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Jurickson Profar, Dylan Bundy, and Wil Myers top Aidan's Top Prospect List.
At last, here are the top 3 prospects in baseball, with statistics and advanced scouting reports on each player. Hope you enjoyed the rankings as much as I did, and I will certainly try to include some prospect pieces in the near future. Later today, I will put up my top 100 prospects (without scouting reports) and my top farm systems in the game. Enjoy


3.     
Wil Myers , OF, Kansas City Royals, ETA: 2013:

2012 Levels: AA Northwest Arkansas (35 games), AAA Omaha (99 games)

2012 Numbers: Batted combined .314/.387/.600, with 26 2Bs, 37 HRs, 109 RBI

            Baseball America's Player of the Year, Wil Myers broke out in a big way in 2012. After batting .254/.353/..393 in an injury plagued 2011, Myers showcased his power bat across the top two levels in the Royals minor league system. Myers has a strong body that generates easy plus power and also shows an advanced hitting ability that produces frequent loud contact. After being drafted as a catcher, Myers has transitioned well to the outfield, seeing time in both center field and right field. His strong arm, along with average range and jumps, should push him to right field within the next year or two. Currently, Jeff Francoeur is blocking Myers, but he should not stop the Royals from having Myers as their opening day right fielder.  

 

2.      Dylan Bundy , SP, Baltimore Orioles, ETA: 2013:

2012 Levels: A Delmarva (30 innings), High-A Frederick (57 innings), AA Bowie (16.2 innings), MLB Baltimore (1.2 innings)

2012 Numbers (Minors): 103.2 innings pitched, 2.08 ERA, 28 BB (2.4 BB/9), 119 K (10.3 K/9)

            Bundy is a scout's dream for a pitcher. One of the most polished prep pitchers in recent memory and one of the best work ethics in the minors, Bundy more than lived up to the lofty expectations placed on him by dominating in his first professional season. Just during his stint with low-A Delmarva (30 innings), he struck out 40, walked two, allowed only 5!!! hits, and did not concede a single earned run.  Bundy's repertoire includes a big time fastball that sits in the mid 90's while occasionally touching triple digits and also features good movement and sink. Additionally, he features a plus-plus curve (just ask Orlando Calixte), and potential plus changeup that is extremely advanced for his age. As if he could not be any better, he has very good control while his command inside the strike zone is still improving. Also, he has put up these numbers despite the Orioles refusing to let him throw his best pitch, the cutter. He will probably start the year in the minors, but should certainly see time in the big leagues at some point during the season. Bundy is the real deal and believe the hype.

 

1.   Jurickson Profar , SS/2B, Texas Rangers, ETA: 2013:

2012 Levels: AA Frisco (126 games), MLB Texas (9 games)

2012 Numbers: Batted combined .278/.366/.455, 28 2Bs, 15 HRs, and 16 SBs

             And the number one prospect in baseball is… Rangers shortstop, Jurickson Profar. A Little League World Series hero for his native Curacao, Profar was initially desired as a pitcher but the Rangers conceded and let him play his preferred position of shortstop. Just as Bundy is the ideal pitcher, Profar is about as good as it gets for a shortstop. Profar, a switch hitter, combines a plus hitting ability from both sides of the plate (although he is stronger with his more natural right side) and has a mature approach at the plate. He uses the entire field and has a line drive stroke that should allow him to hit for a high average and could be an eventual 70 or elite tool. Although he currently has only modest power, he could eventually grow into 20-25+ HR power with at least plenty of 2Bs. 
         Defensively, he  makes the most of his strong arm (clocked as high as 95 mph off the mound) with tremendous accuracy to boot. In addition, he has very good range despite his average speed and his baseball instincts rank among the best in the minors. His makeup is off-the-charts as he is extremely mature, confident, and maximizes his talents. Just surviving against much older competition in double-A would have been considered a success, but ended up being the league's best shortstop and prospect. Considering Profar's near readiness for the majors, the Rangers have an interesting problem on their hands. All Star shortstop and Profar's idol, Elvis Andrus, is currently blocking him, and second basemen Ian Kinsler just signed an extension earlier this year. One possible solution is to let free agent Josh Hamilton walk, and move the brittle Ian Kinsler to the outfield and implant Profar as the starting second baseman. Whatever the decision, Profar should be in the majors at some point in 2013, and could be the game's best shortstop by 2015. 

