Baseball America Midseason Top 50

ehaz

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BA came out with a new top 50 today. Buxton remains at #1, followed by Bryant and Correa.  The Red Sox have two in the top 50 with Blake Swihart and Henry Owens going 14 and 15 (Mookie Betts was not included).
 
on Swihart
 
Better bat potential, improved defense have made Swihart the game’s best catching prospect.
 
Owens:
 
Pitched a rain-shortened no-hitter on Opening Day, and he has remained unhittable since.
 
When a reader in the comments asked where Betts would rank Cooper responded,
 
He was ranking 12th before he was called up in the early versions of the 50
 

Hoplite

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BP also released their mid-season top 50 today. They had Swihart at #22 and Owens at #40.
 
On Swihart:
 
 
 
Developmental Update: The switch-hitting catcher has shown strong developmental progress polishing his skills on both sides of the ball, while making the ever difficult dump into Double-A this year. There’s been a serious dent put into the gap between the now and future. The previous gaze off into the horizon of a potential first-division regular is rapidly becoming a reality, which is driving this prospect’s sizable jump up the rankings. –Chris Mellen
 
On Owens:
 
 
 
Developmental Update: The tall, lanky left-hander is showing that he’s beyond Double-A via improved fastball command and a bat-missing changeup that pushes plus-plus. The further mastery of his heater is the marker that triggers the jump into the Top 50. This isn’t a front-of-the-rotation arm, but one with the stuff and poise to be successful in a starter’s role over the long run. That’s valuable. –Chris Mellen
 
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=24076
 

ehaz

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Interesting that BP is holding steady on their stance that Owens' dominance in the minors won't translate to the major leagues. I understand that the gap between AA and MLB talent is huge, but this is a 21 year old leading the Eastern League in almost every metric. I can't recall many pitching prospects that have divided the industry to this degree. I mean BA has him ranked over Noah Syndergaard while Chris Mellen thinks he's Jamie Moyer lite.
 

Paradigm

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ehaz said:
Interesting that BP is holding steady on their stance that Owens' dominance in the minors won't translate to the major leagues. I understand that the gap between AA and MLB talent is huge, but this is a 21 year old leading the Eastern League in almost every metric. I can't recall many pitching prospects that have divided the industry to this degree. I mean BA has him ranked over Noah Syndergaard while Chris Mellen thinks he's Jamie Moyer lite.
 
Yeah -- this is going to be so interesting to see how it all plays out. 
 

Hoplite

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ehaz said:
Interesting that BP is holding steady on their stance that Owens' dominance in the minors won't translate to the major leagues. I understand that the gap between AA and MLB talent is huge, but this is a 21 year old leading the Eastern League in almost every metric. I can't recall many pitching prospects that have divided the industry to this degree. I mean BA has him ranked over Noah Syndergaard while Chris Mellen thinks he's Jamie Moyer lite.
 
I think Baseball America puts more of an emphasis on minor league statistics and Baseball Prospectus puts more of an emphasis on scouting. I'd trust Baseball Prospectus' a lot more because they give multiple scouting reports on these players throughout the year and give highly detailed descriptions of why players are ranked where they are.
 
BP's knocks on Owens are the control issues, the fact that he's working up in the zone with a low 90's fastball and that his curveball still needs quite a bit of work.
 

IdiotKicker

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ehaz said:
Interesting that BP is holding steady on their stance that Owens' dominance in the minors won't translate to the major leagues. I understand that the gap between AA and MLB talent is huge, but this is a 21 year old leading the Eastern League in almost every metric. I can't recall many pitching prospects that have divided the industry to this degree. I mean BA has him ranked over Noah Syndergaard while Chris Mellen thinks he's Jamie Moyer lite.
I'm on mobile right now so I can't link effectively, but check out Michael Bowden's 2008 stats if you want a good comp. Slightly different since Owens is LH, but very similar lines, and Bowden showed greater control at the same age in Portland. I think. Owens ends up as a better pitcher than Bowden, but he is by no means a lock to even have any type of sustained career in the majors.
 

