Top 35 hitting prospects, all teams

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  • #83481
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    Robert Reed
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    A week or two back, I posted about the optimistic home run projections for some power hitters in the Redbird minor league system. But upon reflection I realize that such a list might present a funhouse mirror view of the batters down on the Cardinal farm. After all, power is just one aspect of hitting; and moreover, home run power alone doesn’t account for all extra base power. Some Bobby Abreu type guys do consistently hit many more doubles and triples than other batters. And of course power is only part of a hitting profile. Batting average is just as important as power, if not more so.

    Therefore, to gain a more complete context for the better St. Louis minor league hitters, I spent the last few days looking at every position player at every level of every MLB organization, all the way down to the Dominican Summer League, and checking each of their Davenport Peak batting translations. And with the Cardinals off today, this feels like as good a time as any to present the best-of-the-best list here.

    I’ll try and make the methodology stuff as brief as possible without sacrificing clarity. I’ve taken the Peak OPS translations per Clay Davenport’s computer model, based on the entirety of the players’ pro careers, and normalized them all to a .320 on-base percentage. I normalized them for two reasons: (1)a raw OPS number can mislead, since OBP is more valuable than slugging, and (2)now nobody reading this has to bother, for instance, with the annoying math of comparing a .363/.471 OBP/SLG slashline to a .311/.547.

    I chose .320 OBP as the baseline because that’s roughly the major league average right now, and I used the standard OBP/SLG conversion where each point of on-base equals 1.75 points of slugging. Thus, in the above example the first hitter would lose 43 points of OBP, but gain back 43 x 1.75 points of slugging (75 points total) and therefore normalize to .320/.546.

    On the other hand the second hitter would have to add 9 points of OBP, therefore I’d subtract 9 x 1.75 points of slugging (16 points) and he’d normalize to .320/.531. So we see that while the second player projects as the higher OPS, once the OBP’s are normalized the first hitter is actually revealed as the better batting prospect.

    Then I made one more minor tweak. Since the Davenport computer projection model (like all computer models to the best of my knowledge) has a July 1 cutoff for “baseball ages” it treats players born in June and July of the same year as though they were actually one entire year apart in age. To adjust for this small flaw in the computer modeling, I’ve given a 20 point OPS boost to batters with June birthdates, and 10 points to May babies. This affected eight players total, including two Cardinals. But again, it’s just a minor tweak. A handful of OPS points doesn’t change anyone’s ranking by more than a couple of slots.

    So what you see below is the 35 players whose Davenport Peak slugging exceeds .500 once their OBP is normalized to .320. (Forgive me, but just to be almost insulting explicit, the number beside the name is their Peak slugging percentage once their OBP was set to .320.) if you follow prospects, you’ll recognize many of the names. But this is NOT the 35 best position player prospects, because this does not account for defense or baserunning. But it is the 35 best hitting prospects as far as Clay Davenport’s computer model is concerned. If you don’t like it, call Clay.

    1) Nolan Gorman .644
    2) Vlad Guerrero Jr. .631
    3) Malcom Nunez .603
    4) Eloy Jimenez .600
    5) Peter Alonso .597
    6) Nick Senzel .572
    7) Jhon Torres .571
    8) Tyler O’Neill .565
    9) Fernando Tatis Jr. .559
    10) Austin Riley .557

    #83482
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    Robert Reed
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    Decided to break it up into two posts, so the thing didn’t time-out on me. Well, I wouldn’t be paranoid if the computers weren’t all out to get me. Continuing:

    11) Bobby Bradley .557
    12) Kyle Tucker .544
    13) Elehuris Montero .541
    14) Wander Franco .539
    15) Nate Lowe .539
    16) Alex Kirillof .537
    17) Bo Bichette .536
    18) Leandro Cedeno .531
    19) Christin Stewart .529
    20) Mark Vientos .528
    21) Yordan Alvarez .525
    22) Isaac Paredes .523
    23) Victor Robles .522
    24) Nolan Jones .521
    25) Brandon Lowe .519
    26) Antonio Cabello .516
    27) Jo Adell .515
    28) Darick Hall .515
    29) Royce Lewis .514
    30) Carter Kieboom .511
    31) Joerlin De Los Santos .511
    32) Bryce Bush .508
    33) Dylan Carlson .503
    34) Danny Jansen .501
    35) Carlos Rincon .501

    By team: StL 8, Tampa and Toronto 3, Mets, Astros, White Sox, Indians, Twins, Tigers, Nationals 2, and one each for the Reds, Pads, Braves, Angels, Phils, Dodgers, and Yankees. Fun fact: the five teams most disliked by Cardinal fans combined for zero uber-elite hitters: Cubs, Brewers, Red Sox, Royals, and Giants.

