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SoxProspects News

July 6, 2020 at 7:00 AM

July 3 Rankings Update: How to re-rank without baseball

Last week, we updated our site rankings, our first “full” update since the end of the 2019 season (1-20; 21-60). To give you peek into our process: We distinguish a “full” update, in which the three of us each create a list out to 70 or 75, average them, then talk through our rankings and make adjustments to our own lists before settling on a final ranking, from a “partial” update in which we would add new players or move a few odd players based on some specific new data. Since the end of last year, we have ranked several new minor leaguers, none more significant than number 2 prospect Jeter Downs. We also moved some players based on updated scouting reports from publications and our sources, such as Brainer Bonaci, who jumped into our top 20 after our Spring Training trip was scuttled back in March.

“But wait!” you say, “How can you be doing a full rankings update when there hasn’t been any baseball since the last one?” Great question, hypothetical reader! Such a great question, in fact, that we wanted to give you all a glimpse into our thinking: why it made sense to do a re-rank, and why some players moved the way they did.

New Reports/Data

We’ll start with the simplest reason first. Although there have been no games, that doesn’t mean we’ve stopped working! We have continued to talk to scouts and other baseball folks in our network about players in the system, gathering qualitative and quantitative data. Typically, these would get integrated along with our first-hand reports on players, but because of COVID-19, we have been unable to see any of these players live since last fall. This new data led to some small movement throughout the rankings. 

We also have continued updating scouting reports during the downtime, plus we have produced new content for the News Page, such as the State of the System series. These processes necessarily involve taking another look at certain players, which could lead to further discussion of how those players should be ranked. Although it may be data we already had, or at least had access to, we'd be remiss if we didn't incorporate these renewed reviews in our rankings process.

New Draftees

Always a fun—if a bit frustrating due to a lack of first-hand reports—exercise, it was time to add the new draftees to the system. With only four to add this year, we were able to really dig in and think about where Nick Yorke, Blaze Jordan, Shane Drohan, and Jeremy Wu-Yelland should debut, and they wound up at numbers 11, 13, 32, and 57, respectively. All three of us originally thought we would rank Jordan higher than Yorke, but the more we dug in, we all reached a consensus that Yorke should come out ahead, for now at least. To be honest, a two-spot difference for players we haven’t seen yet is a modest one, and that could change quickly once we get eyes on these two.

Also, while none of the undrafted free agents signed by the Red Sox were ranked, we note that Brian Van Belle was in the 70s on two of our three lists, so he is lurking once minor league ball returns.

And be sure to keep the addition of these draftees in mind when looking at other players. For example, while Danny Diaz “fell” from 32nd to 35th, this is due entirely to three draftees entering the rankings ahead of him, and represents a net movement of zero spots.

Weighing the Lack of a Minor League Season

Ah, the big elephant in the room. While the cancelation of the 2020 minor league season hurts every player from a development standpoint, it doesn’t necessarily do so equally, which led to some of the risers and fallers in the new rankings.

For example, we recently learned that Noah Song had received his orders to report to flight school, where he will be until next May at the soonest, and likely another six months or so after that. While losing a year of development time would typically hurt his prospect stock, since nearly everyone else we rank is now missing 2020 as well, we moved Song up in our rankings from 9 to 4, as the potential missed playing time we were already factoring into his ranking now seems less costly.

On the other side of things, Jay Groome will now end this year with the same amount of professional innings as when he came into it—71 2/3 including two playoff starts last year to be precise, in four-and-a-half seasons as a pro. He will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft this offseason without having pitched above Low A Greenville. That, of course, is less-than-optimal for his development. While he still may have the highest upside of any pitcher in the organization, Groome still hasn’t proven (and to be fair, lost a chance this year to begin to prove) that he can stay healthy for a full campaign, and he has lost out on a significant number of important reps. On an accelerated schedule due to Rule 5 issues, it may be difficult for him to ramp up his innings as required for a typical starting pitching prospect. As a result, he slides from 4 to 8 in the rankings.

The loss of a year also hurts older prospects harder. Consider Ryan Fitzgerald, who will enter 2021 as a 26-year-old making his Double-A debut. Although the three of us weighed this fact differently, he fell at least 11 spots on each of our individual lists, and he fell a net 15 spots on the site rankings to number 53.

The Player Pool

With “Summer Camp” starting up, the organization’s selections of which players to bring to Boston for their 2020 player pool also provides us with another data point. Among those who had been ranked but fell out of the rankings in this update were Nick Longhi, Josh Ockimey, and Denyi Reyes, all players who one might have thought were in consideration for the player pool. Meanwhile, Robinson Leyer was added to the player pool, which helped give him a net gain (accounting for draftees) of seven spots in the rankings up to 52. There are additions yet to come to the player pool, so we may learn more about what the organization thinks of certain players, which may lead to a partial update in early August.

Preparing for 2021…

A related point is that the lack of a 2020 season means that another year ticks off on player contracts. In addition to Longhi and Ockimey, Jhonathan Diaz will be a minor league free agent after the season and joined them in falling off our rankings. Enmanuel De Jesus, who was ranked in our last full update but had fallen out due to offseason additions, will also be a free agent if not re-signed. Although we did not remove potential minor league free agents as a hard-and-fast rule—Leyer and the recently acquired Jhonny Pereda are both ranked pending minor league free agents—it was a data point we considered. And generally, the lack of a season and looking to the future led us to favor younger players who will be around next year and into the future on our lists a bit more than usual, whereas we might typically want more data on guys in the Gulf Coast League or New York-Penn League before moving them too much.

We hope you enjoy reviewing and debating our rankings as much as we did preparing them! We miss baseball just like you, and look forward to hopefully having some to watch by the end of the month!

-- Mike, Chris, and Ian