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Do over! Re-ranking this year's graduated prospects

@JonathanMayo
September 26, 2019

The Arizona Fall League is kind of like a reward at the end of a long season for us prospect folks. Sure, seeing prospects, or former prospects, up in the big leagues and contributing to playoff teams is fun. But for just sheer quantity and quality combined in one place,

The Arizona Fall League is kind of like a reward at the end of a long season for us prospect folks. Sure, seeing prospects, or former prospects, up in the big leagues and contributing to playoff teams is fun. But for just sheer quantity and quality combined in one place, the AFL is such a treat.

I’m just back from the opening week of season No. 28 for the AFL and already looking forward to heading back for another go-round for the Oct. 12 Fall Stars Game. That game is gold mine of talent on one field, much like the Futures Game. But on any given day in any of the four ballparks being used this fall, you’re almost guaranteed to see amazing talent jump out at you. Some of that talent is discussed in this week’s Inbox.

This is an exercise colleague Jim Callis undertook recently in a story ranking the top 30 members of the 2019 rookie class by potential. So first, thanks for not making me list 30. And I think in the end, my top 10 would not be much different than Jim’s.

But before we get to that, let’s look at how they performed this season based on WAR. This is the top 10, according to Baseball-Reference:

1) Mike Soroka, Braves (5.7)
2) Pete Alonso, Mets (4.9)
3) John Means, Orioles (4.6)
4) Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres (4.2)
5) Victor Robles, Nationals (4.1)
6) Bryan Reynolds, Pirates (4.0)
7) Yordan Alvarez, Astros (3.9)
8) Tommy Edman, Cardinals (3.7)
9) Brandon Lowe, Rays (3.1)
10) Alex Verdugo, Dodgers (3.1)

And just so we’re being fair, the top 10 according to FanGraphs:

1) Pete Alonso, Mets (4.8)
2) Yordan Alvarez, Astros (4.0)
3) Mike Soroka, Braves (3.9)
4) Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres (3.7)
5) Bryan Reynolds, Pirates (3.2)
6) John Means, Orioles (3.1)
7) Tommy Edman, Cardinals (2.8)
8) Spencer Turnbull, Tigers (2.7)
9) Brandon Lowe, Rays (2.6)
10) Victor Robles, Nationals (2.4)

(Also at 2.4: Cavan Biggio, Blue Jays; Chris Paddack, Padres)

And if you wanted an average of the two, here you go:

1) Pete Alonso, Mets (4.85)
2) Mike Soroka, Braves (4.8)
3) Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres (3.95)
4) Yordan Alvarez, Astros (3.95)
5) John Means, Orioles (3.85)
6) Bryan Reynolds, Pirates (3.6)
7) Victor Robles, Nationals (3.25)
8) Tommy Edman, Cardinals (3.25)
9) Brandon Lowe, Rays (2.85)
10) Alex Verdugo, Dodgers (2.65)

Now, there are some obvious names missing here, with some rookies not having the kinds of seasons, or getting called up too late, to register enough WAR. But some of them would make my final top 10 long-term. Here's my list, with each player's 2019 preseason rank in parentheses:

1) Fernando Tatis Jr. (2)
2) Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays (1)
3) Yordan Alvarez (44)
4) Victor Robles (4)
5) Bo Bichette, Blue Jays (11)
6) Eloy Jiménez, White Sox (3)
7) Pete Alonso (51)
8) Mike Soroka (24)
9) Keston Hiura, Brewers (20)
10) Chris Paddack (34)

Keeping in mind that I took in just five games, there are definitely some non-Top 100 types worth watching. I’ve got some outfielders who come to mind.

One is Marcus Wilson of the Red Sox. It’s taken a while for the super-toolsy Wilson, who was traded from the D-backs to the Red Sox in April, to figure it out. Boston’s No. 17 prospect might be the type who’ll take a bit longer then surprise people in the big leagues at age 25 or so. So far in the AFL, he’s swung a hot bat, going 7-for-14 with a homer and a pair of steals.

Another is Pirates outfielder Jared Oliva, their No. 11 prospect. He’s off to a 7-for-20 start with three steals. There’s nothing flashy about Oliva, but he’s just a solid hitter and defender. Something tells me he’s going to be a more productive big leaguer than anticipated.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out one of my favorite stories in the Fall League, Trey Harris. The Braves’ No. 18 prospect came into pro ball completely unheralded and just keeps on hitting (5-for-14 with a homer in the AFL).

I wasn’t there long enough this trip to get a good feel for pitchers, but Connor Seabold (Phillies’ No. 30) sure has been impressive. He’s not going to wow you with radar gun readings, but the guy really knows how to pitch. And I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know a ton about Victor Castaneda of the Brewers. But I was at his first start where he threw four no-hit innings and struck out six. Keep an eye on him because every year there are guys who put themselves on the map with what seems like an “out of nowhere” AFL performance.

For some more names, take a look at our story on each team's top sleeper prospect in the Fall League.

We usually like to be positive here on MLB Pipeline, but there are always those prospects we had higher hopes for. Obviously, if a player is still on the Top 100, we still think highly of that player. But to stick with a bit of an AFL theme, Forrest Whitley would be the first to admit that his 2019 season is one he’d like to forget.

Whitley dealt with some shoulder issues and completely lost feel for the strike zone with reports of his stuff fluctuating coming in. He showed some signs of pointing in the right direction near the end of the year, and I came away very impressed by his mindset when I spoke to him in Arizona. There were some mechanical things he was changing, and he got a little lost while trying to make those changes. If his first AFL start (4.2 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K) is any indication, he’s heading back in the right direction and there won’t be any need to drop him further than his current No. 17 spot when we re-rank the Top 100 in 2020.

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