Batter's Box Interactive Magazine Batter's Box Interactive Magazine Batter's Box Interactive Magazine
Looks like I made it just under the wire. The day after I post the final segment of my four-part review of the Jays' system, Top Prospect Alert posts the first of its Top Ten Prospects for each organization. The Jays are ranked 21st out of the 30 clubs (you'll have to scroll down a bit to find them), but the author indicates that this farm system is climbing the ladder rapidly, and I entirely agree.

What I don't entirely agree with is with the TPA Blue Jays' Top Ten, in both content and ranking.

In terms of the content, TPA places Francisco Rosario at #3, and while Rosario has (or had) huge upside, I don't think any pitcher who's just undergone serious surgery should be ranked this high on a prospect list until he's proven he's recovered from the procedure. Moreover, they have Guillermo Quiroz #6, and I think Quiroz would be fortunate to be on a Top 20 list, let alone a Top Ten: all he's shown after five years in the minors is that he might be the next Henry Blanco, and that's not something I get excited about.

In terms of the rankings, well ... reasonable people can differ in their opinions, and they can certainly differ in terms of how they define "prospect." Some rank minor-leaguers according to how close they are to the majors, others in terms of the certainty of their success, others in terms of their projected eventual impact. There's also the question of your criteria: there's a wide gulf between the Baseball America scouting approach and the Baseball Prospectus sabrmetric approach.

Mark Jerkatis, who conducts TPA's evaluations, has this to say about his methodology:

[I]n the “tools vs. performance” argument I lean toward statistical performance evaluation, and have shown over the last few years that it in fact does outperform traditional “scouting” methods if looked at in isolation. The reality is that looking at either method in isolation isn’t nearly as good as being able to blend both methods. So for me “prospect value” is actually measured on a continuum of both “peak value” and the likelihood of achieving it.

That mirrors my own approach pretty closely, and so the fact that his list and mine differ so much is really testament to the difficulty of getting potential to stand in a straight line. And like me, Mark does this for fun and not for profit, so I'm not going to give him too hard a time. I do have to note, however, that he still has Matt Ford listed in the Jays' system.

That said, here's the TPA Top Ten:

1. Jayson Werth
2. Dustin McGowan
3. Francisco Rosario
4. Jason Arnold
5. Gabe Gross
6. Guillermo Quiroz
7. Jason Perry
8. Kevin Cash
9. Brandon League
10. Alexis Rios

As mentioned, I'd drop Quiroz and Rosario, and I'm not really an Alexis Rios believer either. I'm not at all sure about Werth as #1 prospect, since he'll probably spend up to half the year in the big leagues, and even at that I think his most likely comp is someone like Bobby Higginson -- not bad, but not Dale Murphy, certainly. But Mark admits that identifying the #1 Jays prospect is difficult, and he's right, so I won't belabour the point further.

As for the rest, well, maybe the best thing to do is present my own off-the-cuff Jays Top Ten Prospects List, for compare-and-contrast purposes. My own ranking system is most similar to one I referenced earlier: the player's projected eventual impact in the majors. The only caveat is that I mark down A-Ball pitchers, because they're such crap shoots at this stage of their careers.

1. Russ Adams
2. Gabe Gross
3. Jason Arnold
4. Tyrell Godwin
5. John-Ford Griffin
6. Jayson Werth
7. Mike Smith
8. Dominic Rich
9. Jason Perry
10. Kevin Cash
T11. David Bush
T11. Dustin McGowan
T11. Brandon League

Okay, so it's a baker's dozen, I cheated. The only one I'm really unsure of his Jason Perry: maybe he ought to be higher, but as fantabulous as his debut was, Pioneer League stats are awfully risky to use for projecting upside. It's also possible that I've undervalued Dominic Rich, and that Gross should be #1 instead of Adams. The three 11th-place guys are all A-Ball pitchers, but I think each of their ceilings could easily outstrip Mike Smith's very soon.

