Inbox: Which prospects could merit monster offers?

November 24th, 2021

I'm going to wish everyone a happy and healthy and Thanksgiving and dive into your questions as enthusiastically as I will dive into turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce and harvest bread and pecan pie tomorrow ...

What recent or current prospects would be good candidates for a Wander Franco type of offer?
-- @Oogwayascending

After his 70-game debut this season, Franco has agreed to an 11-year contract with the Rays that guarantees him $182 million and could be worth as much as $223 million over 12 years, counting a club option and some escalators based on MVP voting, according to a source. It's easy to understand the thinking on both sides. Franco has guaranteed himself generational wealth at age 20, while Tampa Bay may save $200 million if he reaches his superstar ceiling.

There isn't another big league star with less than a year of service time who would merit that kind of offer. But it would be worth considering a similar deal for the first four players on our Top 100 Prospects list -- Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman, Mariners outfielder Julio Rodriguez, Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., Tigers first baseman Spencer Torkelson -- even if they have yet to debut in the Majors. They wouldn't command quite as much as Franco, who was considered a better prospect and has proven himself at the highest level.

We will try again. Any news on Kumar Rocker and where he’s going to be in the upcoming season?
-- @RangerPipeline

There's nothing concrete on Rocker, who failed to sign with the Mets as the No. 10 overall pick in the 2021 Draft after the club didn't like what it saw with his shoulder and elbow in his post-Draft physical. After helping Vanderbilt return to the College World Series finals and leading NCAA Division I in wins (14) and strikeouts (179 in 122 innings, tying teammate Jack Leiter), the right-hander agreed in principle to a $6 million bonus. It never has become public knowledge what exactly caused New York to back away, but in the end it pulled its offer and chose to receive the No. 11 overall choice in 2022 rather than try to sign Rocker.

Despite having two years of college eligibility remaining, Rocker didn't return to Vanderbilt. He hasn't announced his intentions for next spring, but teams expect that he'll pitch somewhere -- independent ball? Cape Cod League? Draft League? -- in short, controlled outings next year to showcase his stuff. His medical records and what they show also will affect where he fits next July.

Owen White is the new hotness after his strong second half and electric AFL performance. Do you see him as being ready for AA in 2022, allowing him to skip High-A?
__ @LoneStarBall

White was clearly the best pitching performer in the Arizona Fall League, somewhat of a revelation considering he had pitched just 35 1/3 innings in four years as a pro. He was one of the more athletic and projectable high school pitchers in the 2018 Draft, where he signed for an over-slot $1.5 million as a second-rounder, but he had Tommy John surgery in May 2019 and broke his pitching hand in his first pro start two years later.

Though White is inexperienced and has yet to pitch above Low-A, I think he could handle the jump to Double-A as a 22-year-old to start next season. He enjoyed consistent success against the best hitters he has ever faced in a decidedly hitter-friendly AFL, and he has the four-pitch repertoire to get Double-A hitters out. I also could seen an argument for letting him refine his control for a bit in High-A, though I'd promote him quickly once he does.

Endy Rodriguez looks like a solid piece for the Pirates moving forward, given his athletic ability/Henry Davis in the mix, what is his upside in the organization?
-- @RHouset

The Pirates have had trouble developing catchers, something they hope changes after using the No. 1 overall choice last July on Davis. But he's not the only interesting backstop in the system.

Signed by the Mets for just $10,000 out of the Dominican Republic as an 18-year-old in 2018, Rodriguez came to the Pirates in the three-team deal that sent Joe Musgrove to the Padres in January. In his first season in his new organization, he batted .294/.380/.512 with 15 homers in 98 games and led the Low-A Southeast in hitting, strikeout rate (18 percent) and runs (73).

A switch-hitter with quality bat-to-ball skills and perhaps average power, Rodriguez might be a better receiver than Davis, though the latter has a much stronger arm and will get every chance to become Pittsburgh's catcher of the future. The good news is that Rodriguez is more athletic than most at his position, and he has seen action at all three outfield spots and at first base as a pro. He might be able to handle third base too, and if he keeps hitting, the Pirates will find a spot in their lineup for him.