Would Casas be in Top 10 if he wasn't a 1B?

December 1st, 2021

Happy December, everyone, and a happy Hanukkah to all who celebrate! I’m hopeful this week’s edition of the Pipeline Inbox shines a light (it is the Festival of Light, after all) on some of your favorite prospects! Enjoy!

If Triston Casas wasn’t a first baseman would he be a top 10 prospect? -- @AlanChang0629

We tackled this question on this week’s Pipeline Podcast, and it led to an interesting conversation about the importance of position and defensive ability when ranking prospects. It started with a general query: What position is he then playing?

If he were a plus runner who played center field, or an excellent defender behind the plate, then yes, an easy case for him being top 10 could be made. And an argument could be made that his offensive upside might be high enough for him to be ranked that highly. Keep in mind, he’s currently at No. 18 overall, so it’s not that far of a leap to make.

If you look at the top of our current Top 100, there’s only one corner infielder of any sort listed ahead of Casas, and that’s the Tigers’ Spencer Torkelson, at No. 4. The fact Torkelson is playing a lot of third and has the chance to play there helps him a little, but it’s really the difference in evaluation of his ceiling as a hitter compared to Casas’ that sets them apart. Torkelson has 60 hit and 70 power grades; Casas is at 55 and 60. Nothing to sneeze at, but the belief that Torkelson has the chance to be a generational type of hitter is why he’s a top five prospect, for sure.

It is possible Casas outperforms those grades, or comes close to Torkelson in terms of production. He’s certainly shown a very advanced approach at the plate, the raw power is ridiculous and he’s coming off a very successful turn in the Arizona Fall League. It wouldn’t shock me if he moves up a bit closer to the top 10 when we re-rank in 2022.

For now, though, top 20 seems about right. If you look at his grades compared to the Mets’ Francisco Alvarez (they both have 55 hit and 60 power), the big difference there is, of course, that while Casas is a very good defender at first, Alvarez has the chance to be the same behind the plate.

Who are some under the radar prospects who have played in the DSL who could pop up in the rankings soon? -- @ian_graham24

This question made me wonder if Ian had access to the Pipeline editorial plan, because we have a “youngest hitter in the top 30 for each organization” story inked in for the end of this week. So stay tuned for that. I don’t want to steal all the wind from that sail, but I will throw out a few hitters I know I’m keeping an eye on, with the caveat that Dominican Summer League stats can be a bit inflated.

The first is Gabriel Gonzalez, currently the No. 17 prospect on the Mariners’ Top 30. He got $1.3 million to sign in February, so maybe he’s not THAT under-the-radar, but since he’s only played in the DSL so far, I’m counting him. He’s strong and compact and he had a very strong debut last summer, tying for the DSL lead in total bases. He slugged .520, drew a bunch of walks and even stole nine bases.

The second is Rays shortstop Carlos Colmenarez, who is up at No. 7 on their list after signing for $3 million in January. Hamate surgery slowed him, so he only got 97 DSL at-bats, but he has the chance to be above-average or better across the board on both sides of the ball. And I don’t know about you, but given the Rays’ track record of late, I get excited any time a new player enters their system, know what I mean?

Last one I’ll throw out (of many candidates) is Orioles catcher Samuel Basallo. He’s currently No. 24 on the O’s Top 30 after getting an organization-record $1.3 million to sign in January. He showed off some pop in the DSL (five homers, eight doubles in 134 at-bats) while catching and playing some first base. He’s a left-handed hitter with plus power potential and while he has arm strength to spare, he could get too big to defend well behind the plate.

Chances Caleb Kilian comes to Chicago in 2022, and how soon? -- @BarneyPhillip11

Anyone who saw Kilian absolutely dominate in the Arizona Fall League championship game likely wants him to head up the Cubs’ rotation immediately, if not sooner. All he did there was toss six perfect innings to help his Mesa Solar Sox win the AFL title. I’ll only pump the brakes just a little.

Don’t look at Kilian’s overall Fall League numbers (5.14 ERA) because he gave up seven earned runs without recording an out in his initial outing. Take that clunker out and the right-hander the Cubs got from the Giants in the Kris Bryant deal gave up one earned run (two total) over 14 innings, allowing seven hits, four walks (all in start No. 2) and 18 strikeouts. And that doesn’t count his championship game masterpiece.

I put him at No. 21 on the AFL Top 25, and he showed off four pitches: a fastball up to 96 mph, a nasty cutter, a good curve and even a feel for a changeup. And he threw them all for strikes. Kilian knows the changeup needs some work and he needs to throw it more, but it’s in there. He has all the makings of a big league starter.

Here’s where I slow things down a bit. Kilian has made just four starts above A-ball, and as a 2019 draftee who didn’t pitch in 2020 because of the shutdown, he has a grand total of 116 1/3 professional innings on his resume. I think he showed in Arizona that his stuff is going to play and he could make a very strong impression in the spring, but I’d give him a half a season in the Minors in 2022. Let him start the year in Double-A, get a month there, get a month in Triple-A and then if all goes well, he’s up in Chicago for the second half of the season.

Did the Pirates return [for Jacob Stallings] seem underwhelming? Kyle Nicolas screams reliever to me, Zach Thompson has backend starter potential, and Connor Scott is damaged goods. Could they have gotten more in this market? -- @RHouset

I know that any time an established big leaguer, especially at a premium position, gets traded, the hope is the return will scream like a steal for the team getting the prospects in return. But while Stallings did win a Gold Glove in 2021 and doubled his career WAR last year, he’ll also be 32 years old in 2022 and is due a raise.

And while the return didn’t have a Top 100 guy in it or anything, the Pirates very well could have gotten three big leaguers in the deal. Thompson will help right away in some role and looked very good for much of his time in the AFL. Nicolas has premium stuff. Yes, he could very well end up in the 'pen because of command issues, but he maintains velocity deep into outings, so I wouldn’t pull the plug yet on him as a starter, plus he can work on all of his stuff when stretched out. I’m not sure why you consider Scott to be “damaged goods.” Has he produced the way a top-half-of-the-first-round pick is expected to produce thus far? No, but he’ll also only be 22 for all of the 2022 season and is coming off a year that saw improvements offensively across the board. He drove the ball a lot more consistently, with more impact potentially coming from the left side of the plate, and he runs well. Maybe he’s a fourth outfielder, perhaps he’s a bit of a tweener, but it’s also possible he’ll take a big step forward with a move to Double-A in 2022 and it'll become clear that the Pirates landed more in the deal than many initially thought.