Sadly, I was unable to participate in The Crawfish Boxes prospect podcast. My Thanksgiving vacation to visit the in-laws in the D.C. area began that weekend and no amount of schedule wrangling could plug me into Skype at the appointed time.
I was looking forward to defending my stances on some of the prospects where I differed from my fellow writers about their placement in our rankings. Part of what makes prospecting fun is the different perspectives people have on how to evaluate them. On the other hand, by doing it in writing, nobody can interrupt and tell me how wrong I am, so perhaps this is for the best.
It is worth pointing out that I am no scout, nor do I pretend to be one on T.V. My own rankings and opinions are based solely on subjective feelings based on stats and online scouting reports of varying degrees of questionable value, averaged with a formula I created (more on that in Part 2) to bring a degree of objectivity into the process.
So herein lies my justification for my rankings, presented for your entertainment only. No prospects' careers will be harmed or helped by this exercise, but I welcome feedback from the masses in the form of comments, questions, or snide remarks. All will be given equal amount of consideration or contempt.
My Top Ten
Following my typical motus operandum, I created a spreadsheet to track my research. I divided it between links to sites containing stats and scouting information and data that served as inputs to my not-very-objective mathematical ranking formula. As a result, I have 78 Astros prospects on my spreadsheet, each carefully considered for tools, floor, ceiling, position, age, and current farm level.
Diff = the difference between my ranking and the TCB averaged ranks.
|1||Jonathan Singleton||(Diff: 0)|
|2||Carlos Correa||(Diff: 0)|
|3||Domingo Santana||(Diff: +4)|
|4||George Springer||(Diff: -1)|
|5||Delino DeShields, Jr||(Diff: -1)|
|6||Preston Tucker||(Diff: +8)|
|7||Rio Ruiz||(Diff: +3)|
|8||Nicholas Tropeano||(Diff: 0)|
|9||Lance McCullers||(Diff: -3)|
|10||Jarred Cosart||(Diff: -5)|
The biggest differences are my placement of Santana, Tucker, and Cosart on this list. My reasons for the differences, plus some of the more interesting ranking placements on my list, are discussed in detail below.
Guys I'm Bullish on More Than Other Writers:
Santana is one of those guys that's hard not to like. He's a high-risk dude, as he will enter the season presumably at Double-A, yet only a hair shy of 21 years of age. What prompted my elevated ranking above more pedigreed prospects is that scouts seem to love the guy's tools and the results are good. There are plenty of valid arguments about Lancaster being a hitter's environment, but Santana was over two years younger than the average age for the league and hit .296/.380/.527 in a league that averaged .273/.342/.427. Indeed, while he hit better in the launching pad of his home park, he still batted .289/.364/.502 in 59 games on the road. Scouts love his arm and projectable Right Fielder's body; Baseball Prospectus recently graded his top tools as "7 raw power (potential); easy 6 arm" on the 2-8 scouting scale. Were it not for an unsightly 28% Strikeout Rate, he'd be the gem of the upper levels in 2013 due to his age, tools, and results.
Tucker is a different sort from Santana. When I asked Baseball Prospectus about him, part of the response was very similar to the feelings of a lot of scouts: "The body is already quite thick, and as you mentioned, that is a concern for some people going forward." Tucker is a big boy at 6'0" and 217 lbs, and that is the only knock against him that I have been unable to uncover. But let me present this:
Player A: 1035 AB, .329/.402/.577
Player B: 685 AB, .327/.391/.620
Player A is Preston Tucker during his college career at the University of Florida. Player B is his teammate, Mike Zunino, who was drafted third overall by the Seattle Mariners. Many draft prognosticators projected Tucker to be drafted among the second and third rounds. His falling in the draft was due more to the fact he was a senior and hesitation over his defensive home than any questions about his bat.
Know who else was considered to have a "bad body"? CC Sabathia. Adam Dunn. Prince Fielder. Carlos Lee. Babe Ruth. Even Lance Berkman has been unable to shake the moniker "Fat Elvis." Tucker does not look like the platonic ideal of a baseball player, and that's the only knock against him. That's not a good enough reason to ignore what he has consistently done with his bat to this point. Some scouts want Tucker to prove them wrong before they move him up. He'll need to prove me wrong before I'll drop him on my board.
