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April 15, 2014

Dynasty Dynamics

NL Central U25 Lists

by Ben Carsley and Craig Goldstein

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To read the earlier U25 editions in this series, click below:

For this exercise, we're each going to rank our top-30 U25 fantasy players by division before we collaborate on a top-150 list once this portion of the project is complete. For each division, we'll give you our individual rankings and then discuss any major discrepancies in our rankings, talk about some sleepers we wanted to rank higher and take cheap shots at each other along the way. It will be like the TINO podcast, but for your eyes, complete with an imaginary Bret Sayre breaking up our fights.

Just like with the preseason organizational top prospect lists, players will have to be born after April 1, 1988 to qualify, and just like with the preseason lists, there is of course an element of subjectivity that comes with these rankings. But unlike the preseason lists, these rankings are all about fantasy.

This week, we'll take a look at one of the most prospect-rich divisions in baseball, the NL Central.

Ben’s Rankings

Craig’s Rankings

1. Gerrit Cole, SP, PIT

1. Gerrit Cole, SP, PIT

2. Javier Baez, SS, CHC

2. Javier Baez, SS, CHC

3. Oscar Taveras, OF, STL

3. Jean Segura, SS, MIL

4. Jean Segura, SS, MIL

4. Oscar Taveras, OF, STL

5. Shelby Miller, SP, STL

5. Kris Bryant, 3B, CHC

6. Billy Hamilton, OF, CIN

6. Michael Wacha, SP, STL

7. Kris Bryant, 3B/OF, CHC

7. Shelby Miller, SP, STL

8. Michael Wacha, SP, STL

8. Gregory Polanco, OF, PIT

9. Gregory Polanco, OF, PIT

9. Billy Hamilton, OF, CIN

10. Starling Marte, OF, PIT

10. Starlin Castro, SS, CHC

11. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, CHC

11. Starling Marte, OF, PIT

12. Starlin Castro, SS, CHC

12. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, CHC

13. Trevor Rosenthal, RP, STL

13. Trevor Rosenthal, RP, STL

14. Robert Stephenson, SP, CIN

14. Robert Stephenson, SP, CIN

15. Carlos Martinez, P, STL

15. Tony Cingrani, SP, CIN

16. Tony Cingrani, SP, CIN

16. Arismendy Alcantara, 2B, CHC

17. Matt Adams, 1B, STL

17. Matt Adams, 1B, STL

18. Albert Almora, OF, CHC

18. Carlos Martinez, P, STL

19. Jameson Taillon, SP, PIT

19. Jameson Taillon, SP, PIT

20. Arismendy Alcantara, 2B, CHC

20. Albert Almora, OF, CHC

21. Kolten Wong, 2B, STL

21. Austin Meadows, OF, PIT

22. Wily Peralta, SP, MIL

22. Mike Olt, 3B, CHC

23. Mike Olt, 3B, CHC

23. Tyler Glasnow, SP, PIT

24. Tyler Glasnow, SP, PIT

24. Kolten Wong, 2B, STL

25. Jorge Soler, OF, CHC

25. Jorge Soler, OF, CHC

26. Dan Vogelbach, 1B, CHC

26. Wily Peralta, SP, MIL

27. Devin Mesoraco, C, CIN

27. Josh Bell, OF, PIT

28. Josh Bell, OF, PIT

28. Devin Mesoraco, C, CIN

29. Austin Meadows, OF, PIT

29. Dan Vogelbach, 1B, CHC

30. Scooter Gennett, 2B, MIL

30. Stephen Piscotty, OF, STL

DISAGREEMENT ONE: Austin Meadows

Craig's Take: We’ve had this discussion in person, so why not take it to print? This is tough to gauge since it’s largely about opinions on a guy neither of us have seen, but instead an interpretation of what we’ve both read about how his skillset will manifest itself at the highest level. To that end though, while I agree that Meadows is not a future superstar, I think he can be something closer to Shin-Soo Choo with less OBP than Alex Gordon (that one year excepted).

