As I mentioned when I originally published my preseason top 50 prospects on March 26, I will be updating the rankings on a monthly basis over the course of the 2012 season.
Considering that most minor leaguers have only received about 100 at-bats (some more, some less), it makes little sense to shuffle the rankings based on such a small sample.
While there are a few players whose performances have been so outstanding that it warranted a more favorable ranking, this is not a ranking of the top prospects this season—it is the same top 50 overall ranking with some minor adjustments.
There have also been several players that have officially gained rookie status after amassing 130 at-bats dating back to last season: Mike Trout (No. 3), Jesus Montero (No. 12) and Yonder Alonso (No. 48).
Also, there are a few prospects that fell out of the top 50 not because they aren’t playing well, per se, but rather as a result of others' strong performances.
Therefore, there are a few new faces appearing in the rankings, and as the season unfolds there will surely be many more.
Before plunging into the top 50, here are the criteria for how these prospects were evaluated and subsequently ranked.
* 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?
* 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 offerings in a pitcher's arsenal.
* Does he project as a starter, or will he ultimately work out of the bullpen?
* 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.
Drafted/Signed: 2008, first-round supplemental (HS: Highland, Ill.)
Previous Rank: N/R
Double-A: 31 IP, 3.48 ERA, 40 K/9 BB, .184 BAA (6 GS)
Overview: The key chip in the trade that sent Zack Greinke to the Brewers prior to the 2011 season, Odorizzi excelled in the Carolina League and earned himself a promotion to Double-A.
His numbers took a hit in his 12 starts for Northwest Arkansas—as one expects for a 21-year-old in an advanced league—but he still finished the year with an sub-4.00 ERA and 157 strikeouts against 44 walks in nearly 150 innings.
His fastball reaches 96 mph and sits at 93-94, and his breaking ball is a sledge when in the zone. His command of it needs to improve, but he has a couple of years still before it absolutely must be reliable.
He throws a slider and a change as well, but they're behind the fastball and curveball and will be no better than 50s. Still, Odorizzi is a strike-throwing machine with a projectable, athletic frame, and results that suggest he will be a consistent No. 2 at worst.
Height/Weight: 6'0", 150
Drafted/Signed: 2010, fourth round (HS: Winter Garden, Fla.)
Previous Rank: N/R
Low-A: .327/.357/.500, 10 XBH, 11 SB, 4 K/5 BB (25 G)
Overview: In his first professional season, Williams was ranked as the New York-Penn League’s top prospect after leading the league with 28 steals and posting a .349 batting average. He's a toolsy player who is both extremely athletic and projectable.
At the plate, Williams has quick wrists and solid hand-eye coordination and a swing that projects for some power. Right now, he’s mainly an arms/upper body hitter, so the incorporation of his lower half could yield significant results.
He possesses nearly 80-grade speed that plays better in the outfield than it does on the basepaths. He has excellent range in center field and a strong enough arm to be considered for right field. In the running game, Williams has the speed but lacks the intuition of a polished base stealer.
Williams' current performance at Low-A could earn him a promotion to High-A at some point during the season.
Height/Weight: 6'4", 190
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (HS: McKinney, Texas)
Previous Rank: N/R
High-A: 31.1 IP, 5.17 ERA, 7 HR, 32 K/6 BB (6 GS)
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 and baseball at 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 will 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.
Height/Weight: 6'0", 215
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (UT-Arlington)
Previous Rank: 50
High-A: .250/.344/.321, 6 XBH, 32 K/17 BB (29 G)
Overview: There's 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's 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.
Height/Weight: 6'5", 215
Drafted/Signed: 2008, fourth round (HS: Kelso, Wash.)
Previous Rank: N/R
Double-A: 35 IP, 3.09 ERA, 40 K/12 BB, .208 BAA (6 GS)
Overview: The Phillies' minor league pitcher of the year in 2011, May led the Florida State League with 208 strikeouts. At 6'5", he's 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 toward the end of the 2011 season. To be efficient with his pitches, he will 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.
