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B/R's Official Top 50 MLB Prospects, Post MLB Regular Season

Mike RosenbaumMLB Prospects Lead WriterOctober 4, 2012

B/R's Official Top 50 MLB Prospects, Post MLB Regular Season

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    Since the end of the minor league season in mid-September, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to post my end-of-season top 50 prospects. However, I decided to hold off until the conclusion of the major league regular season so as to consider any unexpected prospect performances down the stretch and determine which players will retain “rookie/prospect” status headed into the 2013 season.

    Rather than bore everyone with my methodology as I’ve done several times before, I’ll make it an optional read this time—although I highly encourage it.

    This top 50 ranking is also the first to feature prospects from the 2012 draft class. So, as you might have inferred already, there are some new faces in this installment.

    So, here is a look at Prospect Pipeline’s final top 50 prospect rankings for the 2012 season.



50. Austin Hedges, C, San Diego Padres

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    Position: C

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 190

    DOB: 08/18/1992 (Age: 20)

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2011, second round (HS—San Juan Capistrano, Calif.)

    Preseason Rank: NR; Midseason Rank: NR

    2012 Stats (A-): .279/.334/.451, 38 XBH (10 HR), 14 SB, 62/23 K/BB (96 G)

    Regarded as the arguably the top defensive catcher in the 2011 draft class, there were legitimate questions about his bat and whether it would develop. In all honesty it didn’t matter, because there’s a strong chance that Hedges will reach the major leagues based on his defense alone.

    A surprisingly good athlete, the 20-year-old boasts plus receiving and blocking skills, a plus arm, a quick transfer and release and advanced feel for calling games.

    Hedges’ bat came to life in a big way this past season at Low-A Fort Wayne—his first full season as a professional—as he recorded 38 extra-base hits and 14 stolen bases in 96 games. As usual, his defense was excellent, posting a .986 range factor per game and throwing out 32 percent of basestealers.

49. Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Los Angeles Angels

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    Position: 3B

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 195

    DOB: 06/02/1992 (Age: 20)

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (HS—Adel, Ga.)

    Preseason Rank: NR; Midseason Rank: NR

    2012 Stats (A-, A+): .276/.358/.452, 54 XBH (16 HR), 103 RBI, 14 SB, 111/67 K/BB (135 G)

     

    Over the course of the season, Cowart has gone from a player with concerns about his bat and overall projection to a top 50 prospect. The 20-year-old switch hitter has improved in all facets of the game.

    After posting strikeout and walk rates of 25.4 percent and 7.8 percent in 2011, respectively, his plate discipline drastically improved this season at higher levels.

    Furthermore, he proved to be a legitimate run-producer hitting in the middle of the order at both Low-A and High-A, as he scored 90 runs and plated 103 in 135 games. His power emerged ahead of schedule, as his outstanding bat speed and raw power resulted in 54 extra-base hits (16 home runs).

    He’s always had a plus arm—he was mid-90s off the bump in high school—so his consistent defense this season at the hot corner was highly encouraging.

48. Tyler Austin, OF, New York Yankees

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    Position: OF               

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 200

    DOB: 9/6/1991 (Age: 20)           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2010, 13th round (HS—Conyers, Ga.)

    Preseason Rank: NR; Midseason Rank: 47

    2012 Stats (Rk, A-, A+, AA): .322/.400/.559, 58 XBH (17 HR), 80 RBI, 23 SB, 98/51 K/BB (110 G)

     

    A 13th-round draft pick out of high school, Austin has the potential to be a steal for the Yankees. A right-handed hitter, his quick wrists and strong top hand generate above-average raw power—most of which is to his pull side. He does strike out a little too often, though overall, he’s a patient hitter who works the count in his favor.

    His speed actually grades out as above average, as he’s adept to reading pitchers and picking spots to steal. A third baseman coming out of high school, he transitioned to outfield full time this season, where his skill set was a nice fit.

47. Cody Buckel, RHP, Texas Rangers

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    Position: RHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'0", 185

    DOB: 6/18/1992 (Age: 20)                       

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2010, second round (HS—Simi Valley, Calif.)

    Preseason Rank: NR; Midseason Rank: 42

    2012 Stats (A+, AA): 10-8, 144.2 IP, 2.49 ERA, 1.058 WHIP, 6.5 H/9, 9.9 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 (26 G; 23 GS)

     

    An undersized right-hander at 6’0", 185 pounds, Buckel employs lots of torque in his delivery, that, when combined with his loose, whippy arm, makes him highly deceptive. While his arsenal consists of nothing that’s above average, every pitch grades up due to his excellent command and overall feel.

