MLB Prospects: Top 50 MLB Prospects

Mike RosenbaumMLB Prospects Lead WriterMarch 26, 2012

MLB Prospects: Top 50 MLB Prospects

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    At long last, after alluding to my prospect rankings for the last week, Prospect Pipeline’s inaugural Top 50 prospects has finally arrived.

    Yes, it’s late in the game compared to when others released their respective lists. But considering that Prospect Pipeline debuted last Monday, I wanted to release my rankings as soon as possible.

    Before plunging into the Top 50, here is the criterion for how these prospects were evaluated and subsequently ranked.

     

    Hitters

    • Age vs. level: How well a player fared at a certain level relative to his age. For example, a 19-year-old outfielder who raked at either High-A or Double-A would garner a higher ranking than a 24-year-old who posted similar numbers at Triple-A.
    • Injury history
    • Tools: The number of impact tools a player possesses in relation to his position 
    • Hit tool: In the evolution of the prospect landscape, the hit tool has emerged as both the most valuable and hardest to project. 
    • On-base skills: How frequently the player gets on base and, in turn, how advanced his pitch recognition ability is
    • Whether he has a clear path to the major leagues
    • Whether he currently plays a premium position and remains there
    • If not, what skills separate him from other prospects at the same position?

     

    Pitchers

    • Age vs. level
    • Injury history (durability)
    • K/9: Has the pitcher posted similar K/9 rates throughout the minor leagues? Essentially, does he have the stuff to generate swing-and-misses in the major leagues?
    • Command: Whether he can command his pure stuff
    • Pitchability: The number of above-average pitches in a pitcher's arsenal
    • Does he project as a starter, or will he ultimately work out of the bullpen?

     

    Future Adjustments

    • Unlike other lists, Prospect Pipeline’s Top 50 will be unique in the sense that it will be updated at the beginning of each month, possibly even bi-monthly.
    • Once a player has either met or exceeded the rookie qualifications—130 career at-bats or 50 career innings pitched—he will be removed from this list.

     

    Now, I fully understand that some of my rankings will generate criticism—and I welcome it. Given my background as a player, coach and scout, I may view players in a much different light than others. While I love players with flashy tools, I am not blinded by them. I don’t just look at stats; I scrutinize a hitter’s swing as much as I do a pitcher’s mechanics. What I’m trying to say is: I’m highly critical.

    My Top 50 has been an enormous undertaking to which I have dedicated an obscene amount of time.  Therefore, I want to hear from you, the readers. Please feel free to contact me with any questions, comments and criticism. You may share your thoughts in the comments section of this article, email me at mrosenbaum@bleacherreport.com, or reach out to me on Twitter (@GoldenSombrero). 

    If there is enough feedback regarding my Top 50, I would like to schedule a live chat for either Wednesday or Thursday—time to be determined.

    I thank you all in advance for your support of Prospect Pipeline, and I look forward to all the prolonged discussions we will undoubtedly have over the course of the Major and Minor League Baseball season. 

50. Michael Choice, Oakland Athletics

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    Position: OF                 

    Height/Weight: 6'0", 215

    DOB: 11/10/1989           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (UT-Arlington)

     

    2011 Stats:

    High-A: .285/.376/.542, .257 ISO, 130 wRC+ (542 plate appearances)

     

    Overview: There is some swing-and-miss with Choice, but no part of any park can hold him and his defense is far better than one would expect from this kind of power bat. He still chases too many breaking balls, but that should improve in 2012. 

    There is a realistic chance that Choice can stay in center field, and if he can, then he has All-Star potential. While his speed is a 60, he doesn’t necessarily use it very well on the bases.

    The down tool with Choice is his arm, so his value drops considerably if he's forced to move away of center, but by no means is that move imminent or even likely. Choice can take a huge step forward with a big 2012 in the high minors.

    ETA: 2013

49. Yonder Alonso, San Diego Padres

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    Position: 1B

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 240

    DOB: 4/8/1987

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2008, first round (University of Miami)

     

    2011 Stats:

    AAA: .296/.374/.486, 11.2 BB%, 14.7 K%, .190 ISO, 131 wRC+ (409 PA)

    MLB: .330/.398/.545, 10.2 BB%, 21.4 K%, .216 ISO, 160 wRC+ (98 PA)

     

    Overview: Blocked by Joey Votto in Cincinnati, Alonso wasn’t free to progress through the minors as needed.  He has a plus bat from the left side and knows how to use the entire field. He also has above-average power, although he has never hit more than 15 home runs in a season since entering the minors. He has an advanced feel for the strike zone and can hit in all counts.

    On defense, Alonso is limited to first base due to his size and below-average athleticism, and there's nothing sexy about a first-base-only prospect.  His lack of power hurts his projection as a long-lasting big-league first baseman, as well as his overall ranking on this list.

    The trade to San Diego for Mat Latos was a blessing for Alonso, who figures to be the team’s Opening Day first baseman.

    ETA: 2011

48. Brett Jackson, Chicago Cubs

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    Position: OF                        

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 210

    DOB: 8/2/1988            

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2009, first round (University of California)

     

    2011 Stats:

    Double-A: .256/.373/.443, 15 SB, .189 ISO, 124 wRC+ (297 PA)

    Triple-A: .297/.388/.551, 6 SB, .254 ISO, 130 wRC+ (215 PA) 


    Overview: Jackson is a phenomenal athlete with five above-average tools.  He posted a 20/20 season in 2011 while walking 73 times in just over 500 plate appearances.  He strikes out too much, but the power numbers justify it to some extent.  As a 60-speed guy, Jackson has potential to stay in center field and challenge for 20 stolen bases in the Show.  With a 50 to 55 arm, he has a chance to be above average in center field for years.

    His speed plays well on the bases and should for at least a few years, as he was successful in over 75 percent of his stolen base opportunities.  Unfortunately, the Cubs' outfield is currently at capacity with Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd and David DeJesus, so Jackson will begin the 2012 season in Triple-A.  Besides refining his plate discipline, Jackson is more than ready to take his talent to Wrigley this season. 

    ETA: 2012

47. Nick Castellanos, Detroit Tigers

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    Position: 3B                       

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 195

    DOB: 3/4/1992                        

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (Archbishop McCarthy HS, FL)

     

    2011 Stats:

    Single-A: .312/.367/.436, .124 ISO, 129 wRC+ (562 PA)

     

    Overview: A first-round selection in 2010, Castellanos is hands-down the Tigers’ top hitting prospect. After an anemic start to the 2011 season at Low-A, he went on to slash .312/.367/.435 while playing in 135 games.  Even though he swatted only seven home runs, the right-handed hitter did tally 36 doubles. And considering his ability to barrel up the baseball, adding a little loft to his swing should yield more home runs. He struck out 130 times compared to 45 walks, so he’ll need to improve that differential this season.

    Castellanos is still learning how to play third base, but his range, instincts and above-average arm work well there. He’s tall (6'4") with wiry strength and lots of room to fill out.

    It will be interesting to see what adjustments he makes at High-A in 2012.