So I ask: What do we think about a Left Field/DH prospect who has those college numbers, and who posted .317/.388/.503 in 41 games as a professional (low-A...a higher level than most 2012 draftees), and who was drafted four rounds after most experts projected him to go? I love this guy as a prospect...he looks like a cleanup hitter to me, with the floor of a bottom of the order DH. And, he's left-handed.
Bobby Borchering (My Rank: 13, Diff: +11) is an interesting case. When I first read up on him, my subjective ranking was closer to my peers. But then I started assigning floor and ceiling values to players and taking their age and level of competition into consideration. Borchering was young for AA last season (not even 22 years old) and I assigned him a middle of the order ceiling. Those two factors weighed more than the "bust" floor that I gave him, given because he strikes out in a third of his plate appearances. However, Houston has been playing him as a 3B, which helps his value (he was an outfielder in his previous organization). Until he can improve his strikeout rate and contact skills, he's closer to his floor than his ceiling. But he's still young and could be a late-bloomer. He does few things poorly and has tons of time to overcome his few deficiencies as a ballplayer to become a very good major leaguer. And that prompted my optimistic ranking..
Joseph Musgrove, Aaron West, and Adrian Houser
Joseph Musgrove (My Rank: 12, Diff: +5), Aaron West (My Rank: 17, Diff: +5), and Adrian Houser (My Rank: 21, Diff: +5) are starting pitchers that are similar because I have them ranked 5 spots higher than my peers.
For Musgrove, several articles I read by semi-impartial people rank Musgrove's ceiling as a Top of Rotation starter, though it is a projection with very high risk due to his age (19 last season). But he's young and barring injury looks no worse than a short reliever in the majors.
West is a guy I latched on to and have liked a lot for a while. I read several pleasing things about his "Top of Rotation Stuff", despite apparently incorrect reports that he was a Tommy John Surgery survivor. His Round 17 draft round belies his stuff. Every report seems to love the arsenal and approach.
Houser dropped a bit from last year's rankings, but he's still ridiculously young and has the stuff of a strong major league starter. For a guy we ranked 9th coming into 2012, it seems like his drop in ranking has more to do with him not being the "flavor of the month" anymore because of all the new faces in the system. He just missed Baseball Prospectus' top ten, so I'm comfortable with my ranking.
All three of these guys have great chances at becoming strong major leaguers, and that's why I have them ranked where they are.
Austin Wates (My Rank: 19, Diff +15) is the Top-30 prospect whose ranking I disagreed with the most compared to everybody else; I had him a whopping fifteen spots higher than the TCB Average (which included my vote!). Here's the deal: Wates is a contact guy, he's close to the majors, he can play some defense, will hit for a high average, has a small bit of power, and had a great season at AA in 2012 (.304/.375/.429). In other words, he's Juan Pierre with a bit more pop. A guy like that has a ceiling as a Top of the Order hitter, and will probably have a long career even if he doesn't reach that ceiling. More than anybody else, I think Wates' stock was hurt solely by the influx of new talent into the system. Since TCB ranked him as the #8 Astros prospect coming into 2012, I can't fathom why he fell into the low thirties after a successful season. He's got a good twitter account, too.
Carlos Quevado & Kenny Long
Carlos Quevado (My Rank: 28, Diff +22) and Kenny Long (My Rank: 27, Diff +9) are two short relievers who have the stuff to be closers. Closers, or even setup men, or even pitchers who possess that kind of stuff are valuable. They aren't exciting on a prospect list, but they will likely contribute more than some of the Back-of-Rotation ceiling starters that were acquired in 2011 and 2012 trades (see Part 2). Both pitchers feature huge K/9 and K% numbers and acceptable BB rates for short relief. At the least, both of these guys look like slam-dunk short relievers and as close to can't-miss as I saw in the system. I'll take near-certainty over upside when I'm looking at players in the mid-30's of the rankings.
Conclusion (Part 1):
Well, that took more words than I anticipated. So, with that in mind, I will stop and allow people to comment on those players above that I'm higher on than the average TCB writer. I will follow up soon on those players who I am not as enthused about, plus a description of my method in ranking.