MLB Prospects: B/R's Official Midseason Top 50 Prospects Update
When I originally published my preseason top 50 prospects list on March 26, I mentioned there would be a midseason update following the All-Star break. Now, it’s important to note that this is not a ranking of the top 50 prospect performances this season, but rather an updated and adjusted version of my preseason rankings.
Since the first rankings were released, there have been numerous players that have officially gained rookie status: Matt Moore (No. 1), Bryce Harper (No. 2), Mike Trout (No. 3), Jesus Montero (No. 12), Devin Mesoraco (No. 22), Jarrod Parker (No. 31) and Yonder Alonso (No. 48).
Furthermore, as with most midseason top prospects rankings, any player who is on an active big-league roster after the All-Star break has been omitted from this list.
Furthermore, I decided not to include any of the 2012 draft picks or international signees on this list, as there's simply too small of a sample to make any definite rankings.
Having said that, I present to you: Prospect Pipeline’s Midseason Top 50 Prospects Update.
* 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?
50. Alex Meyer, RHP, Washington Nationals
Height/Weight: 6’9”, 220
DOB: 1/3/1990 (Age: 22)
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (University of Kentucky)
Preseason Rank: NR
Low-A: 7-4, 90 IP, 3.10 ERA, 2.63 FIP, .210 BAA, 107 K/34 BB (18 GS)
At 6’9”, Meyer features a fastball that sits in the mid to upper 90s and occasionally flirts with triple digits. His two-seam fastball, which registers in the low 90s with significant arm-side run, will need to become more prevalent in his arsenal as he ascends the Nationals system.
When it’s on, Meyer’s power slider serves as a legitimate out pitch and generates plenty of swing-and-misses. Rounding out his arsenal is a steadily improving changeup, though it still needs extensive development to be a usable pitch at the big league level.
Considering that he’s a lanky 6'9", 220 pounds, Meyer has done a significantly better job repeating his mechanics this season—something that’s difficult with all those arms and legs. In the past, he’s had a tendency to lose a feel for his mechanics, as his arms and legs get out of sync with his torso, causing balance issues throughout his delivery as well as an inconsistent arm slot.
The Nationals may let him finish the season at Low-A, but in my opinion, he’s ready for a more challenging level.
49. Trevor Story, SS, Colorado Rockies
Height/Weight: 6'1", 175
DOB: 11/15/1992 (Age: 19)
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first-round supplemental (HS: Irving, Texas)
Preseason Rank: NR
Low-A: .262/.357/.492, 41 XBH (13 HR), 45 RBI, 7 SB, 76 K/41 BB (81 G)
One of the more under-the-radar prospects in all of baseball, Trevor Story employs a mature approach at the plate that allows him to drive the ball all over the field. His present raw power and direct bat path suggest that he’ll hit for average to above-average power as he continues to physically develop.
At 6’1”, 175 pounds, Story has an athletic and physically strong frame that still leaves room for projection. He’s an above-average runner with excellent instincts at shortstop, though his range is only slightly above average. Furthermore, he has smooth and natural actions to and through the baseball. His best defensive tool is his plus arm, which is more than enough for the position.
After posting a .960-plus OPS in both April and May, Story, a right-handed hitter, fell into a slump prior to the Low-A All-Star break. However, his bat has come alive in July with eight extra-base hits and 10 walks over 12 games. It’ll be interesting to see how aggressive the Rockies are with him, as he seems to nearly be ready for a challenge at High-A.
48. Luis Heredia, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Height/Weight: 6'6", 205
DOB: 8/10/1994 (Age: 17)
Drafted/Signed: 2010, Mexico
Preseason Rank: NR
Class-A Short Season: 1-1, 24 IP, 1.13 ERA, .230 BAA, 14 K/6 BB (5 GS)
Considered too advanced for the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League, the Pirates assigned Heredia to the Gulf Coast League in 2011 as a 16-year-old. However, they’ve been extremely cautious and protective of the tall right-hander, giving him ample rest between starts and allowing him to only throw a certain number of innings per outing.
Heredia’s fastball velocity is up since signing with the Pirates, as he sits 92-93 mph but has been clocked as high at 95-96. His breaking ball shows a lot of promise and has a late, downward bite, but it’s an inconsistent offering given his lack of experience. The right-hander also mixes in a changeup with some sink and fade that projects to be at least a third above-average pitch.
47. Tyler Austin, OF, New York Yankees
Height/Weight: 6'2", 200
DOB: 9/6/1991 (Age: 20)
Drafted/Signed: 2010, 13th round (HS—Conyers, Ga.)
Preseason Rank: NR
Low-A: .320/.405/.598, 41 XBH (14 HR), 54 RBI, 17 SB, 68 K/37 BB (70 G)
High-A: 0-for-2 (1 G)
Since entering the Yankees system in 2010, all Austin has done is rake. Possessing quiet athleticism, the right-handed hitter has strong, quick wrists that generate above-average to plus raw power—primarily to his pull side. While there is some swing-and-miss in his game, he’s an overall patient hitter with an advanced approach and is capable of manipulating counts.
He’s not a burner on the bases; however, he reads pitchers well and picks his spots, therefore allowing his average speed to play up.
Playing primarily third base in 2011, Austin’s defense was inconsistent and raw and prompted a move to outfield prior to the 2012 season. He’s an average defense outfielder with a slightly above average arm; therefore, his bat will ultimately determine whether he lands in left or right field. He’s produced at every level thus far and has demonstrated the ability to make adjustments.
Recently, Austin was promoted to High-A Tampa, along with Mason Williams and Gary Sanchez.
46. Zach Lee, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Height/Weight: 6'4", 190
DOB: 9/13/1991 (Age: 20)
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (HS: McKinney, Texas)
Preseason Rank: NR
High-A: 2-3, 55.1 IP, 4.55 ERA, 4.03 FIP, .270 BAA, 52 K/10 BB (12 GS)
Double-A: 0-2, 16.1 IP, 8.82 ERA, 4.85 FIP, .357 BAA, 13 K/8 BB (4 GS)
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 the occasional 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 a high school pitcher.
After exhibiting excellent command at Low-A to begin the season, Lee recently received an aggressive promotion to Double-A. Since then, he’s been somewhat inconsistent, as he’s been hit around in two of his four starts after struggling to locate his pitches down in the strike zone. Still, given his promotion, Lee has a chance to be the next young Dodger pitcher to reach the major leagues.
45. Eddie Rosario, 2B/OF, Minnesota Twins
Height/Weight: 6'0", 170
DOB: 9/28/1991 (Age: 20)
Drafted/Signed: 2010, fourth round (HS—Guayama, P.R.)
Preseason Rank: NR
Low-A: .293/.362/.473, 28 XBH (7 HR), 40 RBI, 9 SB, 38 K/27 BB (62 G)
A left-handed hitter, Rosario has a short, compact swing that allows him see the ball deep at the plate and use the entire field. Although his best offensive tool will likely always be his bat, he has surprising power for a player of his size and could hit 15-20 by the time he reaches the major leagues. Rosario does have above-average speed; however, his base-stealing skills are lacking, and he’s still learning how to read pitchers.
Primarily a center fielder until moving to second base, Rosario has the quickness, strong arm and overall athleticism to handle the position. Naturally, he will be raw and need extensive reps at the position in order to learn the intricacies, but Rosario has shown no signs that he can’t handle the transition.