Height/Weight: 6'4", 180
Drafted/Signed: 2010, fourth round (HS: Oviedo, Fla.)
Previous Rank: 42
High-A: 24.1 IP, 5.55 ERA, 21 K/8 BB (5 GS)
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. In High-A to begin the season, he is a pitcher to follow closely in 2012.
Height/Weight: 6'2", 220
Drafted/Signed: 2009, Dominican Republic
Previous Rank: 46
Low-A: .337/.394/.442, 10 XBH, 6 SB, 27 K/9 BB (24 G)
Overview: Gary Sanchez distinguished himself as one of the game’s top catching prospects in 2010 by slashing .353/.419/.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—a la 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 finish the season at High-A.
Height/Weight: 6'0", 210
Drafted/Signed: 2007, Dominican Republic
Previous Rank: 43
High-A: .226/.315/.344, 7 XBH, 7 SB, 30 K/7 BB (27 G)
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’s currently taking another crack at High-A. If it goes well, Liriano could rise quickly through the Padres’ system.
Height/Weight: 6'4", 210
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (HS: Archbishop McCarthy, Fla.)
Previous Rank: 47
High-A: .414/.460/.577, 13 XBH, 21 RBI, 20 K/10 BB (28 G)
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/.436 while playing in 135 games.
Even though he swatted only seven home runs, the right-handed hitter did tally 36 doubles. 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, and the fact he's off to such a hot start this season speaks volumes about this ability to make adjustments.
Height/Weight: 6'4", 220
Drafted/Signed: 2010, fourth round (University of Kentucky/Grand Prairie)
Previous Rank: 44
Double-A: 28.2 IP, 2.51 ERA, 36 K/18 BB, .202 BAA (6 GS)
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.
Height/Weight: 6'2'', 210
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (University of Miami)
Previous Rank: 45
Triple-A: .317/.453/.512, 4 XBH, 11 K/10 BB (13 G)
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 has helped him hose base stealers at a 34 percent clip.
Having started the year at Triple-A, he'll have a chance to make his major league debut at some point during the 2012 season. Nick Hundley’s three-year extension this spring does complicate things for Grandal, though it shouldn't impede his 2013 arrival.
Height/Weight: 6'2", 170
Drafted/Signed: 2008, South Korea
Previous Rank: 41
Double-A: .237/.291/.321, 8 XBH, 6 SB, 24 K/10 BB (31 G)
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 2014. However, nothing is certain when it comes to the Rays and shortstop prospects.
Height/Weight: 6'0", 165
Drafted/Signed: 2010, Dominican Republic
Previous Rank: 40
High-A: 22 IP, 2.45 ERA, 0 HR, 23 K/8 BB (5 GS)
Overview: Martinez can throw 95 mph with his back against a wall—a testament to his lightning-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.
Though he has started at every level in the minors, he also profiles as a closer, which may be a faster route to the major leagues if his control problems persist.
Height/Weight: 6'3", 175
Drafted/Signed: 2009, Aruba
Previous Rank: 39
High-A: .262/.333/.447, 12 XBH, 46 TB, 19 K/10 BB (27 G)
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.
Height/Weight: 6'0", 180
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (HS: Arlington Country Day School, Fla.)
Previous Rank: 38
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 basepaths that give him 20/20 potential.
Only 19 years old, the Cubs will send Baez to Low-A Peoria to begin the 2012 season.
Height/Weight: 6'4", 195
Drafted/Signed: 2011, second round (HS: Dallas Jesuit, Texas)
Previous Rank: 35
Low-A: .274/.288/.403, 6 XBH, 21 K/2 BB (15 G)
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's 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.
Unfortunately, it looks as though Bell will miss the majority of the 2012 season following knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus sustained while running the bases.
Height/Weight: 6'0", 178
Drafted/Signed: 2007, Venezuela
Previous Rank: 36
Triple-A: 33.2 IP, 4.54 ERA, 21 K/15 BB, 1.71 GB/FB, .218 BAA (6 GS)
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.
