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The final VEB top 20 prospect post

One more vote actually

Salt River Rafters v. Mesa Solar Sox Photo by Jerry Kime/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Here’s where I confess. I screwed up. I accidentally omitted Reiner Lopez from the voting for the first couple hours. When I first saw this mistake, the vote total was at 79. Now, the struggle is that I’m not exactly sure what the vote count was when he actually went on the list proper. I think it was, at its highest, at 90 votes. If that is the case, he got 19% of the vote when he was on the ballot.

I do wish I remember Willis’ exact percentage when he was added, but he received 24% of the vote overall. He did lead by more with Lopez off the ballot, but he didn’t have some crazy high number either if I remember correctly. In order for him to have had 19% of the vote with Lopez on the ballot, he would have had to have 33.3% of the vote with him off it. I don’t believe it was that high. But what the hell, I’ll throw up a final vote and see where it lands.


Pick one

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    Reiner Lopez, RHP
    (47 votes)
  • 72%
    Alec Willis, RHP
    (122 votes)
169 votes total Vote Now
  1. Jordan Walker
  2. Masyn Winn
  3. Tink Hence
  4. Gordon Graceffo
  5. Alec Burleson
  6. Ivan Herrera
  7. Cooper Hjerpe
  8. Matthew Liberatore
  9. Michael McGreevy
  10. Moises Gomez
  11. Joshua Baez
  12. Leonardo Bernal
  13. Jonathan Mejia
  14. Connor Thomas
  15. Won-Bin Cho
  16. Jimmy Crooks III
  17. Brycen Mautz
  18. Guillermo Zuñiga
  19. Inohan Paniagua
  20. Lopez/Willis

With all that said, this is my final post, I will not make a brand new post sharing the winner of the 20th spot. I will share the news in my next post, it just won’t be what the post is about. And because this will be a short post otherwise, my top 20

1-4. Jordan Walker, Masyn Winn, Tink Hence, Gordon Graceffo

We were on the same page here. In fact, when we voted on the #2 prospect, most of spring training hadn’t happened yet. Winn and Hence were very close in the votes, shockingly close in this writer’s opinion. If we re-ran it today, Winn would win a lot easier I think. He had a remarkable spring training, suddenly looking ready for the big leagues. Now, do I think he is actually ready? I am skeptical of that just because it’s a big leap to be an average hitter in AA to suddenly MLB caliber. But he did look it, and that will change votes.

Now usually, the smart play would be Graceffo after Winn and I think some people would even argue that, it’s just that Hence isn’t that far away from Graceffo and has more potential. In fact, the best case scenario of Hence’s season means he’s pretty much ready at the same time as Graceffo. He just has more of an innings concern (even then).

5-6. Ivan Herrera, Alec Burleson

We diverged here. The actual pick was Alec Burleson, then Herrera. I actually consider Burleson and Herrera to be similar prospects. Herrera is a very good bet to hit as a catcher. He showed an elite walk rate and a below average K rate for a 111 wRC+ in AAA. He still has some questions to sort on defense. While Burleson is a better hitter, the degree to which he (might) be better than your average corner outfielder is pretty similar to Herrera against catchers. The tiebreaker is that Herrera has more potential on defense. And that he’s younger. And that he plays catcher.

7. Matthew Liberatore

Another case where spring training may have changed the results. I don’t think there’s a good case to have Cooper Hjerpe over Liberatore if I’m being honest. I didn’t really think there was before Liberatore showed improvements to his fastball either. He was my vote even at the time. But I think Liberatore’s spring training may have made him the #7 prospect by VEB.

8. Leonardo Bernal

Yeah it gets really different at this point. I can’t stop harping on the fact that Bernal was 18-years-old in Low A and hit for a 117 wRC+. Both Yadier Molina and Ivan Herrera were 19-years-old in Low A. Nothing about his performance has any alarm bells either. Okay walk rate, strikes out a below average amount, good power (.199 ISO in Palm Beach), .280 BABIP. And he did this jumping straight from the DSL to Low A. That’s unbelievable. The sample size is somewhat of a concern, but given age, position, and the huge jump he made, I think he deserves it.

9. Connor Thomas

May seem odd following a pick that is at least a few years away, but proximity does matter to me, probably more than most people who make prospect lists (definitely Fangraphs). And I believe in his cutter making him a better pitcher. And I hate to keep referencing spring training, but he struck out 8 to one walk in 9 innings pitched with a 4.00 ERA. I think he has a better chance of anyone below him of being average in the big leagues right now. His ZiPS projection, which I think factors in the AFL, is a 3.93 ERA and 4.08 FIP in 128 innings.

10. Michael McGreevy

I am aware he doesn’t rate that well by Stuff+, but I don’t hold that as gospel and also he can always improve there (look at Liberatore). He’s 22-years-old. He’s already in AA and will be in AAA pretty soon. His stats at Springfield look ugly, but he actually had a better FIP and xFIP than Graceffo, believe it or not. The average ERA in the Texas League is 5.10. So weird as it is to see given the ERA/FIP/xFIP, he was above average at AA at 21-years-old.

