With Christmas dinners now completely digested, baseball fans everywhere recognize that they have appetites in need of sating. Without baseball that possesses even the slightest degree of meaning scheduled for nearly two months, meaning must be derived almost entirely from, if not utterly meaningless things, aspects of the game with such a considerable degree of uncertainty to obscure any meaning contained within.
Welcome to Prospect Ranking Season. This is a time where fans of all sorts become experts in their organization's prospects. Each ranking that doesn't accord with our own personal rankings is greeted with a level of disdain and consternation typically reserved for religious extremists and high schoolers. "Can you believe they ranked Nola below Franco?!?!?!?!," many screamed last year. "That prospect ranking website should be removed from the internet. What trash!"
On some level, this level of reaction is justifiable. An organization's prospects are like our children. On the record, we have to say we love them all, but when it comes down to it, we have clear hierarchies in our heads that we might only reveal to trusted confidants after a few drinks. Yes, this is silly; all prospects are inherently fun. The broad range of potential outcomes leads to interesting discussion where differing opinions and evaluations are certainly permissible. Uncertainty makes for good #content. This is indisputable.
This morning, Baseball Prospectus released their own rankings of uncertainty with respect to the Phillies farm system with their latest in their series of organizational top-10 prospect lists. Their rankings for the Phillies:
- J.P. Crawford (SS)
- Nick Williams (OF)
- Jake Thompson (P)
- Franklyn Kilome (P)
- Roman Quinn (OF)
- Cornelius Randolph (OF)
- Mark Appel (P)
- Jorge Alfaro (C)
- Andrew Knapp (C)
- Ben Lively (P)
...Lively is the biggest surprise there. I'd put him well behind even the 5 they have listed as "just interesting."
- Jorge Alfaro at #8 seems low after he was ranked third in the Rangers organization and 31st in baseball by the same publication just a year ago. The ankle injury he suffered last year and questions about his viability as a catcher seem to be the reasons for the tempered expectations here. These are certainly justifiable concerns, but at 22 years old, this seems like too far a drop.
- Roman Quinn at #5 seems a little high. While I get that his speed (they have an 80 grade on it) is truly elite, that just doesn't do enough for me to put him fifth in what is now a strong organization.
- J.P. Crawford is obviously ranked #1. Any list that doesn't have Crawford at #1 is just plain silly. What will be interesting is how high he ends up on the global lists that come out later this offseason. The first sentence in his writeup reads, "There might not be a more complete prospect in the game." Expect to see him in the top-5 of most global lists in a couple weeks.
- There were a couple omissions that would be more curious if this system weren't both elite at the top and deep. Vincent Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoff, and Aaron Altherr all were noted as receiving heavy consideration or serious discussion for the back of the top under-25 list at the end of the piece, but didn't make the cut. They've all lost prospect status, so were ineligible for the prospect list.
- Trades. 5 of the top-10 came to the Phillies via trades. Nick Williams (2), Jake Thompson (3), and Jorge Alfaro (8) all came in the Cole Hamels trade. Mark Appel (7) came in the Ken Giles trade. Ben Lively (10) came for Marlon Byrd. Adding Cornelius Randolph (6), who the Phillies picked in the first round in June, 6 of the top-10 have come to the organization in the last 13 months. Ruben Amaro, Andy MacPhail, and Matt Kelntak deserve credit for using the last year to really stock the system with quality prospects.