He’s light-years away, but I think 25/25, or some variation therein, isn’t out of range for him, and while his arm might limit him defensively (left field is almost assured if he can’t stay in center) that’s a little less relevant in the fantasy world. I am by no means saying he’s a future 25/25 guy, but I think it’s within the realm of possibility, at the upper percentiles of his production. That ceiling led to his placement on my list, with complete knowledge that he’s likely to be something less than that. Even so, outfield is scarce now and might not be fixed by the time he arrives, so I don’t think the positional value is necessarily working against him either.

Ben’s Take: I think usually when we have these disagreements they’re more philosophical than based in evaluation, but when it comes to Meadows, we just don’t see the same thing. In Jason Parks’ Pirates top 10 list before the season, he put a 6+ on Meadows’ run, a 5+ on his power, and a 5+ on his hit, and then went on to talk about how the hit tool is far from a sure thing. To me, that’s not someone who necessarily has 25/25 upside, and I certainly think comparing him to Choo is pie-in-the-sky-type stuff.

I know there are other sources who are higher on Meadows than many of the BP evaluators, and I respect that. Even so, I can’t reconcile having a guy who I think has no. 3 outfielder upside ahead of usable pieces now, like Wong, Olt, Peralta, and Mesoraco, and higher upside guys like Glasnow and Soler. I’ll gladly adjust my Meadows evaluation if he proves the hit tool is better than we think, but until then, he’s somewhere near the back-end of my Top 100 fantasy prospects list. Honestly, I considered Stephen Piscotty over him.

Craig’s Take: Well, you certainly do love the white-bread types. 6+ on the run makes me think 25-plus stolen bases are well within reach, if not more. 5+ on the power makes 25 home runs an obvious stretch, but as you said, there are other evaluators who like Meadows a bit more for his pop. If I see him as a 6 power guy, a 25-home-run season would be within the normal variance for a plus-power hitter. I don’t think 25/25 is a stretch under those circumstances as a peak type season. I’m not at all predicting that type of production with regularity, but again, it’s still worthwhile. Even if they were 20 HR/30 SB seasons, I think that justifies his ranking.

Ben’s Take: Fine. I still think his odds of getting there are, like, 10 percent, and it’s clear you think they are a number that is higher than 10 percent, which is why we rank him differently. Give me the less exciting guys who can contribute now. And don’t you dare talk about white bread—Austin Meadows is the whitest name this side of Chad Billingsley.

Craig’s Take: That’s fine, enjoy their contributions as you mull who to pick up off the wire to replace them.

Ben’s Take: And you enjoy eating up a roster spot for a replaceable player for four-plus years!

Imaginary Bret: If two of the whitest guys on earth talking about white people can be racist, this is getting close to being racist. Move on.

DISAGREEMENT TWO: Billy Hamilton

Ben’s Take: I actually don’t have a problem with Craig’s ranking of Hamilton. I just think mine is better. I’ve thrown the Jay Bruce comp on Kris Bryant a bunch now, and I’ll keep going with it here, from a fantasy POV. I like Wacha a lot and am coming around on him being more of a no. 2 starter than the mid-rotation guy I thought he was as a prospect. And Polanco... man, I really love Polanco, and I was shocked that you placed him higher than I did. If I didn’t have a compulsive need to write about Tyler Thornburg, Polanco is the guy I would’ve droned on about below.

If I may briefly recreate a TINO rant here... I hate the need we have to compare Billy Hamilton to everyone fast who’s ever played. He’s no more Rickey Henderson than he is Vince Coleman than he is Dee Gordon. He’s his own player—arguably faster than anyone I just listed—and he’s going to have his ups and downs. I don’t think he’s a future .300 hitter, but I also wholeheartedly disagree with the assertion (not that you’ve made, but that I see elsewhere) that .250 is some sort of ceiling for him. It’s not. He can be an above-average MLB player. I think we agree on what Hamilton can ultimately be, so this is probably less about Hamilton and more about the guys you put in front of him.

