Midseason Top 50 Prospects Chat

September 9, 2012

Wes Yee: I’m seeing a bunch of questions on Oscar Taveras, putting him first is a big statement, and I see him as a guy who can hit in the heart of the order for a contender. I see a guy who could contend for batting titles and hit up to 30 HR’s. An absolute monster.

Lincoln: I agree with you on Taveras’ upside, Wes. Dude’s hitting .320/.382/.571 and only striking out 11.0% of the time as a 20-year-old in Double-A. That shit cray. I went back and forth flipping Taveras and Myers a few times, Myers is a little closer since he’s produced well at Triple-A this year but I think Taveras has a little more juice in that bat than Myers (who I still like a metric ton) and went with the upside of the young Dominican. My placing of Bauer, Bundy and Profar above Taveras says more about my unadulterated love for those guys than anything negative I feel towards Taveras. I think he’s a middle-of-the-order superstar. Steve, ranking him waaaay down at seventh, obviously hates him.

Steve: I hate him more than Joe Sheehan hates salads. When I first saw Taveras, I saw some things that made me pause for a second, and want to see some production against more advanced pitching before jumping completely on board. I saw a long lead arm and swing that was full of tension and aggression. But all he’s done is produce and waved his finger in my general direction for having wanted to see him ‘prove it’. I’m still a little hesitant as to how well his ‘I AM SWINGING ANGRY TODAY’ approach scales at the ML level, hence why he’s at 7. I think this goes without saying but I’ll put it on record anyway; Taveras hand eye and spin recognition make him a guy that can get away with things that other hitters couldn’t dream of even attempting. He could just simply be that guy who you don’t break down, you just let him go do his thing and try not to laugh too loudly when he’s doing what Joe Mauer should be doing every year.

Lincoln: If Sheehan and salads is too vitriolic than I should go ahead and delete my Dan Duquette hates cutters article right now. I think I’ve called him an idiot 17 times in the first three paragraphs. You know, for comedy. We’re all, relatively, on the same page with Taveras. I don’t think Wes or I are saying that he’s super polished or doesn’t need to make any adjustments, just that what he’s produced so far and his ultimate talent make his upside more attractive than a former gymnast with daddy-issues after a bad break-up. Let’s move onto a guy you actually like: Jose Fernandez. Go!

Steve: Fernandez has several things that I look for in a pitcher: a frame of strength, an idea on how to pitch, and some serious shit to work with. On top of that, Fernandez still has plenty of projection left in his slider and overall command. His pitches explode through the zone and even though he’s not the most *ahem* ‘fit’ guy out there, his frame has some density to it that should make him able to take the abuse of some crazy manager who still wants his pitchers to reach 200 innings. Fernandez’s motion is easy and repeatable, and there aren’t any gimmicks to it; just be smooth and explode. His BB/K numbers this year look like they were stolen from Jeremy Hellickson’s statline while he was in the minors. I’d say the comp ends there though, as Fernandez has quite a bit more raw stuff than Hellickson does.

Lincoln: I like that you referred to Fernandez’s frame as having some “density” to it. That’s a polite way of saying it. I’m surprised you didn’t say he was “glowing” or “had a great personality”. Actually, to be fair, Fernandez has gotten in better shape since his HS days. He no longer looks like the love-child of Jonathan Broxton and a Baconator. Good on him. I was pretty down on Fernandez his draft year, more because I didn’t like the extra length in his delivery than any body issues. Fernandez used to be a guy who separated his hands fairly low and went way down and back with the first move in his arm action, like he was digging for something in his back pocket. Give Florida and Fernandez credit for smoothing that out a bit. His arm action is shorter and more efficient now. Mostly, I like to be very cautious with guys who shoot way up prospect lists by dominating A-ball hitters. Fernandez has elite stuff. His fastball sits mid-90’s and maintains its good life when he flirts with higher velos. But that’s all you really need to dominante the low minors. I’m basically on Fernandez where you were on Taveras last year, Steve. Recognize the talent but want to see more before I jump on the bandwagon.

Wes: I’m a huge Fernandez fan and I was physically upset when I saw that Steve had him higher than I did. It’s a plus-plus fastball with a frame Secretariat could get behind. It doesn’t hurt that he’s got that incredible back story and the mental toughness that comes with it to call upon as he navigates minor league life. Let’s take a second and talk about Trevor Bauer, who’s had quite the up and down season with Arizona. I think we’re all still on him, but is he still a potential ace? You would think the approach is fixable but it certainly seems like his style of pitching is, dare I say, Daisuke-like? The guy hates being put in play.

