The Top 10 Prospects for 2015 by Projected WAR

Over the last month-plus in these pages, Kiley McDaniel has released the first four of his 30 offseason organizational prospect lists — designed, those particular posts, to sort out the best prospects in baseball according (predominantly) to overall future value. What follows is a different thing than that — designed to identify not baseball’s top prospects, but rather the rookie-eligible players* who are most ready to produce wins at the major-league level in 2015 (regardless of whether they’re likely to receive the opportunity to do so). What it is not is an attempt to account for any kind of future value — for which reason it omits certain players (like Byron Buxton, for example) who very obviously exhibit a great deal of promise.

*In this case, defined as any player who’s recorded fewer than 130 at-bats or 50 innings — which is to say, there’s been no attempt to identify each player’s time spent on the active roster, on account of that’s a super tedious endeavor.

To assemble the following collection of 10 prospects, what I’ve done first is to utilize the Steamer 600 projections made available today at the site. Hitters’ numbers are normalized to 550 plate appearances; starting pitchers’, to 150 innings — i.e. the playing-time thresholds at which a league-average player would produce a 2.0 WAR. Catcher projections are prorated to 415 plate appearances to account for their reduced playing time.

Players eligible for the list either (a) enter their age-26 season or lower in 2015, alternatively, (b) were signed as international free agents this offseason.

Finally, note that, in many cases, defensive value has been calculated entirely by positional adjustment based on the relevant player’s minor-league defensive starts — which is to say, there has been no attempt to account for the runs a player is likely to save in the field. As a result, players with an impressive offensive profile relative to their position are sometimes perhaps overvalued — that is, in such cases where their actual defensive skills are sub-par.

10. Peter O’Brien, C, Arizona (Profile)

PA AVG OBP SLG wRC+ WAR
415 .238 .278 .456 99 2.1

A second-round selection by the Yankees in 2012, O’Brien was traded at the deadline to Arizona in exchange for Martin Prado. His projected value is a product simultaneously of raw power and a record of having played catcher. There are questions, however — asked recently, for example, by Kiley McDaniel — about his ability to take full advantage of the former and to do the latter at a league-average level. His projected .218 ISO would have been the third-best such mark among catchers this season to record 400-plus appearances.

9. Ty Kelly, 2B/3B, Seattle (Profile)

PA AVG OBP SLG wRC+ WAR
550 .254 .339 .348 102 2.2

Selected originally out of California-Davis by Baltimore in the 13th round of the 2009 draft, Kelly was acquired by Seattle in June of 2013 in exchange for a then-recently designated Eric Thames (who, incidentally, has hit many home runs in Korea). Not unlike other prospects to passed through the Mariners system recently — like Brad Miller and Chris Taylor, for example, or Kyle Seager before them — Kelly has been omitted from top-100 prospect lists while also exhibiting the capacity both to (a) play an infield position and (b) control the strike zone.

8. Corban Joseph, 1B/2B, New York AL (Profile)

PA AVG OBP SLG wRC+ WAR
550 .257 .320 .396 100 2.2

Joseph produced an encouraging 2012 season, recording walk and strikeout rates of 13.7% and 14.5%, respectively, and hitting 16 home runs in 505 plate appearances between Double- and Triple-A — this, in just his age-23 season. He missed the latter half of the 2013 season following shoulder surgery, however, and posted a line of just .268/.320/.387 in 256 PAs with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this year, prompting the Yankees to release him at the end of August. He recorded above-average plate discipline figures (a 7.4% BB and 12.1% K, respectively), though, and enters the 2015 season as just a 26-year-old.

7. Devon Travis, 2B, Detroit (Profile)

PA AVG OBP SLG wRC+ WAR
550 .273 .319 .401 102 2.3

Just a 13th-round selection in 2012 out of Florida State, Travis has produced markedly above-average batting marks at every level to which he’s been exposed, recording both excellent plate-discipline numbers and also high BABIP figures. The result: a slash line of .323/.388/.487 line in over 1,000 minor-league plate appearances. According to Steamer’s computer math, Travis — who enters his age-24 season next April — already profiles as a league-average hitter. That’s valuable for a player who also appears likely to handle second base.