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Chuck Z said:
I'm on mobile right now so I can't link effectively, but check out Michael Bowden's 2008 stats if you want a good comp. Slightly different since Owens is LH, but very similar lines, and Bowden showed greater control at the same age in Portland. I think. Owens ends up as a better pitcher than Bowden, but he is by no means a lock to even have any type of sustained career in the majors.
 
Thanks for the comp on this. It's an interesting one for sure. Regarding scouting vs. analytics, my brain is telling me that the big question with Bowden coming up was his lack of a putaway pitch. Everything I have read on Owens indicates that his change-up grades out as plus or better, which would tell me that he has a leg up on Bowden in at least that regard. Let alone his height and left-handedness. Nonetheless, good call on your part.
 

jscola85

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Chuck Z said:
I'm on mobile right now so I can't link effectively, but check out Michael Bowden's 2008 stats if you want a good comp. Slightly different since Owens is LH, but very similar lines, and Bowden showed greater control at the same age in Portland. I think. Owens ends up as a better pitcher than Bowden, but he is by no means a lock to even have any type of sustained career in the majors.
Here's Bowden's 2008 stats, at age 21:
 
104.1 IP, 8.7 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, .245 BABIP, 73% LOB%, 2.33 ERA, 2.62 FIP, .190 average against
 
Owens, age 21:
 
105.2 IP, 9.5 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, .245 BABIP, 81 LOB%, 2.21 ERA, 3.09 FIP, .183 average against
 
Pretty comparable - in fact you could easily argue Bowden out-pitched him.
 
The big test for Owens could in fact be AAA.  Bowden's K rates dropped significantly in AAA - from 8.7 per 9 in AA that year down to ~6.5 during his time in AAA.
 
FWIW, I do think Owens is the better prospect.  I would bet a big number of Bowden's Ks were caught looking, whereas Owens has real swing and miss pitches.  Neither has an overpowering fastball but as a righty that is a much bigger problem than Owens as a lefty.  Perhaps just as/more importantly, Bowden was an extreme flyball pitcher, whereas Owens has at least shown a bit more propensity to induce groundballs.  An extreme flyball righthanded pitcher with a mediocre fastball and good/great control seems a lot more likely to dominate young hitters and top out early than a lefty with iffy control but swing and miss stuff who has a more normalized ground ball rate.
 
EDIT - spelling
 

Jed Zeppelin

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SoxProspects has always been lukewarm on Owens' potential as a top of the rotation starter.
 

Marbleheader

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2013 Draft Class well-represented in the top 50, 2013 picks #2 ,3 ,4 ,5, 8, 9 all there. Obviously, #7 Ball is not.
 

Hoplite

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Morgan's Magic Snowplow said:
The case of Owens aside, I'd argue for the reverse.
 
You think Baseball Prospectus has a larger focus on statistics and less of a focus on scouting? Can you give some examples?
 

Savin Hillbilly

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Chuck Z said:
I'm on mobile right now so I can't link effectively, but check out Michael Bowden's 2008 stats if you want a good comp. Slightly different since Owens is LH, but very similar lines, and Bowden showed greater control at the same age in Portland. I think. Owens ends up as a better pitcher than Bowden, but he is by no means a lock to even have any type of sustained career in the majors.
 
Isn't this kind of silly, though? Jordan Zimmermann was in the Eastern League in 2008, a year older than Bowden, and though he was very good, he had worse numbers than Bowden's in almost every regard. Yet he, unlike Bowden, has had a fine major league career. Does that mean we would feel better about Owens if he was doing a little less well?
 
Some guys dominate early and fade, some guys dominate early and do great, and the exact degree of dominance at any given stage is not predictive, at least not for individuals. If there are legitimate scouting caveats about Owens, fine, let's tamp down the euphoria accordingly, but pointing out that his stats happened to be almost exactly the same as those of a notable dud prospect at the same stage seems meaningless to me.
 

someoneanywhere

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Hoplite said:
 
You think Baseball Prospectus has a larger focus on statistics and less of a focus on scouting? Can you give some examples?
What MMP is saying is more or less common knowledge.

As to the lists, I would agree generally with the assessments of Swihart and Owens. Swihart, as I've argued in other threads, is hands down the best prospect in the system and for my money the only untouchable guy they have.