Height/Weight: 6'4", 200
Drafted/Signed: 2009, third round (HS: Riverside Poly, Calif.)
Previous Rank: 33
High-A: .254/.336/.444, 15 XBH, 56 TB, 5 SB, 24 K/10 BB (30 G)
Overview: At 6'4", Marisnick 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 was successful in 60 of 71 attempts over 2010 and 2011.
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.
Height/Weight: 6'5", 240
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (Mississippi)
Previous Rank: 34
MLB: 20 IP, 4.05 ERA, 18 K/12 BB (4 GS)
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.
While his upside comes as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter, he could blossom into the Rockies’ ace given their lackluster rotation.
Height/Weight: 6'2", 180
Drafted/Signed: 2008, Dominican Republic
Previous Rank: 37
Double-A: .325/.374/.658, 20 XBH, 27 RBI, 75 TB, 15 K/8 BB (29 G)
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.
This season, Taveras has shown the power that the Cardinals hoped for—at Double-A nonetheless. If he continues to produce at this rate, he may be in store for a promotion to either Triple-A or the show later this season.
Height/Weight: 6'4", 225
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (North Carolina)
Previous Rank: 32
Triple-A: 30 IP, 4.80 ERA, 27 K/13 BB (6 GS)
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 and Jon Niese in the Mets rotation, Harvey could be one of the first pitchers to get called up this season.
Height/Weight: 6'1", 195
Drafted/Signed: 2007, first round (HS: Norwell, Ind.)
Previous Rank: 31
Triple-A: 20.2 IP, 2.18 ERA, 21 K/6 BB, 2.17 GB/FB (4 GS)
MLB: 13 IP, 1.38 ERA, 9 K/3 BB (2 GS)
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 130.2 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.
Height/Weight: 6'4", 189
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (HS: Westlake, Calif.)
Previous Rank: 30
High-A: .303/.398/.487, 8 XBH, 8 SB, 18 K/12 BB (21 G)
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 to 30. As of 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.
Height/Weight: 5'11", 175
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (HS: Montverde Academy, Fla.)
Previous Rank: 29
Low-A: .309/.361/.455, 22 R, 10 XBH, 56 TB, 11 SB, 18 K/10 BB (28 G)
Overview: One of the most promising young shortstops in the game, Lindor is on the fast track to the major leagues.
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.
Height/Weight: 5'11", 200
Drafted/Signed: 2008, Mexico
Previous Rank: 28
Triple-A: 9 IP, 6.00 ERA, 7 K/7 BB, 2.17 GB/FB (3 GS)
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.
After a disappointing spring training, Banuelos’ 2012 campaign has gotten off to a slow start due to back pain that has limited his innings and even forced a brief stint on the disabled list.
Height/Weight: 6'4", 195
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (HS: Gardner Edgerton, Kan.)
Previous Rank: 25
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 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.
Height/Weight: 6'5", 210
Drafted/Signed: 2009, first round (HS: Westminster Christian Academy, Mo.)
Previous Rank: 24
High-A: 14.2 IP, 2.45 ERA, 9 K/6 BB (3 GS)
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 was shut down after experiencing discomfort in his shoulder.
He’s currently working his way back at High-A but should be back at Triple-A (and possibly even return to the Tigers rotation) by the All-Star break.
Height/Weight: 6'1", 190
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (Cal State Fullerton)
Previous Rank: 24
Double-A: .243/.336/.287, 4 XBH, 8 SB, 19 K/9 BB (30 G)
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's a hard-nosed competitor with the type of game-changing speed that will be hard to keep in the minors.
Height/Weight: 6'3", 200
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (Virginia)
Previous Rank: 23
Double-A: 30.2 IP, 2.35 ERA, 34 K/19 BB, .142 BAA (6 GS)
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, a slider (his out pitch) and a 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 was assigned to Double-A to begin the season and should make his major league debut later this year.