6. Robert Refsnyder, 2B, New York AL (Profile)

PA AVG OBP SLG wRC+ WAR
550 .262 .328 .390 102 2.3

A right fielder at the University of Arizona, Refsnyder converted to second base in 2013 — a move which, obviously, should he demonstrate the ability to play the latter position ably, will allow him to produce more value. Though fielding percentage doesn’t provide a complete picture of defensive performance, it’s generally better to have a high one than low one — and Refsnyder’s has improved with each promotion. To wit:

Year Tm Lg Lev G Fld%
2013 Tampa FLOR A+ 95 .949
2014 Trenton EL AA 58 .968
2014 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre IL AAA 64 .988

Though a different sort of hitter than Devon Travis (above), the estimated results are similar, insofar as each is projected to be a league-average hitter at second base.

5. Joey Gallo, 3B, Texas (Profile)

PA AVG OBP SLG wRC+ WAR
550 .220 .298 .446 102 2.4

Gallo is essentially an experiment crafted by the Universe for the purposes of examining the break-even point for reasonable production between raw power and contact ability (or the lack of it). After recording a quite reasonable 26.0% strikeout rate in the High-A Carolina League this season, Gallo regressed back to the high-30s area that he’d maintained at lower levels following his promotion to Double-A. He enters just his age-21 season in 2015, however, so there’s no immediate cause to sound the alarm — metaphorically or otherwise.

4. Steven Souza, OF, Washington (Profile)

PA AVG OBP SLG wRC+ WAR
550 .268 .335 .445 118 2.4

Among the seven total instances in which he’s recorded at least 200 plate appearances at a given level in a given year, Souza’s walk-strikeout differential of just -5.6 percentage points this year at Triple-A Syracuse is the best such mark. A greater control of the strike zone complemented Souza’s already notable physical tools. Indeed, Souza is projected by Steamer to produce 19 home runs and 25 stolen bases per every 550 plate appearances.

3. Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago NL (Profile)

PA AVG OBP SLG wRC+ WAR
550 .271 .330 .470 121 2.5

Except for the fact that the latter is already an All Star, it requires almost no effort to draw comparisons between Soler and Yasiel Puig. Both defected from Cuba. Both are corner outfielders with considerable offensive skills. Both debuted to great effect in their age-22 seasons. A scout, speaking with Kiley McDaniel, regards Soler a better hitter of the two, but with less speed — and the numbers to date generally bear this out.

2. Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota (Profile)

PA AVG OBP SLG wRC+ WAR
550 .235 .305 .440 109 2.8

Were he not compelled to undergo Tommy John surgery this past March, it’s quite possible that Sano would be ineligible for this list, potentially having played his way to majors in 2014. In just his age-20 season, anyway, he was both promoted to and acquitted himself quite well at Double-A in nearly 300 plate appearances, recording a strikeout rate (29.3%) of some concern, but also compensating for it by means of an above-average walk rate (13.0%) and characteristically prodigious power. That sort of batting profile in tandem with average third-base defense would be excellent, although he probably offers enough offensively to play a corner-outfield spot of first base, as well — even as early as 2015.

1. Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago NL (Profile)

PA AVG OBP SLG wRC+ WAR
550 .265 .344 .489 130 4.0

As a junior at the University of San Diego in 2013, Bryant led the nation in home runs. In 2014, he led all the minor leagues in home runs. According to Steamer, Bryant is unlikely to lead the major leagues in home runs next year — although a top-10 or -15 finish wouldn’t be shocking, it seems, given a full complement of plate appearances. That power, in combination with serviceable contact rates and something in the vicinity of average third-base defense, conspires to produce a very promising baseball prospect.

***

Three Brief Comments:

  • The assembly of this list was performed, in part, by hand. While the author has attempted to remain vigilant, he is also notoriously incompetent. The reader is invited to raise any relevant concerns in the comments section.
  • One will notice the absence of any pitchers here. The top three by projected WAR per 150 innings are as follows: Washington right-hander Lucas Giolito (1.4 WAR), Miami left-hander Andrew Heaney (1.4 WAR), and right-handed Toronto teenager Roberto Osuna (1.3 WAR).
  • San Francisco catcher Andrew Susac (2.1 WAR per every 415 PA) is the 11th-best hitting prospect by this methodology.


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Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Yirmiyahu
Member
1 year 7 months ago

Mookie Betts does not qualify as a rookie because he’s already played 52 games. But he’s only 21-years-old and is projected for 4.0 WAR.

