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July 9th at 4pm marks the exact time I’m certain Prospector Ralph’s mind will explode with excitement. That feeling of pure elation can only be achieved in one scenario. Watching the game’s budding talents in the 2017 Futures Game – streaming on MLB.com – after spending countless hours researching and following prospects of this caliber (From the Razzball family and its incredible base of readers, we sincerely thank you for your work Ralph!). Well, maybe there are a few other scenarios. According to BuzzFeed there are 42 others where this pure form of joy and satisfaction arises. They include unraveling knittingcrunching leaves, and breaking the yolk. Aside from the fact that I’m certain breaking the yolk is a sexual innuendo for something completely different, we live in a truly sad world if these things make people as happy as Ralph on Futures Game Sunday.

I can’t even blame our resident prospector for how excited he must get; I’m as big a fan of this event as any prior to playoff baseball. While the All-Star game itself falls into oblivion, and the Home Run Derby begins to take the reigns of relevance in the sports world during middle of July, the Futures Game perennially produces both entertainment and the league’s brightest talents. The list of players in the event last season, who I’m sure you’ve interacted with on your waivers or in drafts during 2017, is reason alone to tune in: Andrew Benintendi, Ryon Healy, Dansby Swanson, Hunter Renfroe, Clint Frazier, Gary Sanchez, Raimel Tapia, Manuel Margot, David Dahl, Alex Reyes, Amir Garrett, Josh Hader, and Joe Musgrove. Venture one more year back, to 2015, and you’ll find two players currently ranked number one and 12 respectively on the Player Rater, Aaron Judge and Trea Turner.

If you can even believe it, this season’s crop of talent is debatably held in even higher regard.

Between the two 25-man rosters – teams are broken down based on USA or World heritage – 32 of the games participants were featured in Ralph’s recent masterpiece, Razzball’s mid-season top 100 prospects post. You’ll even get a look at nine of the top 10 players on that list, with the lone omission being the DL’d Alex Reyes. Yet summary statistics regarding just how jam-packed Ralph’s recent list is won’t suffice. We need to go deeper, and what better way to do so than with analysis on the biggest jumps on this recent list compared to the preseason list from late February. Keep in mind a few things before we get going, this doesn’t include players who are new to the list, as even their position on Ralph’s February list couldn’t be determined, I’ll do a brief aside to talk about some of these new entrants (think 2017 draftees, Bo Bichette, etc.). Also, try not to take the rise or fall out of context. Sure, a rise may signify that Ralph is in fact higher on that given player, but intuition would signal it’s harder to rise 10 spots from 90 to 80 than it would be to rise from 15 to 5.

Top 10 Risers

(* = 2017 Futures Game participant)

It comes as no real surprise that two of the biggest names heading into the Futures Game – Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Ronald Acuna – are two of the biggest risers on Ralph’s list. Guerrero is only 18 years old, which is absolutely insane for a player walking more than he is striking out, and slugging .480 at A-ball in Toronto’s system. The fact we’ve heard some say they merely want to see this finally legal adult take batting practice in Miami is praise in itself. Although the comparison to his father is easy to make, Baby Guerrero lacks the arm strength and has a much more refined approach at the plate. With nearly all potential stuffed into his bat, and worries about his glove, it’s amazing that other lists which factor in both sides of the game still have him top 10. He’s a dynasty owner’s dream.

Acuna is another uber-young prospect, with what I’d argue is the strongest five-tool profile in the minor leagues. Already promoted a level this year, the Braves’ future right fielder sits with a 155 wRC+ in AA, one step away from being one step away. Sun Trust Park is only a 9.5 hour drive from Marlins Park, and if you left six hours ago, you’d make it to Miami to see Acuna!

I’d also like to profile the IndiansTriston McKenzie, who is the number two pitcher on Ralph’s list, taking the spot of Houston’s Francis Martes from the preseason iteration. As many lists in the industry have a rightful tendency to lean offense heavy early on, McKenzie sneaking into Ralph’s top 20 is true praise. After decimating A ball with a 1.97 FIP through 30+ innings, McKenzie’s stint in High-A has been more of the same. An unalarming tick up in walks with the level bump has been matched with a consistent and elite level of swing and miss. His last start was a seven inning masterpiece with 11 strikeouts and goose eggs in walk and run departments. That outing was on the Fourth of July, and McKenzie will continue to showcase his love for America as he suits up for team USA.

