Prospect Talk: Deep Diving
By far the most requested topic we received in the comments of our “Podcast For Your Eyes” as well as on Twitter is; back-end or deeper prospects that will jump up rankings. While I think this is a great idea for a future PFYE, I thought I’d allow a peek at my personal list of guys with some small write-ups. These are not in depth scouting reports or anything like that, but just reasons to like them and/or reasons to be cautious. I’ve broken them into “Back End” and “Off The Charts” types. Back enders (settle down) are guys that are either on one or two top 100 or 150 lists or even all of them but further down the rankings. They may not even be on any, but are well known in the public consciousness as “deep guys”. The off the charters are guys that are even further down than that. I’m not going to promise to tell you a name you don’t know in this section because I’ve broken too many promises already. Never again. I’m hoping this can be a recurring feature here as the season goes on and we continue to discover more and more pop-up guys.
Joe Ross – SP – San Diego Padres
Let’s get Ross out of the way. He’s my spirit animal this season. Over at Fake Teams, I brought him up WAY too early in the off-season SP Rankings, and Bret kept booting him on down the collective list. I think Ross makes him look foolish by season’s end, even if was probably the right move at the time. I’ve written about Ross before, in fairly great depth. Short case: He’s got incredible athleticism, an easy fastball and multiple pitches to work with. There’s now ability and projection. Now, we need that projection to pan out, but I’m optimistic that happens. He’s gotten off to a fast start in 2013, with 12 strikeouts against two walks over 10 innings, with the stuff to back it up.
Jorge Bonifacio – RF – Kansas City Royals
It’s possible Bonifacio should qualify in the Off The Charts section as opposed to the Back End, as he checked in at 172 (Ross was 112) on Beyond The Boxscore’s most excellent Consensus Top 190 Prospects post. That said, I’ve been talking about Bonifacio since as far back as April 24 of last year so it’s hard for me to consider him an unknown quantity at this point. He’s got all the tools to be a model right fielder including a strong arm and solid routes to the ball. His bat is what will carry him though, as he put together what some might consider an average line in Lo-A last year, before realizing he did it as a 19-year old. This is a guy whose numbers might not blow you away, but he’ll be young for every level he plays at, and I think he emerges as a top 50 prospect within two years. Dude is bona fide.
J.R. Graham – SP – Atlanta Braves
I don’t know if it’s entirely fair to call Graham a back ender, but he landed at 87 on the BTB consensus list, which is good enough for me. He ranked #2 in the Atlanta system in Baseball Prospectus’ list, so he’s not exactly an unknown amongst prospect hounds. That said, he does have his doubters. He’s listed at 6’0/185; and gets knocked down by some for his height. Even so, the fastball is big to call Lebowski, with the slider drawing Walter’s role and the change up sporting Donny qualities (told by the leads to shut the f*** up, but still a quality offering). This creep can roll.
Off The Charts
Jesse Hahn – SP – Tampa Bay Rays
A sixth round pick in the 2010 draft, Hahn was a potential first rounder before elbow soreness cropped up. It turned out that pain was a precursor to Tommy John, delaying Hahn’s development and pushing back his debut until 2012, at age 22. Now 23 and skipped to Hi-A, the Rays may be forced to do something they’re generally not known for: push a prospect. Hahn has a monster of a fastball that sits in the mid 90s and he can run up to 99 MPH that features sharp sink. It’s a potential 80 pitch. He complements it with a curve that flashes plus and a work in progress change up. He’s lost a lot of development time and despite the jump up in league, is still old for his level. Hahn is going to have to dominate to maintain his status but he has all the tools to do so. He could absolutely soar up the rankings if he retains his health.
Andrew Toles – CF – Tampa Bay Rays
I’m sticking with Tampa Bay for both my Off The Charts guys today. Toles (sometimes listed as Alvin if you’re doing research) was a third round pick in 2012 for Tampa Bay. He was a 4th round pick in high school, but elected to go to Tennessee instead. Worryingly, he was dismissed from the program in 2011 and ended up a JC power house Chipola. More concerningly, he was suspended from Chipola last Spring. None of that stopped the Rays from popping Toles fairly early, which means that aside from potential make up issues, he’s got to at least sport some tools. Thus far he’s made the Rays look good with a .413/.449/.739 slash line in 46 at-bats in Lo-A Bowling Green. This is a massively small sample of course, though he did post a solid slash line in 2012 as well. Toles carrying tool is his plus-plus speed, which allows him to excel both in the field, where he shows good range, and on the basepaths where he can rack up the stolen bases. His technique could use some refinement, both on the basepaths and at the plate where he can look great in one plate-appearance before falling apart in the next. Toles isn’t just a slap hitter though, as he has above-average raw power. While he’s gotten off to a great start in 2013, consistency will be the thing to look for when it comes to Toles.