Casey Mize and MacKenzie Gore each have a case to be considered the best pitching prospect of the first two and a half months of the season. It’s time to draw the line in the sand and pick a favorite.
These two third basemen are trending in opposite directions, it seems. Ke’Bryan Hayes is having himself a fantastic spring, showcasing power that many wondered if he really had. He’s getting ready to make the jump to Triple-A in 2019 where he’ll be 22 all year long and could be the full-time starter in 2020. Riley is about to turn 22 but already has 75 games at the highest minor league level, an accomplishment hard to overlook. There’s a little fatigue on him because he struggled with strikeouts in Triple-A (29 K%) and the Braves signed Josh Donaldson, essentially quelling all hopes of a call up in the early going (though there are reports he’s going to be tried in the outfield). But at the end of the day, these guys are both top 30 prospects, so where do we stand on them?
Hot off the heels of a pitching battle last week between two near-major league ready arms, we’re back on the mound, this time with two electric righties that have a little more lead time. Sixto Sanchez got shut down early last season for elbow troubles but in parts of four seasons, the Dominican righty has a 2.48 ERA, a 1.7 BB/9 and recently has began approaching a strikeout an inning. He’s been a staple in the top half of Top 100 lists for the last two years. Matt Manning is a little newer to the scene, breaking out in 2018, climbing from the Midwest League to the Eastern League and posting a 3.29 ERA, 11.8 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9, all as a 20-year-old. Let’s see where the crew stands between these two advanced righties.
In spring training Padres RHP Chris Paddack has come out pumping gas, showing off his impeccable command and even prompting manager Andy Green to wonder if he could break the rotation. With a major league ETA not far off, how far off is he from A’s LHP Jesus Luzardo, who is also expected to make his debut this year and his also getting spring training reps?
Welcome back to “Player Battles: Elite Offensive Shortstop Edition.” Today we look into two of the top power bats in the middle infield, as we compare and contrast, inspect and debate the slugging duo of the Washington Nationals Carter Kieboom and the Colorado Rockies Brendan Rodgers. Fantasy value will weigh heavy on the minds of our judges. Chicks dig the longball, and both these lads can mash. It begs the question, “who will be the ladies/judges choice?”. Lets battle!
This battle feels squarely on my shoulders. Not only are Kieboom and Rodgers part of my system coverage here at Prospects Live, this battle also feeds into my Eastern League bias. There’s two questions that this debate boils down to for me.
1. Who has the stronger plate profile?
2. Who will stick at shortstop long term?
After plenty of research and in person observations, both of those superlatives belong to Kieboom. Despite being younger, and having less experience at the AA level, Kieboom’s approach and plate discipline are superior to Rodgers. Ultimately that’s the true dividing line between the two, because outside of that they rate very similarly. Both possess plus hit and power combos, mostly grading in the 55-60 range on that pair of tools. Both are average runners likely to lose a step as they mature and develop fully into middle of the order type bats.
From a purely production standpoint Kieboom has the advantage in walk rate, while Rodgers has him by 10 points in batting average and 30 points in slugging. When put in context it’s not much of a victory for Rodgers if at all. Why? Well the time in Lancaster during the first half of 2017 severely inflated his production. So at best I would call the slashline a wash.
This is obviously all somewhat rooted in number scouting, but I thought it was best to address what you know and can measure, versus my personal opinions on their actual hitting styles. At the plate Rodgers is super clean, free, and easy. There’s little effort in his swing, and he generates plus bat speed with his quick hands. This is what’s frustrating about Rodgers, from a bat to ball standpoint he’s one of the more talented hitters I’ve watched in recent years. The issue is he’s extremely aggressive, often swinging at bad pitches, and sometimes making contact with the wrong pitches. This often saves his K rate from climbing, but in lieu of walks and potentially better contact.
That’s not the case with Kieboom.
The Nationals shortstop also has a clean, easy swing with plus bat speed. He engages his lower half a little more with a leg kick, but his patience and pitch recognition is night and day from his Rockies counterpart. Does Rodgers perhaps possess more natural contact and power? Possibly, but it’s a negligible difference. This is simply a questions of talent vs. approach, ceiling vs. floor. That extends to the defensive side of the ball as well.
