The first question in this week's Pipeline Inbox concerns our Top 10 Right-handers ...
Hey Jim why is Sixto Sánchez talked about so much more than Ian Anderson when Anderson had better numbers in the bigs last year. I don’t understand. Is it all potential?
Sánchez (Marlins) ranked third among our Top 10 Righties, one spot ahead of Anderson (Braves), and they both placed behind Nate Pearson (Blue Jays) and Casey Mize (Tigers) despite outpitching them in the Majors last season. When we're evaluating prospects, we do consider performance -- but we also factor in more than just a handful of big league outings.
Anderson was spectacular in his debut, posting a 1.95 ERA in six regular-season starts and allowing just two runs in four postseason starts. But Sánchez, who also pitched well for the Marlins, has better pure stuff and better control. His fastball and changeup are superior to Anderson's, their breaking stuff is similar and Sánchez throws more strikes.
Sánchez has also outperformed Anderson in the Minors over a longer period of time. They're both outstanding pitching prospects and a case can be made for either. But if I have to pick one over the other, I'm taking Sánchez.
Looking back at previous international free agent signing classes, who are some players that signed six-figure deals (< $1 million), but developed into top prospects.
When the international amateur signing period opens, the huge bonuses grab the headlines. Eloy Jiménez ($2.8 million, Cubs, 2013), Yoán Moncada ($31.5 million, Red Sox, 2014), Vladimir Guerrero Jr. ($3.9 million, Jays, 2015), Luis Robert ($26 million, White Sox, 2016) and Wander Franco ($3,825,000, Rays, 2017) landed recent megadeals that look like they'll pay off nicely. Even better, the Nationals landed Juan Soto for $1.5 million in 2015.
But there are countless bargains on the international market as well. The two most exciting all-around young players in the game today are Fernando Tatis Jr. and Ronald Acuña Jr. Tatis signed with the White Sox for $700,000 in 2015 and the Braves got Acuña for $100,000 the year before.
Jose Ramirez ($50,000, Indians, 2009), Nelson Cruz ($15,000, Mets, 1998), Teoscar Hernandez ($20,000, Astros, 2011), Liam Hendriks ($170,000, Twins, 2007), Xander Bogaerts ($410,000, Red Sox, 2009) and Salvador Perez ($65,000, Royals, 2006) all received American League MVP votes last year -- and turned pro for a combined $730,000. Marcell Ozuna ($49,000, Marlins, 2008) joined Tatis and Acuña in getting National League MVP votes.
Plenty of more relatively cheap international signees are on the way too. Our 2020 end-of-season Top 100 Prospects list includes 11 international players who didn't command seven-figure bonuses: Marlins right-hander Sixto Sánchez ($35,000, Phillies, 2015), Rays righty Luis Patiño ($130,000, Padres, 2016), Rays middle infielder Vidal Brujan ($15,000, 2014), Pirates shortstop Oneil Cruz ($950,000, Dodgers, 2015), Rays shortstop Jazz Chisholm ($200,000, Diamondbacks, 2015), Cubs left-hander Brailyn Marquez ($600,000, 2015), Dodgers catcher Keibert Ruiz ($140,000, 2014), Marlins outfielder Jesús Sánchez ($400,000, Rays, 2014), Diamondbacks shortstop Geraldo Perdomo ($70,000, 2016), Marlins righty Edward Cabrera ($100,000, 2015) and Yankees righty Deivi García ($200,000, 2015).
Can Joe Ryan fill the void in the Rays rotation?
Ryan had one of the biggest breakouts in the Minors in 2019, as the seventh-rounder from NCAA Division II Cal State Stanislaus ranked first in WHIP (0.84), second in strikeouts (183) and strikeout rate (13.3 per nine innings) and fourth in ERA (1.96) while reaching Double-A in his first full pro season. The right-hander did so while relying on his lone plus pitch, a deceptive 92-96 mph fastball that features ordinary metrics but is allergic to bats.
Ryan didn't get a chance to develop in 2020 beyond the Rays' alternate training site, so it might be too much to ask for him to contribute significantly in Tampa Bay this season. He has made just three starts above Class A Advanced and needs to improve his secondary pitches. His fastball-heavy approach might not play as well against big leaguers, but I'm eager to see how he builds off of his unexpected 2019 performance.
Is Luis Matos a top 100 prospect?
Matos won't make our 2021 Top 100 list next week but he has the potential to do so in the future. An outfielder signed by the Giants for $725,000 out of Venezuela in 2018, he broke into pro ball by ranking third in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in batting (.362) and OPS (1.000) the next year.
Matos could have at least average tools across the board and stands out most with his advanced ability at the plate. He'll turn 19 next week but already recognizes pitches and controls the strike zone well while lacing line drives all over the field. He has a quick right-handed bat and some deceptive strength, as well as solid to plus speed with aggressive instincts on the bases and in center field.