Craig’s Take: Great, now you’ve pissed off all three TINO listeners who had to hear and read that rant from you, anyway, this is indeed about the guys I put in front of Hamilton. My stance against Wacha is softening with every great start he makes. I held to my initial judgments against a great small-sample performance because I think that’s the right way to go, but at this point the sample keeps getting bigger without diluting the performance. Bryant is a future 35-plus-home-run bat for me, plus I think the average can sit in the .260 range, and I think that impacts more categories than Hamilton, even if that impact isn’t felt as strongly in those categories. Polanco might be the sketchiest one to put on top, but he’s got plenty of speed himself and should be able to positively contribute to the other categories more than Hamilton can.

I’m not jumping off the Hamilton bandwagon just yet. We saw his otherworldly speed stretch a single into a double already this season, and while he hasn’t looked the part just yet, plenty of rookies struggle in their first go at the big league level. The thing to me about Hamilton is that if you have him, you need him to hit, and then you need to make sure your team is built around him being good enough to hit/steal 85-plus bases, because he’s going to be a negative contributor in RBI, HR, and possibly average.

Ben’s Take: Where we disagree is with this idea that Hamilton “hurts you” in RBI or HR. You know up front that you’re not going to get any production out of him there, and that’s easy to plan around. You wouldn’t say Miguel Cabrera “hurts” you in SB, would you? This is getting philosophical, but I digress... I think Hamilton is a lock to steal 65 bases, can easily steal 85 bases, and could challenge for 100-plus at his peak. That’s a transcendent fantasy player, and that upside is too good to drop any lower for me.

Craig’s Take: Yes, you and I have had the whole “negatively impacts” conversation before. I think there is a baseline in each category that certain players can fall below. It’s extremely low for first baseman, so I do think Miggy can “hurt” you there, it’s just hardly felt because of how the position pans out. On top of that, Hamilton stealing 100-plus bases is a realistic scenario (which is insane, really), but I do think that, unless your team is built to leverage those 100-plus steals, you’re reaching a point of diminishing returns. Essentially, you have to create a team devoid of steals in almost every other area to avoid creating excess value from steals for Hamilton or one of your other players. Obviously the flip side is that it allows you to gain additional value from other players who you otherwise might dock some because they don’t provide any speed, but then there’s the added risk that all your speed eggs are in one basket. If Hamilton gets hurt or doesn’t perform, your whole category is down the drain.

Anyway, that’s less about Hamilton’s skill than it is the potential issues with owning him, but suffice it to say that I think that the damage caused if he doesn’t perform is more extensive than the normal player/prospect because of how people will count on him for the singular impact he provides. In that sense he carries more risk than the standard prospect, but admittedly, more reward as well.

Ben’s Take: Drafting Billy Hamilton rids you of the need to reach for lesser players who have speed for the rest of your draft, much in the same way that expelling an evening’s worth of contents inside a rental car rids you of the need to indulge in a greasy breakfast and bottle of Gatorade the next morning. Drafting Hamilton is like a 2 a.m. purge in a moving vehicle in Arizona that does not belong to you, but in the best way possible.

Craig’s Take: And when he fails to hit enough, he’s the smell left behind by that 2 a.m. purge.

Imaginary Bret: This is... what have I done?

Ben’s One Player He Wanted to Rank Higher: Tyler Thornburg
It came down to Gennett, Thornburg, or Piscotty for the final spot on this list, but in the end I decided to go with the player who could be a usable MI in deeper leagues now, rather than gamble on Thornburg’s speculative ability to generate saves or Piscotty’s modest fantasy ceiling. If it were up to me, Thornburg would still be working as a starter either in the majors or in the minors. Yes, he’s short, but hitters don’t see the ball well out of his hand and he generates a lot of swing-and-misses. I get why the profile is attractive as a reliever, where the velo can play up, but I think he could’ve survived as a no. 4 starter. That being said, his fantasy ceiling is undoubtedly higher as a reliever, as it wouldn’t shock me to see Thornburg amass plenty of holds and a handful of saves before the year is up.

