Wednesday, December 12, 2012

2012 Positional Rankings: RH Starters

Nearing the end of the ranking process, I'm looking forward to being able to post my Top prospect master list the week of Christmas. This position is clearly the strength of the organization, with not only really good talent at the top but reasonably high grade prospects further down the list.

1. Aaron Sanchez (7/1/92) - Sanchez is no secret to anyone, electric stuff and a need to refine his command a bit. Everyone is excited for his ceiling and even if he doesn't generate pinpoint control, there's room to learn how to use the command he does have to generate a lot of swing-and-miss results. There's some disagreement among observers which of the top 2 should be #1 but if you go by Jonathan Mayo's rankings for MLB.com of the top 100 Prospects in baseball, Sanchez (who's second among Blue Jays on the list to #11 Travis d'Arnaud) comes in at #38 while Syndergaard is all the way down at #83 so perhaps in the eyes of some the gap is greater than we think. In any case, a recognizable majority prefer Sanchez.

2. Noah Syndergaard (8/29/92) - Every description of Syndergaard speaks of him as a big "horse"in the mold of fellow Texan Roger Clemens who was 6'4" and 205 (Syndergaard is listed at 6'5" 200) but Sanchez is listed at 6'4" and 190 and no one ever describes him in those terms. Syndergaard isn't really that much bigger than Sanchez, but he does throw harder for now  and scouts seem to have more confidence in that aspect of his game. He also has better command. But his movement is apparently a tic behind that of Sanchez. In essence, if Syndergaard develops plus secondary pitches that play in the majors, he's a top of the rotation starter in the Clemens mold, and if not he still has solid potential to be a two pitch stopper in the Papelbon mold. But he's still just 20 (as is Sanchez) and the Jays can afford to give both of them 2-4 years to refine their skills.

3. Roberto Osuna (7/2/95) - Given the success he's had at his age, you have to be excited about his future. He doesn't have the traditional long and lean "projectable" body of the two guys in front of him, but he had remarkable results against college aged opposition as a 17 year old in 2012.
Consider this:
Aaron Sanchez turned 19 about two weeks into the 2011 rookie-league season, and he got  42.2 innings at Bluefield, and 11.2 in Vancouver. The next season he opened the year in Lansing.(as a 19 year old, still, for the first half of the season).
Noah Syndergaard, as an 18 year old for almost all of the 2011 season, threw 32 innings in Bluefield, 18 in Vancouver, and 9 in Lansing. Then he spent essentially his whole age 19 season in Lansing.
Osuna had 24 in Bluefield and 19.2 in Vancouver, at age 17. If the Jays follow their previous pattern and advance him to Lansing he'd be almost a year and a half younger than Syndergaard, who was a couple of months younger than Sanchez. That's impressive. He has above average stuff, a clean delivery, and reasonable control. As he refines his command he has a solid chance to be just as highly regarded as the top 2 here..

4. Marcus Stroman (5/1/91) - Everyone knows the drill on Stroman. Undersized guy with great stuff. Scouts worry about the downward plane on his pitches, and durability and suggest he could pitch in the majors almost immediately as a reliever. but the Blue Jays have a fine bullpen (on paper) and the luxury of developing him as a starter until it's proven he can't hold up to that job. Given that he'll be coming off the layoff of a suspension, he will probably start the season at Dunedin but will almost certainly spend the whole second half in AA. He'll be 22 by the time he next plays in a game that counts, and depending on a variety of circumstances it's not at all inconceivable he could pitch in Toronto in 2013. Certainly he'd be a candidate in the spring of 2014 unless he has a notable reversal or injury.

5. Alberto Tirado (12/10/94) - The name on the list you maybe haven't heard before, unless you are a true connoisseur of prospect-porn, Tirado is a guy we know somewhat less about as outsiders to the organization. But all the reports were quite positive, indicating a mid-90's fastball and good feel for more than one secondary pitch. He's 6'1" 177, and justturned18 so there's room for him to fill out his frame and potentially step up to premium prospect level. Keep your eye on him.

