Day 2 of the BBTN 500 consists of players ranked 301-400. We asked our experts to weigh in with their thoughts on the players in this group.
1. Who are you most surprised to see here?
Christina Kahrl (@ChristinaKahrl), SweetSpot: For someone who ought to be higher, I'd go with Will Venable: He's a tremendous, rangy defender in right (plus-15 in Baseball Info Solutions' Plus-Minus), he'll swipe another 25-30 bases and he'll top an .800 OPS versus right-handers with Petco Park's fences coming in. For somebody who shouldn't be in this high, the Orioles' Miguel Gonzalez getting here is as surprising as the O's were last year. You're telling me a 28-year-old rookie with a half-season of weak strikeout and walk rates should really be ranked this high?
David Schoenfield (@dschoenfield), SweetSpot: Michael Saunders, ranked below middle relievers and mediocre starting pitchers? Talk about underrated. I realize nobody watched the Mariners last year, and Saunders' numbers took a hit in Safeco (.247/.306/.432), but his adjusted OPS was actually above league average and he hit 19 home runs with 21 steals. With the fences moving in, he could go 25/25 this year and prove he's a top-150 player.
Matt Meyers (@mtmeyers), ESPN.com: Last year, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper ranked in the mid-100s, so I'm surprised to see Oscar Taveras (No. 391), a prospect almost at their level, so far down. I'm not saying he will make that kind of instant impact, but it goes to show how much hype Trout and Harper received relative to other top prospects.
2. The player here most likely to be off the top 500 next year is ______.
Kahrl: I'd tab a pair of Rangers who are running out of time to establish themselves as anything more than useful reserves. Mitch Moreland has to show more power playing first base at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington; if he doesn't step up in his age-27 season, Mike Olt could have his job by the All-Star break. It may not even take that long for Craig Gentry -- he's a good fourth outfielder, but he's not going to hold off Leonys Martin indefinitely. Once the Rangers figure out what they want to do with Jurickson Profar, the fate of all these guys' playing time hangs in the balance.
Schoenfield: Adam Lind was good once upon a time. Way back in 2009, when he hit .305 with 35 home runs. He can still pop a few home runs, but he doesn't hit for average, doesn't walk and doesn't bring much with the glove. As a first baseman or DH, his bat just isn't that valuable, not with a .296 OBP over the past three seasons. The Jays may look for an upgrade during the season.
Meyers: Miguel Gonzalez (No. 374) was a nice story for the 2012 Orioles, but he was a 28-year-old rookie without a track record of dominance in the minors. I see Aaron Small 2.0 right here.
3. John Lackey (No. 400): Is he done, or should Red Sox fans hold out hope?
Kahrl: He isn't done, but it remains to be seen whether he can be more than a mediocre starter from here on out. A couple of rough outings might lead to a predictable Beantown freakout, burning in effigy, etc., but I doubt the Red Sox will be bum-rushed into releasing him with at least $31 million and two years left on his contract. If he rounds into an adequate fifth starter once he's gotten enough reps to come all the way back from Tommy John surgery, the Red Sox will have their very own East Coast version of Barry Zito.
Schoenfield: The last time Lackey pitched well and made 30 starts was 2007. The best-case scenario is probably something like he did for Boston in 2010 -- 215 innings, 4.40 ERA -- which means he's not quite done, but I suspect he'll need a lot of good luck to post a 4.40 ERA.
Meyers: I was always a fan of Lackey when he was with the Angels, so I'm inclined to believe in him. Unlike most guys who claim to be "in the best shape of their life," Lackey is noticeably slimmer this year, which I think bodes well. I could see 180 innings of sub-4.00 ERA.