A few players that made their inaugural appearance on Ralph’s list, in order of highest rank include *Bo Bichette (23), Scott Kingery (26), Walker Buehler (28), *Ryan McMahon (32), and *Mike Soroka (34). With Buehler unfortunately absent from the Futures Game, I’ll turn some attention to the other three to keep with the game’s rosters front of mind.

Crazy to say Bichette is the biggest breakout prospect of 2017? He’s shot up almost every list in the industry, takes the highest spot of any player not on Ralph’s preseason top 100, and came from relative obscurity in the process (late second round pick in 2016’s Amateur Draft). Earning the call to High-A after paying his dues in this Futures Game, Bichette will take his career 83% stolen base rate and comical .384/.448/.623 slash line to Dunedin, where hopes are that Guerrero Jr. will soon join him.

Soroka on the other hand has beyond elite command for a prospect, failing to post a walk rate above 6% at any level since his start in professional ball back in 2015. I’ve personally had an affinity for Soroka because of his youth and sky high floor, and while I dream of a 9 K/9 arm with a 5% walk rate at the major league level, I’ll temper my expectations for the time being and hope the strikeouts tick back up as he inches towards the majors.

McMahon is a player I had the pleasure of seeing alongside David Dahl and Trevor Story last summer for the Hartford Yard Goats, and felt his potential didn’t differ much from his more highly touted teammates. With Dahl battling a swarm of injury bugs and Story nearly out of a job as Brendan Rodgers – also in the Futures Game – knocks on the door to Coors, McMahon may prove to yield the highest return of that trio. 14 HR and 11 SB between AA and AAA this season, with Coors in his future? Sign me up for his smooth lefty swing any day of the week.

Top 10 Fallers

Only two players among Ralph’s largest fallers will play in the Futures Game. One of which is a prospect who I was disappointed to see drop, Yadier Alvarez. With the unbelieveable major and minor league pitching depth the Dodgers have at their disposal (likely second to only the Braves unfair accumulation of riches), the news that Alvarez is featuring a straight fastball at High-A doesn’t hurt them as much as it might other organizations. Alvarez is a player I personally became smitten with when I first admired the ease at which he generates elite velocity at such a young age (21). Even with an ominous cloud lingering above his head in the recent months, he should light up the radar gun and remind us why some thought about him as the arm with the highest ceiling in the minors not too long ago.

Zack Collins on the other hand takes a hit in Ralph’s ranks after struggling to get below a 27% strikeout rate and above a .250 average at High-A. Ralph and I chatted about how other lists within the industry (more on that soon) are almost always higher on catchers. Rankings of players like Chance Sisco, Carson Kelly, and Collins are one of the bigger differences between “real life” lists and fantasy lists. Ralph only has one catcher inside his top 90 – the extremely advanced bat of Francisco Mejia – while others lean towards three to four in that same window. We have all experienced the putrid production and value catchers return in fantasy, and I’m not convinced this crop of talents will change that anytime soon. Only seven currently fall inside the top 200 players, so unless you can guarantee me Perez or Sanchez-like production, I can only get so excited. Buzz is that Mejia has a real chance to get to that level, while Collins reaching that plateau seems like an optimistic ceiling argument from prospect utopia. I’m still excited to see the White Sox prospect in the Futures Game, but it’s with the understanding that catchers’ developmental process is molasses-like and the position as a whole can be waited on in fantasy drafts.

So how about we get to another industry list that I briefly elluded to? I chose Baseball America’s version as it leans towards a real life ranking and because of their on the ground scouts which it’s sometimes easy to miss the opinions of. Ideal for fantasy? Likely not, but the comparison between BA’s list and Ralph’s can give you a sense of players that differ due to their fantasy production potential alone. In reality, there’s a good chance that’s the focus of you, the reader.

Check out BA‘s list here. Keep in mind the same qualifiers from our prior set of risers/fallers, and add to it the fact that if a player is omitted from either list, there is a good chance he is just barely outside the top 100. Many prospectors acknowledge there is an argument for 120-130 guys to be top 100, so those fringe players around 90-95 rightfully mulled over continually.