    Near misses (.480-.499): Brendan Rodgers, Keibert Ruiz, Joey Bart, Tristen Lutz, and Jesus Sanchez.

    Nearly near misses (.475-.479): Yunior Severino, Yusniel Diaz, and Ronaldo Hernandez.

    Others of note: Keston Hiura .466, Taylor Trammell .444, Luis Urias .470, Ke’Bryan Hayes .442.

    EDIT: Now, even as I type this, I see that I failed to integrate half a dozen hitters onto the list. Apologies for my sloppiness. The original 35 should have been 41, and included:
    Nick Egnatuk .542, Grant Lavigne .537, Jordan Groshans .534, Sherten Apostel .531 (I swear I am not making these names up), Kristian Robinson .516, and catcher Alejandro Kirk .509.

    Egnatuk is a Brewer, so there goes that shutout, darn it. The other five include two more Blue Jays, plus a Ranger, Rocky, and Diamondback.

    So the Cards are still the clear number one, and Toronto an equally clear number two. I look forward to your responses, folks!

    #83483
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    Robert Reed
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    1) Nolan Gorman .644
    2) Vlad Guerrero Jr. .631
    3) Malcom Nunez .603
    4) Eloy Jimenez .600
    5) Peter Alonso .597
    6) Nick Senzel .572
    7) Jhon Torres .571
    8) Tyler O’Neill .565
    9) Fernando Tatis Jr. .559
    10) Austin Riley .557
    11) Bobby Bradley .557
    12) Kyle Tucker .544
    13) Elehuris Montero .541
    14) Wander Franco .539
    15) Nate Lowe .539
    16) Alex Kirillof .537
    17) Bo Bichette .536
    18) Leandro Cedeno .531
    19) Christin Stewart .529
    20) Mark Vientos .528
    21) Yordan Alvarez .525
    22) Isaac Paredes .523
    23) Victor Robles .522
    24) Nolan Jones .521
    25) Brandon Lowe .519
    26) Antonio Cabello .516
    27) Jo Adell .515
    28) Darick Hall .515
    29) Royce Lewis .514
    30) Carter Kieboom .511
    31) Joerlin De Los Santos .511
    32) Bryce Bush .508
    33) Dylan Carlson .503
    34) Danny Jansen .501
    35) Carlos Rincon .501

    Too lazy to go back and incorporate the missing six guys. Just wanted to make the Redbird batters stand out better.

    #83484
    Brian Walton
    Brian Walton
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    That is a lot of work! A question, please. Is it fair to assume there is substantially more projection inherent in career expectations for a current DSL player vs. one who has shown success at Triple-A, for example? Seems like there should be a greater swing of possible career outcomes the less experienced the player who is being projected is.

    For example, we don’t know yet if Malcom Nunez can handle advanced breaking pitches, yet he is being labeled the third-best power threat in all of minor league baseball.

    #83485
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    mudville
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    Bob, I just want to say that I appreciate the work you do. For me, it’s just fascinating.

    I want to say that back in 2014 Rowan Wick with his gaudy 1.290 OPS at State College was looking like the best hitting prospect in the game, a future star for sure. Then, in 2015 he went to Palm Beach and couldn’t hit a lick. It got so bad that he gave up hitting altogether and took to becoming a pitcher. That was a life-changing experience for me as a fan.

    #83486
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    Robert Reed
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    “I want to say that back in 2014 Rowan Wick with his gaudy 1.290 OPS at State College was looking like the best hitting prospect in the game, a future star for sure. Then, in 2015 he went to Palm Beach and couldn’t hit a lick.”