 
 
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Is the "save" what it used to be?
         Nasty does not begin to describe the stuff Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel possess.  The two young fireballers have turned into two of the most dominant relief pitchers in all of baseball.  Notice I said “relief” pitchers, not closers.  Although technically they are perceived as closers, they should not be used in the ninth inning exclusively to “close” out games.  Kimbrel is leading the National League in strikeouts per nine innings (K/9), while Chapman is right behind him at 16.35 K/9 and 15.60 K/9 respectively.  So, if your team has a one run lead in the 7th inning with the bases loaded and 1 out, why would a manager not go to his best strikeout guy? This is because of the save statistic and the fact that closers are defined by how many saves they can record. 

            Nowadays, you see a closer, someone who is generally regarded as the team’s best reliever, come into a game more often when the team has a 3 run lead at the start of the ninth inning.  The amount of pressure in these situations is drastically different.  One way to measure different pressure situations is with leverage index. Leverage index determines the weight of a particular situation due to the inning, score, and outs present at the time. This simplifies pressure-packed or pressure absent at a certain point during the game. For example, the leverage index for a reliever coming in the bottom of the ninth with nobody on and nobody out with a three run lead is 1.0, or in other words, a low leverage situation. On the other hand, a bases loaded, down two, nobody out scenario in the 7th assigns a high leverage number of 4.1. "Firemen" like Chapman and Kimbrel should be used when the pressure is at its highest point in the game. Yes, more often than not, this situation arises before the ninth inning, often representing the turning point of a ball game. However, some teams have done a better job of maximizing their pitcher's ability in pitching higher leverage circumstances. Guys like Fernando Rodney of Tampa Bay and Jim Johnson of Baltimore have emerged as the game’s best relievers and have become poster children for pitching with increased pressure. For example, Johnson leads the league in games entered with high leverage present (leverage index greater than 1.5). On the other hand, Rodney leads all relievers in situational wins saved, a computation of win probability added divided by the leverage index or pressure at a given time. Also, both pitchers rank in the top ten in terms of pitching with high leverage index. In other words, they have pitched the most in pressured packed situations. By maximizing a pitcher's ability and bringing him when the "fire" is its hottest, teams are better able to preserve and secure victories. Again, it is not a coincidence that these teams are either in the playoffs or were in contention until the last week of the season (Tampa Bay).

            Clearly, pitchers that can come in and shutdown a rally or strikeout somebody out when necessary is crucial to any team’s success.  A shutdown or meltdown would be a better way to look at a reliever’s success rather than just look at the save statistic. Shutdowns and meltdowns offer an alternative to the save statistic by simply analyzing whether a pitcher helped or hurt his teams' chances of winning. If a pitcher improved his team's chances of winning by at least 6%, he gets a shutdown. If he hurts his team's chances by 6% or more, then he is awarded a meltdown. This has no silly rules (rule 10.19) to follow and treats all relief pitchers equally (instead of favoring closers like the save statistic implies). Not surprisingly, the aforementioned “closers” have some of the best shutdown ratios in the league (Kimbrel: 37 SD, 4 MD, Chapman: 41 SD, 6 MD, Johnson: 46 SD, 3 MD, Rodney: 34 SD, 2 MD). Yet, even with these excellent numbers, it does not necessarily mean that pitchers are capitalizing on their talent. Would you rather have a middle relief journeyman pitching in a high leverage situation, or a talented flamethrower capable of getting a much needed strikeout? I think the answer is quite obvious and just further illustrates why the current status quo must be changed.


