this day. The right-hander has allowed just one home run with 6.41 hits per nine innings in 92.2 innings this season. His walk rate has also improved each of the past three years. (Value Up)

16. Wil Myers, OF, Kansas City (Value Up): Myers, 21, had a down year in 2011 at double-A and returned to the level this year with a vengeance. His wRC+ rate rose from 104 to 219. He hit .351 with an ISO rate of .388 in 134 at-bats. Promoted to triple-A, Myers continues to hit for both power and average. (Value Up)

15. Devin Mesoraco, C, Cincinnati (Value Down): The organization believed in Mesoraco enough to include fellow catching prospect Yasmani Grandal in a deal to acquire young pitcher Mat Latos. Unfortunately, Dusty Baker is the Reds manager. His handling of the young catcher has left something to be desired. Mesoraco is having a very poor season but he’s appeared in just 38 games while playing second fiddle to Ryan Hanigan. (Value Down)

14. Manny Machado, SS, Baltimore: Pushed with an assignment to double-A to begin 2012 despite a wRC+ rate of 95 in 63 games, Machado has performed admirably. He’s hitting just .264 but has good power production to go along with solid on-base skills and nice contact rates. He may not stick at shortstop but Machado has the potential to develop into a middle-of-the-order threat. (Value Static)

13. Jesus Montero, C/DH, Seattle: The trade to Seattle opened up an immediate big league role for Montero but it’s been a disappointing season, which has included both offensive struggles and injuries. With a wRC+ of 78 at the MLB level, the catcher may need a little more minor league seasoning when he comes off the disabled list. (Value Down)

12. Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona: One of my favorite arms from the 2011 draft, Bradley started off the year very strongly but he’s been inconsistent, with each good month followed by a poor month. He’s given up just 46 hits in 81.2 innings but has allowed 57 walks. The control issues are not surprising given his age and it may take some patience but Bradley has one of the highest ceilings of any pitcher currently in the minors. (Value Static)

11. Tyler Skaggs, LHP, Arizona: Skaggs, 21, made 13 starts at double-A to begin the year and posted very good numbers, including 71 Ks in 69.2 innings. He was recently promoted to triple-A and pitching in the potent Pacific Coast League will certainly help prepare him for his home ball park, which favors hitters. Skaggs has the ceiling of a No. 2 starter. (Value Up)

10. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pittsburgh: Taillon remains one of the best pitchers in the minors that no one is talking about. The young hurler can sit in the mid-90s and touch the upper 90s with his fastball, and also has a very good curveball. Taillon pitches with above-average control for his age, as well. He’s almost ready for double-A and has an outside shot of reaching the Majors at the age of 21. (Value Up)

9. Trevor Bauer, RHP, Arizona: Bauer, 21, has been just as good as advertised. He’s reached the Majors in just his first full season in pro ball. The right-hander has the ceiling of a top-of-the-rotation starter but won’t reach that ceiling until he polishes up his command and control. (Value Up)

8. Gerrit Cole, RHP, Pittsburgh: Cole has impressed with his fastball velocity, strong strikeout rate and good ground-ball numbers but whispers continue to suggest he’s headed for a high-leverage reliever role at the big league level. With that said, he’s produced decent numbers and has already reached double-A. I remain optimistic that he’ll stick in the starting rotation as a big leaguer. (Value Static)

7. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore: Bundy blew threw low-A ball and did not allow an earned run in 30.0 innings of work (eight starts). He’s now pitching at high-A ball as a 19 year old and has a 3.58 ERA with 34 Ks in 32.2 innings of work. It’s hard to find a scout that doesn’t project an all-star future for Bundy as a top-shelf starter. (Value Up)

6. Jurickson Profar, SS, Texas: The Rangers organization challenged Profar in 2012 by jumping him over high-A ball to double-A. Just 19, he has a wRC+ of 134 in 83 games. He’s hitting .288 with a strikeout rate of just 14% and has shown impressive pop (.187 ISO). Profar is destroying left-handed pitching with a .330 average and and OPS of .951. (Value Up)