    ETA: 2015

46. Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees

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    Position: C                       

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 220

    DOB: 12/2/1992           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2009, Dominican Republic

     

    2011 Stats:

    Single-A: .256/.335/.485, .229 ISO, 121 wRC+ (343 PA)

     

    Overview: Gary Sanchez distinguished himself as one of the game’s top catching prospects in 2010 by slashing .353/.408/.597 to begin his professional career.  Although the power still showed in 2011, he lacked consistency.  Sanchez has easy, raw power to all fields thanks to pure bat speed, and he should hit for a decent average. He knows how to work the count, often to his own detriment, and struggles with quality off-speed offerings.

    His receiving skills can be poor at times, and he can even come across as careless. Scouts think he will improve behind the plate enough to keep his bat there—ala Jesus Montero.  He does have a plus arm that helped him gun down 31 percent of base stealers last season.

    Sanchez could use some more time at Low-A to begin the season. But if he shows the same type of power that he did in 2011, he could be finish the season at High-A.

    ETA: 2015

45. Yasmani Grandal, San Diego Padres

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    Position: C                       

    Height/Weight: 6'2'', 210

    DOB: 11/8/1988           

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (University of Miami)

     

    2011 Stats:

    High-A: .296/.410/.510, .214 ISO, 137 wRC+ (251 PA)

    Double-A: .301/.360/.474, .173 ISO, 123 wRC+ (172 PA)

    Triple-A: .500/.667/.667, .167 ISO, 276 wRC+ (18 PA)

     

    Overview: Grandal, a switch hitter, was selected 12th overall in 2010 and has already appeared at every level. He’s a bat-first catcher with the ability to hit for both power and average from both sides of the plate. He has also shown a sound approach at the plate with knowledge of the strike zone and good on-base skills.

    Grandal’s receiving skills can lapse at times, but it’s not overly worrisome. He possesses the physicality for the position as well as a slightly above-average arm that helped him hose base stealers at a 34-percent clip. 

    He should start the year in the high minors with a chance to break in at some point during the 2012 season.  Nick Hundley’s three-year extension this past week does complicate things for Grandal, though it shouldn't hinder his 2013 arrival.

    ETA: 2013

44. James Paxton, Seattle Mariners

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    Position: LHP                        

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 220

    DOB: 11/6/1988           

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted/Signed: 2010, fourth round (University of Kentucky/Grand Prairie)

     

    2011 Stats:

    Single-A: 56 IP, 2.73 ERA, 2.24 FIP, 12.86 K/9, 4.82 BB/9, 0.16 HR/9 

    Double-A: 39 IP, 1.85 ERA, 2.33 FIP, 11.77 K/9, 3.00 BB/9, 0.46 HR/9

     

    Overview: Drafted 37th overall in the 2009 draft, Paxton and the Blue Jays were unable to agree on a deal before the signing deadline. After the Mariners finally signed him in the spring of 2010, the 6'4" left-hander reached Double-A in his first professional season.

    Paxton’s fastball usually sits in the low 90s, but he has been known to dial it up as needed. He features a plus breaking ball and has the confidence to throw it in any count.  His changeup lags behind his other pitches and will need to be developed to neutralize big-league hitters.

    The Mariners will send Paxton back to Double-A to begin the season, but there’s a strong chance he’ll make his debut in 2012.

    ETA: 2012

43. Rymer Liriano, San Diego Padres

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    Position: OF                        

    Height/Weight: 6'0", 211

    DOB: 6/20/1991           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2007, Dominican Republic

     

    2011 Stats:

    Single-A: .319/.383/.499, 65 SB, .180 ISO, 157 wRC+ (519 PA)

     

    Overview: Rymer Liriano is a young outfielder with tons of upside. He struggled at High-A to begin the 2011 season and was subsequently demoted to Single-A where he garnered Midwest League MVP honors by slashing .319/.383/.499.

    He possesses both plus power and speed, as well as an above-average knowledge of the strike zone. His ability to hit for a high average is still suspect but shouldn’t detract from his overall game.

    Liriano’s ability to cover ground in center field and his above-average arm should allow him to stay in center field for the time being, but his thick build suggests he might get bulky over time and require a move to right field.

    Already on the Padres’ 40-man roster, he’ll get another crack at High-A to begin the 2012 season. If it goes well, Liriano could rise quickly through the Padres’ system.

    ETA: 2014

42. A.J. Cole, Oakland Athletics

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    Position: RHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 180

    DOB: 1/5/92                       

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2010, fourth round (Oviedo HS, FL)

     

    2011 Stats:

    Single-A: 89 IP, 4.04 ERA, 2.53 FIP, 10.92 K/9, 2.43 BB/9, 0.61 HR/9

     

    Overview: A key piece of the trade that sent Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals, Cole emerged as one of the minors' top power pitchers in 2011.  A bulldog on the mound, he relentlessly attacks hitters with a mid-90s fastball that peaks at 98 mph. While he has shown above-average command of his fastball, he doesn’t locate his secondary stuff as well—though his curveball is a hammer that generates swing-and-misses. He does have a changeup, but it’s a work-in-progress.

    At 6'4", Cole throws everything on a downward plane and has worked hard to make his mechanics more repeatable. He has tremendous natural ability and could develop into a No. 1 starter.  He’ll head to High-A to begin the upcoming season and is a pitcher to follow closely in 2012.

    ETA: 2014

41. Hak-Ju Lee, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Position: SS                        

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 170

    DOB: 11/4/1990            

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2008, South Korea

     

    2011 Stats:

    High-A: .318/.389/.443, 28 SB, .125 ISO, 133 wRC+ (454 PA)

    Double-A: .190/.272/.310, 5 SB (114 PA)

     

    Overview: Lee is an exceptional fielder; one of the best defensive shortstops in the minors. He has phenomenal range and a plus arm with outstanding instincts and feel for the position. His bat is behind, and he will never provide the thump to be the consistent All-Star that some other shortstop prospects likely will.

    Across two stops in 2011, Lee posted a .292/.365/.416 slash line with 33 swipes and 37 extra-base hits.  A left-handed hitter, he runs well and should consistently collect more doubles and triples than home runs.

    A full season in Double-A should provide Lee with the seasoning he needs to be a big-league shortstop in 2013. However, nothing is certain when it comes to the Rays and shortstop prospects.

    ETA: 2013

40. Carlos Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Position: RHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6-0/165

    DOB: 9/21/1991           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2010, Dominican Republic

     

    2011 Stats:

    Single-A: 38.2 IP, 2.33 ERA, 2.35 FIP, 11.64 K/9, 3.26 BB/9, 0.23 HR/9

    High-A: 46 IP, 5.28 ERA, 4.03 FIP, 9.39 K/9, 5.87 BB/9, 0.39 HR/9

     

    Overview: Martinez can throw 95 mph with his back against a wall—a testament to his lightening-quick arm. The right-hander can hit triple digits on occasion but sits in the mid-to-high 90s. He also has a 90-93 mph fastball variation with late sink. 

    His secondary stuff has a ways to go, but his breaker is at least a 60 and is the downer type with good pace and shape. He also has a changeup with a little fade to it, although he struggles with its command due to natural arm speed. He slows his arm a lot at times with both offerings, and both flatten out when he does, but it’s nothing the Cardinals can’t iron out.

    He finished the 2011 season at High-A where his mechanics were a total mess. Martinez will repeat the level to begin the season with the potential for a promotion to Double-A.

    Though he has started at every level in the minors, he has also been profiled as a closer, which may be a faster rout to the major leagues if his control problems persist.

