Prospect Wars: Travis Sherer’s Top 100 Hitter Highlights
|Prospect Wars Schedule:||Methodology||Rankings||Travis’ Ranking Highlights||Adam’s Ranking Highlights||On the Farm Podcast|
|Top 100 Pitchers||June 24||June 25||June 26||June 27||July 5|
|Top 100 Hitters||July 1||July 2||July 3||July 4||July 5|
Adam Lawler and I knew that there were likely going to be fewer hitting prospects in the top hitting prospect list that one of us ranked who the other did not than there were in our top 100 pitching prospect list. Turns out that number was almost cut in half (48 total). There is less to look for with hitters. Either they have power or they can make contact — or hopefully, they can do both. How they achieve their results is less consequential in my opinion. Size doesn’t matter as much with hitters, as we are finding out with every hitter south of 6-foot who wins the MVP award (Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts, Andrew McCutchen, Dustin Pedroia, Jimmy Rollins)
That said, there are other factors at play, such as age, speed, organization, and position. We explained earlier this week what we valued most in our methodology primer. Most notably coming out of that was that Adam admitted my methodology was flawless, which I expected. Something I did not expect, however, was my positional breakdown to be as follows:
|Position||Total in Top 100|
I expected fewer catchers and more third baseman. I also expected more DH-only bats despite correctly assuming about five first baseman to make the list. Still, there are a few entries I want to explore further and address some of the discrepancies between Adam’s list and my own.
So let’s get into it:
My Highest Pick that Adam Didn’t Rank
#31 Keibert Ruiz, C, LAD, Age: 20
In my methodology on Monday, I addressed the fact that there are too many catchers in most top prospect lists. Adam obviously feels the same way — to an insane degree. I believe he only ranked two catchers in his top 100 hitters, which seems like he did so to make a statement. We agree in principle, however, the difference is, for the most part, that I included catchers who have notable offensive skills, like Keibert Ruiz. Just 20 years old and Ruiz has improved so much defensively that he could be the Dodgers starting catcher in 2020. He also has probably the best hit tool of any catcher in the minors. Very few prospects reach a 70-grade hit tool, and none of them are catchers, except Ruiz. Currently, in Double-A, Ruiz is slashing .250/.339/.664, which is nothing to write home about. But his potential to work the zone (10.04 BB rate, 6.43 K rate so far in 2019) along with his ability to make contact vault him into the 2nd tier of catching prospects, just behind Joey Bart.
Pick Below Top 50 to Pop This Year
#64 Brett Baty, 3B, NYM, Age: 19
Everybody had a lot to say about Brett Baty‘s age on draft day. Being one of the oldest prep hitters selected, many wondered just how good the bat was since he was almost a year older than his competition. Baty has begun to answer that question already — after just five games. The Mets promoted the young third baseman after he demolished Gold Coast League pitching to the tune of .350/.650/1.130 with five walks and a grand slam. He may have been older than his prep competition, but from his early returns so far, his age had nothing to do with his performance. If he continues to hit the ball in the Appalachian League, he’ll get to Low-A by the end of 2019. That puts him right in step with the Riley Greene‘s and J.J. Bleday‘s in the top 50.
#35 Riley Greene, OF, DET, Age: 18
I’m going to make this short: you want Riley Greene on that wall, you need Riley Greene on that wall! What are you looking for in a fantasy outfield prospect? A five-tool guy who might not develop any of those tools well enough to be an above average major leaguer? Or do you want a kid who can flat out hit? I’ll take the kid who I know can hit. That kid is Greene. All he has done in his life is hit and hit often. He did it in Florida preps, he did it for the U18 National Team and now he’s doing it as a pro, with seven hits in five games of rookie ball, including two homers and three doubles. If that is not enough to turn your head, just remember what I said in two years when he’s a top-10 prospect.
#39 Jake Fraley, OF, SEA, Age: 24
There is a lot to like about Jake Fraley — but nothing to love. Unfortunately, nothing really stands out. That might be his curse. Fraley doesn’t really have a plus tool, although some might argue speed is. I’m going to say that Fraley is one of those players that is above average at everything. Is that good enough to be a dynasty league asset? Probably. Guys who are good at everything could hit .270 with 15/15. Depending on the lineup they are in, they could be 100-run guys. These are rose-colored glasses, but the Mariners already have one outfielder who is good at everything in Mitch Haniger. I could see Fraley also becoming a less powerful version of Haniger — with maybe more speed.
