Pipeline Inbox: Who is the defensive whiz of the future?
Jonathan Mayo responds to questions about MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list
The Top 100 Prospects list has been out for a week now, giving everyone ample opportunity to scour and analyze it.
Thoughts, questions and critiques have been sent in our direction in a number of ways -- through the comments section, during the live video chat that Jim Callis and I did the day after the list was released, and on Twitter.
Truthfully, we could spend an eternity answering all queries about the Top 100. Instead, I'm devoting this week's Inbox to it, taking all of this edition's questions from Twitter.
Have a question about prospects?
E-mail your query to MLBPipeline.com reporters Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
Who of the Top 100 is the best defensive infielder (not including catcher)?
-- Michael S., Logan, Ohio (@mspencer012)
Taking catchers out of the equation makes this a bit easier. Without Austin Hedges (the top defensive backstop), there's really only once choice for me: Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor.
Lindor, ranked No. 10 overall and No. 4 on the Top 10 shortstops list, is the type of middle infielder everyone knew would stay at shortstop -- unlike some of the other prospects at the position (including some ranked ahead of him). He has the chance to have a shelf full of Gold Glove Awards by the end of his career.
Using the fielding grades we have on the site, even if Hedges were included, Lindor would be the choice. He has a 70 future grade for his defense (on the 20-80 scouting scale). Hedges has a 65 (nothing to sneeze at). No other infielder had higher than a 65 fielding grade. After Lindor, the next five in the Top 100 would be Rangers shortstop Luis Sardinas (65), Royals shortstop Raul Adalberto Mondesi (60), Hak-Ju Lee (60) of the Rays, Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts (55) and the A's Addison Russell (55).
Who do you prefer long term: Tyler Glasnow, Kyle Crick or Kyle Zimmer?
-- James B., Manorville, N.Y. (@PirateNation79)
James, you're really testing my hometown affinities (I'm from Pittsburgh). If you go according to our rankings, it would be Zimmer (raked No. 25), Glasnow (27) and then Crick (32).
The fact that they are so close to each other -- only seven slots separating the trio -- speaks to how close they are to each other in terms of potential. And a case could be made for all three. But as much as I'd like to be a homer and go with Glasnow, I would give Zimmer a slight edge.
All three have outstanding fastballs, garnering 70 grades. All three have breaking balls that should be at least a touch above average, if not better. The trio all should have usable changeups. This is where Zimmer separates himself. First, he has two breaking balls, and both have the chance to be above average. Secondly, his changeup grades out better than Crick's or Glasnow's. Finally, Zimmer has a 60 control grade. The other two have plenty of time to improve, but their command isn't nearly as good. Throw in the fact that Zimmer's arm is fresher than most because he didn't pitch much until late in his amateur career, and it creates a pretty good argument that he's the guy to take long-term.
Which position player prospect has the best chance to win a starting spot in 2014?
-- Jake P., Santa Maria, Calif. (@JakePeters_19)
You don't have to go too far down the list to find the best answer to the question: It's Bogaerts, our No. 2 prospect.
We all saw what Bogaerts could do in the big leagues already last year and in the postseason, and he's just getting started. He will hit for average, and there's plenty more power to come. Bogaerts is good enough to stay at shortstop, and he showed that moving over to third is no big deal (thus the Manny Machado comps). Right now, he's slated to be the starting shortstop for the World Series champions. If, for some reason, Stephen Drew returns, Bogaerts would be the most likely candidate to play third every day. My two cents? The Red Sox are better with Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks on the left side of the infield, instead of Bogaerts and Drew.
The Aruba native isn't the only position player high on the Top 100 who will have a very good chance of landing in an Opening Day lineup. The Tigers' third-base job seems to belong to Nick Castellanos, George Springer should have a good shot at starting in the Astros' outfield, Travis d'Arnaud is clearly the starting catcher for the Mets -- and that's just in the top 25.
Who in the second 50 do you see moving up into the 2015 top 50. Also guys ranked at 101 or above who you see as moving into the 2015 Top 100?
-- Neil B., Philadelphia (@nbaumgarten0243)
There are several of the 51-100 prospects I could see jumping into the top half of the list. On the mound, young Dodgers lefty Julio Urias (No. 64) should continue to improve, and I could easily see Braves right-hander Lucas Sims (No. 60) hitting the Top 50, as well as 2013 first-round pick Braden Shipley (No. 79) of the D-backs in his first full season. Hitters like outfielders David Dahl (71) of the Rockies and the Pirates' Josh Bell (74) and perhaps Red Sox catching prospect Blake Swihart (61) could join those pitchers in the upper echelons on the list.
Some of the guys at No. 101 and higher could make this list as the year goes on, and we'll update the list as players surpass rookie status. We'll also do a re-rank in the summer. Potential guys who could move into the Top 100 are Pirates catching prospect Reese McGuire and right-hander Nick Kingham, Yankees right-hander Rafael De Paula and outfielders Jesse Winker of the Reds and Domingo Santana from the Astros.
No Hunter Renfroe? Why?
-- Patrick H., San Diego (@FakePadsGM)
One of the things I love the most about doing these rankings is the passion fans show for certain organizations or specific players. Invariably, we get a lot of "How could Prospect X not be on this list?" kind of comments. Patrick, to be fair, seems to be just asking for an explanation.
I don't think Renfroe is that far off. I could have mentioned him in the question above, but I knew this one was coming. And I did include the Padres' 2013 first-round pick in my Beyond the Top 100 discussion on my blog. If Renfroe gets off to a good start in his first full season, I could easily see him climbing into the Top 100 as the year progresses.
The tools are definitely all there. I think everyone just wants to see how it translates to the pro game -- against more advanced pitching -- before completely buying into Renfroe as a Top 100 guy. There have been some questions about his bat, whether he'll hit enough for his other tools to come into play, but a solid first full campaign should quiet those doubts.