PitcherList Top 100 Prospect Rankings: Travis Sherer’s Grievances

Let's talk about players I love and hate.

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 were I represented the high pick or low pick. In the following list, the first number listed will be the consensus staff ranking, while the second number will be my personal ranking. The entire draft can be found here. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at where I was right and everybody else was wrong:

 

Players I Like

 

Forrest Whitley, SP, HOU (Staff: 23/Me: 5)

 

It’s obvious that the shine has worn off Forrest Whitley to most. Had we done this list a year ago, Whitley would have been a consensus top 10 pick (yes, even to the annoying/incorrect followers of TINSTAAP).  Fast forward one year and I’m the lone top-10 holdout. Yes, there have been a few injuries and some control issues—which probably were caused by the injuries—but Whitley’s stuff has not been affected in any way. Well, maybe in one way. His changeup isn’t as good, in both movement and effectiveness, as it was a year ago. That would be concerning if it wasn’t one of five-plus pitches this kid has in his arsenal. Five! He still sits mid-to-upper 90s. He still has a plus fastball, changeup, slider, curveball, and cutter.

If you’re worried about his control, look at what he did when finally healthy in the Arizona Fall League: 36 Ks in 26 innings with a 2.42 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP. In my mind, he still is the best pitching prospect around. If I were you, I’d buy Whitley now, while you still can.

 

Grayson Rodriguez, SP, BAL (50/17)

 

Here is another pitcher I am much higher on than my peers. Mark my words: Grayson Rodriguez will be the top-ranked pitching prospect heading into the 2021 season. The Orioles right-hander dominated Single-A to the tune of a 2.46 ERA, a 0.99 WHIP, and 129 Ks in 94 innings—as a 19-year-old. He has easily been the most impressive prep pitcher from the 2018 draft, and probably the most impressive overall pitcher not named Casey Mize. A dominant 2020 and he’ll be finishing the last few months of the season in Double-A at 20. Unlike many of his peers, Rodriguez has a combination of velocity and control that is rarely seen at his age. He’s not painting corners all the time, but he can limit his walks and put pitches in spaces that make them difficult to hit, even when he makes mistakes. On top of that, he has three plus pitches: fastball, slider, and curveball. The changeup isn’t quite a plus pitch but has that potential.

 

Daulton Varsho, C, ARI (69/32)

 

What accounts for my evaluation of Daulton Varsho and everybody else? A lack of imagination. I see Varsho’s situation—mediocre defender and behind Carson Kelly—as the perfect opportunity to net one of fantasy baseball’s white whales: the good hitting catcher who rarely plays catcher. It’s very possible now that Varsho plays left field or even utility while also giving Kelly days off. Meanwhile, he’ll be providing his owners with the most unique stat line: a catcher who steals bases. The uber-athletic Varsho is capable of stealing 20-25 bases if he plays a full season. Not only that, but he has a minimal K rate (13.94), an above-average walk rate (9.29), hits for power (18 homers in 108 games last year) and for average (career MiLB average: .346). It’s possible I’m a little high on him, but I also don’t know how you can think he’s not a top 50 fantasy baseball prospect.

 

Jose Israel Garcia, SS, CIN (94/70)

 

As one of only three writers to even rank Jose Israel Garcia, I feel like I need to defend my position. I will concede that his numbers don’t stand out. After all, he only slashed .280/.436/.779 in High-A ball in 2019. Garcia’s most important asset, however, is his speed. He did steal 15 bases while being caught only twice. That is nice to see, but I believe we are going to see a power breakout from him in 2020. First of all, Garcia had an XBH% of 40.7, led by his 37 doubles in just 104 games, to go along with his eight dingers. If you look a little closer at his 2019 performance, however, you’ll see reasons for optimism, other than playing in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. Like his average fly ball distance increased by more than 20 feet, from 281 to 304. What I’m saying here is there is room for growth. And with his power/speed potential, he should be right near the end of all the lists.

