For the second time this month, we found ourselves with a copy of Baseball America in our hands. BA, as the cool kids call it, is like the Barely Legal of prospect porn. (So we're told.)
The first copy was an ancient edition (circa 2002) stumbled upon as we were sifting through and unpacking boxes of baseball marginalia. The other was a brand new edition, picked up this week at the newsstand. Leafing through both, we found it instructive to learn from the older edition to get a sense what the most recent list of future Jays might mean.
The 2002 copy included a run down of the top prospects for the NL East, including the Expos. Among those on the list for the Expos were some future stars, including Brandon Phillips and Grady Sizemore. Also on the list were some players who had decent-to-marginal careers (Brad Wilkerson), a few guys who barely made a dent (Zach Day, Justin Wayne), and a bunch of guys who flamed out completely (Donnie Bridges, Josh Karp, Luke Lockwood, Eric Good).
And the Expos weren't an especially exceptional case that year. The Mets, for instance, had a few superstars in the making (Jose Reyes and David Wright), but at the top of their list was Aaron Heilman, who seven seasons later has turned into a serviceable middle reliever, but not much else. The rest of the list included a couple of uninspiring arms (Jae Seo and Tyler Yates), along with some "who-dats?" such as Corey Wright, Grant Roberts, Jamie Cerda and Pat Strange.
In fact, as we've scoured back through some of BA's top prospects over the years, we've found that less than half of the annual top 10's do much, and usually only one or maybe two players on each of those lists become something special.
With that in mind, we turn to the latest edition, complete with the post-Halladay trade prospect list for the Jays. That list looks a little something like this:
1. Kyle Drabek, RHP
2. Brett Wallace, 3B
3. Zach Stewart, RHP
4. J.P. Arencibia, C
5. Travis D'Arnaud, C
6. Chad Jenkins, RHP
7. David Cooper, 1B
8. Henderson Alvarez, RHP
9. Jake Marisnick, OF
10. Josh Roenicke, RHP
The Tao's Prospect Analysis - aka Pissing in the wind about lists
With the lessons of the past as prologue, we've been looking at those names and their associated descriptions in the dead-tree edition, and trying to sort out which of these we think might be golden, and which are just shiny pebbles. We'd never even attempt to present ourselves as sun-dried scouts, especially since we've seen exactly one of these guys play.
Our hope is that this class of ten is the exception, and that they all end up playing long and storied careers, but if we had to take a stab at it based on their progressions, we'd figure that Arencibia, Jenkins, Cooper, D'Arnaud and Roenicke may end up in the dustbin of Jays history, while Drabek and maybe Stewart could be stars. (You can pick your stars and scrubs by picking them out of a hat, and we'd have a hard time arguing with you.)
We'd love to think of Alvarez as the future superstar, but hearing that he tops out at around 89 mph makes us wonder how much of his extraordinary run in the NY-Penn League will translate. He's only 19, so there's time for him to put some meat on his bones and turn into the Venezuelan Pedro, which makes us cast wistful thoughts towards what he might do for the Jays some time after 2014ish.
The Wild Cards for us would be Jake Marisnick and Brett Wallace. Marisnick really hasn't played much against men who are paid to play the game for a living, but is described as having a "good body." (In case any of you girlie-girls were wondering.)
Wallace, on the other hand, has a great body...if your archetype for great bodies is something along the lines of the American Dream, Dusty Rhodes. (More to love, ladies!) And as much as we keep hearing about what a great looking swing Wallace has, we look at the numbers and see a guy who tore up pitching when he was armed with a carbon-fibre death club, but who has posted progressively declining OPSs with each successive level of pro ball. Wallace has posted an .815 OPS in 106 Triple-A games over his career so far. As a point of comparison, Travis Snider, who is two years younger, posted an OPS of 1.043 in 66 Triple-A games.
If you've made it this far through our meandering mess of useless speculation, the rather uninspiring conclusion is that we have no idea what this list means, and whether if there is anything of real value amongst the most recent list. It's not exactly a crapshoot, but given the dearth of real meaningful information that any of us has on any of these guys, it's hard to start slotting these names into the lineup of the playoff-bound powerhouse of our dreams.