We're in full-time Prospect Watch mode at MLBPipeline.com. We released the first two of our Top 10 Prospects by position lists on Tuesday (right-handers) and Wednesday (left-handers), with six more to come in the next six weekdays. All that leads up to the unveiling of our overall Top 100 Prospects on Friday, Jan. 29, when we'll also break down the top half of the list on an MLB Network special at 9 p.m. ET.
I anticipate that we'll have a slew of rankings-related questions in the Pipeline Inbox during the next few weeks. In fact, let's start with one now:
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Who were the guys who fell just short of the Top 10 right-handers list? I was surprised to see Francis Martes (Astros) and Brent Honeywell (Rays) missing.
-- Michel M., Orlando, Fla.
There are 29 right-handers on the overall Top 100 list, so the positional Top 10 didn't have nearly enough room for all the quality righties. Coincidentally enough, Martes and Honeywell would be the next righties on our list, followed by Jeff Hoffman (Rockies), Michael Fulmer (Tigers) and Jameson Taillon (Pirates). On my personal list, I had all but one of the same names among my top 15 right-handers, with Jorge Lopez (Brewers) replacing Taillon.
Martes and Honeywell both fascinate me. When the Astros grabbed him in the Jarred Cosart trade in June 2014, Martes was an unknown in Rookie ball. A year later, the 19-year-old was in Double-A, showing a fastball that hit 98 mph and one of the more devastating curveballs in the Minors. Honeywell, who can hit 97 mph and has the best screwball in the Minors, reached Class A Advanced a year after signing as a second-round pick out of Walters State (Tenn.) CC and might not need much more than another season of development before he's ready.
I think the qualifying-offer system is awful. How would you change it? Or would you eliminate free-agent compensation altogether?
-- Derek H., Sheboygan, Wis.
I've said more than a few times that if I ever become the all-powerful Czar of Baseball, the first thing I would do is eliminate all the rules that restrict spending on the Draft, including free-agent compensation. (The second would be to mandate that teams have to put names and numbers on the back of every uniform during Spring Training and instructional league.)
The current system, where teams have to make a one-year qualifying offer equal to the average of the 125 highest salaries from the previous season ($15.8 million in 2015) in order to get a compensation pick, is an improvement over the previous method, a convoluted statistical system that overrated several players, especially relievers. If I became Czar and had to keep free-agent compensation, I would base it solely on the contract that the free-agent signs.
If a player lands a deal with a total value greater than or equal to four times that average of the 125 highest salaries (this offseason, that would be $63.2 million), his former club would receive a selection at the end of the first round of the Draft. I wouldn't dock the signing team a choice.
What's Twins shortstop Nick Gordon's ceiling at this point? Will he ever justify his high Draft position?
-- David B., St. Paul, Minn.
Gordon's floor stands out more than his ceiling. He probably won't become the type of superstar fans dream of with a No. 5 overall pick, but he has a good chance to be a solid regular at a premium position, which would be good value for that choice and the $3,851,000 bonus that came with it.
Though Gordon doesn't have a tool that jumps out, he projects as a solid hitter who will get on base, steal a few bases and get the job done at shortstop. In the Twins' lineup of the future, he could settle into the No. 2 slot while Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Max Kepler do the heavy lifting.
What National League prospects who have not been called up to the Majors yet do you see making the most impact in 2016?
-- Greg W., Houston
I suspect Greg is asking this question for fantasy baseball purposes, but I'll play along. Most of the NL's top rookie candidates got a cup of coffee in the big leagues last year, leaving Pirates right-hander Tyler Glasnow as the obvious favorite among those yet to reach the Majors. Behind him, factoring in talent and opportunity, I'd rank the candidates in this order: Phillies shortstop J.P. Crawford, Reds outfielder Jesse Winker, Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia, Braves right-hander Aaron Blair and Dodgers left-hander Julio Urias.
There are more pure rookie candidates in the American League, led by two Twins, DH Byung Ho Park and right-hander Jose Berrios. After them, there's also Rays left-hander Blake Snell, White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson, Astros first baseman A.J. Reed, Rangers outfielders Nomar Mazara and Lewis Brinson and Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge.