Pipeline Inbox: Is Giolito or Urias a better pitching prospect?
Jim Callis responds to fans' questions about baseball's future stars
Dansby Swanson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 Draft, hasn't had the nicest introduction to pro ball. After signing for $6.5 million, he went to the Diamondbacks' training base in Scottsdale, Ariz. In his first plate appearance in his first simulated game, Yoan Lopez hit Swanson in the face with a fastball, leaving him with a mild concussion and a cut that required 14 stitches.
That delayed Swanson's pro debut until Aug. 12, and he went hitless in three of his first five games. He did connect for his first home run Thursday night, but he is batting just .172/.265/.414 through seven contests.
Do these numbers mean anything? No, because it's an extremely small sample size and Swanson has the offensive and defensive tools to become an All-Star shortstop in the very near future. Chipper Jones posted a sickly .592 OPS in his pro debut, and Derek Jeter managed just a .626 OPS in his, to cite just two examples of guys who overcame lackluster debuts to become stars.
Assuming they have the same ETA, does being two years younger and having a clean medical history make Dodgers left-hander Julio Urias a better pitching prospect than Nationals right-hander Lucas Giolito?
-- Alexander M., Concord, Calif.
We have Giolito ranked No. 3 and Urias No. 4 on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, so we give an edge to Giolito. That said, I could certainly see an argument for Urias based on him being left-handed and younger and not having undergone Tommy John surgery like Giolito did.
However, I do slightly prefer Giolito. His fastball and curveball are a little better than Urias', as is his control. Gilolito has a better build (6-foot-6, 255 pounds versus 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds) as well.
While we can debate Giolito vs. Urias, there should be no question that they're the two best pitching prospects in baseball. The Nationals and Dodgers have tried to bring their prized arms along slowly, but they won't be able to hold them back much longer. I bet we see both of them in the big leagues by mid-2016.
Many outlets had the Braves as a top 10 farm system after all of the trades they've made. Where would you currently rank them?
-- Aaron K., Wheaton, Ill.
When I started to rank the 10 best farm systems for a story from last week, I expected the Braves to make the cut. They ultimately didn't, despite having impressive depth.
Since taking over as Atlanta's president of baseball operations 11 months ago, John Hart has infused a lot of young talent into his organization via trades for pitching prospects Manny Banuelos, Zach Bird, Mike Foltynewicz, Max Fried, John Gant, Tyrell Jenkins, Ricardo Sanchez, Andrew Thurman, Touki Toussaint, Arodys Vizcaino, Robert Whalen and Matt Wisler; position prospects Jose Briceno, Jordan Paroubeck, Dustin Peterson, Rio Ruiz and Mallex Smith; young big league veterans Shelby Miller and Jace Peterson; and Cuban defector Hector Olivera (who doesn't meet MLBPipeline's definition of a prospect). The Braves also had six of the first 89 picks in the 2015 Draft, and they added a pair of highly regarded Dominicans (shortstop Derian Cruz, outfielder Christian Pache) once the international signing period began.
The Braves definitely have one of the deeper farm systems, but they didn't have quite enough star power to make my top 10. They have just three Top 100 prospects and only one ranked in our Top 75 (shortstop Ozhaino Albies at No. 38, Toussaint at No. 78 and left-hander Kolby Allard at No. 98). I'd put Atlanta's system in the 11-15 range, with the potential for upward mobility.
With the season the Yankees' Gary Sanchez is having, has he overtaken the Phillies' Jorge Alfaro as the top offensive catcher in the Minor Leagues?
-- Matt C., Hartford, Conn.
Signed for $3 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2009, Sanchez seemed to stagnate when he got to high Class A in mid-2012. He posted so-so numbers over the next 2 1/2 seasons before kicking it up a notch this year. Sanchez is hitting .268/.328/.471 with a career-high 16 homers in 87 games, and he has improved his receiving behind the plate, though it still needs further refinement.
Catcher might be the thinnest prospect position in the Minors right now, and there isn't a clear offensive standout like there was before Kyle Schwarber raced to Wrigley Field (even if I think he's destined for the outfield, but I digress). Sanchez is on the short list of candidates, along with Alfaro, Willson Contreras (Cubs), Jacob Nottingham (Athletics) and Tyler Stephenson (Reds). Giving him extra credit for producing at the upper levels, Sanchez is the top offensive catcher in the Minors.
What are you hearing on a pair of high-upside outfielders taken in the 2014 Draft, Michael Gettys (Padres) and Monte Harrison (Brewers)? Both seemed like projects to different extents and have not put up much in the way of numbers so far. Are scouts concerned? Or is that what we should have expected in Year 1?
-- Trevor S., Boston
Gettys and Harrison were the two best athletes in the 2014 Draft, though concerns about their hitting ability and their price tags dropped them to back-to-back picks in the second round. Both landed above-slot bonuses, with Harrison getting $1.8 million at No. 50 overall and Gettys signing for $1.3 million at No. 51.
Harrison batted just .148/.246/.247 with 77 strikeouts in 46 games at low Class A Wisconsin to start the year, prompting a demotion to Rookie-level Helena, where he has hit .299/.410/.474 with 23 whiffs in 28 contests. Gettys has spent all of 2015 at low Class A Fort Wayne, batting .234/.275/.360 with a Midwest League-high 140 strikeouts in 107 games.
Gettys' bat is more of a concern because he had a history of struggling against quality pitching on the high school showcase circuit. Those worries aren't going away while he's striking out five times as much as he has walked as a pro.
There's more hope for Harrison, who was viewed as needing time to develop because he split his time between baseball and football (he was a four-star wide receiver committed to play both sports at Nebraska). His plate discipline got away from him at Wisconsin, but it has been much better this year and last in Rookie ball. It's not great that Harrison needed two years in Rookie ball, but it wasn't completely unexpected either.