MLB Prospects: Every MLB Team's No. 1 Prospect
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After publishing Prospect Pipeline's Top 50 Monday morning, I've been overwhelmed with the amount of positive feedback that I have received. As one commenter noted, I wasn't concerned with representing every team—which is absolutely true. Considering my goal is to assemble a sincere and justifiable Top 50, the last thing I would do is compromise the article's integrity by catering to every single team.
So now, since not every fanbase had the opportunity to read about its top prospect on Monday, I have put together scouting reports on every team's No. 1 prospect.
For those wondering about the criteria for these players' selections, please refer to the introduction of the Top 50.
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 or criticism. You may share your thoughts in the comments section of this article, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out to me on Twitter (@GoldenSombrero).
New York Yankees: Manny Banuelos, LHP
Nick Laham/Getty Images
Height/Weight: 5'11", 155
Drafted/Signed: 2008, Mexico
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-hander 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 midsummer debut in the Bronx.
Top 50 Ranking: No. 28
Boston Red Sox: Xander Bogaerts, SS
Height/Weight: 6'3", 175
Drafted/Signed: 2009, Aruba
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.
Top 50 Ranking: No. 39
Tampa Bay Rays: Matt Moore, LHP
J. Meric/Getty Images
Height/Weight: 6'2", 205
Drafted/Signed: 2007, eighth round (Moriarty HS, N.M.)
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: 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, no less) 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.
Top 50 Ranking: No. 1
Toronto Blue Jays: Travis d'Arnaud, C
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
Height/Weight: 6'2", 195
Drafted/Signed: 2007, first round (Lakewood HS, Calif.)
Double-A: .311/.371/.542, .231 ISO, 150 wRC+ (466 PA)
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.
Top 50 Ranking: No. 17
Baltimore Orioles: Manny Machado, SS
J. Meric/Getty Images
Height/Weight: 6'3", 185
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (Brito HS, Fla.)
Single-A: .276/.376/.483, .207 ISO, 131 wRC+ (170 PA)
High-A: .245/.308/.384, .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 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.
Top 50 Ranking: No. 7
Detroit Tigers: Jacob Turner, RHP
Dave Reginek/Getty Images
Height/Weight: 6'5", 210
Drafted/Signed: 2009, first round (Westminster Christian Academy HS, Mo.)
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.
Top 50 Ranking: No. 26
Chicago White Sox: Addison Reed, RHP
Leon Halip/Getty Images
Height/Weight: 6'4", 215
Drafted/Signed: 2010, third round (San Diego State)
Single-A: 8 IP, 1.13 ERA, 12.38 K/9, 1.13 BB/9
High-A: 28.1 IP, 1 SV, 1.59 ERA, 1.54 FIP, 12.39 K/9, 1.27 BB/9
Double-A: 20.2 IP, 2 SV, 0.87 ERA, 1.02 FIP, 14.37 K/9, 2.61 BB/9
Triple-A: 21.1 IP, 2 SV, 1.27 ERA, 2.22 FIP, 11.81 K/9, 1.27 BB/9
MLB: 7.1 IP, 3.68 ERA, 1.93 FIP, 1.70 xFIP, 14.73 K/9, 1.23 BB/9
Overview: Reed, who was drafted in the third round of the 2010 draft out of San Diego State, has an electric arm with a legitimate out pitch. A closer in college, the 6'4", 215-pounder breezed through the minors in 2011.
He began the year at Low-A Kannapolis and finished the season in the White Sox bullpen. In his 78.1 innings across four minor league levels last season, Reed posted a 1.26 ERA and 111/14 K/BB ratio.
His fastball and slider combination from a three-quarter arm slot is what one looks for in a closer—and he possesses above-average command of both pitches. He has a changeup, though he will likely keep it on the back burner given the effectiveness of his two primary pitches.
In a year where the White Sox will almost assuredly not compete for a division title, I expect Reed to receive the bulk of the save opportunities in 2012. Although Matt Thornton will probably be named the team's closer as big-league camp winds down, Reed has been groomed to close games since college. He has the stuff and experience to be a front-line closer by the end of the 2012 season.
Top 50 Ranking: N/A
Cleveland Indians: Francisco Lindor, SS
Height/Weight: 5'11", 175
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (Monteverde Academy, Fla.)
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 under way. 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 has 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.
Top 50 Ranking: No. 29
Kansas City Royals: Wil Myers, OF
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Height/Weight: 6'3", 205
Drafted/Signed: 2009, third round (Wesleyan Academy, N.C.)
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 allow 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.
Top 50 Ranking: No. 19
Minnesota Twins: Miguel Sano, 3B
Height/Weight: 6'3", 195
Drafted/Signed: 2009, Dominican Republic
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 19 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.