    The 20-year-old features a fastball in the low to mid-90s, and he does a good job of locating it to both sides of the plate. Beyond that, the right-hander has a sharp, late-breaking curveball and a changeup that continues to improve.

    Buckel dominated at High-A this season before a midseason promotion to Double-A, where he was one of the younger players at that level.

46. Dan Straily, RHP, Oakland Athletics

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    Position: RHP                   

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 215

    DOB: 12/1/1988 (Age: 23)           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2009, 24th round (Marshall University)

    Preseason Rank: NR; Midseason Rank: NR

    2012 Stats (AA, AAA): 9-7, 152 IP, 2.78 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 6.5 H/9, 11.2 K/9, 2.5 BB/9 (25 GS)

    MLB Stats: 2-1, 39.1 IP, 3.89 ERA, 1.322 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, 3.7 BB/9 (7 GS)

     

    This season Straily evolved from a pop-up prospect with a chance at being an organizational arm to one of the more impressive pitching prospects in the game.

    Featuring a four-pitch mix of all average to above-average offerings—his changeup can be considered a plus offering—the right-hander breezed through the upper minors, posting highly impressive strikeout and walk rates at both Double-A and Triple-A.

    He was called up by the A’s in early August and made three mediocre starts before he was optioned back to Triple-A. Returning in September following an injury to Brandon McCarthy and in the wake of Bartolo Colon’s 50-game suspension, he fared much better in his second stint.

    His innings piled up towards the end of the year as fatigue likely became a factor. Regardless, he demonstrated enough this season to receive consideration for a spot as the A’s No. 4 or No. 5 starter next season.

45. Nick Franklin, SS/2B, Seattle Mariners

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    Position: SS

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 180

    DOB: 3/2/1991 (Age: 21)

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2009, first round (HS: Sanford, Fla.)

    Preseason Rank: NR; Midseason Rank: 38

    2012 Stats (AA, AAA): .278/.347/.453, 52 XBH (11 HR), 12 SB, 106/48 K/BB (121 G)

     

    After playing in only 88 games last year due to both injury and illness, Franklin rebounded during his time in the Arizona Fall League and enjoyed a healthy 2012 campaign.

    A switch hitter, the 21-year-old has more power from the left side of the plate, including impressive power to the opposite field; in general, his left-handed swing is more compact and lofty. Franklin employs an aggressive approach at the plate and loves to attack pitches where he can get his arms extended.

    Though he's a slightly above-average runner, Franklin’s days as a base-stealing threat are likely behind him. His speed plays up on defense due to his instincts and quickness, but his range and arm seem to be best suited for second base.

44. Matt Davidson, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Position: 3B                       

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 225

    DOB: 3/26/1991 (Age: 21)

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2009, first-round supplemental (HS—Yucaipa, Calif.)

    Preseason Rank: NR; Midseason Rank: 44

    2012 Stats (AA): .261/.367/.469, 53 XBH (23 HR), 76 RBI, 126/69 K/BB (135 G)

     

    A late first-round pick out of high school in 2009, Davidson had developed slowly until this season. He responded well to a promotion to Double-A to open the 2012 campaign—as one would hope after two seasons in Single-A ball.

    A right-handed hitter with incredibly strong forearms and wrists, Davidson, 21, has the pop to jump the yard to all fields and is beginning to deviate from his pull-happy tendency. While he may always strike out more than desired, his plate discipline continues to improve and he may be able to sustain a respectable batting average in the major leagues.

    Until then, his pitch recognition will need considerable refinement, but the fact that he’s making improvements as a young player at an advanced level is a very good sign.

    After splitting time between first and third base in 2011, he manned the hot corner exclusively this season. So don’t attach too much weight to his high error total (28) as he was readjusting to the position in a highly competitive environment.

43. Jackie Bradley, OF, Boston Red Sox

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    Position: OF                       

    Height/Weight: 5'10", 180

    DOB: 4/19/1990 (Age: 22)            

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2011, first-round supplemental (South Carolina)

    Preseason Rank: NR; Midseason Rank: 41

    2012 Stats (A+, AA): .315/.430/.482, 55 XBH (42 2B), 63 RBI, 24 SB, 89/87 K/BB (128 G)

     

    A late-first-round draft pick in 2011, Bradley received an aggressive assignment to High-A Salem to open the season after playing in only 10 games (none above Class-A Short Season) in his professional debut.

    A true center fielder, Bradley gets excellent reads and has a quick first step that lends to above-average range. His arm is probably strong enough to play right field, but his bat suggests his maximum value will come in center.

    A left-handed hitter, the 22-year-old has a plus hit tool and an advanced feel for the strike zone. His plate discipline is among the best in the minor leagues and should make him a viable top-of-the-order hitter for the Red Sox in time.