So there you have it: the experts' view and your humble correspondent's view. Which of us is right, or less wrong, anyway? Operators are standing by for your call.
TPA Ranks the Jays Prospects | 17 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
_Jonny German - Friday, February 21 2003 @ 06:23 PM EST (#95715) #
Your list, and pretty much every other up-to-date list I've seen, features Jason Arnold very high and John-Ford Griffin not too far behind. I'm suspicious that we're being over-optimistic about one or both of them. If John-Ford and Jason had come from say, Philadelphia, then sure, I can see J.P. pulling a heist of this magnitude - a guy he didn't want for two guys he can plug into starring roles in his dreams of the future. But he was dealing to Jim Bowden, Respected, and receiving from Billy Beane, Revered. There's no compelling evidence that Felipe Lopez will be all that, and there's no compelling reason to believe that Erubiel Durazo will be healthy (or do substantially more that Jeremy Giambi, for that mattter).

To put this into a question or four, what is your explanation of above scenario? Is the top of the Toronto system just that weak? Did Arizona somehow make it work by trading gold for mold? Did Billy value these prospects less than J.P. given the rest of his system and his major league roster? (No, that can't be, he's got T.Long and C.Singleton playing every day in his major league outfield). Did I miss something?
Coach - Friday, February 21 2003 @ 08:53 PM EST (#95716) #
Jonny, neither Arnold nor Griffin was dumped by Beane, so much as hotly pursued by Ricciardi. The Jays tried to trade Cruz for them when they were still Yankees. J.P. helped Billy get his "holy grail" and vice versa. Of course there's no guarantee on any prospect, but as long as they're both healthy, they look like useful big-leaguers to me. Arnold could be a #4-5 as soon as 2004 and a #2 by 2005, and JFG should arrive by '05, unless he gets passed by Perry, a similar player, in the next two years.

Jordan, nobody -- not even John Sickels -- knows Toronto prospects like you do. The TPA list is all over the place; Rich and Griffin are conspicuous absentees, and Russ Adams being left off entirely hurts their credibility. And while there's no Mark Teixeira or Victor Martinez in the Jays' system, there's an awful lot of depth, so I can't believe 20 clubs are better stocked. Next year, they should just crib from Batter's Box.

I'm not as high as you are on Godwin (yet) or Smith, and I like Bush a bit more, but that's just splitting hairs. Your rankings are much closer, I'm sure, to the esteem in which these kids are held by the organization.
_Eric C - Friday, February 21 2003 @ 10:22 PM EST (#95717) #
A good list Jordan, however much more different than the ones that I have seen. I guess it's your list, but I view Godwin, Smith and Rich in lower esteem than you do. It does kind of seem kind of strange to me putting Godwin in front of JFG on a list for projected impact. I'd think I'll do a list of my own, of players that JP Ricciardi probably holds in the highest esteem.

1. Russ Adams
2. Jason Arnold
3. Gabe Gross
4. John-Ford Griffin
5. Jayson Werth
6. Kevin Cash
7. David Bush
8. Jason Perry
9. Justin Maureau
10. Dominic Rich

Note there are 4 2002 draaftees in there. I think that there should be a strong correlation between these players. Good plate discipline is the most obvious, with Adams, Perry and Rich posting +.400 OBP on stops last year. Griffin and Gross had off-years but still managed to post a decent OBP relative to BA. Cash and Werth strike out a lot but post decent BB rates. As for pitchers, it's much harder to find a similarity. But I think pitchablity is one of the things JP looks for in a pitcher .Bush, Maureau, Arnold and Pleiness (not on the list) all possess a strong pitchability or a knack of getting batters to swing and miss.
robertdudek - Friday, February 21 2003 @ 11:33 PM EST (#95718) #
I would quibble with Kevin Cash's place (10th) on Gideon's list. He's one of the most advanced prospects on the list, having shown the requisite defensive skills to stay at catcher and a pretty good bat in the upper minors.

Conceptually, I would rank prospects according to their expected future Win Shares (or similar metric). Cash looks almost certain to contribute something at the major league level.

