Top 100 Prospects: Split Decisions

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Top Royals Prospect
Eric Hosmer (8) vs. Mike Moustakas (9) vs. Wil Myers (10)

Mike Moustakas
J.J. Cooper: I couldn't be happier to see these three end up back-to-back-to-back because I think there is little separation between the three. When I was calling scouts for the Royals prospect list, I kept getting different answers to the question, "Who would you most like to have?" Hosmer to me he is the safest bet as he has the most advanced approach at the plate. I personally ranked Myers ahead of Moustakas because he's better athletically and could end up hitting for average and power, while Moustakas seems more like a power hitter with an average at best on-base percentage (largely because he both doesn't strike out and doesn't walk). But if you wanted to argue Moustakas at the best of the three, I won't disparage you—he has the best power and plays the most important position defensively.

Eric Hosmer
Jim Callis: These guys are all so similar that you really have to nitpick to separate them. I like Moustakas the most because power is a hard commodity to find, and he has as much as any prospect. While he's not a Gold Glover, I think he'll offer the most positional value as a third baseman (compared to a first baseman or right fielder). But honestly, you can line these guys up in any order and easily defend it.

Will Lingo: I agree with that point. I put Moustakas first because he has proven himself at the highest level (Triple-A), and because people in the Texas League thought his defense at third would be not just adequate, but solid. So I think that gives him a little bit more value than the other guys, though I think they all can be impact hitters.

John Manuel: Perhaps I'm just riding the hot hand by ranking Hosmer first, but his 2010 season was impossible to ignore. Moustakas is a rare player who doesn't walk a lot but makes a ton of hard contact. I also believe he'll stick at third base, at least while he's in the cost-controlled phase of his big league career. Myers involves the most projection at this point, which is why he's third on this list for me, and moving off catcher to the outfield dents his value just a little bit.

Future Second Basemen?
Christian Colon (51) vs. Nick Franklin (53) vs. Jason Kipnis (54) vs. Jean Segura (57)
Nick Franklin
John Manuel: I don't see any of these guys as being future Gold Glovers, so I went with the best bat of the group, and for me, that's Kipnis by a hair over Colon because he's done it at higher levels, and his hitting track record (like that of Colon) stretches back a ways. Segura has the widest range of tools and might be the most exciting player in the group. I like Franklin and he had a big year, but I'm more skeptical on his ceiling.

Jim Callis: I'm not sold that Dustin Ackley or Brett Lawrie will stay at second base, so these guys (and maybe Billy Hamilton, who'll play shortstop this year) are the best second-base prospects. I like Kipnis the best, because he has proven himself at the highest level and I believe has the best chance to have an impact bat. All four of these guys will hit, and Kipnis and Franklin have the most pop. Segura is the fastest and the most underrated, and he's the best defender of the group, too.

Conor Glassey: I think the two players in this group with the best chance of sticking at shortstop are Colon and Franklin and the two best bats are Franklin and Kipnis. I've been a huge Franklin fan since he was in high school and I think he has the most star power of this group, which is why he was tops for me. The list of teenagers who have matched Franklin's .837 OPS in the Midwest League over the past six years is an impressive group: Carlos Gonzalez, Jay Bruce, Cameron Maybin, Travis Snider, Jaff Decker and Matt Davidson.

Jean Segura
Matt Eddy: Segura requires more refinement on both sides of the ball than the others, but his quick-twitch actions could spell high averages and big stolen base totals in the future. I think that separates him from Colon and Franklin. In retrospect, I was too light on Kipnis, who advanced quickly from the 2009 draft to the Triple-A playoffs.

J.J. Cooper: With the exception of more strikeouts, Franklin's 2010 Midwest League season looks an awful lot like Mike Moustakas' 2008 Midwest League season at the same age—and Franklin has the speed and quickness to at least stick at second base. I was glad to see these four all bunched up within six picks, because they (and Nationals middle infielder Danny Espinosa) are hard to separate.

Full-season Catchers
Travis d'Arnaud (36) vs. Tony Sanchez (46) vs. Wilin Rosario (49) vs. Devin Mesoraco (64) vs. Derek Norris (72)

Devin Mesoraco
J.J. Cooper: Do you like ceiling or certainty? It's hard to believe that Sanchez won't end up being a solid big league catcher with his solid work behind the plate and a good plan at the plate, but d'Arnaud's tools give him a better chance to be a future all-star. Mesoraco's upside could be just as high as d'Arnaud's, but I couldn't stomach ranking him close to the Blue Jays' prospect. As great as Mesoraco's 2010 season was, you can't just discount his struggles over the previous 21⁄2 years or his problems with injuries, so I think 64 is just about right.

Jim Callis: If you don't believe Jesus Montero can stay behind the plate, and you want to see some more out of Gary Sanchez, then the best catching prospect in the minors is part of this group. I'll go with Rosario, and I think it would be a very easy call had he not torn the ACL in his right knee last August. I think he's going to hit .275 with at least 15-20 homers per year, he's a quality defender and he's athletic for a catcher. d'Arnaud is similar, but Rosario is a slightly better defender and has proven himself at a higher level. Sanchez is the best defensive catcher in the minors.

John Manuel: I went with d'Arnaud because he's the youngest in this group, and he's the best defender who also has a chance to have an impact bat. You could flip the order around, though, and defend it. Mesoraco had the best 2010 but his prior track record was shady, and I never saw him receive well when I saw him in September (International League playoffs) and November (Arizona Fall League).

