Earlier this week, I concluded the writeups for our pre-2012 top 100 prospects. I hope you enjoyed the unveiling of the list over the past three months.
Of course, I’m sure some of you wished I would have changed some things around, and that’s fine–nobody gets it all right, and I already regret some of my decisions. It was tough to omit a number of players, and depending on how you see certain guys and what you’re emphasizing, you could justifiably do things very differently than I did.
In any case, I wanted to take some time to discuss the other players considered for the list but ultimately placed on the outside looking in. I’m going to do this by division, so today I’ll be covering the AL East “snubs.”
OF Mason Williams–One trend that really jumps out on my list is that very few short-season players get there. Williams had a very impressive season in the NYPL (.349/.395/.468 with 28 steals), but he didn’t overwhelm quite enough to push himself onto the top 100. He probably would’ve snuck into the back end of a top 125, though, which is great for a short-season guy given the way I ranked everyone this year. A definite top 100 candidate if he hits well in the SAL this year.
3B Dante Bichette, Jr.--Bichette was the 51st overall pick in the 2011 draft, and he hit .342/.446/.505 in the GCL as an 18-year-old while looking much better at third base than advertised. It does seem awfully quick to rush the 51st player in the draft into the top 100 prospects overall, though, and Bichette hit just four homers in 54 games, so that’s got to come up if he’s going to be an elite third base prospect. Like Williams, he could well be in with a big 2012 in Charleston.
LHP Nik Turley–I should emphasize something here–just because I considered a guy for the top 100 doesn’t mean he necessarily would rank above everyone I didn’t consider. Just because Turley is one of four Yankees I considered for the top 100 but snubbed doesn’t mean I’d call him a top-eight prospect in the system. In any case, though, the idea of a 6’7″ lefty with plus command and a solid three-pitch mix made me consider him for a few seconds. He put up a 2.51 ERA while striking out a batter per inning in Low-A as a 21-year-old, and I’ve always loved him as a sleeper, but he still has more to prove.
3B/1B Tyler Austin–Austin was the third guy to make a ton of noise in the short-season leagues, hitting .354/.418/.579 and also stealing 18 bases without getting caught. He’s not a very good third baseman, though, and he showed neither huge power (6 HR in 47 games) or a great approach (39/15 K/BB). I do think he’s underrated as short-season prospects go, and don’t see a huge gap between Austin, Williams, and Bichette.
2B Sean Coyle–Coyle gets compared to Dustin Pedroia as an undersized second baseman with pop in his bat. He put up a .217 ISO in Low-A as a 19-year-old while stealing 20 bases, which is impressive. Still, he struck out over once a game, which is a red flag for somebody with as small of a strike zone as the 5’8″ Coyle. He’s also not physically projectable. While he could well be a solid starting second baseman, he needs to raise either his floor (by performing at the upper levels) or ceiling to find his way into a top 100.
C Christian Vasquez–One of my last cuts from the list, Vasquez hit .283/.358/.505 in Low-A as a 20-year-old. He’s basically the catcher version of Coyle, except with fewer strikeouts and walks. He gunned down a third of runners attempting to steal on him as well. I find Vasquez a very underrated prospect who could be a very strong major league catcher, but as the general apathy toward him shows, he has more to prove.
OF Bryce Brentz–Brentz had a shiny 30 home runs, but the enthusiasm about him has to end there. He made 17 outfield errors, struck out once per game, didn’t walk a whole lot, and hit more homers than doubles. With some defensive polish, he could become a starting corner outfielder, but it’s difficult to see him becoming more than a poor man’s Mike Morse.
OF Alex Hassan–Another sleeper type, Hassan hit .291/.404/.456 in Double-A. However, he was 23 and is mostly limited to left field defensively. While he may make for an interesting top-of-the-order hitter thanks to his great approach, he lacks the sort of power that will make him an elite left fielder. He’s very underrated, but doesn’t belong on a top 100.
OF Brandon Jacobs–Not to be confused with the Giants running back, Jacobs was another top performer in the stacked Greenville lineup, hitting .303/.376/.505 and stealing 30 bases. However, his approach (123/43 K/BB) needs work, and like Hassan, he’s limited to left field.
RHP Anthony Ranaudo–Was talked up as a future ace when he was drafted, but nobody was impressed by his pro debut, and his numbers weren’t particularly great either. Unless you think he’s likely to rebound dramatically in 2012, he’s probably in the back of a top 200, if in the top 200 at all.
RHP Matt Barnes–The 19th overall pick in the draft, Barnes was largely considered to be worthy of going even higher. He’s a big guy who throws downhill with an excellent three-pitch mix. He’s never pitched in pro ball, so I went conservative and omitted him, but if you believe in weighting upside more heavily, then he’s a perfectly sound choice as even a borderline top-50 guy.
C Blake Swihart–Swihart was picked just seven selections after Barnes in the draft, but he lags behind in an overall ranking. He’ll be 20 years old around Opening Day, and he’s still very raw in all aspects of the game. He does have two-way impact potential, but is a long way off from reaching it. In many systems, he’d be the top catching prospect, but I have him behind both Lavarnway and Vasquez.
