Tuesday, November 19, 2013

DBS Top 30 Prospects 2014 -- #30 to #26

Let's sort the laundry!  Time for the annual (and eagerly-anticipated) DBS Top 30 Prospects series.

Ground rules -- 130 at-bats, 50 innings pitched, or 30 relief appearances in the majors exhausts your eligibility.  So bid adieu to Justin Wilson, Bryan Morris, Jordy Mercer, and top prospect Gerrit Cole.

The way I evaluate prospects is two-fold:
1) What is the player's ultimate ceiling?
2) What is the likelihood that he will reach it?

#2 has to do with injury history, location on the rungs of the minor league ladder, and other non-performance factors (suspensions).  So with that said, let's tackle the first five.  The number in parentheses is the player's age for the 2014 season, using the standard July 1st cutoff date.  I'm forecasting the level they may start at, as well.

#30 Wyatt Mathisen, C (20), A -- There is no question that 2013 was a wasted year for Mathisen.  His on-field performance was awful (.228/.323/.251, 575 OPS) and he dealt with various injuries to his shoulder throughout the year, too.  But there is still an athletic and talented player within Mathisen.  The issue at hand now is the presence of 2013 1st round pick, Reese McGuire, in the system.  Clearly, McGuire is "the catcher of the future", and needs reps.  Typically, those reps for high-end HS draftees start at Low A the year after his draft year (like Mathisen), but Mathisen's performance doesn't warrant a promotion to High A.

Further complicating it is the fact that Jin-de Jhang needs to move up from short-season to Low A in 2014, too.  Mathisen and Jhang will most likely be the starters at Low A, with McGuire sticking behind at Extended Spring Training in the hopes that Mathisen impresses enough to move up.  However, Mathisen could also be looking at a position change, too.  In short, Mathisen is a total mystery to me in 2014 at this point.

#29 Neil Kozikowski, RHP (19), SS -- Kozikowski was the Pirates' 8th round draft pick this year out of a Connecticut HS.  He was able to pitch 24 innings in the GCL.  Kozikowski is tall (6'-4") and thin (180), which fits the profile of the projectable HS arm the Pirates are enamored with.  He should follow the typical model and move up to one of the short-seasons this year, either Jamestown or the new team in the Appalachian League in Bristol.

#28 Ryan Hafner, RHP (22), A+ -- Ryan Hafner in 2012 was a disaster as a starter (75 walks in 74 innings with only 36 K's), but in 2013 as a pure reliever he was much better (102 strikeouts in 87 innings, with only 40 walks).  His fastball jumped up to the low 90's from the 87-88 it was sitting as a starter and his offspeed stuff showed improvements.  At this point, Hafner's career should remain in the pen and keep moving him up the chain.

#27 Adalberto Santos, OF (26), AAA -- To me, Santos has the makings of a decent 25th man, which would be a nice get for your #27 prospect.  This is his last year on the list, win or lose, as he is in his age-26 season in 2014.  He's defensively limited, but he can put the bat on the ball and could be a decent pinch hitter/pinch runner (.281/.375/.386, 782 OPS, w/ 21 steals).  Santos did not get bumped up mid-season in 2013, which probably speaks to his overall future, but I'm going to keep the flame burning one more year.

#26 Kyle McPherson, RHP (26), AAA -- Like Santos, this will be McPherson's final year on the list, as I don't believe you are a prospect anymore at age 27.  McPherson got his feet wet in the majors in 2012 and was a candidate for the #5 spot coming into Spring Training 2013, but he experienced some arm troubles.  This led to a demotion to Indy and he was awful (2 starts, 4.2 IP, 19.29 ERA) before getting Tommy John surgery.  He'll be out until mid-2014, most likely, and then will have to claw his way back to Pittsburgh with a pretty long line of starters ahead of him in the pecking order.  His future is probably as a middle reliever.

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