MLB Prospects: Top 10 Outfield Prospects
With Prospect Pipeline's Top 50 now officially in place, it's time to take a deeper look at these prospects from a positional standpoint.
As I continue to put together top 10 prospect scouting reports for every organization, I'll also be ranking prospects by both position and skill set (or as I refer to them, tools).
Today, the top prospects by position series continues with the top 10 outfield prospects in all of baseball.
10. Rymer Liriano, San Diego Padres
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
9. Oscar Taveras, St. Louis Cardinals
Height/Weight: 6'2", 180
Drafted/Signed: 2010, Dominican Republic
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, 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.
Top 50 Ranking: No. 37
8. Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates
Height/Weight: 6'4", 195
Drafted/Signed: 2011, second round (Dallas Jesuit HS, Texas)
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.
Top 50 Ranking: No. 35
7. Jake Marisnick, Toronto Blue Jays
Height/Weight: 6'4", 200
Drafted/Signed: 2009, third round (Riverside Poly HS, Calif.)
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 midseason 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.
Top 50 Ranking: No. 33
6. Christian Yelich, Florida Marlins
Height/Weight: 6'4", 185
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 right 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
5. Bubba Starling, Kansas City Royals
Height/Weight: 6'4", 195
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (Gardner Edgerton HS, Kan.)
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.
Top 50 Ranking: No. 25
4. Gary Brown, San Francisco Giants
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
3. Wil Myers, Kansas City Royals
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 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.
Top 50 Ranking: No. 19
2. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
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 basepaths.
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
1. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
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 Bryce Harper, 19, has two tools that grade as such—power and arm—speaks volumes about his potential. 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 him in the major leagues at some point in June.
Top 50 Ranking: No. 2