    ETA: 2014

39. Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox

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    Position: SS                       

    Height/Weight: 6'3", 175

    DOB: 10/1/1992           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2009, Aruba

     

    2011 Stats:

    Single-A: .260/.324/.509, .249 ISO, 120 wRC+ (296 PA)

     

    Overview: Bogaerts put his name on the map with a .314/.396/.423 professional debut in 2010 and followed it by blasting 16 home runs in 72 games in 2011. Only 19 years old, his smooth swing and plus power allow him to drive the ball to all fields with backspin carry. As he faces more advanced pitching, however, he’ll be forced to become more selective, especially with quality off-speed pitches.

    While he has soft hands and a plus arm at shortstop, Bogaerts lacks the quickness needed to remain there. Considering his other tools, he could either end up in right field or at third base—likely the latter.

    He may hit a few speed bumps this season at High-A, but that’s often the case with elite power-hitting prospects.

    ETA: 2015

38. Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs

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    Position: SS                       

    Height/Weight: 6'0", 180

    DOB: 12/1/1992            

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (Arlington Country Day School, FL)

     

    2011 Stats:

    Rookie: .333/.333/.500, 2 SB, .167 ISO, 135 wRC+ (12 PA)

    Low-A: .167/.167/.167 (6 PA)

     

    Overview: The ninth overall pick in the 2011 draft, Baez has insane raw bat speed with the potential for plus power by the time he reaches the major leagues. Simply put: Baez swings as hard as humanly possible—every time. But that’s also what makes him such a promising hitter.

    His defense at shortstop is average, though he does have a strong arm. Given his size and defensive actions, Baez will probably shift to third base at some point. He has decent speed and good instincts on the base paths that give him 20/20 potential.

    Only 19 years old, the Cubs will send Baez to Low-A Peoria to begin the 2012 season.

    ETA: 2015

37. Oscar Taveras, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Position: OF                       

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 180

    DOB: 6/19/1992            

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted/Signed: 2010, Dominican Republic

     

    2011 Stats:

    Rookie: .307/.312/.413, .107 ISO, 73 wRC+ (77 PA);

    Single-A: .386/.444/.584, .198 ISO, 187 wRC+ (347 PA)

     

    Overview: One of the more impressive hitters in all of the minors last season, Taveras won the Midwest League batting title with a .386 average. The left-handed hitter takes forceful hacks but retains the ability to generate hard contact, thanks to his ridiculous hand-eye coordination and knowledge of the strike zone. His swing is balanced and smooth—a thing of beauty. His current gap power suggests that it may ultimately be above average.

    His above-average speed has allowed him to play all three outfield positions so far, but his highest ceiling comes as a corner outfielder. Given his strong arm, though, he’s more likely to end up in right field. Although it’s his bat that makes him an elite prospect, he will need to show more defensive value in 2012.

    ETA: 2013

36. Martin Perez, Texas Rangers

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    Position: LHP 

    Height/Weight: 6'0", 178

    DOB: 4/4/1991           

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted/Signed: 2008, Venezuela

     

    2011 Stats:

    Double-A: 88.1 IP, 3.16 ERA, 3.46 FIP, 8.46 K/9, 3.67 BB/9, 0.61 HR/9

    Triple-A: 49 IP, 6.43 ERA, 3.98 FIP, 6.80 K/9, 3.67 BB/9, 0.73 HR/9

     

    Overview: Perez’s 2011 season was a perplexing one: He posted excellent numbers at Double-A but then tanked after a promotion to Triple-A.

    For a prospect receiving this kind of ranking, Perez has iffy fastball command, but his overall stuff is too good to rank him any lower.  His heater reaches the mid-90s thanks to a quick, whippy arm, and he has arguably one of the finest breaking balls in the minors in the form of a heavy, downer curveball. When it’s on, it can easily grade as a double-plus pitch. He also has an average to above-average changeup that shows quality fade and should sufficiently handle right-handed hitters.

    The young left-hander has elite stuff, and with more than a full season in the high minors under his belt, he has the potential to be a top-of-the-rotation arm. But reaching such a ceiling will require improved fastball command and a more consistent delivery, although the latter is greatly improved relative to what it was as a teenager. 

    ETA: 2013

35. Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Position: OF                       

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 195

    DOB: 8/14/1992            

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2011, second round (Dallas Jesuit HS, TX)

     

    2011 Stats: DNP 

     

    Overview: Bell was the premier prep bat in the 2011 draft class and would have been one of the first 10 names off the board had signability not been a concern. 

    Bell is a 60 hitter from both sides with a 60 future power grading. He has quick wrists and raw, wiry strength that generates easy power while still allowing him to hit for average. His defense in center field is highlighted by extraordinary range and a strong arm that is better than people gave him credit for prior to the draft. He’ll likely wind up as a corner outfielder where those tools will be an even better fit.

    The Pirates will take their time with Bell and more than likely assign him to Low-A to open the season. However, a prep bat of this caliber is rare and could force the Pirates to move him along ahead of schedule.

    ETA: 2015

34. Drew Pomeranz, Colorado Rockies

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    Position: LHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'5", 230

    DOB: 11/22/1988           

    Bats/Throws: R/L

    Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (Mississippi)

     

    2011 Stats:

    High-A (CLE): 77 IP, 1.87 ERA, 2.36 FIP, 11.10 K/9, 3.74 BB/9, 0.23 HR/9

    Double-A (CLE): 14 IP, 2.57 ERA, 2.99 FIP, 10.93 K/9, 3.86 BB/9, 0.64 HR/9

    Double-A (COL): 10 IP, 0.00 ERA, 2.59 FIP, 6.30 K/9

    MLB (COL): 18.1 IP, 5.40 ERA, 2.59 FIP, 3.69 xFIP, 6.38 K/9, 2.45 BB/9

     

    Overview: Due to his previous experience, pure stuff and overall projectability, Pomeranz was the centerpiece of the deal that brought Ubaldo Jimenez to Cleveland. He was then rushed up to make four starts late in the year after 20 across three minor league stops—none above Double-A.

    The 6'5" left-hander already has a plus fastball and breaker and has the aptitude to develop a changeup on the fly at the major league level. However, given his jerky arm action on the backside, Pomeranz needs to establish more consistency with his delivery. With that in place, improved command should follow.

    Pomeranz will only be 23 years old in 2012 and should return to the Colorado rotation to begin the season. While his upside comes as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter, he could blossom into the Rockies’ ace given their lackluster rotation.

    ETA: 2011

33. Jake Marisnick, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Position: OF                       

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 200

    DOB: 3/30/1991           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2009, third round (Riverside Poly HS, CA)

     

    2011 Stats:

    Single-A: .320/.392/.500, 37 SB, .180 ISO, 160 wRC+ (523 PA)

     

    Overview: Please, I don’t want to hear about Anthony Gose. Marisnick is the player everyone should be talking about.  At 6'4", he is an extremely athletic outfielder who will stick in center field due to his plus range and arm.

    After struggling at Low-A after a mid-season promotion in 2010, Marisnick repeated the level in 2011 with much better results.  His .320 batting average was second-best in the Midwest League, and his power blossomed after making an adjustment to his swing.  He can drive the ball out of the park to all fields, and he should continue to get stronger.

