MINORS: 2020 HQ100 Roundtable, Part 3

A yearly tradition here at BaseballHQ.com around the time of the release of our HQ100 is the writers' roundtable. In recent seasons, we've expanded this discussion into several parts to encompass not only the names on the main list and individual writer lists, but things like ranking philosophy, looking ahead for players to keep an eye out for on next year's list, and more. 

Participants are Chris Blessing, Alec Dopp, Jeremy Deloney, Brent Hershey, Rob Gordon, Matthew St-Germain and Nick Richards. Here is the previous installment:

Part 1  |  Part 2

Part 3 is always a fun one: where each of our writers makes the case for players they think are too high or too low on the overall HQ100 list. Lots of great perspectives on individual players to follow. And for that, download this Excel document that has all seven individual lists that make up the HQ100. And to the debate:

Q7. Based on your own Top 100, who did you feel the group underrated? In other words, make a case for someone you ranked higher than the group.

Richards: I was a little surprised that George Kirby (RHP, SEA) didn’t make the list. An 8D prospect with a solid floor, he is likely to reach the majors, and do well. He’s not an ace prospect, but for fantasy purposes these #3/#4 guys with command can be valuable. I expect him to be in the majors soon, maybe by 2021, and should be on our radar now.

St-Germain: Big fan of Kirby but his draft pedigree wasn’t necessarily elite, and I think he’s got to prove it, more than with some late-summer IP in his first season. He certainly looked better than advertised and if I had to guess, he’d easily be in the next 50. For me, personally I was thinking I would pick Ronny Mauricio—who I had at 24 but ended up at 56—but I can understand why others may have dinged him due to a ho-hum performance. Instead, I'll go with Brennan Davis (OF, CHC), who still feels somewhat weirdly under the radar. I had him at 31, but he ended up at 62 overall. Davis showed up in 2019 having packed on 20 pounds muscle, and it didn't interfere with how is quick-twitch body operates and he took off. Hand and finger injuries erased his August, but he came back strong to finish the season and all the tools look grade-50 or above now. Few players can offer a 30/30 ceiling with manageable BA and Davis is one of them.

Blessing: I’m with Matthew here and stand with Brennen Davis; I had him 34th. Kid was expected to be at short-season ball all season and went out in extended spring training and dominated to the point they called him up to Single-A early in the season, where he raked against advanced competition. It’s a 30/30 profile as Matthew suggests, and it’s hard find 25 better hitting prospects. 

Gordon: One guy who jumped out to me was the Rockies Brendan Rodgers (2B/SS, COL). I had him at #12 on my individual list while on the group list he came in at #33. Rodgers struggled mightily in his big league debut, slashing an anemic .224/.272/.250 in 76 AB and then in July had shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum. Prior to the injury he scorched Triple-A pitching to the tune of .350/.413/.622. If the Rockies do end up trading Nolan Arenado, his path to full-time AB becomes much clearer. Rodgers is not without his flaws, but his drop might be a bit of prospect fatigue. He still has plus offensive upside and will play half of his games in Coors Field.

Deloney: Mitch Keller (RHP, PIT) is sticks out as someone the group underrated. I had him at #11 on my list; whereas the next highest had him at #30. He wasn’t listed on one ballot, which was a significant eye-raiser for me. Rob mentioned "prospect fatigue" with Rodgers and perhaps the same applies to Keller. While his final numbers in the majors weren’t particularly strong, there was a lot to like. He posted a 12.2 Dom in 48 innings; he has outstanding stuff and he’ll pitch most of 2020 at age 24. In my eyes, he’s a breakout to watch. If he can harness his command, he could be a #1 or #2 starter—that’s a top prospect.

Blessing: Keller and Rodgers have never really done it for me. However, I feel both are vastly underrated as 2020 options, especially Rodgers. My problem is Rodgers won’t hit enough in my opinion and Keller fastball was junk analytically in his debut. Still, both guys have their believers and both Jeremy and Rob make great arguments for considering both guys higher on this list.

Dopp: Sean Murphy is a catcher who I am pretty high on, ranking him #44 overall, though the group collectively had him #69. Unlike a handful of the younger catchers on this list, Murphy is a guy who will unquestionably stay at catcher with the requisite arm strength, blocking and ability to handle a pitching staff and that instantly enhances his fantasy value. I rated his ceiling as ‘8A’ in the Org Report and I think that’s an appropriate grade because while he won’t deliver SB value, I think he has the ability to hit for a solid average and he’s still growing into his offensive game. And if the big-league ball stays consistent, this could be a currently doubles-over-HR bat that could morph into 25+ HR fairly easily. In other words, this is a solid-average ceiling and a very high probability of reaching it given that he’s going to remain a backstop.