The Mariners hope that the left-hander can one day be the perfect No. 2 behind Taijuan Walker.
Height/Weight: 6'1", 160
Drafted/Signed: 2009, second round (HS: Taylorsville, Miss.)
Previous Rank: 27
High-A: .382/.458/.559, 25 R, 12 XBH, 57 TB, 31 SB, 18 K/14 BB (26 G)
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 has made strides this season learning the intricacies of the game.
He’ll never hit for power. But as a switch-hitting shortstop, the improvement in his plate discipline this season has already boosted his stock. Outside of his range, Hamilton's arm and hands can be fringy, which has some scouts thinking that he’ll wind up in center field or perhaps at second base.
No one expected Hamilton to start the 2012 season as he has, so the fact that he’s been arguably the top offensive player in all of High-A only bumps up his arrival in Cincinnati. At his current rate, the speedster will steal over 170 bases this season.
Height/Weight: 6'1", 225
Drafted/Signed: 2007, first round (HS: Punxsutawney Area, Pa.)
Previous Rank: 22
MLB: .270/.349/.378, 2 XBH, 4 K/5 BB (13 G)
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 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.
Height/Weight: 6'1", 205
Drafted/Signed: 2009, second round (HS: El Toro, Calif.)
Previous Rank: 21
Double-A: .296/.371/.417, 11 XBH, 15 RBI, 19 K/10 BB (30 G)
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.
Height/Weight: 6'3", 205
Drafted/Signed: 2009, third round (HS: Wesleyan Academy, N.C.)
Previous Rank: 19
Double-A: .336/.390/.692, 19 XBH, 22 RBI, 74 TB, 34 K/9 BB (27 G)
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 indicated that he had 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 has been one of the more productive hitters in all of Double-A, thus far, and could force his way to Kauffman Stadium sometime later this season.
Height/Weight: 6'4", 185
Drafted/Signed: 2009, first round (HS: East Paulding, Ga.)
Previous Rank: 20
Double-A: 25.2 IP, 1.75 ERA, 30 K/14 BB, 1.50 GB/FB, .198 BAA (5 GS)
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 near 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, he’s thrived following a promotion 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 one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball.
Height/Weight: 6'2", 195
Drafted/Signed: 2007, first round (HS: Lakewood, Calif.)
Previous Rank: 17
Triple-A: .271/.342/.402, 10 XBH, 19 K/10 BB (26 G)
Overview: Travis d’Arnaud garnered Eastern League MVP honors in 2011 after posting a .914 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 retains a tenuous grasp on the position, 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.
Height/Weight: 6'4", 225
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (HS: Broken Arrow, Okla.)
Previous Rank: 18
Low-A: 31 IP, 2.03 ERA, 34 K/19 BB, 2.11 GB/FB, .093 BAA (6 GS)
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 19-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.
Height/Weight: 6'3", 195
Drafted/Signed: 2009, Dominican Republic
Previous Rank: 16
Low-A: .299/.424/.636, 18 XBH, 29 RBI, 68 TB, 36 K/20 BB (30 G)
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 on May 11, 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.
Sano currently leads (or places towards the top) in every offensive category in the Midwest League.
Height/Weight: 6'4", 220
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (UCLA)
Previous Rank: 15
High-A: 28 IP, 3.54 ERA, 3 HR, 34 K/10 BB, 1.58 GB/FB
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.
Height/Weight: 6'3", 195
Drafted/Signed: 2009, first round (HS: Santa Monica, Calif.)
Previous Rank: 13
Double-A: 32.1 IP, 3.06 ERA, 4 HR, 43 K/7 BB, 1.70 GB/FB
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 16 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.
Height/Weight: 6'0", 195
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (Rice)
Previous Rank: 10
High-A: .500/.667/1.250, 2 XBH, 0 K/2 BB (2 G)
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 profiled 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's an above-average defender with solid instincts and a plus arm.