Craig’s One Player He Wanted to Rank Higher: Reese McGuire
Similar to Ben, my last spot came down to Piscotty, McGuire, or Alexander Reyes, and I opted to go with the guy that has a chance to contribute within the next season and a half. McGuire is a gem, though he’ll definitely get tagged with the “better in real life” phrase plenty. He’s got a nice swing that should be able to work for average, as well as some pop. He’s a good runner too, and his plus defense should help him stay behind the plate where his value is maximized. I think he can be Jonathan Lucroy-esque on offense, and while that might not be all that sexy, getting positive attributes in average, power, and stolen bases from your catcher sounds good in my book.

Craig, say something nice about Ben: He really, really, really likes Tyler Thornburg. Haikus suck, but he’s good at them.
Ben, say something nice about Craig: He is right about Reese McGuire as a co-founder of #ReesesPieces. He’s outkicked his coverage in many ways.

Ben Carsley is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here
Craig Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Craig's other articles. You can contact Craig by clicking here

20 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Nojsztat

You guys have no concerns about Shelby Miller being broken?

Apr 15, 2014 06:27 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Carsley
BP staff

I am keeping an eye on him, but I'm not ready to declare him "broken" after two starts. Even if there is an issue and he needs to miss some of 2014, it doesn't change my long-term view of him as a legit No. 2 fantasy starter.

Apr 15, 2014 06:38 AM
 
Nojsztat

It seems that there may be something more to this than just two starts, no? Consider how the Cardinals buried him in the postseason. The Cardinals know everything, so there might be something seriously wrong.

BTW great job with these lists. Subjective as they are, they're entertaining and informative.

Apr 15, 2014 09:43 AM
rating: 0
 
MikeJordan23

I honestly think the Miller not pitching in the post season thing was overblown. He didn't pitch against the Pirates because they hit him really well, and by time the next series rolled around, they were comfortable with Lynn and Kelly in their spots and felt no reason to switch back to Miller.

I do think keeping him on the roster was perplexing, since they didn't use him at all, they could've used his spot for another bat off the bench.

Apr 15, 2014 10:25 AM
rating: 1
 
apaterson

Segura over Taveras? Yikes. Segura hasn't hit at all since last May.

Apr 15, 2014 08:12 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Craig Goldstein
BP staff

He hit .277 in June and .281 in July. Not for power, but that's not why you're acquiring him. He also stole 29 bases from June through the end of the season and that *is* why you're acquiring him. Remind me what Taveras has hit in the majors again?

Apr 15, 2014 08:16 AM
 
apaterson

Those empty batting averages came with pedestrian overall offensive contributions though, judging by his 97 & 89 wRC+ in those months, respectively (which includes his contributions on the basepaths). The wRC+ fell off precipitously in the 2nd half, however, down to 57, which is basically Dee Gordon territory.

I won't deny that Segura, for his brief career, has been an above average offensive shortstop (career 98 wRC+ compared to about 85 for league avg), but I would take Taveras' batting title ceiling over that player any day.

I can understand your skepticism and need for OT to prove it at the highest level though, to each their own.

Apr 15, 2014 08:32 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Craig Goldstein
BP staff

Sure, but most fantasy leagues don't play by wRC+, so that's less of a concern in this instance. I hear what you're saying, but I guess I think he'll be better than he was in the second half, but Taveras' ankle still isn't back to what it was and that caused some concern for me too. Add in the loaded STL outfield and I'm not sure we'll be seeing him immediately. Add in potential growing pains and I think the year+ that Segura could have on Taveras adds value. It's definitely a close call and one I flipped back and forth on.

Apr 15, 2014 08:35 AM
 
apaterson

If only wRC+ was an option in Yahoo leagues! I kid of course, but I'm using it as a proxy for his overall offensive contributions, including SB, AVG, OBP, and SLG, which are common categories. Most projections have Segura somewhere in the range of .275/.320/.400 with 30-35 SBs, which is more in the Everth Cabrera tier than the tier of Desmond and Reyes, et al.