Matt Eddy: A catcher who can receive and throw will be given a long leash at the big league level to iron out his offensive game. That's why d'Arnaud, Tony Sanchez and Rosario are on another plane for me—they all receive 60-70 grades for defense and throwing. While questions remain about Rosario's bat, both d'Arnaud and Sanchez have demonstrated the hitting approach and bat speed to succeed at the highest level.

Ceiling Vs. Floor
Brent Morel (85) vs. Jonathan Villar (94)

Brent Morel
J.J. Cooper: Unlike many of our other split decision topics, this one was an easy decision for me. Morel just doesn't excite me at all—his best position is third base, but he doesn't really have the power for the position. He seems like a utility infielder to me. Villar, on the other hand, is a risky pick, but when there are as few true shortstop prospects as there are in the minors right now, you have to be excited about a player who could end up being well above-average defensively. He's always going to strike out, but Villar's defense is good enough  that his worst-case scenario is as a useful backup infielder, and he's still young enough to develop into much more.

John Manuel: I like Morel a lot as a solid prospect, and he'll be a big leaguer a long time, at least as a utility guy, because he has shown he can fill in at shortstop. However, I was the high man on Villar. He has one real question mark in that he struck out a lot last season. But outside of Manny Machado, there isn't a shortstop in the minors with Villar's tools, from his playmaking ability at short to impact speed on the bases. He needs time, but I think he'll hit as well.

Jonathan Villar
Matt Eddy: The days of Jose Hernandez holding down shortstop and striking out 180-plus times (as he did in 2001-02) may be gone for good. In the expansion era, most of baseball's season strikeout leaders are clustered around the crazy offensive period of 1999-2006. So while I agree with detractors that Morel's ceiling is quite modest, I fear that Villar will progress along the lines of other swift, low-contact, low-power players of recent vintage.

Conor Glassey: Would you rather have a player with a decent chance of being Joe Randa or a guy that's a longshot to match the career of Cesar Izturis? Personally, I don't think either player has that high of a ceiling. Morel obviously has a pretty high floor, as he's already reached the big leagues. I don't think he'll ever be a star, but I don't think Villar will either and he's much further away from contributing at the big league level.

Jacob McGee (71) vs. Tanner Scheppers (84) vs. Craig Kimbrel (86)

Craig Kimbrell
John Manuel: I like that order. McGee and Kimbrel have the best path to immediate playing time, and I can see Scheppers closing in Texas soon if Neftali Feliz moves into the rotation. McGee's velocity is so easy, and his recent past as a starter gives him a three-pitch mix to work with. His lefthanded-ness is the clinching factor. Kimbrel's funk might just push him past Scheppers but those are two very different ways of arriving at the same nasty conclusion.

Jim Callis: I lined these guys up all next to each other in this order: Kimbrel, McGee, Scheppers. Kimbrel has been the most dominant, has had the most major league success and has the best medical history of the group. I worry the most about Scheppers' health, but he has the best breaking ball, a hard slider. McGee is the only lefthander, of course. You can really make the case for any of the three being the best.

Conor Glassey: These three weren't as close in my rankings as they ended up being when we mashed all the numbers together. I like Scheppers the best of the three because I believe in his ability to succeed as a starter, whereas the other two are limited to relief only. Even if Scheppers does wind up as a reliever, I think he has the best combination of size and stuff of this group. In hindsight, I was too low on Kimbrel, but he still wound up in a good spot when everything averaged out.

Will Lingo: Scheppers has been a hard guy to figure ever since his injury problems messed up his draft year in 2008. Now we have to figure out if he's going to be a starter or reliever. I think he has the potential to have the two best pitches, so that's why I had him the highest on my list.

Top Lefthanded Starters
Matt Moore (15) vs. John Lamb (18) vs. Mike Montgomery (19) vs. Martin Perez (24) vs. Zach Britton (28)

Martin Perez
J.J. Cooper: This is an impressive group, but for me, Moore's stuff is just a tick better than the others, so that's why he's first for me. When it comes to Montgomery and Lamb, either answer is correct: Montgomery is more likely to have the double-digit strikeout start, while Lamb is likely to be more consistent, stringing together quality start after quality start.

John Manuel: Moore stands out from this group for me for his consistent bat-missing stuff and two pitches that push for 70 grades. I had Perez next, recalling his age and his dominant 2009 turn and giving him something of a pass for 2010.

Mike Montgomery
Matt Eddy: A top lefty starter has to either bring it, like David Price or Jon Lester, or be able to sell his changeup, like Cole Hamels or vintage Johan Santana. With a 90-95 mph fastball and a plus-plus change (by some accounts), Montgomery represents the best of both worlds as he has skyrocketed to Double-A at age 20. A promising curveball and low home run and walk rates complete the picture.

Will Lingo: I like Britton the best of this group because I think his sinker might be the best pitch of the bunch. He's also a safe bet, and I love the way he has shown consistent improvement—not just in stuff but in his feel for pitching—throughout his minor league career.

Conor Glassey: I had Lamb ranked the highest of this group because of his low walk rate and low home run rate. I also like how he handled himself while moving from low-A to high-A to Double-A in his first full pro season, and he showed he can pitch deep into games even without his best stuff.