Ralph Higher than Baseball America

  • Juan Soto – 27th for Ralph,  95th for BA – difference of 68 spots
  • Willie Calhoun – 12th for Ralph, 74th for BA – difference of 62 spots
  • *Ryan McMahon – 32nd for Ralph, 91st for BA – difference of 59 spots
  • *Rhys Hoskins – 30th for Ralph, 69th for BA – difference of 39 spots
  • Notable omissions from BA’s list?

Ralph Lower than Baseball America

  • Brendan McKay – 92nd for Ralph, 40th for BA – difference of 52 spots
  • Franklin Perez – 83rd for Ralph, 32nd for BA – difference of 51 spots
  • Ian Anderson – 100th for Ralph, 55th for BA – difference of 45 spots
  • *Nick Gordon – 63rd for Ralph, 19th for BA – difference of 44 spots
  • Notable omissions from Ralph’s list?

Continuing to look at just the Futures Game prospects, one of the more notable difference between Ralph and Baseball America is Ralph’s support for the Tommy Joseph replacement Rhys Hoskins, and his lukewarm feeling on the Twins’ number five overall pick back in 2014, Nick Gordon. While the Gordon variance is likely do to the plus glove and that asset’s uselessness in fantasy, the Hoskins difference seems to have a bit more to do with philosophy.

Hoskins, represents a player whom scouts tended to look at with skepticism for future production, even after his torrid Cape League production as he stormed onto the professional league scene. All he has done since is produced at an elite level, and we’re finally dipping our toes back into the water of trusting Phillies prospects not named J.P. Crawford or Dominic Brown. My best bet for BA’s pessimism probably has to do with their stoic stance on his profile translating, but I agree with Ralph on this one.

McMahon we’ve already gone over for his mutli-tool Coors profile. While he finally found his way on to BA’s list for this first time this season, their assessment may be in a vacuum, meaning the glory that Coors brings with it is something that is surely fantasy relevant, but not as applicable to a scouting report in real life.

Enjoy the game, I’ll be watching so don’t be afraid to make this a message board of sorts to pose prospect questions as the game is going on.

I’ll reach out to Ralph to see if he can pop in once or twice for some analysis as well! If you desire the full list of differences between Ralph and Baseball America, or Ralph preseason and now, feel free to shoot me a message on Twitter or in the comments below.

Questions, comments, and Futures Game discussion encouraged.

@LanceBrozdow on Twitter

   
  1. Grey

    Grey says:
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    Damn, it’s Prospector Ralph vs. the World

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Grey:
      I’ll side with Ralphy boy 10/10 times!

  2. AL KOHOLIC says:
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    i want some kingery

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @AL KOHOLIC:
      Kingery is going to be fun, that pop came out of nowhere, juts hope it sustains!

      I’ll get the chance to see him in person at the end of July, hoping he sticks at AA a little longer!

      • Ralph Lifshitz

        Ralph Lifshitz says:
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        @Lance: He’s already in AAA.

        • Lance

          Lance says:
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          @Ralph Lifshitz:
          My mistake……

          Can they send him back down for me ;)

          Hahaha

          • Ralph Lifshitz

            Ralph Lifshitz says:
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            @Lance: They’re in Pawtucket from August 25-27

  3. Ralph Lifshitz

    Ralph Lifshitz says:
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    Great work Lance! I’m flattered! Also kind of hungry!

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Ralph Lifshitz:
      Love your list Ralph!

      The Futures Game always has the ability to satiate hunger, it’s like a seven-course meal!

  4. Sport says:
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    Absolutely loved this breakdown of Ralph’s work! I really enjoy his write ups and was wanting to see his rankings compared to others, just like you did. I use the same strategy when comparing Grey’s preseason ranks.

    I have the game recording and will watch later! Since reading Ralph’s stuff I actually have an interest in the game for the first time.

    Thank you Razzball and all the writers, contributors, and even the commenters!

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Sport:
      Thanks for the read and kind words!

      Definitely keep Ralph’s list close when watching, you’ll see a ton of consistency between the two. Always fun to see these kids live (most of them for the first time).

  5. Sport says:
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    Do you guys see Soroka as a mid/late summer of 2018? Or does he have a chance of starting the year in the rotation out of spring training?

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Sport:
      I think he’ll be a guy you hear about next spring as having an way outside chance at a starting job, but ultimately goes to AAA for the majority of the season.