    He’s an excellent and intelligent base-stealer who has been successful in 60 of 71 attempts over two seasons. Marisnick has immense potential and should put up some impressive numbers this season at High-A Dunedin. It remains to be seen if he ascends the minors as fast as I anticipate.

    ETA: 2013

32. Matt Harvey, New York Mets

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    Position: RHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 225

    DOB: 3/27/1989           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (North Carolina)

     

    2011 Stats:

    High-A: 76 IP, 2.37 ERA, 2.66 FIP, 10.89 K/9, 2.84 BB/9, 0.59 HR/9

    Double-A: 59.2 IP, 4.53 ERA, 3.23 FIP, 9.65 K/9, 3.47 BB/9, 0.60 HR/9

     

    Overview: Most writers have Harvey ranked ahead of teammate Zack Wheeler, but not me. I see him more as a perfect No. 2 starter in any rotation thanks to his four-pitch arsenal and ability to work deep into games.

    The right-hander’s fastball is most effective in the low-to-mid 90s with late life, but he has been known to pop the occasional 96-98. His out pitch is a slider with hard bite, and he’ll also snap off a big curveball to give hitters a different look.  Harvey does have a changeup, though it’s thrown sparingly and lacks feel.

    Despite the control issues he's displayed during spring training, Harvey showed above-average command in his first professional season, a season that saw him make 12 starts at Double-A to close the year. Considering the uncertainty outside of R.A Dickey in the Mets’ rotation, Harvey could be one of the first pitchers to get called this season.

    ETA: 2012

31. Jarrod Parker, Oakland Athletics

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    Position: RHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 195

    DOB: 11/24/1988            

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2007, first round (Norwell HS, IN)

     

    2011 Stats:

    Double-A: 130.2 IP, 3.79 ERA, 3.70 FIP, 7.71 K/9, 3.79 BB/9, 0.48 HR/9

    MLB: 5.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 3.20 FIP, 5.42 xFIP, 1.59 K/9, 1.59 BB/9

     

    Overview: Selected in the first round of the 2007 draft out of Norwell HS in Indiana, Parker missed the entire 2010 season recovering from Tommy John surgery. However, he regained his form over the course of the 2011 season and ultimately finished 11-8 with a 3.79 ERA and 7.7 K/9 over 131 innings at Double-A Mobile.

    Parker has a classic mix of fastball, breaker and changeup, all of which grade as at least solid-average offerings. His fastball can touch 97 mph, but he typically works in the 91-96 mph range with his four-seamer. He throws a heavy sinker about two ticks off of the four-seamer, but it digs well and even gets some swings-and-misses. 

    Parker’s bender is a slider in the mid-80s with tight break and good shape as well as solid command.  His change is behind, but it’s going to be an above-average offering for him and is definitely a pitch that will play in Oakland to both sides of the plate.

    He will make a few starts at Triple-A to begin the season, primarily to work on the command of his fastball, but it shouldn’t take him longer than a month to get back to Oakland.

    ETA: 2011

30. Christian Yelich, Miami Marlins

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    Position: OF                       

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 189

    DOB: 12/5/1991           

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (Westlake HS, CA)

     

    2011 Stats:

    Single-A: .312/.388/.484, 32 SB, .171 ISO, 146 wRC+

     

    Overview: Still just 19 years old, Yelich’s hit tool already grades out as a plus and has room to grow with improvement in his plate discipline. His swing is incredibly smooth and fluid, which allows him to attack pitches throughout the entire strike zone. 

    Due to the level plane of his swing, Yelich will never hit for overwhelming power, but I think he’ll have enough to annually belt a quiet 20-30. As of his now, most of his power is to the pull-side, but he should start driving the ball out the other way with more experience. His easy speed and good instincts on the bases suggest that Yelich will have 20-20, perhaps even 30-30, potential in his prime.

    Although he patrolled center field for Low-A Greensboro last season, Yelich profiles as a left fielder due to his fringy arm strength. However, the Marlins will allow him to develop in center for the time being.

    Yelich should begin the season at High-A with a chance to log significant time at Double-A over the second half of the 2012 season.

    ETA: 2013

29. Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians

22 of 51

    Position: SS                       

    Height/Weight: 5'11", 175

    DOB: 11/14/1993            

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (Monteverde Academy, FL)

     

    2011 Stats:

    Low-A: .316/.350/.316 (20 PA)

     

    Overview: One of the most promising young shortstops in the game, Lindor will be on the fast track to the major leagues once the 2012 season is underway. The best defensive shortstop out of the 2011 draft, he has drawn rave reviews for his athleticism and fluidity at short. The combination of his excellent range and plus arm have the Indians convinced that Lindor will be able to stick at shortstop for a long, long time.

    A switch-hitter, Lindor’s offensive value will come from his ability to hit for a solid average and hopefully get on base at a decent clip. He’ll never hit for much power, but he has enough pop to produce 20-plus doubles. Despite being just a slightly above-average runner, Lindor projects to steal 20 bases annually due to his instincts and high baseball IQ.

    ETA: 2014

28. Manny Banuelos, New York Yankees

23 of 51

    Position: LHP                       

    Height/Weight: 5'11", 155

    DOB: 3/13/1991            

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted/Signed: 2008, Mexico

     

    2011 Stats:

    Double-A: 95.1 IP, 3.59 ERA, 4.01 FIP, 8.87 K/9, 4.91 BB/9, 0.66 HR/9

    Triple-A: 34.1 IP, 4.19 ERA, 3.90 FIP, 8.13 K/9, 4.98 BB/9, 0.52 HR/9

     

    Overview: As a 20-year-old, Banuelos struggled with his command at both Double and Triple-A in 2011.  The left-handed possesses a swing-and-miss arsenal of three plus pitches that he’s still learning to command. His fastball sits in the low 90s with more in the tank, and, as of now, his truest out pitch is a changeup with considerable fade.

    He’s small in stature but has broad shoulders to go along with a quick arm. He repeats his mechanics well, so there’s plenty of reason to believe his command will improve. Pitching to more contact will help Banuelos minimize his pitch counts and in turn allow him to log more efficient innings in 2012.

    Except to see the young left-hander make a mid-summer debut in the Bronx.

    ETA: 2012

27. Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds

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    Position: SS                       

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 160

    DOB: 9/9/1990           

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2009, second round (Taylorsville HS, MS)

     

    2011 Stats:

    Single-A: .278/.340/.360, 103 SB, .082 ISO, 120 wRC+ (610 PA)

     

    Overview: For as fast as the Giants' Gary Brown is, Hamilton is somehow faster—and I’m not one for hyperbole. The first minor-leaguer to steal 100 bases in over a decade, Hamilton is a ridiculous athlete who’s still learning the intricacies of the game.

    He’ll never hit for power. But as a switch-hitting shortstop, any improvement in his plate discipline will significantly boost his stock. Outside of his range, Hamilton lacks the tools to be an elite shortstop, which leads scouts to believe that he’ll wind up in center field or perhaps at second base.

    Hamilton has a long way to go in his development and should therefore spend a majority of the season at High-A with a chance for a late-season challenge at Double-A. He’s an extremely raw work-in-progress who has tremendous upside once his hit tool develops.

