Having gone the pitching side of the organization, we move to the infield, separated into middle and corner infielders. In some cases the dividing line is not clear, but it’s better than one combined chart. For a variety of reasons, this is probably the area of the orgazation that has most improved over the last 2-3 years.
The preamble/background that follows is identical to previous entries, so those familiar can skip to the next section. For each grouping, players are displayed on a chart according to both major league upside and experience level (an approximate proxy for risk). This is not an exact science, so take the positioning with a grain of salt, but it looks something like this:
Keep in mind that “reasonable upside” is not the same as likely or base case projection, and most players at the lower levels won’t come anywhere close it. Basically, if the player’s development goes well, this is what he could become. And conversely, it’s not an absolute ceiling either and there is potential for upside surprise. Kevin Pillar would be a prime example.
For the purposes of this exercise, I’m including not only players with rookie eligibility, but also younger internally developed players contributing or established at the major league level with multiple control years remaining to give a better sense of the total organizational depth. As a general rule, I’ve kept players included last year for comparative purposes.
The headliner remains Bo Bichette, who has been more solid than standout in 2018, and has scuffled for the first time in his professional career. Nonetheless, that a 20 year old is holding his own in AA is a good sign. Cavan Biggio has increased his ceiling significantly with his offensive breakout in 2018, already in the double digits in home runs. What looked like a potential utility type player, maybe he can hit his way into being an offence-first regular.
The next group would be players now with some big league experience. Richard Urena remains very young, but has stagnated over the last year. It’s possible there’s still a regular there, but more realistically might be a backup. Likewise, we’ve seen Lourdes Gurriel Jr get some big league time, and defensively he looked really good, but the bat is way behind for now ad he may be more a utility type. Tim Lopes is off to a hot start in AAA, but BABIP fuelled, and is more role type player.
Then we’ve got the 2018 draftees, Logan Warmoth and Kevin Smith. Going into last spring, Smith was seen as the potential late first rounder whereas Warmoth was more of a 50-100 overall guy, but diverging performance flip-flopped them. Now that might have happened again, as Smith tears the cover off the ball in low-A and Warmoth struggles in high-A. Smith actually has the higher ceiling, but has also been a riskier player with swing-and-miss issues.
The final grouping to talk about is the international signees. Kevin Vicuna, similar to Lopes above, had a strong start but mostly an elevated BABIP. There’s little beyond that, but he’s still just 20. Big dollar signee Yelstin Gudino hasn’t produced, and Sterling Guzman needs health. Leonardo Jimenez was one of the headliners of the 2017 IFA class, and has some buzz, but is purely a lottery ticket right now.
This is typically one of the lesser impressive charts, since players who end up at being MLB regulars here tend to end up here from from higher spots on the defensive spectrum as prospects.
That said, do you know what’s really fun? When a prospect moves up the ladder, and his reasonable potential increases. The cherry on top being that it was already from a lofty ceiling. That’s what Vladimir Guerrero Jr has done over the last year, now potentially a generational bat/player.
After him, there’s a canyon sized dropoff. Rowdy Tellez is off to a slow start at AAA after a year to forget last year; the one caveat being that he’s started slow before. Max Pentecost is here because if he can’t be a full-time catcher, first base/DH is the likely alternative. The problem being that he’s not hitting in AA.
Kacy Clemens is off to a really strong start to his professional career, now rightfully moved quickly to high-A as he turns 24 this summer. Davis Schneider, another 2017 draftee but out of high school, is a guy to keep a eye on.
Removed from last year: Ryan McBroom and Jon Berti (traded); Shane Opitz and Christian Lopez (FAs); Deiferson Barreto (released); Mitch Nay (Rule 5); Emilio Guerrero and JC Cardenas (lack of prodution); Carl Wise (retired)