Prospect rankings remain a snapshot of a moment in time, as more information is gathered constantly and new reports can change any number of perceptions on a player's future value. With the end of the minor league season, now's a good time to take a look back at our preseason prospect rankings, and see how some of these perceptions might have changed.
Once you get past the top 25 of pitching prospects, I tend to look for the potential upside that a pitcher can have. This is a bit of a change from when these rankings were created last year, as I tended to look at prospects like Clayton Blackburn, who will likely pitch in the Majors, but doesn't have nearly as high of a ceiling as some of the prospects we left off. We saw prospects like Yordano Ventura, Robert Stephenson and James Paxton all have good seasons this year, and will likely slot into the top 25 as a result. There tends to be a lot more misses at the back end of these lists, as prospects fail to turn the tools that are seen into in-game performance, and as a result the second half of this list will likely look a lot different in 2014.
Note: These are not new rankings. These rankings were originally released in January 2013. I will be looking at the second half of this list (prospects 26-50) on Wednesday.
Consensus Pitching Prospects 26-50
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Robert Stephenson – Stephenson was promoted twice during the season, after dominating two A levels and finished up at AA. Even though the performance was excellent, the reports that I have read about his repertoire and poise on the mound point to a potential top of the rotation starting pitcher. He has a very good chance to be a top 10 prospect overall, and will easily be in the top 5 for starting pitchers.
A.J. Cole – It’s been a strange ride for Cole, who was traded to the A’s as a part of the Gio Gonzalez trade last offseason, proceeded to struggle in the California League, get demoted back to Low-A during the season, and ended up traded back to the Nationals when the A’s acquired John Jaso this offseason. Regardless, Cole went out and had a great year for the Nationals’ High-A and AA affiliates, and we could see Cole at some point in the 2014 season.
John Lamb – Lamb is the reminder that the path back from Tommy John surgery isn’t always a smooth one, as he struggled from a performance standpoint at both High-A and AAA. The reports point to him getting closer to the level he was once at, but his velocity has not come back yet. He seems likely to return to AAA for the start of 2013, but if his velocity can tick up even a couple of miles closer to where he was, he should get a good shot at a rotation spot at some point in 2014.
Jake Odorizzi – Odorizzi’s inclusion here has less to do with his performance, which was solid at AAA and reasonable in his 4 starts in the majors. The bigger problem for him in my opinion is that I’m not sure exactly how he fits into the Rays’ plans for 2014. He has pitched at AAA for nearly two full seasons at this point, and the Rays appear to again have more starting pitching than rotation spots. A trade could help him get a shot, but with Jeff Niemann returning next season and Enny Romero getting a shot here in September, it’s possible that Odorizzi could still be on the outside looking in for Tampa.
Two We Missed
Sonny Gray – Gray was a big point of contention amongst our rankers at the time, as we ended up leaving him off the rankings and going for a slightly higher floor but lower ceiling prospect in Clayton Blackburn. All Gray has done was pitch excellently at AAA Sacramento, and locked himself into the A’s starting rotation despite the concerns about being on the smaller side. We’re sorry Craig.
Andrew Heaney – We dismissed Heaney entirely in our discussions for our top 50 pitching prospects, despite being a top 10 pick and pitching reasonably well in a short sample after the draft. He missed the start of the season due to an injury, but went out and dominated at High-A and AA after that, finishing with 89 strikeouts and just 76 hits allowed in 95 innings. He doesn’t have the ceiling that his future teammate Jose Fernandez does, but Heaney should be a mid-rotation starting pitcher who could make the Marlins’ Opening Day roster potentially.