Betts and Kris Bryant are the only players who are projected for 3.5+ WAR despite not having a full season of playing time yet.

Yirmiyahu
Member
1 year 7 months ago

Doesn’t qualify as a prospect, rather.

Zach
Guest
Zach
1 year 7 months ago

What is the limit for MLB games played on ‘prospect’ status?

Pirates Hurdles
Guest
Pirates Hurdles
1 year 7 months ago

It’s not games, it’s 130 at bats (50IP for pitchers)

Robert Kral
Guest
Robert Kral
1 year 7 months ago

So there’s NO excuse for my exclusion from this list!

LaLoosh
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

the link for Ty Kelly is Chris Taylor….

Freakshow
Guest
Freakshow
1 year 7 months ago

Ehh…Mariners infielders not named Robinson Cano are really all the same guy anyways. Chris Taylor, Nick Franklin, Brad Miller. I’ve yet to see any proof they’re not one guy trying to collect 4 paychecks. I say the link stands.

larry bowa
Guest
larry bowa
1 year 7 months ago

Kyle Seager begs to differ with your opinion of Mariner infielders. Also Nick Franklin is not a Mariner.

topherdig
Guest
topherdig
1 year 7 months ago

So what are M’s going to do with a top rated 3B and 2B rated prospect? He is not going supplant Cano or Seager. There is talk of making Miller an OF and utility IF, ala the great Zobrist. But this does not solve this problem for them since Kelly does not appear to have SS experience.

Balthazar
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

Ty Kelly is old enough that it’s questionable even to call him a prospect, though of course technically he could still be. The biggest issue with him is that he has no D to speak of, and hence no real position. He’s depth for the Mariners at this point. If all concerned are fortunate, he’ll be moved in a package this offseason to somewhere he might actually see major league time. Seriously, even Ketel Marte is ahead of him as a middle infield prospect.

Brad Miller used as a Zobrist type has a lot of merit, and I think Brad has the mental flexibility to handle multiple positions. He should be in the lineup practically every day, except maybe against a tough LHP. The team (i.e. Lloyd McClendon) has fallen in love with Chris Taylor, and there is a lot to like. Taylor is probably the more consistent fielder at SS of the two. Even though Miller’s overall defensive rating was positive, there are weaknesses in his game; somewhat hard hands, and still a bit of a scatter arm, making up for it with good deep range. Miller can play 2B and has experience there, has the arm for 3B, and should already have seen time in the OF where his speed would be an asset. So Miller with about a third of the innings at SS and playing everywhere else looks good. Trading him would be a major error unless somebody is giving back an awfully good young bat.

LaLoosh
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

Dilson Herrera…?

Za
Guest
Za
1 year 7 months ago

Extremely low – unrealistically low. He’ll beat the projected number on defense alone by at least an order of magnitude.

vivalajeter
Guest
vivalajeter
1 year 7 months ago

That’s probably the case for a lot of prospects with limited playing time projections. In Herrera’s case, it projects 0.1 WAR in 8 games. You can’t really pro-rate that accurately. Is it 0.005 WAR rounded up, or is it 0.14 WAR rounded down? Pretty big difference when you’re converting 32 plate appearances into a full season.

Dave
Guest
Dave
1 year 7 months ago

Just looking through the projections in general…I’m not sure what Latos did to get treated as a 1 WAR player. He’s had three good years in a row – granted this year was only a 1/2 year due to injury.

Amish_Willy
Guest
Amish_Willy
1 year 7 months ago

re: Latos, start the year hurt, end the year hurt plays heavily into the equation. I’d definitely bet the over, but if you had to look at the huge crop of talented starters set to hit free agency after next season, Latos probably has the best chance of not cashing in at that time due to an injury-riddled ’15 campaign. He’s overcome similar obstacles in the past so I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes out and logs 200 innings with his patented 187k’s.

Jose
Guest
Jose
1 year 7 months ago

The yankees almost had 3 players in this list.

Vic Romano
Guest
Vic Romano
1 year 7 months ago

By that logic….the Cubs almost had 3 players in the top 3 in this list.

Johnny5
Guest
Johnny5
1 year 7 months ago

Did the Cubs trade Sano or something? Because the poster meant that the Yanks have Joseph and Refsnyder but traded O’Brien.

