Jake Marisnick or Anthony Gose?

If there are two players in the Toronto Blue Jays system who are destined to be perpetually linked it might be young outfield prospects Anthony Gose and Jake Marisnick.  Both offer their own unique skill set and each have their strengths and weaknesses but let me pose a tough question – if forced, which one would you choose, Goose or Maverick?

Opinions have differed with some favouring the uber-athletic Gose with his tantalizing tools while some prefer the more polished skills of Marisnick.  The argument has been made before on countless prospect websites and fans alike so I thought we could dive in a little deeper and see just who is the superior prospect?

Anthony Gose is a lefty swinging (and throwing) athletic centre field prospect who was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2nd round of the 2008 MLB draft.  He was taken as a young, raw high school kid who was also a promising pitching prospect at the time, armed with a 97-mph heater.  Gose had a desire to play every day and had lingering shoulder problems so he was drafted with the expectation of becoming a position player.

When Alex Anthopoulos took over the helm and was faced with the unenviable task of trading the greatest player in franchise history, Roy Halladay, talks advanced with the Phillies (his eventual landing spot) but the Phils balked at the Jays request to add Gose to any package. 

As we have learned Mr. Anthopoulos is a man who gets what he wants and after acquiring 1B prospect Brett Wallace he was immediately shipped out to Houston for Anthony Gose (who was acquired in the Roy Oswalt deal) and the Jays immediately went to work to evaluate exactly what they had in Gose.

Gose is a toolsy but raw speedster with three tools that rate well above average with his speed, arm and defense.  If he can hit an even a slightly below average clip he can become a very valuable every day major leaguer.  If he can develop the hit tool and cut down on his strikeouts, he could become a perennial all-star centre fielder.

Jake Marisnick who bats (and throws) from the right side was one of the best athlete’s in the 2009 draft and the Jays were happy to nab him in the third round and signed him for $1 million dollars.  Marisnick was also drafted straight out of high school and with three of the Jays top five picks (including James Paxton) declining to sign it was pretty imperative to get Marisnick into the system that year.

The Jays likely have no regrets about the selection or signing bonus after a monster 2011 season for Lansing in LoA.  Marisnick stands 6’4” and 200 lbs and is also a potential five tool centre fielder and could form a very athletic outfield trio with Gose in centre and Rasmus in left down the line depending on how things turn out.

Marisnick is one year younger and will turn 21 when the season begins and Gose will turn 22 so both have a little more minor league seasoning before making their major league debuts, but they are both getting close.  If Gose entrenches himself as the centre fielder of the future, Marisnick has the arm strength to slide over to right field.

Let’s look at their 2011 seasons and do a tool-by-tool comparison.

2011 AB AVG OBP SLG 2B HR BB K SB
A. Gose (AA) 509 253 349 415 29 16 62 154 70
J. Marisnick (LoA) 461 320 392 496 27 14 43 91 37

 Gose made a huge jump from HiA to AA in 2011 and more than held his own.  He was told he could not bunt and instead to focus on making solid contact in each at-bat so his overall numbers (batting average/on-base) could stand to improve when those restrictions are taken off.  Obviously strikeouts are a huge part of his game right now and even he acknowledges it is an area where improvement is a must.

He was recently quoted as saying if he can cut down his strikeouts by 70 than an additional 70 balls would be put into play where he can use his speed to his advantage.  I don’t think we are expecting the second coming of Barry Bonds or Wade Boggs but an improvement in patience and approach could make a monumental difference to his overall development.

Marisnick, while repeating LoA was still age appropriate for the level and had a monster season.  He hit for average, power and showed promising instincts on the base paths.  A promotion to AA this season will be a real test for the youngster and will go a long way in determining what type of player the Jays might have here.

Let’s do a quick comparison:

Hitting – There is no doubt at this point who is the better overall hitter with Marisnick showing a much better ability to make consistent contact.  Even with a slight improvement Gose still struck out 26% of the time but did walk 10.6%.  The hit tool definitely goes to Jake Marisnick.

Power – This was a tough call as scouts are divided on how much in-game power Marisnick and Gose will bring to the table in the major leagues.  Gose had an ISO of .161 in AA while Marisnick posted a .180 mark and based on the overall consensus among the guru’s I think the edge in power will go to Jake Marisnick.

Defense – While Marisnick is considered a solid defensive player (even in centre field) there are some who consider Gose the best defensive outfielder in the minor leagues.  He has incredible closing speed, instincts and has ridiculous range to his left and right.  Both are solid but one player is otherworldly in the field and the choice for defense is Anthony Gose.

Speed – Marisnick stole a very impressive 37 bases (in 45 attempts) and on a lot of teams would be far and away the best stolen base threat but again while Marisnick is solid Gose is on another planet.   Gose stole a ridiculous 70 bases (in 84 attempts) and rates a true 80 on the scouting scale for speed – edge Anthony Gose.

**UPDATE – Did you see the eighth inning of the March 29, 2012 spring training game?  Anthony Gose reached base via walk and then proceeded to steal second, third and home to give the Jays the lead 3-2.  Yeah, speeeeeed.

Arm Strength – Both Marisnick and Gose have strong throwing arms but scouts all agree that Anthony Gose again rates as a 70 or 80 in terms of arm strength, as a former pitcher who touched 97-mph on the radar gun the edge in arm strength clearly goes to Anthony Gose.

The Pick – So back to the original question, if you could choose only one?

That is such a difficult question given their similarities and differences.  Jake Marisnick will probably offer a more sound approach at the plate with less strikeouts than Gose, possible bat around .300 (or higher) with a .375 on-base, 20-25 homeruns and 25-30 stolen bases per season.

If everything goes right for him he could develop into a lesser Matt Holliday, with better defense.  I have even heard an Alex Rios (the good version) comparison, which makes sense given their size and type of skill sets offered.  I recently ranked the Top 15 Blue Jays prospects and had Marisnick ahead of Gose, given he seems more likely to realize his potential.

On the other side Anthony Gose offers extremely loud tools with the ability to be a perennial gold glove centre fielder and stolen base leader.  If Gose shows no improvement in his current offensive game he would still be an everyday major league player with his speed and defensive capabilities – think Cameron Maybin with more steals.

But, and I think this is why so many Jays fans are enamoured with Gose, if he can improve his ability to make contact and approach at the plate (i.e. cut down on strikeouts) he could be a stud, an annual trip to the all-star game stud.  Possibly in the mould of a Jacoby Ellsbury/Michael Bourn mix type of impact player – Ellsbury just had a 8+ WAR season. 

It is hard to envision Gose hitting above .300 but with his other skills he won’t necessarily have to do so to provide outstanding value.  Marisnick seems like the slightly safer bet to meet his ceiling and is probably the better overall prospect but if I was forced to choose one or the other I might have to go with the intoxicating allure and intriguing upside of Anthony Gose.

The experts are torn as I scoured the internet and among the top nine prospect sources four favoured Jake Marisnick, four preferred Anthony Gose and one was basically even.  Baseball America preferred Gose (#39) over Marisnick (#67) while Baseball Prospectus preferred Marisnick (#28) to Gose (#68) but the major evaluators tend to be contrarian to other lists for the most part.

So, who would you pick?

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