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Inbox: Diaz in Top 100? Ramos vs. Kelenic?

@JonathanMayo
July 10, 2019

There’s always the fear of letdown after a big party. So I was excited to handle the first Pipeline Inbox after last Sunday’s SiriusXM Futures Game. And rather than turn the page, I decided to keep it all Futures-related. Now that we're past the Futures Game, we're hard at work

There’s always the fear of letdown after a big party. So I was excited to handle the first Pipeline Inbox after last Sunday’s SiriusXM Futures Game. And rather than turn the page, I decided to keep it all Futures-related.

Now that we're past the Futures Game, we're hard at work re-ranking our top prospects lists. The No. 1 question we get on Twitter is when that is coming. We’re glad people are so excited for the re-rank, and it will be live before the July 31 Trade Deadline (and one of the questions below does involve a Futures Gamer and where he might belong on a re-ranked Top 100). So dig in.

Diaz has been in the Top 100 before, back in 2017 when he was with the Milwaukee Brewers. He was No. 65 on the preseason list that year, following his first taste of full-season ball in 2016 when he hit 20 homers. He struggled in 2017 and 2018 with a .710 and .739 OPS, one with the Brewers and one with the Marlins, and that’s why he hasn’t been on the Top 100 since.

He has definitely taken a very nice step forward with a move to Triple-A this season, and that’s why he was chosen to represent the Marlins in this year’s Futures Game. His .946 OPS is by far his best since his Rookie-level Pioneer League season in 2015. He already has 20 homers in 83 games, so a career high in that category is a sure thing. There are some indicators that point to this being real, most notably a lower strikeout rate (to go along with his usual strong walk rate), and I think a case can be made that he should be in the Top 100 conversation.

We’ll know more when we dig into re-ranking the Top 100 (coming close to the end of July), but the one thing I think could keep him off is the level he’s at. Offensive numbers in Triple-A are up across the board, so the cynics among us might wonder if the upswing is because of that, or because he’s truly turned the page offensively.

The two Futures Gamers are both firmly on the Top 100, with Ramos at No. 56 and Kelenic at No. 24. That disparity is at the heart of this question.

Yes, both are the same age (19). And yes, Ramos’ numbers in the Class A Advanced California League as of now are better. But it should be noted that Kelenic only has 24 games at that level to date, as the 2018 first-round pick of the Mariners earned a promotion after hitting .309/.394/.586 over 50 games in the South Atlantic League. If we’re going to just look at performances, it should be noted that Ramos, a 2017 first-rounder, struggled out of the gate in his first full season, while Kelenic did not.

But the larger point is that our rankings aren’t based on what any particular player is doing at the moment. It’s much more about what we (and the scouting industry) thinks they will be in the future, as established big leaguers. Let’s take a look at how the grades measure up:

Kelenic: Hit: 60 | Power: 50 | Run: 55 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50

Ramos: Hit: 45 | Power: 55 | Run: 55 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50

So, based on the grades, both are pretty “tooled up.” Ramos has an edge on power (though overall for the year, Kelenic has a higher OPS, just saying). But there is much firmer belief that Kelenic isn’t just going to hit, but is going to be a plus hitter. I do think Ramos has taken a very good step forward and perhaps deserves a 50 hit grade, but right now, that confidence in Kelenic’s bat is the separator.

I really don’t like the word "snub." As someone who does participate in the ad hoc committee that helps select the Futures Game rosters, I know first-hand how tough it can be to fill it out. Making sure every team is represented is no small task. The move to the AL vs. NL format will make it easier. Yes, we’re still trying to make it as diverse as possible, but the combined challenge of organizational AND international representation isn’t the same. That said, there are always players we all want to see who aren’t there. It’s kind of part of the fun of All-Star Games in general, no?

If I had to pick one player I would’ve really liked to see, I’d probably say Braves outfield prospect Drew Waters. The guy is 20 years old and hitting .332 with an .892 OPS in Double-A. There’s more power to come and he has 11 steals. The good news is, given the outfield situation in Atlanta, not to mention 2019 Futures Gamer Cristian Pache also in Double-A, I think we’ll have the chance to get Waters there in 2020 (Spoiler alert: Coming this week is a story on one prospect from each team we want to see in next year’s Futures Game. I can neither confirm nor deny Waters being the choice for the Braves.).

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.