I haven't started doing the real legwork for my off-season prospect list -- so maybe this year isn't special -- but it strikes me that doing rankings after the 2012 season is going to be more difficult than usual. The top of the list shouldn't be too hard: Chris Archer doesn't seem likely to exhaust his eligibility, and the Rays two previous top picks in Taylor Guerrieri and Richie Shaffer had varying degrees of strong debuts in Hudson Valley and should toward the top of the list. Hak-Ju Lee fell short of expectations but looks like a consensus top-5 prospect in the system. But what do you do with guys like...
...Josh Sale, who hit .353/.485/.765 in May, only to follow it up by hitting .234 and .204 the next two months and eventually have his season cut short due to a 50-game amphetamine suspension, which will obviously cut into his 2013 season? Are the on-base skills he showed (51 walks in 74 games) for real? Will the power continue to show up in games? By any measure, 2012 was a big improvement on his debut with Princeton, but how aggressive should we (that's the royal we) be with his ranking? And for that matter, Ryan Brett is in the same boat, finishing at .285/.348/.393 before getting popped for the 50-game suspension.
...Enny Romero, who saw his strikeout rate plummet? Last year with Bowling Green, he looked like he might be the Next Big Thing, striking out 140 in 114 innings for the Hot Rods. He struggled with his control, but seemed prime for a step forward moving into the Florida State League. It didn't materialize. His K/9 fell from 11.1 down to 7.6 while his walk rate held steady at 5.4 per 9 innings. He showed legit stuff in the Futures Game and there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about a 21-year-old lefty with an arm as live as his, but those hoping for Matt Moore-lite (okay, that's me) were disappointed with his campaign....Todd Glaesmann, the toolsy outfielder who showed surprising pop in the FSL? The approach -- 30 walks, 124 strikeouts in 127 games -- is sub-par, but he has a sterling defensive reputation and his 21 home runs led the system. He's big at 6-4/220 but was voted the Midwest League's top defensive outfielder in BaseballAmerica's tools survey, shifting to RF once he was promoted to Charlotte. In 36 games for the Stone Crabs, he hit .295/.333/.554 to bring his season OPS to .829. Are those legitimate strides after two seasons of sub-.700 OPSes? Will his plate approach be his undoing, or does his defense and power do enough to cancel that out?
...the multitude of guys who got hurt? Grayson Garvin pitched 46 mostly ineffective innings. Wilking Rodriguez got to 79... if you include 2011. Brandon Guyer's season ended after 22 games (and he'll be 27 years old). Granden Goetzman didn't even get that far. Alex Torres was hurt but arguably deserves a category to himself: 69 innings with Durham, 63 walks. Oh, and he'll be out of options for 2013.
...Parker Markel and Ryan Carpenter, a pair of 21-year-olds who pitched for Bowling Green? Markel featured a 96-34 K-BB rate in 120 innings, while Carpenter posted a 113-23 in 149.2. With 3.52 and 4.09 ERAs respectively, are those good seasons? Both have flashed plus stuff in the past, Markel in the NY-PL and Carpenter in college, but the strikeout numbers seem to indicate they either don't have it anymore (likely, for Carpenter, who seems to be re-inventing himself as a control pitcher) or have trouble translating it into results.
...Alejandro Segovia, who wasn't on anybody's radar coming into the season? A 22-year-old catcher for Bowling Green, he rode a white-hot summer to a .269/.362/.527 season line. He hit for power (15 HRs) and made contact (36 strikeouts in 70 games), but just about his entire positive track is May through July. Was his slow finish -- .697 OPS in August, .545 OPS over his final ten games -- due to fatigue? Did the league adjust to him? How much do you weigh age, and then the position on top of that?
...Oscar Hernandez, who followed up a .402/.503/.732 VSL season in 2011 with a .231/.349/.394 line for Princeton? He walked 23 times and struck out just 31 in 49 games, but is that enough to stay aggressive with him? Or do you look at Hector Guevara, who also hit well in the VSL (though not to Oscar's extent), showed an ability to make contact in the States in his Princeton debut, but has done little else as a pro
That's without getting into teenagers in the Midwest League in Jake Hager and Tyler Goeddel, older pitchers in the New York-Penn League in Jesse Hahn and Jeff Ames, and, of course, Tim Beckham. Do you know what to do with Tim Beckham? I don't.