Over at MLB Fanhouse, Frankie Piliere has a top 100 prospect ranking, one of many to come out this offseason. It's the same mix of names that you see everywhere, in slightly different places. But most of them tend to be pretty consistent at the top. Jason Heyward's been regarded as the consensus best prospect in baseball for a while now, with a few ranking Stephen Strasburg's golden arm just above him. Piliere's list is different, however: Heyward was ranked fourth, behind Strasburg, Michael Stanton, and Desmond Jennings, causing me to get my dander thoroughly up.
Michael Stanton and Jason Heyward are basically the same age: Stanton is 3 months younger, but both were born in the second half of the year, which means that they have the same baseball age each season. Heyward's career minor league SLG is .508, while Stanton's is .539; Heyward's OPS is .899, while Stanton's is .893. So far, fairly even. But Stanton's numbers are depressed by his disappointing .766 OPS in 341 PA last year at AA. On the other hand, during Heyward's 195 PA at AA last year, he had a 1.057 OPS.
Last year, Heyward hit 17 homers in just 99 games, while striking out and walking exactly 51 times each. Power and plate discipline in equal measure. Stanton had 28 homers in 129 games, but 59 walks against a whopping 144 strikeouts. That's one reason his career minor league batting average is .267, 51 points lower than Heyward's .318. Stanton is an athletic player, unlike many Three True Outcomes prototypes (Adam Dunn, Pat Burrell, Ryan Howard), but he has a serious, serious strikeout problem, and he'll struggle to keep his batting average over .250 in the major leagues if he can't fix the holes in his swing. He's a terrific athlete, and there's a decent chance he will, but right now there's no certainty.
On the other hand, everything that Jason Heyward has ever done in the minor leagues has added up to one certainty: he will hit. Calling Stanton a better prospect than Heyward, at this stage in their respective development, is crazy talk. Crazy, I tells ya!