11. Cooper Hjerpe

I need him to see him pitch. Sorry. This is about as high as I’m willing to go for a guy who hasn’t actually thrown a professional inning. Call it the Griffin Roberts penalty if you must. There’s a good chance this will look way too low, but his average potential outcome is probably still not as good as Thomas or McGreevy. That may change very quickly, and I’ll change his ranking when it comes.

12-13. Jonathan Mejia, Joshua Baez

I don’t like putting guys who have only played in the DSL in the top 20, but there’s a good chance Mejia plays in Low A at 18-years-old this upcoming season. And that’s why he’s ahead of Baez. Baez will also play at Low A this season, repeating it from last year, but he’s two years older than Mejia. There’s also that Baez, though his power potential is immense and he hits the ball very hard, is likely headed to a corner outfield spot (he played 4 in CF, 9 in RF, and 4 at DH)

14. Jimmy Crooks III

Do I have a catcher bias? Though there have been some hard choices, this pick is where it gets really difficult on who to pick for me. I think, if I were to tier the prospects, this is a clear tier below Baez and Mejia. It’s really quite for simple for me though. He had a 149 wRC+ at Low A, is expected to be able to stay at catcher and he’s still just 21 in 2023 who will likely be at High A.

15. Brycen Mautz

He takes this spot for basically one reason: I am unreasonably confident he could be a good reliever almost immediately at the MLB level. So he automatically belongs ahead of any relief prospect. And he still has a chance to start. With maybe one exception, who is much less of a safe bet and farther away, he has the highest ceiling among the rest of the starters and probably the highest ceiling as a reliever as well.

16. Ian Bedell

Maybe my most insane and gut feeling pick. I will not pretend I have extensively scouted Bedell and this is a fair and balanced selection. Plus, it’s my impression that, if Bedell was healthy and showed anything resembling what he looked capable of back in 2020, he is probably better than the 16th best prospect.

17. Victor Scott II

I don’t know why this guy isn’t getting more love to be honest. He is (as far as we know) an elite runner and elite defender. The runner part is most likely true. He stole 13 bases to 3 caught stealing and hit 4 triples. At least in the sample shown in Low A, he has an incredible plate approach. He had 24 walks to 26 strikeouts in 142 PAs. The bat is the only question mark - probably the most important part admittedly, but still. As long as his plate approach doesn’t completely go to shit to compensate for hitting.... I don’t think he even needs to be that good of a hitter to look like an MLBer. And I cannot find the link, but I believe he bunted a ton at West Virginia (and when I say a ton I mean like... 20% of his PAs or something ridiculous) which kind of disguised the fact that his bat wasn’t as weak as the numbers may have said.

18. Kyle Leahy

Shout out to LawBird for convincing me on this one. He was praising Leahy’s potential, and then I saw him actually pitch in spring training. He had 9 strikeouts to 2 walks in 6 innings in spring training. Just three hits allowed, no earned runs. I know it’s spring, but after hearing about how his stuff had improved and he was still learning to control it, and then with the move to the bullpen, I’m sold. I never actually put him up for any kind of vote, but I don’t think he’d do well. His stats are not impressive, but it was in the hitter happy AA and he did it as a starter.

19. Guillermo Zuñiga

I don’t think I have much to add here, except swap spring training performance for WBC performance. Leahy gets the nod above Zuñiga simply because Zuñiga had worse stats as a reliever, whereas Leahy at least gets the excuse of being a starting pitcher when he pitched poorly.

20. Austin Love

I’m banking on him for two things on this list: his pretty good advanced stats, specifically his high K rate of 26.8% and that his ability to strike hitters out suggest he could move to the bullpen if the whole starting thing doesn’t work out. But I don’t love that he’ll be 24 in AA. He gets the nod for me over Inohan Paniagua because Love is closer to the big leagues. They’re both going to be old for their level (Paniagua will be 23 and High A).

Why not him?

I originally put Moises Gomez on my list, but it would not be in good faith. It would simply be there because people expect him on a top 20 list. I don’t believe in him at all. I think he strikes out way too much. And I’m not anti-strikeout. But he has a 40% projected K rate by ZiPS. He struck out 16 times in 35 plate appearances in spring training. He is probably a complete zero on defense. It’s all dependent on his bat and if I don’t believe in his bat, how could I justify him on this list? I’m hoping he defies expectations, but I struggle to envision it. Feel free to use this as bulletin board motivation, Moises.

Mike Antico, sorry buddy. I’m ageist with prospects. I see a 25-year-old entering 2023 coming off a below average season with the bat in AA. Hopefully you voted at this point, but I don’t think Reiner Lopez belongs anywhere near a top 20 list personally. Alec Willis has a better case, but he’s starting to not be that young and is just so far away. Won-Bin Cho would require too much emphasis on his scouting since his complex league stats weren’t anything special.

Critique away.