      The thing he does have working for him, despite the age, is that he’s already passed the 140 IP threshold and isn’t 20 yet. That bodes well for a callup that actually sticks instead of a quick shut down upon arrival.

      More than likely Summer 2018, dependent also on the Braves standing in the East too.

  6. Rice says:
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    Drop Arica to take a shot on Story in the 2nd half? Either could possibly be a last round keeper option.

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Rice:
      Hmm, I’m really not confident in Story at all, and actually just did a feature piece on Arcia for my personal site (lot of mechanical changes at the plate, but glove provides a lot of the value).

      I’m surprisingly a little torn on this, as I figured I would be able to say Story easily, but Arcia I might ride for a bit longer if you don’t think Story will be scooped up immediately.

      I think I’m going to go Story if you want a hard, yes/no answer.

      You made me wishy-washy on this one, well done! Haha

  7. Rice says:
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    Haha… Thanks Lance. I’ve been back and forth on this on all damn day. I thought Story would be a no brainer too but I lcan’t seem to pull the trigger.

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Rice:
      It’s a tougher call than it sounds! Sorry I couldn’t give you a strong opinion!

      FWIW, the player rater has Story as a top 100 player rest of season

  8. Frank White says:
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    Suter or Castillo? Thnx

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Frank White:
      Suter for floor, Castillo for upside. In a vacuum, I’d gamble on Castillo

  9. Micah Vansciver says:
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    I’m out of contention this year in my 12 team keeper league and I was offered Alex Reyes, Michael Kopech, Kyle Tucker, Corey Kluber, Alex Bregman and Steven Strasburg for Nolan Arenado. Would it be crazy to trade Arenado for this haul?

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Micah Vansciver:
      Dang that’s a pretty good haul as long as you can keep the majority of those guys.

      Even so, if you’re out of contention for this year and possibly next, the problem I have is that One of the biggest assets is Kluber, who is aging.

      You’re not crazy at all to take that, I think I’m leaning that way, but I’d probably have to take a look at the team as whole to decide.

  10. Josh says:
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    Dynasty: Would you deal Moncada and Jimenez for Alex Wood

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Josh:
      Don’t think I would.

      Argument could be made if really trying to win this year, but I’m not giving up that caliber of prospect (times two) for Wood

  11. Greg says:
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    Dynasty – Lucroy, Giolito, Jay Bruce (Don’t use Bruce) for Meija and Calhoun.
    My other catcher is Contreares.

    Or would you rather do that trade above and take out Meija or Calhoun for One of Duffy, Bundy, F Martes, or E-Rod (Points)

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Greg:
      I’d be interested in taking out Calhoun for any of those four guys you mention at the end, but not sure if an offer of that construction would be on the table.

      Is this a 2 catcher league? If it’s not, while I love Mejia, if you already have Lucroy and Contreras, I’d be a little less inclined to go for him (unless you’re speculating he ends up not being a C long term).

      Need a little more detail before giving you a strong yes/no on this

  12. Greg says:
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    @lance It’s a 1 catcher – dynasty points league. We have 40 roster spots, So If I trade Lucroy (who I rarely use) I’d like Meija to stash.

    I never use Bruce either.

    I could get Mejia and one of those pitchers for Lucroy,Giolito, Bruce.
    I’m set to compete this year. So long term who are you liking.

    Was thinking either Calhoun/Meija or Meija/Duffy or Meija/E-Rod or Mejia/Martes – Although I worry Martes ends up in the pen long term.

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Greg:
      Ok, even with the 1 C consideration, I think I’m coming around on the Mejia side. He’s clearly the best player in the deal and isn’t far off from CLE.

      I still would like to try and finagle my way into Duffy over Calhoun. That would be a great haul to replace the Gioltio part you’re giving up (who I understand hasn’t met anybody’s expectations, but I’ve heard decent reviews of late)

  13. CMUTimmah says:
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    Hoskins… what more can the guy do to get higher… a .385 OBP with tons of power?!? Reminds me of Goldy numbers as a minor leaguer (minus speed)

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @CMUTimmah:
      Jeeze, I know!

      The Phils have been pretty slow with a lot of their guys of late (JP still not up, Williams took a while, etc). Maybe they don’t want to expose him to a completely different and objectively worse club than he’s ever been with??? But even then, that’s a terrible excuse to keep him from major league reps.

      He better take T-Joseph’s job before Mid August or I’ll break things!

