It’s a tradition unlike any other — comparing and labeling prospects similarly to the players that came before them. After all, every baseball player is a product of what came before them, right? The stars of yesterday and today lay the groundwork for blue-chippers to come. Who hasn’t modeled their swing or delivery off of a role model before you?
As irresponsible as the exercise can be, it’s human nature. It’s hard not to try and predict what’s to come. Unless there’s something unprecedented coming from behind the curtain, how can one not try and draw parallels between the future and the past.
Admittedly, it’s a fruitless venture. Every player represents their own story, and comparisons are never kind enough to attach prospects to their big league floor. It’s ceiling or bust for the top guys, and that can be a disservice to say the least. But in scouting circles across the country, that is the function they are charged with. Who are we drafting and what are they to become?
Last week, I had the opportunity to sit down with three industry experts: one Baseball America talent evaluator, and two current MLB minor league scouts. As one can imagine, the two major league scouts requested their identities be kept anonymous as their quotes and opinions could undercut their organization’s efforts, let alone their own. The Baseball America talent evaluator also requested his information be kept private as comparing players to current or former major league players can be considered ill-advised in some professional circles and frowned upon. That’s not a hit he was willing to shell out for his reputation.
So we’re going anonymous. I know, it’s not how anyone prefers their news or opinions, but for this exercise, it’s anonymous or bust.
The format was simple. If comfortable, provide a professional comparison to any player mentioned, as well as any extraneous thoughts you’d like to share. We zeroed in on eight guys for the sake of this feature.
We’ll start at the ‘bottom’ and work our way up.
Baseball America: “I think there’s a pretty reasonable Jorge Soler comparison in that profile right now. The power is very, very real. Lewis is going to be a superior defender to Soler as well. I think his size and arm profile nicely in a corner outfield spot. He may follow in Soler’s footsteps, struggling to adjust to big league pitching, but I think by 2021, there’s a pretty solid .260 hitter in there with 30-35 home run potential.”
MiLB Scout 1: “I totally see Lewis Brinson when I see Kyle. A kid with enormous raw pop that has struggled to find it in-game in the past. Brinson has struggled in Miami, as did Lewis when adjusting to AA pitching. Brinson has an edge in his run-tool, but Lewis has better raw power.”
MiLB Scout 2: “He doesn’t jump off the field like Justin Upton did for me coming through the Arizona system, but I think he could end up being a similar player to the Justin Upton of the last few years. He’s almost certainly a corner guy, but he’s going to slug the hell out of the ball if he can handle major league pitching. Good to see him healthy.”
Baseball America: “Do you remember Jason Frasor? Really solid reliever for a long time. I can’t help but draw comparisons between the two. Both are undersized power guys, albeit Frasor comes from the right side. The fastball-slider combo is really, really good. But the changeup needs work. I still think Justus ends up in the bullpen in Seattle, though he should dominant if and when that time comes.”
MiLB Scout 1: “The guys I talk to are so hot and cold on Sheffield. He’s totally an enigma in scouting circles right now. The jury is out. I still think he can be a useful starter at the big league level, especially with Seattle hitting on other undersized lefties in the past. He’ll need to be right for his stuff to play for five innings at a time, but if he gets there, he’ll be a good mid-rotation guy.”
MiLB Scout 2: “Sheffield is a tough one. Depending on who you ask, he could be southpaw (Marcus) Stroman or he could be end up being Arthur Rhodes, or any conglomeration of the two in-between. He’s got a big incomplete status for me right now.”
MiLB Scout 2: “I got the chance to watch him a little in the Cal League. He is a strong, strong kid. He doesn’t have the hit tool that (Matt) Weiters had. He reminds me a little bit of Jarrad Saltalamacchia from the left side. He’ll probably end up somewhere in-between Weiters and Javier Valentin if he can carve out a starting role.”
Baseball America: “He’s a lot more athletic than people probably report. A little like Marcus Stroman in that regard. The fastball and slider are both above average pitches, and both flash plus. The changeup has clearly taken a step forward this year as well, and is probably an average offering now. He’s a competitor on the mound, so I don’t think the Stroman offering is too far off, though Stroman has a better arsenal.”
MiLB Scout 1: “Great mechanics, good delivery, strong kid. He’s definitely staying in the rotation. I wouldn’t say he has top-end stuff to anchor a rotation, but he seems like a guy that slots in nicely as a 3-4 and will carry the rock 180 innings each season consistently. I don’t know if I’m comfortable comparing him to anyone.”