    Yeah muddy, Rowan Wick could be the poster boy for not falling in love with rookieball/short season guys who are old for their leagues. Wick was 19 in the GCL, 20 in the Appy, and 21 when, as you mentioned, he thrashed the NY-Penn League — but that’s a year too old for each level of competition. The projection models adored him after his thundering 2014 season, I’m sure. But age was a red flag all along. (Note that of the eight Redbirds on the list, two were age-appropriate in 2018, four were young, and two were very young for their leagues. There are some flags, but age isn’t one of them this time.)

    Also, thanks for the kind words, muddy. And you as well, Nigel, for your generous remarks in another thread. It may seem like a fair bit of work is being done. But it’s not really work. It’s a time outlay, yes. But time spent scratching an itch that demands scratching anyway.

    “Is it fair to assume there is substantially more projection inherent in career expectations for a current DSL player vs. one who has shown success at Triple-A, for example? Seems like there should be a greater swing of possible career outcomes the less experienced the player who is being projected is.
    For example, we don’t know yet if Malcom Nunez can handle advanced breaking pitches, yet he is being labeled the third-best power threat in all of minor league baseball.”

    Absolutely, Brian. The Peak projections represent what I would describe as the “quite plausible upside” for each hitter. But further away almost surely means more variance — because guys get hurt of course, because defensive projections are so imprecise so far from the majors, and mostly because plate discipline can collapse at a moment’s notice. Which is why Malcom Nunez is borderline top 100 for me rather than a top 10 or 15 overall prospect.

    Heck, for that matter it’s also why Nolan Gorman is a top 50-55 guy for me, rather than top 6 or 8. In each case we don’t know whether he’ll hit .210, .240, or .270. Or better. Or worse! The overarching revelation is that the Birds have a wealth of very high-upside hitting talent throughout the minors right now, and especially at the lower levels. Easily more than any other organization.

    On the other hand Wander Franco is already a top 5 prospect for multiple highly respected prospect pundits despite his not playing a game above rookieball. That’s an aggressive placement. And I don’t necessarily disagree with them. Franco’s nearly impossible combination of high power/extremely low strikeouts is probably the best since Albert Pujols tormented Midwest League pitchers nearly 20 years back. And Wander might stick on the left side of the infield.

    And speaking of low strikeouts, just for kicks I stitched together Malcom Nunez’ age-15 season back in 2016 against other young Cuban stars, and in international competition. In 188 total trips to the plate he drew 55 walks while fanning just 10 times. You read that right, 55 and 10. This was against most of the best of his peers. Kids against kids, yes. But pretty amazing anyway. (Funny thing is, he didn’t hit for much power at all, with an isolated slugging under .150. But he’s got power now, boy howdy.)

    How much power does 17-year-old Malcom Nunez have? In the massive Dominican Summer league 3,946 batters have accrude at least 100 plate appearances since 2006. The top 3 slugging percentages are:
    1) Malcom Nunez .774
    2) Heriberto Hernandez .635
    3) Miguel Rosario .605
    No one else exceeded .600.

    But as far as power goes, I think I need to clarify something I’ve made more confusing that necessary. The “slugging percentages” on the list aren’t projected slugging percentages per se. Rather, they represent an overall hitting projection, but expressed as a slugging percentage once everyone’s OBP is normalized to .320.

    And then there’s the minor birthdate adjustments when necessary. In other words the numbers represent a Normalized Adjusted Peak Slugging (NAPS).

    Thus, a 15-homer hitter might well have a higher NAPS number than a 30-homer slugger because the 15-HR guy’s OBP is so high. The batter with the higher NAPS number may or may not hit for more power. He may or may not hit for higher average, or draw more walks, or strikeout less. But however the hitters’ specific batting talents are parsed, the one with the higher NAPS number is always the better batter.

    #83505
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    gscottar
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    Thanks for all of the research Bob. To some degree your findings validate what several of us have been saying regarding the national publications undervaluing the Cardinals system. I understand there are other variables to consider and this doesn’t include pitchers but it is still compelling stuff.

    I told someone the other day that I would take the Cardinals top 10 prospects over the top 10 of any other system with the possible exception of the Padres and White Sox. I still stick to that assertion.

