The second installment of BBB’s Top 40 features four guys who, to various degrees, have slipped in the rankings from last year.
35. Jon Harris, RHP, age 24 (DOB: 10/16/1993), last year: 10
It was a rough year all around for pitching prospects in New Hampshire, exemplified by Harris who posted a 5.41 ERA in 143 innings in 2017. Unfortunately, this was not completely unforeseen (from last year’s ranking):
Indeed, [not consistently missing bats] would be my biggest concern. For as efficient as he was and as good as his results were particularly in Lansing, outside of a couple starts he was not overpowering and dominant to the extent an experienced college first round pick should be expected to. And in Dunedin, his peripherals were pretty pedestrian. Will there be further decline when he gets to AA (if not to start the year)? This will be the big thing to watch for Harris.
The issue for Harris in 2017 was managing contact. He struck out 18% of batters while walking 7%, which are very mediocre peripherals but are quite similar to his 2016 numbers. But whereas Harris had allowed just 11 home runs in 422 innings between college and the Minors before last year, he allowed 20 bombs in just 143 innings.
The problem I see is that spike doesn’t look fluky. His HR/FB rate per FanGraphs was 12%, which is not far from league average. It wasn’t a park issue, with 10 allowed both at home and on the road (the latter in fewer innings). What it really looks a lot more like is that better and more experienced hitters caught up to a pitcher with four pitches, but nothing plus.
Moreover, now at age 24, it’s likely the case that Harris is what he is in terms of physical maturity and his stuff is probably not going to tick up. Perhaps he gets better or figures it out, comes out in 2018 repeating AA and reverts to managing contact. That would leave his ceiling as a backend starter intact. But otherwise, unless his stuff really ticks up in shorter stints, he lacks the usual fallback for pitching prospects of a future in the bullpen due to lacking plus pitches. That also contributes to the big fall.
34. Cavan Biggio, 2B, age 22 (DOB: 4/11/1995; 23 to start 2018), last year: 26
Last year Biggio was ranked two spots above Danny Jansen. Spoiler alert, but this year, he is...not. That’s more about the latter obliterating three levels than Biggio tumbling, but he is down a handful of spots.
On the positive side, Biggio largely skipped over low-A, spending the year in Dunedin after a brief cameo at the end of 2016. He didn’t set the FSL on fire with a .233/.344/.363 line in 556 PA, but wasn’t totally overmatched either despite the aggressive placement.
Breaking down his offensive performance, his production on balls in play was mediocre, with a .304 BABIP and .130 ISO. Interestingly, per FanGraphs, he had more fly balls than ground balls, but was a popup machine with little corresponding power output. Perhaps that’s an indication that there’s untapped upside there, or maybe he’s trying too hard to be something he’s not.
The best part of his offensive profile was the robust OBP - at least in relation to his batting average - as he drew 74 walks. But that was accompanied with 140 strikeouts, and that was not due to massive swing-and-miss issues. Rather, it’s a good example of the difference between a patient hitter, and a discriminating hitter. Biggio was very patient, taking a lot of pitches and working pitchers and counts. But he was not particularly discriminating in terms of differentiating balls and strikes, and ended up behind in a lot of counts and looking at strike 3.
Defensively, my impression is that Biggio is fine at second, but not going to be a standout. Overall, he profiles for me as a utility player, with a ceiling as a second division regular type.
33. Angel Perdomo, LHP, age 23 (DOB: 5/7/1994), last year: 15
Perdomo joins Harris in tumbling down the rankings from last year, as his performance backed up in some significant ways moving up a level to high-A after a very strong campaign in 2016 in Lansing. On top of that, he missed the last two months of the season with presumably a relatively serious injury, so that adds uncertainty and clouds his outlook.
The theoretical upside for Perdomo is huge as a 6’6” lefty who works in the low-90s and can touch higher, with a breaking ball that flashes as a potential plus pitch, a good putaway weapon. When he’s on, he’s capable of dominating while holding his stuff for 100 pitches, and looks like a potential backend starter.
But the consistency is simply not there. That starts with his stuff, as for as many times as he’ll sit 91-94 during an outing with his fastball, he’ll often be in the 87-90 range instead. The inconsistency extends to ability to throw strikes, with walk rates above 10% every year in his career. The results have been okay, because his stuff has been good enough to get lower levels to chase and get themselves out, but it’ll be a bigger issue going forward.
All that considered, and the profile is that of a future reliever unless something really clicks, especially considering the lack of a third pitch (which is really the least of the issues at this point). He could potentially be a very good reliever if he harnesses his considerable raw stuff, but there’s also the potential for it to be too wild to play.
32. Ryan Noda, 1B/OF?, age 22 on Opening Day (DOB: 3/30/1996), last year: junior at University of Cincinnati
Noda was definitely one of the pleasant surprises of 2017, an under-the-radar 15th round pick who lit the Appalachian League on fire with monster .364/.507/.575 batting line en route to winning the MVP award. That earns him a spot towards the back of this year’s list, though any sort of follow-up in Lansing could see him rise significantly next year.
There’s plenty of reasons to be skeptical. The offensive performance was driven by a .483 BABIP, and that’s simply not something he’s going to maintain at higher levels. His power output was okay, but nothing special for a first baseman or corner outfielder. The Appy League is generally populated with younger and inexperienced competition.
That said, the debut was similar to past prospects like L.B. Dantzler and Ryan McBroom, who placed on lists their debut seasons. Although, in college he only hit .239/.370/.430 (slightly better power output in junior year) in a non-power conference, so he lacks the broader track record of production those guys had. He did produce some power output in the Cape Cod league in the summer, and had some serious draft buzz leading into 2017 before a lackluster spring.
So we’ll see what he does in Lansing, perhaps moving back to the outfield. Noda’s a longshot, but so was Kevin Pillar after a strong Appy League debut in 2011.
31. Joshua Palacios, OF, age 22 (DOB: 7/30/1995), last year: 17
Palacios was in the midst of a pretty miserable 2017 season through the end of June, with a .198/.286/.269 batting line. The lack of production and injuries resulted in sporadic playing time, which likely exacerbated the struggles. He caught fire from that point on, hitting .348/.422/.438 over the last two months, leaving him with a decent overall line.
Regardless of which is a closer representation of Palacios’ true ability, the profile is consistent. He’s a punch-and-judy contact hitter with a very heavy ground ball profile and consequently little power, relying on his speed to beat out base hits and keep his average up. He has some on base skill, though a higher strikeout rate than you’d like to see for the profile.
Overall, the comp if he works out would be a Ben Revere type, though perhaps with fewer stolen bases and better defensively, as he could stick in CF. Failing that, he could be an extra outfield type. But more immediately, we’ll see what he does in 2018 in Dunedin.
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