    After playing in 61 games at Double-A in his full-season debut, a strong follow-up campaign could have Bradley in Boston by late 2013.

42. Alen Hanson, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Position: SS

    Height/Weight: 5’11", 152 

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    DOB: 10/22/1992 (Age: 19)

    Drafted/Signed: 2009, Dominican Republic

    Preseason Rank: NR; Midseason Rank: 40

    2012 Stats (A-): .309/.381/.528, 62 XBH (16 HR), 62 RBI, 35 SB, 105/55 K/BB (124 G)

     

    The top breakout prospect in the minor leagues this season, Hanson possesses an electrifying set of tools and a very high ceiling. Although he’s listed at only 5’11”, 152 pounds, the 19-year-old is a highly impressive athlete with all-around impressive baseball skills.

    His quick feet and plus speed give him exceptional range at shortstop, but he’s still able to exhibit under-control defensive actions. His slightly below average arm is Hanson’s weakest tool and may prompt a move to second base at some point.

    An aggressive switch-hitter, Hanson’s swing is equally impressive from both sides of the plate. Considering his speed, he’ll seemingly always tally plenty of doubles and triples. However, his power has been a pleasant surprise, as he drives the ball from pole-to-pole from both sides.

    He absolutely raked this season at Low-A and will likely begin the 2013 season at High-A.

41. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Position: RHP

    Height/Weight: 6’5”, 200

    DOB: 08/29/1992 (Age: 20)

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (HS—Mansfield, Texas)

    Preseason Rank: NR; Midseason Rank: NR

    2012 Stats (A-): 8-5, 103.2 IP, 2.60 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 0.3 HR/9, 10.6 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 (27 G; 19 GS)

     

    At 6’5”, 200 pounds, Syndergaard is an athletic right-hander with clean and repeatable mechanics. Pitching in his age-19 season this year at Low-A Lansing, his fastball consistently registers in the 94-96 mph range, though he’s capable of scraping triple digits on occasions. More importantly, he throws his heater on a downward plane, and, as a result, induces lots of weakly-hit and groundball outs.

    His curveball flashes plus potential with impressive pace and shape, while his changeup continues to improve and is thrown with convincing arm action. Much like his highly-regarded teammates at Clinton (RHP Aaron Sanchez and LHP Justin Nicolino), Syndergaard’s ceiling continues to grow as he improves.

40. Hak-Ju Lee, SS, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Position: SS                        

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 170

    DOB: 11/4/1990 (Age: 21)            

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2008, South Korea

    Preseason Rank: 41; Midseason Rank: 34

    2012 Stats (AA): .261/.336/.360, 29 XBH (10 3B), 37 SB, 102/51 K/BB (116 G)

     

    After struggling in 24 games last season at Double-A Montgomery following a late-season promotion, Lee had another disappointing campaign while repeating that level in 2012.

    The 21-year-old continues to be lauded for his defense, as his plus range and arm, outstanding instincts and smooth actions give him the ability to stick at the position.

    His bat, on the other hand, lags well behind his ability as a shortstop. Lee’s plate discipline worsened this past season, which, in turn, has raised questions about his hit tool.

    A left-handed hitter, Lee needs to refine his plate discipline next season. While his defense may nearly be big league ready, his bat is not. But if he’s able to put things together, Lee still has the potential to reach the major leagues quickly given the team’s lack of a true shortstop.

39. Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Houston Astros

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    Position: 1B                       

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 235

    DOB: 9/18/1991 (Age: 21)           

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted/Signed: 2009, eighth round (HS—Long Beach, Calif.)

    Preseason Rank: NR; Midseason Rank: 39

    2012 Stats (AA): .284/.396/.497, 52 XBH (21 HR), 79 RBI, 131/88 K/BB (131 G)

     

    Playing in his first full season with the Astros, Singleton enjoyed a long-awaited breakout campaign at the plate. The left-handed hitter posted career highs in doubles (27), home runs (21), RBI (79) and walks (88) as a 20-year-old at an advanced level (Double-A). He’ll seemingly always strike out too often, but his improved plate discipline and power is more than enough to offset those concerns at the moment.

    The only thing still holding him back at the plate is his inability to hit left-handed pitching, as he’s batting only .241/.333/.353 with three home runs in 324 plate appearances against southpaws over the last two seasons.

    As the top first-base prospect in the minor leagues, Singleton should continue to rise through the Astros’ farm system. His handedness and ability to hit for both power and average could have him in the major leagues at some point in 2013.