3B Will Middlebrooks–One of the more controversial omissions from the list, I’m sure, but I’m sticking by this one. He hit .302/.345/.520 in Double-A and plays a good third base, but his approach (95/21 K/BB in 96 games) provides a lot of worries. If you can’t control the zone as a 22-year-old in the Eastern League, how can I expect you to control it in the majors? For every Jeff Francoeur 2011 season from a player like this, there are a bunch of disappointments. I see Middlebrooks as a Brandon Inge-type player who will put together a couple of good years, but frustrate more often than not.
LHP Justin Nicolino–Nicolino was prospect #101 on the list. He had a huge year in short-season ball and is a lefthander with a good three-pitch mix. He doesn’t necessarily have the biggest upside in the world, nor does he have a particularly low floor (since he’s so far away), but I’m not sure I wouldn’t rank him over Carreno if I did the list over again. He’s sort of the pitching version of Mason Williams.
RHP Noah Syndergaard–Similar to Nicolino, except he’s bigger, righthanded, and younger, and probably has a higher upside and lower floor. Like Nicolino, certainly a justifiable top-100 selection if you go more on upside.
RHP Aaron Sanchez–Sanchez is a rawer, stringier version of Syndergaard, in a sense. He’s probably in the 150-200 range.
RHP Deck McGuire–On my first draft of the list, McGuire was #72; he ended up dropping over 30 spots as a put a number of guys above him. He’s a perfectly safe pick for the back end of a top-100 as a guy who’s likely to be a durable #3 starter, but he doesn’t have a “wow” factor to his game that compels rankers to get him on the list.
OF Michael Crouse–I really wanted to put Crouse on the list. He’s almost as exciting as Gose and Marisnick, as he posted a .214 ISO in the Midwest League (not easy) and swiped 38 bases in 101 games. He played mostly right field in deference to Marisnick, but is a very exciting prospect who would probably make my top 125. The big problem with the big outfielder is strikeouts, as he whiffed 113 times; it’s tough to quite get on the top 100 when you may not project to hit above .255.
C A.J. Jimenez–Another legitimately fun prospect. Jimenez hit .303/.353/.417 in the tough environment of the Florida State League, and also gunned down 44% of runners while allowing just six passed balls. He’s got gap power and even steals some bases. That said, his lack of secondary skills and physical projection means he has to prove himself in Double-A before being taken seriously an an upper-tier catching prospect. Like Crouse, though, a fantastic sleeper in this deep system.
LHP Daniel Norris–Another very highly-touted young pitcher, Norris was considered one of the best picks of the second round in 2011 as a higher-upside version of Nicolino. He has no pro data, though, so I was conservative. He’s another player who could vault into even the top 50 with a strong pro debut.
LHP Enny Romero–Romero joined Nicolino, Vasquez, and McGuire in the last few cuts from the list. He’s an exciting young lefthander who struck out 140 batters in just 114 2/3 innings in Low-A as a 20-year-old. He did walk 68, however, which was just enoug of a black mark to keep him out. He’s a plausible back-of-the-list candidate if you think his control is going to improve.
RHP Taylor Guerreri–Another first-rounder (24th) with significant upside who needs to get some innings in before he makes my list. Again, if you’re the type to mostly eschew floor in rankings, he makes sense as a back-0f-the-top 100 pick.
2B Tyler Bortnick–Not really a serious candidate, but a guy I stopped to consider for a second because he posted a .428 OBP in the Florida State League, walking more times (79) than he struck out (67). He’s also a good defensive second baseman. But he turned 24 midseason and doesn’t have a big power ceiling, so while he’s a nice sleeper, he’s probably in the 200-250 range even for the sabermetrically inclined.
LHP Eduardo Rodriguez–Rodriguez is the sort of guy who I would have put on the list a year ago, when I packed a bunch of impressive short-season performers onto the back quarter of the top 100. As an 18-year-old, he struck out over a batter per inning in the Gulf Coast League, and he didn’t allow a home run in 44 innings there. He’s an intriguing sleeper, as he’s got some deception and an advanced three-pitch mix for his age, but he’s a long way off and doesn’t have the sort of upside to transcend his obviously low floor and make it on the list.
Topics: A.J. Jimenez, Aaron Sanchez, Alex Hassan, Anthony Ranaudo, Baltimore Orioles, Blake Swihart, Boston Red Sox, Brandon Jacobs, Bryce Brentz, Daniel Norris, Dante Bichette, Deck McGuire, Eduardo Rodriguez, Enny Romero, Justin Nicolino, Mason Williams, Matt Barnes, Michael Crouse, New York Yankees, Nik Turley, Noah Syndergaard, Sean Coyle, Tampa Bay Rays, Taylor Guerreri, Toronto Blue Jays, Tyler Austin, Tyler Bortnick, Will Middlebrooks