Over at Minor League Ball, John Sickels has come up with his list of the 120 top prospects in baseball, the first time he has come up with such a single list. He says, "I have avoided combining lists for hitters and pitchers, preferring to separate them since they are different species. I still think that is the right thing to do philosophically, but nobody seems to agree with me on that, and demand for combined prospect lists is very high. So, here's a combined list.":
Details on the Diamondbacks that are ranked - really, no prizes for guessing who they are, if you've been following the other lists put out - a table summarizing all said rankings, and a cautionary look back at a 2007 prospects list after the jump.
Sickels is certainly high on Trevor Bauer, ranking him at #7 overall. Among pitchers, that trails Matt Moore, Yu Darvish (for once, there's less discussion needed over whether a Japanese "rookie" should be regarded as a prospect, with Darvish being only 25) and Shelby Miller . Our other two hurling diamonds in the rough, Tyler Skaggs and Archie Bradley, are further down, at #24 and #25 respectively. Interestingly, Sickels puts them just behind Jarrod Parker, I think making him the first of the renowned prognosticators to do so. Those are the only three Arizona players to make the list of 120 in John's mind.
Figured it might be handy to provide a little table listing all the major prospect lists and where the Diamondbacks were ranked on them. As well as Sickels, there's also ESPN's Keith Law, Baseball America's staff report, Kevin Goldstein from Baseball Prospectus (who doesn't include Darvish) and MLB's Jonathan Mayo, For interest, I also threw Parker in there, since I'm sure we'll be following the future progress of our former first-round pick.
The different position reflect, to a certain extent, differing philosophies about how prospect talent should be measured and, obviously, the uncertainties involved. Do you use a player's ceiling (what he could be, if all comes to pass), his floor (the minimum expected return) or what you project he will turn into? Position also plays into it: if a player's defense is so bad he has to be moved to 1B, his value drops, because a great level of offense at, say, second-base, becomes nowhere near as impressive. Similarly, if a pitcher moves from the rotation to the bullpen, he typically won't be as highly-rated.
Generally, however, the consensus is that the Diamondbacks, in Bauer, Skaggs and Bradley, have three of the top 25 players - not pitchers, players - in the minor-leagues, which is an impressive number. However, I do find the drop-off after that and on the position player side a bit worrying, with Davidson the only one rated anywhere by anyone. That is especially the case, given that Paul Goldschmidt is the only member of our infield currently scheduled to be present after 2013.
Another thing to remember, is that prospects are just that: prospects. The odds are against all three of the pitchers mentioned turning into top of the rotation guys: if two do, I'd be happy with that. To give you some historical context, I took a look at one of the lists above from five years ago - the Baseball America Top Prospect list from 2007. It was a list particularly packed with Diamondbacks, and was the reverse of the current situation, with just one pitcher ranked. From the ground up, we had Micah Owings (#98), Alberto Callaspo (#82), Miguel Montero (#63), Carlos Gonzalez (#18), Chris Young (#12) and Justin Upton (#9).
All but three of the players listed were expected to arrive in the majors between 2007-09, so had a good chance to make an impression, and indeed, have averaged 5.7 WAR, good for about $25 million in value to date. However, there's a huge spread, even in the top ten. Four produced basically at or below replacement level so far, as measured by bWAR: Delmon Young, Homer Bailey, Brandon Wood and Andrew Miller. Yes, folks: difficult though it is to believe now, there was a time when Young and Wood were higher-rated than Justin Upton. Or, on the pitching side if you prefer, Bailey and Miller above Tim Lincecum. Hmmm. About that...
But it does serve to illustrate the treacherous path for even the highest-ranked young players. And as you go further down the list, things become even more fraught. Take the handful from #22-26. There's Fernando Martinez, who has hit .183 in 45 games to date for the Mets (though he is still only aged 23, so shouldn't be written off completely at this point), and Adam Miller, now aged 27 and yet to reach the majors. But the next three below them were Clayton Kershaw, Billy Butler and Ryan Braun, who have combined for over 45 WAR. So there's nothing to say Bradley or Skaggs might not end up being the best of the bunch for Arizona.