In the light of the furor over the non-ranking of a bunch of seemingly promising Pirates' prospects from the FSL, I though it would be interesting to look at a few other team's ranked prospects. I've pulled together BA's ranked prospects for NL Central teams for AAA, AA, and A+. My thought was that we might learn something by looking at prospects that we don't care about, perhaps learning a bit about the strengths and weaknesses of the ranking process.
Pacific Coast League
9. Jordan Lyles, rhp, Oklahoma City Redhawks (Astros), was drafted in the first round (38th) out of high school in 2008. He’s not a power pitcher, but holding batters to a 3.61 ERA in this league is an accomplishment. He only struck out six per game, so he’s probably not an elite prospect.
18. Logan Schafer, of, Nashville Sounds (Brewers), was drafted in the 3rd round of 2008 out of Cal Poly. He’s a center fielder who doesn’t strike out, walk, or homer much. He hits for average and was called up by the Brewers in September.
3. Devin Mesoraco, c, Louisville Bats (Reds), was drafted out of high school in the first round (15th) in 2007. Had brutal years in 2007 and 2009, with a very ordinary 2008, but had a very nice 2010 and 2011.
11. Zack Cozart, ss, Louisville Bats (Reds), was drafted in the second round in 2007 out of the University of Mississippi. He had a nice second season in AAA. Has always shown flashes of power, but in two seasons of A ball and two seasons of AA, he averaged in the 260s. He had TJ surgery this summer, so there’s a risk.
13. Yonder Alonso, 1b/of, Louisville Bats (Reds), was drafted in the first round (7th) out of the University of Miami in 2008. He averaged 0.293 in the minors. Although still a well-thought-of prospect, he has fallen from 35th prior to 2009, to 45th prior to 2010, to 73rd prior to 2011. He has a bit more power than Matt Hague, but not quite enough for a major league first baseman and not nearly enough to unseat Joey Votto. He’s not a credible outfielder and no more than an average first baseman.
18. Alex Presley, of, Indianapolis Indians (Pirates) was drafted out of the University of Mississippi in the 8th round (230th overall) of 2006. He spent six years in the minors and had an indifferent hitting line until 2010, when he exploded.
20. Todd Frazier, of/3b/1b, Louisville Bats (Reds), was drafted out of Rutgers in the first round (34th) in 2007. He’s in his third AAA season.
14. Zack Cox, 3b, Springfield Cardinals, was drafted out of Arkansas in the first round (25th) in 2010. He can hit and was promoted to AA after 180 at bats. The question is whether there will be enough power to offset what is anticipated to be below-average defense at third.
4. Brett Jackson, of, Tennessee Smokies (Cubs). See write up for PCL.
9. Yasmani Grandal, c, Carolina Mudcats (Reds), was drafted out of Miami in the first round (12th) of 2010. He can hit, but doesn’t have a lot of power. He is not a very good catcher at this point.
Florida State League
1. Shelby Miller, rhp, Palm Beach Cardinals was drafted out of high school in the first round (19th) in 2009. Although his performance was unimpressive in 2009 and 2010, BA tagged him as a top prospect prior to 2010. He was promoted to AA after nine starts, where he pitched almost as well (albeit with control issues at both levels).
6. Carlos Martinez, rhp, Palm Beach Cardinals was signed as a free agent in 2010. Obviously he has moved up extremely fast, but this has to be a scouting call, as his performance in the FSL was unimpressive. An ERA over five with a WHIP of 1.72 and 5.9 walks per nine innings doesn’t usually cut it. Apparently he has a big fastball even though he’s just over six feet.
8. Matt Szczur, of, Daytona Cubs was signed out of Villanova in 2010. He is very fast and has moved fast through the Cubs system. On the other hand, he hit 0.260 with a slugging percentage of 0.410.
11. Zack Cox, 3b, Palm Beach Cardinals was promoted to AA after 180 at bats. See that write up.
14. Tyler Thornburg, rhp, Brevard County Manatees (Brewers) was drafted in the third round of 2010. He split time between A and A+ giving up very few hits and striking out over 10 per game.
5. Jonathan Singleton, 1b, Lancaster Jethawks (Astros), was drafted by the Phillies in the 8th round of the 2008 draft. He can hit and has some power. He plays first base.
10. Yasmani Grandal, c, Bakersfield Blaze (Reds), see the SL write up.
No ranked candidates from the NL Central.
What I Concluded
There's something of a halo effect. High draft choices get noticed, and their strengths get talked about. The rankings change in light of performance, but projection remains a core part of the process.
Projection makes sense. A number of these players had brutal years at some point. Devin Mesoraco and Alex Presley are good examples. Most of these prospects have weaknesses. It's hard to forecast which will be career-limiting and which will be resolved.
A big skill will get you noticed, even if it's offset by other issues. See Diego Moreno (or Carlos Martinez?) for an instance.
It usually takes time, though college hitters can advance quickly on occasion.
Defense gets underrated. It's hard to measure and batting is such a hard skill.
The Reds have a lot of well-thought-of prospects. They don't emphasize defense in their choices.
It's hard for a funny-looking, undrafted player to stand out. But if Ramon Cabrera leads the Eastern League in hitting next year, it won't matter that he's 5'7" and weighs 200 pounds. That may be the true lesson of Moneyball. People who look like baseball players, like Billy Beane, and who have athletic skills get noticed. Of course most players don't make the majors and few who do succeed.
What's your take.