Several of the usual suspects have posted updated prospect rankings over the past week or so, and as always it’s a fascinating exercise to see how the players the Jays have brought into their system are doing. Of late the scouting stuff been all the more intriguing, of course, not because of our salivating on the arrival dates on some of these kids, but because of the ones that got away in this off-season’s wheelings and/or dealings.
Naturally, the most contentious comparison is between Aaron Sanchez and Noah Syndergaard, the club’s top prospect and the top prospect they dealt over the winter, and there is definitely some divergence of opinion on the two.
That’s nothing new, obviously, but what does seem to be new is that in more eyes than we’re used to– at least as far as I can remember– Syndergaard seems to be separating himself from Sanchez and moving up some of the lists. Does that mean a whole lot? I don’t think so, apart from the fact that Sanchez has been hurt and has struggled with command and health a bit this year, I think.
What it makes one wonder, though– or, at least, it makes me wonder– is whether the much-lauded concept of the Jays having a shit-tonne of scouts is maybe a bit flawed. I mean, aren’t there always going to be voices from the scouting department saying one thing, and always voices saying the other? And might that not turn every decision into an either-or proposition in which there essentially is no right answer? I suppose that’s probably be true of scouting departments regardless of size, though, so perhaps I’m overreacting to concerns about Syndergaard having been the true keeper among the Jays’ former “Big Three”– especially since there’s still a lot of love out there for Sanchez.
So… let’s see who is saying what among the five big, recent mid-season top prospect rankings– the ones from John Sickels at SB Nation’s Minor League Ball, Keith Law at ESPN.com, Mark Hulet at FanGraphs, the staff at Baseball America, and Jason Parks at Baseball Prospectus.
Sickels has the biggest disparity between the two prospects on his list, ranking Noah Syndergaard as the eleventh-best prospect in baseball, while suggesting that, had Orioles top prospect Kevin Gausman not already graduated from the list, Syndergaard would be ahead of him. Ouch.
“His breaking ball looks good enough to me,” Sickels right, noting the main point of contention among the evaluators looking at Syndergaard. “The stats are there, the stuff is there, the body is there.”
And Aaron Sanchez? He ranks 55th on the Minor League Ball list, not even as the top Blue Jays prospect on the list– Marcus Stroman, who Sickels says “seems oddly overlooked when top pitching prospects are discussed,” ranks 47th– because while there is “no question about the stuff, command is still wobbly and he’s had some arm trouble.”
Despite eighteen prospects who were ahead of him on Sickels’ pre-season top 150 having graduated, Sanchez still manages to drop thirteen spots on the new list, down from 42nd.
Highlighting the divergence, then, is the fact that Sanchez has managed to tread water on Keith Law’s list, moving up one spot, to eighteenth. Law overlooks the injury stuff, which he casts as precautionary, and laments the lack of reps he’s had– in part due to the time on the shelf this year, but in part, one assumes, due to last season’s piggybacking scheme at Lansing– and its impact on his command. “So he’s still more pure potential than results, showing very easy mid- to upper-90s velocity with the chance for two plus secondary pitches.”
Gausman ranks directly behind him on Law’s list, while Syndergaard is way back at thirty-four– which, granted, is considerably higher than he was on Law’s pre-season top 100, where he just cracked the list at 97. The fastball, as we’ve all heard, is there, Law tells us, but “his secondary stuff is just average, both the curveball and changeup, with a fringy slider that’s kind of flat and doesn’t suit his arm slot as well as the curve and change do.”
Baseball America has smaller notes on each player, but is more in line with Sickels, ranking Syndergaard 23rd– “improved breaking ball has made his mid-90s fastball an even deadlier weapon,” they say– and, largely due to the first-half health issues, Sanchez down at number 42. Both have moved up, however, as on their pre-season top 100, Syndergaard was 54th, with Sanchez behind him– but closer– at 65.
Marc Hulet at FanGraphs is slightly closer to Law’s view, ranking Sanchez ahead (18th), but with Syndergaard much closer behind (22nd).
Sanchez, he says, “has electric stuff but he’s struggled to command it at times,” and has also had the injury concerns, but he has “the chance to be a frontline starter if he can avoid the knife and continue to refine his changeup.” As for Syndergaard, as usual, “the development of his breaking ball is the only thing holding him back at this point,” Hulet tells us.
Syndergaard has made a big jump, though, rising from 46th on Hulet’s Hulet’s pre-season top 100, with Sanchez up only slightly, from 23rd.
And lastly, at Baseball Prospectus, Jason Parks doesn’t separate the two, with Syndergaard checking in at 23– as he notes that “a strong second half could propel him into top 10 discussion this offseason”– and Sanchez directly behind him at 24. “A healthy Sanchez has one of the highest upsides of any arm in the minors,” he writes. “Potential to be top pitching prospect if everything clicks.”
It’s a slight rise for Sanchez, who was 32nd on BP’s pre-season top 101, compared to Syndergaard, who was previously 28th.
So… uh… yeah. There you have it! Rankings! Sounds like both guys are still pretty good prospects, and that the jury remains long out on either of them. Funny that, eh? Y’know, seeing as we’re talking about two players who’ve combined to make five starts above A-ball (all Syndergaard). Whatever though… content!
Other Jays and ex-Jays on the lists:
Travis d’Arnaud – 22 (Sickels), 28 (BP), 24 (FanGraphs), 25 (BA)
Jake Marisnick – 68 (Sickels), 39 (Law), 40 (BP), 46 (FanGraphs)
Roberto Osuna – 43 (BP)
Marcus Stroman – 47 (Sickels)