This has been a question I have asked for quite some time. An old colleague of mine, Ricky Keeler, started the debate months ago and haven’t come to a conclusion. I even asked John, who feels that when a prospect exceeds rookie qualifications he is no longer a prospect. But he, too, agrees that there is a gray area when it comes to certain "prospects".
It is clearly very subjective, and the eye of the beholder can determine what is, in their eyes, a prospect. Baseball Prospectus just released their Midseason Top 50, and here’s what they said:
Let’s make a couple things clear right up top:
1) There are no recent draftees or international prospect signings in this ranking. That means no Kevin Maitan or Corey Ray.
2) There are no prospect-eligible players who are currently in the majors in this ranking. This means no Lucas Giolito (pitching today for the Nationals) but yes Julio Urias (probably throwing one inning at a time for a while in Glendale to stay fresh/limit workload).
I’m not so sure I agree with that approach myself, but there is merit to it. It gets really cloudy when you look at older players.
Sunday, for example, is the MLB Futures Game. It is a showcase of some of the minor leagues best prospects, as the World takes on the US. When you take a look at 25-year old J.T. Chargois in the Minnesota Twins organization, he is older in age than many of the prospects surrounding him in the game. He is younger than some — like Yankees top catching prospect Gary Sanchez who has had a seven-year career in the minors but is still just 23 — in experience, as he missed all of 2013 and 2014 with elbow issues.
Earlier in May, I wrote about T.J. Rivera, who many consider a Mets Top 30 prospect. But is he? Here’s a guy who was hovering around the .400 mark for much of the first three months of the season (he’s now batting .353) and has seen his name skipped over for guys like Ty Kelly, Eric Campbell, Matt Reynolds and most recently Brandon Nimmo. He is also 27-years old and not even on the 40-man roster. Wouldn’t a truly top prospect be on the 40-man roster at the very least?
How is a guy like Manny Banuelos still a prospect? How many chances does he get to get injured? You see where the gray area comes in to play? Is the Yankees Luis Severino still a top prospect after a solid end campaign to 2015 and a dismal start to 2016? After all, he is just 22 and in the minors, but he did exceed rookie limits last season... barely.
I honestly don’t have an answer, and I’m not sure that there is an exact one. What do we think Minor League Ball? Is there a definitive cutoff to prospect status?