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Reviewing BA's Top 100: Rays Perspective

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball America puts out one of baseball's most outstanding top prospect lists, recommended for any fan looking to see which players are up-and-coming, and which teams have the most top-notch talent. It is not unusual to see a number of their highly rated pre-season prospects playing prominent roles by the end of each season.

Making this kind of list up is not easy.

First, it is hard to eliminate all bias. Bias can enter the analysis in a variety of ways. One analyst may put more weight on pitch speed separation than on velocity of the fastball, for instance. Some may value a hitter's power over his hit tool. These lists represent hours of analysis and myriad decisions.  It's a commendable effort.

While I respect their knowledge, I don't always share their conclusions, however. They have their biases and preferences; we have ours.

You can access the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects list for 2016 here.

BA's Top 100: Rays Perspective

To assess this list from a Rays perspective, we'll compare it to the top 10 put out by Baseball America, and then look at the top 100/101 lists put out by other prominent sites to see which prospects were included and which omitted.

Here is an annotated list of the Rays players included on BA's list:

12. Blake Snell, lhp, Rays
Fastball: 70. Slider: 55. Changeup: 65. Control: 50. ETA: 2016. Age: 23

The grades differ only slightly from Fangraphs (which may not be updated yet this offseason). Most notably, they have his fastball at 60 vice BA's 70, noting some possible progress in its effectiveness. Overall, you can't knock this ranking. It's a fair ranking that places his ETA, appropriately, as 2016 and for those reasons, we give this ranking a thumbs up.

46. Willy Adames, ss, Rays
Hit: 55. Power: 55. Speed: 40. Fielding: 55. Arm: 60. ETA: 2017. Age: 20

Again, the grades differ only slightly from those of Fangraphs in 2015, with the major difference being the uptick in Power at 55 (compared to Fangraphs' 50). Both rightfully rate his arm at an impressive 60. This ranking is also very fair, placing Adames in the company of Tim Anderson (45th) and Ryan McMahon (43rd), and ahead of pitcher standouts like Michael Fulmer (47th) and Kenta Maeda (50th). For those reasons, this ranking also gets a thumbs up.

65. Brent Honeywell rhp, Rays
Fastball: 60. Curveball: 50. Changeup: 60. Control: 60. ETA: 2017. Age: 20

The fastball is rated higher than ever and it joins his change up in garnering a well above-average rating. What bugs me here is how, and why, you would have a pitcher with two pitches rated at 60 well behind the likes of the previously mentioned Maeda who doesn't have 1 pitch rated at 60. I'd be curious to know how high Honeywell would have ranked if he had been a Japanese import who was handed millions by the Dodgers. In this case, we'll give this ranking a thumbs down and say it should have been in the 50-59 range.

78. Jake Bauers 1b, Rays
Hit: 65. Power: 50. Speed: 55. Fielding: 50. Arm: 45. ETA: 2017. Age: 20

This ranking was a pleasant surprise, and likely a result of his performance in the AFL and the confidence the Rays showed him by moving him to AA at such a young age. I also want to point out the greater confidence BA displayed in his tools as compared to Fangraphs, which had rated him as follows for 2015: Hit 20/55, Power 45/45+, Speed at 35/35, Field at 45/50+, and throws at 50/50. There's a clear discrepancy, but I see Bauers as having the greater upside. With this in mind, we give this ranking - and grading - a huge thumbs up.

BA Top 100: Compared to Rays Top 10

BA's list is consistant with Hudson Belinsky's order of Top Rays Prospects as he noted in publishing their Top 10. He has placed Blake Snell first, Willy Adames second, Brent Honeywell third, and Jake Bauers fourth. With their list, the entire BA staff essentially confirmed that Belinsky got it right.

For that reason, we applaud Belinsky's efforts and do believe that it adds weight to the rankings.

Noteworthy is the absence of Garrett Whitley, who was selected 13th overall in the 2015 draft. The omission can be viewed in many ways, (see below) but it's particularly interesting when those selected behind him rank so highly on the list. Kolby Allard was taken 14th and ranks 84th on the list, Trent Clark was selected 15th and ranks 49th on the list, and Brady Aiken was taken 17th and ranks 71st on the list.

It's too early to get too worried about Whitley's ranking overall, but it does point to the risk the Rays took when they selected him. Hopefully Whitley's 2016 season will prove his doubters wrong.