I like Owens. But as I've argued about him from day one, big league hitters are going to lay off or lay in ambush on that change and all his off speed stuff until he can command the fastball. If he was humping it up there at 95, maybe they'd have to respect it some more. But at 91 they can spoil it or react to it while they respect the change.

Again, he's a good arm and a major leaguer in waiting. But the hype has him at ace, and he's not that until he gains command or/and velocity on the heater.
 

IdiotKicker

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Savin Hillbilly said:
Isn't this kind of silly, though? Jordan Zimmermann was in the Eastern League in 2008, a year older than Bowden, and though he was very good, he had worse numbers than Bowden's in almost every regard. Yet he, unlike Bowden, has had a fine major league career. Does that mean we would feel better about Owens if he was doing a little less well?
 
Some guys dominate early and fade, some guys dominate early and do great, and the exact degree of dominance at any given stage is not predictive, at least not for individuals. If there are legitimate scouting caveats about Owens, fine, let's tamp down the euphoria accordingly, but pointing out that his stats happened to be almost exactly the same as those of a notable dud prospect at the same stage seems meaningless to me.
Except that some of the criticisms of Owens are very similar to Bowden in terms of his projectability. There are also a couple differences, as no one is a perfect comp, such as the fact that he is LH and also struggles a little more with his command. My point was merely to show how two different publications could have different views of the same player by showing how a guy with similar stats ended up not doing a whole lot. I like what I see from Owens, but there are also some major reasons to be cautious with regards to his projection, some of which we've seen from one of our prospects very recently.
 

Plympton91

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Mellon's take on Owens just seems overly pessimistic. He's a 21 year old lefty sitting 90-92 with his fastball and a plus-plus changeup; there's still time for that velocity to tick up to 92-94, which will make the changeup even better. And, he can further refine the curveball or add a cutter for a 3rd pitch. Given the results, I don't see any reason to be as negative as Mellon is. Moreover, if you really don't think Owens can be a top of the rotation starter, then maybe you shouldn't have him ranked so far ahead of Webster, who also seems to have taken a pretty large leap forward over his past 10 starts and who does have top of the rotation stuff if his command is improving from below average to average.
 

radsoxfan

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Plympton91 said:
Mellon's take on Owens just seems overly pessimistic. He's a 21 year old lefty sitting 90-92 with his fastball and a plus-plus changeup; there's still time for that velocity to tick up to 92-94, which will make the changeup even better. 
 
I wonder if stalling out velocity wise from age 19-21 means Owens won't actually get to 94.  He has been described as "projectable", but unfortunately, his velocity seems to be similar to when he was drafted (maybe I'm incorrect in this assumption?)
 
Adding velocity I assume doesn't HAVE to be linear, but I wonder if the fact that he seemingly hasn't gained much is a strike against his chances.  For example, if he was drafted while throwing 86-88, and now was 90-92, would that suggest further velocity increases in the future?  And does a plateau over that time period instead suggest he is done adding velocity? Or is it the opposite, and we still have yet to see his velocity spike?
 
I honestly have no idea, just wondering….
 

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It's certainly possible for him to add a couple of mph as he continues to grow, to fill out, and to master the craft. For young pitchers, developmental emphasis is primarily on repeatable mechanics: which is partly a function of teaching and learning how the body works (sort of like Han Solo talking to Chewbacca about repairing the Millennium Falcon: this goes here, that goes there), but also about developing the core strength to repeat balance point, downward plane (or "setting the angle") stride path, and landing. It sounds easy but doing it over and over again is hard work, and success is doing it with three or four pitches when you're a starter. And for a lefty it's a more difficult time achieving that consistency. So, yes, it's still possible for him to uptick. But, again, he doesn't need the uptick if he can spot it. That, too, however, is a function of mechanical mastery. 
 
Again, I am not saying Owens is not a major leaguer or that he can't celling at the front of the rotation. I am saying that punching out AA hitters with a plus-plus change is not the same experience, and shouldn't be projected as the same experience, of dealing with major league hitters who you've got out get out three times a night. That change is only going to be as effective as the fastball that it must play off of. If you can't command the one, I am going to take the other away from you. That's how hitting at the big-league level works. 
 
