I’ve said it before but could stand to say it again: prospect rankings don’t have a long shelf life. Usually, players ranked in the offseason don’t change much over that offseason, or at least we don’t have a chance to see any changes since they normally aren’t playing organized ball. Every now and then a player with limited information (like a Cuban defector that signed late in the season) will go to a winter league and we’ll learn more, but most times, players look mostly the same in the fall/winter leagues, or more often a tired version of themselves.
This means that updating prospect rankings before we have a nice sample of regular season games to judge by (say, late April), seems pretty foolish. The two mitigating factors in the case of my rankings is that I started ranking players before instructional league and the Arizona Fall League started and I also did draft rankings, which are constantly in flux.
I was on the road 17 of the last 18 days, seeing July 2nd prospects (recap here), draft prospects and minor league prospects. I’ll take this chance to provide some updates to my draft rankings from September and below that, some players that looked to have improved at the AFL, particularly those from clubs whose prospects I’ve already ranked.
My plan is to update prospect lists year-round in real-time, so this should be a somewhat regular feature. For the above stated reasons, I probably won’t write another one until at least March, but they might be popping up in full posts or Instagraphs quick hits every few weeks once the season starts in earnest. My goal is to have the scouting info on the player pages and the lists constantly updated to reflect the latest information, though it’ll be a little hit and miss now while I’m busy getting those 30 organizational lists completed.
Three prospects used the WWBA World Championship (a 5-day wood bat high school travel team tournament in Jupiter, FL) to push themselves into contention for my next draft list. Lots of top prospects looked about the same there as they had in the past and many took a step forward from obscurity into 3rd-5th round territory, but these are the three guys that I haven’t written about before (I wrote about a little over 130 prospects in that earlier list) that have a real chance to go in the top three rounds due to their Jupiter performance:
Nick Neidert, RHP, Peachtree Ridge HS (GA), South Carolina commit
I saw him at the PG National in June and he was okay, but looked like more like a mid-round prospect that would probably go to school: 90-92 mph, limited projection, fringy curveball and changeup with a less-than-ideal delivery. He took a big step forward in Jupiter, sitting 93-95 and hitting 96 mph in his first inning, then settling in at 91-94 mph with above average life. Neidert’s changeup flashed above average and his curveball was solid average at times. His delivery is a little cleaner and he looks like he might’ve grown an inch or two as well. As a suburban Atlanta prep power arm up to 96 mph, he’ll get plenty of looks in the spring.
Dakota Chalmers, RHP, North Forsyth HS (GA), Georgia commit
I had seen Chalmers at the PG National in June and he was a definite arm to follow that ticked lots of boxes on the projectable prep arm wish list: 88-90 with some feel for a changeup and a curveball that was solid average at times from a lanky 6’3/175 frame. Chalmers was seen in his two outing for a loaded team that won the championship and included numerous prospects from my earlier draft list (RHP Ashe Russell, RHP Beau Burrows, 3B L.T. Tolbert, 1B Desmond Lindsay, RHP Nolan Watson, SS Ryan Karstetter). Chalmers ticked up at Jupiter, sitting 91-94 mph with an 82-84 mph hybrid breaking ball that flashed plus and helped him to dominate his competition in 8 innings over two outings, striking out 14 and walking 3. There’s still some effort to the delivery and the torque and elbow position in his arm action isn’t ideal, but it’s hard to ignore the stuff.
Dylan Thompson, RHP, Socastee HS (SC), No college commitment
I had literally never heard of Thompson before Jupiter and it was his first major event on the showcase circuit, so that was the case for many scouts as well. There’s some projection and looseness, so there could be more velocity, but you can easily see the separator in the video with a 75-78 mph curveball that flashed plus. He sat 88-90 mph and his 77-80 mph changeup also flashed above average, so with a little extra arm speed and a little more track record, Thompson could turn into a premium arm this spring.
Three guys that made honorable mention on my earlier list also had notable performances in Jupiter. Tennessee prep RHP Donny Everett (Vanderbilt commit) showed the best velocity of his life in front of a huge group of scouts, sitting 94-97 mph with a 78-82 mph curveball that flashed above average in his first inning, tailing off a bit in later innings. He looked like a maxed-out 6’2/220 reliever in that outing, but has shown some feel and a usable changeup when pitching in the low-90’s in other outings.