Top 50 Ranking: No. 16
Texas Rangers: Jurickson Profar, SS
Height/Weight: 5'11", 165
Drafted/Signed: 2010, Curacao
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 at 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 he is undoubtedly the team’s shortstop of the future.
Top 50 Ranking: No. 5
Seattle Mariners: Jesus Montero, C/DH
Rob Tringali/Getty Images
Height/Weight: 6'4", 225
Drafted/Signed: 2006, Venezuela
Triple-A (Yankees): .288/.348/.467, .179 ISO, 120 wRC+ (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 2012. 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.
Top 50 Ranking: No. 12
Los Angeles Angels: Mike Trout, OF
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Height/Weight: 6'1", 200
Drafted/Signed: 2009, first round (Millville HS, N.J.)
Double-A: .326/.414/.544, 33 SB, .218 ISO, 160 wRC+ (412 PA)
MLB: .220/.281/.390, .171 ISO, 89 wRC+ (135 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.
Top 50 Ranking: No. 3
Oakland Athletics: Jarrod Parker, RHP
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Height/Weight: 6'1", 195
Drafted/Signed: 2007, first round (Norwell HS, Ind.)
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 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.
Top 50 Ranking: No. 31
Philadelphia Phillies: Trevor May, RHP
Height/Weight: 6'5", 215
Drafted/Signed: 2008, fourth round (Kelso HS, Wash.)
High-A: 151.1 IP, 3.63 ERA, 2.57 FIP, 12.4 K/9, 4.0 BB/9, 0.50 HR/9
Overview: The Phillies' minor league pitcher of the year in 2011, May led the Florida State League with 208 strikeouts. At 6'5", he is an imposing presence on the mound with two plus pitches. While he can reach back for 98 mph, the right-hander's heavy fastball sits in the mid-90s with late, arm-side run. He's not afraid to challenge hitters up in the zone with it and often uses it as an out pitch.
May is one of a select few minor league pitchers who possess the ability to sustain their velocity late into games.
His premier off-speed pitch is a plus curveball with serious bite. When May struggles with establishing his arm speed, he has a tendency to spike the pitch. He also features a solid-average changeup that flashes potential at times.
The key to his success at more advanced levels will be the development of his changeup, as well as the utilization of a slider he picked up towards the end of the 2011 season. To be efficient with his pitches, he'll have to continue refining his command and making his mechanics more repeatable.
Since drafting him in 2008, the Phillies have been extremely cautious in their handling of May. After spending the last three seasons playing for the Phillies' Class-A affiliates, May is clearly ready for a promotion to Double-A. Like so many other prospects, a successful 2012 season will be crucial for his development.
Top 50 Ranking: N/R
Atlanta Braves: Julio Teheran, RHP
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Height/Weight: 6'2", 175
Drafted/Signed: 2007, Colombia
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 pitches 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.
Top 50 Ranking: No. 6
New York Mets: Zack Wheeler, RHP
Height/Weight: 6'4", 185
Drafted/Signed: 2009, first round (East Paulding HS, Ga.)
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.
Top 50 Ranking: No. 20
Miami Marlins: Christian Yelich, OF
Height/Weight: 6'4", 189
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (Westlake HS, Calif.)
Single-A: .312/.388/.484, 32 SB, .171 ISO, 146 wRC+ (521 PA)
Overview: Still just 20 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.
Top 50 Ranking: No. 30
Washington Nationals: Bryce Harper, OF
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Height/Weight: 6'3", 225
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (College of Southern Nevada)
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.
Top 50 Ranking: No. 2
Chicago Cubs: Javier Baez, SS
Height/Weight: 6'0", 180
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (Arlington Country Day School, Fla.)
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.
Top 50 Ranking: No. 38
St. Louis Cardinals: Shelby Miller, RHP
Doug Benc/Getty Images
Height/Weight: 6'3", 195
Drafted/Signed: 2009, first round (Brownwood HS, Texas)
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 swings-and-misses and weak contact.
To complement his heater, Miller throws two above-average off-speed 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 midseason debut. Don’t be overly concerned with his well-documented off-field issues last season either—it’s not like he had the college experience to get such behavior out of his system.
Top 50 Ranking: No. 4
Milwaukee Brewers: Wily Peralta, RHP
Rich Pilling/Getty Images
Height/Weight: 6'2", 240
Drafted/Signed: 2005, Dominican Republic
Double-A: 119.2 IP, 3.46 ERA, 3.53 FIP, 8.80 K/9, 3.61 BB/9, 0.68 HR/9
Triple-A: 31 IP, 2.03 ERA, 1.78 FIP, 11.61 K/9, 3.19 BB/9
Overview: Peralta was signed out of the Dominican Republic as a toolsy outfielder in 2005. But after witnessing his raw arm strength, he was quickly transitioned to the bump. After missing the 2007 season due to Tommy John surgery, Peralta has progressed steadily since returning.