    #83507
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    14NyquisT
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    I think that TCN revised list captured the potential of the prospects on this list quite accurately.

    Gorman- TCN = #1
    Nunez- #3
    Torres- #20
    O’Neill- #5
    Montero- #4
    Cedeno- #29
    DeLosSantos- #37
    Carlson- #7

    I’d say that the folks here taking part in our ranking get it.

    #83512
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    CariocaCardinal
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    Carlson being on that list is interesting as most dont seem to think his power has developed yet. This shows he may have shown more power than previously given credit for and that if his power truly has yet to develop then he could end up better than many people think.

    #83519
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    14NyquisT
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    I believe that Carlson will be a starting OFer in St. Louis in ’20. He has stepped over some of our OF prospects by leaps and bounds. He has yet to develop into a power bat, but that will come.

    #83522
    Brian Walton
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    Bold prediction, Ny. Carlson would need to have a hellacious 2019 to jump so many levels and players to force his way onto the 40-man early, let alone start in the St. Louis outfield next season. If he gets on that pace, it would be a fun 2019 to watch. Personally, I am not there yet.

    CC, I suspect most of us have leaned into the wind as to predicting Carlson’s emerging power. Like I have written before, I think it would be great to see him play in an age-appropriate league to learn what he can really do. Though that will not happen in Double-A, the environment is much more conducive to hitting than the FSL.

    #83525
    stlcard25
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    The starting OF in 2020 will be O’Neill-Bader-Fowler from L-R. You know the FO will demand this. 😉

    #83542
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    gscottar
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    I think you are spot on stl25. Of those three the one in most danger of losing his spot is probably Bader. He needs to learn how to hit a slider.

    #83588
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    14NyquisT
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    CARDINAL BEAT
    Top draft picks Carlson, Hudson combine to top Astros 6-3

    ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
    “Only 20, Cardinals prospect Dylan Carlson draws attention with outfield defense.”

    Goold-PD-3/5/19
    LAKELAND, Fla. • By showing off his range at multiple positions, rising prospect Dylan Carlson has started to expand how the Cardinals’ major-league staff would like to see him utilized this coming season.

    The youngest position player in camp — and, at 20, one of the youngest invited to Cardinals spring training in years — Carlson stole an extra-base hit from Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera on Monday by sprinting to a tailing liner and catching it in stride. He made the play in right field.LAKELAND, Fla. • By showing off his range at multiple positions, rising prospect Dylan Carlson has started to expand how the Cardinals’ major-league staff would like to see him utilized this coming season.

    ST. LOUIS CARDINALS -PD
    “Only 20, Cardinals prospect Dylan Carlson draws attention with outfield defense”
    ***************************************************************************

    Carlson is getting more attention than the other “next up” outfielders. He is a given to be at Springfield, but he is getting strong raves right now. There’s plenty of reasons to be optimistic.

    #83597
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    Cardinals27
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    I would like to see Carlson have a breakout year with the bat, which he has not. I like his eye, as he works the counts well. I also understand he has been very young for the leagues he has played in, but when everyone’s healthy I would rank Thomas a bit higher.

    #83623
    Brian Walton
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    I like Carlson and it is good to see him getting attention. On the other hand, the glowing words are more about promise than reality. Even after his double last night, his spring line is just .217/.308/.304/.612.

    Putting into perspective, yes, he is just 20. So was Ronald Acuna last season when he was the National League Rookie of the Year. In contrast, Carlson will be in Double-A looking for his first breakout season.

    Last year, during their age 19 seasons, Juan Soto came in second in the NL ROY vote while Carlson was in high-A. Soto is two days younger than Carlson. They both signed in 2016.

    #83625
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    mudville
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    I haven’t seen much of Lane Thomas. He did take an AB today, and I thought he looked good. The kid seems confident and aggressive. I want to see more of him. I think Arozarena is going to get some major league AB’s eventually. I like Adolis Gracia, too. But I’m not sure he will ever harness his natural talent in time to make it to the majors. He looks raw.

    I’m definitely going to watch the players on this list. I believe it does account for age and league in that the list would be really long if every team had eight players on it.
    The fact is that they don’t.

    #83626
    Brian Walton
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    Thomas had been out due to injury.