The A ball pitchers are extremely speculative - there's probably an 80-90% chance that they will contribute less than 10 Win Shares in their careers.

Mike Smith has journeyman written all over him. I would rank Cash as tied for 3rd-5th with Griffin and Gross (mostly because corner outfielders are fungible, and these guys are not standout prospects), behind Adams and Arnold.
_Jordan - Friday, February 21 2003 @ 11:46 PM EST (#95719) #
what is your explanation of above scenario? Is the top of the Toronto system just that weak? Did Arizona somehow make it work by trading gold for mold? Did Billy value these prospects less than J.P. given the rest of his system and his major league roster? (No, that can't be, he's got T.Long and C.Singleton playing every day in his major league outfield).

Jonny, four good questions. Here's my best answers to them.

1. I think Kent's explanation carries a lot of it, but I would add that Beane and Bowden both played exactly to form in that four-way deal. Bowden needed a new shortstop, he loves toolsy guys to pieces, and he needed to keep payroll low. Felipe Lopez answered all those needs for him, and I'm sure he'd have given up two Elmer Dessens (a 31-year-old who'd cracked 100 ERA+ just once before last year) to get a prospect like Lopez. (To prospectively answer your second question, I think Arizona got rooked. Why they didn't deal Durazo for Arnold and Griffin directly remains a mystery to me. Of all the teams that needed to get younger and cheaper, they go out and get Dessens....)

Regarding the A's, I'll admit some concern of my own: Beane doesn't usually trade away good-quality players, preferring instead to peddle overhyped talent (Ben Grieve and Jose Ortiz, anyone?). Nonetheless, I'm becoming more and more convinced that Beane simply undervalued Hinske. If he really thought Eric would have produced the way he did, he would've stuck him at first base and let Scott Hatteberg find alternate employment. He's JP's friend, but he's not Santa Claus. As you know, Ricciardi was Beane's best talent evaluator, and Grady Fuson wasn't far behind; those guys are both gone. And even at the time, I thought Beane was nuts to give Terrence Long a rich multi-year contract; that was a mistake of Troy O'Leary proportions. He may well have done the same with Jermaine Dye, though there's not enough evidence to decide that yet. I'll wait to see what Singleton does, but I'm not hopeful.

Alternatively (and this answers your fourth question indirectly), it's also quite possible that Beane is willing to overpay from surplus to get what he wants. He really wanted Durazo, and with Rich Harden (rated by many as ahead of Arnold) as the best candidate to join Hudson/Zito/Mulder in the rotation, Jason was expendable. As for Griffin, he did come over weeks after the four-way, and though he's always been considered "part" of the Arnold deal, in fact he was a separate entity (though I'm still waiting to see who the PTBNL will be). So, I can see Arnold & Griffin being both good value and, from Oakland's POV, expendable. But Arnold alone would probably have been enough, from JP's perspective, for Lopez. Potential for potential: were Lopez still in the Toronto system, he would have ranked no higher than third in my list anyway.

2. I would probably define the top of Toronto's system less as "weak" than as "uncertain" -- there are still too many variables at play. Gross could be Shawn Green, or he could be Ray Lankford. Adams could be Chuck Knoblauch, but he hasn't even hit High-A pitching yet. Arnold should become a solid #2, but he hasn't been tested much at AA and pitchers are always hard to judge. The bulk of the talent is at A-Ball, and it's a long and perilous journey from there to here.

One of the reasons that the experts don't rank Toronto's system higher is that it's not yet evident there's one or two can't-miss impact players there, and that's what the experts like to see. The Toronto system, like the franchise itself, is in a state of flux -- the Pasqual Cocos and Kevin Witts are finally getting weeded out, and the promising new crop is still growing. My Top Ten could easily be shuffled a little, but in terms of descending order of likely impact, I think I've got people pretty much where they ought to be.

