BP’s top 101 Prospects

JH · March 3, 2010 at 1:39 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus’s prospect guru, just released his personal top 101 prospect list. The ranking of the Mariners’ usual suspects is pretty much in line with what everyone else has been saying. Dustin Ackley’s on at #12 and Michael Saunders comes in at #62. He likes Saunders less than BA does, but the difference between #30 and #62 really isn’t that huge.

At the back end, though, is a pretty big shocker. Bucking industry consensus, Goldstein ranked SS Gabriel Noriega as the #94 prospect in baseball. This ranking is…aggressive, to say the least. Noriega is a great defensive shortstop with a level swing who produced only modest power last year while striking out in nearly 30% of his at-bats for Pulaski. Baseball America was nowhere near as impressed with him, ranking him towards the back end of the Mariners’ top-30 list.

Clearly Goldstein is hearing something about Noriega that other talent evaluators are not. I generally respect Goldstein’s opinion, but I don’t really get this one.  I hate to be a downer, but Noriega is one of the rawest talents in a system that also features Gregory Halman and Denny Almonte. As nice as it is to see a national prospect analyst so high on one of our players, we should all temper our expectations quite a bit. There’s upside here, but if Noriega is able to hold his own in the Midwest League this year I will be pleasantly surprised.


21 Responses to “BP’s top 101 Prospects”

  1. Dave on March 3rd, 2010 1:41 pm

    That rating is crazy.

  2. JH on March 3rd, 2010 1:42 pm

    I was trying to be a bit more tactful, but…yeah.

  3. CCW on March 3rd, 2010 1:59 pm

    Dave thinks something BP puts out is crazy. Shocking. Goldstein is generally more impressed with tools and projection than others. In my opinion, he doesn’t discount enough for risk, but whatever… he’s good. I’m sure he has his reasons for putting Noriega 93, I’m sure he’ll explain them, and I doubt they’re “crazy”.

  4. marc w on March 3rd, 2010 2:04 pm

    Well, he had Saunders and Noriega as ‘four star prospects’ in the Future Shock top, er, 11 list earlier, so at least he gave us a head’s up!

    John Sickels had Noriega at #3 in the system too, so it’s not JUST Goldstein. No idea where or if he ranks in Sickels’ MLB-wide top 50 hitters list.

  5. JH on March 3rd, 2010 2:17 pm

    It’s not just a classic “tools v. performance” ranking, though. That I would get. I got it when Goldstein put Halman in the top-50 last year, though I disagreed pretty strongly.

    The disconnect for me is that Noriega’s upside really isn’t that high. In a perfect world he’s a plus defensive shortstop with ok bat control and average-to-slightly-below-average power. That’s a very solid player, but it’s hardly the monster upside you usually see when you’re ranking a kid this raw in the top-100.

  6. Jay Yencich on March 3rd, 2010 2:46 pm

    I keep wondering if they’re just looking at his age and his somewhat unusual power output this year and drawing some inappropriate conclusions.

  7. Spike3 on March 3rd, 2010 3:10 pm

    Seems to me his age is highly relevant – as a slick-fielding 18 year-old shortstop, he hit over .300 and slugged .456, 14th in the league. That’s impressive. All of the players who finished ahead of him in slugging were older (OK, Jiovanni Mier is only 18 days older). His slugging average was up .165 from 2008, suggesting that his power is developing, not unusual for a Latin Amercian youngster. I’m not sure why his 2009 power output should be considered “unusual” – before 2009, he had played a total of 50 games, all as a 17 year-old. I understand that significant projection is involved and that he probably won’t continue to sport a .438 BABIP, but it seems at least arguable that his upside is significant. And I won’t be surprised if he holds his own in the Midwest League this year.

  8. marc w on March 3rd, 2010 4:37 pm

    Well, it may be that he’s not projecting a monster upside for Noriega, but something more like what Asdrubal Cabrera’s been able to do in the majors.

    Let me be really clear here: if Noriega wants to be in Cabrera’s neighborhood, he’s going to have to get a lot better. Cabrera’s midwest league debut was stunning – even Ks/BBs, solid gap power (!) at 19, moved up quickly midway through the year. Still, the point is that if Goldstein sees him as an impact defender who’s a decent contact hitter, that can net you 4 wins (Cabrera’d be 4 wins if his defense rated as average; not sure I buy the UZR on him right now).
    Though, to be a decent MLB contact hitter you’d certainly expect someone to be a decent contact hitter in the Appy league, whatever their age.

  9. Dave on March 3rd, 2010 4:57 pm

    BA did a prospect draft to supplement their Top 100, where 11 writers each chose 30 prospects, for a total of 330 guys selected.

    Players picked from the M’s:

    13. Ackley
    55. Saunders
    117. Moore
    141. Liddi
    146. Triunfel
    209. Franklin
    227. Pineda
    297. Martinez
    311. Jones
    324. Hill
    326. Pimentel
    328. Hensley

    Not taken? Gabriel Noriega. BA is not perfect, nor should everything they do be taken as gospel, but… I’ll just let that speak for itself.

  10. Jay Yencich on March 3rd, 2010 5:35 pm

    I find the disconnect between their Mariners top ten and this list to be interesting as well. No Dan Cortes, no Gregory Halman.