Following a strong showing in the Appalachian League in 2011, Rosario is turning in an impressive season at Low-A Beloit. However, the left-handed hitter hasn’t played a game since June 11, when he landed on the disabled list.
44. Matt Davidson, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks
Height/Weight: 6'2", 225
DOB: 3/26/1991 (Age: 21)
Drafted/Signed: 2009, first-round supplemental (HS—Yucaipa, Calif.)
Preseason Rank: NR
Double-A: .263/.372/.494, 40 XBH (18 HR), 49 RBI, 87 K/49 BB (93 G)
A right-handed hitter with strong arms and quick wrists, Davidson has the ability to drive the ball out of the park to all fields. Despite his high strikeout totals of previous years, he actually possesses fairly advanced plate discipline that should help him retain a decent batting average at higher levels. His pitch recognition still needs to improve, but the fact that he’s handled the jump to Double-A this season is highly encouraging.
At third base, Davidson has only average range and exhibits sloppy footwork at times. However, he does have soft hands and a plus arm. Realistically, if he can continue to mash and cut down on his strikeouts (to an extent), his defense should be more than tolerable at the major league level.
43. George Springer, OF, Houston Astros
DOB: 9/19/1989 (Age: 22)
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (Connecticut)
Preseason Rank: NR
High-A: .331/.408/.576, 42 XBH (18 HR), 68 RBI, 20 SB, 100 K/43 BB (85 G)
The Astros’ first-round draft pick in 2011, Springer is a toolsy outfielder with an impressive blend of speed and power. A right-handed hitter, Springer has plus bat speed that generates explosive pop to all fields.
At the same time, his overall approach is still somewhat raw, as he often chases subpar off-speed pitches out of the strike zone. Springer is capable of drawing walks but is still learning how to maintain a consistent approach.
There’s still uncertainty as to whether Springer profiles best in center or right field—his plus speed and arm will likely keep both in play and help him reach the big leagues by 2013. He has enough speed to comfortably play either position, as he gets great jumps and demonstrates plus range. Expect the Astros to keep him in center field for as long as possible, where his offensive production is more of a premium.
After batting .278 with 30 strikeouts in April, the toolsy outfielder has been on fire over the last two months and is a couple home runs shy of a 20/20 season—something that he’ll be capable of in the major leagues as well.
42. Cody Buckel, RHP, Texas Rangers
Height/Weight: 6'0", 185
DOB: 6/18/1992 (Age: 20)
Drafted/Signed: 2010, second round (HS—Simi Valley, Calif.)
Preseason Rank: NR
High-A: 5-3, 75.2 IP, 1.31 ERA, 2.17 FIP, .186 BAA, 91 K/25 BB (13 GS)
Double-A: 1-4, 27.1 IP, 3.62 ERA, 3.97 FIP, .212 BAA, 22 K/12 BB (5 G; 4 GS)
Despite standing only six feet tall, Buckel draws strong comparisons to 2011 first-rounder Trevor Bauer, who happens to be his best friend. Therefore, like Bauer, Buckel employs a delivery with exceptional torque and a loose arm that adds to the deception of all his pitches. However, the right-hander doesn’t rely solely on deception, as his stuff is excellent as well.
Buckel’s fastball sits in the low to mid 90s with late run, and he does a great job of using it to change the eye level of opposing hitters. Beyond his heater, Buckel mixes in a hammer for a breaking ball that grades as an above-average offering, as well as a plus changeup that continues to improve. Rounding out his arsenal is a cutter, a pitch that’s still developing but already flashes above-average potential.
He may not be an imposing presence on the mound, but Buckel’s pure stuff and overall command are legitimate. He has an advanced feel for pitching—especially for a 20-year-old—and could move quickly through the Rangers system. It says a lot that the Rangers gave him an aggressive promotion to Double-A so early in the season.
41. Jackie Bradley, OF, Boston Red Sox
Height/Weight: 5'10", 180
DOB: 4/19/1990 (Age: 22)
Drafted/Signed: 2011 (South Carolina)
Preseason Rank: NR
High-A: .359/.480/.526, 31 XBH, 16 SB, 40 K/52 BB (67 G)
Double-A: .316/.398/.418, 9 XBH, 24 K/12 BB (25 G)
After an injury-plagued 2011 season playing for South Carolina, it appears the Red Sox landed a steal when they drafted Bradley in the supplemental first round of the 2011 draft.
A natural center fielder, Bradley gets phenomenal reads in center field and possesses above-average range. While his arm is strong enough to play right field, his defense is such an asset that he should have no problem sticking in center field in the major leagues. Plus, while his plate discipline is among the best in the minor leagues, he doesn’t necessary have the power to play a corner position.
Bradley possesses an above-average to plus hit tool from the left side and is adept at working counts and getting on base. Furthermore, his speed plays up on the basepaths, where he gets excellent jumps and repeatedly demonstrates a knack for swiping bags.
His plate discipline and ability to drive the ball from pole to pole has made him one of the more impressive position players in the minors this season, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he reaches the big leagues at some point in 2013. For now, it looks as though he’ll finish his first full professional season at Double-A.
40. Alen Hanson, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates
Height/Weight: 5’11"/152 lbs
DOB: 10/22/1992 (Age: 19)
Drafted/Signed: 2009, Dominican Republic
Preseason Rank: NR
Low-A: .329/.391/.577, 51 XBH (15 HR), 49 RBI, 22 SB, 79 K/37 BB (89 G)
Despite being undersized at 5’11”, 152 pounds, Hanson is an exceptional athlete with projectable baseball skills. He has insanely quick feet and plus speed that in turn give him exceptional range at both shortstop and second base. His slightly below average arm is his weakest tool, so while he’s currently manning shortstop in Low-A, he may be second-base-bound once he reaches a more advanced level.
An aggressive switch-hitter with a short and direct bat path from both sides of the plate, Hanson has some serious little-man pop, as he projects to tally plenty of doubles and triples as well as a surprising number of home runs. He’s absolutely raking at Low-A this season and has been one of the more impressive position prospects in the South Atlantic League. At this rate, Hanson should finish the season at High-A.
39. Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Houston Astros
Height/Weight: 6'2", 235
DOB: 9/18/1991 (Age: 20)
Drafted/Signed: 2009, eighth round (HS—Long Beach, Calif.)
Preseason Rank: NR
Double-A: .273/.397/.492, 36 XBH (13 HR), 50 RBI, 85 K/60 BB (85 G)
Acquired along with Jarred Cosart in the deal that sent Hunter Pence to Philadelphia, Singleton has explosive bat speed to go along with advanced plate discipline. Although his power isn’t overly apparent at the moment, it should continue to develop as he gains experience and should be at least above-average by the time he reaches the major leagues.
One knock against the left-handed hitter is that he struggles against southpaws, as he strikes out too often and lacks his typical power. Over his last two seasons, Singleton is batting only .248/.342/.357 with two home runs (both this season) against left-handers. He’ll still track the ball well and draw walks, but he’s consistently demonstrated an inability to square up the ball.
While he’s received playing time in left field, Singleton’s future is at first base. His below-average speed is a non-factor at the position, while he’s slick with the glove and surprisingly athletic.
Singleton has a chance to be the Astros' first baseman in 2013 and, in his prime, could hit .275 with 20-plus home runs in the middle of the order. Legitimate first base prospects are rare, especially ones who will likely hit for average. Once he figures out how to hit left-handed pitching, there shouldn’t be anything holding him back from the major leagues.
