Is this Padres SS prospect better than Holliday, Lawlar?

November 23rd, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! As we are in this season of gratitude, I wanted to let all of you know how much we at MLB Pipeline appreciate all of you for following along with us this year (and every year).

Before we get to this week’s Inbox questions, I wanted to comment on a current theme I saw among the queries I got. I received several questions about the Rule 5 Draft (picking players, who was surprisingly not protected, etc.). I’m not going to tackle them now as we will have plenty of Rule 5 coverage as we get closer to the Dec. 7 draft at the Winter Meetings in San Diego. So be patient while checking out our stories on which ranked prospects did/didn’t get protected from the Rule 5 and some intriguing sleeper prospects who earned roster spots.

And be sure to check out this week’s MLB Pipeline Podcast, where we start digging into some Rule 5 stuff as well.

OK. With that housekeeping out of the way, let’s get to your questions, two of which we answered on the pod.

Where does Jackson Merrill's AFL performance land him relative to the other top SS prospects?   Ahead of Holliday or Mayer or Lawlar or Tovar or Luciano? -- @twcunningham

We had a spirited discussion about Merrill, No. 1 on the Padres’ Top 30 and No. 83 on our Top 100, agreeing he was one of the best prospects in the AFL, and he landed at No. 3 on Jim’s list. He more than held his own as one of the youngest players in the league, especially impressive considering he had yet to play above Single-A and had just 55 games in 2022 under his belt. Scouts loved his swing, and we have no question about his ability to hit for average and power.

That said, we are always sure to point out that we never put too much stock into Fall League performance, good or bad. It’s just too small of a sample size to give it too much import. Case in point: Merrill had just 98 plate appearances. Yes, he swung the bat very well, but that’s not even a full month’s worth of data to look at. It certainly will help him, but it’s more about how he carried himself playing up as a teenager in the league than any numbers he put up. We haven’t really begun to look at what our Top 100 for 2023 will look like, but Merrill will certainly make a solid leap up that list. Whether he cracks the Top 10 shortstops list remains to be seen. Our gut feel was that putting him in Jackson Holliday/Marcelo Mayer/Jordan Lawlar territory is too big of a jump, at least for now. The shortstop list currently has Mayer-Lawlar-Holliday at 3-4-5, and Mayer and Holliday especially seem to have No. 1 overall prospect ceilings, while all three are no-doubt shortstops defensively. Some scouts aren’t 100 percent convinced Merrill stays there. And we wouldn’t put Merrill ahead of Elly De La Cruz (our No. 6 shortstop) at this point, either.

I think a better argument can be made to put Merrill in the back half of that top 10, where Marco Luciano and Ezequiel Tovar come into play. I’d personally put Tovar over Luciano right now, though the latter is currently No. 7 and the former is No. 9. We kind of felt right around No. 8 on that top 10 is a good bet, which still means Merrill will make a significant leap up the Top 100.

Favorite Minor Leaguer that isn't considered a top prospect? -- @niren23

This is such an open-ended question that we could take it any direction. And we did on the podcast. For me, I tend to find favorites based on their interview skills. If I end up doing a really good interview with a prospect, and then we end up talking for a long while after the interview, he might move further up my list. So with that in mind, I chose Ivan Johnson of the Reds, currently No. 28 on their Top 30. It was a nice double-up since Johnson wasn’t protected by the Reds and could be selected in the Rule 5 Draft. I first talked to Johnson during his time in the 2021 Arizona Fall League. (You can listen to our entire conversation here.) We talked about everything from the switch-hitter's different swings to the complexities of being a Black player in today’s game. I don’t know how good of a big leaguer he’ll be, but I do know that I look forward to talking to him more about it.

Mr. Callis went more for a pure tools/skills perspective and chose A’s right-hander Mason Miller, who we just saw in the AFL this year. The A’s No. 20 prospect has had some injury issues but made Jim’s top AFL prospects list based on the ridiculous raw stuff he showed off, a triple-digits fastball and a wipeout mid-80s slider.

Did Edouard Julien’s Arizona Fall League performance get him in the back end of the top 100 list? Or at least in the Twins top 10 list? -- @abjohnson34

I like talking about Julien more than writing about him, just because I dig the French Canadian name. And count me as someone who believes the current Twins No. 14 prospect is going to hit in the big leagues. This isn’t exactly going out on a limb, given that he hit .300/.441/.490 with 17 homers and 19 steals in Double-A during the 2022 regular season, then won the AFL batting title by hitting .400 (to go along with a .563 OBP and .686 SLG).

Please see the above AFL disclaimer about sample size, though. Suggesting Julien would jump into the Top 100 because of his 96 plate appearances in Arizona is going too far. Yes, he can hit. Yes, he can draw walks (98 in 2022, more BB than K in the AFL). Yes, he’s going to impact the ball enough from the left side of the plate to be a solid big leaguer. And it was encouraging to see him try to attack pitches he liked earlier in the zone without sacrificing his overall approach in the AFL. But he’s still without a true position. He played second base exclusively in Arizona, but that might not work long-term, with first base or left field perhaps better. Or maybe he’s an offensive-minded utility type who gets his bat in the lineup by moving around. That’s a little shy of having a Top 100 profile. He’ll certainly move up the Twins’ Top 30, and while I haven’t dug into the list yet, having him crack the back of that Top 10 seems reasonable.

How do you Rate Jim Callis’ handling of several good boys at once? Could he lead a chariot of dogs? -- @Friarsonthefarm

For those of you uninformed, you have to watch this video first:

Four dogs at once is extremely impressive. I’m fairly certain I couldn’t do it. But Jim Callis is no ordinary human. I’ll say he’s at least a 60 dogwalker. He can’t take those four AND the puppy for a walk at the same time, so he’s not a true five-dog player. So I’ll stick with the 60 but say he could be a future 70 if he can add the puppy into the mix.