Maybe a good way of explaining my thoughts is to identify which contemporary player most resembles what each of my top ten prospects project to grow into. I could be dead wrong on any or all of them, of course, but it might help illustrate my approach.

1. Adams (Chuck Knoblauch)
2. Gross (Kirk Gibson)
3. Arnold (Kevin Appier)
4. Godwin (Shannon Stewart)
5. Griffin (Paul O'Neill)
6. Werth (Bobby Higginson)
7. Smith (Paul Quantrill)
8. Rich (Luis Castillo)
9. Perry (Erubiel Durazo)
10. Cash (Buck Martinez)

See what I mean? Solid, productive players, the kind who don't win MVP Awards but often tend to be key parts of championship teams. I think that's what the current crop projects to, if all goes well. (Hmmm ... looking at that, maybe I do have Smith too high....) There could be a diamond or two under development (Gross could still launch himself into Shawn Green territory, and Arnold might well someday rival Halladay), but some of these guys might also burn out and go nowhere. It's not (yet) the kind of farm system that impresses reviewers, but I think it's well on its way there.

Finally, it's quite possible I'm overhyped on Godwin; everyone has their favourites, and he's unaccountably become one of mine. If he can't play a full season and add some pop, he's probably going to have a hard time even cracking the Syracuse roster. But I'll ride him a while longer yet.
_Mi Chiamo - Saturday, February 22 2003 @ 01:19 AM EST (#95720) #
8. Rich (Luis Castillo)

Not so sure about that one. Rich swatted 9 HR this year between Dunedin and Tennessee, while Castillo has 8 HR in the majors in over 3000 plate appearances, and his highest single-season HR total in the minors was 1. (Yes, one.)

Another look: Rich slugged .472 in Dunedin in almost a full season (448 TPA). Castillo has never sniffed a .400 SLG at any level, topping out at .393 in AA.
robertdudek - Saturday, February 22 2003 @ 10:38 AM EST (#95721) #

I don't think that comparing Gross to Ray Lankford is apt. Lankford was one of the top centrefielders in baeball during the 1990s; Gross has no chance to be a top-flight centrefielder.
Dave Till - Saturday, February 22 2003 @ 11:50 AM EST (#95722) #
Things can't be too bad if we're arguing over the order of the Jays' 20 best prospects. I remember when Jeff Ware was the Jays' best high-minors pitching prospect. Kudos to J.P. (and Gordo) for stocking the system so well.

And it's not the Jays' fault that they don't have any impact players in their minor league system. Finding an impact player requires a fair bit of luck; how many current stars were initially drafted in rounds other than round one?
_Richard - Saturday, February 22 2003 @ 01:32 PM EST (#95723) #
A few comments:

Great work on your various minor league lists Jordan.I know it takes a lot of effort and I find it to be very comprehensive.

A problem with these various top ten "prospect" lists is that they ignore the current "prospects" all-ready on the major league roster.
Recently the Hockey News came out with their annual top ten prospect list for each NHL team.They acknowledged this anomaly by ranking each NHL squad including young players [under 21]all-ready found on the parent team roster.(incidentally Ottawa ranks # 1)I'd like to see in baseball a ranking list that compliles all young talent under age 25 for each MLB team.Add Phelps,Hinske,Wells and Halliday to the Jays list and then I'd think you'd have a better reflection of which organization has the top young talent.
_Eric C - Saturday, February 22 2003 @ 01:56 PM EST (#95724) #
Gordo didn't do much in terms of scouting and drafting the players we have now. Tim Wilken deserves more credit that Gord Ash. Look at the young players Ash drafted in his regime: Hudson (47th round), Phelps (10th round) and Woodward(53rd round). Gord Ash probably wasn't the one who scouted these players or even pulled the trigger to draft these guys.

"And it's not the Jays' fault that they don't have any impact players in their minor league system."

Well, they could have used their 99 and 2000 first round draft pick to select a better player instead of saving money with Rios and Negron(although Rios is coming along nicely). If they had taken the best player available back then, we might have had a impact player right now.
_Richard - Saturday, February 22 2003 @ 07:03 PM EST (#95725) #
Well since it's minus 30 here in Calgary and I have nothing better to do,I'll answer my own question.......which American league team has the best "young talent".

