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A Look at the VEB Top Prospects

How are they doing so far this season?

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at San Francisco Giants Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to prospects, I subscribe primarily to their minor league stats more than projectability . That is why I am not a prospect guru. I need to see evidence of their greatness in order to believe in them. So from time to time, I look at a prospect’s stats, usually ones mentioned in the comments on this website. I thought it would be a good time, with the Futures Game coming this Sunday, to look at how the VEB Top Prospects List have performed this far into the season. These are A.E. Schafer’s rankings, though I also will put Ebo and Josey’s rankings in parentheses unless one or both of them agree with Schafer’s rankings, and in that situation, I won’t put their rankings at all.

#1 Alex Reyes - RHP

Welp. Moving on.

#2 Jack Flaherty - RHP (Josey - #3)

AAA: 5 GS, 31.2 IP, 32.5 K%, 5.6 BB%, 2.95 FIP, 3.17 xFIP, .274 BABIP, 15.3 SwStrk%

MLB: 13 GS, 70 IP, 28.4 K%, 7.3 BB%, 3.79 FIP, 3.43 xFIP, .271 BABIP, 12.4 SwStrk%

A minor league equivalency calculator - MLE - is a tool that theoretically translates a player’s minor league stats into MLB stats. It’s a cool tool, but it doesn’t seem to work that well. Flaherty’s MLB stats look like his AAA stats were put into an MLE calculator. This is a great thing, because his AAA stats are incredible. And honestly the MLE calculator would have assumed a greater drop in efficiency, because a 3.43 xFIP and a 3.17 xFIP are pretty close together. Unless you believe Flaherty will give up more homers per flyballs than the average pitcher - and we’re far too early in his career to be able to say that - he’s barely worse than his AAA stats.

#3 Carson Kelly - C (Josey - #4)

AAA: 191 PAs, .283/.366/.446, .298 BABIP, 11.5 BB%, 11.5 K%, .163 ISO, 111 wRC+

MLB: 29 PAs, .080/.148/.080, .105 BABIP, 3.4 BB%, 20.7 K%, .000 ISO, -34 wRC+

It’s probably best to just ignore that Kelly ever played in the MLB this year. Twenty-nine plate appearances is literally nothing. Kelly has displayed excellent plate discipline in the minors with a healthy amount of power. He will probably not have a greater than .300 BABIP in the majors, but if he shows even a modicum of that plate discipline and pop, he’s going to be a decent hitter. He doesn’t have a high bar, with reportedly excellent defense and him playing catcher. That gives you a very, very high floor.

#4 Tyler O’Nell - OF (Josey - #6)

AAA: 208 PAs, .304/.365/.663, .314 BABIP, 8.7 BB%, 24.5 K%, .359 ISO, 156 wRC+

MLB: 47 PAs, .227/.255/.455, .318 BABIP, 2.1 BB%, 42.6 K%, .227 ISO, 88 wRC+

Without his AAA stats for context, I would actually not be that into Tyler O’Neill as a player. His MLB stats are listed in the dictionary under the word unsustainable. That is one walk to 20 strikeouts. Thankfully, he has shown far greater plate discipline in the minors. With his power though, he doesn’t actually need great plate discipline, he just needs it to not be 1/20 K/BB ratio bad. Those AAA numbers are insane though. He started walking a lot after he got demoted the first time.

#5 Randy Arozarena, OF (Josey - #13)

AA: 55 PAs, .385/.418/.654, .485 BABIP, 3.6 BB%, 27.3 K%, .269 ISO, 188 wRC+

AAA: 221 PAs, .236/.329/.346, .279 BABIP, 8.1 BB%, 18.6 K%, .110 ISO, 80 wRC+

I know there are sample size issues with his AA stats, but these numbers look like two completely different players. The AA version is an overaggressive power hitter with poor plate discipline. The AAA version is a weak hitting middle infielder profile. And really, this happened last year too. In Palm Beach, he showed great power at a pitcher’s park, who didn’t walk much, but struck out less than average too (though too high for how little he walked). In Springfield, he displayed Matt Carpenter plate discipline with not much power. A hearty good luck to the projection systems with this player.

