Takeaways from the Recent Influx of Prospect Rankings

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With Spring Training upon us on Wednesday, it’s yet again time for another round of prospect rankings and evaluations. Baseball America (subs req’d), Baseball Prospectus (subs req’d), and MLB.com’s Pipeline all released their Top 100 prospect lists in the last few weeks. As you can imagine, each of those lists included some Yankees.

As with all prospect rankings and projection, there is a good amount of guesswork involved. Even the very best scouts/analysts are often very wrong with prospects – baseball is a tough game even for those born with the tools –and therefore, there is always a wide range of opinions and projections. With that in mind, here is what the experts are saying about the Yankees’ system and a few holistic takeaways at the end.

What They’re Saying

Of course, Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus’ lists are each behind a paywall, so I’m only going to stick to the basics for those. (You should be subscribing to both sites, if you can. They’re worth it.) Here is what they say about the Yankees:

Baseball America:

  • Jasson Dominguez (38): The 17-year-old phenom has a MLB ETA of 2024, with BA noting that “his combination of elite tools, athleticism and performance have him primed to follow the path of Ronald Acuña, Juan Soto and other international stars who raced to the majors by the time they were 20.”
  • Clarke Schmidt (62): BA argues that the soon-to-be 24-year-old can make his MLB debut in 2021 after “showing his full potential” in 2019.
  • Deivi Garcia (65): Everyone’s favorite prospect phenom actually ranks as the second-best pitcher in the Yankees system, per BA, due to his small frame “raising questions” about his ability to remain in the rotation long-term. Still, they expect Deivi to make his debut in 2020.

Baseball Prospectus:

  • Deivi Garcia (24): In a chat following the list’s publication, BP lead prospect writer Jeff Paternostro expressed surprise that they were much higher on Deivi than others in the industry. He said that his “curve has been a monster for two years, the velocity has steadily increased and he’s added a good slider, and the change is fine”, later adding that “he looked like a potential top of the rotation starter on our staff live looks.”
  • Jasson Dominguez (46): BP routinely argues that it is uncomfortable ranking J2 prospects given the lack of information and often misleading J2 scouting reports. They included Jasson because “the recent success of Wander Franco, Julio Rodriquez, and Marco Luciano does provide more confidence in reports surrounding The Martian.”

MLB.com Pipeline:

  • Jasson Dominguez (54): MLB’s scouting report on Dominguez is glowing, saying that “a scout willing to be aggressive could grade each of Dominguez’s five tools as well above average, and his instincts are nearly as impressive as his physical ability. He’s a switch-hitter who’s loaded with bat speed and strength. He has a smooth swing from both sides of the plate, advanced feel for the barrel and a disciplined approach, so he should hit for power and average.” Sign me up!
  • Clarke Schmidt (88): Also high on Schmidt, MLB says that he “has three pitches that grade as plus at their best, and his slider did as well before he scrapped it to focus on his curveball. He uses two- and four-seam fastballs, ranging from 92-97 mph with heavy sink on the former and cut and carry on the latter. His tumbling changeup bottoms out at the plate and his low-80s curve features good depth.”
  • Deivi Garcia (92): According to MLB, Garcia has “one of the best breaking balls in the Minors, a high-spin curveball with so much depth that he sometimes has difficulty landing it for strikes. He also dodges bats with a fastball that ranges from 91-97 mph with high spin rates that give it riding life up in the strike zone. He added a mid-80s slider in 2019 to give batters a different look, and he also flashes a solid changeup with fading action.” Still, concerns about his size place him below Schmidt on the list.

Takeaways

Believe it or not, there actually was a bit of consensus on the Yankees’ best prospects, huh? Granted, each of the major outlets obviously had varying opinions, but there were no real surprises. I think there’s enough here to draw a few conclusions:

1. The Jasson Dominguez Hype is Real: It only feels natural to start with Jasson. We’re going to be hearing a lot about him in the next few years. In that sense, he reminds me a lot of Gary Sánchez. It felt like we were reading about The Kraken for a decade before he made his debut in 2016. There is one big difference, though: it won’t take Jasson seven years to make his debut. (Gary signed with New York as a 15-year-old back in 2009.) It feels like a broad consensus at this point that Jasson will follow the Acuña fast-track if all goes well. That’s pretty exciting.