    ETA: 2014

26. Jacob Turner, Detroit Tigers

25 of 51

    Position: RHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'5", 210

    DOB: 5/21/1991            

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2009, first round (Westminster Christian Academy HS, MO)

     

    2011 Stats:

    Double-A: 113.2 IP, 3.48 ERA, 3.68 FIP, 7.13 K/9, 2.53 BB/9, 0.71 HR/9

    Triple-A: 17.1 IP, 3.12 ERA, 2.16 FIP, 10.38 K/9, 1.56 BB/9, 0.52 HR/9

    MLB: 12.2 IP, 8.53 ERA, 6.03 FIP, 4.73 xFIP, 5.68 K/9, 2.84 BB/9, 2.13 HR/9

     

    Overview: The ninth-overall selection in the 2009 draft, Turner made three starts for the Tigers in 2011 as a 20-year-old. Although the results could have been better, the right-hander’s stuff was impressive, as was his overall polish.

    Turner’s 6'5" frame allows him to pound the zone with a heavy, sinking fastball that registers in the low 90s. He struggles at times with the command of his curveball, but it’s still a big-time hammer. Turner’s changeup is only an average offering as of now, but he does throw it with fastball-like arm speed.

    He probably won’t be a strikeout pitcher in the major leagues, but he has enough movement and deception to induce plenty of weak contact. It appeared as though Turner would contend for the final spot in the Tigers’ rotation, but he has been shut down for the time being after experiencing discomfort in his shoulder.

    He will start the season in Triple-A but should be back in the major leagues before we know it.

    ETA: 2011

25. Bubba Starling, Kansas City Royals

26 of 51

    Position: OF                       

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 195

    DOB: 8/3/1992           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (Gardner Edgerton HS, KS)

     

    2011 Stats: DNP

     

    Overview: Any conversation about five-tool prospects isn’t complete without referencing Bubba Starling. Heavily recruited for every sport out of high school, it cost the Royals $7.5 million to lure him away from a scholarship to be a quarterback for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. 

    At 6'4", 195 pounds, Starling is strong and athletic, and he has already flashed double-plus power. He should hit for some average in the future, although his true value is rooted in his power-speed combination. Also a standout pitcher, Starling has been clocked in the mid-90s off the bump and throws absolute pills from the outfield.

    As it is with Bryce Harper, it’s difficult to assign a ceiling to Starling. However, there’s no denying that he possesses one of the highest in all of baseball.  

    ETA: 2015

24. Gary Brown, San Francisco Giants

27 of 51

    Position: OF                       

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 190

    DOB: 9/28/1988           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (Cal State Fullerton)

     

    2011 Stats:

    High-A: .336/.407/.519, 53 SB, .182 ISO, 140 wRC+

     

    Overview: In his first full season, Brown opened tons of his eyes with his 80-grade speed and ability to make consistent, hard contact. He has a knack for peppering the gaps with line drives and is an extra-base threat—he had 53 last season—the second he stands in the batter’s box. He may never hit 14 home runs again, but it really doesn’t matter. His speed has him pegged as the Giants’ future leadoff hitter.

    His speed also makes him an elite defender in center which compensates for an average arm. If his first season at Double-A goes swimmingly, Brown could debut in San Francisco as early as September, although 2013 is a much safer bet. He is a hard-nosed competitor with the type of game-changing speed that will be hard to keep in the minors.

    ETA: 2013

23. Danny Hultzen, Seattle Mariners

28 of 51

    Position: LHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'3", 200

    DOB: 11/28/1989           

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (Virginia)

     

    2011 Stats: DNP

     

    Overview: The top left-hander in the ultra-talented 2011 draft class, Hultzen was also the most polished—and still is. He already demonstrates advanced command of three pitches: a low-90s fastball, slider (his out pitch) and changeup, and is effective against right- and left-handed hitters.

    After excelling in the Arizona Fall League, there was speculation that Hultzen might break camp in the Mariners’ rotation. However, he will begin the season at either Double or Triple-A with an imminent 2012 MLB debut. The Mariners hope that the left-hander can one day be the perfect No. 2 behind Taijuan Walker.

    ETA: 2012

22. Devin Mesoraco, Cincinnati Reds

29 of 51

    Position: C                       

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 225

    DOB: 6/19/1988            

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2007, first round (Punxsutawney Area HS, PA)

     

    2011 Stats:

    Triple-A: .289/.371/.484, .195 ISO, 132 wRC+ (499 PA)

    MLB: .180/.226/.360, .180 ISO, 48 wRC+ (53 PA)

     

    Overview: The departure of Ramon Hernandez and trade of fellow prospect Yasmani Grandal has opened the door for Mesoraco, who will finally assume everyday catching duties for the Reds in 2012. As he showed in over 18 games in late 2011, he has some serious thump in his bat. And as he adjusts to major league pitching, Mesoraco should also hit for a solid average.

    Although he’s not a great receiver and will never throw out runners at anything more than a 30-percent clip, his bat makes him serviceable. If he can stay healthy, Mesoraco has the bat to be a .275-.280 hitter with 20-plus home run potential. 

    He should be their everyday catcher to open the 2012 season, but don't be surprised if Ryan Hanigan steals a few starts per week to help ease in Mesoraco. 

    ETA: 2011

21. Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies

30 of 51

    Position: 3B                       

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 205

    DOB: 4/16/1991           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2009, second round (El Toro HS, CA)

     

    2011 Stats:

    High-A: .298/.349/.487, .190 ISO, 109 wRC+ (583 PA)

     

    Overview: Arenado has a flat bat path that can look awkward at first sight. However, he’s strong enough that the swing allows him to hit through the ball and generate backspin. He has average plate discipline that should improve with further seasoning in either Double- or Triple-A.

    After shedding nearly 20 pounds prior to the 2011 season, Arenado showed significant improvement at third base and shows potential to be a decent defender. He has always had the arm strength and instincts to handle the position, but now his athleticism is finally catching up.

    In his prime, Arenado should be capable of 40 doubles and 20 home runs as either a No. 3 or No. 5 hitter, while still hitting for a respectable average. He has All-Star potential and should be a run-producing machine upon his arrival in late 2012.

    ETA: 2012

20. Zack Wheeler, New York Mets

31 of 51

    Position: RHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 185

    DOB: 5/30/1990           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2009, first round (East Paulding HS, GA)

     

    2011 Stats:

    High-A (Giants): 88 IP, 3.99 ERA, 3.75 FIP, 10.02 K/9, 4.81 BB/9, 0.72 HR/9

    High-A (Mets): 27 IP, 2.00 ERA, 1.68 FIP, 10.33 K/9, 1.67 BB/9

     

    Overview: It must have been hard for San Francisco to part ways with Wheeler, whom they traded to the Mets in exchange for Carlos Beltran surrounding the 2011 trade deadline. One of my favorite right-handed prospects in baseball, Wheeler has a 6'4" frame, fast arm and repeatable mechanics. When I watch him throw, I see a future ace.

    His fastball runs as high as 97, though he usually sits low-to-mid 90s with late life. His curveball is a sharp downer that jelly-legs right-handed hitters, and he also throws a solid changeup that should develop by the time he reaches the major leagues.

    While his command still needs some refinement, I’m eager to see how he handles the jump to Double-A to begin the 2012 season. At this time next year, I have a feeling that I may be writing about Wheeler as a top-10 prospect.