5. Julio Teheran, RHP, Atlanta: The right-hander has had a rough year – both in triple-A and the Majors. Teheran has struggled with his command, which has resulted in an uncharacteristically high home run rate. Youth is on his side so he has lots of time to make adjustments. (Value Down)

4. Shelby Miller, RHP, St. Louis: Miller entered the season as an untouchable prospect within the Cardinals system but rumors suggest St. Louis would now be willing to offer him if the right deal were to come along. The young pitcher has had some challenges in 2012 while pitching at the triple-A level. He’s allowed 90 hits in 77.1 innings of work and his ERA is 6.17. On the plus side he’s struck out 90 batters and is just 21 years old. Miller was also suspended in late 2011 for a “violation of team policy.” (Value Down)

3. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles AL: With 64 MLB games under his belt, Trout has definitely established himself as a legitimate big leaguer with a wRC+ of 172. The biggest knock on the young outfielder is the strikeout rate but it’s less of an issue if he keeps showing above-average power. (Value Up)

2. Bryce Harper, OF, Washington: Like Trout, Harper has already proven that he belongs in the big leagues despite the fact that he’s just 19 years old. He still has a lot to learn and rough edges to file down but he’s one of the most exciting players in the Majors. (Value Up)

1. Matt Moore, LHP, Tampa Bay: Moore entered 2012 with expectations so high that he was bound to disappoint. Just 23, he’s taken a regular turn in the Rays rotation and has provided 99.2 innings of solid, but unspectacular, work. He’s struggled with his command and control but has shown improvements as the year has progressed. (Value Down)

BONUS: International Signees

Yu Darvish, RHP, Texas (Would rank 8th): The 25-year-old Darvish has been a solid pitcher for the Rangers while adjusting to a new league and a new culture. He looks like a stud but the second year in North America is usually a big challege for Japanese hurlers.

Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Oakland: Cespedes, 26, has shown promise in 2012 with flashes of good power but has produced a modest wRC+ of 118. Inconsistency has been his biggest issue and he’s hitting just .120 in July after a very impressive June – but he’s also been battling a bad thumb. (Would rank 32nd)




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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect and rookie analysis. He also operates AstrosBall.com and can be reached via email at: marchulet@astrosball.com, or follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

69 Responses to “Reviewing the Top 100 Prospects List, 25-1”

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  1. Eddie says:

    Marc,

    You mentioned a few pitchers that need to improve their ‘command and control.’ What is the difference between the two?

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    • walt526 says:

      Control is the ability to throw strikes in the intended location.

      Command is the ability to have the pitch move as one would want.

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      • Eddie says:

        Thanks for the clarification. I’ve always used those terms interchangeably.

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      • Kevin says:

        Actually – that’s not correct.

        Control is the ability to throw strikes without walking guys.

        Command is the ability to throw the ball where you want to i.e. hit the target.

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      • Jacob275 says:

        Don’t listen to this man, he’s leading you astray. Actual meaning of the terms:

        Control: The ability to throw strikes
        Command: The ability to throw strikes where you want them in the zone.

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      • Anon21 says:

        Jacob: I think Kevin’s definition is probably somewhat better, in the sense that command can also involve hitting a target outside the strike zone, if that’s where you mean to throw it. (E.g., throwing it on a batter’s fists, hoping he will swing and get jammed.) Command is, at its essence, precision.

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      • Drew_LBC says:

        “Command is, at its essence, precision.”

        Anon21: Would that then suggest that the difference between Control and Command is somewhat analogous to the difference between Accuracy and Precision? Or is that stretching things?

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      • Anon21 says:

        Drew: I’m not really familiar with the difference between accuracy and precision–I tend to use them interchangeably.