38. Trevor Story, SS, Colorado Rockies

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    Position: SS

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 175

    DOB: 11/15/1992 (Age: 19)

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2011, first-round supplemental (HS: Irving, Texas)

    Preseason Rank: NR; Midseason Rank: 49

    2012 Stats (A-): .277/.367/.505, 132 H, 67 XBH (18 HR), 63 RBI, 15 SB, 121/60 K/BB (122 G)

     

    Jumping two levels to Low-A Asheville in his full-season debut, the 19-year-old emerged as one of the game’s more promising young hitters, as 67 of his 132 hits were for extra bases. One of the reasons he possesses such a high ceiling is because Story has the potential for similar production as a big leaguer.

    A right-handed hitter, he employs a smooth load and weight transfer at the plate with above-average bat speed and a direct bat path. I really like his approach of driving the ball back up the box, which, in turn, lends to his power to all fields.

    At shortstop, Story has quiet athleticism, excellent instincts and above-average range. His defensive actions are also smooth for his age.

    At the moment, he’s blocked by Troy Tulowitzki—though a lot can happen between now and 2015 (his expected arrival in the major leagues)—but if the All-Star shortstop is moved off the position, Story could make it there quickly provided he continues to hit.

37. Matt Barnes, RHP, Boston Red Sox

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    Position: RHP 

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 200

    DOB: 6/17/1990 (Age: 22)

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (University of Connecticut)

    Preseason Rank: NR; Midseason Rank: 37

    2012 Stats (A-, A+): 7-5, 119.2 IP, 2.86 ERA, 1.053 WHIP, 10.0 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 (25 GS)

     

    While there was substantial uncertainty surrounding Barnes headed into the season, it didn’t take him long to silence his skeptics.

    The 6’4” right-hander features a live fastball that sits in the mid-90s and occasionally scrapes 96 or 97 mph. His tall, slender frame is seemingly built for innings, and he’s throwing his curveball with the consistency he showed in his final year at Connecticut.

    His performance at Low-A Greenville to begin the season nearly rivaled that of fellow prospect Dylan Bundy, as Barnes registered a 0.34 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, 14.2 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 in 26.2 innings before a well deserved promotion to High-A. He was challenged at the more advanced level, so don’t be surprised if he begins the 2013 season there.

36. Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Kansas City Royals

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    Position: RHP

    Height/Weight: 6’2”,185

    DOB: 3/27/1990 (Age: 22)

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2008, first-round supplemental (HS: Highland, Ill.)

    Preseason Rank: NR; Midseason Rank: 33

    2012 Stats (AA, AAA): 15-5, 145.1 IP, 3.03 ERA, 1.252 WHIP, 8.4 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 (26 G; 25 GS)

    MLB Stats: 7.1 IP, 4.91 ERA, 1.636 WHIP, 4 K, 4 BB (2 GS)

     

    An athletic right-hander with a projectable frame and clean, repeatable mechanics, Odorizzi has breezed through the Royals’ system since he was acquired in the deal that sent Zack Greinke to the Brewers before the 2011 season.

    The 22-year-old’s fastball sits in the 92-95 mph range with late, arm-side sink, though he still needs to refine his overall command of the pitch. His curveball can also be inconsistent, though it has a nice 12-to-6 shape and good pace. He also throws a slider and changeup, but they’ll likely only be 50-grade offerings.

    After dominating at Double-A to begin the season, he pitched equally well at Triple-A and made two late-season starts for the Royals as a September call-up.

35. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies

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    Position: 3B                       

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 205

    DOB: 4/16/1991 (Age: 21)           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

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

    Preseason Rank: 21; Midseason Rank: 31

    2012 Stats (AA): .285/.337/.428, 49 XBH (12 HR), 56 RBI, 58/39 K/BB (134 G)

     

    Arenado has a flat bat path that can look somewhat unnatural at first sight. However, his strong wrists allow him to hit through the ball and generate backspin carry to all fields. He has average plate discipline that should improve with further experience at higher minor league levels.

    Since shedding nearly 20 pounds prior to the 2011 season, Arenado’s defense has continually improved over the last two years. He’s always possessed the arm strength and instincts to handle the position, and his athleticism is now finally catching up.

    The right-handed hitter’s power numbers were down this year at Double-A after a monster season at High-A Modesto, but the plate discipline and consistent contact to all fields is still there.

    With a strong follow-up campaign, it was conceivable that Arenado could make his big league debut late this season, especially given the state of the Rockies. However, he never turned the corner as the organization hoped and will likely open next season at Triple-A. 

