I've been obsessed with the Baseball America top 100 lists over the last week. What can I say, I love kids! (Perhaps the most dangerous out-of-context quote known to man.)
The funny thing is that I don't know if we're more intrigued by the successes or the failures. Or if we'll ever come to terms with the fact that most will be seen as failures. The connotations that come with being a "Top 100" prospect are far too ambitious than reality. The truth is that not only is there is a major difference between being number one and number 100, but that some years being "number one" is the same as being the number one pick in a weak draft. Some classes are simply bad. Though most years will produce a star, some years simply have many and others are much more empty.
In some ways saying "I'm a top 100 prospect!" is as useful as saying "I'm a minor league baseball player!" Though being named to the list is a good sign, many good players never made the list at all.
The hardest thing for fans to do though is to look at a current list of the top prospects and envision a future in which they suck, despite the fact that so many former prospects turned out to suck. How different are Brandon Wood the prospect and Mike Trout the prospect? They are a whole hell of a lot more similar than Brandon Wood the major leaguer and Mike Trout the major leaguer.
Notice how even I had a hard time picking a bad pitcher, since Wood's career turned out to be so much better than hundreds of other notable pitching prospects? How about this: Can you picture him being as successful as Daisuke Matsuzaka? Or Brian Matusz? Or Kyle Drabek?
It happens all the time.
But these days, thanks to players like Clayton Kershaw, Bryce Harper, and Trout, patience is a thing of the past. Players that might be sophomores or juniors in college are asked to contribute to the major league level, and players that are barely a year out of high school are on deck to the majors. Luckily in 2013, that seems to be working out okay.
Here's an update on Baseball America's Top 10 from this year:
1. Jurickson Profar, SS/2B/Where-ever-the-hell-we-tell-you, Rangers:
.263/.317/.368 in 107 PAs with Rangers, 2 HR, 4 2B, 0 SB, 2 CS, 20 K/6 BB
Profar was hitting .278/.370/.438 in 37 games with AAA Round Rock. Far too damn impressive for a 20-year-old, so the Rangers don't want to send him back and are prepping him for his outfield debut. That's cool. Just play outfield for the first time in your professional career with the major league team.
I believe Profar will be successful because he had 212 K and 180 BB in 1,532 minor league plate appearances. I compared him to Wilson Betemit earlier, but that's hardly true at all. Betemit regularly struck out 3-4 times as often as he walked. But the other thing is that the Braves didn't have a spot for him thanks to Rafael Furcal, Marcus Giles, and Chipper Jones and he wasted away.
I would wonder, as a Rangers fan, how we can extract the most possibly value out of this situation as possible. Because Ian Kinsler, Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, and Jurickson Profar simply don't mix unless Profar really can just go be a good outfielder. Otherwise, I'd be wondering which of those guys I can trade for one.
2. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Orioles:
Pitcher attrition rate is the reason that I would be unafraid to deal any pitcher ever. And Bundy's one of the great pitching prospects of this century. Not that I'd trade him just because of one injury, or that I don't think he could be great, but just look at past pitching prospects.
Even with guys like Bundy, it can be straight murder out there.
St. Louis has been one of the best teams in the majors over the last 25 years (at least) in finding and developing prospects. Taveras hit .321/.380/.572 with 23 HR, 37 2B, 42 BB/56 K in 531 plate appearances last year with double-A Springfield.
This year, he's hitting .306/.341/.462 with 5 HR, 12 2B, 9 BB/22 K in 186 plate appearances with triple-A Memphis. Strikeouts are up a bit but still very low (12.7%) but walks dipped and could be much better. The power has also declined (.251 ISO last season, .144 this) but Taveras remains one of the top prospects in baseball.
He needs more time with the Redbirds. No, not those red birds, the actual Memphis Redbirds. You knuckleheads.
Hit .286/.356/.520 with 14 HR in 64 games with triple-A Durham.
Hitting .267/.267/.400 with 1 HR in seven games with the Rays.
It's still too early to say whether or not the Royals did a bad thing by trading away Myers, but at least James Shields has a 2.92 ERA and is pitching well. Wade Davis isn't pitching that well, but at least has the upside the Bruce Chen doesn't.
Myers is still all upside, despite one donger against Sabathia. Still one of the best power prospects in baseball, I would be concerned about Myers strikeout rate: 23.6% last year, 24.5% this year in triple-A. Walks have never been an issue, even though he doesn't have one with Tampa yet.
79.2 innings, 81 K/29 BB, 59 hits, 3.05 ERA, 3.16 FIP, 3.39 xFIP
Almost certainly should be "too young" to pitch in the major leagues, Fernandez is killing it. (I guess that makes him the actual Bundy, haha. Oh man, ha. ha. ha. And in Florida no less, the home of the last of serial killer Ted Bundy's reign of terror. I'm explaining this joke too much, aren't I?)
6. Shelby Miller, RHP, Cardinals:
78 innings, 101 K/20 BB, 72 hits, 2.35 ERA, 2.74 FIP, 3.14 xFIP
How would you even decide between Fernandez or Miller if you had to? Miller is one of the leaders in WAR this year, but Fernandez is almost two years younger than Miller.
Pitcher attrition rate scares the hell out of me. It scares me with these two, too. But at least they've proven something in the majors, no matter what happens from here on out.
18.1 innings, 8 K/1 BB, 18 hits, 3.44 ERA, 3.22 FIP, 3.89
Cole is a month older than Miller. Not as successful, but holding it through three starts. Numbers in triple-A were unimpressive: 6.2 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in 68 innings, though hits were limited to 5.8 per nine and his ERA stood at 2.91.
I'd be worried about the long-term success of Cole, at least compared to the two phenoms already named.
Since promotion to triple-A: .205/.279/.436, 3 HR in 42 plate appearances
Bogaerts was hitting .311/.407/.502 with 51 K/35 BB in double-A before his promotion, very impressive for a 20-year-old. It's only just the beginning at triple-A.
Since promotion to double-A: .171/.304/.400, 2 HR in 46 plate appearances
Similar story here but one level lower. Sano was hitting .330/.424/.655 with 16 HR in 56 games at high-A. Likely the best power hitting prospect in baseball and probably winds up 1 or 2 next year on the BA Top 100.
10. Byron Buxton, OF, Twins:
That is unless franchisemate Buxton takes his place at the top instead. Buxton is hitting .341/.431/.559 with 8 HR and 32 stolen bases in 68 games with single-A Cedar Rapids. He's walked 44 times compared to 56 strikeouts and added 15 doubles and 10 triples.
Unbelievably impressive seasons happen on a regular basis but we have to calm ourselves and realize that they don't always hold up as the player moves up. Remember that Buxton is at single-A and that's not one level away from the majors. It's not two levels away. Technically, he's four promotions away from the major leagues. Four.
Buxton has all the tools and he's also putting those tools into actual production on the field, but I'd also note that he'll be 20 in December. What level does he start at next year? When do the Twins rush him to the majors? Will Minnesota even have a place for them in their formidable lineu-hahaha. Just kidding on that last one.
Sano and Buxton are the future of the Twins as of the present. Are they also the top two prospects in baseball?
Maybe. One day we'll see if that means something.