There you are, sitting on your couch enjoying coffee, spending the painfully long Major League Baseball offseason dreaming of the best-case scenarios for your favorite team. We have reached February, and this upcoming Monday will mark three full months since the Houston Astros clinched their World Series title.
It has been 138 days since Elly De La Cruz played his last professional game in the states. Matt McLain hit behind him that day for Chattanooga, too. 138 days is an awful long time for all things to coagulate while nothing baseball-wise actually happens to disrupt things. Despite that stasis, the dawn of each new year brings back Prospect Ranking Season™, and when all your franchise has to rest upon is prospects, well, it’s easy to put a bit too much emphasis on moves and shakes that occur after four-plus months of inaction.
Perhaps the most notable place of emphasis has come in the wake of The Athletic’s re-rank of the Top 100 prospects in the game today, with noted analyst Keith Law doing said rankings. His updated Top 100 list can be found here, while the one he did during the 2022 season - published on August 1st, 2022, with just a month and a half remaining in the 2022 season - can be found here. If you begin on the latter list, you’ll run right into Noelvi Marte, the then-recent prize of the Luis Castillo trade, ranked 12th. If you begin on the former list, however, you’ll have to run all the way down to 49th to find Noelvi.
Noelvi Marte, it should be noted, hit .304/.410/.461 with a 17/22 K/BB and 10 steals in the 29 games he played from August 2nd, 2022 - the day after those mid-2022 rankings came out from The Athletic - until the end of Dayton’s season. That’s a 59 steal per 162 game pace to close out his season, for the record. So, it must have been the 21 game sample from his Arizona Fall League work that dinged him severely, a stint in which he posted just a .631 OPS in 21 games after already playing a full-season before - 21 games that saw him still post a 12/14 K/BB while also learning a new position (3B).
Marte’s fall down the rankings has hardly been only Law’s doing, as he tumbled from pre-season rankings in 2022 by Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus of 18th and 15th, respectively, to 63rd and 29th by those reputable outlets, too. New draft picks, new scouting reports, and the basic maturation process all factor into these things, but in Marte’s case in particular it seems he’s being dinged a bit for the exact things he was pigeon-holed for while being ranked highly to begin with. He’s a big-body who is filling out, just like everyone thought. He’s moving off short to 3B just like everyone thought. He’s still mastering the strike zone, still providing pop and average just like everyone thought.
Marte’s slide certainly played a part in Law ranking the Reds overall farm system just 13th among the 30 MLB clubs, a ranking that also just so happened to be the lowest among the five National League Central Division clubs. Elly De La Cruz remains perhaps the most intriguing prospect in the game and that is reflected widely by Law and elsewhere, as ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel rated him as the 9th best prospect in his own recent Top 100 update. Marte, for the record, checked in at 44th on McDaniel’s 2023 list after being 12th the year before.
McLain, by the way, was not listed on any of these updated list. For what it’s worth, Jonathan India fell off numerous Top 100 lists prior to his ROY performance in 2021, while Law had Nick Lodolo outside his Top 100 a year ago.
On the more optimistic end of things, Prospects1500.com updated their farm system rankings overnight, and they’ve got the Reds 4th on their list. The Reds aren’t just 4th here, either, they’re the highest ranked NL Central club - Pittsburgh, next among NLC franchises, ranks 8th.
On the more centric view of things, a reminder that FanGraphs has the Reds currently sitting as the 8th best farm system in the game - 3rd among NLC clubs behind the Pirates and Chicago Cubs. That damn Javier Baez trade for the Mets, man...woof.
It’s an undeniable fact that the farm system of the Reds, at present, is deeper than it has been in a couple of years. That’s saying something given that they’ve graduated India, Lodolo, Tyler Stephenson, Hunter Greene, Graham Ashcraft, and Alexis Diaz in recent years, too. There does appear to be a bit of pushback on just how good the farm truly is, however, as the shine seems to have come off a couple of guys relative to how sparkly it was just a few months back - while most of those months, I’ll reiterate, were of inaction. The best remedy for that would be for them to show up to Goodyear, start crushing the ball, and never once stopping during their respective 2023 campaigns.