Yesterday we released our mid-season top 50 prospect rankings. The mid-season rankings are much more difficult than the pre-season rankings. The pre-season rankings allows the dust to settle. It allows for a period to evaluate everything with no moving parts. You’ve seen everyone in the system several times, and have at least six months of information on each player.
The mid-season rankings can be chaos. There is no settled dust. It’s a dust storm. You’ve got players who are injured, and you’re waiting to see how they return. Sometimes, players even get injured during the ranking process. You have players making adjustments, with new information coming in each day. There are a few dozen new players who have been in the system for about a month, with limited views of each guy.
Some players will go on hot streaks right before the rankings. Some will go on cold streaks. And those streaks might just be small sample sizes that you’re sitting in the middle of, rather than a trend showing a change for the player.
As a result, there are players during the mid-season rankings who could move up considerably by the end of the year. This is due to a more conservative approach during the season, as we proceed with caution during the dust storm. I went through our rankings yesterday, and found ten players who could move up by the end of the year, what could lead them to move up, and what held them back during these rankings.
Ten Players Who Could Move Up in the Rankings
Luis Escobar – From a pure talent standpoint, Escobar would be much higher on this list. We have him ranked 18th, and in Tier 4. Based on ceiling alone, he would rank in the top 10, around the start of the third tier. Abigail Miskowiec wrote about what is holding Escobar back. He’s got the chance to be a very talented starter, but he’s getting to the point where he needs to start fixing his command issues and showing more consistent stuff, as he’s no longer being ranked as heavily on his ceiling.
Max Kranick – We have been high on Kranick, almost immediately rating him ahead of second round pick Travis MacGregor, and putting him on pace with Braeden Ogle. His shoulder injury didn’t really drop him much, but it didn’t allow him to move up. We’re usually pretty forgiving for one-time injuries, but that’s after the player comes back. Kranick’s injury is minor, and he will be returning to Bristol soon. At that point, if he looks like his old self, he could move up to Tier 3 in our rankings, matching Ogle’s placement again.
Tristan Gray – We don’t base the rankings solely on draft position, but we need to see good things in order to put a 13th round pick in the top 50 so soon. Gray is off to a strong start, but we typically discount NYPL stats, good or bad, and look at the player. That doesn’t mean we’ve never had a guy outside of the top 10 in the top 50. Logan Hill was in the top 50 after his pro debut, and he was a 25th round pick. It all comes down to our initial extended look at the player. If Gray continues this, and looks good with the eye test, he could move onto the list.
Mason Martin – Martin is in the same situation as Gray, although with more upside. The biggest thing holding him back in our rankings is a lack of pro time. He had only been playing for two weeks, and we haven’t really had a chance to see if he looks like a top 50 talent. The limited view we’ve seen led us to put him in Tier 7, which means he could be considered as good as #41, depending on preference (if you slant towards ceiling, he would be up there). He seems like a good candidate to move into the top 50 by the end of the year if he continues doing what we’ve seen in a small sample.
Austin Shields – If you asked me in May about Shields, I probably would have had him close to the top 30. Since then, he had a minor injury, then returned with poor control after showing improvements with his control earlier in the year. If he can turn things back around and show improvements with his control again, he could move back in the top 50, and even move up closer to the top 30.
Jerrick Suiter – We had a lot of discussions on whether Suiter should be in the top 50 right now, based on his recent performance and what we know. He’s hitting for a lot of power in the last month and a half, and this comes after narrowing his stance and adding more of a load aimed for more power. He plays the outfield, but is really only a first base option, with the best defense at first in the system. If he carries his offense over through the end of the season, he’ll make it on the list, with a chance to continue moving up if he continues his success eventually in Triple-A.
Dylan Busby – Once again, this is a case where we just haven’t seen much on the player. The rating for Busby is based on the draft reports, plus the limited views we have had. That was enough to get him in the top 50, although like Gray and Martin, he could move up further if he continues looking good over a longer period of time.
Travis MacGregor – This is almost the opposite of Shields. MacGregor’s control looked poor during Spring Training and Extended Spring Training. He then made a mechanical adjustment and has seen improved control. He’s also showing an increase in velocity, and has plenty of room to fill out. We haven’t seen enough of the changes to really move him up, but continued improvements over time will allow him to move up the list, possibly ending up in the top 30 by the end of the year.
Cody Bolton – Once again, the draft pick/”we haven’t seen him much” disclaimer comes into play. However, the early reviews and looks we have on Bolton have been good, to the point where it’s not out of the question to see him rated right up there with Steven Jennings by the end of the year (Bolton was 44 in Tier 7, and Jennings was 20 in Tier 4). We’ve abandoned draft position quickly in the past, focusing on talent instead. This led us to ranking Mitch Keller ahead of Cole Tucker after the 2014 draft, and in a more comparable situation, Max Kranick over Travis MacGregor and plenty of other top ten picks after the 2016 draft. Bolton was a sixth rounder, but could move up ahead of a few guys drafted above him if he continues looking as good as he has looked so far.
Stephen Alemais – Alemais has the defense to reach the majors, but the offense hasn’t taken a step forward yet. He worked to improve that this year, but ended up trying to hit for too much power, leading to an increase in strikeouts and a drop in average. He will be going up to Bradenton today, and has been changing his approach to avoid the strikeouts. We had him ranked 48th, in our final tier in the rankings, but he could shoot up the list if the new offensive approach starts to click.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.