First,a few things to keep in mind;
-I'm biased as hell towards the Jays.
-players must be 25 yrs and younger by opening day.
-I attempted to project[and thus include]players 25 and under who will make the opening day 25 man roster.
-I included all players listed on either the baseball primer top 50 or the baseball prospectus top 40,not on an opening day roster.

Here's the results;

#1-Toronto: 9 players-Hudson,Hinske,Phelps,Wells,Halliday,Miller,Cash,Arnolds and Werth.Wow quite a group.In terms of depth and talent nobody beats this core group of young talent.

#2-Cleveland:10 players-Cleveland rocks!Bradley,Escobar,Vic Martinez,T Hafner,Sabathia,R Rodriquez,A Myette,D.Baez,C.Lee and Brandon Phillips.Fan's in Cleveland will soon forget Thome.

#3-White Sox:8 players-A.Rowand,J.Crede,Willie Harris,M.Buerhle,D.Wright,J.Garland,J.Rauch,and Borchard.A year from now this group might challenge the Jays for top spot.

Honorable mention;

Minny-8 players-Try to contract this group Bud!Guzman,Rivas,Lohse,Santana,Restovich,Cuddyer,Morneau,and Mauer.

Oakland-6 players-Zito,Mulder,Harang,Chavez,Ellis,Rich Harden.Great established core talent.

Tampa-9 players-Maybe Lou isn't so crazy after-all ,good depth,but not overloaded with high cieling guys.

Seattle-8-players-The old master still can get it done,only 2 guys,Pinerio and R.Soriano locks for this year.

Well my Baseball Prospectus has arrived so I'll cut it short.This list is very subjective so there's lots to quibble about,but this gives a good overview of where some teams are on the development cycle.
_Jordan - Sunday, February 23 2003 @ 11:51 AM EST (#95726) #
Robert and Mi, good points both. Regarding Lankford, you're right that Gross doesn't project to be in his class as a centrefielder; I was thinking of his hitting profile more than his defensive abilities. As I was writing that post, I came to increasingly like Kirk Gibson as a temporary comp for Gross, particularly with the football background (though of course Gibson was a tight end and played with a reckless abandon that hurt his career; Gross was a QB and hopefully has a little more sense than to play baseball as if he were still wearing pads).

As for Rich, you're right that he projects as having more power than Castillo, and probably less speed. I liked the comparison initially because they're both high-OBP second basemen. Maybe if Todd Walker had a better batting eye, he'd be closer.

Of course, these comps are just approximations, and I provided them only for the purposes of illustrating the rankings. And anyway, it's generally a bad idea to affix a prospect in your mind's eye as the "Next Whomever," because you're thereafter inclined to judge him by the more experienced player's performance, and to be disappointed if he doesn't measure up (see Carter, Vince). Gabe Gross won't be the next Shawn Green or Kirk Gibson or Ray Lankford; he'll be the first Gabe Gross. My bad for skidding off in that direction.
_Jordan - Sunday, February 23 2003 @ 12:24 PM EST (#95727) #
Well, they could have used their 99 and 2000 first round draft pick to select a better player instead of saving money with Rios and Negron(although Rios is coming along nicely). If they had taken the best player available back then, we might have had a impact player right now.

True enough, but unfortunately the Belgian Brewmeisters were trying to spend as little as possible on the franchise, and couldn't wait to unload it. But who knows how things would've gone? Maybe an extra few million spent in 1999 wouldn't have been around to sign someone like Gabe Gross two years later, or maybe an impact draftee would have delayed Gord Ash's departure one fatal year. I wouldn't worry too much about the coulda-beens.

