Reviewing The Pre-Season Top 25 Hitting Prospects Rankings – Part 1

This year was a doozy in the minor leagues. I learned some lessons along the way but I certainly have quite a few predictions to hang my hat on to...

This year was a doozy in the minor leagues. I learned some lessons along the way but I certainly have quite a few predictions to hang my hat on to offset the failed ones to hang my noose on. For reference, here is the preseason article being referenced.

Let’s review, shall we?

These rankings are the original rankings from preseason 2015. The rankings have not been adjusted based on players’ 2015 performance.

1. Jorge Soler (OF, Cubs) – I decided to be bold and rank Soler ahead of Bryant due to a strong belief that he was due for an All-Star level year. Boy was I wrong. Only 7 Home Runs and a .265 AVG before he succumbed to injury. I still believe in his future but the high K rate is concerning.

2. Kris Bryant (3B, Cubs) – I predicted he “can hit .260-.270 with about 20 Home Runs and a handful of stolen bases from his call-up. But I expected a June ETA, and he got the call in April, and then hit .274 with 24 HR and 13 SB. I expected fewer stolen bases but I call this one a win.

3. Joc Pederson (OF, Dodgers)– I predicted that “a .250 20-20 season is certainly within reach for him if he arrives in the majors early.” Power? Check. .250 average? Negatory. .217 20 stolen bases? Not even close… Try three. This prediction looked way better in the first half. Well, he hit homers at least.

4. Steven Souza (OF, Rays) – I said Souza’s “power/speed combo is enticing, and can near 20/20 in a full season, but the average may be in the .230-240 range and he’s a higher bust risk as an older prospect with a history of off-the-field issues. He ended up being in between his upside and a bust, as he did show the power/speed combo with 15 HR and 12 SB, but with a .220 AVG and a scary 35% K rate. This was only over 374 PA due to injuries, and over a full season he would hit 20/20. But he remains a very high bust risk for next year.

5. Rusney Castillo (OF, Red Sox) – Rusney’s year was quite the roller coaster. Injuries, struggles, a minors surge, and late season redemption. I said he has 10-15 HR power, .270-.290 AVG, and 15-20 SB speed over a full year, though warned about the oblique injury ligering. In the majors he’s hitting .279 with 5 HR and 4 SB over 239 PA, which over a full season is pretty darn close to those ranges, though a bit short on speed.

6. Jung-Ho Kang (2B/SS, Pirates) – In the preseason, I was gung-ho for Jung-ho, so much that I was asked to be reasonable and bump my projection down… Since at the time, I was declaring him the #3 prospect and close to getting committed to a sanitarium. I wish I held my ground. Before going down recently, he was hitting .287 with 15 HR and 5 SB in 467 PA from the shortstop position, and if fully healthy should be a top-tier shortstop next year, still wielding the “Matsui-like upside” I drooled about. This was my crowning bold prediction achievement of the year.

7. Yasmany Tomas (OF/3B, Diamondbacks) – As bullish as I was on Kang, I was equally bearish on Tomas, originally ranking him lower than #7, and calling him a high bust risk due to strikeout concerns despite high power upside. This seemed spot-on in the spring, but then something strange happened… he sacrificed power for average, and due to injuries on the D-Backs squad, he lucked himself into a role and hi .282 with 8 Home Runs and 5 SB. I still think he’s a high bust risk for next year, as his .367 BABIP masked his 25.8% K rate.

8. Peter O’Brien (C, Diamondbacks) – I was wild with excitement over the fantasy upside of a catcher with 25-30 homer power, batting average be damned. The Diamondbacks, not so much. I expected a June call-up, especially after his torrid start. The Diamondbacks, not so much. He cooled off as the season went on but his poor defense is supposedly what kept him languishing at Triple-A. A dumb reason, if you ask me. Dumb as the Diamondbacks.

9. Jose Peraza (2B, Braves/Dodgers) – Peraza had a disappointing campaign, with fewer nabbed bags than expected, and then went to the Dodgers. He did get a call-up but with an unclear role, and struggled in a tiny sample size. He still should have a bright future, but this year Ketel Marte totally stole his thunder.

10. Micah Johnson (2B, White Sox) – Johnson got a last second huge boost in my rankings when it became likely that he would be the starting second baseman… oops. He wasn’t even that bad when he was demoted, I mean despite the bad defense and lack of power and speed, he was hitting .270. But he had an excellent campaign in the minors that should have gotten him called up before September. I’d put him down as a sleeper but his surge in K rate (which was still high-ish in the minors) gives me pause.

11. Michael Taylor (OF, Nationals) – I am mostly happy with my Taylor prediction. I predicted that Werth’s age and other fallen teammates would give him a full-season of playing time. Yep. I said he has 12-15 HR pop. On target with 14. I said he has 25-28 SB ability. Not quite. I predicted his contact struggles would give him a low AVG nearing the .220s. .234 is close enough. 3 out of 4 ain’t too shabby.

12. Devon Travis (2B, Blue Jays) – I had been a Devon fan for a few years, and predicted his mix of skills could have him surprise a la Kyle Seager, and that Izturis/Goins would not stop him. Aw yiss. He did outperform my predictions, since he hit .304 with 8 HR and 3 SB in 238 Abs and I only predicted him hitting .250-.260 with 8-10 HR and 10-12 SBs after a May Call-up. I hope he’s fine for next year after the shoulder surgery

13. Dalton Pompey (OF, Blue Jays) – I said in March “I’m rather bearish on his overall line, expecting .230-.240 with 5-8 Homers and 18-21 SB over a full season”. Where I really went wrong is expecting his plus defense to keep him in the lineup all year. I think if you adjust for a fluky-low .230 BABIP and extrapolate his 2 HR and 4 SB in 93 PA over a full-season, the rates aren’t far off… and I’m still grizzly bearish on him.

14. Francisco Lindor (SS, Indians) – The Lindor Truffle did scuffle for much of the year in the minors, but when Jose Ramirez’s struggles finally prompted his call-up, much like truffles, exploded with flavor. He’s hitting .315 with 9 Home Runs and 8 Stolen Bases in 367 PA. While my predictions of “6-8 Homers and 8-10 SB” in a partial season” was on point, I did NOT expect such a good average so early (though a .351 BABIP is rather unsustainable) Combined with his defense, he’s an allaround stud, and everything Jurickson Profar was supposed to be a few years ago.

15. Blake Swihart (C, Red Sox) – I predicted that his power increase in 2014 was not a fluke. Oops. He hit .276 with 2 HR and 4 SB over 269 PA, which isn’t bad for a catcher, but not the 7-10 HR I hoped for. He still has a bright future, and I think the power will re-emerge from it’s shell eventually.

16. Corey Seager (SS, Dodgers) – Crazy to think of a time before all the Seager hype hit. I expected him to make a smooth transition to the majors, with a July call-up after which he’d be a “prized midseason streamer and gem in H2H. Which works if September counts as “midseason”. He’s been hitting .426 with a homer and 2 SB in 57 PA. He has stud written all over him. In Sharpie.

This series will continue tomorrow with the rest of the players and final thoughts. The 2015 top pitching prospects retrospective will be covered next week.

Nick Pollack

Founder of Pitcher List. Creator of CSW, The List, and SP Roundup. Worked with MSG, FanGraphs, CBS Sports, and Washington Post. Former college pitcher, travel coach, pitching coach, and Brandeis alum. Wants every pitcher to be dope.

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