Yesterday, Dan Farnsworth at Fangraphs posted their Astros prospect evaluation list, and it's a little different. And different is good. It's clear that the prospect team at Fangraphs did more than rehash information provided by Baseball America, Keith Law, or mlb.com, and performed their own evaluations in addition to talking to Astros' scouting personnel.
What results is a list that varies significantly from previously published lists, including TCB's own. A couple things make Fangraphs' ranking valuable. First, the list is 27 players deep, meaning that the team evaluated far more than the "name" guys at the top of most lists. Secondly, Farnsworth does a great job of defending his rankings, particularly with players that other scouting outlets are down on. Examples of this are Tyler White (ranked 6, compared to 28 on mlb.com) and Daz Cameron (ranked 4 compared to 8 on TCB, but notable for being five spots higher than fellow draftee Kyle Tucker at 9).
I get why a player like White has to perform at such a high level before getting a chance in the big leagues, but his defensive liabilities can only hold down his total value so much. He is absolutely a big-league hitter.
Again, sticking with White, Farnsworth's approach in evaluating hitters is on display, and this sort of analysis is prevalent throughout the piece, showing that the Fangraphs team performed their own scouting in addition to speaking with scouts:
He has an excellent hand path and good use of his lower half at the plate. He gets a little big with his stride and loses the ground with his back foot a tick early, but his hip drive is quick and direct. Though his power is more of the doubles variety, he has an above-average power ceiling with the potential for low double-digit homer totals and a bunch of two-baggers.
There's no doubt that this list is batter-heavy, which should surprise nobody who has followed the Astros over the past couple of seasons. But like TCB, Fangraphs agrees that the top pitching prospects in the system are not Francis Martes (ranked 3) and former Top 100 pitcher Michael Feliz (14th), but Francis Martes and Joe Musgrove (7th).
The limited ceiling grade here may look conservative if he is reliably healthy and even slightly improves one of his secondary pitches. Either way, he’s already a big win for the player development and scouting staffs in Houston.
This statement is actually "praising with faint damn", as the limited ceiling grade referred to on Musgrove is a 60, with an ultimate 90th-percentile ceiling of 65, which is the grade of a #2/3, 4-WAR starting pitcher, or equivalent to Collin McHugh in 2015 (3.9 WAR) or Dallas Keuchel in 2014 (3.8 WAR).
We'll leave you with this quote about #1 prospect first baseman AJ Reed:
...I would argue his hit tool is already above average, with a very real chance of being as good as his power tool. To me, he looks like a near-elite overall hitter...
In all, Fangraphs' scouting grades and information are a great insight into how some scouts evaluate players and it provides an additional perspective. What are your thoughts on these rankings?