Baseball America’s Top 20 Midwest League Prospects

Drew Gagnon. Not considered? Really?

This post is to provide reasons why the MWL list turned out the way that it did.  Not to howl at the moon and go, “WE WUZ ROBBED!”  I plan to provide a little context and make at least one argument in favor of the inclusion of at least ONE Rattler.

What list?  Oh, read on!

The last paragraph of the article by Jim Callis that accompanies Baseball America’s Top 20 list of Midwest League Prospects that had no Timber Rattlers:

Wisconsin captured the championship with the oldest roster in the league and nary a prospect who received strong consideration for this list. The Timber Rattlers won the finals in four games over Fort Wayne, which led all clubs with five prospects among the Top 20.

I’m going to do some math….back in a second…an hour…head over to this page at Baseball Reference and let’s do math together! Add a the average age of the hitters for a team to the average age of the pitchers for a team and divide by two.  Right?

Okay. Back.
The average age of the 2012 Timber Rattlers was 22.4.  Take out the Major League rehabs to appear with the Rattlers this past season – Shaun Marcum (30), Jonathan Lucroy (26), and Carlos Gomez (26) – and the average drops to 22.3.  They are still the oldest team in the league…BUT by just over a month.

Five oldest teams in the Midwest League (2012):

  1. Wisconsin – 22.4 (adjusted at 22.3)
  2. Burlington – 22.2
  3. Beloit – 22.1
  4. Quad Cities – 22.0
  5. South Bend 21.9

Average age of a player in the Midwest League in 2012: 21.8 years.

Five Youngest teams in the Midwest League (2012):

  1. Lake County – 20.8
  2. Bowling Green – 21.3
  3. Peoria – 21.3
  4. Dayton – 21.5
  5. Fort Wayne – 21.6

It should be noted that I am not getting Dayton’s average age to figure correctly.  Their hitters have an average age of 21.3 even with rehab appearances by Drew Stubbs (27), Joey Votto (28), and Miguel Cairo (38).  Take those players out of the equation and … I get an average age for the hitters of 21.6.  That can’t be right.  So….number with a grain of salt please.

I am not going to argue that a Timber Rattlers player should have been included in the Top 5 prospects on the list.

  1. Javier Baez – ss, Peoria
  2. Miguel Sano – 3b, Beloit
  3. Francisco Lindor – ss, Lake County
  4. Archie Bradley – rhp, South Bend
  5. Noah Syndergaard – rhp, Lansing

The only thing to quibble with the Top 5 ton hat list is the order.  Instead, let’s take a look at the 16-20:

16. Kyle Smith – rhp, Kane County
17.  Travis Jankowski – of, Fort Wayne
18. Adys Portillo – rhp, Fort Wayne
19. Jace Peterson – ss, Fort Wayne
20. Stephen Piscotty – 3b, Quad Cities

Here are five 2012 Timber Rattlers who were placed on Baseball America’s Top 30 list of Brewers Prospects in the 2012 Prospect Handbook: RHP Santo Manzanillo, RHP David Goforth, RHP Drew Gagnon, SS Yadiel Rivera, and 1B Nick Ramirez.

Manzanillo wasn’t going to make the MWL List. He’s been in the league before, was still working his way back from his car accident, and didn’t have enough games with the Rattlers in 2012 to be eligible.

Rankings are not entirely based on stats in a particular year.  How a particular observer projects that player will do in the future is a big part of it

The point that Yadiel Rivera hit .247 with 12 homers, seven stolen bases and 22 errors while Peterson hit .286 and stole 51 bases with 28 errors may mean less than the data points that Rivera is 20 and was a 9th round pick in 2010 while Peterson is 22 and a 1st round pick in 2011.

Also, where a player was drafted – if he was drafted at all may have a lot to do with it.  Brandon Macias had an incredible 2012.  He was at or near the top of the list in a lot of offensive categories – OBP, runs, average, doubles, hits, hit by pitch. By any standard an outstanding season.  Except with the list makers.  Macias an non-drafted free agent in 2011 is not going to get consideration for a list like this while Stephen Piscotty, a supplemental first round pick in 2012, makes the list. Piscotty played well in 55 games for Quad Cities in 2012.  Project his numbers out over a full season and the numbers may be a bit similar with maybe a slight edge to Macias.

But the list makers will  give the edge to Piscotty every time.  It’s just the way the lists work.  After watching and getting to know Macias all of the 2012 season, he doesn’t care about lists and whether he makes them or not.  He’s just going to go out there are play hard and to the best of his ability every day.

Player vs. player comparisons may not be as big of a factor as some of the other criteria used to slot players on the list.  BUT, here is a player-to-player comparison:
Drew Gagnon was 6-1 in 14 starts with a 2.83ERA and 65 strikeouts in 82-2/3 innings with the Rattlers before being promoted to Brevard County in the Florida State League.  Gagnon is 22 and was a 3rd round pick in 2011.

Adys Portillo was 6-6 in 18 starts with a 1.87ERA and 81 strikeouts in 91-2/3 innings with Fort Wayne before being promoted to San Antonio in the Texas League.  Portillo is 20 and was signed out of Venezuela on July 2, 2008 when he was 16.

I’m not saying that Portillo should be taken off the list and Gagnon belongs in his spot.  But, to say that Gagnon – or any of the Rattlers who were eligible for the list that Baseball America considers prospects – didn’t receive strong consideration for the list is a little ridiculous.

Just for fun, Baseball America’s Top 20 list of Midwest League Prospects after the 2009 season.

 1. Aaron Hicks, of, Beloit (Twins)
2. Dee Gordon, ss, Great Lakes (Dodgers)
3. Josh Vitters, 3b, Peoria (Cubs)
4. Brett Lawrie, 2b, Wisconsin (Brewers)
5. Mike Montgomery, lhp, Burlington (Royals)
6. Casey Crosby, lhp, West Michigan (Tigers)
7. Simon Castro, rhp, Fort Wayne (Padres)
8. Jaff Decker, of, Fort Wayne (Padres)
9. Cody Scarpetta, rhp, Wisconsin (Brewers)
10. Ethan Martin, rhp, Great Lakes (Dodgers)
11. Tim Melville, rhp, Burlington (Royals)
12. Eric Hosmer, 1b, Burlington (Royals)
13. A.J. Pollock, of, South Bend (Diamondbacks)
14. Wily Peralta, rhp, Wisconsin (Brewers)
15. James Darnell, 3b, Fort Wayne (Padres)
16. Chris Archer, rhp, Peoria (Cubs)
17. Kyle Russell, of, Great Lakes (Dodgers)
18. Grant Desme, of, Kane County (Athletics)
19. Pedro Figueroa, lhp, Kane County (Athletics)
20. Chris Carpenter, rhp, Peoria (Cubs)

Also for fun, here is what Jim wrote about the MWL Champions that year:

Decker and third baseman James Darnell, a 2008 second-rounder, were part of a TinCaps team that won a minor league-high 94 games and both half-season titles in the MWL East, then swept Burlington in the playoff finals.

And the Champions in 2010:

Great Lakes led all minor league teams with 90 regular-season victories, but the Loons came up short of a championship. They dropped the last two games of their semifinal series to Lake County, which didn’t place a single player on this Top 20 Prospects list.

And the Champions in 2011:

Another righthander, Carlos Martinez, drew comparisons to Pedro Martinez (no relation) and would have given Walker a run for the top spot had he not been promoted after just eight starts for eventual champion Quad Cities.

At the end of the day, the 2012 list has done its job.  It gave us a starting point for the 2013 season and got us talking about Baseball America – and baseball – two weeks after our season ended.

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