Baseball Prospectus has become the latest of the big scouting sites to release their list of the top prospects in baseball, and Jays fans might not be quite as enamored with this one as most of the others. That’s because, as you’ve surely already read from the title of this post, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. “only” ranked fourth. And that’s despite the fact that BP didn’t consider Shohei Ohtani to be a prospect!
Yes, Vlad ranks behind Ronald Acuna of the Barves, the Nationals’ Victor Robles, and Gleyber Torres of the dumb Yankees.
Ahhh, but before we all go smashing our favourite flightless bird in anger, there’s some context required here — first and foremost of which is the fact that fourth is still pretty friggin’ good. There’s more than even just that, though — much of which can be heard on the podcast that’s attached to the 101, featuring Craig Goldstein, Jeffrey Paternostro, and Jarret Seidler.
For one thing, this represents a pretty huge jump for Vlad, who didn’t even make BP’s 2017 top 101. All the players ahead of him were quite well liked this time a year ago, with Robles at 7th, Torres at 15th, and Acuna at 31st on last year’s list.
For two, there’s absolutely no shame in being behind Acuna, who Seidler says “could easily go out there as a gold glove right fielder or a decent centrefielder and hit .330 with 30 home runs.” One of his co-hosts then chimes in to add, “and run.” And at one point in the podcast it’s revealed that Robles, the less flashy of the two players but one they obviously love, was at the top of the list in one of the very early iterations. There’s really no shame in being behind him, either.
In fact, rather than there being “no shame” in this stuff, that Vlad ranks so high as a guy who is pretty much all bat makes him pretty special. Comparing their list to the other ones out there, Seidler acknowledges that “we’re not as high on the corner bats, especially right-handed hitting first basemen.” Continuing to refer to those types, he adds, “I think think we’re a little lower on Vlad Jr. than everybody else — he’s the really high end version of that. You’ve got Vlad Jr. and Eloy Jimenez, and then it’s a really long way before you see another of those guys.”
But the biggest thing holding Vlad back seems to be that the BP crew’s live looks at him just didn’t quite match up with the hype or the numbers — something Craig was quick to acknowledge via Twitter, and something they quite obviously aren’t going to throw out. If Vlad looked good-not-great when their people saw him, what are they supposed to do? Y’know, besides try to account for the differences in the player they saw, they player they’ve heard about, and the player as represented by the stats.
This very thing was discussed on the podcast:
SEIDLER: It’s like, we don’t scout the stat line, but we do scout the stat line. Or, at least, we have to be aware of the stat line as a piece of the puzzle. … Very few players have been as good hitters as Vlad Jr. at the levels he was at, at the ages he was at. Arguably, like, none in the last 15 years. So you’re dealing with an unprecedented level of performance here, which I think you have to treat highly. Now, I understand that, for whatever reason — and I am not the source of these live reports, but I understand that as a group we have to take them seriously — our live reports on him are not that great. They’re good, they’re not great. They’re not what everybody else seems to have. …
GOLDSTEIN: I think with Vlad — if you’re of the camp that you write what you see, you didn’t see 70 or 80 power in game. That’s projection at that point.”
SEIDLER: We don’t have anybody that’s filed on him with his hit tool as an 80 either.
GOLDSTEIN: Right. But the approach is elite, and that’s reflected. And he hit for a lot of power, but it wasn’t — I don’t know, it was 13 homers ovwer two levels — and at his age that means a lot, he’s still only 18, he hasn’t turned 19 yet. So that’s certainly substantial, but it’s also not necessarily —
SEIDLER: He played in some crappy places to hit home runs, too.
GOLDSTEIN: Sure, the Midwest League and the Florida State League are tough places to hit, in general. But still, it’s a level of projection.
PATERNOSTRO: When we say our live reports ‘weren’t great,’ they were, like, OFP 70, likely 60.
PATERNOSTRO: He’s the fourth best prospect in baseball.
SEIDLER: He is ranked ten spots higher than we would have ranked him had we been basing it on the live reports we had got.
GOLDSTEIN: I don’t know about ten, but sure.
SEIDLER: We did not have the live reports to sustain him at one or two. We just didn’t.
I don’t think that’s too hard to understand. And the thing is, though it was hardly the only look that they had on him, one of the reasons this happened seems to be pretty clear from a quick look at the schedule. Steve Givarz was watching Vlad for a full series in mid-July, filing an extensive piece that went through each at-bat the young phenom took during a full series against the Tampa Yankees. What he saw was a player still worthy of plenty of praise, but who just so happened to be in the one real trough of his entire season.
Guerrero’s first 13 games at Dunedin saw him slash just .233/.333/.233 over 51 plate appearances, and this look came during the first three of those thirteen.
Though Vlad picked up four hits and a walk over 12 PA in the series, none of those hits was for extra bases, and he also had one of the four multi-strikeout games that he’d register over 48 appearances in Dunedin during that series. It seems there was a little bit of an adjustment period for him at the level, and one of BPs biggest, clearest looks happened to catch him right in it.
After this little wobble during his first couple weeks in Dunedin, Vlad went on to slash .378/.500/.605 the rest of the way, walking 30 times and striking out just 17 over 152 plate appearances. HE IS VERY GOOD. RELAX.
As for the rest of the Jays, Anthony Alford checks in at number 58 on the list, and Bo Bichette lands at number 19 — though that’s a ranking Paternostro quickly admits he’d like back.
“The official count right now is 11 rankings I would like back,” he says early in the podcast. “I think we’re too low on Bo Bichette, who we have at 19. It’s not a significant one, but I think I’d put him more in the Tatis, Brendan Rogers area.” That would make him “not quite top ten, but fringe top ten.”
THIS IS ALSO VERY GOOD.
Jeff Paternostro — who you may have heard talkin’ Jays prospects on a recent Birds All Day podcast — will be chatting with BP readers at noon on Monday, so go on and hit him up with some questions… about why Nate Pearson didn’t make the top 101. Maybe leave this Vlad-being-fourth stuff alone, though. It’s all good…