Crude rankings may be an imperfect method to assess the value of something as complex as projecting prospects, but as fantasy baseball owners, we constantly have to make the choice between one prospect or another, so they are inevitably a useful tool. With us now in the midst of mid-season fantasy prospect ranking season, I thought it would be fun to compare the fantasy lists that have dropped so far: Imaginary Brick Wall’s Top 100 (June 30), Razzball’s Top 100 (July 3), and Baseball Prospectus’ Top 50 (July 8). Let’s dig into the tale of the tape:
Razzball – Led by their joke a second wunderkind, Grey, Razzball relishes the underdog role, constantly throwing rocks at the big boys over at ESPN, Yahoo, and CBS. Amid mysterious circumstances, their longtime prospect writer, “Prospect Mike,” was replaced overnight by “Prospector Ralph.” They dig deep for their nicknames over there 😉 Just kidding, if you don’t know about “The Cortisone Brothers” and “The Sciosciapath,” you are missing out. If you can’t tell, I am a fan of Grey and his blog.
List Maker – Ralph Lifshitz
Where we agree – This Ralph guy must be a pretty smart fella, because he is one of the few to see the light on most of my favorite prospect sleepers coming into this season: Josh Hader, Derek Fisher, Willie Calhoun, Harrison Bader, and Tyler O’Neill. In fact, although he didn’t have any ranked on his off-season top 100, he is higher on all of them than even I am now (except Fisher). So if these guys pan out, you can thank me for hyping them back in January/February, and if they fizzle out, blame Ralph for being the high man on them, ha! He is also with me on many of my top breakout prospects this season, like Eloy Jimenez, Phil Bickford, Christin Stewart, and Josh Ockimey. He has a good eye for fantasy prospects.
Where we differ – He has 20-year-old SS prospects Willy Adames and Amed Rosario in his top 30, while they are unranked on my list. Neither have true fantasy impact power or speed, but both have plus hit tools and are a good bet to stick at SS. They are excellent real life prospects. If I expanded my list out to 125, both would have made it, and if you are looking for shortstops who will do a little bit of everything, these are your guys. No issue with their high ranking here.
Two more near misses from my list, Dan Vogelbach and Rhys Hoskins, were both top 50 on his. The reasons for me leaving these guys off is because they are both “nonathletic” 1B only guys, and neither has a perfectly clear path to a starting role. I do understand chasing the power in fantasy leagues, though, and I can see both of these guys cracking my top 100 in the off-season. Their huge power upside might make me regret leaving them off my mid-season list. Sluggers that made my list that didn’t make his: Chase Vallot, Chris Shaw, and Tom Murphy.
Moving on to pitching. It is easier for opinions to vary here, and I wouldn’t read too much into the players he took shots on in the back half of his list (Jeff Hoffman, Domingo Acevedo, Amir Garrett, David Paulino, Frankie Montas, Reynaldo Lopez, Braxton Garrett, etc …) vs. the ones I took shots on (Yohander Mendez, Jack Flaherty, Ian Anderson, Jacob Faria, Luke Weaver, Hunter Harvey, etc …). Obviously I would prefer my group, but these pitchers aren’t all that far off in the grand scheme of things.
Final Thought – I like the statement Ralph made with his top 100, going heavy on power hitting and power pitching. That is what wins fantasy championships. Better to go overboard there than not have enough of it. Plus, he gets huge points with me for being high on all of my favorite sleeper prospects who I have been hyping to death for months and months.
Baseball Prospectus – One of the standard bearers in the prospect world, Baseball Prospectus released both a traditional top 50 mid-season list and a fantasy top 50. Most of their content is behind a pay wall, but both mid-season lists are free, which is awesome. The guys over at BP actually hit the pavement to get first hand looks at these players, and presumably have sources within the industry who tell them which players they should be higher/lower on. You can trust 100% of what team officials/scouts tell these national publication writers, because they most certainly don’t have any other agendas 🙂 In all seriousness, Baseball Prospectus is an invaluable member of the prospect community.
List Maker – Bret Sayre
Like my list (and unlike Razzball’s), all players who are still rookie eligible were included. For that reason, our top 50 really isn’t all that different. Well, other than the fact he excluded all of my favorite sleepers, and went with more traditional prospects like Rosario and Adames in their place. Vogelbach seems to be his one true “fantasy” ranking, and wrote for his blurb, “Might be the best hitter in the minors right now.” No other pop-up power prospects, such as Hoskins, made his list, so Vogelbach seems to be his one big fantasy bet. He also went bold with a prospect I like a ton, and who I mentioned in a weekly prospect rundown before he was getting any hype, Ronald Acuna. I love the #39 ranking of him.
Bret went only 50 deep, so there isn’t as much to dig into here. This is a very solid list, but unsurprisingly, it looks slightly more slanted towards real life than fantasy.
Imaginary Brick Wall – The real underdog of the group, Imaginary Brick Wall focuses on “under the radar” everything. Michael loves to write about prospects and TV shows that nobody Googles and very few people even know exist. Brilliant strategy. But he finds satisfaction in finding those hidden gems, and immediately passing the word along, killing any chance he has of getting these players in his own league. He also discovered just now that he strangely enjoys writing in the third person, which is starting to feel weird.
List Maker – Michael Halpern
I agree with everything on his list, except for the stuff he ends up being wrong about.
By Michael Halpern
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)