Since I made you wait a little longer than I intended for a mid-season/trade-deadline prospect rankings update, I decided to expand upon the form with four lists instead of just one. Each of these lists uses tiers like my other lists, but each list is also ordered by preference within each tier. I’ve also started using Present Value (PV) in addition to the normal Future Value (FV) as a better way to show how close a prospect is to reaching his ceiling, or being ready for a call-up. See this article for more about FV and the 20-80 scouting scale in general.
The first list is the standard top-prospect list with the standard 130 at-bat/50 innings pitched qualifications, so prospects in the big leagues are eligible for the list. That said, a few players like Kyle Schwarber and Daniel Norris are about a week from losing their prospect eligibility and are in the big leagues, so I moved them to another of the lists below in anticipation.
The second list features players who were eligible for the Top 200 Prospect List last year that didn’t make it, but would do so comfortably now. Think of this as the minor-league version of “pop-up guys” that you’ll hear referred to more often in the draft: players that improved greatly in a short period of time. The standard for being listed is 50 FV, which was the 80th through 143rd prospects on the preseason list, but, for reasons I’ll explain below, should be even higher this year.
The third list contains the players from this summer’s draft and July 2nd international signing period who meet the same 50-FV-or-better requirement.
The fourth list features the players who lost their rookie eligibility this year and are now 50-FV-or-better players, which includes lots of players from the Top 200, but also some prospects that emerged this year due to their performance in the major leagues.
The blind spot of this sort of article is the players on the preseason Top 200 who are still prospects, but not in the Top 26 update. Those players have already been written about a lot in the past, and you can probably read my preseason report, look at their 2015 numbers and guess about where they’ll land this off-season. Everyone else of consequence should be mentioned below.
Talent Ebbs and Flows
This is the first time that I’ve done a “rookie of a certain caliber” type list, but everyone I talked to said this group is much bigger, maybe even double the size of most rookie classes. In this case, the narrative of a historic rookie class diluting the top-end talent in the minor leagues appears to be correct. You’ll notice each of the top few tiers in the first list below is smaller than it was in before the season.
Next summer’s draft class is seen as an above-average crop and this past summer’s draft was seen as below average. The most recent July 2 class was seen as above average, but most of those players won’t appear on lists like this for another year or two when they start playing in America. You could connect these points to see an ebb and flow of talent, projecting it to hit another high in a year or two.
The Top Prospect List
While the Top 200 was based on a round number, it also worked out that a natural cutoff in talent appeared right at 200. I was planning on doing a top 25 or 30 for this update but it worked out that 26 players was the number around which I could find some sort of consensus.
There was a solid group of talent that missed the cut and I won’t mention all of them, but it’s only right to Rockies fans to point out that your team had five players just miss the cut: righties Jeff Hoffman and Jon Gray, along with shortstop Brendan Rodgers (who is atop the third list below), center fielder David Dahl and third baseman Ryan McMahon. Those five won’t be easy to sort out this winter for the organizational list as they’re tightly packed.
Other teams with multiple players in the just-missed group: the Rays with righty Brent Honeywell and shortstop Willy Adames, the Reds with left fielder Jesse Winker and righty Robert Stephenson and the Mets with left fielder Michael Conforto, shorstop Amed Rosario and lefty Steven Matz.
I didn’t list the 2014 FV for Dansby Swanson since I didn’t formally do that for draft prospects before the spring, but he would’ve been a 50 FV if I had done that; I had him 7th in the class last fall.
I list the 2014 ranking and FV for players as a quick way to show progress during the 2015 season for each player but also to keep things honest. I’ve complained for a while that there’s no accountability in the prospect-rankings game and this is one of the ways I’m looking to change that, at least for me.
Since I didn’t rank the last 57 players in the Top 200 (the 45+ FV group), I just gave those players a rank (173) that reflected the average of that whole group. Also, I said in the introduction to the Top 200 that Yoan Moncada would rank 8th on the list if he were eligible, then he signed before Opening Day (the cut-off for these rankings). Due to this, any player ranked lower than 8th on the Top 200 has his rank one number lower than it was on the published list.
|6||Yoan Moncada||2B||20.2||Red Sox||20||65||65||8|
|19||Manuel Margot||CF||20.9||Red Sox||20||60||55||36|
|20||Rafael Devers||3B||18.8||Red Sox||20||60||55||49|
Minor-League Pop-Up Guys
Some of these guys jumped from just missing the Top 200 to being a top 100-150 prospect, which isn’t that big of a jump. The more exciting prospects are ones that jumped from 35+ or 40 FV preseason grades. Astros righty Francis Martes went from an intriguing short-season power arm Houston got as a throw-in in the Colin Moran/Jarred Cosart deal to a guy flashing stuff similar to this summer’s #4 overall pick, Rangers righty Dillon Tate.
