We’ve compiled the 30 Top 10 Prospects lists at Baseball America. The 2014 Prospect Handbook is now in readers’ hands. We’ve unveiled the 2014 Top 100 Prospects list and we have rolled out position rankings all around the diamond. Prospect season is over. Now it’s time to start gearing up for the 2014 season with spring training games beginning Wednesday. But before we do, we have to answer a question that is an Ask BA tradition. As always, if you want to ask your own question about anything baseball related, send it to [email protected] and please include your hometown.
Q: My fave two questions to look forward to after your top 100 are: who are the next five guys on the list and which three players in the bottom 50 have the best chance to make a huge leap on the 2015 list?
Michael Payne, Toronto
BA: Every year to compile the Top 100 Prospects, we begin by asking Baseball America staffers to submit their personal Top 150s. We then take those top 150s weighted so the No. 1 pick on a ballot earns 150 points and the 150th prospect earns one point and combine the ballots to put together a rough Top 100 ranking. Once we’ve done that, we’ll then look at how the rankings sort out and tweak them in a roughly hour-long meeting where we can make adjustments.
This year, the five-highest scoring players who did not make the Top 100 were White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson, Nationals outfielder Brian Goodwin, Nationals righthander A.J. Cole and Reds outfielders Jesse Winker and Phillip Ervin. Rays shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, Royals lefty Sean Manaea, Royals righthander Miguel Almonte, Twins righthander Jose Berrios and Orioles infielder Jonathan Schoop rounded out the top 10 of the just-missed list.
If you’re looking for players from the bottom of the Top 100 who could skyrocket next year, I’ll take a look at a few players who are still a long ways from the big leagues.
Rockies outfielder David Dahl (No. 95 on this year’s Top 100 Prospects) endured a lost season in 2013. Between an early-season disciplinary demotion and a hamstring injury that wiped out most of his season, he saw very little time on the field last year. If he’s healthy, he has to the athletic talent and skills to be a Top 50 prospect next year.
Red Sox lefthander Trey Ball (No. 89) might take a little longer to develop, but he’s a premium athlete who should take off now that he’s focusing entirely on pitching. Coming from Indiana he might take longer to develop, but with a plus fastball and a plus changeup, he could show flashes of dominance with low Class A Greenville.
Pirates catcher Reese McGuire (No. 81) is bucking a bad trend, as high school, first-round catchers are always risky. But he has the tools to be an all-around asset behind the plate as he can defend and hit.
Q: Is it possible that in the near future the CBA will be revised to allow players to accept qualifying offers at sometime during free agency? It seems like this would be a fairer system so guys like Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales could test the market, realize it’s not what they are looking for, and then take the one-year deal. Also, do you think next year’s free agent crop will finally see players start accepting the qualifying offer?
Andrew Thurmond, Hoboken, N.J.
BA: Two years into the new collective bargaining agreement, it’s clear that the qualifying offers are a significant impediment for all but the most desirable free agents. Last year, Kyle Lohse had to wait until the final week of spring training to land a contract with the Brewers. This year, Stephen Drew, Kendrys Morales, Ervin Santana, Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez were unsigned as spring training began. While Jimenez did land a four-year, $50 million deal with the Orioles, Cruz accepted a one-year deal with the Orioles that is significantly smaller than the qualifying offer he turned down. Drew, Morales and Santana are still looking for jobs with Santana suggesting that he might wait until after the draft to try to get free of the scarlet letter that draft-pick compensation has proven to be.
Teams simply don’t want to spend big money and give up a valuable draft pick to acquire players who are viewed as useful but not high-impact additions. It’s worth noting that all three of the remaining free agents tied to draft pick compensation have some sort of issue that can give teams pause.
Santana was excellent last year but awful in 2012. Morales missed all of 2011 with a badly injured ankle and faces questions about his ability to handle any defensive role larger than that of an occasional first baseman. Drew missed half of the 2011 season with a gruesome ankle injury of his own.
But even without those issues, the draft pick compensation would stand as a hurdle in the way of getting these three signed. The fact that they have turned down a $14 million contract for 2014 (the amount of the qualifying offer) also sets a very high floor for what kind of contracts their agent needs to land to avoid the embarrassment of admitting that he and the player made a massive miscalculation in the marketplace.
As we’ve already seen with Cruz, it seems unlikely that Morales and possibly Drew or Santana will end up making more in average annual value than they gave up by passing on the qualifying offer.
It’s worth remembering that this new system was put in place because it was felt that some larger market teams were gaming the system to accumulate extra draft picks under the old CBA. Teams that didn’t have the salary room to offer arbitration (for the fear a player might accept) had to forgo compensatory picks. Bigger spending teams such as the Red Sox could acquire potential free agents at the trading deadline, offer them arbitration at the end of the season, then collect a first-round pick and a supplemental first-round pick for the next year’s draft when that player went elsewhere in free agency.
In 2011, the Red Sox landed Matt Barnes, Henry Owens, Blake Swihart and Jackie Bradley Jr. with compensatory picks they had earned for losing Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre as free agents that offseason. It was an amazing draft haul, and kudos to the Red Sox for drafting so well with those compensatory picks, but the new system was supposed to make it less easy for a big market team to do that.
The idea is that a $14 million tender will ensure that only the best free agents will now be worth a compensatory pick. What has changed is that first-round picks are now vastly more valuable. Under the old system, a team that didn’t have compensatory picks could still spend big in later rounds. So the Royals might have not had many compensatory picks, but they spent first-round money on later round picks like Wil Myers. The Pirates adopted a similar approach.
Under the new system, teams spending it tied entirely to the quality of their picks in the top 10 rounds. Lose a first-round pick, and you’ll see your entire draft budget slashed by a third or more. There is no easy way to make up the loss of that kind of money.