Pipeline Inbox: Top Divisional Prospect Rotations, 2021 Draft (www.mlb.com)

Forgive me if I seem like I’m in a ranking mood. It is that time of year for us at MLB Pipeline, after all, as we move closer to rolling out our 2021 prospects lists. So most of this week’s Inbox questions have a bit of a ranking theme to them.

Consider it an appetizer for the list-a-palooza coming your way soon, but this week’s Inbox also features a pair of questions answered on this week’s


If you created an all-prospects pitching rotation for each division in baseball (for example, the best 5 SP prospects among NL Central teams), which division would have the most impressive collection of young arms?
— @CreamCityPro

This was a fun exercise to do, as we don’t often break things down by division in this way. I was able to put together a five-man rotation for each division made up mostly of Top 100 prospects or Top 100-caliber arms, with some divisions deeper in that area than some. But looking at only the starting five, I would rank them this way:

1. AL Central: Casey Mize, RHP, Tigers; Matt Manning, RHP, Tigers; Tarik Skubal, LHP, Tigers; Asa Lacy, LHP, Royals; Daniel Lynch, LHP, Royals

2. NL East: Sixto Sánchez, RHP, Marlins; Ian Anderson, RHP, Braves; Max Meyer, RHP, Marlins; Spencer Howard, RHP, Phillies; Edward Cabrera, RHP, Marlins

3. AL East: Nate Pearson, RHP, Blue Jays; Luis Patiño, RHP, Rays; Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Orioles; DL Hall, LHP, Orioles; Shane McClanahan, LHP, Rays

4. AL West: Emerson Hancock, RHP, Mariners; Logan Gilbert, RHP, Mariners; Forrest Whitley, RHP, Astros; Reid Detmers, LHP, Angels; Dane Dunning, RHP, Rangers

5. NL Central: Matthew Liberatore, LHP, Cardinals; Quinn Priester, RHP, Pirates; Nick Lodolo, LHP, Reds; Brailyn Marquez, LHP, Cubs; Hunter Greene, RHP, Reds

6. NL West: MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Padres; Josiah Gray, RHP, Dodgers; Ryan Weathers, LHP, Padres; Seth Corry, LHP, Giants; Ryan Rolison, LHP, Rockies

In the end, I don’t think it’s all that close, with the Tigers’ and Royals’ arms giving the AL Central the clear advantage (and it doesn’t even include White Sox top arms like Michael Kopech and Garrett Crochet).

How are teams preparing differently for this Draft with the inability to physically scout players as they have in the past?
— @Richdanna

This is the one non-ranking question this week, though you could connect those dots because the issues raised definitely came up when we did our Top 10 Draft Prospects list last month and will likely impact what that updated list looks like in the spring. As was mentioned on the podcast, the biggest difference this year compared to last, even with the shortened spring season, was an uninterrupted summer. Sure, it wasn’t ideal, but scouts had seen the top players at high school showcases all summer, as well as college leagues. This past summer, while the high school showcase circuit took place, the ability to see college hitters against good competition was hard to come by. So there’s definitely more familiarity with the high school players in the 2021 Draft class right now, with many scouts feeling like they’re flying blind with the college crop. Hopefully, there will be something close to a regular spring so everyone can catch up.

Luis Medina’s 2nd half of 2019 and performance in the [Puerto Rico Baseball League] last month are extremely encouraging, no? 32 strikeouts in 16 innings with just 6 walks and wins player of the year. Chance to be the best pitcher in Yankees’ system?
— @RyanFlo98077565

According to Jim Callis, who does our Yankees’ Top 30 Prospects list, on the podcast, the answer is yes. The Yankees have a lot of interesting pitching in their system, but while Medina has struggled finding the strike zone, there are few pitching prospects with more exciting pure stuff than he has. His ceiling is insane, so even though he’s the sixth-best pitching prospect on the Yankees’ list right now, he could end up being the best, with that winter ball performance hopefully an indicator he’s really starting to figure it out after a strong end to his 2019 season that earned him a spot on the 40-man roster.

Tell me your thoughts on Cade Cavalli, Matt Liberatore, Daniel Espino, Shane McClanahan and stack rank.
— @RoryMiller7

I’ll start by ranking them in this order:

1. Liberatore
2. McClanahan
3. Cavalli
4. Espino

Of this group, I think Liberatore has the highest floor in terms of his ability to start long-term, while the others have electric stuff, but some concerns.

McClanahan has thrown 100 mph before, and the Rays liked what they saw of him at their alternate camp enough to include him on their postseason roster, but there’s some effort in the delivery that gives some evaluators pause before being certain he can start.

The same is true of Cavalli, whose stuff has him being mentioned among the top pitching prospects in baseball, but with a track record of not staying healthy. He could leapfrog to the top of the list with a full and productive 2021 season.

Espino fascinates me with amazing power stuff, the kind of swagger I like to see, but with a little reliever risk. More than anything, because he was a high schooler taken in the 2019 Draft, we just haven’t seen enough of him to really get a sense of what he will be in the long term.

How would you rank the prospects who were dealt in the Lindor/Snell/Darvish deals?
— @StevieDAles97

I’m only considering official prospects for this one, so Andrés Giménez and Francisco Mejía don’t count. Putting them all together, I’d line it up like this, starting with the lone Top 100 prospect as of now:

1. Luis Patiño, RHP (Snell)
2. Cole Wilcox, RHP (Snell)
3. Josh Wolf, RHP (Lindor)
4. Reginald Preciado, SS (Darvish)
5. Isaiah Greene, OF (Lindor)
6. Owen Caissie, OF (Darvish)
7. Ismael Mena, OF (Darvish)
8. Yeison Santana, SS (Darvish)
9. Blake Hunt, C (Snell)

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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