38. Nick Franklin, SS/2B, Seattle Mariners
Height/Weight: 6'1", 180
DOB: 3/2/1991 (Age: 21)
Drafted/Signed: 2009, first round (HS: Sanford, Fla.)
Preseason Rank: NR
Double-A: .322/.394/.502, 25 XBH (17 2B), 9 SB, 38 K/24 BB (57 G)
Triple-A: .253/.337/.460, 11 XBH, 29 K/10 BB (21 G)
Had it not been for a down year in 2011 due to bizarre injuries and illness, Franklin would have ranked comfortably within the top 50 to begin the 2012 season. He had an excellent first full professional season in 2010, leading the Midwest League in home runs (23) and setting a new Low-A Clinton record.
A switch-hitter, he definitely has more pop from the left side, including above-average power to the opposite field. Since entering the Mariners system in 2009, he’s consistently produced as a left-handed hitter due to a more fluid swing and bat path compared to his natural right side.
Overall, Franklin is an aggressive hitter with plus bat speed and uses his loose wrists and compact swing to maximize power. Although strikeouts will always be part of his game, he’s improved his plate discipline and become a more selective hitter.
Although he’s still a slightly above average runner, Franklin won’t steal 25 bases again as he did at Low-A in 2010. He still has good instincts and knows how to read pitchers, but he simply isn’t as aggressive on the basepaths. His speed plays up a tick at shortstop due to an instinctual first step, though his range is only average. He has a slick enough glove to remain at shortstop, but his average arm profiles better at second base in the major leagues.
After a strong start to the season at Double-A Jackson, Franklin has been playing both middle infield positions at Triple-A Tacoma. Given Brendan Ryan’s lack of production this season, I wouldn’t rule out a September call-up.
37. Matt Barnes, RHP, Boston Red Sox
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 200
DOB: 6/17/1990 (Age: 22)
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (University of Connecticut)
Preseason Rank: NR
Low-A: 2-0, 26.2 IP, 0.34 ERA, .130 BAA, 42 K/4 BB (5 GS)
High-A: 5-2, 54.1 IP, 3.48 ERA, .246 BAA, 59 K/13 BB (11 GS)
Headed into the 2012 season, there was widespread concern that Barnes would be the next Anthony Ranaudo. Luckily, that hasn’t been the case, as the right-hander has emerged as one of the more dominant pitchers in the lower minors this season.
Barnes has an explosive fastball that sits in the mid 90s and occasionally flashes a 96 or 97. He possesses a power frame that’s extremely durable, and he has the pure arm strength to maintain his velocity deep into games. His curveball is above-average with plus potential and should quickly improve as he moves away from the use of a mediocre slider. His changeup lags behind his other two pitches and will be crucial in his development.
His easy delivery produces big-time heat, although he occasionally struggles to work on a downward plane, which, in turn, levels his pitches.
36. Rymer Liriano, OF, San Diego Padres
Height/Weight: 6'0", 210
DOB: 6/20/1991 (Age: 21)
Drafted/Signed: 2007, Dominican Republic
Preseason Ranking: 43
High-A: .298/.360/.443, 29 XBH (22 2B), 22 SB, 69 K/21 BB (74 G)
Double-A: .190/.261/.262, 3 XBH, 14 K/4 BB (13 G)
Liriano struggled at High-A to begin the 2011 season and was subsequently demoted to Low-A, where he garnered Midwest League MVP honors after slashing .319/.383/.499.
A toolsy outfielder with tons of upside, he possesses average power and plus speed as well as an above-average knowledge of the strike zone. Liriano’s ability to hit for a high average remains suspect, but that shouldn’t detract from his overall game.
Liriano’s ability to cover ground and 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, Liriano was recently promoted to Double-A after a strong first-half performance at High-A. If he’s able to continue making adjustments, Liriano could reach the major leagues by late 2013.
35. Matt Harvey, RHP, New York Mets
Height/Weight: 6'4", 225
DOB: 3/27/1989 (Age: 23)
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (North Carolina)
Preseason Ranking: 32
Triple-A: 7-4, 98.1 IP, 3.39 ERA, 3.45 FIP, .234 BAA, 102 K/42 BB (18 GS)
Drafted out of North Carolina in the first round of the 2010 draft, Harvey has the upside of a No. 2 starter due to his four-pitch mix 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 the feel of his other secondary offerings.
Harvey struggled to begin the 2012 season, as he frequently missed up in the zone and walked too many batters. However, the right-hander has been dealing as of late, registering a 2.72 ERA and 64 K/24 BB in his last 10 starts at Triple-A Buffalo.
The Mets said that he wouldn’t reach the big leagues until 2013, but with Dillon Gee now out for at least a month, Harvey appears to be the leading candidate to fill his spot in the rotation.
34. Hak-Ju Lee, SS, Tampa Bay Rays
Height/Weight: 6'2", 170
DOB: 11/4/1990 (Age: 21)
Drafted/Signed: 2008, South Korea
Preseason Ranking: 41
Double-A: .269/.332/.349, 20 XBH (7 3B), 31 SB, 76 K/36 BB (91 G)
Lee is an exceptional fielder—one of the best defensive shortstops in the minors. He has both plus range and a plus arm with outstanding instincts and smooth actions. His bat lags behind his defense, and he will never provide the thump to be the consistent All-Star that some other shortstop prospects likely will. However, his hit tool continues to develop and should be at least average by the time he reaches the major leagues.
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’s an adept base stealer and should consistently collect more doubles and triples than home runs.
After batting .248 in April and .220 in May, his bat exploded in June to the tune of .330/.387/.450 with seven extra-base hits and 14 stolen bases. He’s kept pace so far in July and should continue to turn his season around over the second half.
33. Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Kansas City Royals
DOB: 3/27/1990 (Age: 22)
Drafted/Signed: 2008, first-round supplemental (HS: Highland, Ill.)
Preseason Rank: NR
Double-A: 4-2, 38 IP, 3.32 ERA, 2.20 FIP, .191 BAA, 47 K/10 BB (7 GS)
Triple-A: 6-0, 53.2 IP, 2.68 ERA, 3.46 FIP, .276 BAA, 49 K/20 BB (10 G; 9 GS)
A highly athletic right-hander with a projectable frame and clean, repeatable mechanics, Odorizzi has been on the fast track to the major leagues since he was acquired in the deal that sent Zack Greinke to Brewers prior to the 2011 season.
Odorizzi’s fastball scrapes 96 mph and sits at 92-94 with considerable arm-side sink. Additionally, he’s improved his ability to locate the pitch to both sides of the plate. His 12-to-6 breaking ball is a sledge when in the zone with excellent pace and rotation. As with his fastball, the right-hander’s command of the pitch has improved this season and has been vital toward his success.
He mixes in a slider and a changeup as well, but both offerings lag behind the fastball and curveball and will likely never receive higher than 50 grades. Still, Odorizzi is a strike-throwing machine with an athletic frame and results that suggest he will be a consistent No. 2 starter at worst.
After dominating at Double-A Northwest Arkansas to open the season, Odorizzi has pitched equally as well following a promotion to Triple-A. Like teammate Wil Myers, it looks as though he’ll make his big league debut sooner rather than later.