Nearly everyone glows about his physical tools. Danny Rowland, the Yankees’ international scouting director, is even on record as saying that Dominguez has “possibly the best combination of tools, athleticism, and performance” that he’s ever seen. The Yankees have also repeatedly said that if you took the best tools of every other position player in the system and molded them into one player, you’d get Jasson. That is, uh, high praise! It’s also the only reason to spend your entire $5 million pool on one guy.

It seems as though the major scouts agree, too. Each of the scouting reports are glowing – as is everything we’ve ever read about him – and it is difficult not to get excited. We’ve now seen a number of young Latin American prospects fly through the minors, many of whom are some of the game’s brightest stars. And, I mean, it’s easy to see why people are enamored with him. Look at a screengrab of a recent interview with him:

Via MLB.com

It’s not too difficult to see why people expect him to fly through the lower minors at least. Still, it’s worth noting that BP’s skepticism is warranted. He’s never played a professional game and there is a lot yet to learn about Dominguez. For, now, though the hype is real. Here’s the MLB.com video that’s the source of the screengrab:

2. There is Deivi Consensus (Kind of): Everyone agrees that Deivi Garcia has MLB-caliber stuff. In fact, that sounds like an excuse to post one of my favorite gifs:

I could watch that curve all day. Thanks to the Future’s Game, we know that Garcia’s curve clocks in at 78-80 mph and it’s long been an open secret that it has a very high spin rate. His curve, along with his new slider and good fastball, are why he struck out so many batters last year. As a 20-year-old, his strikeout rate (32%) ranked 2nd among all pitchers in Double-A and Triple-A last season. Pretty good! In any case, nobody doubts the stuff. (He got hit around in Triple-A, but he’s young. I don’t think that raised too many red flags.)

The only question — one with no real answer yet — is whether he’ll be in the rotation or bullpen long term. I admit that I’m biased: to me, the results are the results. I don’t put a lot of stock into the “oh, he’s short” argument. But, at the same time, I get it. The list of successful pitchers 5’9 or shorter is, uh, short.

Thanks to Play Index, I sorted the best pitchers 5’9 or shorter (MLB.com lists Deivi as 5’9) by their career bWAR. To qualify, pitchers had to be under 69 inches and have 75% of their appearances be as a starter. Here’s the list:

RkPlayerWARHtYears ActiveGS
1Earl Whitehill36.2691923-39473
2Red Lucas32.6691923-38302
3Bullet Joe Bush31.6691912-28370
4Jack Chesbro29.3691903-09228
5Harry Howell24.1691903-10188
6Barney Pelty23.4691903-12217
7Dick Rudolph21.3691910-27240
8George Suggs20.3671908-15185
9Vic Aldridge16.7691917-28205
10Marcus Stroman14.5672014-19140
11Noodles Hahn14.2691903-0682
12Jesse Tannehill13.5681903-11148
13Lefty Williams13.2691913-20152
14Doc Scanlan12.0681903-11149

Not exactly an inspiring list! It’s a bit more generous at 5’10 (Tom Gordon) or 5’11 (Pedro) but yeah. There’s not a huge sample here. All of this is to say that it makes sense for there to be some doubt. The 2020 season will be an important one for Deivi’s future.

3. Clarke Schmidt is Divisive: So, what about Clarke Schmidt? He doesn’t appear at all on BP’s list but ranks higher than Deivi on both MLB.com and BA’s rankings. It’s interesting! And it’s part of a larger trend, with BP much more sour on Schmidt than their peers. They even ranked him as a future reliever in their midseason rankings.

Like Deivi, though, Schmidt has great stuff, but there are questions. He’s had a lengthy injury history (Tommy John weeks before the draft plus other injuries) and is absolutely a high-risk, high-reward type pitcher. I’m personally not sure what to make of him. Occam’s razor, though, tells us to be at least interested in Schmidt. His stuff is obviously very good and I’m very excited to see what the new pitching apparatus will do with it.

Overall, he’s one of the few potential impact prospects in the upper levels of the Yankees’ system. If all goes well, he’ll earn a call-up to Triple-A sometime in the season and possibly even suit up in the Bronx when rosters expand. That’s pretty neat! Here’s some video:


So, that’s about where things stand with the Yankees’ high-impact prospects. There are few surprises — nearly everyone agrees on who they are — and both Deivi and Schmidt could potentially make a Bronx impact this year. That’s where things stand going into camp with the best in the system. We’ll have more coverage of other top prospects in the system in the next few days. Get ready, everyone. Prime prospect watching season is nearly here.