6. John Stilson (7/28/90) - another guy with electric stuff, but one that comes with noticeable red-flags. The Jays only came into possession of Stilson because he was recovering from a serious injury, and one of the things scouts note when they watch him work is that his cross-body mechanics are another injury waiting to happen. His command and control needs some refinement still ,so the jays likely keep working him as a starter (probably at AAA Buffalo) but opinions are mixed as to whether they ought remain committed to that path once he's major league ready, or whether he's better suited to the bullpen. I'm excited about this guy and what he cold do, but I'm also petrified that he's going to end up on McGowan Road.

7. Adonys Cardona (1/16/94) - He was highly praised when he signed a big-bucks contract with the Blue Jays, but he's been a bit slower to develop than some other young Latin players and that has led some observers to move on to the next big thing and lose their high view of Cardona somewhat. But the arm and the stuff are still big time, it's just a matter of needing a great deal of polish. He has less than 50 pro innings and he's not quite yet 19, so the Jays can and will be patient with him. If he refines his command and control on a consistent basis he jumps way up the (overall) list.

8. Chase DeJong (12/29/93) - Something of a drop-off to the next tier here, he was a second round pick in 2012 and in a very brief sample pitched very well in the GCL. You have to love a 15:1 K:BB ratio. He's not a flamethrower but he shows excellent command for his age.

9. Tyler Gonzales (1/22/93) - drafted 21 spots before DeJong, and somewhat more highly touted, he struggled early in his pro career but after a DL stint he came back with much better results (again, we speak of tiny sample sizes here). He's a fastball/slider guy who's said to be a high-effort guy mechanically which lead some to believe he will eventually be a reliever at the upper levels. It's mainly for that reason that I gave DeJong the slight edge.

10. Deck McGuire (6/23/89) - Maybe Deck and Ricky Romero could carpool to the same sports psychologist in Dunedin. Like Romero, McGuire had an inexplicably horrid season after having had considerable successes before this year. Other than consistency in his pitches, it's hard to account for McGuire's failure but the coaches who've commented imply that McGuire has a difficult timewith self-doubt and confidence. He let the shaky outings get in his head and went from bad to worse. That can be a fixable problem, but there are no assurances.
But before we write him off, consider this: He was 23 last year and Ricky was also in AA at 23 )for the first 3/4 of the season) . compare the lines-
RR:  4.96 ERA, 1.595 WHIP, 5.8 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, 10.3 H/9, 1.42 K/BB, 121.2 IP
DM: 5.88 ERA, 1.556 WHIP, 6.1 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, 10.1 H/9, 1.56 K/BB, 144 IP

That was in 2008 and in 2009 Ricky was cementing himself into the major league rotation. McGuire should be able to take some comfort in that.



Sleepers: Taylor Cole, Yefry Del Rosario, Tom Robson, Javiar Avendano - Cole is interesting in that he had great ratios achieved by pinpoint control and because of the interesting background (didn't pitch for two years because of Mormon mission) but he must regain the velocity he had before or the ceiling is going to be pretty low.Del Rosario is another Latin signing and his ratios were impressive in the GCL, but there's not a lot of buzz about him just yet. Robson was the best pitcher drafted out of Canada in 2011, but he's only gotten 11 pro innings so far and it's difficult to get a  solid read. Avendano was a minor-league Rule 5 draft pick and those guys essentially never turn out to be impressive major league talents but the young man literally owned the Northwest league in 2012.

Look for Cole and Avendano to be the guys who partner up in the tandem-starter program in Lansing with Osuna and Daniel Norris. (in some combination).

A note about: Marcus Walden, and Jeremy Gabryszwiski: Some observers consider one or both ofthese to be players to watch - Marc Hulet in particular is high on Walden - but for me, the K rate at these levels doesn't really support excitement. Admittedly I'm only looking at numbers and scouting reports but I don't see how they match up to the guys i listed.

*****
Speaking of the MLB.com top 100 list, here are the jays prospects who made the list, along with the other guys on the list drafted by the Blue Jays:

#11 - Travis d'Arnaud: The highest ranked catcher, and 4th among offensive players.
#35 - Jake Marisnick: Which shows you where Mayo had him on the Jays list, pre-trade.
#38 - Aaron Sanchez: I think this is somewhat low...maybe 10 spots or so.
#74 - James Paxton: Remember this guy?
#83 - Noah Syndergaard: again, particularly in relation to Sanchez, this seems low.
#86 - Justin Nicolino: ranks #4 among marlins prospects now.
#91 - Daniel Norris: rated the #8 LH starter prospect.

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