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January 31, 2014

Prospects Will Break Your Heart

The Baseball Prospectus 101: Just Missed the Cut

by Jason Parks and Mauricio Rubio

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“My heart is hurt; swollen and disgusted. My father is leaving the home. Mother has drifted into a fog of pills and alcohol. How will I explain this to my future children? I think it’s best if I stay inside today. How could you? This is wrong. You can do better. I would do better. You really failed me. You failed yourself. I can’t even click on this link. I’m going to disregard the work because of a notable omission. You get paid for this? I bet you don’t have as many sources as Kevin Goldstein once had. Did you know he was hired by a team? You aren’t clever. You focus too much on being clever. I wish you focused more on the players I covet. Perhaps you failed to realize how this affects my fantasy draft. Seven Rangers in the 101? I guess you can’t stop being a fan. I know more about this than you do. The numbers can’t be ignored. My tears flow like a river of sadness and shame. I might take to the rope. Ain’t no sunshine in my sky. Thanks for the pain. At least you feel the same way about Baez as I do. He should have been higher, though.” —The Internet, c. 27 January, 2014

In the 75-101 range on the Baseball Prospectus 101, you can make a case—and many have volunteered their legal services—for 50 prospects worthy of inclusion on the list. From high ceiling/high risk types to prospects with safe major league futures, the picture of those on the outside of the glass looking in is a crowded shot of worthy players, slighted by the limitations of the platform and the preferences of those tasked with its compilation. One day I will find a way to rank the top 101 players by featuring all ~125 worthy players, but sadly, I have yet to discover the necessary magic. Please allow me to introduce 10 prospects who were featured on various drafts of the list only to end up as heads in a basket next to the finished product. As much as I wanted to include them—and numerous others—they failed to survive the cuts.

(In no specific order)

Mookie Betts, 2B, Boston Red Sox
It’s a very promising profile, albeit one on the right side of the infield, which does limit his sex appeal when it comes to prospect rankings. He’s a flashy defender, with range for days and a penchant for highlight plays, and at the plate he brings a very advanced approach that allows him to take advantage of fastball counts and drive the baseball. He’s a likely major leaguer with a utility floor and a first-division ceiling if everything really comes together at the plate.

Daniel Norris, LHP, Blue Jays
An athletic left-hander with above-average stuff that can miss bats, Norris belonged on the top 101 and there is no way around it. While it’s true that his command woes at present could end up being a long-term hindrance to his ultimate upside, the delivery is actually pretty smooth and his athleticism and overall feel point to a brighter future on the command front. He was as high as no. 80 on a few rough drafts, but slowly trickled down the list before falling off completely so that a few high ceiling/high risk types could get their day in the sun. As much as they belonged, their inclusion shouldn’t have come at the expense of Norris. As far as I’m concerned, this is a top 101 talent.

Tim Anderson, SS, White Sox
It’s early in his developmental journey and the tools are still raw, but Anderson’s athleticism and physical gifts could make him a high-impact prospect in the minors, the kind that sits atop a team list and warrants placement in the upper tiers of the overall class. Sources are mixed on his long-term home on the diamond, with the speed and instincts to patrol center if the hands don’t end up playing at short. But the bat could be a lot more explosive than some might realize, with easy plus raw power that might be slow to find its way into game action but should get their eventually.

Adalberto Mejia, LHP, Giants
Size and stuff from the left side, including an already plus fastball and slider combination, with a changeup that several sources project to reach plus, giving the Dominican arm three above-average pitches in his arsenal. Add to the mix his pitchability and command profile and you have a very formidable starter, a future no. 3 type with less risk than you would normally have with a 20-year-old arm. When he takes another step forward in Double-A and makes a case for the mid-season top 50, we can all look back on his exclusion from the off-season 101 and rightfully point fingers and throw eggs at the man behind the curtain. I’ll dress appropriately.

Allen Webster, RHP, Boston Red Sox
If you believe Webster is a starter, a legitimate mid-rotation arm who can bring two plus pitches to the table and back them up with multiple breaking ball looks that can play above-average, he belongs not only in the top 101, but perhaps in the top 50. Personally, I think Webster ends up pitching near the back of a major-league bullpen, a frontline setup type who can push his already above-average arsenal higher in bursts while minimizing some of his shortcomings in command. That profile still puts him on the bubble for the 101, but he tasted the axe because of the internal projections about his likely role.

Rafael Montero, RHP, Mets
Montero has received a lot of love this offseason, and judging by his 2013 performance, the prospect love is more than justified. But the scouting doesn’t paint the same picture as the stats with Montero, as the profile is more solid-average than plus, with a good low-90s heater that he can spot, and an off-speed arsenal that benefits from the command profile and can play up despite standing alone as wipeout offerings. I think he’s more of a no. 4 starter without much high-end upside, and perhaps I’m selling him short in that regard. But that’s why he tumbled off the list, despite ranking in no. 85-90 range on early drafts.

Alen Hanson, IF, Pirates
I have mixed feelings about Hanson, which is probably why I didn’t fight very hard for him to stay on the list after I originally penciled his name in the back-half of the 101. Hanson’s a handsy hitter, good to and good through the ball, and as he adds strength some of the already hard contact will blossom into game power. But it’s most likely a right-side defensive profile, and with his aggressive bat, several sources have concerns about the hit tool against better arms and better sequencing/off-speed stuff. He should get points for his developmental progress and production against more advanced competition, and for his overall feel for the game. The overall profile warrants inclusion on the 101, so I’ll chalk it up to overrated concerns about the defensive outcomes and offensive projections and admit the error of the omission.

Hunter Renfroe, OF, Padres
This is a big time hitter with more athleticism than you realize, and he failed to crack the list because of a small professional sample and because I tend to undervalue college bats in favor of higher risk Latin American talent that will probably fail to develop and leave me sad, lonely, and pickling from the inside out. With a strong start to 2014, Renfroe is likely to jump into mid-season top 50 consideration because of the raw thunder in the bat and ability to make it play, and I’ll adjust accordingly and give his profile the credit it deserves.

Marco Gonzales, LHP, Cardinals
Perhaps premature for this list, but I think Gonzales is going to be a fast-to-the-majors type, with a singular pitch (changeup) worthy of porn-based superlatives and an overall feel to make a solid-average profile play beyond the paper grades. Missing on Gonzales before his first full season of professional ball isn’t going to haunt me for the season, but when I ignore my gut in order to stand behind players that offer less personal satisfaction, the sting of that decision does linger a bit after the fact.

J.P. Crawford, SS, Phillies
I’m an up-the-middle snob—as are most evaluators—yet I chose to remove a talented up-the-middle player who showed excellent feel at the plate in his professional debut. He needs to add strength, and there are questions about the offensive projections—questions that could justify his exclusion from the list. But Crawford is a no doubt shortstop all the way up the chain, with plus athleticism and approach, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he blossomed into a legit frontline prospect. So much for being ahead of the curve with that prognostication.

Jason Parks is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here
Mauricio Rubio is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mauricio's other articles. You can contact Mauricio by clicking here

Related Content:  Prospects,  Scouting,  Minor League

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