FanGraphs does a couple nice things with their top prospects list that you don’t always see in the ones from other publications. One of these is that the whole list is free and public, not behind a paywall. Another is that Eric Longenhagen separates prospects into tiers based on projected future value — something that he explains is “because it can illustrate how an on-paper gap that seems large may not actually be,” given that “there’s plenty of room for argument within the tiers.”
This maybe gives us a chance to feel a little bit better, or a little bit worse, about some of the Jays players who are or aren’t on the list — the 2017 version of which was released this morning.
Before we talk too much about the Jays, though, let’s talk about something completely insane and terrible, but also maybe good! The Boston Red Sox.
Longenhagen has Vladimir Guerrero Jr. ranked 24th, near the top of the 55 FV group (he uses a typical scout’s 20-80 scale, meaning an above average, but not-quite-an-All-Star, position player — though before you get huffy about VladJu being “merely” above average, consider how far from the majors he is, and that FV, Longenhagen explains, “attempts to combine a prospect’s potential (reasonable ceiling and floor) as well as his chance of realizing it (including injury-related risks or proximity to the majors) into one tidy, value-based number”).
What’s crazy, though, isn’t to do with Vlad, it’s to do with the three players immediately ahead of him: Manny Margot, Rafael Devers, and Michael Kopech.
Margot is less interesting for our purposes, because he was signed by the Red Sox in 2011, when Theo Epstein was still in charge (Margot was eventually moved to San Diego in the Craig Kimbrel trade), but the other two?
Devers was signed in 2013, when Ben Cherington was the Red Sox’ G.M. Kopech, who was dealt to the White Sox in the Chris Sale deal this winter, was Boston’s first pick in the 2014 draft, under Cherington. There’s also Anderson Espinoza, who went from Boston to the Padres for Drew Pomeranz last summer, who ranks 10th (60 FV); he was signed by Cherington’s front office in 2014. And, of course, there’s Andrew Benintendi (2nd, 65 FV), Boston’s first round pick in 2015. Aaaaand Yoan Moncada (1st, 70 FV), who was signed out of Cuba by the Red Sox in 2015, while Cherington was at the helm (then subsequently dealt in the Sale trade this summer).
Add in the fact that Cherington was one of Epstein’s key lieutenants when Boston acquired guys like Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts — and that, once he was G.M., he resisted dealing those players — and you start to get the sense that this is a guy who might know a thing or two about prospect selection and development. Or, at the very least, how not to fuck up the parts of a club’s player development apparatus that are already working very, very well.
I know we already know this, but it’s still rather fucking impressive. And, of course, in case you missed it, Cherington is now in charge of player development for the Jays.
I… uh… don’t think we should quite expect the same level of success, but having Cherington on board is something to feel good about. The dearth of Jays players on this list? Less so.
Still, there are bright spots. Longenhagen added 32 names of players who just missed the cut to his list, so only three Blue Jays appear among his top 132: Vlad at 24th, Anthony Alford at 79th, and Sean Reid-Foley at 96th.
I don’t want to lazily copy-and-pasts Eric’s full comments about each of the Jays’ players, because you should go to FanGraphs and read those yourself, but a couple of highlights:
- He says that sources both inside and outside of the Jays’ organization believe that Vlad will be in the big leagues before he turns 21. Don’t get too excited, though: Vlad turns 18 this week.
- “At this age with this build, he’s likely ticketed for first base or an outfield corner in the future,” Eric explains, “but nobody seems to care.” Hot damn!
- Lo and behold, coincidentally, today saw Scott Stinson of the National Post come with a nifty profile of Junior. Hey, apparently Vladimir’s dad played baseball as well. Weird!
- In behind Guerrero on Longenhagen’s list: future Team Canada saviour Cal Quantrill, potential Pirates stud Tyler Glasnow, and last year’s number one pick, Mickey Moniak of the Phillies.
- Anthony Alford (79th) is in the 50 FV tier, which begins with the 73rd player on Eric’s list.
- “If Alford can continue to walk the way he has early in his pro career, the offensive profile will be fine for center field,” we’re told, which… I’ll completely take.
- We’re told that Alford looked good in the AFL, which was good news after a bit of a down year in the summer (at least statistically), which was mostly due to injury.
- Sean Reid-Foley is also in the 50 FV tier, so there’s not as much of a gap between his placement at 96th on the list and the Mets’ Dom Smith, who begins the tier at 73.
- Hard not to like what we’re hearing on SRF, as Longenhagen says that scouts are changing their mind about his ability to stay as a starter, that improvements in his command seem to be for real, and that “the changeup needs to develop” but “with a new and improved arm action, it’s more likely to.”
Longenhagen has yet to file his organization report on the Jays, so just what he thinks of guys like Rowdy Tellez or any of the other better known Jays prospects is still to come…