 

Hunter Greene, SP, CIN (92/59)

 

Maybe I’m the only one on this list not scared of Tommy John. And when did we start undervaluing velocity? It is still rare to see a guy who can throw in the triple digits consistently, even more so if they have the potential to start. Enter Hunter Greene. You remember the No. 2 pick in the 2017 draft? The one who threw 103 as an 18-year-old? The guy who also has a plus slider? The one who could have also been a 1st round pick as a shortstop? He may be working his way back from major elbow surgery, but this kid has as much potential as anyone on this list. He’s just very far away from it. But if you’re telling me you’re in a dynasty league and you have Jesus Sanchez, or Xavier Edwards, or Ryan Mountcastle (all with higher average rankings) and someone offers you Greene for one of them that you wouldn’t do that deal and walk away saying, “Sucker?”

If you wouldn’t, please join one of my leagues.

 

Luis Campusano, C, SD (93/41)

 

I wasn’t going to do this but I feel like I have to be the one who stands up for catchers. Generally speaking, catchers get too much hype for what they are actually capable of in terms of fantasy value. Take Sean Murphy. His value is he’s a fantastic defender. He also has some power but we have no idea how well he’s going to hit. Yet this guy is on top 100 lists. In fact, he has an average ranking of 68 from our writers. Meanwhile, 20-year-old Luis Campusano did this in High-A last year:

Luis CampusanoGAVGSLGOPSHRBBK
High-A-2019110.325.509.905155257

These are impressive numbers for both a catcher and a 20-year-old. Also, he’s likely to stick at the position, given he’s an above-average fielder already with a plus arm. He’ll start in Double-A this season, and if he can put up anything like his 2019 numbers, he’s going to be No. 2 on all catcher lists.

 

Players I Don’t Like

 

Royce Lewis, SS, MIN (28/64)

 

INT — OAKLAND COLISEUM – SCOUTING ROOM – PRESENT DAY

Billy Beane and his scouting department—10 men older than him—are sitting around a conference room table, debating players.

BILLY
You’re saying he can hit.

SCOUT 1
He can hit.

SCOUT 2
The ball explodes off his bat.

SCOUT 1
You can hear it all over the ballpark.

SCOUT 3
Sounds like Mantle, Mays, Aaron…

BILLY
If he’s a good hitter, why doesn’t he hit good?

That pretty much sums up how I feel about Royce Lewis. Now there are obviously problems with Moneyball that are omitted in both the book and the movie, but this is the most lifelike conversation about prospects I have seen or read, grammar and all. To me, Lewis has been riding a high draft pick, a good body, and half of a good season for three years. To put it mildly, Lewis was atrocious in 2019, slashing .236/.371/.661 with 12 home runs and 22 stolen bases and 90 strikeouts in 94 games split between High-A and Double-A. That would be mildly curious if he also didn’t hit .255/.359/.726 in 46 games of High-A in 2018 as well. Basically Lewis has been a net negative at the plate at any level above Single-A, but for some reason, the Twins keep promoting him. In fact, through 1,204 minor league at-bats, Lewis’ career slash is just .266/.409/.740. I know he’s just 21, but I expect more after three seasons for a guy to be a top 50 prospect.

 

J.J. Bleday, OF, MIA (50/Not Ranked)

 

Let’s play everyone’s favorite prospect game: Player A vs. Player B

Who Would You Want More?Age (now)LevelGAVGSLGHRSBBBK
2019: Player A22A+38.257.379001129
2019: Player B23AA108.301.52018214263

Player A is a little over a year younger than Player B but is shockingly worse in every statistical category and playing inferior competition. If you couldn’t guess, Player A is J.J. Bleday, an outfield prospect who stumbled onto his power stroke in his final year at Vanderbilt before eventually being picked fourth in the 2019 MLB Draft. He then laid an egg in his pro debut. Player B is Daulton Varsho. Also a beast in college, Varsho was drafted in the second round where he posted OPS totals of .902, 1.583, and .814 in the minors when he was 21. Despite a longer track record of success and being almost the same age, Bleday was picked 20 spots higher on average than Varsho in this draft.