34. Mike Zunino, C, Seattle Mariners

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    Position: C

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 220

    DOB: 03/25/1991 (Age: 21)

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2012, first round (Florida)

    Preseason Rank: N/A; Midseason Rank: N/A

    2012 Stats (SS, AA): .360/.447/.689, 27 XBH (13 HR), 43 RBI, 33/23 K/BB (44 G)

     

    Regarded as the top hitter in the 2012 draft class, Zunino had No. 1 overall upside but slid into the Mariners’ open arms at No. 3.

    The 21-year-old enjoyed one of the better professional debuts in recent memory, posting a 1.137 OPS in 44 games and reaching Double-A. 

    His blocking and receiving skills still have considerable room for improvement, but he did cut down 42 percent of base-stealers and exhibited better-than-expected overall defense. Hey, it’d still be an upgrade over Jesus Montero.

    It’ll be interesting to see how quickly the Mariners opt to move Zunino after he presumably opens the 2013 season back at Double-A.

33. Jake Marisnick, OF, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Position: OF                       

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 200

    DOB: 3/30/1991 (Age: 21)           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

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

    Preseason Rank: 33; Midseason Rank: 32

    2012 Stats (A+, AA): .249/.321/.399, 47 XBH (10 3B), 50 RBI, 24 SB, 100/37 K/BB (120 G)

     

    An extremely athletic outfielder who consistently flashes all five tools, Marisnick has the potential to stick in center field due to his plus range and arm.

    After struggling at Low-A following a midseason promotion in 2010, Marisnick repeated the level in 2011 with significantly better results. The 21-year-old’s power continues to develop, as he drives the ball out of the park to all fields and accumulates plenty of doubles and triples.

    Although his numbers didn’t match his 2011 production, Marisnick still had a decent overall season and received an aggressive second-half promotion to Double-A. He’ll likely repeat the level in 2013, and should fare much better as he did when repeating Low-A.

32. Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees

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    Position: C                       

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 220

    DOB: 12/2/1992 (Age: 20)           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2009, Dominican Republic

    Preseason Rank: 46; Midseason Rank: 31

    2012 Stats (A-, A+): .290/.344/.485, 48 XBH (18 HR), 85 RBI, 15 SB, 106/32 K/BB (116 G)

     

    Sanchez emerged as one of the game’s top catching prospects in 2010, his professional debut, after slashing .353/.419/.597 between two levels. While the right-handed hitter’s power was still present in 2011, he lacked a similar power frequency.

    The 19-year-old still has power to all fields thanks to impressive bat speed, and also has the potential to hit for a decent average as his pitch recognition improves. He continues to strike out too much, mostly the result of his propensity to chase breaking balls out of the zone.

    His receiving skills are still raw, and he can even come across as lackadaisical with his blocking skills. However, he has a plus arm that led to a 30-percent caught-stealing rate and has proven to be surprisingly agile behind the plate.

    After a midseason promotion to High-A along with Tyler Austin and Mason Williams, expect Sanchez to begin the 2013 season at the same level. 

31. Danny Hultzen, LHP, Seattle Mariners

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    Position: LHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'3", 200

    DOB: 11/28/1989 (Age: 22)           

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (Virginia)

    Preseason Rank: 23; Midseason Rank: 16

    2012 Stats (AA, AAA): 9-7, 124 IP, 3.05 ERA, 1.306 WHIP, 6.3 H/9, 9.9 K/9, 5.4 BB/9 (25 GS)

     

    The top left-hander in the loaded 2011 draft class, Hultzen lived up to expectations in his professional debut. The 22-year-old demonstrates advanced command of three pitches—a low-90s fastball, a slider and a changeup—and has proven to be effective against both right and left-handed hitters.

    Hultzen’s success has been reliant upon his ability to locate the fastball to both sides of the plate and command the inner-half of the plate against right-handed hitters. Nothing he throws is an overwhelming offering, so he’ll have to reduce the amount of pitches left over the plate.

    Prior to his midseason promotion to Triple-A, Hultzen was dominating Double-A hitters, allowing only 38 hits and 32 walks in 75.1 innings and registering 79 strikeouts.

    His 12 starts for Triple-A Tacoma told a different story, however, as his control deteriorated to the tune of a 57/43 K/BB. He’s still one of the top left-handed pitching prospects in the game, but his struggle at Triple-A to close the season is slightly concerning.

30. Mike Olt, 3B, Texas Rangers

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    Position: 3B

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 210

    DOB: 8/27/1988 (Age: 23)

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2010, first-round supplemental (University of Connecticut)

    Preseason Rank: NR; Midseason Rank: 29

    2012 Stats (AA): .288/.398/.579, 46 XBH (28 HR), 82 RBI, 101/61 K/BB (95 G)

    MLB Stats: .152/.250/.182, 1 XBH, 5 RBI, 13/5 K/BB (16 G)

     

    A strong, broad-shouldered right-handed hitter, Olt has plus power to all fields and the potential to hit for a respectable average as a big leaguer. The 23-year-old has plus-bat speed and plate discipline that continues to improve, so the high strikeout totals should decrease as he progresses.