This off-season, I wrote that Nationals center fielder Victor Robles was “one of the most exciting players in the system” and he “could shoot up this list if the raw tools convert into performance” despite not playing an official game in America at that point. He was 18th in the system before the year, but is 3rd now and, like Martes, would make the above list if I stretched it to 40.
I was the high guy on Alford after a scorching fall instructional league performance, but it was a risky move since he had been playing football full-time up until instructs. Alford rewarded my faith with a big 2015 and these three players have been and will continue to get hype this off-season, both from their own GMs and from writers referencing what prospects teams are asking about most often in trades.
|4||Anthony Alford||CF||21.1||Blue Jays||20||55||45||—|
|6||Jose De Leon||RHS||23.0||Dodgers||40||55||45||—|
|8||Javier Guerra||SS||19.9||Red Sox||20||50||40+||—|
|11||Anderson Espinoza||RHS||17.4||Red Sox||20||50||40+||—|
|14||Connor Greene||RHS||20.4||Blue Jays||20||50||40||—|
The Crop of New Pro Talent
These are the new pros who signed in the last few months that are likely to make the top 100-125 this off-season. You’ll notice that the rankings and FVs are very close if not identical to how I graded them before they signed. Rodgers would make the main prospect list if I expanded it to 40. Dansby Swanson is the only player from this group who isn’t on this list because he made the Top 26.
The July 2 guys don’t have FanGraphs profiles and haven’t played in a pro game yet because they sign deals for the next year: on July 2, 2015, they sign a 2016 contract. This is done to get an extra year of control before the Rule 5 Draft, since they’d only play two months after signing and are so far away from contributing. These players will debut in instructs in September/October at the spring training homes of their teams.
|4||Carson Fulmer||RHS||21.7||White Sox||40||50||—||—|
|6||Andrew Benintendi||CF||21.1||Red Sox||20||50||—||—|
The (Many) Graduated Prospects
This is why you’re hearing so much about the legendary rookie class this year: it’s really good. I don’t have context for how many players would’ve been on last year’s version of this list, but scouts estimated about 20-25 would represent a normal year. As the elite talent and depth of this off-season’s prospect list won’t stack up to last year’s, this year’s rookie class will likely be seen as the best for many years. There’s still other players that could be added to this list, like Braves third baseman Hector Olivera, Cardinals right fielder Stephen Piscotty, Yankees righty Luis Severino or Rangers third baseman Joey Gallo.
Another interesting element of this list is to compare players who are similar in value now that weren’t close entering the year, like numbers 15 and 16 on this list, Matt Duffy and Jorge Soler. Since age, track record, contracts and other factors come into play beyond just the PV/FV grade, I can’t say this perfectly maps to trade value, but to say before the season that Soler and Duffy could be near each other seemed impossible. For reference, Duffy’s 40+ FV grade would’ve ranked him in the 700-800 range on a prospect list entering the season, if I went that deep, and Soler was 14th.
I had FVs for the Korean and Cuban pro imports (Kang, Castillo, Tomas) before the season, but didn’t put them on the prospect lists for a number of reasons, mainly that they were seen as finished products for the most part, undermining the concept of a prospect list. Olivera was a 55 FV before the season.
Some in the game categorize successful big-league players as those with and without prospect hype. Corey Kluber and Gerrit Cole are giving their teams similar value this year and one of them was a top prospect in his age group at around 17 and every year since then, while the other could’ve been acquired for little until he turned 27 and emerged as an asset. One of the first things I wrote for FanGraphs was admitting this sort of player (and others) often are overlooked. This kind of list and others like it trying to capture true talent level and upside will help you more quickly notice when a Matt Duffy, Matt Carpenter or Matt Shoemaker is emerging, since you can notice when he starts passing hyped prospects that you’d otherwise just assume are better without investigating.
This list is also another way to attempt to get things more transparent and accountable with my rankings. The Duffy/Soler example is more of an outlier than an example of a blind spot (or so I think right now), but it’s a perfect example of the sort of thing at which the rankings media doesn’t re-visit often enough.
There are some articles out there that rank young big leaguers, to try to fill some of the vacuum for scouting content about these players, but even then, they are almost never graded so you could compare them to current prospects. Soon, I’l be grading all the big leaguers on this PV/FV scale so you can compare the present and possible futures for players at all levels, something that someone should’ve done a long time ago.
|9||Carlos Rodon||LHS||22.7||White Sox||50||65||65||9|
|13||Blake Swihart||C||23.4||Red Sox||45||60||60||10|
|14||Eduardo Rodriguez||LHS||22.4||Red Sox||45||60||60||24|
|20||Devon Travis||2B||24.5||Blue Jays||50||55||45+||173|
|35||Rusney Castillo||CF||27.9||Red Sox||45||50||55||—|
|42||Dalton Pompey||CF||22.7||Blue Jays||35||50||50||81|
|46||Roberto Osuna||RHR||20.5||Blue Jays||45||50||50||120|
|49||Aaron Sanchez||RHR||23.1||Blue Jays||40||50||55||71|
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.