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      • Anon21 says:

        Having read the article, I’m not sure if it quite fits. If we substitute “catcher’s target” for “true value” in the definition of accuracy,* then accuracy seems more akin to command, while precision and control don’t seem closely related.

        *Which, maybe we shouldn’t. You could argue that hitting the catcher’s target is the objective of pitching, just as measuring the true value is the objective of modeling, but really the objective of pitching is to record outs, so perhaps the analogy doesn’t work.

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    • Eddie says:

      Ok I’m going to renew my question to Marc, as everyone seems to have a different answer. Marc, what did you mean?

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      • Dan says:

        The only person in this discussion who is wrong is walt526, with the first reply.

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      • Dan says:

        This happens every single time the question is asked. It’s ridiculous. If you can reliably throw pitches where you want to, are you going to have a separate problem having to do with walking too many guys?

        These two things, “command’ and “control”, have never been consistently defined in a coherent way, and when intellectually honest people ask the question there never seems to be a shortage of people willing to authoritatively declare their definitions.

        I’d be willing to bet that if you asked 10 different scouts the question, you’d get at least a handful of different and permutations on a few various themes. Some would describe command the way others describe control. If these isn’t the case we’d have figured it out by now.

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      • Anon21 says:

        Dan (2?): to answer your first question, no, if you can reliably throw the ball where you want it, you won’t have a problem with unintentional walks. But note that “unintentional” here is used more broadly than in common parlance; guys with good command absolutely can issue unintentional-intentional walks, where they make a decision not to throw a pitch that the hitter can handle, hoping to have the hitter swing at bad pitches. Sometimes that strategy will result in a walk, but over the long run (and sometimes in the short run, depending on the game situation) it might save runs.

        But it’s also worth noting that a guy can have good control and bad command. It may be that a guy is able to consistently get the ball over the plate, but throws too many “fat” pitches over the heart of the plate that are then squared up for hits, especially extra base hits.

        So, it’s probably fair to say that command is sufficient but not necessary for control, with the proviso that a pitcher with good command may sometimes consciously pursue a strategy that’s more likely to lead to a walk. Control is necessary but not sufficient for command.

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      • ppabich says:

        Anon21: Adding to your point, the type of pitcher where control is important, are the flamethrowers who have such unhittable stuff, that the only real goal is to get the ball over the plate. Chapman’s fastball comes to mind. You don’t need him to have command of his fastball, just to control it. For command you often hear the phrase, “He knows how to pitch,” meaning the guys knows how to use their stuff to set up hitters and maintain control (not the pitching term) over at bats.

        @Dan: I don’t think there are many definitions, there is some nuance to the terms but they are pretty straight forward. Anon’s explanations are pretty right on.

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      • cobradc23 says:

        FWIW Ron Shandler (BaseballHQ) defines control as BB/9 and command as K/BB.

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    • Drew_LBC says:

      Anon21: I linked to a Wikipedia article in my comment, if you click “Accuracy and Precsision”.

      Here is the address:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accuracy_and_precision

      Check out the section that uses the target analogy. Not sure if it quite fits for baseball, but it is an interesting concept.

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  2. TKDC says:

    This might be an overstatement, but Mike Trout is a “legitimate big leaguer” is the understatement of the year.

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  3. Mario Mendoza of commenters says:

    “”Cespedes, 26.”

    I was watching Intentional Talk (it was a slow day in baseball!) and Jonny Gomes was asked if Derek Norris was really 23 with that beard he wears. Gomes responded, (paraphrasing) “he’s closer to his ‘age’ than some other people parading around here [eye roll.]“

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  4. Scott says:

    Why is Julio’s value down? Braves are having him work on his secondary stuff in AAA, just for a source

    http://atlanta.braves.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20120611&content_id=33144788&notebook_id=33144792&vkey=notebook_mlb&c_id=mlb

    To me from watching him he’s every bit the top prospect he always was, he was a raw pitcher, and he could have a 1 something ERA with great HR and K rates but instead he’s developing as a player.

