One of the main reasons I’m so excited to be joining the crew here at TDG is the debates I’ll get to have with other writers on the site over our prospect projections and analysis. When you know your assertions about a player are going to be scrutinized and picked apart, it makes you work harder to make sure those opinions are valid and grounded in legitimate observation.
Don’t like a batter because you’re worried about the hit tool? Tell me why you’re worried. Is it his swing path? Does he use an arm bar? Is it a pitch recognition problem? I want to know.
Down on a starting pitcher because of “command issues?” Tell me where those command issues come from. Does his front half open up too early? Can he not control the movement on one of his pitches? Is he not athletic enough to repeat his delivery? Let’s get specific.
These are all hugely important details that should better inform you about what to expect from a player moving forward, and those observations – combined with a heavy dose of statistic analysis – are what I’m aiming to provide here.
With that being said, let’s start off my time here at TDG with 10 players who I like more than do many other prospect analysts on the Interwebs. Next to each player, you’ll find Bret’s (TDG’s) 2013 Top 150 rank first, then my personal Top 150 rank second, followed by a brief explanation of why I feel the way I do.
Thanks for welcoming me on board. Let’s get after it.
Nolan Arenado, 3B, COL (TDG Rank: 43, My Rank: 31)
Arenado has plummeted down rankings this offseason thanks to a combination of concerns about his maturity and a 2012 season that saw him perform poorly in Double-A. Wait, what’s that you say? Arenado hit .285/.336/.428 with a wRC+ of 111 in Tulsa last year? And he did that as a 22-year-old? It baffles me how he’s gone from consensus Top 25 prospect to off some Top 100 lists, and overlooking him in Fantasy leagues is a mistake. I’m not saying he’s a star but he can really hit and he’ll challenge for 20 homers a season while he calls Coors Field is home. He’s a great buy low candidate.
Trevor Bauer, SP, CLE (TDG Rank: 21, My Rank: 17)
Cast off to Cleveland in the much-maligned Shin-Soo Choo/Didi Gregorius deal, everyone’s been focused on Bauer’s faults this offseason. He’s stubborn and his command is behind his stuff. His warm-up routine is weird. He hurt Miguel Montero’s feelings. He can’t rap. The list goes on and on, but let’s not loose sight of Bauer’s big upside and the fact that he’s pretty close to MLB ready. Do you think the likes of Scott Kazmir, Carlos Carrasco and Brett Myers are going to hold him back? I think not. Expect him in the majors for good by June.
Zach Eflin (TDG Rank: NR, My Rank: 126)
Everyone has “his guy.” For Bret, it’s Brian Goodwin. For Craig, it’s Matt Skole. For me, it’s Eflin: a big righty who gets lost in the Padres’ glut of pitching prospects but who has among the highest upside in the system. He has an ideal pitchers’ frame, an easy delivery and a big fastball and he wouldn’t have dropped in the 2012 draft if not for some triceps tendonitis that has since cleared up. He’s a slow-mover for sure, but if you keep 150 players in your dynasty league he’s worth one of your final picks. You heard it here first.
Kyle Gibson, SP, MIN (TDG Rank: 80, My Rank: 58)
Gibson was a steal when he went 22nd overall in the 2009 draft, and while injury and age have put dents in his value many are hopping back on the bandwagon this offseason. Thankfully I never left, and while Gibson’s post-TJ command looks like it needs some work all reports indicate that his stuff is good to go, and that’s more important at this stage in the game. “Vance Worley is the best pitcher on the Twins staff,” is a sentence you can maybe say with a straight face right now. Gibson will be up in the middle of the year and will immediately make a positive impact in the K and ERA categories, even if the WHIP and wins aren’t there right away.
Lucas Giolito (TDG Rank: 61, My Rank: 50)
Some from the TINSTAAPP crowd will groan at all the Giolito love, but if you want to point out that most SP prospects don’t make it, why not invest in the ones with the highest upside? Dylan Bundy, Gerrit Cole, Taijuan Walker, Jose Fernandez. What you have just read is an exhaustive list of all starter prospects I believe to have as high of a ceiling as Giolito has, and that means you should buy low on him if his injury has someone in your keeper league dissuaded. You’ll have to wait until 2017 or so to use him, but he’ll skyrocket up rankings once healthy.
Brian Goodwin, OF, WAS (TDG Rank: 33, My Rank: 46)
I didn’t think anyone could be higher on Goodwin than I was. Then I came across the prospect stylings of one Bret Sayre, and my life changed. Goodwin did horrible, unspeakable things to A-ball last season, hitting .319/.434/.537 with 15 SB and a wRC+ of 167. He was a bit old and experienced for the league, but that’s scary no matter how you look at it. He gets on base. He runs. He hits for sneaky power. Double-A strikeout rate aside there’s nothing not to like and he could reach the majors by the end of the year, although the Denard Span trade somewhat muddles his future in Washington.
Marcell Ozuna (TDG Rank: 127, My Rank: 88)
The Marlins have two of the best prospects in the game in Fernandez and Christian Yelich and have a deep system thanks to the Jose Reyes megatrade. That leaves plenty of room for Ozuna to get lost, but you should not ignore a player with his pop who’s just a year out from the majors. Ozuna posted a wRC+ of 126 as a true 22-year-old in High-A last season, crushing 20-plus homers for the third straight year. His strikeout rate isn’t great but it’s palatable for a power hitter, and it’s stayed right around 21 percent for the past two years. I think he can do a decent Josh Reddick impersonation from a statistical standpoint, though he might get on base more and run a little less.
Roman Quinn (TDG Rank: NR, My Rank: 54)
Ranking Quinn this high was super popular with the rest of the TDG crew. Craig called me “Halle Berry crazy.” Bret made a Joey Gathright comp. Ian was probably too busy laughing to type a response. But I remain undaunted, and I’m here to tell you to grab Quinn now because if you wait much longer, he’ll be gone. Players with 80 speed just don’t come around that often, and while Quinn is raw and lacks power he has a legitimate shot to stay at shortstop. You would have laughed at me if I ranked Delino DeShields this high last year too, but it’s amazing what elite speed can do to a prospect’s perceived value.
Tyler Thornburg (TDG Rank: NR, My Rank: 120)
My affinity for Thornburg has become somewhat of a TDG inside joke on Twitter, but as you can see I’m not super high on him, I just don’t this his size makes him an automatic reliever. Thornburg’s fastball and curveball are above average and concerns about his height and fastball plane are somewhat mitigated by the deception in his delivery. I’m not arguing that he’s a future ace, but I do think he can settle in as a mid-to-back-of-the-rotation starter and I think he can realize that ceiling pretty soon. I won’t be afraid to start him in favorable matchups when he’s back in the majors later this season.
Jonathan Villar (TDG Rank: 136, My Rank: 116)
Villar is going to carve out a career for himself as a starting shortstop in the majors, and he’s going to be a Top 12 Fantasy shortstop for at least a few years. I truly believe that, and while Villar is raw for a player in the upper minors his speed, modest power and improving approach mean he’s an underrated asset in the Fantasy world. Villar’s 2012 season was cut short by a broken hand born out of frustration and a bathroom door, but if healthy he should see Triple-A by June and make a late-season cameo in the majors. Given 500 at-bats, he’s a threat for 10 homers, 30 steals and a tolerable average.
Honorable Mention: Jake Marisnick (OF, MIA), Leonys Martin (OF, TEX), Stryker Trahan (C, ARI), Allen Webster (SP, BOS), Tim Wheeler (OF, COL)