Pipeline Inbox Breaking Down Top 10 Position Lists (www.mlb.com)

We’ve almost arrived at the moment all prospect fans are waiting for: the 2021 Top 100 prospect rankings!
As has been our custom for years, we’ve been whetting your appetite with Top 10 by position lists leading up to the big reveal. And, not surprisingly, there have been questions and

We’ve almost arrived at the moment all prospect fans are waiting for: the 2021 Top 100 prospect rankings!

As has been our custom for years, we’ve been whetting your appetite with

leading up to the big reveal. And, not surprisingly, there have been questions and opinions offered up on all of them. Most of the questions below involve players on (or not on) a Top 10 list, though there’s also one query about the Pirates trading frenzy this offseason.

Why was Alejandro Kirk not on the Top 10 catchers? He had a really good Major League season, I thought he could have made at least the Top 10 catchers considering that catchers are not the strongest of positions for prospects.
— @2021BZLengendary

We heard from a few Blue Jays fans who were outraged — well, maybe that’s too strong (Do Canadians get outraged?) — about Kirk’s omission from the Top 10 catchers list. And we talked at length about this on this week’s Pipeline Podcast. We all like Kirk, but there were a couple of things I voiced faux outrage about in the question. The first was using his time in the big leagues as an argument for his inclusion. Kirk played in just nine games and had 25 plate appearances in 2020, way too small of a sample size for it to mean anything.

I’d also disagree about the lack of strength in catching these days. Sure, it’s not the shortstop or right-handed pitcher groups, but that’s a pretty deep list. And while we like Kirk, though outside of his big league debut he’s yet to officially play above Class A ball, we wouldn’t take him ahead of any of the 10 currently on the list, with his fringy defensive profile being a reason why. Could he work his way onto the list in 2021? I could see that.

How would you rate the job Ben Cherington has done to revive the Pirates farm system?
— @DrewVonscio

Most people will tell you that you can’t really judge the effectiveness of a trade (or trades, in this case) involving prospects until several years down the line. After all, the goal is to acquire future big leaguers in that farm system revival, as you put it, so you can’t really tell how successful the deals were until you know just how many of those prospects turn into big league talent.

But you did frame the question just in terms of rebuilding a system that had thinned out a bit after trades and graduations to the big leagues, so as long as you know I’m answering with the aforementioned caveat, I will say I believe Cherington and staff have done a very solid job in the returns in the various trades they’ve made this offseason.

That’s definitely true in terms of depth/quantity, though less true in terms of acquiring elite-level talent. But as much as I like Josh Bell, Joe Musgrove and Jameson Taillon (full disclosure: I am a Pittsburgh resident), each had things that limited their value somewhat. Bell was an All-Star in 2019, but endured a rough 2020 (didn’t we all?), is limited defensively, and will be a free agent after 2022. Musgrove has great stuff, but wasn’t always consistent and also hits free agency following 2022. Taillon is coming off his second Tommy John surgery and, you guessed, he also becomes a free agent after the 2022 season is over.

In those three trades, Cherington has brought in eight new members of the current Pirates Top 30 list, and a few interesting prospects not on the list. If you want to go back to the Starling Marte trade last January, that’s 10. None of them are current Top 100 players. But I think a few of them could end up on that list when all is said and done. And that’s what the Pirates have done here. They’ve brought in a whole lot of upside. Most of the acquisitions are very far away from reaching Pittsburgh, but many of them have high ceilings. Now, we’re a long way from knowing if they’ll reach their potential (see caveat above), but I do think Cherington has set the organization on the path toward building a very strong foundation of young talent that will be a lot of fun to watch develop in the coming years.

If Jordan Groshans didn’t get hurt in 2019, and continued the season he was having, do you think he would’ve ranked any higher on the top 10 SS list, and the top 100 list that is about to come out? If so, where?
— @JakobMalloch

We’re all very high on Groshans, the Blue Jays’ 2018 first-round pick (No. 12 overall). And of the three of us who put together the overall lists, I was the low man on Groshans. He served notice his bat was ready for the transition to pro ball when he hit .296/.353/.446 during his pro debut as a high schooler from Texas.

Before a left foot injury ended his first full season in May, Groshans certainly was taking another step forward with a .337/.427/.482 line in the Midwest League in 2019. News came in that he looked good at Toronto’s alternate training site last summer, but we tried not to put too much weight into those reports because as instructive as those camps may have been, it did not replicate real competition or a full season of 140 games. The fact he fared well against older and more advanced players is a good sign.

Two things would limit just how much a leap up the Top 10 shortstops list he would have made from his current spot at No. 7. The first is his defense. It’s not that he’s a bad shortstop, it’s just that he might not stick there long-term as he continues to physically mature. The other is simply how stacked this list is. It’s the most exciting top 10 list we have most years and the 2021 version is no exception. So had Groshans had that full year in 2019, not to mention a 2020 season of any kind, I think I could see him as high as No. 5, ahead of Royce Lewis and Austin Martin, but I don’t see him surpassing the big four at the top: Wander Franco, Bobby Witt Jr., CJ Abrams and Marco Luciano.

Do you see CJ Abrams future more at 2B or in CF with Fernando Tatis Jr. in San Diego?
— @PadresFanTakes

Speaking of Abrams … he actually came up in my Hot Stove segment on Wednesday, when this very question was addressed. When Abrams was entering the Draft in 2019, there were some questions about whether shortstop would be his long-term home, more because his premium athleticism could allow him to play a number of spots. Somewhat ironically, he’s made his biggest strides on the defensive end of things. His top-of-the-scale speed always helped him cover a lot of ground and he worked with Padres staff at their alternate training site last summer to become a much better all-around shortstop. Of course, as you point out, there is a very large obstacle in San Diego in the form of Fernando Tatis Jr.

The good news is he could easily slide over to second base and could be a plus defender in center field, a spot he’s played previously for Team USA in international competition. Since he has yet to play a full season, there’s time before the Padres have to make this decision. It might come down to personnel in San Diego at the time he’s ready and plugging him in to wherever there’s an opening.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly MLB Pipeline Podcast.

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