#6 Andrew Knizner, C (Ebo - #7, Josey - N/A)

AA: 200 PAs, .315/.382/.427, .351 BABIP, 8.5 BB%, 12.5 K%, .112 ISO, 121 wRC+

AAA: 51 PAs, .333/.400/.444, .385 BABIP, 7.8 BB%, 11.8 K%, .111 ISO, 127 wRC+

Knizner is the flashier of the two catching prospects, with a more impressive batting line, though as the resident Kelly defender, it’s worth pointing out that Kelly currently has a decent amount more power and better plate discipline numbers in AAA at the moment. But really Knizner has managed a very similar offensive profile to Kelly, just with a lot higher BABIP. Which might be a skill! Isn’t it nice to have two legitimate catching prospects?

#7 Harrison Bader, OF (Ebo - #6, Josey - #2)

MLB: 201 PAs, .271/.340/.414, .364 BABIP, 7.5 BB%, 28.4 K%, .144 ISO, 106 wRC+

Not much to say here, seeing as we’ve all gotten to see Bader surprise us with his excellent defense and better than expected offense (so far). The defense is the real story, though I have also been pleasantly surprised with his offense, where he has seems to have a better approach at the plate than what I saw last year in his short stint.

#8 Dakota Hudson, RHP (Ebo - #10, Josey - #7)

AAA: 17 GS, 104.1 IP, 17.8 K%, 8.1 BB%, 3.65 FIP, 4.51 xFIP, .312 BABIP, 10.4 SwStr%

I will note that he has a shiny 2.42 ERA, which is not reflected in the stats I chose, but other than that, his numbers aren’t really that impressive. He doesn’t strike anyone out, he walks a normal amount (though too many for how few he strikes out), and so far he has enjoyed a 1.3 HR/FB%. I am not a believer.

#9 Ryan Helsley, RHP (Ebo - #8, Josey - #10)

AA: 7 GS, 41 IP, 25.3 K%, 11.5 BB%, 4.62 FIP, 4.35 xFIP, .243 BABIP, 13.4 SwStr%

AAA: 5 Gs, 26.2 IP, 32.1%, 8.5 BB%, 3.21 FIP, 3.62 xFIP, .262 BABIP, 18.5 SwStrk%

Helsley appears to have been promoted to AAA because of promotions ahead of him more than his AA performance, but he’s certainly made the most of his time in Memphis. It’s not necessarily a huge surprise his numbers in Memphis are better than his numbers in Springfield, but that is a huge improvement. Though it’s necessary to point out Helsley had six relatively impressive starts in Springfield last year, so it’s probably just a sample size issue.

#10 Jordan Hicks, RP (Ebo - #11, Josey - #9)

MLB: 41 G, 45.2 IP, 20.7 K%, 12.2 BB%, 3.55 FIP, 4.16 xFIP, .208 BABIP, 10.2 SwStrk%

The story of Hicks season is well known. At the beginning of the season, he was getting groundballs but walking too many and not striking anyone out. I mean anyone. Then a change in approach led to a much more sustainably great pitcher. His numbers only look as mediocre as they are - advanced stats-wise - because his advanced stats for the first month were so poor.

#11 Adolis Garcia, OF (Ebo - #9, Josey - N/A)

AAA: 275 PAs, .230/.263/.414, 4 BB%, 23.6 K%, .263 BABIP, .184 ISO, 68 wRC+

Considering his age, he’s going to need to turn around his season immediately to still be considered a viable prospect. Those are really, really bad numbers.

#12 Max Schrock, 2B (Josey - #19)

AAA: 318 PAs, .281/.325/.366, 4.7 BB%, 7.2 K%, .293 BABIP, .086 ISO, 81 wRC+

The 23-year-old is reliant upon having a high BABIP in order to be an above average hitter. He doesn’t walk much and he doesn’t have much power. He will likely do neither of these things in the MLB either. His career low BABIP in the minors before this season was .329 and this year it’s .293. Hopefully, he has a Jon Jay talent for BABIP.

#13 Delvin Perez, SS (Ebo - #14, Josey - #12)

State College: 77 PAs, .279/.364/.338, 11.7 BB%, 19.5 K%, .358 BABIP, .059 ISO, 110 wRC+

We’re still trying to figure out what Delvin Perez is as a hitter, but he’s on this list because of his defense. That said, so far, so good on the hitting front. I would like to see more power, but he shows way more patience than I would expect from a 19-year-old light hitting shortstop.