    #83627
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    mudville
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    Good point, Brian. Carlson needs to start putting some numbers up real soon. He has some stiff competition to face this year and beyond.

    #83628
    Brian Walton
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    I read this sentence in the above snippet from the P-D about Carlson. It reads really good, but I have no idea what it means.

    “By showing off his range at multiple positions, rising prospect Dylan Carlson has started to expand how the Cardinals’ major-league staff would like to see him utilized this coming season.”

    Last season games played:
    LF 37
    CF 5
    RF 60

    Career:
    LF 58
    CF 70
    RF 140

    What would he be expanding to?

    #83630
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    dac8b9
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    Brian, I think the context was in having Carlson get more starts in center field this season, which they had kind of gone away from last season as your numbers show. Maybe they were hinting at Carlson being able to break into the big leagues faster if he can play all outfield spots competently, as opposed to just the corners? Either way, I doubt they really thought it could be the difference in him getting a call this season unless the bat comes along in a spectacular way this year. It also might be foreshadowing that at least when Carlson initially ends up making the big leagues, it will be as a bench player (much like Tyler O’Neil this year). If that is the case, being able to play all three outfield spots and some first base in a pinch, along with his switch hitting and ability to take quality at bats, could help make him a very useful bench player until he proved deserving of a bigger role or an opportunity arises.

    #83653
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    14NyquisT
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    3/10/19 vs NYM: Starting OF = Carlson LF – O’Neill CF – Munoz RF. Each will be watched while expanding their defensive capabilities. Don’t kid yourself, the organization loves Carlson and I may be higher on the guy than most here. Schildt commented something to the effect that if you look like a baseball player… you are a baseball player.

    #83673
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    dac8b9
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    Rob, I find your work very interesting and thought provoking. Looking back over your list, I was surprised not to see Lane Thomas. I was wondering what factor or factors led to him missing the cut? Age, obp, or something else I’m not thinking about?

    #83676
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    Robert Reed
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    “Rob, I find your work very interesting and thought provoking. Looking back over your list, I was surprised not to see Lane Thomas. I was wondering what factor or factors led to him missing the cut? Age, obp, or something else I’m not thinking about?”

    No track record of success before 2018. That’s pretty much it.

    In 2014 he slugged .382 in the Gulf Coast League.
    In 2015 he slugged .391 in the Northwest League.
    In 2016 he slugged .348 in the Midwest League.
    In 2017 he slugged .383 in the Florida State League.

    That’s not enough pop for any outfielder, in any league, unless he runs like Vince Coleman. The batting averages weren’t much better either, ranging from .216 to .260. Basically Lane Thomas didn’t have diddly to recommend him until last year — when he was fully healthy for the first time, it must be said. And by the way, his NAPS number is .441, which isn’t bad at all. Functionally identical to fellow outfielder and consensus uber-prospect Taylor Trammell (.444).

    He’s clearly a guy worth watching now. And we couldn’t even say that twelve months ago. (And please, call me Bob. And gracias for the kind words, dac.)

    #83678
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    dac8b9
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    No track record of success before 2018. That’s pretty much it.

    In 2014 he slugged .382 in the Gulf Coast League.
    In 2015 he slugged .391 in the Northwest League.
    In 2016 he slugged .348 in the Midwest League.
    In 2017 he slugged .383 in the Florida State League.

    That’s not enough pop for any outfielder, in any league, unless he runs like Vince Coleman. The batting averages weren’t much better either, ranging from .216 to .260. Basically Lane Thomas didn’t have diddly to recommend him until last year — when he was fully healthy for the first time, it must be said. And by the way, his NAPS number is .441, which isn’t bad at all. Functionally identical to fellow outfielder and consensus uber-prospect Taylor Trammell (.444).

    He’s clearly a guy worth watching now. And we couldn’t even say that twelve months ago. (And please, call me Bob. And gracias for the kind words, dac.)

    Wow Bob, you put in even more work into this than I thought. I didn’t realize the model you used looked at each player’s entire body of work, though if someone was going to do it right, that is obviously how they should do it. Do you know if the model has any built in biases, such as weighing performances against higher levels of competition as more important, or if it gives more importance to guys who both perform well and are young for their league, like Carlson and Gorman?

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