    ETA: 2013

19. Wil Myers, Kansas City Royals

32 of 51

    Position: OF                       

    Height/Weight: 6'3", 205

    DOB: 12/10/1990            

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2009, third round (Wesleyan Academy, NC)

     

    2011 Stats:

    Double-A: .254/.353/.393, 9 SB, .138 ISO, 104 wRC+ (416 PA)

     

    Overview: A lot of writers penalized Myers for his lack of power in 2011, which stemmed from a knee injury and subsequent infection that limited his ability to drive through the baseball. However, his .360/.481/.674 slash line in the Arizona Fall League indicates that he has regained his power.

    Since entering the minor leagues in 2009, Myers has absolutely raked at every level—excluding his 2011 campaign. He has quick wrists and outstanding bat control that allows him to effortlessly drive the ball to right field. By the time he makes his debut, Myers should have 20-plus home run potential and the ability to be a .310-.320 hitter.

    His plate discipline is advanced beyond his years—like teammate Eric Hosmer—and he’s comfortable hitting in any count. He’ll be nothing more than an average corner outfielder, although the plus arm that made him an elite catching prospect plays best in right.  Now fully healthy, Myers should light up Double-A pitching and force his way to Kauffman Stadium sometime this season.

    ETA: 2012

18. Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Position: RHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 225

    DOB: 8/10/1992           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (Broken Arrow HS, OK)

     

    2011 Stats:

    Rookie: 2 IP, 4 K

     

    Overview: If you read about Dylan Bundy leading up to the 2011 draft, then you surely read about Bradley as well. Also hailing from Oklahoma, Bradley, the seventh-overall selection, was slated to be the Sooners’ future quarterback before signing a $5 million deal at the deadline.

    At 6'4", 225-pounds, Bradley has a power pitcher frame and the arsenal to match. He pounds the strike zone with a 92-96 mph fastball and low-80s curveball that’s an absolute hammer. Throw in a plus changeup and slider, not to mention a decent splitter, and you’ve got one well-rounded 18-year-old pitcher. Like Bundy, his mechanics are repeatable and therefore have him ahead of schedule in his future ascent of the minors.

    Bradley is yet another Diamondbacks’ pitcher who has a chance to make his MLB debut before his 21st  birthday.

    ETA: 2015

17. Travis D'Arnaud, Toronto Blue Jays

34 of 51

    Position: C                       

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 195

    DOB: 2/10/1989           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2007, fist round (Lakewood HS, CA)

     

    2011 Stats:

    Double-A: .311/.371/.542, .231 ISO, 150 wRC+

     

    Overview: Travis d’Arnaud garnered Eastern League MVP honors in 2011 after posting a .913 OPS at Double-A. His bat has enough pop to be a middle-of-the-order presence, with the potential to hit 20-plus home runs while consistently hitting around .280. He could even flirt with a .300 average with improved plate discipline. He has quick wrists and a direct bat path that generate power to all fields, and he has already shown an ability to hit quality off-speed pitches.

    Although his defense leaves something to be desired, he’s surprisingly athletic behind the plate with an above-average arm. Still, he’s light years ahead of J.P. Arencibia defensively.

    Unfortunately, Arencibia, who will retain a tenuous grasp on the position headed into the 2012 season, currently blocks d’Arnaud in Toronto. Therefore, only a trade or injury to the incumbent backstop will open the door for d’Arnaud before an imminent September call-up.

    ETA: 2012

16. Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins

35 of 51

    Position: 3B                       

    Height/Weight: 6'3", 195

    DOB: 5/11/1993           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2009, Dominican Republic

     

    2011 Stats:

    Rookie: .292/.352/.637, .345 ISO, 151 wRC+ (293 PA)

     

    Overview: Outside of Bryce Harper, Sano is the best power-hitting prospect in baseball. He has the ideal combination of quick wrists and explosive weight transfer that allows him to effortlessly jump the yard to all fields. If his plate discipline continues to improve, Sano, who turns 20 in May, could hit for a decent average down the road.

    He can be a wreck on defense at times, mostly in his actions to and through the baseball, which suggests an eventual transition to first base. For now the Twins will move forward with Sano as their third baseman of the future.

    ETA: 2014

15. Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Pirates

36 of 51

    Position: RHP            

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 220

    DOB: 9/8/1990           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (UCLA)

     

    2011 Stats: DNP

     

    Overview: The No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft, Cole is your classic power pitcher. His fastball was clocked as high as 102 mph in this year’s Arizona Fall League, and he sits in the mid-to-upper 90s. When he’s efficient enough to play his slider off his fastball, it’s a legitimate strikeout pitch, and he has a decent changeup given his velocity.

    He has ace potential, but I just don’t think he will have as smooth of a progression through the minor leagues as others do.  For a collegiate right-hander—especially one drafted No. 1 overall—Cole’s mechanics are too inconsistent.

    The Pirates will probably send him to High-A to fine-tune his delivery, and if he regains his 2010 form, subsequently promote him to Double- and Triple-A.

    ETA: 2013

14. Taijuan Walker, Seattle Mariners

37 of 51

    Position: RHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 195

    DOB: 8/13/1992           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (Yucaipa HS, CA)

     

    2011 Stats:

    Single-A: 96.2 IP, 2.89 ERA, 2.70 FIP, 10.52 K/9, 3.63 BB/9, 0.37 HR/9

     

    Overview: Walker was lights-out last season at Low-A Clinton until he reached the 100-inning limit imposed by the Mariners. The right-hander has a big-time fastball with late-life that touches the upper 90s, and he showed improved command of it in 2011. He also throws a circle change and an over-the-top curveball that could be a double-plus with improved command.

    Walker’s raw athleticism distinguishes him from the other pitching prospects in the game and only makes his potential that much greater.  He is the Mariners' future ace with one of the highest ceilings of any pitching prospect on this list. Walker should begin the 2012 season at High-A where he will work on refining his command.

    ETA: 2014

13. Tyler Skaggs, Arizona Diamondbacks

38 of 51

    Position: LHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 195

    DOB: 7/13/1991           

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted/Signed: 2009, first round (Santa Monica HS, CA)

     

    2011 Stats:

    High-A: 100.2 IP, 3.22 ERA, 2.65 FIP, 11.18 K/9, 3.04 BB/9, 0.54 HR/9

    Double-A: 57.2 IP, 2.50 ERA, 2.45 FIP, 11.39 K/9, 2.34 BB/9, 0.62 HR/9

     

    Overview: The centerpiece of the trade that sent Dan Haren to the Angels in July of 2010, Skaggs has emerged as one of the game’s premier left-handed pitching prospects. He’s tall and lanky with a smooth arm, and has repeatable mechanics that allow him to pound the knees with his 88-93 mph fastball.

    For how I described Bauer’s breaking ball, Skaggs’ might be the southpaw equivalent—it’s unfair and keeps right-handed hitters off-balance as much as it does lefties. He has a decent changeup that will get better with time, but it honestly doesn’t even matter when you have that good of a curveball.

    The organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2011, he’s only 20 years old and already has 10 impressive Double-A starts under his belt. Skaggs has tremendous upside as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter and could make his Major League Debut before his 21st birthday.