32. Jake Marisnick, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
Height/Weight: 6'4", 200
DOB: 3/30/1991 (Age: 21)
Drafted/Signed: 2009, third round (HS: Riverside Poly, Calif.)
Preseason Ranking: 33
High-A: .263/.349/.451, 31 XBH (6 HR), 10 SB, 55 K/26 BB (65 G)
Double-A: .206/.270/.294, 3 XBH, 10 K/1 BB (9 G)
Marisnick is an extremely athletic outfielder who consistently flashes all five tools. Furthermore, he has the potential to 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 will also accumulate plenty of doubles and triples.
Although his numbers aren't overly impressive, Marisnick is still having a solid season, and I expect him to heat up during the second half. In fact, he was recently promoted to Double-A, a move that seems premature but, at the same time, suggests that the organization may be willing to move him by the trade deadline.
31. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies
Height/Weight: 6'1", 205
DOB: 4/16/1991 (Age: 21)
Drafted/Signed: 2009, second round (HS: El Toro, Calif.)
Preseason Ranking: 21
Double-A: .266/.323/.379, 24 XBH (7 HR), 38 RBI, 41 K/27 BB (88 G)
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 has the potential to be a decent defender in the major leaguers. He’s always possessed the arm strength and instincts to handle the position, but now, his athleticism is finally catching up.
After amassing 55 extra-base hits last season at High-A Modesto, Arenado’s power numbers are down this season at Double-A, but the plate discipline and consistent contact to all fields is still there. Attribute last season’s power to the hitter-friendly California League if you will, but he’s simply not driving the ball like he can.
With a strong season, it seemed as though Arenado would make his big-league debut late this season, especially given the Rockies’ struggles. However, it’s doubtful that will still happen unless he catches fire for the remainder of the season.
30. Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees
Height/Weight: 6'2", 220
DOB: 12/2/1992 (Age: 20)
Drafted/Signed: 2009, Dominican Republic
Preseason Ranking: 46
Low-A: .297/.353/.517, 32 XBH (13 HR), 11 SB, 65 K/22 BB (68 G)
High-A: .207/.303/.448, 3 XBH, 10 K/4 BB (8 G)
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 a similar power frequency. Sanchez has easy, raw power to all fields thanks to raw bat speed, and he should hit for a decent average as his pitch recognition improves. 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 lackadaisical. However, his blocking skills have noticeably improved this season, as evidenced by his decreased passed ball total. Sanchez does have a plus arm that has helped him gun down 30 percent of base stealers last season, and he’s proving to be surprisingly agile behind the plate. His speed has also been a pleasant surprise with 12 stolen bases in 16 chances.
After a strong first half of the 2012 season at Low-A, Sanchez was recently promoted to High-A Tampa, along with Mason Williams and Tyler Austin.
29. Mike Olt, 3B, Texas Rangers
DOB: 8/27/1988 (Age: 23)
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first-round supplemental (University of Connecticut)
Preseason Rank: NR
Double-A: .292/.403/.574, 37 XBH (22 HR), 63 RBI, 85 K/51 BB (78 G)
A physically strong right-handed hitter, Olt has plus power and may hit for a higher average than many expected after displaying an ability to make adjustments—most notably in his recognition of off-speed pitches. He has plus bat speed and a mighty swing, so high strikeout totals may always be an aspect of his game.
At the hot corner, Olt’s experience as a shortstop at Connecticut is obvious, as he has slightly above-average actions and giving hands. His plus arm should be more than enough to handle the position at the big league level. Although he has above-average range and an instinctual first step, he’s a below-average runner overall.
With Adrian Beltre blocking his path in Arlington, Olt has recently received reps in the outfield, suggesting that the Rangers are hoping to either expedite his arrival or improve his value in anticipation of the upcoming trade deadline.
28. Aaron Sanchez, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
Height/Weight: 6'4", 190
DOB: 7/1/1992 (Age: 20)
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first-round supplemental (HS—Barstow, Calif.)
Preseason Rank: NR
Low-A: 8-1, 64 IP, 1.41 ERA, 3.28 FIP, 1.57 BAA, 72 K/36 BB (18 G; 11 GS)
A tall, lean right-hander with a highly projectable frame, Sanchez has clean mechanics and quick arm. His fastball works in the low to mid-90s with some sink and sidearm action. His curveball has vastly improved since he was drafted, as he throws it in the mid 70s with tight rotation, solid shape and late downer action. Sanchez also features a changeup, although it doesn’t grade out as high as his breaking ball and needs refinement.
The Blue Jays have been extremely protective of their right-hander, limiting him to a combined 79.1 innings between 2010 and 2011. This season, however, they’ve scaled back their caution, and the results have been superb. He still has issues with his command and walks too many batters, but his pure stuff has been among the best in the minor leagues.
Sanchez consistently draws swing-and-misses while working down in the zone and inducing a high number of ground balls: Opposing hitters have generated a paltry nine percent line-drive rate against Sanchez while putting the ball on the ground 63.2 percent of the time.
While there’s no guarantee he’ll be a star in the big leagues, what Sanchez has showed thus far suggests tremendous upside. Of all the Blue Jays’ promising trio pitching prospects at Low-A Lansing—right-hander Noah Syndergaard and southpaw Justin Nicolino the others—he’s the one showing the most frontline starter potential.
27. Anthony Rendon, 3B/2B, Washington Nationals
Height/Weight: 6'0", 195
DOB: 6/6/1990 (Age: 22)
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (Rice)
Preseason Rank: 10
High-A: 2-for-4, 2B, 3B, 2 BB (2 G)
Even though he’s not a physically imposing hitter, the Rice alumnus has a plus bat with power. But what I find most impressive about Rendon is his pitch recognition and ability to manipulate counts in his favor.
Despite his lack of professional experience, the right-handed hitter still profiles as one of the more advanced hitters in the minor leagues—much like how he was considered the most advanced bat in the 2011 draft class. 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. Prior to the season, there was even speculation that the Nationals may move him to second base to expedite his big league arrival.
Unfortunately, in his second game of the season with High-A Potomac, Rendon suffered a fractured ankle while rounding third base. The ankle injury is his third in as many years. Although the Nationals are hopeful that he can return by September, it’s unlikely that they’ll rush him back into action.
26. Mason Williams, OF, New York Yankees
Height/Weight: 6'0", 150
DOB: 8/21/1991 (Age: 20)
Drafted/Signed: 2010, fourth round (HS: West Orange, Fla.)
Preseason Rank: NR
Low-A: .304/.359/.489, 31 XBH (8 HR), 19 SB, 33 K/21 BB (69 G)
High-A: .182/.217/.273, 2 XBH, 9 K/2 BB (11 G)
In his first professional season, Williams 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 with projectable athleticism and the baseball skills already in place to one day be a dynamic outfielder in the major leagues.
At the plate, the left-handed hitter has quick wrists with 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 should yield significant results.
He possesses nearly 80-grade speed that plays better in the outfield than it does on the basepaths. His range is excellent in center field, and he has a strong enough arm to be considered for right field. As a base stealer, Williams has the speed but lacks the intuition of a polished base stealer.
After posting an .848 OPS through 69 games at Low-A, the Yankees promoted him to High-A Tampa along with fellow prospects Tyler Austin and Gary Sanchez.
25. Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs
Height/Weight: 6'1", 205
DOB: 12/1/1992 (Age: 19)
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (HS: Arlington Country Day School, Fla.)
