One of the things that becomes quite clear reading the list is that McDaniel has seen relatively few of these players in person in the last few years. Rather, like Baseball America, he is relying on what sources tell him for the list. The result is that I end up diverging from these assessments where they do not match what I have seen in person. (In my own Top 41, I think I have seen all but four players live in the last two years or at spring training, and three of those players were drafted in 2014.)
Let's revisit our tool, the composite Top Prospects list:
McDaniel becomes the first analyst to have a player other than LHP Steven Matz in the No. 2 spot, dropping him down to No. 7. Even so, it's not enough to pull Matz out of second in the composite rankings.
McDaniel's take on Matz: "Works 91-95 and hits 96 mph with an above average to plus changeup and a curveball that’s improved dramatically to now flash average to slightly above. ... There’s a No. 3 starter in here if it all comes together, but the curveball and command of his off-speed is still inconsistent."
McDaniel slots Kevin Plawecki in at No. 2, instead. I understand the rationale because the standards for offense at catcher are so low, but that feels really high for a guy who does not project to hit 20 home runs and has a below-average arm for the position. McDaniels calls Plawecki's arm "average."
McDaniel is higher on Amed Rosario and 2015 first-round pick Michael Conforto than the consensus. On Conforto he writes, "It’s easy to appreciate Conforto’s bat and scouts all seem to agree he’s elite in this regard." There's a danger in the word "all" because it only takes one to disprove. In this case, I have one and more than one who do not see Conforto's bat as elite. He's a good prospect who projects more as an average regular. I suppose the counterargument would be that to project as an average MLB regular, one would be an elite prospect, but that's not how I read the sentence. To rank Rosario that high is to weigh his upside over Matz, Brandon Nimmo, Dilson Herrera and Montero, all of whom, with health, should see big league time in 2016. It's an aggressive ranking.
The 11-20 places on any prospect lists are funny places, in that one is dealing with good prospects who have questions about their big league viability. Perhaps they are young, risky players. Or guys who have been around the system for a few years who have not performed up to expectations. In this range, one learns about what the writer values as well. In McDaniel's case, after Jhoan Urena at No. 11, he spends four of his next five spots on likely relief pitchers: Michael Fulmer (No. 12), Akeel Morris (No. 13), Hansel Robles (No. 15) and Cory Mazzoni (No. 16). Fulmer and Mazzoni have early-round pedigrees, but each has struggled with injury. Morris and Robles are relievers all the way, with Robles in Double-A in 2014 and Morris in Single-A. I have guys like Champ Stuart, Gabriel Ynoa and Blake Taylor ranked in front of all of these likely relievers. Stuart and Taylor have plenty to work on before becoming big leaguers, but they have a chance to be everyday caliber players. Ynoa, who McDaniel ranked at No. 26, will not turn 22 until May 2015 and held his own in Double-A in 2014, turning in some very fine performances toward the end of the year. Even if he's a back-end starter, that in general is more valuable than a one-inning reliever.
I'm a big Wuilmer Becerra fan (as non-top 10 guys go). I think he's a no-doubt top-20 guy in the system too, above Kingsport teammate Ivan Wilson who McDaniel listed at #28.
There are too many players where I disagree with McDaniel on the underlying tool grades.