Prospect rankings are always interesting. Most of the times, half of any given organization’s Top 10 list will never actually make it to The Show. That’s because the people who write these lists fall in love with young players stashed at the lowest levels of the minors who have loads of potential, but haven’t yet proven anything. It’s amazing how many guys you’ll see out there with comparisons to Mike Trout, but come on... there aren’t Mike Trout’s on every MLB team. Last I counted, there was still only one. Science sucks... WHERE’S MY FLYING CAR ALREADY?!
This is where I give
Fangraphs ESPN writer Kiley McDaniel an immense amount of credit. Rather than going the typical route of “I could see this 23-year-old developing into the next Albert Pujols in four years even though he’s currently hitting .225 with a 40% K rate in single-A”, McDaniel is actually putting some bit of logic behind his rankings.
(The articles are all behind the paywall at ESPN+, so if you’re like me and caved and paid for the subscription and then forgot to cancel it when all sports were cancelled for the foreseeable future, then enjoy!)
McDaniel started with the Future Value (FV) system developed at Fangraphs, then took it a step further:
The next step was something Craig Edwards did for us at FanGraphs last year, using the last couple of decades of players to figure out how much a prospect is really worth. The idea is to take every prospect and put them into a bin based on how they were ranked as a prospect, then look at what their career was like, then do some economic adjustments and assign values to each bin, which are then applied to every prospect. The output is a number that represents what a team would bid for each prospect if he was at auction and the team was trying to value its six to seven controlled years in the big leagues before the player hit free agency. The top prospect in baseball, Rays shortstop Wander Franco, is worth $112 million, which means we expect he’ll produce $112 million of value above his salary for those six-plus seasons before he hits free agency; he might make $50 million in salary during that time.
Alright, cool. That’s a lot of background, but we’re on an NC State site here, so let’s talk about how this impacts the Wolfpack.
Past Pack9 standouts Andrew Knizner and Will Wilson made their respective organization’s Top 10 prospects rankings using McDaniel’s system. Knizner came in at #6 for the Cardinals with a FV of 45. Wilson came in at #7 for the Giants, also with an FV of 45. Neither player made the overall Top 100 prospect ranking across all of baseball.
About Knizner, McDaniel writes:
Knizner was once the trendy pick to take over for Yadier Molina one day, but Molina seems ageless, Carson Kelly was already traded from catcher-in-waiting and now Ivan Herrera might overtake Knizner by the time Molina retires. Hitting for contact is Knizner’s only above-average tool, and he’s offense-over-glove at this point, so automatic strike-calling or an AL club makes the most sense for his future.
Well that’s not exactly the most glowing review, but it’s not like ESPN has ever been wrong before. Better give up baseball now, Andrew. Obviously you’re toast (but not at all, really).
People like to crap on Knizner’s defense, but it’s not like he’s a slouch. In 61 games in AAA last year, Knizner threw out 25-of-59 (42.4%) attempted base stealers with only 3 PB. Molina in MLB threw out 8-of-22 (36.4%) with 4 PB in 111 games (even at age 67, Molina is still highly respected, obvously). Yes, there’s a huge difference between AAA and MLB players, but let’s not act like Knizner can’t handle his own behind the plate. In his cup of coffee in the bigs last year, Knizner threw out 3-of-4 attempted base stealers.
Here’s what was said about Wilson:
Wilson was acquired to take Zack Cozart’s contract after going in the first round out of NC State last summer. He has a bag of 50-grade tools but can capably play any position on the field, with some scouts speculating he could handle a move behind the plate.
(For those wondering, here’s some background about the 20-80 scouting grade scale referenced there.)
We know Wilson can hit, but it’s the defensive flexibility that will likely get him to the Majors faster. Utility men are becoming increasingly valuable with the way the game has been played over the last several years.
Blake Walston, an NC State signee in last year’s recruiting class from New Hanover High School in Wilmington, also made the Top 10 prospects list. Not really a surprise, considering he was a 1st round draft pick last year. Here’s what was said about him:
Walston is a late pop-up prep lefty from the Wilmington, North Carolina, area who will show glimpses of Cole Hamels-type upside. He will sit around 90 and hit 94 mph. He has two curveballs, and the harder one flashes 70 grade at times, while his changeup isn’t used much but is above average. Walston is a projectable athlete with a feel for pitching and a chance to be above average at everything.
Dangit, Blake! Why couldn’t you have waited another year before going from awesome to super awesome at the baseball thing?!
Walston was given an FV of 45+ and ranked 8th in the Diamondbacks’ system. He was also tabbed as McDaniel’s “Ranked breakout pick” for Arizona this year.
One other one-time NC State signee who made his org’s top prospect list was Lucius Fox, who instead of coming to NC State signed as an International Free Agent with San Francisco back in 2015. He ranked #12 for the Rays (he was traded there in 2016) with a FV of 45. You’ll likely be able to catch him playing for the Durham Bulls this summer, if/when the season starts. About Fox:
Fox is a plus runner who can stick at shortstop and is 22 years old in Triple-A, but the power is well below average and the contact rate is just OK for this profile.
The rankings lists are littered with recognizable names of former NC State opponents as well as former local high school players from the Raleigh area. It’s worth checking out if you have the time (that’s a joke - of course you have the time).