    ETA: 2012

12. Jesus Montero, Seattle Mariners

39 of 51

    Position: C/DH           

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 225

    DOB: 11/28/1989           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2006, Venezuela

     

    2011 Stats:

    Triple-A (Yankees): .288/.348/.467, .179 ISO, 120 w RC+ (504 PA)

    MLB (Yankees): .328/.406/.590 (69 PA)

     

    Overview: Montero flashed his offensive potential in his late-season call-up with the Yankees in 2011.  Now, after an offseason trade to Seattle, Montero’s path to consistent at-bats is clear as he embarks on his first big-league campaign.

    He possesses a middle-of-the-order bat with exceptional power to all fields, and his ability to hit for average should make him the Mariners’ top hitter in 2011. His swing is compact, and he takes a direct path to the ball, so expect plenty of opposite-field extra-base hits, too. 

    His future as a catcher has been heavily scrutinized due to his poor receiving skills and slow release, but it appears that the Mariners will at least give him a chance this season. In the long-term, though, Montero’s bat seems destined for a 1B/DH role.

    ETA: 2011

11. Jameson Taillon, Pittsburgh Pirates

40 of 51

    Position: RHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'6", 225

    DOB: 11/18/1991           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (The Woodlands HS, TX)

     

    2011 Stats:

    Single-A: 92.2 IP, 3.98 ERA, 3.37 FIP, 9.42 K/9, 2.14 BB/9, 0.87 HR/9

     

    Overview: I may be one of the only people who sees a higher ceiling in Taillon than now-teammate Gerrit Cole, but I assure you it’s with good reason. Despite his dominance in 2010 for UCLA, Cole has only regressed since then—although his stuff remains exceptional.

    Taillon, on the other hand, made impressive strides in his first full season, as he demonstrated improved command of all pitches. His quick arm generates fastballs that sit in the 93-97 mph range, and he occasionally flirts with triple-digits. A typical power pitcher, the right-hander complements his heater with a late-breaking, power slider and knee-buckling curve. He also has a changeup which grades as solid-average and will be crucial in his development over the next couple seasons.

    Taillon should begin the season at High-A as the Pirates gradually give him a longer leash.

    ETA: 2014

10. Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals

41 of 51

    Position: 3B/2B           

    Height/Weight: 6'0", 195

    DOB: 6/6/1990           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (Rice)

     

    2011 Stats: DNP

     

    Overview: Easily the best-available bat in the 2011 draft class, Rendon slid to the Washington Nationals at No. 6 overall due to a shoulder injury that plagued him throughout the season. Even though his size pales in comparison to other hitters on this list, the Rice alumnus has a plus bat with plus power. But what I find most impressive about Rendon is his pitch recognition and ability to manipulate counts in his favor. 

    Even before his first professional at-bat, the right-handed hitter profiles as one of the most advanced hitters in all the minors. Rendon manages to make consistent, hard contact and drives the ball to all fields with authority. As a third baseman, he is an above-average defender with solid instincts and a plus arm. 

    However, with Ryan Zimmerman blocking him at the hot corner for years to come, don’t be surprised if the Nationals shift him to second base, which would put his bat on an even greater pedestal. I expect Rendon to assault minor league pitching and make a case for a late-2012 debut, but a 2013 arrival is probably more realistic.  

    ETA: 2013

9. Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles

42 of 51

    Position: RHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 200

    DOB: 11/15/1992           

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (Owasso HS, OK)

     

    2011 Stats: DNP

     

    Overview: In a draft that wasn't loaded with elite collegiate arms like Cole, Hultzen and Bauer, Bundy would have been a clear-cut No. 1 overall selection. However, he slid to No. 4, and the Baltimore Orioles were thrilled. Famous for his insane workout routine, the right-hander has a ridiculous work ethic and strength for an 18-year-old. 

    Oh yeah, and his pitchability grades through the roof. 

    Lured away from a scholarship to be the Texas Longhorns' quarterback, Bundy signed for $6.225 million (including a $4 million signing bonus) just before the August 15 deadline. 

    He features a 94-98 mph four-seam fastball that has topped out at 100 mph, as well as a low-90s two-seamer and upper-80s/low-90s cutter. In addition to his slew of fastballs, Bundy possesses a deuce that already grades as a plus pitch, and he has shown an advanced feel for his changeup. 

    His sheer strength allows for repeatable mechanics and a greater workload than one expects from a prep arm. Both his maturity and arsenal of plus pitches should make Bundy a fast riser within the Orioles’ organization and make him the first prep arm from the 2011 draft class to reach the Show.

    ETA: 2014

8. Trevor Bauer, Arizona Diamondbacks

43 of 51

    Position: RHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 175

    DOB: 1/17/1991           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (UCLA)

     

    2011 Stats:

    High-A: 9 IP, 3.00 ERA, 2.20 FIP, 17.00 K/9, 4.00 BB/9

    Double-A: 16.2 IP, 7.56 ERA, 3.44 FIP, 14.04 K/9, 4.32 BB/9, 1.08 HR/9

     

    Overview: I’d be shocked if Bauer isn’t the first player from the 2011 draft class to reach the major leagues. Winner of Baseball America’s College Player of the Year award and USA Baseball’s Golden Spikes Award in 2011, the right-hander is on the fast track after reaching Double-A last season. 

    Often compared to Tim Lincecum due to similarities in mechanics, Bauer is more than just that: He’s a student of the game who employs a ridiculous work ethic.

    And then there’s his stuff. 

    Bauer’s torque delivery unleashes 92-97 mph fastballs on unsuspecting hitters, although his best pitch his plus-plus curveball, which is the filthiest of all things filthy and will be considered one of the best in baseball upon his arrival. Beyond that, he also mixes in a plus-slider, above-average changeup and average splitter.

    Bauer will begin the season at Double-A to refine his command but should be one of the first prospects to make their big-league debut in 2012.

    ETA: 2012

7. Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

44 of 51

    Position: SS                       

    Height/Weight: 6'3", 185

    DOB: 7/6/1992           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (Brito HS, FL)

     

    2011 Stats:

    Single-A: .276/.376/.483, .207 ISO, 131 wRC+ (170 PA)

    High-A: .245/.308/.313, .139 ISO, 95 wRC+ (260 PA)

     

    Overview: Machado was impressive in his first full professional season despite suffering a dislocated kneecap and subsequently missing a month.  His 6'3", 185-pound frame is extremely projectable; whether it’s at shortstop or third base is the only question. 

    He has the actions to remain at the shortstop for the time being, but his physical development will ultimately dictate his position. He has a plus arm from the left side as well as average range, so expect Machado to be projected at both positions over the course of his minor league career. His plus bat speed suggests potential for plus power, and he has already shown an impressive feel for the strike zone.

    ETA: 2014

6. Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves

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    Position: RHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 175

    DOB: 1/27/1991           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2007, Colombia

     

    2011 Stats:

    Triple-A: 144.2 IP, 2.55 ERA, 3.06 FIP, 7.59 K/9, 2.99 BB/9, 0.31 HR/9

    MLB: 19.2 IP, 5.03 ERA, 5.87 FIP, 5.21 xFIP, 4.58 K/9, 3.66 BB/9

     

     

    Overview: Teheran has absolutely nothing left to prove in the minor leagues after dominating Triple-A hitters in 2011. The right-hander features a plus-plus fastball in the 93-97 mph range and is aggressive with its placement, working both sides of the plate and pounding the lower half of the strike zone. 