  14. GoonerPhanatic says:
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    Sir Lance A’Lot

    More of a major league question, but does involve Happ/Benintendi and I’ll end with a Kingery queu:

    In contention in a 12TeamH2H5x5 League where we keep 6 (no limits) and right now I’d keep Harper OF, Machado 3B(don’t see him getting SS elig for next season <– sad face :<(, Springer OF, Benintendi OF, Bellinger 1B, and either Happ/S.Castro 2B or Osuna RP depending on how things shake out. My condundrum, or conflusion as Grey so aptly put it the other day, is I want to WIN DAMMIT but also use the Happ Hype to score a killer 6th keeper.

    Would you trade Benintendi & Happ for Stanton (think I know the answer to this one)? What about for Boegaerts?

    Aight, onto the 2017 Razzball Propsect of the Year (my apologies to all you other fine youngins hustling and bustling by the Phanatic in me wins out every time ;-): Sir Scott Kingery; whom I presume is a Phellow Phan at your (Dallas) Green Table. Anywho, right now I have Ozzie Albies in my NA Slot given the SS Keeper shituation and my dearth of SBs. So assuming he gets called up in the second half, and I'm not struck down by lighting for the sacrilege of owing an Atlanta Brave, is Kingery a good stash for a second half call-up himself and a, wait for it…., wait for it….., BOOM!, 2B KEEPER STASH!!! Am I crazy, or am I crazy??!!?? Please, seriously, tell me! (though I'm guessing my diatribe speaks for itself….)

    Thanks for reading and the input dude!!

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @GoonerPhanatic:
      Hey man,

      Sorry for taking a sec to get back to ya on this one.

      The Benny/Happ for Stanton trade is actually a little more interesting to me than it appeared on the surface (I’m not doing it for Bogaerts). I think if you’re about winning instead of building a bit, I could see doing it as a bit of a power-play combined with Machado, Harper, Belli. It would depend a little on the placement of my team in the standings and how determined I was to just get a title this year. For example, if I’m in first/second and think Stanton will push me over the edge, I’m going to take it and make sure I win this year, strong contender next year. But that does leave you with Castro as a keeper, who I kind of like but in a 6 keeper league (assumed 72 total), he’s not a guy I would be too happy with to have as my 6th. I’m probably a bit lower on him than others.

      My final verdict, in a vacuum – with a bit of context above – is to go Stanton side, but it’s close, would have to sit on it and get a little more context for the position of your team.

      Kingery is very good, this power surge kind of came from the heavens though. I personally would be a bit surprised if he is up in the second half (aside from super late, which I still don’t think will happen). The Phillies have just been notoriously slow with their prospects (JP, Williams, Hoskins, etc), and Hoskins – to me – is the more proven player, so if anybody comes up it’s gotta be him. Hernandez/Galvis will suffice for the Phillies rest of season. Albies is the better stash for this season because I bet Phillips gets moved to a contender, which opens his door wide. Rest of career though? I don’t think people are crazy to favor Kingery for the power potential at a scarce position. I’m always attracted to power prospects more than speed/avg guys.

      You’re not crazy, just passionate, often confused!

      Did you make a Dallas Green reference in there too? If so, mad respect, he’s one of my favorite artists. If it applies to another joke that I clearly don’t get – carry on (haha)

      Thanks for reading as always!

  15. GoonerPhanatic says:
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    Lance: You da’ man. Tanks the thoughts and keep on Razzin’ bro!

  16. garrsh says:
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    Great write up’s and love all the prospects column’s especailly the mid year 100 prospects for 2017. In my keeper league i’m a rebuilding team and was curious your take on Ozzie albies and when you think he could get the call and if he can make any impact this year in the majors.

    Curious to your thoughts

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @garrsh:
      Thanks! Appreciate it!

      I think Albies is up post trade deadline after Phillips goes to a contender. That’s the common belief among the industry and I’d agree with it.

      His impact when he’s up can go a lot of directions. I kind of feel it might trend on the Manuel Margot side of things, hot start, speed, maybe some extra pop with the juiced balls; shown a bit more power this year but he could also veer towards middle of the road everything and more hype than production.

      I think I’m more of an Albies pessimist than most, but that’s usually because I tend to downplay the speed guys upon call ups. Still a nice hold in dynasty, but I’m not expecting the world out of the gate.

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