 
 
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        All the hops and “chops,” if you will, seem to have been going the Baltimore Orioles way all season long in 2012.  As the summer came, the question around baseball seemed to be, when will the Orioles fade away?  Now, in late September, with Buck Showalter’s squad right in the thick of a pennant race, the question seems to have shifted to, how have they been able to get it done?  They sit just one game behind the Yankees and currently lead the wild card standings.  The Orioles lack a superstar player, maybe with the one exception being Adam Jones (.288/.338/.502 31HR 79 RBI).  Other than the former Mariner, the O’s do not have a player batting over .261.  They have had to mix and match all year long, especially when trying to discover a productive leadoff hitter.  Right as Nick Markakis looked to be the guy for the job, he went down with a season-ending injury.  Before Markakis, the leadoff spot was a huge disappointment.  In mid-July, the Orioles leadoff hitters collectively had an on-base percentage (OBP) of .264 (Chavez, Andino, Roberts, Avery, Reimold, Flaherty all being used in this capacity).  That is an ugly stat for any spot in the batting order, let alone leadoff.  Finally, as Markakis settled into the role (.363 OBP at time of injury), he went down with a gruesome hand injury.  However, like their rival in the pinstripes, the Orioles have gotten great power production from guys all over the place.  They currently are third in the American League in home runs as a team with 192.  
         Meanwhile, unlike the Bronx Bombers, the Orioles lack a legitimate ace in their rotation.  They have had 12 different pitchers start a game in 2012.  Other than Wei-Yin Chen (30 starts), nobody has started more than 20 games.  Also other than Chen, nobody has tossed more than 128 innings.  Of all 12 pitchers to make a start this year, 5 have compiled an ERA over 5.  With all the innings and games thrown by Chen, he has been very average this season (3.98 ERA, 105 ERA+).  Jason Hammel, Miguel Gonzalez, and Chris Tillman have all enjoyed some success (3.43 ERA 122 ERA+, 3.52 ERA 119 ERA+, 3.22 ERA 130 ERA+, respectively).  Of course, the problem here is injuries and not enough innings, which has led to bad outings from other guys.  This Oriole team is also 12th in the American League in defense, committing 99 errors.  The O’s are in the middle or bottom or the pack in a lot of important pitching and offensive stats.  They are 8th in ERA and Batting Average Against as a staff.  They are 11th in OBP, 6th in AVG, and 7th in runs scored.  With these numbers, how can they possibly be keeping pace with a team like the New York Yankees?  There are a few possible answers to this puzzling question.  The most underrated part of a 25-man roster, the bullpen, for this team has been lights-out all season.  Of relievers with more than 36 innings pitched, only one guy (Kevin Gregg)  owns an ERA of over 3.  These guys include Jim Johnson (2.69), Luis Ayala (2.69), Darren O’Day (2.37), Pedro Strop (2.26), Troy Patton (2.58), and Matt Lindstrom (2.72).  With the mighty struggles of the starters at times, and the fact the only 1 starter has thrown a complete game this season, the bullpen has been nothing short of excellent.  Looking back, playoff teams and World Series winners always seem to have a strong bullpen (i.e. 2011 St. Louis Cardinals, 2009 New York Yankees).  And as if it could not be any better, they just called up the best pitching prospect in baseball equipped with this insane pitch (45 second mark). 
          Another startling stat is the Orioles record in one-run games and extra-inning games.  These stats could be lucky or just coincidental, but I like to call them clutch.  They are 27-8 in one-run games and 16-2 in extra innings.  Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter have done a magnificent job with this team in 2012.  Duquette has taken some chances and been very aggressive in making low-risk moves throughout the season.  He has picked up guys like Nate McClouth, Lew Ford, Joe Saunders, Randy Wolf, etc.  These guys are not big names, and some may have even been completely forgotten about by the baseball world (looking at you Lew Ford), but they have made contributions to help the team win.  One last interesting stat belongs to Taylor Teagarden.  In just 50 at bats he has 7 hits, good for a .140 batting average.  Nothing special right?  Of the 7 hits, he has 3 doubles, 2 home runs and 8 runs batted in.  That’s the kind of season it has been for this club.  A season filled with clutch performances and excitement.  Look for the Baltimore Orioles to "Buckle Up" this October and make some noise for the first time since 1997.   

 

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