BA Top 100: Compared to Other Sites

The next thing to note is which Rays prospects were omitted, and whether any other ranking sites had them included. Here are the three notable omissions:

  • Garrett Whitley: 68th on's Top 100 list, but was also omitted on Baseball Prospectus' Top 101 list
  • Taylor Guerrieri: 84th on Baseball Prospectus' Top 101 list; and
  • Daniel Robertson: 79th on's Top 100 list, and 88th on Baseball Prospectus' Top 101 list
  • The most surprising omission has to be Garrett Whitley, a player who was ranked 5th by Belinsky for the Rays Top 10 and was within the top 70 for That he was left off the lists for both BA and BP is likely a result of his lower-than-anticipated production after the draft. While the tools remain, many are concerned about his hitting ability and whether or not it will translate well at the upper levels of the minors.

    That leads us to an issue that many of us have with these lists, whether from BA, BP,, or any other site. They strike us as highly risk-averse, going with the more tested (if unspectacular) player over the high ceiling guy who hasn't had a chance to show his talent. This makes perfect sense when your opinions are being judged by thousands of people. You are more likely to look foolish if you trumpet a high ceiling player who nose-dives than if you simply leave him off the list until he's a sure bet.

    BA Top 100: The Omitted Rays Prospects

    Whitley: When looking at the three major Rays prospect omissions, the most controversial would seem to be Whitley, and for good reason. Drafted in such a high position (13th overall in 2015), and out of high school, there was both a lot of pressure on him and a steep learning curve as he turned pro.

    Being from the Northeast didn't do him any favors in terms of playing time and exposure to above-average pitching, and we can expect him to make a big jump forward as he gains experience. Whitley's tools, youth, energy, and makeup are more than enough to rank him in the 70 to 100 range, in my view. Who could he replace? I'll point to "three" that I believe he should be ranked ahead of - at a minimum: Ian Happ (87th, 2B/OF-CHC), Harold Ramirez (95th, OF-PIT), and all of those ranked from 96 through 100.

    Guerrieri: In this case, many are of the mind that the issues which plagued him early on - whether makeup or injury related - are still working against him. He does need to prove that he can lengthen his starts in order to be taken more seriously as a top prospect, but when he is pitching, he's one of the more dominant pitchers out there.

    He's proven to be effective against AA hitters, so if he can put out a full and healthy season in 2016, he may jump into the Top 50, never mind the Top 100. There's also a good chance that he reaches The Show in 2016 and loses the chance to make the Top 100 list, something I'm sure he won't be too worried about.

    However, it's telling that so many less proven and less skilled pitchers are ranked ahead of him on this Top 100 list. I'd take Guerrieri over Joe Musgrove, Erick Fedde, and Kolby Allard, and am fairly certain that many would if they were GMs conducting a draft today and looking at the tool sets of each pitcher.

    Most interestingly, just three years ago, Baseball America thought Guerrieri was good enough to rank him 62nd overall after he dominated the NYPL. And yet after dominating HiA and AA, he can't crack the top 100? Doesn't make much sense to me, but that's where things stand. Thumbs down on Guerrieri's omission.

    Robertson: In this case, I tend to be more forgiving because he did trend downward in many key areas as he jumped to AA. His ISO went down from .161 to .140, his average dropped from .310 to .274, his OBP dropped from .402 to .363, and his wRAA dropped from 27.4 to 8.9.

    This suggests that his 2014 was so outstanding that it placed expectations on his 2015 that were extremely hard to meet. Let's remember that at a very young age, he still managed to maintain a 123 wRC+ in AA while playing SS at an outstanding level.

    His SO rate was still low at 16.7%, he's still an OBP machine at .363 - even if it is a drop year-over-year, and his wOBA of .364 is outstanding for a 21 year old playing SS in AA. In short, in my opinion, evaluators have been too tough on Robertson and he's going to "shock" many of them when he makes it to the majors and proves them wrong.

    In his case, those he can be directly compared to - and beats - on the Top 100 list include Amed Rosario (58th, SS-NYM), even with Christian Arroyo (62nd, SS-SF), and Jose Peraza (66th, 2B-CIN). He easily trumps Ian Happ (87th, 2B-CHC) and Brandon Drury (94th, 2B-ARZ), making his omission on the Top 100 list at least questionable.

    Closing Thoughts

    There's a lot to love about the BA Top 100 list, and it begins with the layout. I enjoyed the basic names and grades format on one page, making navigation much easier than navigating through lists of 10 prospects at a time. For those who subscribe to BA, we get all of the scouting reports in the Top 10 lists, so there really is no need for them to expand on the grades they assign each player.

    What remains painfully obvious in this list, however, is that  biases still exist, particularly as the lists get to the 50-100 range. The weight on safe picks and performance versus projection rankings is obvious, but as previously stated, is understood as a safety net against criticism.

    The 2016 list has question marks within it, but none is so critical as to make it thumbs down on the list as a whole. It brings a lot of opinion, time, and work together, and should be noted for its ability to point to 100 of the more prominent prospects in baseball. Are they the actual top 100? Well, I leave it to you to make your own mind up and share your thoughts with us in the comments.