Jake Marisnick: A Future Top 10 Prospect?

In my Monday night fantasy baseball chat over at FakeTeams, a reader questioned why I liked Blue Jays outfield prospect Jacob Marisnick so much. Here is his question and my response:

Comment From Ryan
Why are you so obsessed with Marisnick? I feel like you are going to lead a lot of unknowing owners astray by making him seem way better than he is.

Ray: He had a very good 2011 season. Not sure what there is not to like. He hits for power, steals bases, hits for a good BA and has a solid eye at the plate.

Previous to this question, a reader had asked who are the best outfield prospects besides Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, and I mentioned a few, including Marisnick. I probably would not have included Marisnick in my response had I not joined an AL-Only keeper league recently. I took over a team that finished in 9th place, so I felt the best strategy would be to rebuild, so I have traded some of my keepers for prospects and picks. This league has a two round minor league draft, and as a result of my deals, I now own 3 of the first 5 picks in the minor league draft, so I have been doing a lot of prospect research in my free time recently.

More on Marisnick after the jump:

Taking a look at his performance in Low A in 2011, one can't help but love the triple slash line he put up as a 20 year old. FanGraphs Mike Newman stated in a recent chat that to be considered a legit prospect, one must be 20 years of age in Low A, and Marisnick meets that requirement. He turns 21 at the end of March, and presumably will start the 2012 season in High A, with a chance to move up to AA should he continue to hit like he did in 2011.

Let's take a look at his 2011 stats, courtesy of Baseball-Reference:

Year Age Lev G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2010 19 A-Rk 69 249 33 63 20 2 4 26 23 3 22 55 .253 .336 .398 .733 99
2010 19 Rk 35 122 17 35 12 0 3 14 14 1 13 18 .287 .373 .459 .832 56
2010 19 A 34 127 16 28 8 2 1 12 9 2 9 37 .220 .298 .339 .636 43
2011 20 A 118 462 68 148 27 6 14 77 37 8 43 91 .320 .392 .496 .888 229
2 Seasons 187 711 101 211 47 8 18 103 60 11 65 146 .297 .372 .461 .834 328
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/4/2012.

Last season was Marisnick's first full season in the minors and he couldn't have performed much better. Of all Midwest league hitters who played over 100 games, Marisnick was second in the league in hitting, 7th in RBI and stolen bases, 4th in OBP, 8th in SLG and 5th in total bases. Marisnick's performance is even more impressive when you consider the league average age in 2011 was 21.6 years of age, and the league average triple slash line was .250-.323-.370, so he was a year and a half younger than the league average and was one of the leagues top hitters.

Marisnick benefitted from an extremely high .371 BABIP though, so some regression is expected in 2012. But he did show a solid eye at the plate, as his 17.4% strikeout rate and 8.2% walk rate indicates. Marisnick will be challenged by more experienced pitching in High A in 2012, and will have to prove his solid plate discipline was no fluke.

If his performance is not enough, this is what John had to say about him in his Blue Jays Top 20 Prospects for 2012:

3) Jake Marisnick, OF, Grade B+: Speed, defense, and a greatly improved bat. More power development would get him into the A-range.

An A- rating for a 20 year old is quite impressive and made me wonder if Marisnick could eventually be a future top 10 prospect. So, I decided to look at what other prospect experts are saying about him. Let's take a look.

Baseball America wrote about him recently in their Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects for 2012:

Scouting Report: One of the best athletes in the 2009 draft class, Marisnick has the upside of a five-tool center fielder. He has strength in his frame and swing, producing plenty of backspin and solid raw power. A hitch in his swing previously had scouts concerned about his ability to hit, but he has ironed out his mechanics and is less susceptible to offspeed stuff. His speed, range and arm are all above-average. He has a knack for stealing bases, succeeding on 60 of his 71 attempts (85 percent) as a pro. His quickness also enables him to glide to balls in the gap with ease.

The Future: Anthony Gose has louder tools, but Marisnick is a quality athlete and a better hitter. If Gose entrenches himself in center field, Marisnick has enough offense and arm to play in right. The Blue Jays won't rush him, but he could force a midseason promotion if he continues to produce in high Class A Dunedin in 2012.

Baseball America agrees with John here with respect to Marisnick being a better hitter than Gose, but they still ranked Gose as their #2 prospect in the Blue Jays system, with Marisnick right behind him at #3. John likes Marisnick a bit more than Gose, as he ranked Gose at #9 in the Blue Jays system, while ranking Marisnick several spots ahead at #3.

A little more research lead me to a site called SeedlingstoStars.com, and here is what Seedlingstostars' Nathaniel Stoltz wrote about him recently:

Conclusions: Marisnick has top-25 talent and he just had a big year, but he’s still got a short track record of success and a lot of distance between his current level and the big leagues. By the time he reaches the majors, he could be considered one of the top prospects in the game, but for now, he’ll need to spend 2012 proving he can continue to show some control of the strike zone against more advanced pitchers, and, preferably, clearing a few more fences. If he can keep his production intact up through Double-A, he’ll have a strong case for the top right-handed hitting outfield prospect in the game by year’s end.

Nate likes Marisnick quite a bit, and even thinks he can make it to AA this season, but Marisnick will have to continue to display a solid eye at the plate and improved power to do so.

Is it too early to start thinking about Marisnick as a future Top 10 prospect, and possibly as soon as 2013?

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