Pitcher List Top 100 Prospect Rankings: Jamie Sayer’s Differences

Jamie Sayer discusses four prospects he likes and dislikes more than the other Pitcher List writers (including one everyone is going to yell at him for).

We recently released our Dynasty Team Top 100 Prospect Rankings, to which I was happy to contribute. I went through the Staff Consensus Prospect Rankings and identified a few players on which I was either higher or lower in ranking. In the following list, the first number listed will be the consensus staff ranking, while the second number will be my personal ranking.

 

Players I Like 📈

 

Trevor Larnach, OF, MIN

(Staff Rank: 41/Personal Rank: 20)

Trevor Larnach isn’t even the top outfielder prospect in the Minnesota Twins system, and I think that’s partially why his name isn’t thrown around as highly. You shouldn’t sleep on him, however, and I actually have him and Alex Kirilloff ranked only one spot apart. Larnach is a prototypical slugging outfielder that features an above-average hit tool, massive power potential (110 mph max exit velocity last year in AA) and the ability to control the strike zone while taking a walk when needed. Last year he split time between A+ and AA and slashed .309/.384/.458 with 13 homers. While that seems fairly low for someone who’s got 60s on their in-game power, Larnach was victim to a higher ground ball rate for most of the year, which has been an issue for all of his minor-league career.

You know I wouldn’t rank someone this high who’s only going to hit 15 home runs a year though. What makes me think he’s got another gear coming is the fact that in mid-August he started lifting the ball more, hitting more fly balls and hitting them further than he has before. He’s more than likely going to start again in AA but a promotion to AAA should come mid-season, which means he’ll be knocking on the door to the majors and giving the Twins another deadly bat that’ll hit in the middle of the lineup. If he can continue to sneak that ground ball rate and increase the fly ball rate, the sky’s the limit for Larnach.

 

Jordan Groshans, SS/3B, TOR

(47/29)

If it wasn’t for a foot injury that shut down his season prematurely, Jordan Groshans would already be a top 30 fantasy prospect. While he’s more than likely going to be a third baseman in the future, Groshans will easily fit the mold offensively. While it was a fairly small sample in 2019, a lot went right during his playing time: he had a HEALTHY walk-rate (13.5%), a good line-drive rate (31%), and the ability to spray the ball to all fields.

I am expecting growth in power, as he didn’t really show much last year with just two homers and a .145 ISO. Part of this growth will come through hitting more fly balls, as he sported a 46.6% ground-ball rate in 23 games last year. With 55 and 60s placed on his hit and in-game power, I expect the power to show eventually. It’s easy to forget Groshans was just 19 last year as well, as he’s showing a typical package you would see from college bats. Groshans shouldn’t cost the price I’ve got him at and would do everything you can to get him before he skyrockets next year.

 

Shane McClanahan, SP, TBR

(84/65)

I kinda love Shane McClanahan. Coming out of college the buzz around McClanahan was he was a rare arm, blessed with a 100 mph fastball as a lefty and a knee-buckling curveball, but (and a big but) he lacked control. Fast forward to 2019, and he was still having control issues early in the season, posting a 13.9% walk rate in A ball.

However, once he was promoted, something clicked. In A-ball he was throwing strikes only 61% of the time and the league-average was 64%. In A+, he started throwing strikes at a 67% rate and it allowed him to reduce his walk rate to 4.2%. While it’ll never be that low in the majors, if he can even have average control, he could become an ace. His curveball and changeup both flash plus, and with a fastball as good as his, I’m excited to see what he does in 2020 and think by seasons end he could be the best of the rare crop of Tampa Bay Rays pitching prospects.

 

Heriberto Hernandez, OF/DH/1B/C?, TEX

(NR/98)

I put C in Heriberto Hernandez’s positions, but in reality, there’s a 5% chance he sticks at catcher. With robot umps possibly coming, maybe he does? His defense doesn’t matter for fantasy though, it’s all about the bat. And oh baby, does he wield a powerful bat.

These are rookie-league numbers so take these with a grain of salt, but he absolutely mashed last year. As a 19-year-old last he slashed .355/.433/.667 with 11 homers in just 50 games. It’s easy to write it off as too old for the level but his pull-power is legit with an average fly-ball distance of 320.1 ft, bested only by Alexander Canario aged 21 or younger. His average exit velocity was the best in the minors at 95 mph, which was among an elite group of power hitters (Joe Cannon is tied with him). He shows all-fields ability with hard-contact through line drives and fly balls, with 65-grade raw power and a 60-grade hit tool.

Eric Longenhagen was asked about him in a chat and he said “he rakes[,] huge plate coverage, barrel accuracy, power”. Using FanGraphs THE BOARD, very select few have 60s on their pitch selection and bat control while having an EV over 90 mph. That list includes Andrew Vaughn and Hernandez. His max exit velocity was tied for sixth at 112 mph with Oneil Cruz. He absolutely needs to prove himself this year in A-ball, but if he succeeds be prepared to see him shoot up fantasy lists.

