I’m positive we are all jaded when we think about prospect lists at this point and rightfully so. I for one like getting my hopes up only for them to be crushed like a Jeremy Guthrie hanging curve, so here’s my totally subjective, Dan Cortes Memorial Midseason Top 10 List. Player names link to their milb page.
I wrote about him last week here, and I am a big believer in the pure stuff. The night I saw him his command was fantastic, but that will continue to be a work in progress. His fastball can be a little straight when he overthrows it, the changeup is good but his weakest pitch, and he needs to work on his efficiency to get deeper into games. It’s not a given that he’ll be a starter but the body has come a ways since he was listed at 5’9" 140 two summers ago in Kane County. He has high-end stuff and front-of-the-rotation upside.
2. Kyle Zimmer
You could certainly make a case for Zimmer being the best prospect in the system. Zimmer was recently promoted to AA after stringing together 4 great starts with 36 Ks and 3 BBs in 25 innings. Drafted with the 5th overall pick in last year’s draft, he combines high upside with what I view as a relatively high floor. He has an easy, athletic and repeatable delivery from which he unleashes a plus fastball in the mid to upper 90's, a plus curve, a solid change and a below average slider. Scouting reports at BP imply that his high ERA is a result of his fastball finding too much of the plate. There were also some comments that his pitch sequence has been confused and was throwing his slider too much. He just started pitching a few years ago, which is a plus since he’s still developing his feel for the mound and he doesn’t have much mileage on his arm. If he stays healthy, I think he has the potential to develop into an innings-eating #2. I’m hoping to see him in person in the next few weeks and if I do I’ll report back.
As you know, Mondesi is realllllly young, turning 18 later this month. He held his own as a 16 year old last year in the Pioneer League against pitchers 5 years older than him to the tune of a .733 OPS. By all accounts he plays shortstop well with great instincts and he’s even shown some pop for a wiry teenager. His position, age, and baseball instincts have drawn him comparisons to Jurickson Profar (with more power potential according to some). Profar was 6 months older than Mondesi when he made his short season debut in the Northwest league and put up a .696 OPS. Now I don’t think Mondesi is ever going to be as good of a prospect as Profar—for one there’s a lot more swing and miss in Mondesi’s bat—but the comparison carries weight. For Mondesi to merely be holding his own as a 17 year old in the Sally League to the tune of a .693 OPS, shows an incredible amount of maturity and raw baseball skill and instinct. It’s pretty obvious that there is some crazy potential here, but I expect Mondesi to hit his fair share of bumps in the road just because he’s so damn young. Crazy potential here.
4. Sean Manaea
Big lefty with big velocity and some injury concerns. We don’t have any pro data so that makes it hard for me to rank, but I like his size and upside. He came into the year having dominated the Cape Cod League, and has recently gone under the knife for a hip injury. This ranking is obviously based on upside. I'm really interested to see where they start him off next year and how he performs.
Almonte has been a fast riser up this list. Sporting a good fastball and an excellent changeup, he is still working on a breaking pitch, but I imagine he will develop a passable offering with time. Age 20 for the rest of the year, it’s possible he gets moved up to Wilmington with a couple more solid starts. I think Almonte has a #2/3 ceiling, but there’s still a lot of risk and a long way to go. This is the kind of prospect you shouldn’t get too excited about because he’s just so far away and so many things can go wrong for a young pitcher like him. The plus change should be big in his development, but his future will probably depend on how well his breaking offering develops. If you missed the Futures Game, you can check out his pitch/fx data here. What I saw was a mid-90's fastball with good movement, a really good changeup, and a bad breaking ball. His mechanics need work and his release point was all over the place especially on the breaking ball. As you can see below, his release point was truly horrendous. His performance so far this year is encouraging, but he’s got a long way to go.
This was a tough one to rank. Bubba is still a prospect but right now he isn’t playing well. In hindsight, the Royals’ selection of Starling looks really foolish given the ascension of prospects like Archie Bradley, Anthony Rendon, Javier Baez, Francisco Lindor, George Springer, Jose Fernandez, etc etc etc etc. I want to believe in Bubba. I believe in his athletic gifts, but not his baseball talents or his swing. He put up strong numbers last year as a 19 year old, but they were aided by a .375 BABIP. Still, last years stats were somewhat encouraging, even as his swing mechanics were getting panned. This year his stat line is very bad and from scouring game logs he seems to be striking out, or pounding the ball into the dirt of the left side of the infield. We knew this would be a bumpy developmental ride, and maybe as Bubba continues to get reps and transitions from athlete to baseball player, we start to see some results. Maybe he can develop into a Drew Stubbs-type player, and that is obviously nothing to sneeze at, but Starling has the potential for so much more, as his tools are truly top notch. There is just so much risk, and baseball is littered with failed players that possessed immense physical tools but lacked the baseball skills necessary to succeed. It’s not looking great and he needs to make adjustments to his swing first and foremost, but the potential is still there and I’ll try to be patient for another year.
I like this guy. He doesn’t seem to have any outstanding tools, but he has hit at every level so far and some think he is going to hit for plus power down the road. That’s a good combination. Add solid RF defense with a big arm, and he seems to be a solid prospect. There are whispers that his bat speed won’t cut it against better velocity and that bears monitoring, but hopefully he can fully recover from his broken hamate bone and get back to raking.
I had to take Cuthbert over Dozier. Cuthbert is over a year younger than Dozier, and playing in AA. I don’t think Cuthbert’s ceiling is particularly high, but after last years poor performance in Wilmington he seems to be forgotten about. He has pretty good baseball skills: good bat speed, a good approach and the potential for solid power down the road. Right now he gives you a lot of doubles, and solid if unspectacular defense at 3rd. This is useful player if he continues to progress. He’s encountered some growing pains in AA (especially his K% and BB%) but that’s to be expected. At some point next year I think we will get to see what he can do in AAA as a 21 year old.
Didn’t love the pick at the time though I appreciated the Royals draft strategy. If Dozier puts up good a OBP and power numbers as he advances I could see him becoming a Mike Olt-type prospect. There’s not much pro data available yet, but the approach is really solid so far, and he’s been a doubles machine. He turns 22 next month so I’d like to see him competing against a higher level of competition and I imagine we'll get to see him in the Arizona Fall League. He’s basically doing exactly what I would expect him to do at his current level and that’s a good thing. Given he was ranked as like the 40th best prospect in the draft, it's hard for me to rank him any higher without seeing him play at a higher level.
10. Jason Adam
Pretty boring prospect but a good bet to end up in the backend of a rotation and log a lot of innings. His K/9 has actually increased at each stop so far which is neat, but he just seems very hittable and has encountered some command issues this year.
This is not the best farm system in the history of whatever anymore. They do have 3 top end end talents and I’d bet they each land inside the top 50 of most prospect lists this fall. Beyond that, there’s pretty good depth which is nice to have. A couple of risers to watch are Christian Binford and Elier Hernandez. Hernandez, the $3.05 million Dominican outfielder, has a ton of upside and hopefully he continues to progress. I still think this is a pretty good system with some high-end arms that should be ready in the next year or so. Let’s see if the system actually produces anything of note.
What do you think? What'd I mess up?