Lincoln: Did you just comp Bauer to Dice-K? YOU SHUT YOUR MOUTH WHEN YOU’RE TALKING TO ME! Yes, his brief MLB showing was poor. No, I’m not changing my mind about him because of his first 16 innings in the show. Bauer is the best combination of upside, production, and proximity to having big league value of any prospect in the game. He can tie a knot in a cherry stem. He can tell you about Leif Ericson.

Wes: Listen to my words, and hear his face. I’m in on Bauer, I just don’t think the 4.4 BB/9 is going to cut it. The stuff is excellent and he’ll be fine, I’m just don’t see the ceiling of a Cole or Walker with him. Why am I so much higher on Francisco Lindor than the two of you?

Steve: For me, I think Bauer hates giving up hits, whereas Dice-K seemed more afraid of contact than anything. Bauer strikes me as a guy with a total ‘I hate your stupid face hitter guy’ mentality. As for Lindor, it’s less about being lower on him than you or anyone else, but rather being higher on those I have in front of him. I mean, who doesn’t love them a quick twitch filled switch hitting Shortstop with plus defensive chops and underrated pop? Other than Silky Johnson and the rest of the fine folks who propagate the annual ‘Player Haters Ball’, of course. I like Lindor quite a bit, but I just like the ones I have in front of him that much more. Let me put it this way: I’d take a Verlander 4-Seamer off the rib cage to watch Nick Castellanos do tee work. Perhaps we should ask why you’re so much higher on Lindor than we are?

Lincoln: There’s plenty of time for Lindor to be a top 10, or higher, prospect. Right now he’s hitting .259/.354/.364 in A-ball. He’s really, really young and really, really talented but I want to wait for him to, you know, actually do something before I put him ahead of guys who are MUCH more accomplished. Prospect lists say as much about what the player is right now as what he will be. Mike Trout didn’t deserve to be the #1 prospect in baseball immediately after he was drafted. He had to earn that ranking.

Wes: I’m gonna try and phrase this in a way that doesn’t come off as cradle robbing. Lindor is an 18-year-old more than holding his own in the Midwest League. That’s nuts. He might not be Jurickson Profar yet, but like the Rangers uber-prospect, he’s on the fast track and with Profar and Machado likely in the majors to start 2013, he’ll be the best middle infielder left in the minor leagues. Let’s talk about why you hate Anthony Rendon. Is it just the injuries or do you have questions about his size/power?

Lincoln: Me hate Anthony Rendon? The guy I named my college projection system for after his freshman year? I adore the kid. I have a little shrine in my closet with his fingernail clippings and a rosin bag he once touched. I have zero doubts about his hitting ability. El zilcho. I worry about his never-ending string of injuries. No just injuries, but ankle injuries. Repeat injuries to the same part of the body. Health is a skill and it’s one I’m not sure if Anthony Rendon possesses. I still see him as .300+ hitter with 25-30 home run pop and great on-base skills. I worry about him staying on the field and how well he’ll move as he ages on the eggshells that attach his legs to his feet.

Wes: I thought that might get you going. If you’re Washington do you really risk him at second base? It seems like the bat is going to be ready quickly and Zimmerman is locked in at third.

Lincoln: Hard to see Rendon as an average defender at second, but a Zimmerman at third, Espinosa at short, Rendon at second infield is probably the best usage of a the available talent for Washington. Gun to my head, I’d guess Rendon makes his mark for another team. Then again, I don’t think we should get too worried about who needs to be traded when we’re talking about a guy with 27 professional games under his belt.

Steve: At the same time, it’s not completely outrageous to think that Rendon could be up June of 2013, if not earlier. This could be a situation that Washington has to figure out sooner rather than later. I’ve kicked around many scenarios for where Rendon plays once he arrives in Majors, and the only one I keep coming back to is the one where he is traded to the Cubs for Chris Volstad.*

*This scenario may or may not have been brought to you by a large serving of White Russians.

Speaking of dudes that can rake and you obviously are missing the boat on, Lincoln, let’s talk about why I’m that much smarter for having Christian Yelich eight spots ahead of your rating.

Lincoln: You guys are really good at saying I hate guys I actually love. You remind me of a typical internet poster or a couple of my ex-girlfriends. I’ve been a Yelich guy since his high school days. He’s got one of the best swings in the minors. Still, I have a hard time ranking a left fielder with 20 home run power who hasn’t played above A-ball any higher than I did. Call me crazy?

Steve: I’ll call you several things, one of them may be ‘crazy’.