Preseason Ranking: 38
Low-A: .331/.394/.586, 17 XBH (8 HR), 19 RBI, 16 SB, 33 K/7 BB (40 G)
The ninth overall pick in the 2011 draft, Baez has insane raw bat speed with present plus power and a chance to add more as he develops. A right-handed hitter, he swings as hard as humanly possible every time. Yes, that inevitably leads to a high strikeout total. But that’s also what makes him such a uniquely 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 as he continues to fill out. He has above-average speed and good instincts on the basepaths and should have at least 20/20 potential by the time he reaches the major leagues.
Activated from extended spring training in late May, Baez has come out of the gates swinging in 2012, blasting eight home runs in his first 40 games. In addition to his ability to consistently square up the baseball, he’s shown to be an adept base stealer, going 16-for-19 in stolen base attempts.
24. Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins
Height/Weight: 6'3", 195
DOB: 5/11/1993 (Age: 19)
Drafted/Signed: 2009, Dominican Republic
Preseason Ranking: 16
Low-A: .247/.367/.500, 39 XBH (18 HR), 63 RBI, 102 K/54 BB (88 G)
Now that Bryce Harper has graduated to the major leagues, Miguel 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 the right-handed hitter can improve his plate discipline in the next several years, he could hit for a decent average in his prime.
Sano can be a wreck on defense at times, mostly in his actions to and through the baseball, which hints toward an eventual transition to first base as he outgrows the position. For now, however, the Twins will remain steadfast in their development of Sano as their third baseman of the future.
In his first full professional season, Sano currently leads the Midwest League with 18 home runs, while his 63 RBI and 54 walks rank second on the circuit.
23. Shelby Miller, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
Height/Weight: 6'3", 195
DOB: 10/10/1990 (Age: 21)
Drafted/Signed: 2009, first round (HS: Brownwood, Texas)
Preseason Rank: 4
Triple-A: 4-8, 82.1 IP, 5.79 ERA, 5.53 FIP, .280 BAA, 17 HR, 94 K/46 BB (18 GS)
After only nine starts for High-A Palm Beach in 2011, Miller upped his ETA by dominating at Double-A Springfield. He has an excellent pitcher’s frame at 6'3" and 195 pounds; however, concern grew after he showed up to spring training out of shape.
Miller typically throws a heavy 93-97 mph fastball with 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 a fading changeup. He has already shown the ability to work deep into games while sustaining his velocity and has a frame built for innings.
One of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball headed into 2012 season, Miller is in the midst of a rough season at Triple-A Memphis. The right-hander has allowed 91 hits and 17 home runs in 82.1 innings and is learning that he can’t get away with working up in the zone and relying on velocity—which has reportedly been hovering in the 90-93 mph range as of late.
As his inconsistency continues, the big question is whether the Cardinals should allow him to continue struggling at Triple-A, demote him to Double-A to find his groove or challenge him with a big-league promotion over the final months of the season.
If there’s one positive to take away from his current season, it’s that he’s posted a 10.28 K/9 rate thus far.
22. Billy Hamilton, SS, Cincinnati Reds
Height/Weight: 6'1", 160
DOB: 9/9/1990 (Age: 21)
Drafted/Signed: 2009, second round (HS: Taylorsville, Miss.)
Preseason Ranking: 27
High-A: .323/.413/.439, 79 R, 28 XBH (9 3B), 104 SB, 70 K/50 BB (82 G)
Double-A: .235/.350/.588, 3 XBH, 5 SB, 3 K/3 BB (5 G)
The first minor leaguer to steal 100 bases in over a decade in 2011 (103 for Low-A Dayton), Hamilton is hands down the fastest player in baseball. Even more impressive is the fact that he’s made enormous 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. Prior to his recent promotion to Double-A, Hamilton was batting over .320 from both sides of the plate. He’s shown more power from the right side due to more lift in his swing and better extension after contact. He’s also done a better job utilizing his speed this season, hitting ground balls at a favorable rate and putting pressure on the opposing defense.
Outside of his range—his best defensive tool—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. His arm stroke is unnatural at shortstop and has led to increased throwing errors, as his lower half often moves too quickly to execute fluid arm action.
Having already eclipsed last year’s high-water mark for stolen bases (103), Hamilton had 80 stolen bases by the High-A All-Star break and continues to average nearly 1.3 per game. What he is doing on the basepaths is absolutely amazing and needs to be followed closely for the rest of the season. For those of you who may be wondering, Vince Coleman holds the minor league single-season stolen base record of 145, set in 1983.
Hamilton is still likely two years away from reaching the big leagues, but given his speed, there’s a chance that the Reds may be forced to consider using him as a base-stealing threat off the bench—especially if they find themselves in the playoff hunt during the final month of the season.
21. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox
Height/Weight: 6'3", 175
DOB: 10/1/1992 (Age: 19)
Drafted/Signed: 2009, Aruba
Preseason Ranking: 39
High-A: .286/.364/.474, 31 XBH (12 HR), 48 RBI, 73 K/33 BB (84 G)
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 at Low-A. Only 19 years old, his quick bat 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.
Additionally, Bogaerts will have to make an alteration in his swing to hit for a respectable average at higher levels. Despite his impressive numbers at High-A this season, the right-handed hitter has only a 9.1 percent line-drive rate, which is well below the 13.6 percent league average. There’s currently too much uppercut in his swing, resulting in more fly-ball outs and swing-and-misses than desired in a young hitter.
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.
The youngster is on pace to post career highs in nearly every offensive category this season and has seen his power re-emerge after a slow start. Last month, Bogaerts was named the starting shortstop for the Carolina League All-Star team and recently participated in the XM Futures Game.
20. Carlos Martinez, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
Height/Weight: 6'0", 165
DOB: 9/21/1991 (Age: 20)
Drafted/Signed: 2010, Dominican Republic
Preseason Ranking: 40
High-A: 2-2, 33 IP, 3.00 ERA, .236 BAA, 34 K/10 BB (7 GS)
Double-A: 2-2, 27.1 IP, 2.30 ERA, .238 BAA, 21 K/6 BB (6 GS)
Thanks to a lightning-quick arm, Martinez’s fastball sits in the upper 90s and even touches triple digits on occasion. He also has a 90-93 mph fastball variation with late sink. The right-hander’s heater explodes out of his hand and jumps on unsuspecting hitters due to an effortless delivery.
His secondary stuff has significantly improved this season, as his curveball grades out as at least a 60 and is the downer type with good pace and shape. Martinez also has mixes in a changeup that has some fade, although he struggles with its command when he tries to fight his natural arm speed. He slows down his arm at times with both offerings, causing them to flatten out and lose effectiveness. However, it’s nothing that can’t be ironed out or improve with experience.
After beginning the season at High-A Palm Beach, Martinez had a brief stint on the disabled list. Upon his return, the Cardinals promoted the right-hander to Double-A. While his strikeout rate has dipped this season, so has his walk rate—an encouraging trend for the 20-year-old.
19. Julio Teheran, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Height/Weight: 6'2", 175
DOB: 1/27/1991 (Age: 21)
Drafted/Signed: 2007, Colombia
Preseason Rank: 6
Triple-A: 6-5, 81.2 IP, 4.96 ERA, 5.56 FIP, .283 BAA, 58 K/30 BB (17 GS)
MLB: 4.1 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 5 K/1 BB (1 GS)
Teheran has absolutely nothing left to prove in the minor leagues after dominating Triple-A hitters in 2011—or so we thought. Since receiving a call-up last season, the right-hander has lacked consistency and seen his stats trend in the wrong direction.