    A shortstop at Connecticut, Olt possesses slightly above-average actions and giving hands, while his plus arm is more than enough to handle the position in the major leagues.

    Even with Adrian Beltre blocking his path, the Rangers decided to recall Olt from Double-A on August 3 to jump-start their struggling (at that time, at least) offense. He also saw playing time at first base and right field, but Olt’s future is undeniably at the hot corner.

29. Anthony Rendon, 3B, Washington Nationals

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    Position: 3B     

    Height/Weight: 6'0", 195

    DOB: 6/6/1990 (Age: 22)

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (Rice)

    Preseason Rank: 10; Midseason Rank: 29

    2012 Stats (Rk, SS, A+, AA): .233/.363/.489, 18 XBH (6 HR), 29/23 K/BB (43 G)

     

    The top hitter in the 2011 draft class, Rendon has a plus-bat with slightly above-average power and a highly advanced feel for the strike zone. 

    Despite playing in only 43 games since he was drafted, the 22-year-old still has a very high ceiling as a hitter, as he makes consistent, hard contact and drives the ball to all fields with authority.

    With the potential to move quickly through the Nats’ system, Rendon began the year at High-A, but suffered a broken ankle in the second game of the season—his third major ankle injury in as many years.

    Thankfully, he was able to work his way back into action by the end of July and finished the season with 22 games at Double-A.

28. Aaron Sanchez, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Position: RHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 190

    DOB: 7/1/1992 (Age: 20)          

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2010, first-round supplemental (HS—Barstow, Calif.)

    Preseason Rank: NR; Midseason Rank: 28

    2012 Stats (A-): 8-5, 90.1 IP, 2.49 ERA, 1.273 WHIP, 6.4 H/9, 9.7 K/9, 5.1 BB/9 (25 G; 18 GS)

     

    A 6’4” right-hander with a highly projectable frame, Sanchez possesses smooth mechanics and a quick arm. His fastball works in the low to mid-90s with some sink and arm-side run. His curveball improved significantly this season with tight rotation, good pace and late downer action. The 19-year-old also throws a changeup, although it doesn’t grade out as high as his breaking ball and could use more 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 exercised less caution and the results have been highly encouraging.

    The right-hander still struggles with his command and walks too many batters, but his pure stuff is undeniably excellent. Furthermore, he consistently draws swing-and-misses while working down in the zone and inducing a favorable number of ground balls.

27. Julio Teheran, RHP, Atlanta Braves

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    Position: RHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 175

    DOB: 1/27/1991 (Age: 21)           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2007, Colombia

    Preseason Rank: 6; Midseason Rank: 19

    2012 Stats (AAA): 7-9, 131 IP, 5.08 ERA, 1.443 WHIP, 10.0 H/9, 6.7 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 (25 G; 24 GS)

    MLB Stats: 6.1 IP, 5.68 ERA, 0.947 WHIP, 5/1 K/BB (2 G; 1 GS)

     

    Headed into the 2012 season, Teheran seemingly had nothing left to prove in the minor leagues after a dominant campaign at Triple-A in 2011. Since a poor showing late last season with the Braves, the right-hander has lacked consistency and regressed across the board.

    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 missed over the heart of the plate with the pitch all season and struggled to make necessary adjustments.

    Rounding out his arsenal is a plus changeup with excellent fade, a curveball and a slider. Even though Teheran has improved his command of each pitch over the last two seasons, but clearly needs additional refinement to be successful at the big league level.

26. Mason Williams, OF, New York Yankees

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    Position: OF               

    Height/Weight: 6'0", 150

    DOB: 8/21/1991 (Age: 21)           

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2010, fourth round (HS: West Orange, Fla.)

    Preseason Rank: NR; Midseason Rank: 26

    2012 Stats (A-, A+): .298/.346/.474, 37 XBH (11 HR), 20 SB, 47/24 K/BB (91 G)

     

    A highly athletic and toolsy outfielder, Williams came into his own quickly this year in his full-season debut. With a 6’0" 150-pound frame, his size leaves room for projection, and the left-handed hitter should always be able to hit for a solid batting average. His power was a surprise, though, with 37 extra-base hits in 91 games.

    Williams was awarded for his strong performance at Low-A with a promotion to High-A Tampa. Unfortunately, the 21-year-old played in only 22 games before suffering a torn labrum that required subsequent surgery and ended his season.

    Expect him to begin the 2013 season at High-A with a chance to reach Double-A by the All-Star break.

25. Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs

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    Position: SS

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 205

    DOB: 12/1/1992 (Age: 19)

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (HS: Arlington Country Day School, Fla.)

    Preseason Rank: 38; Midseason Rank: 25

    2012 Stats (A-, A+): .294/.346/.543, 35 XBH (16 HR), 46 RBI, 24 SB, 69/14 K/BB (80 G)

     

    The ninth overall pick in the 2011 draft, Baez has blinding bat speed with a chance to hit for legitimate plus power in the major leagues. A right-handed hitter, he swings hard—really hard. So, despite the impressive power numbers this season at Low-A and High-A, his plate discipline leave something to be desired.

    His defense at shortstop is average, and he doesn’t shy away from displaying his strong arm. Given his size and limitations as a shortstop, the 19-year-old will probably shift to third base at some point as his lower-half fills out and he loses a step. He has above-average speed and good instincts on the basepaths and should have 20/20 annually as a big leaguer.

    Joining Low-A Peoria in early May, Baez jumped out to a hot start with 12 home runs and 20 stolen bases in his first 57 games. However, he struggled following a promotion to High-A Daytona, batting just .188/.244/.400 in 23 games.

    There’s no need for the Cubs to rush Baez, so expect him to open the 2013 season at High-A.

24. Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins

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    Position: OF

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 188

    DOB: 12/18/1993 (Age: 18)

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2012, first round (HS—Baxley, Ga.)

    Preseason Rank: N/A; Midseason Rank: N/A

    2012 Stats (Rk): .248/.344/.448, 19 XBH (5 HR), 20 RBI, 11 SB, 41/19 K/BB (48 G)

     

    The No. 2 overall selection in 2012 draft, Buxton is still incredibly raw, but has the potential to be a five-tool player in the major leagues. His plus speed is the most noticeable of them, both in the outfield and on the basepaths.

    While he has plenty of raw power, the 18-year-old won’t tap into it immediately. I’m still somewhat skeptical of his overall hit tool, but it’s unfair to base everything on such a small sample (48 games).

    Buxton has the athleticism and tools to be a dynamic player at the major league level, and showed improvements in 21 games following a promotion to the Appalachian League. However, the Twins will not rush him through their system (understandably), as they want to ensure all of his tools fully develop.

23. Carlos Martinez, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Position: RHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'0", 165

    DOB: 9/21/1991 (Age: 20)           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2010, Dominican Republic

    Preseason Ranking: 40; Midseason Rank: 20

    2012 Stats (A+, AA): 6-5, 104.1 IP, 2.93 ERA, 1.179 WHIP, 7.9 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 (22 G; 21 GS)

     

    With a lightning-quick, Pedro Martinez-like arm, Martinez’s fastball registers in the upper-90s and has even touched triple digits on occasion. He’s also become more adept to manipulating the pitch, as he often throws a 90-93 mph variation with sink.

    Martinez’s secondary stuff continues to improve, with a curveball that receives a 60-grade on the scouting scale and has good pace and shape. The 21-year-old also throws a changeup—arguably his best offspeed pitch—that has some fade, but sometimes fights his natural arm speed at the point of its release. 

    Beginning the season at High-A Palm Beach, Martinez had a brief stint on the disabled list in May. But upon his return, the Cardinals promoted the right-hander to Double-A. While his strikeout rate was down a bit this season, so was his walk rate.

    As long as he’s developed patiently, it’s conceivable that Martinez could make his big league debut in late 2013 or early 2014. 

22. Bubba Starling, OF, Kansas City Royals

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    Position: OF                       

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 195

    DOB: 8/3/1992 (Age: 19)          

    Bats/Throws: R/R

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

    Preseason Rank: 25; Midseason Rank: 17

    2012 Stats (Rk): .275/.371/.485, 20 XBH (10 HR), 33 RBI, 10 SB, 70/28 K/BB (53 G)

     

    At 6'4", 195 pounds, Bubba Starling is a toolsy outfielder with exceptional athleticism and raw, unrefined baseball skills. And considering that he didn’t begin his professional career until this season, he’s seemingly behind in his overall development.

    A three-sport star coming out of high school, he possesses explosive speed and plus range, and can run down virtually everything in the outfield. Also a standout pitcher in high school, Starling was clocked in the mid-90s off the bump and has a plus arm in the outfield.

    At the plate, he has raw power and quick, strong hands. However, his swing is long and the barrel drags through the zone on a repetitive plane, regardless of pitch location.

    The Royals may challenge him with a promotion to Low-A in 2013, but I’m not entirely sure he’s ready for the more advanced level.

