Mike Newman and I traversed the back fields of Cactus League last week. When we weren’t berating one another with insults, we analyzed the prospects we watched. After hours of back and forth we decided to memorialize our differences in “Dueling Prospects Lists.” So that we don’t taint our lists, we haven’t discussed these rankings or the analysis with each other.
You can see Mike’s list here, if you’re so inclined.
No. 1 Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians — Shortstop
Lindor walked Goodyear’s minor league complex draped in Major League Baseball apparel and did so with lots of swagger. Lindor’s confidence in himself is matched by the confidence his organization has in him: Cleveland has played Lindor in eight Spring Training games even though he has one full season under his belt. Some unfairly characterized his past year as a failure, but a 102 wRC+ in the Midwest League is impressive for an 18-year-old. Lindor’s floor is as high as any prospect due to his premier defensive abilities, but his ceiling is high too. In batting practice, he looked noticeably stronger and his bat control was outstanding. I expect him to arrive in Cleveland by next season and for his early career to resemble Elvis Andrus or Andrelton Simmons.
No. 2 Taijuan Walker, Seattle Mariners — Right-handed starting pitcher
There ‘s no question Walker — “The Prototype” — has the highest upside on this list. In fact, it isn’t a stretch to say he has a higher upside than any other minor league pitcher. He’s the perfect balance of fluidity, strength and athleticism. But, for as easy as Walker makes throwing a mid- to upper-90 mph fastballs seem, he’s still raw. And that’s scary because Walker can dominate hitters with an erratic spike-curveball, a developing changeup and inconsistent command. Once Walker refines his abilities at Double-A, watch out.
No. 3 Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies — Shortstop
Story is seriously underrated. I won’t preempt next week’s post, but he deserves to be mentioned with elite shortstop prospects, such as Chris Owings and Nick Franklin.
No. 4 David Dahl, Colorado Rockies – Center fielder
At first blush, Dahl reminded me of Dustin Ackley — whom I loved as a prospect. He has great bat speed with a line-drive stroke, but his physical tools underwhelmed me. The bat speed is sufficient to produce power, but that isn’t part of his approach. He projects to hit atop a major-league lineup and play average or better center field.
No. 5 Stryker Trahan, Arizona Diamondbacks — Catcher
We discussed Trahan last week. I love his bat, but that piece didn’t articulate how much more advanced his hitting ability is than his defense. As I said, his size won’t allow him to be an impact player at another position, so he’ll need to improve his blocking and receiving.
No. 6 Dorssys Paulino, Cleveland Indians — Shortstop
Newman and I were arguing whether Paulino’s future is at shortstop. Of course, if Paulino remains with Cleveland, Lindor will shift him elsewhere. Paulino has soft hands and a strong throwing arm, but his range is questionable. If anything, he’s going to play third, not second, if he outgrows shortstop. But his instincts and quick first step give him a change to stick at shortstop. His swing is impressive: he stays down through the ball for a long time. His potential 35/60 (hit), 30/50 (power) bat is special at his position, even if his defensive skill is a tick below average.
No. 7 Trevor Bauer, Cleveland Indians — Right-handed starting pitcher
During Bauer’s spring start against Kansas City, Newman and I wondered: “Where is the explosiveness?” Initially, I dismissed my misgivings. It’s unfair to be harsh on a player during Spring Training when he’s tinkering with his game. But his delivery and fastball lacked the explosiveness I’ve grown accustom to seeing from him, and now we know why he appeared to be off. Late Wednesday, Cleveland beat writer Jordan Bastian unleashed a series of quotes from the Indians’ pitcher. In short, Bauer has dramatically changed the delivery he credited with his success. Bauer is known for his (alleged) stubbornness, making this decision both shocking and intriguing.
No. 8 William Swanner, Colorado Rockies — Catcher
No. 9 Jacob Lamb, Arizona Diamondbacks — Third baseman
No. 10 Wilfredo Rodriguez, Colordo Rockies — Catcher
Full disclosure: Swanner, Lamb and Wilfredo Rodriguez were not within the top 10 prospects I saw on this trip, but they were almost as talented as many big names I saw. I wrote up the first two recently, writing:
Lamb – I stumbled upon this 22-year-old third baseman while watching Matt Davidson and Chris Owings take infield. Lamb was the Diamondbacks’ sixth-round pick last June and played briefly in the Pioneer League. At third, Lamb is a confident defender with soft hands and a quick first step. At the plate, the former University of Washington standout impressed, using his line-drive stroke to rope the ball the other way. His size and natural leverage indicate power will be on the way. Lamb’s solid defense, sound mechanics and size make for an intriguing prospect.
Will Swanner – At 6-foot-2 there are reasonable questions surrounding Swanner’s ability to remain a catcher, but there is no doubt he can rake. Swanner is long and athletic which is a rare body type for a catcher. To stick at the position he’ll need to overcome the problems associated with his size: slow pop times, poor blocking and limited mobility. If Swanner can stick behind the dish, he’ll be a force. He has average power to the pull side, which flows from his strong hands and the barrel of his bat lingering in the hitting zone. At times, his back side collapses. Few profile favorably after moving off the position and Swanner is no exception — but his ceiling is high if he can.
Rodriguez, another Colorado backstop, also was impressive. He is quick to the ball and his compact stroke produced solid gap to gap power in batting practice. Like Swanner and Lamb, he’s high on my 2013 watch list.