Most prospect lists that you see use rookie eligibility (130 AB / 50 IP, or 45 days service time excluding September) as the basis for inclusion/exclusion. This works as an objective standard, but especially beyond the Top 20 creates a conundrum between younger players with very low chances of making to the majors but with upside vs. older players who project as role players but who already have MLB time or are very close. In a sense, that latter group aren't really even prospects.
As Tom mentioned at the outset of this series, this year there was a formal age cutoff for inclusion on the BBB list: players had to be 25 or under on June 30th of this year, meaning born after 6/30/1989. That cut off a number of interesting players who aren't really prospects at this point, but who could be real contributors in 2015 or beyond. So here is a Top 5 list of rookie eligible players cutoff from the prospect list due to age:
1. Rob Rasmussen, LHP, age 25 (DOB: 4/2/1989)
Rasmussen was selected in the 2nd round (73th overall, more like the 3rd round now without a pile of supplemental picks) of the 2010 draft by the Marlins from UCLA, and signed for $499,500. At UCLA he was bounced between the bullpen and rotation his first two years with inconsistent results, before emerging with a huge junior season on the back of a strong 2009 summer in the Cape Cod League. In 109 innings, he struck out 135 while only walking 35 and allowing just 88 hits (though 10 HR), albeit overshadowed by Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer.
From 2011-13, he was primarily a starter, moving from high-A to AAA while also bouncing from the Marlins to the Astros to the Dodgers. His results were generally decent if unremarkable, with reports of a four pitch mix: a fastball that sat in the low 90s, a slider that Baseball America rated as the best in the Miami system after 2011, a curveball and the change-up. In college he used his curveball more than his slider, at some point that seemed to have flipped. Rasmussen was traded at the Aug. 31 trade deadline by LA to Philadelphia for Michael Young, and was added to the 40-man to protect him from the Rule 5. He was then flipped to the Jays for Brad Lincoln, never throwing a pitch for the Phillies.
At 5'10 / 170, Rasmussen is undersized compared to the average pitcher, which caused concerns about his ability to start as with Marcus Stroman. There were also questions about whether his stuff was good enough to start, and he also tended to have large platoon splits (which jives with his primary secondary being a slider). In 2014, he was used exclusively in relief with Buffalo, and turned in a solid season (44 K, 17 BB, 32 H, 0 HR in 43 IP) and earned the call-up. With Toronto, in a small sample of 11.1 innings, he struck out 13 with a strong 27% whiff rate but struggled with control, 7 BB and 2 HBP. Most encouragingly, his velocity had ticked up, averaging almost 94 with his fastball and touching 95.
Rasmussen was ranked 28th on the original list before the age cutoff was implemented, which places him atop this list. At 26 in a couple months and with the Jays' needs, one assumes he'll be exclusively a reliever going forward. But lefties who can sit in the mid-90s don't grow on trees, and if he can get his control in check he could be a middle relief option or better in 2015.
2. Ryan Tepera, RHP, age 27 (DOB: 11/3/1987)
3. Matt West, RHP, age 26 (DOB: 11/21/1988)
We had a couple of scouts who identified him as a major league contributor, not just up-and-down, but someone with the tools and ability to stick in a big league capacity. He has a power arm and a power breaking ball. Our reports have him anywhere from 93 to 96 with a power curveball. He’s a competitor. He’s a converted guy so—I don’t know exactly how many years he’s been pitching—but it could be a fresher arm than someone who has been pitching his entire career in pro ball.
4. Gregory Infante, RHP, age 27 (DOB: 7/10/1987)
If he can figure out one primary secondary pitch to go to, whether it be a fork or split or one slider - don’t mess around with multiple breaking balls or multiple offspeed pitches—just go with one thing, trying to figure it out and fiddle with some grips and you never know what will happen.
5. Derrick Chung, C, age 26 (DOB: 2/23/1988)
Others: RHP Preston Guilmet, RHP Blake McFarland, RHP Arik Sikula, RHP Wil Browning
We'll finish off this series over the next couple days with some personal favourites that missed the overall list, and looking back on movement from 2014 to 2015.