A wave of excitement ran through the baseball community like Bo Jackson bursting for the corner and up the sideline. Our collective breaths were held hostage once again by the state of Florida (why is it always Florida?) as we waited for our Wanderwall to save our batting averages.
Turns out we got Taylor Walls, much to the surprise of nobody who’s followed Tampa for two seconds but certainly to the chagrin of baseball fans everywhere.
But maybe Walls’ll be the one that saves us. Cause after all . . .
He’s good at baseball.
He’s no Vidal Wandersoon, but he’s fine for anyone looking to save some coin, and let’s face it, our fantasy teams are in Tampa’s boat on that front. Everyone loves a price break in fantasy. We probably wouldn’t tap and sap our very souls to get it, but that’s life in the so-it-goes era of Major League fuckery.
Sorry for the detour. I’m putting work into the Top 100 Update and wanted to open the floor to discussion. In this space, I’ll air out some thoughts kicking around as I build the list and invite your thoughts on the season so far. The more minds the better, is my general approach to all things thought and perspective.
My first macro thought is about the ball itself. To succeed at the big league level in 2021 seems to require a different skill set than it did in 2020, and perhaps 2020 valued different skills than 2019, given the stop-and-start nature of the Covid sprint. My mind is working overtime to enfold the myriad factors informing early-season returns in 2021. Biggest galaxy brain thought amounts to hit tool matters more than ever, which is really just more of the same except now there’s a real limit to how much contact can be made in a given innings. Hit tool is still the deciding factor, but you need enough power to do damage on the rare occasion that two straight hitters connect. Weird stuff to juggle.
One big question I’m asking myself is basically just Alek Manoah.
It’s more than that. Rookie pitchers have not been good this year. Manoah looks great. Best base skill set of the pitchers to debut this year. Biggest base in general. Also the best treble though, featuring a dizzying array of off-speed pitches. I tend to bet against pitching prospects, especially the super spendy ones, but Manoah feels like an exception to the rules, and he has to be if he’s going to thrive in the AL East pitching half his games in Toronto’s traveling wind tunnel.
Dunno but Matos is certainly worth a lot, no?
How hairy is too hairy for Heriberto Hernandez in Tampa?
Dunno but I’m shavinberto Hernandez just to keep cool through his hot start.
Both feel like top ten types to me. Just a matter of time if they don’t get there in this iteration.
Jesus Sanchez walks on water in Miami? Interesting case here as I think he benefits from the spinariffic invisible bendy ball. Jesus can connect with anything. Pitch selection has always been his bugaboo, and he’s selecting all the good pitches these days, and sometimes mashing even when he picks a not-so-good time to swing.
How far do we drop the strugglers?
Is MacKenzie Gore still a top 25 guy?
Confirmation bias compels me to bury Cleveland 3B Nolan Jones even further, but he was already out of the top 100.
Daniel Lynch presents an interesting case. I don’t like his mechanics or his pitch data, but scouts love him, and I’m not dropping anyone too far off a bad start after not pitching in a real game for months. I have no idea why Kansas City didn’t just wait until Lynch had thrown a few minor league games. I guess they felt the urge to contend and believed in their guy, which I guess isn’t the worst thing in the world, but they bumped an effective Jake Junis to the pen to make that move, and I just don’t get it, especially headed into the right-hand heavy White Sox considering Junis’ effective slider. Hindsight, for sure. Anyway he’s outside the top 100 right now, but again, he already was.
Hunter Greene is throwing how hard now?
Roansy Contreras is throwing how hard now?
DL Hall is throwing how hard now?
Daniel Espino is throwing how hard now?
Kyle Harrison is throwing how hard now?
Maybe it’s easier to focus on the guys who aren’t throwing hellfire.
Because I think we might. There’s not another Yermin hiding under a rock somewhere, but I still think his journey is more instructive and telling of the industry than it is an outlier. Same goes for Adolis Garcia and Randy Arozarena. Evaluating baseball players is hard. Do all you can to keep an open mind to “late bloomers” who are often only that because they’ve never had the trust, faith, eyes, whatever to get extended opportunities from their parent club. San Francisco OFs LaMonte Wade and Bryce Johnson have caught my eye this year, as have Baltimore 3B Patrick Dorrian and Houston OF Jose Siri. Sometimes talent and opportunity don’t sing in perfect harmony until pretty late in the concert.
What about the guys who haven’t played?
Hmm good point, bold lettering voice. This ranking might be more impacted by small samples than any I’ll ever produce, given the desert that’s behind us the verdant hours of baseball before me. I’ll have to counterweight somehow for Jasson Dominguez, Hedbert Perez, Wilman Diaz, Jonatan Clase and many, many more who haven’t posted a stat this season. The assignment is the thing, really. The minor league reshuffle might’ve pushed someone like Clase to the DSL if the Mariners didn’t want his first full-season exposure to occur in the early May chill. Dominguez I get. Kid gloves or whatever with a guy who’s already established a lot of value. Diaz I get for similar reasons, plus he’s a year younger. Hedbert and Clase are confusing, though I suppose they go in that same bucket of established-value prospects who could lose some shine with Low-A struggles.
Texas OF Adolis Garcia has exceeded the prospect threshold, but he’s an interesting case. Sites rarely tinker at the pace required to graduate these types of guys from viable spots. Tough to imagine he’d fall outside anyone’s top 50 at the moment, though of course he would. Something about killing major league pitching for a couple months just doesn’t convince some prospectors the way a first-round pedigree does.
Miami SS Jazz Chisholm is the type who gets hastily boosted up the rankings so certain sorts can save some face before graduation day. He’s striking out 33 percent of the time right now, and that’s almost certain to catch up with him at some point. Maybe it’ll be a brief slump when it happens, but redraft players know this drill by now: sell Chisholm if someone is treating him like a ready-made elite power-speed combo. In dynasty, I’ll bet you could get CJ Abrams or Vidal Brujan in a Chisholm-centric deal, and I’d be jumping at that.
One of the biggest questions will be Arizona OF Kristian Robinson, who could be facing significant jail time for an incident involving highway patrol last August. Gotta keep him in the top 100, I think, but I have no idea where he’ll land.
But for a lot of these questions, we have much more information today than last time we lined everyone up to pick sides. Should be a fun recess. As long as there’s dodgeball anyway. Thinking we’ll go live with it next Sunday.
Please feel invited to make a case for someone who should make the hundred or open up some discussion to that effect or just whatever you’re feeling on this fine Sunday (or Monday or Tuesday or whenever you get around to reading this if you ever do.)
Thanks for reading!
I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.