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17 Comments

  1. brisn daly

    YANKEE ORGANIZATION IS GREAT SHAPE AND PITCHING IS STRONGPOINT WIRH TRENTON AND SCRANTON READY TO SEND OITCHERS TO THE BRONX.CATCH8NG LOOKS A YEAR AWAY.BUT VERY STRONG

  2. DZB

    I watched the interview with Jasson and was really impressed. I will take the scouts word on his ability, but I can see he is a really likable and humble guy. I am really looking forward to seeing him in the Bronx. I cannot say that of many position players down on the farm at the moment, the system seems mostly stacked with pitchers (not necessarily a problem given their current roster!)

  3. MikeD

    The Jasson Dominguez hype is real, but is he for real? He’s still gotta show he’s more than hype. I’m a fan, so I want to believe he’s for real. I don’t doubt the tools at all, but I’ve seen way too many prospects go bust, and this kid has yet to even play stateside. I’ve also seen quite a few teenaged LA prospects outgrow their bodies, dulling their earlier skillset. Not saying that will happen here at all, but pumping the breaks on my enthusiasm until we have real game action for the kid. I’m all aboard Team Schmidt and hoping Garcia is ready sooner than later, but he may need a full year in Scranton.

  4. Has anyone compiled a list to see what happens to short pitchers as they age? I bet they don’t break down anymore than pitchers over 6 ft.

    • MikeD

      I don’t think there’s hard evidence pitchers under 6 ft. break down more. The main knock on them relates more to effectiveness, and that taller pitchers have more of an advantage throwing certain types of breaking pitches (curves) or they can generate more downward plane. Even that, however, is murky.

  5. RetroRob

    Deivi’s less-than-stellar debut in all of 40 innings as a 20-year-old in AAA, working with the MLB for the first time, is probably knocking him down a notch or two. It’s a bit crazy, but it’s human nature. His height, or lack of it compared to other MLB pitchers, means there’s already a built in bias against him, so any normal growing pains (is there a pun in here?) will probably be magnified. Pedro Martinez, btw, while listed at 5’11” is probably about 5’9″. Ron Guidry, also listed at 5’11”, was probably about an inch shorter during his playing days. In fact, assume any player, especially a pitcher, who has a listed height of 5’11” is actually shorter than that. They’re far enough off from 6′ that they can’t even fake it with a straight face. The teams, of course, know the exact height of all their players, which can be quite different than what’s listed on sites like B-R.

    Granted, both Martinez and Guidry are outliers, which means they’re not the best comparisons, but it’s quite possible what Deivi Garcia is showing now will place him in an outlier category. Shorter pitchers need to show extreme talent to really get the attention of MLB scouts, or to allow their MLB teams to leave them as starters and not shift them to the pen. There was a time when MLB scouts would steer clear of tall pitchers, meaning guys 6’5″ and above. They existed, but the belief was it would take them longer to develop their skills, to have the necessary body coordination to be a MLB pitcher. It of course was nonsense, but scouts absolutely had a bias against. That changed for good reason. We now have a bias against shorter-stature pitchers. Maybe that’s also changing. It’s interesting that one of the shortest pitchers on that list is pitching in MLB today. Stroman.

  6. DJ Lemeddardhieu

    1. The only thing I don’t like about him is how he spells his name with two s’s, Bobby. It’s Jason not Jasson. I’d have him up here at some point this year. If he’s the next Acuna or Soto, and he is, then he needs to be here. He’d be an upgrade over Gardy and Tauchman. Since he’s a switch hitter that would give us a lefty bat to break up the righties at the top of the lineup. Get him up here and bat him 3rd to protect Judge.

    2. I don’t know if Deivi’s shortness will hurt him. There is now talk about him getting a box to stand on when he pitches. Not sure if MLB will allow it but that would certainly help. The only way to find out is to get him up here and see what he can do. I’d much rather see him in the rotation than old man Happ and there are plenty of reliever spots open. I’d have both Mariano and Pedro work with him in Spring Training.

