There's a good amount of subjectivity regarding baseball prospects. With the evaluation of talent being in the eye of the beholder, finding consensus is often difficult. Even Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo at MLBPipeline.com don't always see eye-to-eye. They'll be discussing their viewpoints regularly in a feature called Pipeline Perspectives. Submit a topic for them to debate.
It's not difficult these days to find prospect lists to read. Obviously, we reference MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects rankings all the time.
These lists, by design, are extremely subjective. Whether they are based on individual evaluations or by polling the scouting industry at large, it is entirely opinion-based. Undoubtedly, whenever a list comes out, there is strenuous debate about who is on the list and who is not. Even the list-makers have players they struggled to gauge or would like to see make the list in the future.
Thus is the basis of this edition of Pipeline Perspectives. Both Jim Callis and I have been ranking prospects for years. And even with MLB.com's list being a dynamic one, with updates being made to it as players graduate off the list and into the Major Leagues, there are going to be those on the outside looking in. Of those who aren't in the current Top 100, which player do we think is most likely to make the jump onto it in 2014?
Both Jim and I went with a hitter in answering this question, though not the same one. While he selected a somewhat forgotten (because of his 2012 injury) Josh Bell of the Pirates, I decided to pick one of the best hitters from the 2013 First-Year Player Draft.
Third baseman D.J. Peterson entered the Draft as one of the best pure, advanced hitters in the class. He was Plan B for several teams that held the top 10 picks, and the Mariners feel fortunate he was there for them to take again (they had drafted him out of high school in 2010) with the No. 12 pick overall. Over the course of his pro debut, the New Mexico product showed he might make a rapid trip up the organizational ladder to Seattle.
Peterson, No. 3 on the Mariners' Top 20 list, made two stops this past summer. He started slowly in the short-season Northwest League, hitting .220/.333/.488 in 11 June games. But then he made some adjustments -- always a good sign -- and hit .368/.413/.559 over 17 games in July. That earned him a promotion to the full-season Midwest League.
Again, he initially scuffled, going 4-for-28 (though three of the four hits were for extra bases) over his first seven games. Then he got comfortable and hit .352/.395/.648 in 19 August games before he took an errant pitch to the jaw, ending his season.
Peterson will make a full recovery, but that Aug. 22 incident kept him from doing a couple of things. One was earning another promotion. All signs pointed to the Mariners moving him up another rung before the end of the year. The second was a trip to the Arizona Fall League. The Cubs' Kris Bryant and the Marlins' Colin Moran, two of the college hitters taken ahead of Peterson, are there, putting them on what is sure to be a fast track.
While statistical performance in the AFL can't be given too much weight, there is no question that some time in Arizona often acts a springboard to the upper levels. Had Peterson been able to play, perhaps he could have started in Double-A at the outset of next season. Seattle, after all, let catcher Mike Zunino start this year in Triple-A, and he was in the big leagues by mid-June.
Peterson raking in the AFL would have undoubtedly helped his prospect status as well. There are pro scouts aplenty in Arizona, many of whom are polled for next year's rankings. It stands to reason that Peterson performing well in front of them would have landed him on their personal lists. Perhaps he already is. He did, after all, hit .303/.365/.553 with 13 homers and 47 RBIs in 55 Minor League games. But not every scout made it to the Northwest and Midwest leagues. More eyes on him will lead to better evaluations because he can flat-out hit.
Whether Peterson can stick at third base remains to be seen. But that doesn't really matter. His bat will carry him to the big leagues in a hurry. It might get him to Double-A to start next season, anyway, despite the broken jaw. And it should earn him a place on the Top 100 list when MLB.com launches it early next year.