I should preface this by saying that I own neither player, but if I were to take the temperature of my dynasty leagues, I doubt any Taveras owners would trade him for Segura. I think there is perhaps more skepticism of Segura and his 2013 1st half (driven by a .350 BABIP) than there is of Taveras, in the long term.

I will agree with you that Taveras holds minimal fantasy value for 2014, however.

Apr 15, 2014 08:50 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Craig Goldstein
BP staff

I hear you and it obviously depends on the categories in a specific league. I think the dearth of talent at SS helps in this case, and as I said, I believe in Segura bouncing back to a certain extent.

I understand what you're saying i/r/t your dynasty leagues, but that's precisely why this is my list. I'm not writing this to be accurate to public opinion, it's my personal evaluation. Depending on the situation - because, as I said, they're quite close in value - I indeed would trade Taveras for Segura straight up.

Perhaps people should be more skeptical of Taveras? Perhaps not. That's up to them, I can only tell you how I view the situation. .350 might be unsustainable as a BABIP but Segura's were uniformly high throughout his minor league career. BABIP can't just be look at in a vacuum. He's fast, which helps, and has shown the ability to support elevated ones prior to his breakout (again, not AS high, but still).

I've said several times, it's a close call for me but I'll take the major leaguer at this point. I still believe in Taveras but I have some minor concerns that put Segura on top for me at the moment.

Apr 15, 2014 09:01 AM
 
BP staff member Craig Goldstein
BP staff

That probably came off more aggressive than I intended, but the point is - prospects aren't sure things. I don't think Segura is as good as his first two months nor as as bad as his following ones. If he finds the middle, that's an extremely valuable player at SS.

Apr 15, 2014 08:20 AM
 
boatman44

I like your lists gentlemen, I do ,I do,but as with all things listed as preference's you are open to question....so where the heck is Tim Cooney ,I bet a slab of beef he will be in the top ten of both your lists next year.so there !! :}

Apr 15, 2014 09:11 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Craig Goldstein
BP staff

Of course they're open for question. Cooney has been great thus far, but realistically, where and when is he going to see time in the big leagues? His upside is that of a 4th starter at best, with a realistic probability of a 5th start if we look at the BP Top 10. Combine the limited ceiling with opportunity - not to mention strikeout stuff - and I just didn't see the upside there to list him. I can't speak for Ben, but that's why he doesn't show up for me.

Apr 15, 2014 09:15 AM
 
boatman44

He will be better than a fourth starter , I see a third starter as a floor , and a Dan Haren type low whip and 6.5 k's per 9 as a ceiling . Thanks for the swift reply though.

Apr 15, 2014 09:40 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Craig Goldstein
BP staff

It's going to be difficult for him to be more than a 4th starter (especially in fantasy) with such a limited strikeout rate. Haren hasn't been below seven per nine since 2005 and was above eight consistently at his peak (he reach nine, actually).

Apr 15, 2014 09:53 AM
 
BP staff member Ben Carsley
BP staff

I look forward to your slab of beef.

Apr 16, 2014 07:10 AM
 
mdthomp

Vogelbach over Piscotty. Why is that?

Apr 15, 2014 12:48 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Craig Goldstein
BP staff

Coinflip for me as I very nearly left Vogelbach off. It's just an impact profile as a hitter though. Plus hit, plus power. Piscotty doesn't have the same type of ceiling i/r/t power, which gave Vogelbach the edge for me.

Apr 15, 2014 12:50 PM
 
mdthomp

makes sense. I'm higher on Piscotty than most, and also down on Vogelbach. don't think the bat plays at 1st.

Apr 15, 2014 13:05 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Carsley
BP staff

I'd take Piscotty first IRL, but I think Vogelbach will have a solid fantasy career, even if it comes as a UT.

Apr 16, 2014 07:09 AM
 
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Fantasy Article Closer Report: Week Th... (04/15)
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