I’m taking a break from putting together the rankings package, that will start to trickle out on January 14th, to preemptively answer a question which will likely come up when list posts. Why is Bruce Rondon, the supposed Tigers closer, not on the top-150 list? The answer to that has something to with Rondon himself, but it’s mostly attributable to the value of relief prospects in the context of a long-term league.
First, the Rondon-specific reasoning. The biggest reason why I do not have him ranked is that even if he’s given the Tigers’ closer job out of spring training (which I don’t think will happen, but that is a smaller point), I don’t think he’ll be very good at it. This is not an Addison Reed situation from last year, where it was a pitcher who was dominant throughout the minor league season and had the scouting reports to match. Rondon throws really really hard, but he’s also a very large man who has poor control and no legit secondary pitch to speak of. So while he may get the opportunity at some point, I’m not optimistic.
The larger issue is how to value the relief prospect overall. I’m not one to shy away from talking about mistakes that I’ve learned from as I go through this process year after year, and one from last year was my ranking of Addison Reed. On my pre-season prospect list, I ranked him 30th, as I thought he would be the next dominant closer in baseball — and knew it was an aggressive ranking at the time. The thing is, my opinion of Reed hasn’t changed all that much. I still think he will be a pretty dominant closer, and it’s reflected in my RP rankings, but Reed should not have been a top-30 prospect last year. I was putting too much stock in the path he had to the closer job (which ended up being right, as he recorded 29 of them).