His fastball sits in the 93-97 mph range, and he’s aggressive with its placement, working both sides of the plate and pounding the lower half of the strike zone. However, he’s been missing with the pitch far too often over the last year, which has led to fewer strikeouts (6.39 K/9) and more home runs allowed (15) this season at Triple-A Gwinnett.
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 plus offerings down the road. He has showcased improved command of all pitches since 2010 but clearly needs more refinement to be successful at the big league level.
With the injuries to the Braves rotation this season, the fact that they’ve opted not to use Teheran speaks volumes about their confidence in him. While the upside and pure stuff is still there, he’s taken a step in the wrong direction this season and may be trade bait at the deadline.
18. Jose Fernandez, RHP, Miami Marlins
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 215
DOB: 7/31/1992 (Age: 19)
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (HS: Tampa, Fla.)
Preseason Rank: NR
Low-A: 7-0, 79 IP, 1.59 ERA, 1.75 FIP, .189 BAA, 99 K/18 BB (14 GS)
High-A: 1-0, 10 IP, 6.30 ERA, 2.90 FIP, .231 BAA, 9 K/4 BB (2 GS)
Fernandez, who grew up in Cuba and ultimately fled to the United States in 2008, is yet another 2011 first-rounder with No. 1 starter upside. The right-hander has a crisp fastball that sits at 92-96 mph and scrapes 97-98. Working from a high arm angle, he consistently throws the pitch on a downward plane and generates late, heavy sink.
What’s impressive about Fernandez is that he already has three off-speed pitches in his arsenal, the best being a hard, late-breaking slider that generates swing-and-misses. His curveball is an solid-average pitch that can get too loopy and lose its pace at times, so don’t be surprised if the pitch is scrapped as he develops. The right-hander also has a unique feel for his changeup, which only furthers the thought that he could be a frontline starter.
Fernandez has been one of the best pitchers in all of the minor leagues this season, as he absolutely dominated Low-A hitters, piling up strikeouts while exhibiting advanced command of all pitches and working deep into games. He received a promotion to High-A in late June, where he’s been touched up a bit. However, given his excellent command and aggressiveness, the adjustment period should be brief.
17. Bubba Starling, OF, Kansas City Royals
Height/Weight: 6'4", 195
DOB: 8/3/1992 (Age: 19)
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (HS: Gardner Edgerton, Kan.)
Preseason Ranking: 25
Rookie: .273/.429/.500, 5 XBH, 10 RBI, 15 K/9 BB (12 G)
At 6'4", 195 pounds, Bubba Starling is strong and athletic and 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 potential. Also a standout pitcher in high school, Starling has been clocked in the mid-90s off the bump and throws absolute pills from the outfield.
A three-sport star coming out of high school, Starling turned down a football scholarship to the University of Nebraska to begin his career with the Royals. Possessing explosive speed and plus range, he can run down everything in the outfield and uncork throws that register in the mid 90s.
At the plate, he has loads of raw power thanks to a lightning-quick bat and lofty swing. Although it’s hard to project his hit tool at the moment, there’s no reason to believe it will be anything less than above-average given his athleticism and bat speed.
It took him a while to begin his professional career, much to the dismay of many scouts and writers. Regardless, the early return has been encouraging and should only improve. Considering many of the Royals' once top-ranked prospects are either in the majors or nearing a call-up, Starling represents the next wave of talent in Kansas City's perpetually loaded system.
16. Danny Hultzen, LHP, Seattle Mariners
Height/Weight: 6'3", 200
DOB: 11/28/1989 (Age: 22)
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (Virginia)
Preseason Ranking: 23
Double-A: 8-3, 75.1 IP, 1.19 ERA, 2.84 FIP, .151 BAA, 79 K/32 BB (13 GS)
Triple-A: 1-1, 17 IP, 4.24 ERA, 4.20 FIP, .306 BAA, 22 K/15 BB (4 GS)
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 (technically his out pitch) and a changeup—and is effective against right- and left-handed hitters.
Hultzen’s success is based upon his ability to locate his fastball on both sides of the plate, especially working inside against right-handed hitters. When he fails to do so, his secondary pitches aren’t set up as well and generally far less effective. Similarly, if they catch too much of the plate, their velocity still provides hitters with enough time to throw their hands at the ball and scatter bleeding hits across the field.
Prior to his promotion to Triple-A, Hultzen didn’t allow an earned run in four consecutive starts spanning 24.2 innings while fanning 35 and walking only eight batters. After a rocky Triple-A debut, the southpaw has allowed only one earned run in his last three starts, although his command has been iffy with 10 walks in 14 innings. Regardless, Hultzen’s still on pace to make his big-league debut in the near future.
15. Nick Castellanos, 3B, Detroit Tigers
Height/Weight: 6'4", 210
DOB: 3/4/1992 (Age: 20)
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (HS: Archbishop McCarthy, Fla.)
Preseason Ranking: 47
High-A: .405/.461/.553, 23 XBH (17 2B), 32 RBI, 42 K/22 BB (55 G)
Double-A: .302/.311/.765, 12 XBH (4 HR), 15 RBI, 31 K/3 BB (31 G)
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. Given 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 at third, 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 having such a phenomenal season only raises his ceiling. Blocked at third base in Detroit by Miguel Cabrera, Castellanos has even seen some action in right field since the bump up to Double-A.
The 20-year-old starred at the XM Futures Game, going 3-for-4 with a home run, three runs scored and three RBI as he was named the contest’s Most Valuable Player.
14. Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Height/Weight: 6'4", 225
DOB: 8/10/1992 (Age: 19)
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (HS: Broken Arrow, Okla.)
Preseason Ranking: 18
Low-A: 8-5, 87.2 IP, 3.80 ERA, 3.90 FIP, .164 BAA, 85 K/58 BB (18 GS)
Hailing from Oklahoma like fellow first-rounder Dylan Bundy, 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 the makings of a future No. 1 starter.
His mechanics are repeatable for the most part, although he has a tendency to lose his arm slot; as a result, his fastball command varies.
The right-hander has been his own worst enemy this season, allowing only 50 hits but walking 58 batters in 87.2 innings. Once he refines his command and becomes more efficient at getting ahead of hitters, Bradley is yet another Diamondbacks pitcher who has a chance to make his MLB debut before his 21st birthday.
13. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
Height/Weight: 5'11", 175
DOB: 11/14/1993 (Age: 18)
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (HS: Montverde Academy, Fla.)
Preseason Ranking: 29
Low-A: .264/.354/.380, 25 XBH (17 2B), 29 RBI, 19 SB, 49 K/38 BB (80 G)
One of the most promising young shortstops in the game, Lindor is already 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 actions at short, making plays that are unexpected of an 18-year-old. The combination of his excellent range and plus arm has the Indians convinced that Lindor will be able to stick at shortstop for the duration of his career.
A switch-hitter, Lindor’s offensive value will come from his hit tool. He’s already showing the ability get on base at a decent clip thanks to plate discipline well beyond his years. 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 aggressiveness, instincts and high baseball IQ.