In just his second game of the season, Rendon suffered a fractured ankle while rounding third base. The ankle injury is his third in as many years, and only time will determine how much it impedes his ascent to the major leagues.
Height/Weight: 6'4", 210
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (HS: Yucaipa, Calif.)
Previous Rank: 14
Double-A: 27.2 IP, 1.30 ERA, 28 K/8 BB, 1.17 GB/FB (5 GS)
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's the Mariners' future ace with one of the highest ceilings of any pitching prospect on this list. Walker began the 2012 season at Double-A, where he will work on refining his command.
Height/Weight: 6'1", 185
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (UCLA)
Previous Rank: 8
Double-A: 41.1 IP, 1.96 ERA, 51 K/25 BB (7 GS)
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—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.
Height/Weight: 6'6", 225
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (HS: The Woodlands, Texas)
Previous Rank: 11
Double-A: 30.2 IP, 1.76 ERA, 0 HR, 33 K/6 BB (6 GS)
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.
Height/Weight: 6'3", 185
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (HS: Brito, Fla.)
Previous Rank: 7
Double-A: .257/.361/.406, 10 XBH, 3 SB, 24 K/16 BB (29 G)
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.
Height/Weight: 6'2", 175
Drafted/Signed: 2007, Colombia
Previous Rank: 6
Triple-A: 19.2 IP, 3.66 ERA, 17 K/10 BB (5 GS)
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 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 down the road. 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 continue to get his work in at Triple-A for the moment. But the second there's an injury or the need for a spot start, his phone will be ringing.
Height/Weight: 6'1", 200
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (HS: Owasso, Okla.)
Previous Rank: 9
Low-A: 17 IP, 0.00 ERA, 1 H, 25 K/2 BB, .020 BAA (5 GS)
Overview: In any draft not loaded with elite collegiate arms like Cole, Hultzen and Bauer, Bundy would have been a consensus 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.
This season, Bundy has emerged as somewhat of a legend through his first five starts, as he’s only allowed three batters to reach over 17 innings. Expect a promotion to High-A very, very soon.
Height/Weight: 6'3", 195
Drafted/Signed: 2009, first round (HS: Brownwood, Texas)
Previous Rank: 4
Triple-A: 28.1 IP, 4.45 ERA, 5 HR, 37 K/15 BB (6 GS)
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 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 has struggled with his command this season at 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.
Height/Weight: 5'11", 165
Drafted/Signed: 2009, Curacao
Previous Rank: 5
Double-A: .259/.315/.464, 13 XBH, 52 TB, 4 SB, 22 K/9 BB (28 G)
Overview: There’s a whole lot to like about the 19-year-old Profar, who's 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 the 19-year-old is undoubtedly the team’s shortstop of the future.
He’s responded well to the aggressive promotion to Double-A to begin the 2012 season and is currently riding a 17-game hit streak.
Height/Weight: 6'3", 225
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (College of Southern Nevada)
Previous Rank: 2
Triple-A: .250/.333/.375, 6 XBH, 14 K/9 BB (20 G)
MLB: .308/.424/.500, 5 XBH, 3 RBI, 4 K/5 BB
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.
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. Harper’s call-up came earlier than anticipated thanks to injuries to both Matt Morse and Ryan Zimmerman, and he has immediately emerged as the biggest offensive threat in the Nationals batting order. He’s as exciting and talented a player as we’ll see for some time, so enjoy it, folks.
Height/Weight: 6'2", 205
Drafted/Signed: 2007, eighth round (HS: Moriarty, N.M.)
Previous Rank: 1
MLB: 34.2 IP, 5.71 ERA, 28 K/18 BB (6 GS)
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 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.
Moore has gotten off to a disappointing start this season, as he’s struggled with his command and, in turn, has been unable to put hitters away in the manner he exhibited following his 2011 call-up.
No need to worry, though—his stuff is still excellent, and he’s mature enough to continue making adjustments on the fly.