Lost amid the news that Hannah Davis has been awarded the ultimate Jeter gift basket, Baseball America - the Bible of Human Potential - ran it's Top 100 prospects list yesterday. (We scored seven on it.) Simultaneously, Baseball Prospectus published its Top 101. (We had nine.) Analyst John Sickels unveiled his Top 200 (We placed 10.) If IT IS HIGH ever does one, it'll be the Top 1,000, and we'll score at least 20.
These lists have a purpose. Just remember to flush. They are parlor games, the type played by fund managers at Mar-a-Lago, while they oogle the nuclear football. Last summer, the fabled New York fucking Yankees stank so badly that their owner collapsed the circus tent and sold off the elephants. This spring, we're looking good on prospect lists. Excuse me if I fart.
All you need to know about Baseball America's esteemed list is that two years ago, Boston's international man of mystery, Rusney Castillo, placed 21st. He had come north from Cuba and launched a bidding war. The Redsocks won it. They've already paid him $23 million, and they owe $49 million more. They'll have him until 2020, when he is 32. Last year at Pawtucket, he hit .263 with 2 HRs. When Redsock fans blather about future Hall of Famer Andrew Benintendi, cover your ears and shout "RUSNEY CASTILLO!" They will go away.
But let's talk about Aaron Judge, the Yankee leviathan. In 2015, he placed 53rd on BA's list. Last year, he fell to 76th. This year, he ranks 90th. (Sickels dropped him to 143rd.) From all "expert" indications, Judge is on the verge of becoming our Rusney.
The reason for this pessimism is Judge's sorry play last August, when the Yankees sprang his escape from Scranton's coal mines. He flashed power and athleticism, but basically stank out the Bronx - fanning in half his at bats. (You all know this.) True believers note that Judge always struggled after promotions. Last year, a tweaked gonad took him out before he could adjust. We still don't know what we've got.
What if - say - Judge's gonad (which must be the size of a state fair watermelon) had barked last July, and Judge stayed in Scranton? His record for 2016 would show him crushing Triple A. There's be no bad September, no blitz of strikeouts. My guess: He'd be ranked higher on every list. The fact is, he is better off for getting a glimpse of MLB pitching - he's had a winter to adjust - but if he'd stayed in Scranton, he'd now be ranked higher by the "experts."
Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining that Aaron Judge should be ranked higher in these stupid lists. I'm just saying we should not get lulled into a sense of imminent success by them. They are baseball's equivalent of the "Most Popular" polls in high school. And we all know what happened to that former star quarterback, right?
Over the last three years, the most heralded prospect in baseball has been Byron Buxton of the Twins. Last year he got the call. He played in 92 games. He hit .225. Maybe 2017 will be his breakout year. Or maybe rankings just don't matter. It's a tough game.