#42 Daulton Varsho, C, ARI, Age: 23
Catcher number two in this article is Daulton Varsho. Like I mentioned about Ruiz up above, I included catchers with demonstrated offensive abilities. The future Diamondbacks backstop has multiple. With a plus hit tool and plus speed, Varsho is a unique profile in today’s game. How rare is it? Only six catchers have recorded at least one season of 10+ stolen bases since 2000. Varsho could be the seventh — in 20 years worth of baseball. Simply put, having a speedy catcher is something that would be in very high demand, especially one who could do it multiple times and approach 15 thefts. Varsho has that kind of profile. He swiped 19 bags in High-A in 2018 and already has 10 SBs in Double-A this year. Sure, he doesn’t have a ton of power, but who needs power when you’ve got speed? It’s likely he remains at catcher, despite being an average fielder with an average arm. There are some prospects you pick and hope everything turns out right because of a specific advantage you could have on your team. Varsho is one of those guys.
#44 Luis Arraez, 2B, MIN, Age: 22
This is what a future batting champion looks like. Is that hyperbole? I don’t think so. If you believe in Luis Arraez, you have to think that he could one day lead the league in batting average. The guy hits everywhere he goes. Maybe not for power, but that doesn’t really matter when you hit .330, which is Arraez’s MiLB career average was. Sure, it’s different in the majors — it’s harder. Tell that to him, because so far Arraez is demolishing MLB pitchers too. Through just 20 games, he has a .411 BA a .493 OBP and BB:K ratio of 10:4. The guy is a pro hitter already. To say he uses the whole field would be an understatement, as he consistently has an Oppo rate of 40%. He’s also got a crazy high contact rate of 92.5%. He actually makes contact with literally 95% of the pitches in the zone he swings at, and he rarely ever swings when a pitch is out of the zone (24.8 O-Swing). What does that mean? He’s always on base. With better than average speed, that also makes him a candidate to steal bases, if the Twins ever stop hitting home runs.
Guys Adam is High on, I’m Not So Much
#73 Jonathan India, 3B, CIN, Age: 22
“If he’s a good hitter, why doesn’t he hit good,” said Brad Pitt while trying to be Billy Beane in Moneyball. Whenever I see Jonathan India, this line surfaces in my head. Spoiler alert: it’s not because of how his girlfriend looks. Don’t get me wrong, India has all the makings of a late-bloomer. His profile fits somebody who takes extra time to figure out his competition. There’s nothing wrong with that. It happened in college when he was essentially a replacement level player for his first two seasons before breaking out his junior year. So far, India has looked more like an underclassman in the Reds’ system. At this point, there are probably almost a dozen other 3B prospects I’d rather have before landing on him.
#NR Seuly Matias, OF, KC, Age: 20
I don’t understand why Seuly Matias is on any top-100 list. Yes, there is tremendous power potential, but with K rates ranging from the mid-30s to mid-40s, it is very unlikely he will ever make enough contact to justify a roster spot. More likely, Matias becomes one of those Dylan Cozens type guys who put up big HR numbers and go on month-long streaks where he looks like he could be a major leaguer, only to look like he shouldn’t ever get higher than Double-A 50% of the time. There is just too much risk here. Even if everything comes out right, this guy is Adam Dunn — without the walks.
#NA Bobby Bradley, 1B, CLE, Age: 23
I think we’ve been spoiled by seemingly lately with the great debuts of a few first base prospects. Cody Bellinger, Rhys Hoskins, Pete Alonso, Luke Voit, etc. Bobby Bradley is not the next name on this list. He’s not even Dan Vogelbach. He’s below average at making contact and he does not have the patience to be effective. His profile doesn’t even match Josh Bell as someone who just needs the experience to find his value. Simply put, Bradley’s swing-and-miss ways lower his ceiling so he’s not even a top-100 hitter even if he does reach it.
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)