Carson Cyst-Stooly
Guest
Carson Cyst-Stooly
1 year 7 months ago

Robert Osuna holy shit

KalineCountry
Guest
KalineCountry
1 year 7 months ago

Devon Travis had core surgery past month, similar to previous offseason with Verlander and Cabrera. Not sure on when his return will be.

sadf
Guest
sadf
1 year 7 months ago

Expected to be back for spring training.

sadf
Guest
sadf
1 year 7 months ago

Devon Travis was apparently switching positions to center field before he had his core surgery last month. He was blocked at 2nd base anyways by Kinsler.

KalineCountry
Guest
KalineCountry
1 year 7 months ago

That’s what they are hoping for. We saw how it took awhile for JV and Miggy to heal up and get to full 100%.

I’m not sure that plan they had for him to play CF would work. Travis doesn’t have the speed neede for the position, from Tigers minors sources.

Josh's Mom
Guest
Josh's Mom
1 year 7 months ago

I wonder what his projected value could be at CF, given the change in position. I’m entirely perplexed as to how any projection has him getting 550 PA at 2B.

Freakshow
Guest
Freakshow
1 year 7 months ago

Interesting to note that Corban Joseph is the brother of Caleb Joseph, a guy we’ll all be familiar with next week for gunning down Royals baserunners left and right. He’s also a minor league free agent. I wonder if younger bro can follow the same career arc and provide someone with an unexpected useful season.

LaLoosh
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

I did not know that.

Balthazar
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

Seems an interesting player. I’ll be looking to see where he lands next year.

Chris
Guest
Chris
1 year 7 months ago

I’m surprised to not see Michael Taylor on this list. He is close to ML-ready (although his hit-tool still needs some refinement) and he possesses a dynamic power-speed combination. He is also a plus-plus defender in center field. What is his projected WAR for next year?

Brad Johnson
Member
Member
1 year 7 months ago

0.8 WAR it would seem. Negative marks in hitting and fielding. Personally, I see him as a higher variance Souza.

Chris Mitchell
Member
Member
1 year 7 months ago

Pete O’Brien is a CINO — a catcher in name only. A .238/.278/.456 would be a lot less appealing coming from a 1B.

tz
Guest
tz
1 year 7 months ago

Looks like a poor man’s Konerko to me. Maybe 50/50 he ends up as a big league regular.

Paul Clarke
Guest
Paul Clarke
1 year 7 months ago

Is it just me or does Steamer seem a bit enthusiastic about prospects’ likely strikeout rates in the majors?

O’Brien A+ 24.4%, AA 26.5%, Steamer 26.8%
Kelly AAA 17.5%, Steamer 16.3%
Joseph AAA 12.1%, Steamer 14.2%
Travis AA 13.6%, Steamer 13.2%
Refsnyder AA 15.6%, AAA 20.1%, Steamer 16.8%
Gallo A+ 26%, AA 39.5%, Steamer 33.0%
Souza AAA 18.4%, Steamer 21.3%
Soler AAA 20.5%, MLB 24.7%, Steamer 19.7%
Sano AA (2013) 29.3%, Steamer 26.2%
Bryant AA 25.9%, AAA 28.6%, Steamer 26.7%

If I exclude Sano, who’s an odd case due to missing 2014, the median delta from AA to Steamer’s MLB projection is just +0.3%, and for AAA to MLB it’s -1%. I.e. the MLB projections are, on average, lower than the AAA stats and only slightly higher than for AA.

Alex
Guest
Alex
1 year 7 months ago

Seems to me like Joc Pederson should be on this list? 2.7WAR in 600 PA?

witesoxfan
Guest
witesoxfan
1 year 7 months ago

Why the exclusion of pitchers? I can understand a zillion different reasons, but just curious overall.

Anna Karina
Member
Anna Karina
1 year 7 months ago

This is a top ten list. The criteria employed are 1)projected hitter’s fWAR over 550 PA, and 2)projected pitcher’s fWAR over 150 IP. The post lists the top three pitching prospects per Steamer’s projection. None of them grade out at more than 2.1 fWAR, the lowest (10th) total reached by a position player.

I can’t find a projection for your White Sox’s Carlos Rodon who should be promoted shortly after he clears Super Two next May. I’m surprised to find (by extrapolation) that Steamer has him at <2.1/150. Possibly Rodon's late signing had him pitching too few MiLB innings for Steamer's liking. Regardless, I'll take the over.

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