Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Five Jays Make Fangraphs’ List Of MLB’s Top 100 Prospects!

Now this is more like it!

Or, at least, this feels a hell of a lot more “like” “it” than what we were reading about this morning, when Baseball Prospectus ranked Vladimir Guerrero Jr. the fourth best prospect in baseball, and included only three Blue Jays on their top 101 MLB prospects list. Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs have also released their top 100 list today, and, to put it bluntly, the Jays fared muuuuuuuuuuuuch better on it.

Numerically, at least.

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Of course, as the folks at Fangraphs (and the other sites) will be the first to tell you, the number next to a player’s name doesn’t mean as much as how they grade out and what’s being said about him. There’s a disclaimer to that very effect at the very top of their list, but it’s more striking to see it in reality. For example: not to drag them specifically, because nobody saw this coming, but on Fangraphs’ 2017 list, Aaron Judge ranked 61st. That seems awfully low for a guy who was about to put up an eight win season, but they clearly saw the seeds of it.

Before we get to that, though, here’s a refresher on what the various tool grades means, which comes straight from Fangraphs’ explainer on the 20-80 scale (which has lots more information that this, and I encourage you to go check that out in full!):

30 86 .220 3-5 4.5 4.4 7.4
  Tool Is Called Fastball Velo Batting Avg Homers RHH to 1B LHH to 1B 60 Yd Run
80 80 97 .320 40+ 4 3.9 6.3
75 96 .310 35-40 4.05 3.95 6.4
70 Plus Plus 95 .300 30-35 4.1 4 6.5
65 94 .290 27-30 4.15 4.05 6.6
60 Plus 93 .280 23-27 4.2 4.1 6.7
55 Above Avg 92 .270 19-22 4.25 4.15 6.8
50 Avg 90-91 .260 15-18 4.3 4.2 6.9-7.0
45 Below Avg 89 .250 12-15 4.35 4.25 7.1
40 88 .240 8-12 4.4 4.3 7.2
35 87 .230 5-8 4.45 4.35 7.3

So, this is an extreme example, but just follow me here. Even though Judge was 61st last year he was given a 70 for raw power, and a current 50/future 70 for in-game power. That’s light, obviously, but it speaks to how unbelievably rare 80 grades are. Judge’s hit tool last winter was current 40/future 50. Again, that’s a little light. Judge, who put up a .282 average with 52 home runs in 2017, hit the absolute best of his projections last year, and then some.

But here’s what was written about him: “Judge has shown an ability to make adjustments and deal with his lever length multiple times at various levels of baseball. He’ll probably be playing chess with opposing pitchers throughout his career. He has tremendous power, most of which should translate to games.”

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Judge showed an ability to adjust during his smashing first full big league season that was far more impressive than anybody could have expected, and the power was indeed huge.

Very, very, very few players are going to exceed expectations so big so fast. But what I think the example shows is just how imprecise this stuff can be, while also still being very much on the right track. Adjust your expectations accordingly. And, of course, as I’m sure everybody is aware, this can work both ways — and far more often works the other, where a prospect never gets even close to what the industry thinks of him. There are far more Travis Sniders (sorry!) than there are Aaron Judges.

What it also tells us, though, is a little bit about just how special a player might be who, like Guerrero and Bo Bichette, is getting 70 and 80 grades (albeit neither of them from Fangraphs) — especially when you’re talking about the all important hit tool.

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And so with that out of the way, now we turn to the list, where Guerrero — ranked third (though this list includes Shoehei Ohtani) — gets a current 40/future 65 for his hit tool, while his game power grades out as current 40/future 70. That’ll do! Still a lot of projection there, but for him to be ranked this high in spite of that shows a hell of a lot of confidence. But we knew Vlad was good, didn’t we?

The second of the Jays’ five players on the list is Bo Bichette, who ranks an absolutely exquisite ninth. He’s 30/50 for hit and 40/60 for game power, which maybe isn’t pushing 80, but as you can see by the above table, it’ll fuckin’ do!

Of course, “ninth” doesn’t mean quite as much as the fact that Bichette falls into the 60 future value tier, which we’re told in the 20-80 explainer linked above means a “Plus” player, a 3.0 WAR player. That’s just a shade below a future 65 (the tier Guerrero is in), which would make a player an “All-Star” level player, or about a 4.0 WAR guy. (Guerrero’s tier includes the players ranked second through sixth — only Ohtani is above it; Bichette’s tier begins at seventh and stretches to 23rd).

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It’s in the next tier (55 FV) that we find Anthony Alford, who ranks 36th. Alford is graded as a C/F 35/45 on the hit tool, with 40/50 game power, 70/70 run, and 50/60 fielding. “The tools are still flashy and he profiles as a well-rounded everyday center fielder who likely gets an extended big-league look at some point in 2018,” we’re told. Sooner than later would be alright with me.

The 50 FV tier starts at the prospect ranked 43rd, and it’s the tier the next two Jays prospects find themselves in: Danny Jansen, ranked 71st, and Nate Pearson at 76th.

It’s rare to see Pearson ranked that high, but even rarer to get this kind of praise for Jansen. A 50/60 hit tool is a pretty impressive grade for a catcher, and it clearly means that Longenhagen and McDaniel believe in the strides Jansen’s bat made this season — and they say as much. “We’re buying that Jansen’s 2017, which included more walks than strikeouts across three levels of the minors, is a sign of real improvement, perhaps due to the new prescription frames he got before the season. He’s a fringe receiver with an above-average arm, which is fine, but he is difficult to strike out and should reach base plenty. He’s a near-ready everyday catcher.”

That’s on the optimistic side, but I’ll sure as hell take it. Especially since, “fringe receiver” or not, a thing like this from Future Blue Jays suggests that he handles a staff well, and that pitchers like throwing to him. Could give him even more value — which, as “a near-ready everyday catcher,” he’s already got quite a lot of! If you believe it.

And Pearson gets an interesting note here, too, as we’re told that he “has possibly the widest variance of potential outcomes of any player on this list.” (Like all the other players mentioned, there are more comments than just that one I’ve quoted — go check out the list yourselves for all the comments and grades!). There seems to be a tinge of worry about a player who is so new to his big velocity — command issues are mentioned, and injury worry is a real thing in those cases sometimes, too — but he’ll be a hell of an interesting guy to watch in 2018. Especially if he keeps on this trajectory.

All in all, a pretty good showing on this list!

And there’s still more:

Jeffrey Paternostro of BP had a chat today about their list, which went out this morning. And in it he notes that Pearson was close enough to being in their 101 that he’ll be getting a “mench” as one of the “just missed” guys next week. He also says that Vlad is the favourite to be number one next year, with the guys ahead of him likely to graduate and the guys behind him unlikely to pass him.

Fangraphs will be having their top prospect chat on Tuesday, so stay tuned for that as well!