Peralta pounds the strike zone with a four-seam and two-seam fastball and typically sits in the low to mid 90s—although he is capable of touching the upper 90s. His best secondary pitch is a hard slider, which, when kept down in the zone, is a legitimate swing-and-miss pitch. He also features a changeup that has come along over the years due to his role as a starter but at the moment probably only grades out as about a 50.
Although some believe he is best suited for a bullpen role, the Brewers have remained steadfast in their development of Peralta as a starter. Therefore, it will likely take an injury to a member of the Brewers’ rotation for Peralta to get his shot. Until then, he'll wait patiently in Triple-A.
Top 50 Ranking: N/R
Cincinnati Reds: Devin Mesoraco, C
John Grieshop/Getty Images
Height/Weight: 6'1", 225
Drafted/Signed: 2007, first round (Punxsutawney Area HS, Pa.)
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. 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 the Reds' everyday catcher to open the 2012 season, but don't be surprised if Ryan Hanigan steals a few starts per week to help ease him in.
Top 50 Ranking: No. 22
Houston Astros: Jarred Cosart, RHP
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Height/Weight: 6'3", 180
Drafted/Signed: 2008, 38th round (League City HS, Texas)
High-A (PHI): 108 IP, 3.92 ERA, 4.00 FIP, 6.58 K/9, 3.58 BB/9, 0.58 HR/9
Double-A (HOU): 36.1, 4.71 ERA, 4.49 FIP, 5.45 K/9, 3.22 BB/9, 0.99 HR/9
Overview: Cosart was dealt to the Houston Astros at the trade deadline for Hunter Pence and immediately became the top pitching prospect in the organization.His fast arm generates 94-97 mph fastballs that can flash up to 98 or 99. Cosart's secondary offerings both grade out to at least a 50 in terms of stuff, but he lacks the command to use them in high volume. At this point, his changeup is a better out pitch than his breaker, though it does have good shape and pace.
Cosart has an wiry frame with room to add some bulk. His mechanics range from clean to jerky, but he is athletic and still has time to refine them.
As far as his statistics go, 2011 was an up-and-down season for Cosart. He dominated through the middle of June, got shelled for a month and a half, was traded and was ultimately rushed into an unsuccessful stint at Double-A.
He'll start the 2012 season back in Double-A, where the Astros hope he'll begin to reverse his converging K/9 and BB/9 rates.
Top 50 Ranking: N/R
Pittsburgh Pirates: Jameson Taillon, RHP
Height/Weight: 6'6", 225
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (The Woodlands HS, Texas)
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 that 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.
Top 50 Ranking: No. 11
Los Angeles Dodgers: Zach Lee, RHP
Height/Weight: 6'4", 190
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (McKinney HS, Texas)
Single-A: 109 IP, 3.47 ERA, 3.68 FIP, 7.51 K/9, 2.64 BB/9, 0.74 HR/9
Overview: After selecting Lee with the 28th overall pick in the 2010 draft, the Dodgers signed him for $5.25 million just before the deadline. Slated to play both football (QB) and baseball for Louisiana State, the signing bonus—the largest in franchise history—lured Lee away from his previous commitment.
The right-hander's fastball typically sits in the 90-93 mph range to both sides of the plate, and he'll give hitters a different look by mixing in a cutter. For the first time in his young career, Lee threw both a curveball and slider in 2011, with the latter frequently showing the potential to be a plus pitch. His changeup is pretty mediocre, but it could still be an effective pitch down the road.
For someone his size, Lee repeats his mechanics well despite throwing across his body. He exudes confidence on the mound while controlling the pace of the game, traits rarely found in high school pitchers.
Lee will likely begin the season at High-A, and considering both his polish and maturity on the mound, he should log significant time at Double-A as early as July.
Top 50 Ranking: N/R
Arizona Diamondbacks: Trevor Bauer, RHP
Rob Tringali/Getty Images
Height/Weight: 6'1", 175
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (UCLA)
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.
Top 50 Ranking: No. 8
Colorado Rockies: Nolan Arenado, 3B
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Height/Weight: 6'1", 205
Drafted/Signed: 2009, second round (El Toro HS, Calif.)
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.
Top 50 Ranking: No. 21
San Diego Padres: Rymer Liriano, OF
Rich Pilling/Getty Images
Height/Weight: 6'0", 211
Drafted/Signed: 2007, Dominican Republic
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.
Top 50 Ranking: No. 43
San Francisco Giants: Gary Brown, OF
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Height/Weight: 6'1", 190
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (Cal State Fullerton)
High-A: .336/.407/.519, 53 SB, .182 ISO, 140 wRC+ (638 PA)
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 61 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.
Top 50 Ranking: No. 24