 

Players I Dislike 📉

 

Brendan McKay, SP, TBR

(25/46)

It’s not that I dislike Brendan McKay, I just don’t like him as much as other people seem to. After reading up on him more after the Top 100 was released, I think I may be a touch low on him. It still would only be in the 30s, as I’ve decided I like him more than Sixto Sanchez, but still not as high as others!

He feels more command than stuff, which isn’t bad! But with all of the pitchers I would have ahead of him, I feel like the strikeouts are going to be more abundant with them. A major part of the upside for fantasy pitching prospects is the strikeouts. While McKay will still post above-average strikeout rates (as he still has the potential for four above-average pitches) it more than likely won’t reach what Matt Manning, Forrest Whitley, Casey Mize, etc. could all reach.

While last year was just his first taste of MLB action, he was hit fairly hard placing fifth in batted-balls hit 95+ mph (min. 150 BBE). This can be partially attributed to giving up a TON of hard contact in the zone at an optimal launch angle of 16 degrees. I definitely think this can change (and more than likely will), but it was enough for me to ding him a bit. Finally, one of the most important factors to me is the Tampa Bay Rays are very hard to trust for their starters. While McKay can more than likely succeed going just five innings, it’s not the innings ceiling I can see others reaching. I’m more than likely going to be taking the L on McKay, but there are enough things that push him down for me.

 

Nick Madrigal, 2B, CWS

(25/52)

Can’t say I tend to love #slapdick prospects! While Nick Madrigal is different than other light-on-power prospects, I can’t help but see an empty batting average with some steals. This isn’t fair to Madrigal, but with a very, very weak average exit velocity at 84 mph, I just don’t see much power here.

Let me give you a stat line: .312/.378/.455 with eight home runs, 59 runs, and 38 RBI in 100 games. Is this bad? Not at all! If you add 10 stolen bases, is it a top 30ish fantasy prospect? Probably not. Does Joe Panik with speed sound exciting to you? It might, but to me, it really doesn’t. I probably am too low on Madrigal as well, but speed-only profiles tend to get dragged down for me with a majority of my leagues as points leagues. Like Brendan McKay, I see more exciting profiles ahead of him and think, while not bad, he’s just boring. He’s close to the majors though and that’s a big plus.

 

Tarik Skubal, SP, DET

(49/87)

Let me start off by saying I am too low on Tarik Skubal (yet again). I know this ranking is going to have folks furious (Shelly DON’T YELL AT ME) but I have real concerns about him. As a pitching prospect that throws his fastball almost 70% of the time, no matter how good it may be, I’m not going to love him.

I don’t see that as a sustainable profile and will need to see his secondaries take a step forward and utilize them more. His changeup and slider both have flashed average or plus at times but currently aren’t great. His insane 48.2% strikeout rate in 42.1 IP screams elite, but I worry that he’s overmatching younger players with a cross-body delivery, high-slot delivery. This also causes some command issues, and FanGraphs recently placed a 45 on his future control, which is a tad worrisome.

This stint in AA is also propping up some of his value in trades, as everyone looks at those numbers and wants top prospect value for him.

His fastball, while a true 70-grade pitch, also works up in the zone. While he hasn’t been bit yet by the homer ball, I expect it to give up his fair share of home runs once he does reach AAA/MLB. He was around a 40% fly-ball rate in 2019 and 7% HR/FB rate. As I recall, the average HR/FB rate in 2019 was 15% in the majors, so I do expect SOME regression. Comerica Park will help this a touch, so maybe I’m just overstating the potential impact. I still expect a mid-rotation arm, but he’s getting valued as an ace in the making. I just don’t see it yet.

 

Josiah Gray, SP, LAD

(77/UR)

When the Cincinnati Reds traded Josiah Gray to the Los Angeles Dodgers, it was too obvious that he would shoot up prospect lists after the Dodgers got their hands on him. Lo and behold, Gray pitched in three different levels in 2019, posting a 2.28 ERA along the way and finishing in AA. He showed pinpoint command and was able to strike out more than his fair share of batters. So why is he unranked in my top 100?

Well, I’m not as optimistic about his changeup progressing as much as others are. I see a reliever long term as both the fastball and slider are above average already, but the changeup is bad. Like Brendan McKay, the Dodgers are also notorious for their pitching rotations being eight or nine deep, so I don’t see Gray getting a fair chance sooner than later. He would have been JUST on the outside of my top 100, but I liked too many other names ahead of him.

Photo by Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire | Feature Graphic designed by James Peterson (@jhp_design714 on Instagram & Twitter)

Jamie Sayer

Dynasty and prospect extraordinaire, Jamie loves writing about prospects of all ages. A Diehard Bluejays, Leafs and Raptors fan, Jamie can be reached on Twitter at @JamieSayerPL and on Reddit /u/jamiesayer.

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