Dylan Carlson is absolutely positively exactly baseball's #31 prospect!

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  • #95276
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    Bob Reed
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    Give or take 11 spots. (I’ll get back to this evasion momentarily.)

    Although I was grateful for the ongoing feedback in the other discussion thread, I was beginning to feel a bit guilty for sort of intermittently highjacking the “draft thread” with my extended Carlson commentaries, so I thought I’d give the outfielder a thread of his own while wrapping things up.

    By my count there are 19 prospects in all the minors for whom I’d trade Dylan Carlson, and another 22 players I consider close enough to Dylan in value that I’d have to study the topic at great length before parsing their rankings any further. So that’s why I say “give or take 11 spots.” I don’t have a strong preference between Dylan Carlson and, say, Mitch Keller or Nick Madrigal. Each of them has something to recommend — and also drawbacks. So Carlson properly dwells anywhere between #20 and #42.

    At any rate, here are the top 19 in no order. Well, no order after listing Wander Franco first — because he’s Wander Franco, and Wander Franco should be first, because right now no one else is remotely close to Wander Franco. If Wander stays healthy and does not make the Hall Of Fame, I’ll be surprised. And I’ve never said that about any prospect.

    The 19: Wander Franco, Adley Rutschman, Ke’Brayan Hayes, Luis Patino, Heliot Ramos, Vidal Brujan, Bo Bichette, Nolan Gorman, Cristian Pache, Carter Kieboom, Kyle Tucker, Casey Mize, MacKenzie Gore, Luis Urias, Royce Lewis, Brendan McKay, Jo Adell, Gavin Lux, and Jarred Kelenic.

    Kelenic as you may have noticed from the other thread, was one of the seven outfielders I placed neither above nor below Dylan Carlson in my initial evaluations. (The seven were Kelenic, Kristian Robinson, Alex Kirillof, Taylor Trammell, Drew Waters, Julio Rodriguez, and Luis Robert.) But delving further into Kelenic’s professional performance, he must be rated more highly than Carlson.

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    And here’s the main reason why. Jarred Kelenic, per the publicly available defensive & baserunning metrics, has been tremendously valuable as both a fielder and runner in his brief career. In fact, glovework & running combined, he’s been worth 17 runs above average per 150 games, a truly exceptional total. (Among current minor leaguers the best I found was Centerfielder Deluxe Cristian Pache at +23 runs per 150 games.)

    Dylan Carlson by contrast has been a +3 player per 150 games for his pro career. Which is nice, fine, boring, solid. His bat will basically need to carry him, but at least we can pretty safely say that his baserunning and glovework won’t hurt him, and may actually add a little value. However, the profound gap between Kelenic and Carlson is effectively a win and a half per year before batting is accounted for. And I wouldn’t bet any money that Carlson’s bat can make up that much of a difference. Shoot, if it weren’t for his insane home/road splits, I’d take Kelenic as the better prospect based on batting alone. (Kelenic’s home OPS this year, across two levels, is about 500 points higher than on the road. No kidding, 500 points. Which is why he’s a borderline top 20 prospect rather than top 10, for me.)

    And this brings me to the defense/baserunning rankings of the seven Carlson outfield peers. The ranking:

    1) Kelenic +17 runs per 150 games
    2) Julio Rodriguez +12
    3) Luis Robert +8
    4) Dylan Carlson +3
    5) Drew Waters +1
    6) Taylor Trammell -1
    7) Alex Kirillof -6
    8) Kristian Robinson -8

    Those minus 6 and minus 8 numbers for Kirillof and Robinson are pretty poor for outfielders. Not atrocious mind you, but definitely disappointing. For context, mountainous Redbird prospect Luken Baker is a nightmarish -20 runs per 150 games, while Baker’s overlooked teammate and excellent defensive backstop Julio Rodriguez has been +10 runs per 150 games in his career.

    And this all makes perfect sense. Evan though scout-centric skeptics will seemingly never trust minor league defensive metrics, in my experience the numbers almost invariably align with the layman’s eye test — and the pro scouting reports as well. For instance, third baseman Ke’Brayan Hayes and shortstop Andres Gimenez are considered among the very best fielders in all the minors. And Hayes is a +18, Gimenez a +19. Tommy Edman, a fast & efficient runner and able defender, is a +13. The numbers strongly tend to mirror reality.)

    And this illustrates as well as anything why I have Julio Rodriguez comfortably inside my personal top 150 overall prospects, and Luken Baker in roughly the 600-700 range. Julio is out-hitting Baker while playing on the same team; he’s younger than Baker; and he’s got a 30-run head start on Baker. And yet, between Baker and Rodriguez which one do you think is rated 21st by Fangraphs in their just-updated StL system, and which one is left entirely out of their St. Louis top 40?

    (If there’s one consolation — no, it’s not philosophy, Boethius Junior — at least Julio Rodriguez is in good company, as Angel Rondon is also nowhere to be found on the updated Cardinal Fangraphs prospect list, despite Angel Rondon’s multi-year track record of consistent success, and the fact that he is younger and sporting a lower ERA and higher strikeout rate in the same league as Fangraphs’ #15 overall prospect in all the minors, Dustin May.)

    But I digress.

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    Getting back to the Carlson comparisons, I should articulate the reasons that none of the seven other than Kelenic rated above our Redbird prospect. But I need to also explain why only one of the seven, Kristian Robinson, is ranked below Carlson. Trouble is, it’s getting late and this post is getting lengthy, so I’d rather close with my list of Carlson’s 22 “prospect peers.” These are the guys I might or might not trade Carlson for; I’d have to research thoroughly first.

    Again, no particular order for this list. (Though they are organized more or less by position.)
    Alejandro Kirk, Tyler Freeman, Brice Turang, Brendan Rodgers, Isaac Paredes, Nick Madrigal, Xavier Edwards, Jordan Groshans, Ronny Mauricio, Andres Gimenez, Michael Kopech, Mitch Keller, Ian Anderson, Jesus Luzardo, Forrest Whitley, Nate Pearson, Yordan Alvarez, and the outfielders Kirillof, Waters, Trammell, Rodriguez, and Luis Robert.

    I know that some of these names will be recognized as among the mainstream pundits’ uber-ultra-elite prospects, and conventionally miles above the likes of Dylan Carlson. But over the weekend I’ll be explaining why even though they’re smarter than I am, they’re wrong and I’m right. Sorry but I won’t be citing swing planes, spin rates, or launch angles.

    #95618
    stlcard25
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    I see that MLB Pipeline has Carlson all the way up to…88th in their most current rankings.

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