#14 Dylan Carlson, 1B/OF (Ebo, Josey - #17)

A: 57 PAs, .234/.368/.426, 17.5 BB%, 17.5 K%, .257 BABIP, .191 ISO, 123 wRC+

A+: 234 PAs, .256/.352/.367, 12 BB%, 18.8 K%, .301 BABIP, .111 ISO, 108 wRC+

Carlson is 19-years-old. He’s already in Palm Beach and holding his own there right now. I don’t think Springfield will give him any trouble. He has excellent plate discipline. He needs to work on improving his power, but I’m not sure Palm Beach is where he’s going to find it. He should rise up the lists by next season.

#15 Yairo Munoz, UT (Ebo - #13, Josey - #20)

AAA: 100 PAs, .287/.330/.436, 5 BB%, 18 K%, .329 BABIP, .149 ISO, 99 wRC+

MLB: 165 PAs, .285/.339/.417, 7.3 BB%, 24.2 K%, .355 BABIP, .132 ISO, 105 wRC+

You don’t usually see more impressive numbers in the MLB than the minors, though this can be explained by the BABIP. Still, the fact that he’s been able to be an above hitter in the MLB, no matter how he’s done it, is impressive. Plus, take away his first 30 or so PAs where he struck out half the time and his numbers would look even more impressive.

#16 Austin Gomber, LHP (Ebo - #20, Josey - #5)

AAA: 10 G (9 GS), 58 IP, 27.4 K%, 6.9 BB%, 4.19 FIP, 4.02 xFIP, .329 BABIP, 12.0 SwStrk%

MLB: 15 G, 14.1 IP, 17 K%, 13.6 BB%, 4.73 FIP, 5.20 xFIP, .263 BABIP, 10.3 SwStrk%

It’s kind of weird how worse his MLB numbers are than his AAA numbers, considering he moved to relief. There’s a reason Mike Mayers can be an effective MLB reliever as a failed starter. It’s harder to be a starter. Gomber’s AAA numbers, specifically K/BB, are pretty great, but I guess he allows a lot of flyballs, because he has a 1.24 HR/9 and that’s barely unlucky. I don’t know what to make of this guy.

#17 Oscar Mercado, OF (Ebo, Josey - #15)

AAA: 357 PAs, .293/.365/.426, 9.5 BB%, 14.3 K%, .330 BABIP, .132 ISO, 110 wRC+

Mercado seems to have gotten even better than his breakout season in Springfield last year. Ignore the fact that his wRC+ of 110 is technically lower than his 114 last year. He has cut down on his Ks significantly (21.4% last year), walked a lot more (6.1% last year), and basically maintained his power from last year (.140 ISO last year). His BABIP is lower, but his hitting profile became a lot more likely to succeed in the MLB with his adjustments.

#18 Alvaro Seijas, RHP (Ebo - #25, Josey - N/A)

A: 15 G, 13 GS, 77 IP, 13.8 K%, 9.8 BB%, 4.96 FIP, 5.11 xFIP, .360 BABIP, 9.2 SwStrk%

The Cardinals clearly believed in Seijas, as he skipped State College for full season ball in Peoria. Whenever a player skips a level, you can probably expect one of three results: he exceeds expectations and posts similar or even better numbers than his previous level, his numbers decline but he more or less was able to hold his own, or they suck. Seijas has been the latter unfortunately. Hopefully he can figure it out and he’s got a lot of time, being 19-years-old and all.

#19 Scott Hurst, OF (Ebo - #18, Josey - N/A)

A: 216 PAs, .295/.361/.411, 8.8 BB%, 19 K%, .353 BABIP, .116 ISO, 118 wRC+

His numbers in Peoria look good, but since he’s an outfielder, I suspect the Cardinals would like to see a bit more power. Considering the difficulty some hitters have at Palm Beach, I’m curious if he’ll skip straight to Springfield if he ends the season with a strong enough line. He’s not particularly young for his level at the moment at 22-years-old so I think it would make sense.