Keiboom and Rodgers are both blessed with plus arms, as well as some questions regarding their range. Rodgers is the more athletic of the two players, and can move well at times in the infield, but his reads are sub-par and he often gets himself out of position on deep plays from the hole. In my observations of Kieboom, he’s a lot cleaner at the position and uses his arm to his advantage. The Rockies obviously recognize this as they’ve moved Rodgers all over the infield over the last few seasons, logging a lot of time at third base. Ultimately I believe this means Rodgers moves off of short to third or second. Which gives Kieboom the greater defensive value.
In this is a tight battle, I could see a logic case for either, but Kieboom’s baseball IQ makes him the clear choice for me in fantasy and reality based evaluations. - Ralph Lifshitz
Who do you take, the guy who should have a better hit tool and feels the safest? Or the one who’s flirted with 60/60 hit/power and could make his home the most hitter-friendly park in baseball? When you put it like that, it seems that Rodgers is the easy choice, but every now and then a prospect writer likes to be a bit contrarian. These two are very close but I’m taking Kieboom, whose prospect stock rose even higher after slashing .280/.357/.444 with 16 home runs and nine steals over the course of 123 games split nearly even between High-A and Double-A. His ascent to Harrisburg slowed his production (.721 OPS) , but this is the part where I remind you he was a 20-year-old and four years younger than the competition.
Kieboom also showed a better approach at the plate than Rodgers (10 BB% vs. 6.5 BB%), skills that have mirrored what each have done throughout their pro careers. In his Rockies Top 30, Ralph mentioned Rodgers is at risk of shifting off of shortstop, something I don’t think Kieboom is in danger of. Granted, Washington’s roster construction might force that to happen, but not because of Kieboom’s deficiencies. Rodgers has the higher ceiling, and I’d bet that once these careers are over he’ll have better peak seasons than Kieboom, but I don’t think their tools are that different and I’m certain the steadier production will come from the Nats prospect. -Eddy Almaguer
When I scout a player, I do not attach value to what sort of MLB park they will play in. While park factors tend to matter, to the elite prospects, they do not. Many a fantasy GM has chased young Rockies hitters only to be disappointed with lack of playing time or initial struggles at the plate. So if I am to judge between these two, I judge solely on what I see currently and what the tools project to.
Kieboom is the easy winner in this battle. I love his bat speed and raw power. Kieboom’s advanced approach and short swing allow him to hit any pitcher’s fastball. He doesn’t sell out for power and sprays the entire field with line drives. Defensively, he will catch what’s hit to him and his arm is plus, which will keep him on the left side of the infield. For me, he is a third baseman long term but can adequately cover SS. While both players are elite prospects, I think Kieboom is the better hitter and will hit better pitching over the course of his career. - Jason Woodell
In the battle of two elite middle infield prospects I would take Carter Kieboom by a decent margin, especially from a fantasy perspective. Kieboom is the more likely player to stick at short. While not a premium defender, I could see him manning the position in a Corey Seager-like fashion. From my looks Rodgers has little chance to stick at the position. Both are excellent hitters but Kieboom has the superior approach and feel to hit. While his power numbers have yet to fully manifest themselves, plus raw power percolates under the surface. All of this is not to say I dislike Rodgers in any way. His exit velocity numbers are elite, and his swing is sexy. When I look at it, I see great balance, little wasted motion and plus bat speed. His raw skills, however, are somewhat undermined by his aggressive approach to hitting. Overall I have fewer questions with Kieboom. Damelo. *Insert several bomb emojis*. - Jason Pennini
Just like that, the evaluators have spoken. Brendan Rodgers has been voted off of prospect island by a vote of 4-0. Please take a moment to gather your things and say goodbye before you walk out that door. I didn’t expect it to be a clean sweep, but Carter Kieboom is the winner of this player battle due to the higher floor and better underlying offensive skills.