July 3, 2015
Some Projection Left
Ask The Industry: Second Basemen
A friendly reminder on how this works. I asked three scouts and two front-office members the following question: If you could start your franchise with one player at each position, what player would you take? I then asked those scouts/front-office members to submit an MVP-style ballot at each position, with the first place vote counting for five points, second place for four, etc.
If you want to get people excited about prospect talk – and why wouldn’t you? – do not open the conversation with second baseman. Very rarely do elite prospects start their route to the big leagues on the left side of the keystone bag; as they usually don’t move over until it’s “proven” that they cannot handle shortstop.
There are exceptions to the rule though, and as you’ll see from the front-office members and scouts I spoke with, they’re plenty excited for two names in particular.
Why: “This is as close to a foregone conclusion as you can have when we’re talking about prospects. I’m not an argumentative person, but I will be happy to debate anyone who thinks Moncada isn’t the best second base prospect in baseball. He’s a true five-tool player, and anyone who gets a chance to watch the kid hit is going to come away awfully impressed, there’s two sixes [in the hit and power tool].
In most years though, Peraza would be an easy No. 1. He can absolutely fly on the bases, and I think he has one of the higher floors of any guy we’ve scouted this year. He just doesn’t have the star potential Moncada does, so I have to go with Yoan.”
NL West scout: Moncada
Why: “I think you could make a pretty legit argument that this isn’t just the best second base prospect, but the best offensive prospect in baseball, with apologies to Corey Seager and [recently called up] Miguel Sano. Those two might be more advanced, but in terms of ceiling, I think Moncada beats them by a substantial margin.
My one concern is defensively, as even though he certainly has the speed for second base I think he might outgrow the position. Still, we’re talking about a future all-star here, and you just don’t see many of these types of talents come your way. He might be special.”
AL Central scout: Peraza
Why: “This is probably the toughest position and I’ll tell you why. I think Moncada is certainly the most talented player, but I haven’t gotten a chance to see him in person, and the reports I’ve read suggest he’s probably going to move to the outfield. I’ve seen Peraza a bunch, and I know he’s a lock to stick at second-base; he might actually be a 70 or 80 defender when all is said and done, but I also think there’s a strong chance he ends up at shortstop if the Braves were to move him. Long story short I’m conflicted, but I go with the more sure thing to play a quality second base in Peraza.”
His top five: 1. Peraza 2. Moncada 3. Kemp 4. Difo 5. Hanson
AL East scout: Moncada
“The lack of success at Greenville doesn’t bother me at all; it takes time for these kids to get used to rigors of the game, and there have been plenty of good moments. Every tool here is plus, and the BP sessions I’ve seen suggest the power could be plus-plus as he gets stronger, and I think he will. Kemp is the more sure thing, and Peraza is going to be a really nice player, but Moncada is a top five prospect and deserves the top spot.”
His top five: 1. Moncada 2. Peraza 3. Kemp 4. Wall 5. Hanson
NL front-office member: Moncada
“It’s really a case of ceiling or floor. If you like the high floor, you take Peraza, this is a 70 speed guy who can really pick it at second base, he probably should be playing shortstop if you ask me. If you like ceiling, you take Moncada; this is one of the most talented Cuban prospects we’ve seen, and that’s saying something. I prefer ceiling so I take the latter, but I wouldn’t fault anyone if they were to go with Peraza. It’s just personal preference.”
His top five: 1. Moncada 2. Peraza 3. Hanson 4. Wall 5. Kemp
Points: Moncada 24, Peraza 21, Wall 10, Kemp 9, Hanson 7, Difo 3, Refsnyder 1
In addition to the names above, I asked some members of the prospect team which second base prospect they’d start a franchise with.
Brandon Decker: I'm taking Peraza. When I'm looking for a second baseman, I'm not not as concerned about the power or arm. I think the hit tool, speed, and glove are the three most important tools for a second baseman, and Peraza is plus or plus-plus in all three. It's tough to pass up on Moncada, but Peraza has really won me over. I'm a sucker for speed, and Peraza has elite speed. Add that to his potential plus hit tool and plus glove, and I think he's the best prospect at the position. He has an excellent feel for the game and has raced through the minors. The combination of Peraza and Simmons up the middle for Atlanta makes for a very intriguing middle infield.
Brendan Gawlowski: With five tools that could be average or better, Moncada has the physical gifts you don't often find in a second basemen. If it clicks, he could hold down a middle infield position while topping fifteen homers for several seasons, and he'll always have the platoon advantage. What's not to like?
I'm also not disturbed by his slow transition to American baseball: while a number of players from Cuba have hit the ground running soon after coming to the states, we shouldn't assume that every teenager will assimilate to such a foreign environment so quickly, particularly considering his year-long layoff from competitive baseball. The tools should reveal themselves in time, and when they do, no other prospect at the keystone can match his upside and athleticism.
Wilson Karaman: I'll break up the inevitable Moncada monopoly with a pitch for the grossly underrated Tony Kemp. Scouts have always built up a bigger hill for him to climb because of his size, but he just keeps climbing it. He's now put up a .403 OBP across five levels and almost 1,300 plate appearances since signing, including leading the Texas League this year by 30 points before his promotion. I had a scout tell me last year that he'd seen very few players come through High-A with a better sense of who they were as ballplayers, and I got exactly the same vibe in ~10 views last summer. He's a plus-plus make-up guy who knows his strengths and weaknesses and will get every ounce out of his abilities. He shows great footwork and range at second, and projects as an above-average defender who gets on base at a robust clip with a ton of #want. It's exactly the kind of package I want for my franchise's keystone.
Craig Goldstein: I think the obvious answer here is Moncada. But that's not who I'm going to pick, and it's not because I'm trying to be sly or tricky, but more likely because I'm an idiot. My choice is Wilmer Difo, of the Washington Nationals. Second base is tricky because it's usually filled by a lot of guys who played somewhere else and were forced into the keystone either by a failing (arm, range) or a failure to compare favorably to someone already entrenched. Ian Desmond doesn't seem long for DC, but Trea Turner is also in the org, and a level above Difo so would seem to have shortstop to himself for now. Difo would be a plus defender at second base, as he's got more than enough arm for shortstop, and shows increasingly better range at the position. At the plate he employs a compact swing but generates power via bat speed. He can turn on velocity, and while he probably won't be much of a home run threat, there's power in the bat. The raw tools don't compare to Moncada, but I happen to think there's a little less risk in Difo, and there's at least a decent chance Moncada is a third baseman. Plus, having the ability to spot start at short from your second baseman is a nice little trick. Ok, I'm reaching, I know.
My choice: If you had asked me before the season, I probably would have taken Peraza. As the scouts mentioned above, he’s got one of the highest floors of any prospect in baseball, and assuming he’s an everyday player – and he should be – he’s going to be among the stolen base leaders because of his plus-plus speed and ability to read pitchers. Add in solid bat-to-barrel skills and plus defense and you get a very valuable player, one who could be worth five-plus wins.
And yet, it’s impossible for me to not go with Moncada. Yes there’s a lot of work to be done, yes he hasn’t lit the world on fire at the lower level, and no I’m not sure he’ll be able to stay at second base for the majority of the career. This is still a five tool player, one who has a chance to be an MVP candidate if everything clicks. There’s more risk here than I normally would like, but the reward is just too sweet for me to take anyone else.