Hershey: Had the opportunity to see Daniel Lynch (LHP, KC) several times this season, including at the Arizona Fall League, and come away surprised that he’s not higher on the HQ100. I had him 33; the group graded him out at 57. With a long, athletic body, fairly clean mechanics, and a big-time velocity jump in his 2018 draft year that carried into 2019 (94-94 in April; higher than that in AFL), he sure looks like a high-K solid #2 MLB starter, with some chance to be a low-end ace. FB/SL/CU, control is good and athleticism portends to better command as he gets more pro reps. I have him ahead of arms like Deivi Garcia (NYY), Grayson Rodriguez (BAL) and A.J. Puk (OAK) and think he is easily Top 50 material.

Q8. Based on your own Top 100, who did the group overrate? Make a case for someone you ranked lower than the group. 

Richards: Joey Bart (C, SF) at #21 seems a bit aggressive given the risk with young catchers. I can think of another couple of dozen guys I would prefer for fantasy purposes over Bart, and I like Bart a lot (he was my 2nd-ranked catcher too, but at #53). He and Rutschman might be the exceptions that ultimately prove the rule, but it is so hard to wait for these young catchers to show fantasy relevance.

St-Germain: I felt this way last year about Bart, but I slightly hedged up a bit on him after his 2019 production. 25 HR and a .270+ BA feels more valuable than I may have initially considered and that K rate with that power makes it feel like he’ll have an easier transition into MLB than most. I will admit I was a bit shocked by how high JJ Bleday was, though it’s not a ranking I care to disagree with. He’s good and the FSL is a hard place to debut, so I may have been too low on him. But my pick would be Nick Madrigal. I realize this could look monumentally stupid down the line, but I always prefer finding this kind of skillset as a late value pick, like an Adam Eaton, Luis Urias, or Luis Arraez in their draft/signing years, rather than as a top first round guy. There’s really not much power here and he’s not geared for it and it doesn’t feel like to me he ever will. The big concern for me with Madrigal is whether or not his speed works at the major league level, as I fear what he did on the bases in Triple-A is more aligned with what he’ll look like in the majors. Yes, I think this is a profile that could challenge for batting titles with his impeccable hit tool and score a lot of runs at the top of the lineup, but the fear is that’s the most of what he does. He’s better than the 99 where I ranked him, but I just don’t see him as a Top 30-40 guy yet and ending up midlist feels appropriate.

Gordon: OK, this is an interesting one for me. I’ve been touting the Cardinals Dylan Carlson (OF) since he was taken in the first round of the 2016 and urged patience, in part because the Cardinals were fairly aggressive with him despite the fact that he struggled at Low- and High-A. He finally had his breakout season in 2019, slashing .292/.372/.542 while more than doubling his career high in home runs. Having said that, I’m not totally convinced that Carlson has suddenly become a top 15 prospect. For me he’s still a guy with above-average tools and a good approach at the plate (I gave him an 8B and ranked him as the Cardinals #1 prospect), but not a perennial All-Star who is going to anchor your fantasy lineup and those 20 SB are just not going to translate at the major league level (he had just 18 total in three seasons prior to last year).

Also, while I love me some Nick Madrigal, I have to admit that Matthew makes some good points. Unless he steals lots of bases, Madrigal could be a guy with more MLB value than fantasy. Part of his appeal as a pro prospect is his jaw-dropping bat on ball skills (who whiffs just 16 times in 473 AB in 2020?), speed, defense, and all-around baseball IQ. That typically doesn’t translate to fantasy gold. But if you play in a league where OB% is a category, then Madrigal has increased value.

Deloney: It is always a difficult exercise for me to talk about a prospect being overrated. It implies that I don’t like a certain player and most of the time, that isn’t accurate. I was a bit surprised by Ronny Mauricio (SS, NYM) being ranked at #56. If it wasn’t for the fact that he wasn’t included on two ballots (mine was one of those), then he certainly would’ve been ranked much higher. Individual ballots had him at #24, #28, #44, #53, #72 and two unrankeds. He seems to check the box with things I look for in a very young prospect - age, projection, body type, tools. But what he doesn’t have is performance. While I do see Mauricio as a very good prospect, I didn’t see enough growth with him in 2019, particularly in the second half of the season. I realize he played the season in Low-A at age 18. I’d like to see him return to Low-A and have an above average year before I really put him higher on the list. But again, I don’t dislike him as a prospect.

Dopp: Nico Hoerner (#66) has a lot of solid things going on in his profile but I’m just a little hesitant to place him where the group collectively has. I think he hits for a solid average with 10-15 HR and some steals mixed in and I think that’s an appropriate ‘8C’ rating for his future potential. Not a skill in here that really intrigues me at the end of the day. Perhaps he’s one of those guys who ends up having more ‘real life’ value than fantasy value given his defensive prowess.