  11. Carson on March 3rd, 2010 5:57 pm

    This might be a silly question. But, I haven’t had that much too drink yet tonight and I just can’t recall…

    Who is JH?

  12. Conor on March 3rd, 2010 6:04 pm

    I find the disconnect between their Mariners top ten and this list to be interesting as well. No Dan Cortes, no Gregory Halman.

    Jay – Yeah, I haven’t looked at each team’s guys that were drafted and tried to see how they line up with the Prospect Handbook, but I’d bet there are discrepancies in each of them. Obviously that’s just because of the “it only takes one team” cliche, as far as drafting goes, and everyone’s board is lined up differently.

  13. Rod O. on March 3rd, 2010 6:16 pm

    Not saying there is much chance of him being any were as good but… I wonder what people were saying about another infielder from his country that was great on D and hit .225 in belingham in ’85 then .213 in the midwest league the next season. People probably would have thought you were nuts if you had told them Omar vizquel would be talked about for the Hall of Fame. Not saying he’s good enough to be the #98 prospect in baseball… but I’d rather believe in a defensive prospect then sit back and hope a power bat figures out how to hit above .210 in AA.

  14. lesch2k on March 3rd, 2010 6:34 pm


    jh is the Tacoma beat writer for ussmariner this year ( I think)

    there’s a post about him In the past few weeks.

  15. Spike3 on March 3rd, 2010 7:34 pm

    Cabrera is smaller than Noriega and never hit for much power in the minors. Jack Wilson is considered a valuable asset at shortstop without much offensive punch – it seems at least possible if not likely that Noriega could exceed Wilson’s offensive ability level. Clearly, he has work to do on making contact but he’s only 19.

  16. Dave on March 3rd, 2010 8:07 pm

    No one is saying Noriega is worthless or lacks ability. We’re just saying that, given his skills and present level of development, putting him in the Top 100 is… it’s just not the right balance of risk and reward.

  17. CCW on March 4th, 2010 8:09 am

    Prospect lists like this, especially once you get past the prospects that basically everyone views as elite, are extremely subjective and infinitely debatable. What’s a “better” prospect: a guy with a 25% chance of being an average player in the big leagues but a 75% chance of never getting there at all or a guy with a 90% chance of being a 4th OF or decent reliever but only a 10% of being league average. You’ll learn a lot more from the author’s explanation of his rationale than from the list itself.

    I’d venture a guess that, because things do really break down once you get past the top 50-60 prospects, Goldstein doesn’t put as much effort into the rest. You could put the next 150 prospects in almost any order and find a way to justify it. So, rather than really dig in, he falls back on two things that he equates to upside: tools and youth. Which Noriega has on his side.

  18. JH on March 4th, 2010 9:24 am

    You’re right in a sense. The difference between the #50 prospect and the #80 prospect can definitely be subjective. In my view, though, and I think in the view of most of the people in the industry, Noriega’s ranked something like 350 spots too high. He’s just nowhere near a top-100 quality prospect.

  19. CCW on March 4th, 2010 10:16 am

    Well, I certainly trust you, and others who follow the M’s farm system specifically, over Goldstein. But I also just don’t get too excited about any one prospect once you get past the top tier. They’re exciting in the same way that it’s exciting to play roulette. Whether you bet $50 on one number or $10 each on five different numbers, your chances are still slim. Goldstein favors prospects that equate to the first approach, whereas some evaluators favor prospects that are like the second. Either way, you’re gambling… and it’s fun.

  20. marc w on March 4th, 2010 11:31 am

    In this case CCW it’s not so much about approach (young, toolsy players that are extremely high risk/high reward), it’s about Goldstein’s evaluation of those hitting tools themselves.

    I’m quite surprised by the ranking, but as I said, Sickels had him there and we already saw Noriega way up there on Goldstein’s Mariner top 11. So this gets back to what JH said in the post: someone’s telling Goldstein that Noriega’s got a real chance to develop as a hitter, whereas Baseball America and others just aren’t seeing it. This isn’t a difference in approach, this is a straight-up disagreement about Noriega’s tools. I’m encouraged that there’s even a debate about it, however long the odds.

  21. JH on March 4th, 2010 7:19 pm

    CCW, you’re not getting it. We know that Goldstein puts more weight on tools relative to performance than BA. There’s no need to educate us on different theories of prospect valuation. The disconnect here is that most talent evaluators who look at Noriega don’t see the tools. His defense and arm are his only plus tools. His power, hit, and speed tools are all well below average. The total package doesn’t add up to a guy worthy of anything anywhere near a top-100 ranking.

    It’s easy to see a kid who’s young and from Latin America and assume he’s got a very high ceiling. A lot of prospect analysts make the mistake of looking at these kids as archetypes rather than evaluating their specific skills. Noriega doesn’t have Hanley Ramirez upside. He has something more along the lines of Jack Wilson upside. Call me crazy, but I don’t think a guy with a 5% chance of becoming Jack Wilson is one of the 100 best prospects out of the thousands of guys in the minor leagues.

    Spike3: Asdrubal Cabrera had a .156 ISO as a 19-year-old in the Midwest League while walking as many times as he struck out. If we understood defensive value as well in 2005 as we do today he’d be a consensus top-50 prospect. Noriega doesn’t have anywhere near that kind of power potential.

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