Prospect rankings are arbitrary.
For one, the most heralded national experts rely typically on second-hand knowledge, research and a little observation to make their judgments about thousands of players nationally. Often local writers devoted to prospect watching provide rankings that are just as vital and respectable, since they’re focusing on just one team, not 30.
But that aside, rankings are just rankings. Often – for example – a player ranked a team’s 20th-ranked prospect finds a route to the majors and provides value a team’s third-ranked prospect will never accrue. Just look at the Phillies over the years – in a random exercise I queued up John Sickels, who does a great job writing about prospects at Minor League Ball, and his 2012 Phils pre-prospect rankings.
Look at it! Trevor May (who has provided some relief pitching value in Minnesota) is the top choice. Then it’s Jesse Biddle, Sebastian Valle, Brody Colvin and Larry Greene, four guys who’ve never touched the majors. A young Maikel Franco is 10th on the list. Near-MLB-ready Freddy Galvis is 17th. All the way down in the “OTHERS” list: Ken Giles and Cesar Hernandez.
This is not to lambaste Sickels. Again, he does great work. But all writers in 2012 were thinking about guys like May, Biddle, Valle, Colvin and Greene, when they provided little to no value in the majors.
It’s not their fault – they’re taking a snapshot of a moment, doing their best to say “in a perfect world, this ranking shows, in descending order, who we feel best about going forward.” It’s a little weird. It’s arbitrary.
So this year, let’s take all the reputable rankings out there, assign them a multiplier (because folks like Sickels, Keith Law and Baseball America get paid for this kind of thing) and try to understand the consensus. This is our Ultimate Prospect Index for 2017.
First, the rankings we considered: Baseball America, ESPN (Keith Law), Minor League Ball (John Sickels), Fangraphs (Eric Longenhagen), Phillies Minor Thoughts (Matt Winkleman), Phuture Phillies (readers), Philly Baseball Insider. Sites whose rankings are currently incomplete were not considered for this, but we’ll update once they’re set. We assigned multipliers for each site, giving more weight to Baseball America, ESPN and Sickels, but no site is wildly outside the margins. Each player was scored by its ranking; if a player fell off a top-25, he was automatically given a 26. Sickels does a top-20; his honorable mentions were given a 21, everyone else a 26.
Then we averaged out all the scores. Lower is better. Remember, this is a working list.
1. J.P. Crawford, SS (1.314)
2. Jorge Alfaro, C (2.528)
3. Mickey Moniak, OF (2.971)
Most everyone has some combination of these three at the top of their lists. Crawford is very close to the majors and experts seem to think his floor is major-league regular. Alfaro is a little more projection, but not wildly so. He should be in the big leagues – the question is how good can he be? Moniak is a ways off, but a first-overall pick automatically gets high rankings. These three represent experts’ best guesses as to who could be a multi-year all-star in the majors.
The next bunch of guys
4. Roman Quinn, OF (6.442)
5. Nick Williams, OF (7.457)
6. Franklyn Kilome, SP (7.928)
7. Rhys Hoskins, 1B (8.385)
I consider this group “we’re pretty sure about these four, but a few things can happen, both good and bad.” Quinn looked good in Philly in 2016, but he needs to stay healthy. Williams needs to be patient at the plate; if so, he’s potentially an all-star. Kilome is young but his stuff is really good. Hoskins has the look of an above-average hitter, but again, patience. If things work out for these guys: all-star. If things don’t work out … eh …
8. Sixto Sanchez, SP (9.328)
I’m putting Sixto on an island. Some writers love him so much they’re ready to crown him the organization’s top pitching prospect. Others are skeptical and think he’s far too young. He’s a total wild card.
We have an idea about these guys
9. Dylan Cozens, OF (10.857)
10. Scott Kingery, 2B (10.928)
Another small tier. These guys are decent enough to crack the top-10 but there are definitely obstacles to overcome. Cozens has a problem with patience and hitting lefties. And fielding … Meanwhile, Kingery looks like a solid second-sacker, but his power needs to develop, his defense is still in progress. Etc. Etc. Good but still questions to answer.
11. Cornelius Randolph, OF (13.442)
12. Adonis Medina, SP (15.471)
Highly projectable, still young, still flawed. Wild cards, but not like Sanchez, who seems to have captured the zeitgeist. Randolph seems to be what happens if Sanchez doesn’t live up to total potential in 2017.
Close, and what they are
13. Andrew Knapp, C (19.328)
14. Ben Lively, SP (19.442)
15. Mark Appel, SP (19.742)
16. Nick Pivetta, SP (19.9)
These guys are all pretty close to the show, and the rankings have a feel for the kind of players they probably are. And I think that’s “in some timeline there’s an all-star, but in most timelines it’s a guy bouncing between the majors and triple-A.”
Ooh! Shiny names
17. Jhailyn Ortiz, OF (20.185)
18. Elniery Garcia, SP (20.214)
19. Daniel Brito, 2B (22)
20. Ricardo Pinto, SP (23.814)
21. Carlos Tocci, OF (24.328)
22. Victor Arano, RP (24.571)
23. Alberto Tirado, P (24.914)
This, to me, is the strength of the Phils’ system: a host of guys who could be fantastic major leaguers (Ortiz, Garcia, Tirado) but who could also flame out tragically at any moment. And they’re in this range. Some of these guys are close to the show (Pinto, Arano, Tirado) and some need plenty more work (Ortiz, Brito, Tocci), but opinions vary on all of them, with some at “Holy crap great value” and others at “I’m not so sure …”
Slightly less shiny names
24. Thomas Eshelman (25.057)
25. Cole Stobbe, SS (25.471)
26. Drew Anderson, SP (25.871)
More “not so sure” stuff, but probably on a more hesitant level.
From here the rankings dip into names only serious prospect heads will get into (Seranthony Dominguez, Arquimedez Gamboa, Bailey Falter, Jose Taveras, Jonathan Guzman). Jesmuel Valentin, who’s pretty close to making the big club but as a utility bat, is also in this range. You get the idea – not much expected right now.