12. Christian Yelich, OF, Miami Marlins
Height/Weight: 6'4", 189
DOB: 12/5/1991 (Age: 20)
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (HS: Westlake, Calif.)
Preseason Ranking: 30
High-A: .319/.388/.543, 30 XBH (10 HR), 32 RBI, 14 SB, 57 K/30 BB (62 G)
Still just 20 years old, Yelich’s hit tool already grades out as a plus and still has room to grow with improvement in his plate discipline. A left-handed hitter, his swing is incredibly smooth and fluid, as he keeps his bat in the zone for an extended period of time and attacks pitches throughout the entire strike zone.
Due to the level plane of his swing, Yelich will only hit for slightly above average power, but if he's able to add some lift, he has the upside to produce 20 to 25 home runs annually. As of now, most of his power is to the pull side, but he’s started to drive the ball out the other way—something that will only improve with 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.
11. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Height/Weight: 6'6", 225
DOB: 11/18/1991 (Age: 20)
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (HS: The Woodlands, Texas)
Preseason Ranking: 11
High-A: 5-7, 91.1 IP, 4.43 ERA, 3.50 FIP, .233 BAA, 75 K/28 BB (17 GS)
Taillon made impressive strides in 2011, his first full season, as he demonstrated improved command of all pitches and showed his electric stuff. His quick arm generates fastballs that sit in the 93-97 mph range, and he occasionally flirts with triple digits. This year, however, he’s struggled at times to work down in the zone, resulting in flat, hittable fastballs that catch too much plate.
With a 6’6” power pitcher’s frame, the right-hander complements his heater with two breaking balls: a power slider and 12-to-6 curve. Taillon also has a changeup that grades as solid-average and will be crucial in his development over the next couple seasons.
The Pirates have been cautious with his development, limiting him to only 92.2 innings pitched at Low-A West Virginia in 2011. Having nearly eclipsed that total this season, some ongoing struggles should be expected, as his workload is venturing into uncharted territory. While his 2012 campaign has been confusing, there’s still plenty of reason to be optimistic.
10. Tyler Skaggs, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Height/Weight: 6'3", 195
DOB: 7/13/1991 (Age: 21)
Drafted/Signed: 2009, first round (HS: Santa Monica, Calif.)
Preseason Rank: 13
Double-A: 5-4, 69.2 IP, 2.84 ERA, 3.46 FIP, .241 BAA, 71 K/21 BB (13 GS)
Triple-A: 2-0, 17 IP, 2.65 ERA, 3.85 FIP, .279 BAA, 12 K/3 BB (3 GS)
Over the last two seasons, Tyler Skaggs has emerged as one of the game’s premier left-handed pitching prospects. He’s tall and lanky with a smooth yet deceptive arm action, as well as repeatable mechanics that allow him to pound the knees with his 88-93 mph fastball.
Skaggs may have the best left-handed curveball in the minor leagues, a double-plus offering that keeps right-handed hitters off balance as much as it does lefties. He’ll occasionally rush his delivery and lose the pitch to his arm side, but even when he’s not throwing it well, it still has enough shape and downward action to generate swing-and-misses.
Skaggs also has a decent changeup that will get better with time, but it honestly doesn’t even matter when you have that good of a breaking ball.
It seems as though the Diamondbacks anticipate using him down the stretch of the season, as he was recently promoted to Triple-A for some final seasoning before a late-season big-league debut.
9. Travis d'Arnaud, C, Toronto Blue Jays
Height/Weight: 6'2", 195
DOB: 2/10/1989 (Age: 23)
Drafted/Signed: 2007, first round (HS: Lakewood, Calif.)
Preseason Ranking: 17
Triple-A: .333/.380/.595, 39 XBH (16 HR), 52 RBI, 59 K/19 BB (67 G)
It seemed as though Travis d’Arnaud would inevitably make his big league debut this season, adding even more firepower to an already potent Blue Jays lineup. However, the top catching prospect in baseball was recently sidelined for six to eight weeks with a torn PCL in his knee after breaking up a double play, ruining the remainder of his 2012 campaign and any shot at a big league call-up.
A right-handed hitter, d’Arnaud has plus power and should possess an above-average hit tool upon reaching the major leagues. Although there’s some swing-and-miss to his game, he’s traditionally had high line-drive rates. Therefore, his production this season shouldn’t just be attributed to the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
His blocking and receiving skills have vastly improved over the last two seasons and has drawn rave reviews from both his coaches and pitching staff. He’s always had a strong arm, but refined footwork led to better accuracy this season, as he threw out 12 of 40 base stealers (30 percent) prior to the injury.
D'arnaud has all the makings of a future All-Star catcher, and once he’s healthy and given an everyday role with the Blue Jays, he should emerge as one of the top overall catchers in baseball. It’s hard to find offensive production like d’Arnaud’s in a catcher who also has the defensive skill set to stay behind the plate.
8. Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
Height/Weight: 6'2", 180
DOB: 6/19/1992 (Age: 20)
Drafted/Signed: 2008, Dominican Republic
Preseason Ranking: 37
Double-A: .333/.383/.602, 47 XBH (18 HR), 66 RBI, 45 K/26 BB (83 G)
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. Albeit a violent one, his swing is balanced and smooth, as he generates exceptional torque and, in turn, the ability to unload on inner-half offerings.
There’s nothing more encouraging than a 20-year-old developing his power at Double-A while retaining a high batting average. It’s hard to predict which tool will ultimately be his best: hit or power. Although there’s a chance that neither ever grades out as a plus, both will at least 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, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t end up in right field. His speed is slightly below average, especially on the basepaths, but it plays up a grade in the outfield due to his instincts.
If he continues to produce at this rate, he may be in store for a promotion to Triple-A later this season and have an everyday job in the Cardinals outfield by 2013.
7. Zack Wheeler, RHP, New York Mets
Height/Weight: 6'4", 185
DOB: 5/30/1990 (Age: 22)
Drafted/Signed: 2009, first round (HS: East Paulding, Ga.)
Preseason Ranking: 20
Double-A: 9-4, 101.2 IP, 2.39 ERA, 2.73 FIP, .206 BAA, 95 K/36 BB (16 GS)
Prior to the season, I believed that Wheeler had the potential to take a huge step forward to become one of the top pitching prospects in the game—and he’s done exactly that. Some scouts have set his ceiling at a No. 2 starter on a first-division team, but I think that may be selling him short.
Wheeler has a lean 6'4" frame, a quick arm and clean mechanics. His fastball runs as high as 97-98 mph; however, he usually works in the low to mid 90s with explosive sidearm action on his two-seamer. His curveball has sharp downward break that buckles right-handed hitters, and he also throws a solid-average changeup that should be at least his third above-average offering by the time he reaches the major leagues.
While his command still needs some refinement, he’s excelled this season at Double-A and worked deep into games. Consistently working down in the zone while proving to be difficult to barrel up, Wheeler’s allowed only one home run while registering a 1.20 GB/FB rate.
6. Gerrit Cole, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Height/Weight: 6'4", 220
DOB: 9/8/1990 (Age: 21)
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (UCLA)
Preseason Ranking: 15
High-A: 5-1, 67 IP, 2.55 ERA, 3.05 FIP, .217 BAA, 69 K/21 BB (13 GS)
Double-A: 2-2, 15.2 IP, 5.17 ERA, 2.56 FIP, .324 BAA, 16 K/2 BB (4 GS)
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft, Gerrit Cole is your classic power pitcher with an electric arsenal. His fastball can flash triple digits on the radar gun, though he typically sits in the upper 90s. When he’s efficient enough to work his slider off his fastball, it’s a legitimate strikeout pitch. Given his double-plus velocity, Cole also has a decent changeup when he’s able to mix it in.