Plympy, I actually think Mellen has learned a lot in the last 12-16 months, for what that's worth. I have never much agreed with SP's rankings, as they seem as indiscriminate to me as old Rolling Stone music reviews. They're too volatile with young pitching -- What? Trey Ball getting knocked around? Oh dear! -- and not sufficiently mindful of (for lack of a better term) the larger prospect market against which all prospects acquire "value." I love Mookie, for instance. I can see Mookie being a dynamic player. But a lot of organizations have Mookies. Not many have Blake Swiharts.
 

Brianish

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radsoxfan said:
 
I wonder if stalling out velocity wise from age 19-21 means Owens won't actually get to 94.  He has been described as "projectable", but unfortunately, his velocity seems to be similar to when he was drafted (maybe I'm incorrect in this assumption?)
 
Adding velocity I assume doesn't HAVE to be linear, but I wonder if the fact that he seemingly hasn't gained much is a strike against his chances.  For example, if he was drafted while throwing 86-88, and now was 90-92, would that suggest further velocity increases in the future?  And does a plateau over that time period instead suggest he is done adding velocity? Or is it the opposite, and we still have yet to see his velocity spike?
 
I honestly have no idea, just wondering….
 
Depends on who you listen to. He was mostly a high-80s guy when he was drafted, and some scouts have clocked him in the same range this year. But other reports have him sitting 91-92. I think the inconsistency is probably another reason for the general disagreement. 
 

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Chuck Z said:
I'm on mobile right now so I can't link effectively, but check out Michael Bowden's 2008 stats if you want a good comp. Slightly different since Owens is LH, but very similar lines, and Bowden showed greater control at the same age in Portland. I think. Owens ends up as a better pitcher than Bowden, but he is by no means a lock to even have any type of sustained career in the majors.
 
You can make a pretty good case for a comp to Lester's age 21 season at AA as well though. It actually makes a bit more sense considering handedness.
 
  [tablegrid= Owens Comps ]Owens - Age 21 Season at AA               ERA IP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W 2.21 105.2 1.032 5.9 0.4 3.4 9.5 2.78                 Bowden - Age 21 Season at AA               ERA IP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W 2.33 104.1 0.92 6.2 0.4 2.1 8.7 4.21                 Lester - Age 21 Season at AA               ERA IP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W 2.61 148.1 1.153 6.9 0.6 3.5 9.9 2.86 [/tablegrid]
 

Drek717

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Vegas Sox Fan said:
 
You can make a pretty good case for a comp to Lester's age 21 season at AA as well though. It actually makes a bit more sense considering handedness.
 
Lester and Owens also have better comps in BB9, SO9, and therefore SO/W.  Bowden really did live on his excellent command.  Owens was a dynamo last year in high A with basically no command to speak of.  Now he's about where Lester was at the same age and level, but clearly not someone using advanced pitch command and location to eat up kids who aren't ready/never will be MLers.
 

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Drek717 said:
Lester and Owens also have better comps in BB9, SO9, and therefore SO/W.  Bowden really did live on his excellent command.  Owens was a dynamo last year in high A with basically no command to speak of.  Now he's about where Lester was at the same age and level, but clearly not someone using advanced pitch command and location to eat up kids who aren't ready/never will be MLers.
 
Lester and Owen are also comparable in having a plus-plus secondary pitch (Lester's cutter, Owens' changeup) that can destroy minor leaguers, and so can get away with erratic fastball command. Maybe Owens should get the same instructions that Lester did when he was sent back to Pawtucket: don't throw your best pitch, and learn to get by on fastballs and curves.
 

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someoneanywhere said:
I love Mookie, for instance. I can see Mookie being a dynamic player. But a lot of organizations have Mookies. Not many have Blake Swiharts.
I think you mean teams have Ayers like Mookie of a year ago? Althetes with big upside but very low certainty. Not Mookie right now having killed did for a year and being an elite prospect.
If you mean the later. No no I don't think a lot of organizations have a Mookie. At all.
But there is certainly more in the way of toolsy Althetes than good catching prospects, I assume that's what you mean.