For those who do like to worry, well, you can think about this: in the first rounds of the '99 and '00 drafts, well after the Jays had chosen Negron and Rios, the Giants selected Boof Bonser and Kurt Ainsworth, respectively. However, be of good cheer: those drafts had pretty poor first-round lists generally, and there were few impact players to be found anywhere among those initial 60.

Taking 2000's first round as an example, for every Rocco Baldelli, Billy Traber and Joe Borchard (all selected before Toronto came on the board), there were plenty of picks like Mike Stodolka (#4, KC), Matt Wheatland (#8, Det), Mark Phillips (#9, SD), Shaun Boyd (#13, StL), Phil Dumatrait (#22, Bos) and David Parrish (#28, NYY). Moreover, in that same 2000 draft, the Jays would eventually come away with Dominic Rich (#2), Mike Smith (#5), Rich Thompson (#6), Nom Siriveaw (#9), Vinny Chulk (#12) and Shawn Fagan (#13), excellent minor-league depth and at least one bright-line prospect. The Jays have an enviable record in first-round selections, but as with all organizations, it's in the lower rounds that you make or break your farm system.
Pistol - Tuesday, February 25 2003 @ 12:01 PM EST (#95728) #
FWIW - Here are Sickels ratings of the Jays prospects (from his soon to be published book). I'm not sure of the exact criteria behind the grades:

Jason Arnold RHP B+
John-Ford Griffin OF B+
Dustin McGowan RHP B+
Jayson Werth OF B+
Russ Adams SS-2B B
David Bush RHP B
Kevin Cash C B
Gabe Gross OF B
Vinny Chulk RHP B-
Brandon League RHP B-
Aquilino Lopez RHP B-
Jason Dubois OF C+
Justin Maureau LHP C+
Jason Perry 1B C+
Chad Pleiness RHP C+
Jimmy Alvarez 2B C
Pascual Coco RHP C
Neomar Flores RHP C
D.J. Hanson RHP C
Mark Hendrickson LHP C
Diegomar Markwell LHP C
Sandy Nin RHP C
Adam Peterson RHP C
Guillermo Quiroz C C
Dominic Rich 2B C
Alexis Rios OF C
Francisco Rosario RHP C
Mike Smith RHP C
Gary Burnham 1B C-
Pistol - Tuesday, February 25 2003 @ 12:04 PM EST (#95729) #
BTW - Those aren't rankings, they're only the order, by grade, after I sorted it. They were originally listed alphabetically with a grade.
_Jordan - Tuesday, February 25 2003 @ 06:28 PM EST (#95730) #
Pistol, thanks for this list -- very interesting stuff. By way of comparison, check out the grades Sickels assigned the Jays' prospects in his 2002 book.


4 B+========4 B+
4 B=========3 B
3 B-========2 B-
4 C+========8 C+
13 C=======12 C
1 C-=======14 C-


Sickels ranked one-third fewer Jays prospects this year than he did last year (perhaps that's the same with all the teams in his new book). To express the grading comparison in terms of percentages:

13.7% B+========9.3% B+
13.7% B=========6.9% B
10.3% B-========4.6% B-
13.7% C+========18.6% C+
44.8% C=========27.9% C
3.4% C-=========32.5% C-

Definitely an upward trend there. You could argue that Sickels merely lopped off all the C-minuses, which makes a great deal of sense -- why bother with the borderliners? -- but even so, the B-Grade prospects are growing steadily.

In terms of the grading key, here's a rough guide (also from the '02 book):

A: Elite, good chance to be stars/superstars
B: Good chance to enjoy successful careers
C: Something going for them, but serious question marks or too young to get a handle on yet.

FWIW, last year's B+ prospects were Gabe Gross, Josh Phelps, Orlando Hudson and Jayson Werth.
Pistol - Tuesday, February 25 2003 @ 10:38 PM EST (#95731) #
I only had a chance to take a quick glance at each team's list today, but in number of players with A or B grades the Jays appeared to be near the top, maybe in the 5-8 range, albeit with no A prospects.

If I get a chance to break it down I will.
TPA Ranks the Jays Prospects | 17 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.