21. Billy Hamilton, SS/OF, Cincinnati Reds

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    Position: SS

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 160

    DOB: 9/9/1990 (Age: 21)

    Bats/Throws: S/R

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

    Preseason Rank: 27; Midseason Rank: 22

    2012 Stats (A+, AA): .311/.410/.420, 112 R, 159 H, 38 XBH (14 3B), 155 SB, 113/86 K/BB (132 G)

     

    Headed into the 2012 season, Hamilton was widely known as the fastest player in baseball. However, there was similar awareness that his baseball skills lagged well behind his overall athleticism. So understandably, there were concerns about his actual potential.

    Possessing arguably the most impressive tool in the minor leagues (his speed, clearly) Hamilton inherently has the potential to be a dynamic, top-of-the-order hitter.

    Surprisingly, Hamilton’s plate discipline was as improved as any young hitter in the game this season. And then there’s the record: the 22-year-old broke Vince Coleman’s 1983 stolen-base record with 155 steals in 132 games.

    Beginning the season at High-A Bakersfield, Hamilton slashed .323/.413/.439 with 50 walks and 104 stolen bases in 82 games. He was promoted to Double-A at the midseason mark and furthered his already improved on-base skills.

    Whether he’s able to remain at shortstop is the only question. But with his speed, mediocre defense at any position should be easily outweighed by offensive contribution. On Wednesday, it was actually announced the Reds are moving their prized prospect to the outfield, where he presumably has a more direct path to the major leagues.

20. Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins

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    Position: 3B                       

    Height/Weight: 6'3", 195

    DOB: 5/11/1993 (Age: 19)           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2009, Dominican Republic

    Preseason Rank: 16; Midseason Rank: 24

    2012 Stats (A-): .258/.373/.521, 60 XBH (28 HR), 100 RBI, 144/80 K/BB (129 G)

     

    With Bryce Harper now out of the picture, Miguel Sano is hands-down the best power-hitting prospect in baseball. The 6’3”, 195-pounder has the ideal combination of quick wrists and plus-bat speed that allows him to jump the yard to all fields with ease. 

    Now, if the 19-year-old can improve his plate discipline over the next several years and reduce his high strikeout totals, he may even generate a decent average in his prime seasons.

    Sano can be a wreck on defense—even coming across as indifferent at times—and could ultimately move to first base if he outgrows the position. For now, however, he remains the Twins’ third baseman of the future.

    In his first full professional season, Sano paced the Midwest League with 28 home runs, 100 RBI and 144 strikeouts.

19. Shelby Miller, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Position: RHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'3", 195

    DOB: 10/10/1990 (Age: 21)           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

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

    Preseason Rank: 4; Midseason Rank: 19

    2012 Stats (AAA): 11-10, 136.2 IP, 4.74 ERA, 1.376 WHIP, 1.6 HR/9, 10.5 K/9, 3.3 BB/9 (27 GS)

    MLB Stats: 13.2 IP, 1.32 ERA, 0.951 WHIP, 16/4 K/BB (6 G; 1 GS)

     

    Miller has an excellent pitcher’s frame at 6'3" and 195 pounds; however, concern arose after he arrived at spring training out of shape. Typically, the right-hander’s been more of an upper-body pitcher, relying on his pure arm strength and stuff as opposed to utilizing his lower half.

    The 21-year-old features a heavy 93-97 mph fastball with arm-side run, and induces a healthy blend of swing-and-misses and weak contact. Relative to his age and experience, Miller’s always exhibited above-average control of the pitch to both sides of the plate.

    His heater is complemented by two above-average off-speed pitches: a sharp, downer curve and a fading changeup.

    Less than two months ago, it was highly doubtful that Miller would be a September call-up, as he owned a 6.17 ERA with 90 strikeouts, 43 walks and 17 home runs allowed in 77.1 innings at Triple-A Memphis.

    However, Miller’s second half has been an entirely different story, as he went 7-2 with a 2.88 ERA and held opposing hitters to a .217 batting average in 10 starts after the All-Star break. More importantly, Miller recorded 70 strikeouts while issuing only seven walks in 59.1 innings.

    Miller ultimately reached the major leagues as a September call-up, and after multiple appearances out of the team’s bullpen, was excellent in his first career start in game 162 for the Cardinals.

18. Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros

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    Position: SS

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 190

    DOB: 09/22/1994 (Age: 18)

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2012, No. 1 overall (HS—Gurabo, Puerto Rico)

    Preseason Rank: N/A; Midseason Rank: N/A

    2012 Stats (Rk): .258/.305/.400, 19 XBH (14 2B), 6 SB, 44/12 K/BB (50 G)

     

    Rivaling Byron Buxton as the most talented player in the 2012 draft class, