In contemplating at this time last year all of the potential and likely graduations from the Top 40 list over the course of 2019, it struck me that as part of the look “Beyond the 40” we do a list to cover players who are still rookie eligible but over the age where they’re truly prospects but not the reverse. That is, considering those players who are still young enough that they could otherwise be considered prospects, but have exhausted rookie eligibility — that too is a pretty arbitrary line/distinction.
Thus, to cap off the Top 40 series, I thought it would be interesting to do one last list: ranking the top players 25-and-under in the organization, regardless of retaining rookie status or not. A bonus list for this bonus day on the calendar (though given the ages of a couple prominent players, it’s potential an interesting exercise for the next several years, leap year or not).
1. Bo Bichette, SS, age 22, three year ZiPS: 12 WAR (3.3/4.4/4.7)
Admittedly, part of this is simply to be provocative, since Vlad Jr. has topped every list he’s been on for going on three years. But considering that there will be between 15 and 30 runs of defensive/positional difference depending on exactly how one sees the two per season, and probably 5+ runs of baserunning on top of that...it’s not crazy. Especially since Bichette looks like he’ll be no slouch with the bat himself, even baking in a pile of regression from his explosive debut.
2. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., hitter, age 21, three year ZiPS: 12 WAR (3.1/3.9/4.7)
The ZiPS projections are pretty similar, and Vlad’s bat should still end up pretty pretty special, but special enough to overcome the differences above? It’s possible, perhaps even probable given the grades put on his bat as a prospect. But hypothetically, making up 30 runs of value elsewhere over 650 plate appearances means a wRC+ about 25 points higher. If Vladito ends up a generational hitter, that’s not out of the rhelm of possibility. But it’s a heck of a bar to jump, especially if Bichette were to be a 110-120 wRC+ hitter.
3. Nate Pearson, RHP, age 23, three year ZiPS: 6 WAR (1.8/2.0/2.0)
I’ve wrote about all the things to like with Big Nate, and for most organizations he’d probably be #1 or #2 but there’s no shame behind the two position players above. It’s worth noting that those ZiPS projections are for just under 100 innings each season. That may be about right for 2020, and pitchers being pitchers it’s not necessarily unreasonable for 2021-22, but I’d use more like 300 innings combined as a base case point estimate. That would add another two wins. I’d probably be even more bullish on the rate of production — if he stays healthy, I think Pearson will be a frontline pitcher.
4. Cavan Biggio, 2B, age 25, three year ZiPS: 7.5 WAR (2.3/2.5/2.6)
The projection systems all buy Biggio as a solid regular, and to some extent I almost see that as a floor. There’s always some adjustment for second year players, but the skillset is in line with what he was doing in AA and AAA, and there’s no component that jumps out as unsustainable. I don’t think he’ll be a star, but I could see an above average, role 60 regular who average 3-4 WAR with high on-base, good power, solid defensive value and maybe even some positional versatility.
5. Danny Jansen, C, age 25, three year ZiPS: 5.5 WAR (1.4/1.4/1.6)
It’s funny how things work, the expectation for Jansen being a bat-first catcher, and in his first full season he ends up struggling with the bat while rating as one of the premier defenders behind the plate. I expect significant regression on both ends. The plate discipline was fine, his production was dragged down by a .230 BABIP. He’s a slow catcher so he’s going to lose some hits on batted balls not beat out, but the contact quality suggested much better. Likewise, I’d be happy if he put up +7-to-10 runs (including positional) defensively, since a lot of it was framing and that bounces around. Even with the potential for robot umpires egating that, I’d be inclined to bet the over on ZiPS.
I thought about putting the next prospect in Jordan Groshans ahead of Jansen, a reflection of just how high I am on him. But for as good as he’s performed and looked in pro ball, there’s still a lot of tests to pass and things that could go wrong. That, and a time value discount for being at least a couple years away means I think who has to defer to the catcher who’s already performed as a major league regular, with further potential upside.
At this point, things would simply continue with the prospect list. The only other graduated prospects who are 25 or under in the organization who could factor in are Elvis Luciano, Rowdy Tellez, and Sean Reid-Foley. We indicated where Luciano slots in among the prospects, so that would leave him around 18th here. As for Rowdy and Reid-Foley, they’d slot in after that, probably somewhere around Alford who was 20th. Tellez has a three year ZiPS of ~2 WAR, and Reid-Foley is sort of the pitching version of Alford (loud tools but inconsistent).
Agree? Disagree? Give us your own top under-25 ranking in the comments (or where you’d slot in the seven under-25 non-rookies)
You get one player from the Blue Jays organization to start a franchise:
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