#20 Jonatan Machado, OF (Ebo - #16, Josey - N/A)

Johnson City: 71 PAs, .403/.479/.516, 11.3 BB%, 15.5 K%, .480 BABIP, .113 ISO, 168 wRC+

A: 96 PAs, .185/.208/.228, 3.1 BB%, 15.6 K%, .218 BABIP, .043 ISO, 19 wRC+

The Cardinals wanted to see Machado in full season minor league ball so they advanced him all the way to Peoria to begin the season. It did not work out. At all. They sent him down not to State College, but to Johnson City, where he has mashed the ball. He will probably be promoted to State College before the year is up, but it’s clear the Cards miscalculated how ready he was.

Schafer has more prospects ranked, but I’ll finish out both Ebo and Josey’s top 20 instead, with Schafer’s ranking if applicable.

Josey - #8 Junior Fernandez, RHP (RB - #22, Ebo - #24)

A+: 8 G, 9.2 IP, 18 K%, 5.1 BB%, 3.20 FIP, 3.98 xFIP, .321 BABIP, 16.9 SwStrk%

With Fernandez apparently moving to the bullpen, there’s a good chance he’ll eventually make the major league. Considering he’s still a low strikeout guy in the bullpen, I’m not sure he’ll make an appearance on this list next year though. He just got promoted to Springfield, so good for him, but we’ll see if he can start striking guys out. The potential is there, as you can see by his swinging strike%.

Josey - #11 Jake Woodford, RHP (RB - #25, Ebo #21)

AA: 15 GS, 76 IP, 15.2 K%, 10 BB%, 5.81 FIP, 5.09 xFIP, .316 BABIP, 8.2 SwStrk%

AAA: 3 Gs, 15.1 IP, 18.5 K%, 4.6 BB%, 4.69 FIP, 4.24 xFIP, .277 BABIP, 9.5 SwStrk%

Best I can tell, Woodford got promoted due to injuries or promotions above him, but I’m sure the Cardinals were happy to get him out of Springfield too. In three starts for AAA, he’s shown some significant improvement from his numbers earlier this year. He’s also 21-years-old, so he certainly has time.

Josey - #14 Edmundo Sosa, 2B/3B/SS (RB, Ebo - #23)

AA: 279 PAs, .276/.308/.429, 3.2 BB%, 18.6 K%, .319 BABIP, .153 ISO, 95 wRC+

AAA: 48 PAs, .222/.271/.311, 4.2 BB%, 10.4 K%, .250 BABIP, .089 ISO, 51 wRC+

Well, Sosa is going to have to learn how to walk or pick up some other special skill to compensate for never walking. If he’s striking out near 19% of the time in AA, I can’t imagine he’ll be that better in the majors (small 48 PA in AA withstanding) and if he’s going to strike out anywhere near that, he needs to walk.

Josey - #16 Tommy Edman, SS (RB - #24, Ebo - #19)

AA: 371 PAs, .287/.341/.389, 7.5 BB%, 16.2 K%, .102 ISO, 97 wRC+

The 23-year-old has certainly improved in just about every way from his last season in Springfield. He quickly advanced up to Springfield but has stalled out a bit there. Looks like the Cards were smart to quickly get him out of Palm Beach after he had a good 82 PAs. Hopefully he can finish his season strong.

Josey - #18 Ian McKinney, LHP (RB, Ebo - N/A)

A+: 5 G, 7.1 IP, 46.7 K%, 10 BB%, 1.23 FIP, 1.48 xFIP, .250 BABIP, 12.8 SwStrk%

AA: 18 G, 31.1 IP, 16.3 K%, 15.7 BB%, 6.51 FIP, 6.07 xFIP, .280 BABIP, 7.4 SwStrk%

McKinney, similarly is stalling a bit in Springfield. Last year he had a great time throwing in Palm Beach and then his numbers fell way off in Springfield. This year has been more extreme as his very, very small sample in Palm Beach was about as good as a pitcher can pitch and his AA numbers are even worse than last year.

Overall, more positives than negatives, though the one very big negative at the top of the list is a... well very big negative. If you were wondering how the top 20 of the VEB prospect rankings were doing, I hope I was able to provide you with the answer to that.