Ask BA: Where Do Bundy, Guerrieri Rank?

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We cover all things baseball at Baseball America, and today’s a fine example. Ben Badler posted a story on Cuban slugger Jose Abreu’s defection and discussed it further in a podcast with John Manuel.

Ben is also in charge of our daily Prospect Notebook on Mondays, and he broke down a half-dozen phenoms, starting with Phillies righthander Severino Gonzalez. And on the other end of the prospect spectrum, Michael Lananna caught up with Chris Siegfried, who pitched in the Cubs system before achieving greater fame as the winner of the most recent edition of “The Bachelorette.”

Though they succumbed to Tommy John surgery this year, would you still consider righthanders Dylan Bundy (Orioles) and Taylor Guerrieri (Rays) to be the No. 1 overall prospects in their respective systems?

J.P. Schwartz
Springfield, Ill.

Dylan Bundy

Dylan Bundy (Photo by Cliff Welch)

The recovery rate from Tommy John is impressive, as the grueling rehabilitation involved often has pitchers throwing harder than ever once they return. But we also can’t take it for granted that a pitcher will come back as good or better than ever from elbow reconstruction.

I ranked Bundy as baseball’s best pitching prospect and No. 2 overall in my personal Top 50 Prospect list in the 2013 Prospect Handbook, but I’d put him No. 2 in the Orioles system behind Kevin Gausman until we see how Bundy bounces back.

Bundy (the No. 4 overall pick in 2011) and Gausman (No. 4 overall in 2012) were close before Bundy got hurt, and Gausman’s pristine health has to give him the edge. Though Gausman has been vulnerable to home runs (seven in 33 innings) at the major league level, he still has the stuff that should make him a frontline starter: mid-90s fastball, solid slider, quality changeup. Bundy might have had slightly better stuff and a bit more precocious command before he injured his elbow, but I’d take the healthy Gausman over a recovering Bundy.

As for Guerrieri, I would rate him as the Rays’ top prospect. Wil Myers and Chris Archer have graduated to the major leagues, so that leaves shortstop Hak-Ju Lee and righthander Jake Odorizzi as Guerrieri’s main competition.

Lee is dealing with a serious injury of his own, having torn up his left knee on a double-play pivot in April. His speed and quickness were his best assets, and it remains to be seen whether he’ll lose a step when he comes back. Odorizzi got knocked around in four big league outings but has been solid in Triple-A, continuing to look like a future No. 3 or 4 starter.

I’d opt for Guerrieri’s higher ceiling over Odorizzi’s higher floor. Guerrieri gets swings and misses with his lively low-90s fastball (he hit 98 mph in high school) and his hard curveball, and his changeup should give him at least an average third pitch. His control has been better than anticipated, as he has walked just 17 in 119 pro innings.

Who’s the better center-field prospect for the next five years: Jackie Bradley (Red Sox) or Brian Goodwin (Nationals)? If it’s Bradley, why did Washington take Goodwin higher in the draft? Did you agree with that decision at the time?

Alex Lennon
Fairfax, Va.

Bradley is the better prospect going forward. The biggest difference between the two is that he’s an outstanding center fielder while Goodwin is merely solid to plus, and Bradley also has the better bat, on-base skills and throwing arm. Goodwin is a little faster, though Bradley makes better use of his speed (which is solid), and Goodwin’s power is a grade better than Bradley’s.

At the time of the 2011 draft, Baseball America rated Bradley as the 34th-best prospect available and Goodwin at the 44th-best. Both went in the supplemental first round, with the Nationals signing Goodwin for $3 million at No. 34 and the Red Sox paying Bradley $1.1 million at No. 40.

Why did Washington take Goodwin over Bradley? Our rankings reflect a consensus of our opinions and the sources we talk to, but Bradley wasn’t unanimously regarded as the superior player. He tried to do too much while adjusting to the new BBCOR bats introduced into NCAA play that spring, and he also hurt his left wrist, resulting in a disappointing .247/.346/.432 (though he did help South Carolina win its second straight College World Series).

Goodwin had bigger physical tools and put up louder numbers (.382/.492/.617) at Miami Dade JC. While we liked Bradley slightly more than Goodwin, it’s not hard to see why a team would have liked Goodwin more in the spring of 2011.

Blue Jays righthander Marcus Stroman has been tearing up Double-A. Where do you stand on the debate as to whether he will ultimately be a starter or a reliever? When do you see him coming up to Toronto?

Shawn McDonald
New York

Since baseball instituted the draft in 1965, there has been only one pitcher signed who was Stroman’s height (5-foot-9) or shorter and qualified for a major league ERA title. That was Tom Gordon, who did so on six occasions and also made three all-star teams as a reliever. Stroman draws Gordon comparisons all of the time, and he has the strength and athleticism to overcome his lack of size and hold up as a starter.

Stroman has demonstrated the ability to maintain his stuff while working out of a rotation. He usually pitches with a 92-95 mph fastball as a starter, backing it up with a mid-80s slider, an upper-80s cutter and an average changeup. He has a lightning-quick arm and a delivery with little effort, and he fills the strike zone with ease.

After signing Stroman for $1.8 million as the 22nd overall pick in 2012, the Blue Jays broke him into pro ball as a reliever with the idea that he might join their bullpen that September. That possibility ended when he tested positive for a stimulant and got hit with a 50-game suspension. This year, Toronto has used him solely as a starter and he has gone 6-4, 3.22 with 103 strikeouts in 89 Double-A innings.

Stroman has a ceiling of a No. 2 starter or a closer, depending on how the Blue Jays want to use him. It’s harder to find starters than relievers, and Toronto needs rotation help, so I bet he breaks into the big leagues as a starter. I could see him getting a September callup, but the Jays don’t have to protect him on the 40-man roster in the offseason and may want to delay his progress toward free agency and arbitration, so we may not see him in the majors until mid-2014.

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