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    • nik says:

      Except every single scout out there says his stuff is not as good as it was.

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    • Undocorkscrew says:

      Growing tired of that ‘he’s not competing, he’s just working on his off-speed stuff’ theory.

      In any case, your first question is a bit odd……did you expect his value to be up considering his 5.69 FIP a year after winning International League Pitcher of the Year?

      That aside, I am confused with the “The right-hander has had a rough year – both in triple-A and the Major” comment. He made just one start, cruised through 3 innings and hit a wall in the 4th. Allowed 5 base-runners and 4 of them came across to score. His FIP for that game was 1.45…

      In any case, it’s quite obvious why his value is down. I’m a huge fan, but he’s been having trouble ever since last August…..

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      • Dawg says:

        This is where I find a disconnect with amateur scouting, no offense. It’s been reported that Teheran has been working on slight mechanical changes and off speed stuff this year. He struggled at first adjusting to changes, but has progressively gotten more comfortable. I don’t get why it’s unbelievable he isn’t “competing” and simply working on his stuff.

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    • Louis says:

      Because he’s looked like shit every time he’s even tried to face major league hitters.

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      • Undocorkscrew says:

        Not really, he was cruising in his only start this year. Fredi yanked him when he allowed runners in the 4th, and Martinez let all of them come across to score.

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    • Undocorkscrew says:

      @Dawg……

      He doesn’t seem to be getting more comfortable at all, he seems to be getting lit up as the season progresses. He started out reasonably well….

      I’m sure he’s working on his off-speed stuff, but I’ve noticed some Braves fans are quick to defend him based solely on that argument. With his stuff, he should be getting better results even if he’s just tinkering with his mechanics and breaking pitches.

      He’s still young with a ton of upside and I’m still a believer. I’ve seen him pitch a few times this year and the guy simply looks bored out there, even in his one MLB start. He’s not locating his fastball all that well either…

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      • BARVES says:

        Yep.

        Working on off-speed or not, he shouldn’t be getting crushed the way he has. He’s had a few great starts in there, but far more 4-5 inning 5 digit ERA games. That shouldn’t be happening to any top prospect regardless of what stuff he’s working on.

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  5. Ira says:

    “I remain optimistic that he’ll stick in the starting rotation as a big leaguer.”

    - Uh, have there been recent concerns that he wouldn’t? Every other publication I’ve read projects him comfortably as top of the rotation arm.

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    • CabreraDeath says:

      Yeah, the write-up on Cole completely baffles me. It’s almost as if he wrote a summary of another prospect’s performance and included the wrong name on top of it.

      I’ve never heard any whispers from any other prospectors. Plus, the Pirates are not even remotely thinking about putting him in the bullpen.

      Just an outlandish statement, in my eyes.

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      • James says:

        I, too, was curious about the basis for the concern… I am no scout or prospect-hound, but is there some significant difference between Cole and other recent hard throwing college guys (e.g., Verlander, Price) at the same stage of their careers?

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    • Marc Hulet says:

      I know Keith Law also has concerns… he raised them recently.

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      • CabreraDeath says:

        I just asked (via Twitter) if K-Law had any concerns of Cole getting moved to the bullpen and away from the rotation.

        His answer: Zero.

        I think you need to recheck your research.

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      • PiratesHurdles says:

        Gotta pile on too, you’re saying its “optimistic” to think that the 6th best SP prospect (your list) in baseball stays as a starter? If there were serious questions he wouldn’t be ranked in the top ten to begin with.

        Static value despite blowing away A+ and now in AA in year 1 or pro ball, that’s a lot more impressive than many other prospects.

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  6. TKDC says:

    10 of the top 25 are “Value Down”

    If you start at 100, you have to go all the way down to Garrett Cole at #46 to get 10 guys that are “Value Down”

    Is this harsher judgment of the top guys, “nowhere to go but down,” a small sample size, or of any importance at all?

