Rodgers, Robles, Acuna and Espinoza and how the current Sally class stacks up

Ronald Acuna, photo courtesy of Jeff Morris (on Twitter @AtlBravesJeff)

Hey guys I’ve been thinking about the talent level in the 2017 Sally a lot lately and how it compares to the 2016 class.  2017 definitely feels deeper then its predecessor but I don’t believe there’s anyone that could break up last years top four of Brendan Rodgers, Victor Robles, Ronald Acuna and Anderson Espinoza.

In this piece I’m taking a look back at the four players and the tools they possess(ed). I’ll do the same with the current players and identify why they’re not held in the same light.  The best of the 17 class are: Leody Taveras, Cristian Pache, Mickey Moniak, Jay Groome, Estevan Florial and Blake Rutherford.  And for fun I’m including Kevin Maitan just to see how he stacks up vs the best of the last two Sally classes.  At the bottom of the piece I’ll rank all of these prospects from 1-11. Cheers


2016 class

I had SS) Brendan Rodgers (Rockies) 1st overall on my 2016 mid season Sally top 20 list (1st annual mid season top 20 Sal league prospects list).  He had plus bat speed and the ball really exploded off of his barrel.  He was hitting 400′ HR’s as a teenager, that’s impressive and very rare.  But he also showed an all field approach and displayed very good bat to ball skills.  The hit could play plus and the raw power was plus and could grow into plus, plus.  I thought he could hit 290 with 25-30 HR, 5-10 SB and stick at SS.  That’s a very valuable player. I haven’t seen anything that would change my mind this year. He just needs to stay healthy.


CF) Victor Robles (Nats) was #2 on my list last year and I had a lengthy internal debate between he and Rodgers.  He too showed plus bat speed and an all field approach and excellent bat to ball skills.  And while he didn’t have Rodgers power he was a 70 grade runner and displayed very good CF defense and a rocket for a throwing arm.   I thought he could hit 290 with 15 HR and 40 SB and play GG caliber CF.  I had a friend tell me I was light on the power and I may be.  I still think he’ll be a 5 tool star.


CF) Ronald Acuna (Braves) missed a lot of time in 2016 due to a thumb injury but I was fortunate to get one look very late in the season.  I didn’t get a great read on the CF defense that day but I became an instant believer in that bat. He showed plus bat speed and excellent bat to ball skills.  The ball was jumping off of his barrel.  I thought he had 290-15-20 HR and 25-30 SB upside.  Soon after I saw on Twitter that David Lee had said Acuna had one of the best rounds of BP he had seen all yr. Which gave me an immediate indication that I was probably low on the power.  He’s had a meteoric rise up prospect lists in 2017 and is in the discussion for #1 prospect in the game.


RHP) Anderson Espinoza (Padres) was #3 on my mid season list last year and he has an explosive arsenal.  Two potential 70 grade pitches in the 94-97 (98) fastball and 11/5 curve and while the change up is definitely the 3rd best pitch he throws, it sits 12-16 MPH behind the fastball.  The speed differential allows the pitch to play up.  Espinoza has had a tough year, an early elbow injury has led to Tommy John surgery.  I hope he emerges on the other side with the stuff intact.


2017 class

Leody Taveras (Rangers) is my #1 player in this years mid season Sally top 25  Mid season Sally top 25 Prospect List he’s a switch hitter with premium bat speed, he’s had some of the loudest at bats I’ve seen this year.  He has a wiry strength to him and for a young player he shows excellent bat to ball skills and puts together some professional at bats.  Left handed the hit can play plus or perhaps more and the speed is plus.  He has 290-20-30 upside and a solid defensive CF.  So why is he not with the top group?  You just have to squint a little more to see it.  He compares most closely to Robles who was more consistent with the hard contact and more advanced defensively in CF.  Leody can certainly have the better career but at this moment in time he’s a stride or two behind where Robles was.


Cristian Pache (Braves) is #3 on my Sally top 25, he’s pretty well put together, hell be 6’2″ 200+ at peak.  The bat speed is plus and the ball jumps off of his barrel. He works the count and sprays the ball around.  He’s also a 70 grade runner and a potential gold glove CF.  He has the potential to hit 290 with 20+ bombs and 30 SB (at least early in his career).  Why isn’t he included in the top group?  Again you have to squint,  he’s hitting the ball in the air 19% of the time right now.  He’s shown next to no game power but he’s a rugged young man.  If he finds some lift I suspect he’ll have power to all fields.  He’s got an enormous ceiling


Mickey Moniak (Phillies) is #2 on my list, not quite as high of a ceiling as others here.  He’s got a short, quick swing and sprays line drives between the gaps.  He shows solid bat to ball skills and makes consistent hard contact.  The speed is plus and he’s a solid defensive CF.  He’s got the potential to be a 290 hitter with 15 HR and 25-30 SB.  A very good player just not at the same level of the group above.


LHP) Jay Groome- (Red Sox) A sturdy left hander with an above average to plus fastball and a potential double plus curve.  He also has a solid 3rd pitch in the change up.  He’s got #2 starter upside.  The stuff isn’t at Espinoza’s level but I like him nearly as much because he’s a 6’6″ left hander with the potential for + fastball command.


CF) Estevan Florial (Yankees) Nobody on this list has a higher ceiling than Florial.  He can hit the ball as far as Rodgers/Acuna and run like Robles. So why is he so far down the list?  Well he’s got a big swing and pitch recognition is a work in progress.  Also I’m not 100% convinced he can pick up spin.  He’s a very good athlete and if he puts it all together it’s 290, 40 HR and 30 SB.  But he can also hit .220 and be an up and down guy.  I think he’ll be somewhere in the middle 260-25-15.  I’ve watched Charleston a few times now but still haven’t caught him in CF.


CF) Blake Rutherford (White Sox)  Rutherford doesn’t have the same ceiling as some of the others on this list.  The swing is on the long side, right now the bulk of the contact is sharp grounders and low line drives between the gaps.  Eventually he’ll find some lift and begin tapping into the potential plus raw power.  He’s 270-25 upside with 5-10 SB.  He’ll be fine in CF for a few yrs but he’ll likely be in a corner by his late 20’s.


SS) Kevin Maitan (Braves) A 17 year old sturdy switch hitter I guessed 6’1″ 225 lbs after seeing him recently.  Left handed he’s got premium bat speed and the ball explodes off of his barrel.   He also showed solid bat to ball skills and an all field approach.  A potential plus hitter  with potential double plus raw power.  I have to get some more looks at the right hand swing before I can comment.  If I were to rank every player I saw this season Maitan would be #1 on the list, he’s that impressive.  He compares very favorably with the 2016 group, If there was a chance he could stick at SS I would have him up with Brendan Rodgers.


How they rank 1-11

1) Acuna- Ranking them today,  Acuna has to be #1, he’s done enough to surpass Rodgers and Robles.  But I think all would be in my top 5 overall.

2) Rodgers

3) Robles

4) Maitan- One of the most exciting young players out there,  I’d have to write it all out to be sure but he’d probably be in my top 20 overall


5) Leody- This tier likely in my top 40

6) Pache-  I had Pache and Moniak reversed on the mid season list.  I’m flipping them here because Pache has the more intriguing ceiling.  But I like both players a lot.


7) Moniak This tier likely in my top 60

8) Groome


9) Florial This tier likely in the back of my top 100

10) Rutherford

11) Espinoza

Espinoza is clearly #11 now because of the TJ.  If he were healthy I would have him 5th after Maitan .



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