There’s no denying that Cole has ace potential, but I just don’t think he will breeze through the minors as others do. Although he doesn’t walk a lot of hitters, the right-hander still falls behind too many hitters and leaves hittable pitches up in the zone. Furthermore, when pitching from the stack, he struggles to repeat his mechanics, ripping open with his glove side and throwing from a slightly lower arm slot.
Still, his arsenal is exceptional, as we all witnessed firsthand in the XM Futures Game, and he has the potential to be a frontline starter for years to come.
Having only made four starts for Double-A this season, he’ll likely spend more time at the level before a possible late-season exposure at Triple-A. At the same time, if the Pirates are still in the hunt come September and in need of additional starting pitching, his estimated time of arrival may get bumped up. The right-hander has some of the most explosive and electric pitches in the minor leagues and may be hard to hold back.
5. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners
Height/Weight: 6'4", 210
DOB: 8/13/1992 (Age: 19)
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (HS: Yucaipa, Calif.)
Preseason Rank: 14
Double-A: 5-5, 76 IP, 4.62 ERA, 3.94 FIP, .252 BAA, 77 K/37 BB (16 GS)
As an 18-year-old, 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’s struggled with it at times this season, especially as of late; however, it’s nothing to worry about. The fact he’s continued to make adjustments as a 19-year-old at an advanced level speaks volumes about his potential.
Coming out of high school, Walker’s breaking ball was a slider. Since turning pro, the Mariners have eliminated it from his arsenal, replacing it with a sharp downer curveball instead. He also throws a circle change with convincing arm speed and fading action and should be effective against both right- and left-handed hitters.
Walker’s raw athleticism distinguishes him from the other pitching prospects and only makes his potential that much greater. He's the Mariners' future ace with one of the highest ceilings of any pitching prospect in the game. Even with Felix Hernandez heading the rotation, Walker has the type of stuff and upside that will one day make him expendable.
4. Manny Machado, SS, Baltimore Orioles
Height/Weight: 6'3", 185
DOB: 7/6/1992 (Age: 19)
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (HS: Brito, Fla.)
Preseason Rank: 7
Double-A: .259/.341/.415, 31 XBH (8 HR), 50 RBI, 12 SB, 57 K/38 BB (88 G)
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, and this season, he’s drawn rave reviews from scouts despite posting not overly impressive numbers.
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 multiple 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 at a young age. After a slow first half of the season, expect Machado to turn in a strong finish.
3. Wil Myers, OF, Kansas City Royals
Height/Weight: 6'3", 205
DOB: 12/10/1990 (Age: 21)
Drafted/Signed: 2009, third round (HS: Wesleyan Academy, N.C.)
Preseason Rank: 19
Double-A: .343/.414/.731, 25 XBH (13 HR), 30 RBI, 42 K/16 BB (35 G)
Triple-A: .321/.400/.648, 29 XBH (15 HR), 45 RBI, 45 K/25 BB (51 G)
Since entering the Royals' system in 2009, Wil Myers has absolutely raked at every stop—excluding his injury-plagued 2011 campaign. Exploding from an upright, balanced stance, the right-handed hitter has quick wrists with outstanding bat control as well as plate coverage that allows him to effortlessly drive the ball to all fields. He has considerably more power to the pull side but keeps his weight back long enough to still jump the yard to the opposite field.
Myers' plate discipline is advanced beyond his years, and he’s comfortable hitting any pitch in any count. Although he’s capable of drawing walks, Myers has focused on driving the ball this season, and the results speak for themselves. He’ll be nothing more than an average defensive outfielder, although the plus arm that made him a highly touted catching prospect is still there.
Myers is close—extremely close—to a big league call-up. He’s been knocking on the door all season and, despite Jeff Francoeur's struggles and Lorenzo Cain’s clean bill of health, may force the Royals’ hand very soon. He's such a pure hitter that his adaptation to major league pitching should be smooth.
2. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
Height/Weight: 6'1", 200
DOB: 11/15/1992 (Age: 19)
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (HS: Owasso, Okla.)
Preseason Rank: 9
Low-A: 1-0, 30 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.39 FIP, 0.53 BAA, 40 K/2 BB (8 GS)
High-A: 4-3, 37.2 IP, 3.11 ERA, 3.04 FIP, .237 BAA, 42 K/12 BB (8 GS)
The No. 4 overall pick in 2011, Bundy’s professional career got off to a legendary start at Low-A Delmarva, firing 30 scoreless innings with 40 strikeouts and two walks.
He features a 94-98 mph four-seam fastball that has scraped triple digits, as well as a low 90s two-seamer and cutter. Unlike most 19-year-old pitchers, Bundy already has both a feel for and knowledge of how to manipulate his fastball, working both sides of the plate and changing the hitter’s eye level.
However, the Orioles have asked him to not throw the cutter—easily his best overall pitch. It’s a pitch that will still be there when he’s asked to revive it, but until then, he’ll work on refining his off-speed offerings.
The right-hander’s secondary arsenal consists of a deuce that consistently shows plus shape and break, though his command of the pitch has been challenged at High-A. Lastly, he mixes in an advanced changeup that should be yet another plus offering in time.
A physical and athletic pitcher, Bundy has repeatable mechanics and can handle a greater workload than expected from a prep arm. As the top pitching prospect in the minor leagues, the Orioles know that they have a special player on their hands in Bundy. He has the potential to reach the major leagues much quicker than the other prep arms out of the 2011 draft class, as well as the potential to be an immediate star.
1. Jurickson Profar, SS, Texas Rangers
Height/Weight: 5'11", 165
DOB: 2/20/1993 (Age: 19)
Drafted/Signed: 2009, Curacao
Preseason Rank: 5
Double-A: .288/.367/.475, 35 XBH (10 HR), 42 RBI, 9 SB, 53 K/42 BB (83 G)
Halfway through the season, Profar has shown exactly why he’s the top prospect in all of baseball. The 19-year-old is thriving at Double-A, making easy adjustments without showing any flaws in his game. He possesses an above-average hit tool from both sides of the plate that’s highlighted by quick wrists and an advanced feel for the strike zone. As we all saw in the XM Futures Game, Profar has surprising pop for his size that, when bundled with his quick wrists, could yield 15-20 home runs in his prime.
He also made strides as a base stealer in 2011—his first full season—although his speed only grades out as above-average. It’s more noticeable on defense, as Profar has excellent range at shortstop and has clean actions through the baseball. He is a plus defender with soft hands and also possesses a strong arm that will allow him to remain at the position.
After a slow start, including batting .253 in April, Profar posted nearly a .900 OPS in May and continues to demonstrate plate discipline well beyond his years. Recently, the switch-hitting youngster was named a Texas League Midseason All-Star and turned in a jaw-dropping performance—he homered form the left side, singled from the right side—in his second XM Futures Game.
The top position prospect in the minor leagues, Profar has the potential to be a superstar given his natural ability as a switch-hitter and defensive prowess at short. While he’s still young and would benefit from considerable experience, it’s conceivable that he’ll be big-league-ready by late 2013.