Hershey: Madrigal was my first choice, as I just question whether there is enough strength there to make his obviously talented hit tool useful. In my looks, I saw lots of contact, but largely opposite-field bloops or weakly-hit grounders to second base. But Matthew covered some of that above, so let’s go with Alex Kirilloff (OF, MIN). Now, upfront: Like Jeremy with Mauricio, I’m a Kirilloff fan in general and have had him rated highly in the past. The hit + power tool here has potential, but with his “down” year in 2019 (granted, injury-related), I am not comfortable placing him in the Top 20 (he was at #18 overall; I had him at #39). Part of it is positioning, as well — if as many say, he needs to move down the defensive spectrum from OF to 1B here soon, I think his fantasy value takes a hit because I wonder if the bat will become less special. He’s not a pure-strength, no-doubt 30+ HR guy at this point, so while he’s likely to be plus-BA, mid-20s HR player with very little speed, I just don’t see that skillset being that valuable from a fantasy standpoint. I hope he proves me wrong.

Blessing: The idea of Taylor Trammell as a Top 50 guy is nice. I regret ranking him so highly (69) after reconsidering my reports. The dude has serious hit and power tool concerns. He doesn’t incorporate his lower half in his swing whatsoever and was found out by even subpar Double-A pitchers.I get it. OBP & SB potential. It works better in CF but can’t see a MLB team employing that with his defensive skill. I was warned he was likely a Role 4 type. It took 20+ games of in-person sightings to truly believe my contact was right. It’s a tweener bat with bench OF potential as the most likely long term outcome. 

Q9. Outside of the two players you mentioned above, which player’s HQ100 ranking surprised you the most (either high or low) … and why?

Richards: I thought Kristian Robinson (OF, ARI) should have been higher. He was #5 on my list, but that’s aggressive. Still, I can hardly think of more than 10 players I would take over him. Especially in dynasty leagues, get Robinson now and thank me in a couple of years when he starts putting up 30/30 seasons. There is risk at his inexperience, and that is why he wasn’t higher, of course. Take the risk.

St-Germain: Agreed. I had him at 17 so we were definitely the anchors pulling him towards the top. That said, I don’t see Robinson ever reaching 30 SB as he’s got only above-average speed and there’s still ample projection in the frame, with some evaluators see him slowing down and shifting over to RF eventually. 40 HR seems much more likely than 30 SB does at peak projection. I will admit I was a little shocked to not see Marco Luciano higher. He produced impressive power last year as a 17-year-old, with crazy bat speed and electric power in a wiry frame with room for good projection. When the superlatives used to describe a player’s upside by scouts gets overly melodramatic, you pay attention. That he got a late season promotion to short season ball and held his own was even more impressive. Plus hit, plus power projection middle infielders don’t come around much.

Deloney: I suppose this could have also been a response for the previous question, but I was a bit surprised by how high Vidal Brujan (2B, TAM) ranked. I think he is a legitimate Top 100 prospect (I had him at #76), but putting him above Brendan Rodgers, Nolan Gorman, Nolan Jones and several others was a bit of a reach. He is a sound hitter, but offers little power and I’m not convinced he can handle any position other than 2B. I think he could easily hit .300 with 25+ SB which gives him excellent value. However, without the pop, I think we may have overrated him a tad. Another player that comes to mind is Tyler Freeman (SS, CLE). He didn’t appear on my ballot and wasn’t considered (I had 130 names on my list). He ranked #75 with one having him at #25. 

Dopp: While it’s only a matter of a handful of slots down, I am surprised a bit by Jazz Chisholm (SS, MIA) still being considered a Top 50 guy. I had him #52 and the group had him at #39, but I just don’t like the hit tool and a really high strikeout rate in his first go-around in AA last year shows how much of a learning curve he still has. Don’t get me wrong -- love the power upside and the speed is awesome, and that combo is going to be coveted for an everyday guy at short, but there’s a lot of BA risk here. Maybe if we were going to rank OBP formats I’d like him a bit more, since he has a propensity to draw walks at a solid clip, but for traditional dynasty formats I still think he’s outside the Top 50 for me, personally. That could change.

Hershey: This is going to be the place where I talk about Leody Taveras (OF, TEX). Now, I fully realize that this could be example of the Kolby Allard Effect (hat tip to Chris; see 2020 MLBA for the reference). But when I see Taveras buzz through batting practice hitting stuff on a line; when I see the simple, repeatable swing, and when I see the athleticism both in the batters box and on the field, he just seems to me to be one small adjustment away from fulfilling his potential with the bat. Maybe not the superstar that we thought when the Rangers signed him as a 16-year-old, but as a productive centerfielder with speed and some power. Factor in that he’s been young for every level (heck, he’ll pay most of 2020 at 21), has just reached Double-A, I think it’s too soon to give up on him, which is how I read his 76 overall ranking. Maybe I’ll have to eat crow in a couple years, but the loss of Leody love was a surprise to me.

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