    3. Clarke is another guy who should be up here this year and sooner rather than later. They kept Sevy down too long and it cost us a WS ring. They are worried he’ll be the next Chance but I think he’s more like the next Moose and Moose was an HOFer. Clarke could start the year in the rotation and then move to the pen when Domingo returns to keep his innings down.

  7. DanGer

    Couple more prospects I’ll have my eye on-
    Everson Pereira
    Canaan Smith
    Kevin Alcantara
    TJ Sikkema

    Also Nolan Martinez who is a spin rate darling but just can’t stay health. Still only 21 though and the results have been good when he does pitch.

    • Bobby

      Agreed on all of these. Sikkema had a nice year. Will have more thoughts on the broader system in a few days — a system-wide preview of the farm — but kept it to the 3 big ones on the list just for the sake of brevity.

      • DanGer

        Speaking of height, I was surprised that Sikkema was only 6’0″. For some reason I had him in mind as a BJ Ryan type. No idea where I got that from.

        Great work overall, looking forward to the broader review! I’m not able to follow as closely as I used to so these recaps are helpful.

    • Wire Fan

      Alcantara could sneak up on some people. He got lost behind Florial and probably will be under the radar once Domingez starts playing. Seems like a really good overall skillset where he does everything well, but not a clear standout individual tool. Those type of guys tend to be undervalued.

  8. DanGer

    Couple thoughts on the height thing…

    #1 Makes it even more impressive what Strowman has been able to do.

    #2 If you tweak the criteria to post-1940, he’s literally the only one on the list.

    #3 For context, that’s SEVEN YEARS before Ken Singleton was even born

    #4 Average male height in 1940 was supposedly ~5’7″. Average in 2020 is 5’9″ (someone please correct me if you have better data). Quick math, that means someone who was 5’9″ in 1940 would be closer to 6’0″ in 2020.

    #5 Devils’ Advocate is there some selection bias there? Then again I imagine if a guy was good enough he would find his way onto a team.

    Wow… apparently i had a lot to say about height…

    • Bobby

      I definitely think there’s a lot of #5 at play, to be honest. And yeah, the list overall is pretty amazing, isn’t it? That’s why I included 15.

      • DanGer

        I sometimes wonder about the “what if” with certain athletes. What if OBJ played soccer, or Judge played basketball, or Messi played baseball? And how much of that is selection bias?

        Then again baseball’s much more skilled based and not a sport you can “athletic” your way through. How many times do we read about a prospect being all tooled up, only to flame out?

      • MikeD

        Bobby, good stuff. You may find this article of interest from Driveline. Certainly timely, as they are the data-driven darlings in MLB now. The Yankees just hired Sam Briend (sp?) from Driveline to oversee their minor league pitching coordination. Matt Blake, IIRC, also has a connection to them. Their conclusion? Height really doesn’t matter.

        https://www.drivelinebaseball.com/2016/06/pitcher-height-comparison-velocity-elbow-injuries-mechanics/

    • RetroRob

      Re: #5. I think so, at least on some leave. Relates to my note above. I do think there is some height bias. About 10 years ago, I remember hearing a scout interviewed talking about the chances of a 6′ righty pitcher who threw in the low 90s being drafted. The profile was a dime a dozen. Because of that, he’d need to see something extra before he’d go to bat for that prospect. He himself was being rated. He said because of that there were no doubt prospects who never quite get the attention at draft time, and then if they did, they wouldn’t get quite the same development track once in the minors. Ultimately, that would impact their development, their chances of being a starter vs. a reliever, or it would impact what type of pitches the prospect would be asked to develop. He was confirming there is selection bias. So it takes an outlier to break from the pack. That’s likely what we’re dealing with in Deivi’s case. He’s already had to be an outlier to get to this level, but even now there are forces trying to push him to the pen. So the ones who succeed have to be extreme outliers, even though there are likely a number of shorter pitchers who likely would have succeeded if given the development opportunity. I do wonder if that’s an area teams will now focus on as a new market inefficiency.

      • MikeD

        RR, maybe. Money quote from the Driveline article — “Basically, shorter pitchers are as good as taller pitchers, but they are afforded fewer opportunities to become major league starting pitchers simply due to bias by coaches and front office members.”

        There could be a change in thinking occurring. If so, expect to see some shorter starters. You know, those 6 ft runts!

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