    Also in his arsenal is a plus changeup with excellent fade, as well as a curveball and slider. Both pitched grade as above-average with potential to be a plus offering in time. He has showcased improved command of all pitches since 2010 but will inevitably need more refinement to be as successful at the big-league level.

    The dynamic Braves rotation is already loaded with impressive young arms, so Teheran will be forced to begin his 2012 campaign in Triple-A. But the second there is an injury or the need for a spot start, his phone will be ringing.

    ETA: 2011

5. Jurickson Profar, Texas Rangers

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    Position: SS                       

    Height/Weight: 5'11", 165

    DOB: 2/20/1993           

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2010, Curacao

     

    2011 Stats:

    Single-A: .286/.390/.493, 23 SB, .207 ISO, 143 wRC+ (516 PA)

     

    Overview: There’s a whole lot to like about the 19-year-old Profar, who is the unanimous top infield prospect in all of baseball. He possesses an above-average bat from both sides of the plate that’s highlighted by an advanced knowledge of the strike zone. He has surprising strength for his size that, when bundled with his quick wrists, could yield 15-25 home run potential.

    Profar also made strides as a base stealer in 2011—his first full season—but his speed is only above average. Beyond his obvious offensive potential, Profar is a stud a shortstop. He is a plus defender with excellent range and soft hands and also possesses a plus arm that will allow him to remain at the position. 

    Due to the Rangers’ current middle infield combo of Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler, there’s a chance Profar begins his major league career at second base. But that will only be temporary as the 19-year-old is undoubtedly the team’s shortstop of the future.        

    ETA: 2014

4. Shelby Miller, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Position: RHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'3", 195

    DOB: 10/10/1990           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2009, first round (Brownwood HS, TX)

     

    2011 Stats:

    High-A: 53 IP, 2.89 ERA, 1.82 FIP, 13.75 K/9, 3.40 BB/9, 0.34 HR/9

    Double-A: 86.2 IP, 2.70 ERA, 2.73 FIP, 9.24 K/9, 3.43 BB/9, 0.21 HR/9

     

    Overview: After only nine starts for High-A Palm Beach, Miller upped his ETA by dominating at Double-A Springfield. He has an excellent pitcher’s frame at 6'3", 195 pounds, and he’ll only continue to fill out.  Miller throws a heavy 93-97 mph fastball with outstanding arm-side run that generates a healthy mixture of swing-and-misses and weak contact.

    To complement his heater, Miller throws two above-average offspeed pitches: a sharp, downer curve and fading changeup. He has already shown the ability to work deep into games while sustaining his velocity and is built for innings.

    Miller should begin the 2012 season in Triple-A, but he seems on schedule to make a mid-season debut.  And don’t be overly concerned with his well-documented off-the-field issues last season—it’s not like he had the college experience to get such behavior out of his system. 

    ETA: 2012

3. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

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    Position: OF                       

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 200

    DOB: 8/7/1991            

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2009, first round (Millville HS, NJ)

     

    2011 Stats:

    Double-A: .326/.414/.544, 33 SB, .218 ISO, 160 wRC+ (412 PA)

    MLB: .220/.281/.390, .171 ISO, 89 wRC+ (130 PA)

     

    Overview: Like Harper, Trout has all the tools to be a major league superstar. He possesses game-changing speed that grades out as an 80 and plays just as well in the outfield as he does on the base paths.  Despite what we saw in his cup of coffee with the Angels toward the end of the 2011 season, Trout has MLB-ready plate discipline. That’s not to say that he won’t be forced to make adjustments, especially against quality off-speed offerings from right-handers. 

    He has that rare power-speed combo to be a legitimate 30/30 when given an everyday job. His arm is his weakest tool but is above-average and suitable for center field. Considering that the Angels’ outfield will be overcrowded with Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells, Peter Bourjos and Bobby Abreu, Trout will have to wait patiently for his opportunity in 2012.  However, it’s awfully hard to keep talent like that in the minors.   

    ETA: 2011

2. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

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    Position: OF                       

    Height/Weight: 6'3", 225

    DOB: 10/16/1992           

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (College of Southern Nevada)

     

    2011 Stats:

    High-A: .318/.423/.554, 19 SB, .236 ISO, 168 wRC+ (305 PA)

    Double-A: .256/.329/.395, 7 SB, .140 ISO, 103 wRC+ (147 PA)

     

    Overview: Scouts have always been reserved to assign an 80-grade to anything other than speed, let alone multiple tools. So the fact that Harper, 19, has two tools that grade as such—power and arm—speaks volumes about his potential. And it’s not like his other tools lag behind—he possesses enough speed to swipe 20-plus bases, the ability to hit for average thanks to a line-to-line approach and the defensive prowess to stick in center field. 

    Some are irked by his overall cockiness and hard-nosed mentality on the field. But personally, I love it. Sure, it’s a bit immature at times, but he’ll always be the classic “hate to play against, love to have on your team” player. 

    In the face of unscrupulous criticism and unparalleled expectations, Harper has repeatedly thrived at every minor-league stop, and this year should be no different. Except to see Bryce Harper in the major leagues at some point in June.

    ETA: 2012

1. Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Position: LHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 205

    DOB: 6/18/1989           

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted/Signed: 2007, eighth round (Moriarty HS, NM)

     

    2011 Stats:

    Double-A: 102.1 IP, 2.20 ERA, 2.62 FIP, 11.52 K/9, 2.46 BB/9

    Triple-A: 52.2 IP, 1.37 ERA, 2.02 FIP, 13.50 K/9, 3.08 BB/9

    MLB: 9.1 IP, 2.89 ERA, 2.17 FIP, 1.85 xFIP, 14.46 K/9, 2.89 BB/9

     

    Overview: It's insane to think that there could be a better prospect than either Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, but there is.

    Enter Matt Moore.

    After striking out 700 hitters in 497 minor league innings, Moore offered a glimpse of his potential at the end of the 2011 season when he fanned 11 in his first major league start (against the New York Yankees nonetheless) and followed it up by two-hitting the Rangers over seven innings in Game 1 of the ALDS.

    The left-hander features the easiest 94-98 mph fastball I’ve ever seen, a plus-plus wipeout curve and a plus changeup. He has the arsenal and makeup to be an immediate ace, which is exactly why the Rays locked him up this offseason with a five-year, $14 million contract with the potential for an additional $26 million between 2017-2019. 

    Although he won’t head the young and talented Rays’ rotation in 2011, Moore is poised to dominate in his first full big-league season and should immediately insert his name into Cy Young contention.  

    ETA: 2011

Closing Thoughts

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    If there is enough feedback regarding my Top 50, I would like to schedule a live chat for either Wednesday or Thursday—time to be determined.

    With my Top 50 prospect rankings now in place, you will see a slew of corresponding lists published within the upcoming weeks—team specific Top 10s, top prospects by position, and top tools, just to name a few.

    As always, I encourage everyone to reach out to me via the comments section, email (mrosenbaum@bleacherreport.com), or Twitter (@GoldenSombrero).

    I thank you all in advance for your support of Prospect Pipeline, and I look forward to the prolonged discussions we will undoubtedly have over the course of the Major and Minor League Baseball season.

     

    Mike Rosenbaum

    Prospect Pipeline