MiLB Scout 2: “Dunn has probably surpassed my expectations since I last saw him at St. Lucie a couple years back. He’s dialed back the fastball into the low-to-mid 90s instead of trying to rush it up there at 97-98 anymore and it’s helped his profile. He looks more comfortable on the mound. I haven’t actually seen him pitch in a couple years, but back in the day he reminded me of a young, unrefined Carlos Martinez. Hard to say if that’s changed.”
Baseball America: “Frankly, Evan is one of those guys that stands alone. His profile really doesn’t line up with any first basemen of the past. I will say this though — the recent power surge has helped. There’s some JT Snow in there now and White is the far superior athlete to Snow.”
MiLB Scout 1: “Speaking of enigmas! White would be a lot easier to profile as an outfielder. See: AJ Pollock. But at first base there’s almost nobody. He doesn’t have the hit tool (Eric) Hosmer had, but he has a better glove. He doesn’t have the power (Paul) Goldschmidt had, but he’s just as good on the base-paths. He’s not the hitter that Mark Teixeira was, but he’s another once-in-a-generation defensive guy at first. Evan is Evan. Maybe he’s a young Mark Grace. I don’t know.”
MiLB Scout 2: “Good luck. What a strange profile. He looks like Anthony Rizzo at the plate with his new setup though. That’s about all I can give you. Evan is a strange guy.”
Baseball America: “Julio has a similar trajectory to Nelson Cruz. Cruz was never a top 100 guy though, and Julio may have a bigger immediate hit and power ceiling than Cruz did, but they profile similarly. Cruz almost grew into what I believe Julio will be at a much younger age. Big bats, big bodies, big arms in right field. Julio projects as a better defender than Cruz was at this stage too. He’ll be a top 15 guy next year, maybe top three. He’s that good.”
MiLB Scout 1: “Julio reminds me a lot of Delmon Young from back in the day. The huge bat, big personality and the hype. There’s a lot of similarities. Young couldn’t quite live up to the hype, but he never stood a chance. Julio is the kind of talent that plays around and ends up going the Juan Soto route in 2020 and getting the call as a teenager. He keeps blistering through expectations and learning curves. He’s special.”
MiLB Scout 2: “I wish we had that kid, man. He’s one of my favorite prospects in all of baseball. He should be a top 10, top 15 guy next year I’d think. He just seems different in how he ticks, how he plays.”
Baseball America: “Definitely has frontline starter stuff. Has some of the same extension that Tyler Glasnow has, though I’m not sure he has the stuff. The curveball is definitely plus and the fastball is above average, probably leaning 60-grade plus as well. It plays up really well with his length. He’s pretty advanced considering the lack of innings he’s thrown in minor league ball.”
MiLB Scout 1: “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — Logan Gilbert is the second-coming of Jered Weaver and you can’t tell me otherwise. The repertoire and the delivery are eerily similar. If he ends up anything like Weaver did, Seattle will be very happy. Frankly I’m a little surprised he fell to Seattle in the draft.”
MiLB Scout 2: “Watched Gilbert a lot at Stetson and had it not been for the velo drop, he’d have been a top ten pick. Certainly looks as though he’s picked up where he left off in 2017. I don’t have a comp for you, but I think he’s going to be a good starter in the big leagues for a long time. 2-3 guy.
Baseball America: “I don’t really love the Mark Kotsay comparisons for Jarred. I think he’s going to end up being a better hitter than him in both categories. He really reminds me of Christian Yelich and his first three or four years in the league. Uses the whole field and can definitely get into one. Jarred doesn’t have the luxury of growing into his body like Yelich did though, so he’s probably capped in the power department. I see Grady Sizemore.”
MiLB Scout 1: “Jarred is really good and really serious on the diamond. He’s definitely his biggest critic. Works harder than any other prospect I know of. His game reminds me a bit of David Dahl from Colorado. Does everything very well. He draws 55’s across the board.”
MiLB Scout 2: “Well, I’m very thankful the Mets traded him and got him out of the National League. He’s a stud and is the type of guy who’s going to have a very long, very successful career because he doesn’t know any other way. He’s got a beautiful swing and absolutely attacks fastballs. As soon as he’s comfortable with big league breaking balls, he’s going to be up and he’ll never look back.”
Listen, it’s okay to fully admit that drawing comparisons of teenagers to some of the biggest names baseball over the last 40 years is a pointless spectacle. The chances of any of these living up to their billings are ultimately closer to unlikely that the alternative. But that’s what baseball is all about. And more specifically, that’s what a rebuild is all about.
The on-field product in Seattle is not what fans want to see right now. But the product on the farm is exceptional. Most, if not all of these guys, will be in Seattle by September of 2020 — Rodriguez and Raleigh being the only possible, albeit it unlikely, exceptions.
The future is bright, and almost everyone agrees as such.
Sit back, relax, and hang onto your butts, Mariners fans. The cavalry is coming.