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Astros Top 30 Prospects: CRPerry13's outliers

Now that the Astros Top 30 Prospects have been announced, CRPerry13 discusses which prospects he was higher than or lower than his compatriots on.

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Part of the fun in ranking baseball prospects is in identifying where my grades differ from my fellow writers.  We all have our distinct ways of evaluating players down on the farm.  For the TCB Top 30, ten different writers graded prospects, and sometimes the discussions behind the scenes got contentious.  At the root of the disagreements were differences in philosophies.

Here are several players where my personal grades varied significantly from the group average.

RHP Brendan McCurry

TCB Grade: 4.85, C+
My Grade: 6 (+1.15), B

It's sort of hard to defend grading a relief pitcher so highly, but I couldn't make myself lower his grade from the B that I gave him.  Am I crazy?  After all, he will likely only ever pitch between 60 to 70 innings per season.  But here's my argument:  I am hard-pressed to name even one reliever who is a legitimate prospect in the totality of Minor League Baseball who was more dominant than McCurry in 2015.  He pitched 63 innings and struck out 82 batters, a whopping exact one-third of all of the batters he faced.  He limited walks to an extremely low rate for a power pitcher--only 17 free passes all season.  The result was a 1.86 ERA and 0.89 WHIP.  For comparison, during new Astros closer Ken Giles' last minor league season, Giles pitched a 1.91 ERA with a 1.094 WHIP, with 38 strikeouts in 28 innings, also striking out exactly one-third of the batters he faced.  But Giles walked 11% of batters faced, compared to McCurry's 7%.  McCurry was that good in 2015, and he can be favorably compared to a guy that the Astros traded five other young pitchers to acquire this off-season.  That kind of floor/ceiling combo is too hard to ignore.  To me, it looks like he could rival Giles for best pitcher in the Astros' bullpen by early 2018.

C Jamie Ritchie

TCB Grade: 4.40, C+
My Grade:  5.50 (+1.10), B-

I'll admit to a little geeky fanboyness here.  Ritchie has a career 18% walk rate for his minor league career so far.  If he ends up playing plus defense at the position, even without much power or speed to bolster his offensive stats, I find myself dreaming of a backup catcher who can hit .280-.290 with an OBP that reaches towards .370.  Maybe I'm aggressively optimistic.  But I ignored Ritchie last year, and now I am forced to acknowledge that after reaching Advanced A and never posting a wRC+ lower than 142 at any level, he deserves some serious attention.

RHP Kyle Smith

TCB Grade: 4.10, C+
My Grade: 5 (+0.90), B-

I feel a little squirmy in giving such an aggressive rating to a player who missed the entirety of 2015 and probably will be limited to 60-70 innings in 2016.  But from the horse's mouth, he will be 100% healthy by Spring Training and ready to go.  Even calling these two seasons a wash, or inconclusive at best, he still only just turned 23 years old and has already pitched 95 innings at AA.  And he's been very good throughout his career.  He does what I like to see: strikes out a high percentage of batters and limits walks.  If he comes back as strong as he left off, I still see a mid-rotation ceiling here, with the floor of a good reliever.

3B Colin Moran

TCB Grade: 6.25, B
My Grade: 7 (+0.75), B+

I don't need to go into detail.  I already spent 1,000 words on Moran last week.  Go read it.

1B A.J. Reed

TCB Grade: 7.80, B+
My Grade: 8.50 (+0.70), A-

Somebody had to tell the truth.  And that somebody was me.  A.J. Reed showed almost as much power in the minors this year as Kris Bryant did last season.  But Reed strikes out less often.  Bryant was the best hitter in the minors last season.  Reed was the best hitter in the minors this season.  Bryant hit .275/.369/.488 for 136 wRC+ and 6.5 WAR during his Rookie Season.  Reed will....

RHP Riley Ferrell

TCB Grade: 3.72, High C
My Grade: 3 (-.072), Low C

Ferrell is a relief pitcher who dominated in college.  But he's a relief pitcher.  One who walked 18% of the batters he faced in his first professional stop at Quad Citiies.  He'll probably be a good relief pitcher in the majors.  Maybe a great one.  But for me to put a reliever anywhere close to my Top 30, he's gotta dominate the way McCurry dominated.  There's always next season.  (Side note:  I gave Jordan Jankowski a 4.5 grade, compared to a 3.65 grade by my peers [+0.85].  Jankowski is a reliever too.  But after striking out almost 30% of the batters he faced at AAA last season and having a very low career walk rate, the path to the majors is clear, and looks rosy.  He ranked 27th on my list, just ahead of James Hoyt, another close-to-majors strikeout king.  Thomas Shirley and Kevin Chapman fared well in my rankings also, slotting in somewhere in the 31-40 range.  For relief pitchers, closeness to majors matters a lot to me.)

RHP Akeem Bostick

TCB Grade: 4.65, C+
My Grade: 3.5 (-1.15), C-

I expect to catch some crap for this.  Brooks and I spent a lot of time discussing Bostick on the podcast, and for me it comes down to our differing philosophies on grading prospects.  Bostick has been in pro ball for three seasons now, and has a 4.32 career ERA despite not yet reaching the more-challenging level of AA.  He's young, yes, but he has one of the lowest strikeout rates of any of the Astros pitchers who qualified for our Top 50, and it was the lowest strikeout rate among the Top 30.  Without seeing drastic improvement in peripherals and run prevention results, I foretell another pitcher with nice stuff who never makes much noise in the major leagues.  Caveat: He is very young.  There is plenty of time for me to look foolish.