South Carolina prep LF Kep Brown (Miami commit) had been rising late in the summer and consolidated those gains in Jupiter. The lanky 6’5 Brown was seen a ton as he was on the most talented team in the tournament (his team also had arguably the top two prospects in the tournament, SS Brendan Rodgers and LF Nick Plummer) and he made lots of hard contact with a loose swing that has plus power potential to all fields. He’s a solid average runner underway, but Brown’s arm limits him to left field.
Oklahoma prep RHP Corey Zangari (Oklahoma State commit) was a total wildcard; Jupiter was his third inning on the showcase circuit and he imploded on the launch pad, walking 8 in 2.1 innings over two appearances. He flashed an easy plus slider and plus cutter while topping at 93 mph, but he was clearly feeling for his arm slot and still has a lot of work to do. The upside is enormous and it may only take a dozen good innings this spring for him to get $1 million or more.
I’ll be writing about the 2016 and 2017 drafts soon, but it’s worth mentioning that arguably the top prep prospect for 2016, Orlando-area prep RHP Austin Bergner (uncommitted) took another step forward in Jupiter (sitting 93-95 mph in the 1st inning with feel for above an average curveball and changeup) and may have knocked Kansas prep RHP Riley Pint (LSU commit) off his perch as the top prep prospect for 2016. Scouts speculated where Bergner would go if he were eligible for the 2015 MLB Draft and everyone had him in the 1st round, with some saying he’d go in the top 10; I’d have him in the top 15 right now.
As I said above, most players in the AFL look about the same as they do during the season, if not a tired version of it, but some players stood out as being improved or giving me a first in-person look at the improvements scouts had told me about earlier this year.
Enrique Burgos, RHP, Diamondbacks
Burgos earned the 26th and final slot on the Arizona list as a 6’4/250 righty that sits 95-98 mph, but whose only secondary pitch is a slider that’s average at best and with command that’s well below average right now. In my one-game look at him in the AFL, he looked notably improved: 95-97 with a consistently above average 84-87 mph slider that flashed plus. The command still isn’t great, but it was workable. Once I post ten prospect lists, I’ll run back through those lists and re-rank some players and I think Burgos will fit with the power arms in the 14-17 range on the D’Backs list. If Burgos keeps this up, my first and only emoji scouting report may out of date just weeks after it was written (sad face).
Jake Reed, RHP, Twins
Like Burgos, Reed is a hard-throwing reliever who I liked enough to give the last slot on his team’s prospect list. After being taken in the 5th round this summer, Reed was 93-95 with an average slider and a funkier version of the already-funky delivery you see above. With some slight tweaks, the Twins had him throwing lots of strikes, but his stiff ticked up a notch in the AFL, possible due to cleaning things up a bit. It’s hard to believe but Reed was a starter at one point in college, but that helped his formerly usable changeup now flash average, a pitch most guys like this don’t have. Reed has been sitting 94-97 mph in the AFL, his slider flashed above average and I still think he’ll move quickly as I stated on the Twins list, but now the upside is a little higher, likely as a setup man, like Burgos.
Some other players also had their evaluations tweaked due to changes in the AFL. Diamondbacks RHP Archie Bradley added a new 88-90 mph slider that was above average to plus, but otherwise he still matches my earlier report. Astros RHP Mark Appel was talked about at length in the last podcast and is still the same maddening prospect, but the arm speed is back: in my look he he was 96-98 mph in the first inning with a plus slider until things slowly fell apart.
I saw Yankees 1B Greg Bird and RF Aaron Judge a lot at High-A Tampa this year and both continue to impress in the AFL, forcing me to slowly increase their FVs. I heard similar things this season about Padres RF Hunter Renfroe and this was the first time I had seen him since college; he was a non-factor at Mississippi State as a sophomore in 2012 and just a few years later looks like a safe bet to be an above average regular and soon. Diamondbacks sluggers 3B Brandon Drury (60 raw power was more than I was told to expect) and 1B Peter O’Brien (still can’t catch, but looks looser at the plate with even more power than Drury) both impressed me as well.
Kiley McDaniel has worked as an executive and scout, most recently for the Atlanta Braves, also for the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates. He's written for ESPN, Fox Sports and Baseball Prospectus. Follow him on twitter.