Inbox: Who will be the top 10 on the 2016 Top 100 Prospects lists?
Jim Callis responds to fans' questions about baseball's future stars
There are two American League playoff spots up for grabs and the regular season won't end until Sunday, but I need to get my playoff predictions on record now because I won't author another edition of the Pipeline Inbox until mid-October.
In the American League, I have the Astros beating the Yankees in the Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser, the Blue Jays (over Houston) and Rangers (over the Royals) winning in the Division Series, and Toronto advancing to the World Series. In the National League, I see the Cubs defeating the Pirates in the Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser, Chicago (over the Cardinals) and the Dodgers (over the Mets) taking the Division Series, and Los Angeles moving on to the Fall Classic.
As formidable as Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke are for the Dodgers, I think David Price and Marcus Stroman can go toe to toe with them in a short series. Add in the Blue Jays' superior lineup and bullpen, and I see them prevailing in a seven-game World Series. Now that I've angered fans in at least nine cities (and perhaps Anaheim and Minneapolis for not projecting the Angels and Twins to reach the postseason), let's get to your questions ...
What's your early guess for the top 10 overall prospects when MLBPipeline.com revamps its list in January?
-- Alexander M., Concord, Calif.
I'm just one cog in the MLBPipeline machine, but here's my personal top 10 as of the moment. This assumes that Twins outfielder Byron Buxton will collect six more big league at-bats and exceed 130 total, rendering him ineligible. If he doesn't, I still love his five-tool ability enough to rank him No. 1.
1. Corey Seager, SS/3B, Dodgers
2. Lucas Giolito, RHP, Nationals
3. Julio Urias, LHP, Dodgers
4. J.P. Crawford, SS, Phillies
5. Yoan Moncada, 2B, Red Sox
6. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pirates
7. Dansby Swanson, SS, Diamondbacks
8. Orlando Arcia, SS, Brewers
9. Joey Gallo, 3B/OF, Rangers
10. Brendan Rodgers, SS, Rockies
As that list reveals, I put a premium on defensive value with six middle infielders making my top 10. Even with Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Addison Russell graduating to the Majors in 2015, there's more outstanding shortstop talent on the way.
When he was coming through the Minors, the questions surrounding White Sox outfielder Trayce Thompson were whether he could put together his tools, particularly his hitting ability. We understood he was a quality defender with some power, but there were concerns if he could hit enough. With his Major League sample size, has your opinion of Thompson changed? What's a realistic projection for his future?
-- Nick D., Chicago
Thompson has the best basketball bloodlines of any big leaguer ever. His father Mychal was the top pick in the 1978 NBA draft and won two championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, his brother Klay won an NBA title with the Golden State Warriors this year and his brother Mychel also played briefly in the NBA. Trayce's size (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) and athleticism has made him one of the most intriguing prospects in the White Sox system since he signed as a second-round pick in 2009, and he has hit .303/.367/.550 with five homers in 109 at-bats so far in his Chicago debut this year.
I'm still not all-in on Thompson, however. That's a small big league sample size and he has gone 11-for-56 (.196) with a .667 OPS in his last 16 games following a scorching start. He posted a .704 OPS in Double-A in 2013, a .743 OPS when he returned to the same level in 2014 and a .744 OPS in Triple-A this season.
Thompson has made strides with his plate discipline, though I'm still not sure he's going to hit for much average or tap into all of his raw power. He's a solid runner but not a big basestealer, and he's capable of playing center field but not a plus defender there. I see him as more of a platoon player against left-handers or a fourth outfielder than a regular.
Who's the most underrated prospect in the Mets system?
-- Chris H., Worcester, Mass.
Wuilmer Becerra didn't put up crazy numbers in his full-season debut this year, batting .290/.342/.423 with nine homers and 16 steals in 118 games at low Class A. He was young for the South Atlantic League at age 20, however, and Savannah's Historic Grayson Stadium is a notoriously tough place to hit. The Mets currently have four position players on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, and Becerra may have a higher ceiling than any of them.
Becerra will need to tighten his strike zone, but he makes consistent hard contact and has solid raw power, speed and arm strength. He fits the right-field profile well and has the potential to make the R.A. Dickey trade look even better from New York's perspective. Signed for $1.3 million out of Venezuela in 2011 by the Blue Jays, Becerra was the third-best prospect in the deal in which the Mets also landed Noah Syndergaard and Travis d'Arnaud.
Why do guys like Cubs right-handers Ryan Williams and Brad Markey get overlooked in the Draft, then carve up hitters in pro ball?
-- Tim H., Rockford, Ill.
The Cubs made a big splash in the 2014 Draft by taking Kyle Schwarber at No. 4 overall, and they also hope they restocked their pitching depth by paying seven-figure bonuses to Dylan Cease, Justin Steele, Carson Sands and Jake Stinnett. With much less fanfare, they signed Williams out of East Carolina in the 10th round and Markey out of Virginia Tech in the 17th round for $1,000 each.
Williams and Markey were both senior signs and didn't command more attention because they didn't have an overwhelming pitch or miss a lot of bats. They both have fastballs that sit in the upper 80s and decent but unimposing secondary pitches, succeeding instead thanks to the sink on their fastballs and their ability to throw strikes with multiple offerings. That formula worked well in their first full pro seasons, and often does in the lower levels of the Minors.
Williams went 14-3, 2.16 with a 98/18 K/BB ratio in 141 2/3 innings over 26 games (24 starts), mostly in Double-A. Markey went 7-0, 1.61 with a 63/10 K/BB ratio in 84 innings over 21 games (nine starts) between two Class A stops. It's difficult to project either as more than a reliever in the big leagues, and they'll have to repeatedly prove themselves as they continue to advance, but both could make it to Wrigley Field.