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    • phoenix2042 says:

      And how can the #1 be value down when he’s still #1? And for that matter, how can trout and harper not be #1 and #2 when they are both younger than moore and having huge success, while he is struggling at the major league level.

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      • odditie says:

        I believe these are the original ranks with a note if the player has gone up or down in value since this ranking

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    • Marc Hulet says:

      Harder grading on guys at the top…

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  7. Doug Gray says:

    It should be noted that Devin Mesoraco has started back to back games twice all season (and both were in April). It shouldn’t be any secret as to why he isn’t doing much with the bat.

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    • Jack Weiland says:

      Which came first, the chicken or the egg? I’m no Dusty fan, but I find it a little bit crazy to say he ought to be giving at-bats to an unestablished prospect over a decent veteran who is frankly out playing said prospect while the team is in contention to win its division.

      If this were the last place Cubs, yeah, play the kid. Let him live and learn. If you have a legit shot at winning the division? Gotta play the guy who gives you the best chance of winning. What evidence is there that this is Mesoraco in 2012?

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      • Dan says:

        There isn’t any MLB evidence because Dusty won’t play the kid! Maybe if he had started him every day in the 1st half Mesoraco would have shown that he is either improving, or not ready. But having him play in only 38 games doesn’t give you enough evidence either way.

        Now, if Dusty would hit Hanigan and his .350 OBP in front of Votto, it would be easier to make the case that Dusty is just trying to put the best lineup on the field…

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      • gweedoh565 says:

        How shocking… an uninformed criticism of Dusty Baker pertaining to favoring veterans over rookies (aiming this at the Marc, not any of the comments in this thread).

        Dusty’s priority right now is NOT to coddle rookies into playing to their potential, as Jack Weiland notes, it is to compete for the division title. As others here have pointed out, Mesoraco isn’t playing because Hanigan has been playing better, simple as that. Plus, pitchers LOVE throwing to Hanigan. That’s going to take precedence over developing a rookie.

        I’m not worried about Mesoraco’s development- let’s not forget that it took him three years to adjust to the minors out of HS before he finally starting fulfilling his potential. It will probably take him a few years to adjust to the majors as well.

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    • KMiB says:

      Exactly, Doug.

      It should also be noted that Mesoraco is sporting a ripe .234 BABIP with a ZIPS projection of .285. If that becomes much more normal, the kid would be having exactly the kind of season you would hope for from a 23 year old catcher: .750 OPS, solid defense, good walk rate.

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  8. odditie says:

    Minor note…Jesus Montero is not and has not been on the DL because of the concussion.

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  9. PrettyRicky says:

    What makes you call guys like Trout, Harper and Moore prospects when it seems they are in the majors to stay?

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  10. Nick says:

    What the heck does Jacob Turner’s being “rushed” have to do with anything? If you’re going to talk about him being down, you might want to mention the actual reason why he’s struggling this year; namely the shoulder injury that had him out for almost all of spring training and half of April.

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    • ThePartyBird says:

      This. Turner made a single spot start when Smyly was out with a blister and lasted five innings. That’s hardly being “rushed”, but try telling that to the narrative machine that churns out “Tigers prospects are always rushed” whenever you need to write about one of their prospects.

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  11. Brian says:

    For the record:

    48 hitters in the top 100. 22 were “value up”, 15 were static, 11 were down.

    52 hitters in the top 100. 22 were “value up”, 17 were static, 13 were down.

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  12. bavasisabum says:

    Did Nick Franklin not make the top 100 or did I just miss it?

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  13. BoSoxFan says:

    Darvish has not exactly looked like a stud. He’s been average ERA wise and peripheral wise, and he’s maybe only 1 or 2 years from his peak

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  14. Bryce Harper says:

    That’s a clown question, bro.

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  15. camisadelgolf says:

    It seems like every time there’s a mention of Dusty Baker, the myth about his preference for veterans come up. I’d really like to see some evidence not in the form of confirmation bias.

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