Would you take swihart today of Mookie a year ago? In a second. Would you take swihart today over Mookie today? Eh pretty close I'd say.
 

LondonSox

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In a nutshell.
Teams don't have players like Mookie, players like Mookie WAS a year ago, sure. He has translated the tools to skills and performance and I think it's crazy to suggest many teams have a player like Mookie is now.
For example I agree a year ago Mookie was a fungible one shot. He had his first ab in a+ a year ago today. Now he's holding his own in the bigs, in a new position.

A year ago you would have swapped a guy like Mookie for a good catching prospect like swihart, now days not so clear. (and that's with a huge leap from swihart too)
 

benhogan

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I'm watching the Cubs game and the announcers are salivating over Kris Bryant (don't blame them).
 
I'm going to throw out a hypothetical question out there, would you offer Swihart and Owen for Bryant?
 
It would never happen, but Bryant is on pace for more then 45 homers at AA and AAA this year.
 

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With the intention of moving Bryant to the outfield, yeah, I probably make that swap.  He looks like he's going to be an absolute monster.
 

benhogan

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Snodgrass'Muff said:
With the intention of moving Bryant to the outfield, yeah, I probably make that swap.  He looks like he's going to be an absolute monster.
Agreed I'd make it to.  Giving up the best LHP and C prospects for a corner OF prospect would have got you thrown off this board a few years back...
 
The PCL is hitter friendly, how does he project to hit for the Cubs next year?
 

jscola85

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While Bryant has prodigious power, the 30% K rate is incredibly high.  Can anyone come up with a guy who K'd that much and turned into a great hitter in the majors.  He could just be another Dallas McPherson or Brandon Wood.  That's a big risk to take to give up an elite catcher and lefty with at least middle of the rotation potential.
 

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jscola85 said:
While Bryant has prodigious power, the 30% K rate is incredibly high.  Can anyone come up with a guy who K'd that much and turned into a great hitter in the majors.  He could just be another Dallas McPherson or Brandon Wood.  That's a big risk to take to give up an elite catcher and lefty with at least middle of the rotation potential.
I mean, this really comes down to how you project Owens.  Still a lot of people see him as a back-of-the-rotation guy with one plus pitch.  If you think he is valuable innings eater but not much more, then this trade makes a lot of sense.  If you think he has more upside, then it's tricky.  Swihart for Bryant is close enough that I don't know I would want to gamble Owens's upside, but I'm not sure the Cubs would either.  You tend to stick with the ones you already have when in doubt.
 

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jscola85 said:
While Bryant has prodigious power, the 30% K rate is incredibly high.  Can anyone come up with a guy who K'd that much and turned into a great hitter in the majors.  He could just be another Dallas McPherson or Brandon Wood.  That's a big risk to take to give up an elite catcher and lefty with at least middle of the rotation potential.
Mike Stanton
 

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jscola85 said:
While Bryant has prodigious power, the 30% K rate is incredibly high.  Can anyone come up with a guy who K'd that much and turned into a great hitter in the majors.  He could just be another Dallas McPherson or Brandon Wood.  That's a big risk to take to give up an elite catcher and lefty with at least middle of the rotation potential.
Josh Hamilton has a 130 wRC+ with a 30% K rate this year.
 

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jscola85 said:
While Bryant has prodigious power, the 30% K rate is incredibly high.  Can anyone come up with a guy who K'd that much and turned into a great hitter in the majors.  He could just be another Dallas McPherson or Brandon Wood.  That's a big risk to take to give up an elite catcher and lefty with at least middle of the rotation potential.
 
Just about every scouting report on Owens suggests this is his ceiling, rather than his floor. I'm excited about the guy too, but if you're going to base an argument on a claim that flies in the face of consensus, you should probably provide some evidence. 
 

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Brianish said:
 
Just about every scouting report on Owens suggests this is his ceiling, rather than his floor. I'm excited about the guy too, but if you're going to base an argument on a claim that flies in the face of consensus, you should probably provide some evidence. 
The evidence is basically his statistical body of work.