Youth tube: Top prospects in execs' eyes
In survey, Seager bests Buxton among position prospects, Giolito edges Snell for top hurler
Welcome to the Pipeline Prospect Poll, where MLBPipeline.com will survey general managers, scouting directors and front-office executives about various prospect-related topics. With 2016 right around the corner, the first edition contained two simple questions:
1. Who do you think is the No. 1 prospect heading into 2016?
2. Who do you think is the top pitching prospect heading into 2016?
The discussion about who the top prospect is heading into 2016 came down to a debate between two players: Byron Buxton and Corey Seager. In the end, using only this poll as a measuring stick, Seager was the clear choice.
Who's No. 1?
Seager, Dodgers -- 27
Buxton, Twins -- 4
J.P. Crawford, Phillies -- 1
Undecided -- 1
There was one vote for Phillies shortstop Crawford, and one respondent who couldn't choose between Seager and Buxton.
While Seager was the clear winner among those polled, we'll solicit many more opinions before MLBPipeline.com's 2016 Top 100 Prospects list comes out on January 29.
Buxton has reigned as the No. 1 prospect in baseball since the middle of the 2013 season, and there still is no denying his overall tools, which are better than those of any prospect in the game. He still might have the highest ceiling of anyone remaining on the list and still has fans among those polled as a result.
"It's close, but it's Buxton by a small margin -- only because he can impact more parts of the game with way-above-average defense and baserunning," one scouting executive said. "I actually think Buxton might have slightly more pop than Seager, but the overall offensive upside of both guys is pretty much a wash."
"Seager is more prepared to impact the Major Leagues in the next calendar year, but Buxton will be the more impactful player in the years that follow," a second executive said.
It's true that Buxton's performance hasn't quite measured up to his potential as of yet, with injuries playing a large part in hampering his development. Seager, on the other hand, has been durable and has flat-out performed, particularly in a 2015 season that saw him not only make it to the big leagues like Buxton, but perform so well that he was an integral part of a postseason lineup.
"Seager had a better year and was more durable in 2015," one general manager said. "Buxton possesses better skills overall. The bat decides the best of the best, so Seager wins out until Buxton does more offensively."
Many polled pointed to Seager's advanced hitting skills as the reason for picking him. The fact that most see him able to stay at shortstop, at least for the time being, means he's also an up-the-middle player with the ability to make a tremendous offensive impact.
"I certainly understand Buxton's upside, but I'd go with Corey Seager," a second general manager said. "Rarely do you find a player with both a high floor and high ceiling. He not only has skills and tools, but also great makeup to go along with it."
"The impact bat at the shortstop position, plus the fact that he has been more durable, gives him the edge for me," one pro scouting director added.
"[Seager is] an extremely polished bat with the ability to do damage," one assistant GM said. "He gives high-caliber defense on the left side of the infield. He is a huge-ceiling player with a high probability to succeed."
When the responses that came in for the first question were all position-player related, it begged a follow-up about pitching prospects. This one drew 20 responses, surprisingly with no runaway winner.
Who is the best pitching prospect?
Lucas Giolito, Nationals -- 7
Blake Snell, Rays -- 6
Tyler Glasnow, Pirates -- 2
Sean Newcomb, Braves -- 2
Julio Urias, Dodgers -- 1
Jose Berrios, Twins -- 1
Sean Manaea, A's -- 1
Heading into this exercise, the prediction was Giolito would win in another cakewalk. The Nationals pitching prospect led the tally, but it was a lot closer than expected. For some, though, picking the two-time Futures Gamer was a no-brainer.
"He has the upside of a No. 1 starter," one scouting director said.
"He's close to being Major League ready, with stuff to pitch in front of the rotation," a scouting executive added.
"I would go with Giolito for the reasons of size, stuff and command," a pro scouting director said.
But as the voting shows, it was far from universal. Not only was that a bit of an upset, the second-most-popular pitching prospect came as a bit of surprise. Snell, the lefty who began the 2015 season with 46 consecutive scoreless innings, wasn't even in the Top 100 at the start of 2015. His breakout campaign was much more than that streak, as the southpaw pitched, and dominated, at three levels -- knocking on the big league door from Triple-A by the end of the season. Snell's improvement in stuff and command had many executives thinking of him in a much different light.
"[Snell is] the classic projection left-handed pitcher who actually projected," one general manager said. "He has a plus fastball that touches into the mid-90s, an average to above-average breaking ball and the potential for an already plus changeup to develop into a dynamic weapon. He has the size, stuff, frame ... and now performance to check all the boxes."
"He had a better performance and is closer to the big leagues, showing more consistent power," a pro scouting director added.
Snell wasn't the only southpaw mentioned. Newcomb got multiple votes, with those who picked the new member of the Braves organization understanding that he needs to refine his command to reach his potential.
"I think Newcomb has the highest upside among the pitchers," one general manager said. "He just needs to throw more strikes, and I think he will do it."
Glasnow was the one other pitcher to get mentioned more than once. As a power-throwing right-hander, the easy comparison in this vote would be to Giolito -- and one executive was willing to make it.
"I like Giolito's stuff, more power and more swing-and-miss [pitches], but Glasnow's delivery and arm action are cleaner and he's more likely to stay healthy long term," he said. "If the question is top pitching prospect in baseball right now, then Giolito. If it's who will have the best Major League career when it's all said and done, it's Glasnow."