This makes no sense to me. Bleday could easily go two ways: Alec Bohm or Jonathan India. Both were second-round prospects who had a good junior year and became first-round prospects. They both then fell flat on their faces in their pro debuts. Right now I’m more likely to believe that Bleday is India because he hasn’t given me a reason to believe otherwise.

 

Heliot Ramos, OF, SFG (52/71)

 

If I had to do it over again, Heliot Ramos might not even be on this list for me. He’s declining so quickly that at this point I think his ceiling is a fourth outfielder. Once an asset, Ramos’ speed is now a liability. He’s no longer capable of playing center field and he doesn’t have the arm strength to play right field. So where does this leave him? In left field, at best. What does this matter in fantasy baseball? If the guy can’t field a position and his power is also questionable, how much of a future can he have?

What also concerns me about Ramos is that he is having a more difficult time making contact as the competition gets tougher. Now, this is a popular trend among prospects, but Ramos started his pro career with swing-and-miss concerns. So far those concerns have only been legitimized. Any gains he showed after posting a 31% K-rate in his debut were negated in 2019. There are just too many good outfield prospects to like the way that Ramos is heading.

 

Jazz Chisholm, SS, ARI (62/NR)

 

Prospects like Jazz Chisholm scare the hell out of me. They are powerful, they are streaky, they are maddening. You can watch prospects like Chisholm for 10 games and think he’s the next Alfonso Soriano. Then you watch him for another 10 games and he looks like the next Pedro Cerrano. Peaks and valleys are what Chisholm has shown us so far, with blistering slashes like his 2018 High-A .329/.597/.966 or like his 2019 Double-A stint where he slashed .204/.427/.732. I don’t know what to think of his free-swinging ways (career 30.13 K rate, which was mostly in the low minors—facing lesser competition). At the same time, there is hope. He has shown signs of working counts to take walks, bumping his walk-rate up almost three points to 11% in 2019. As a dynasty manager, I’d stay away from him while still admiring his ability.

Travis Sherer

All Seattle Mariners fans have learned the future is all we have because the present is always too painful. I am Western Washington University alum, a local sportswriter, an official NCAA basketball statistician, a freelance radio and television production statistician, and a minor league standup comedian. Follow me @ShererTravis on Twitter.

  • Avatar txsock says:

    I was close to selling Chisholm in a dynasty, until I got an enticing offer and actually looked into his season a little more to make sure I wasn’t making a mistake. While his K% was never great(and probably won’t ever be), it improved every month for a 21 year old in his first taste of AA and finished the year in Miami’s system with a final 94 PA’s of 25.5 K%. The .46 BB/K that he had over those 94 PA’s would have ranked 15th in AA among guys 22 years old or younger. Of those 15 guys only two players, Varsho(a year and a half older) and Carlson(top 15 prospect), had a higher ISO than Jazz. 94 PA’s is a small sample but K and BB rate stabilize the fastest. I think his arrow should be pointing up as opposed to the lowered rankings that he’s getting currently. I think he’ll be way back up lists once the mid-season ones come out. His final month with Miami was a 20/20 pace over 550 AB’s, 284/383/494 with a 156 wRC+. If he shows the improved eye in the first month of 2020 owners should be buying immediately, if it’s not too late.

  • While I don’t disagree that Heliot has swing and miss concerns, his 31% K rate came in a smaller sample size when promoted to AA as a 19 year old. He was at 25% K rate for majority of the season as a 19 year old in A+ where he was still very young for his level. Given a little time to adjust, I think he can right himself and even being a 20 year old in AA to start this year, he will still be incredibly young for his level. This year will be a good test. Jury still out but I wouldn’t write him off based on those 25 games at AA being one of the youngest in the entire league.

    • Avatar BB says:

      While Ramos is starting to slow down, really have to wonder about the assessment here that he “doesn’t have the arm strength for right field” and that “his power is also questionable.” Prospects Live, FWIW, just today said he “has a true right field profile with a plus power and plus arm tool combination”; he gets a 60 throw and 55 power grade from both MLB.com and Fangraphs.

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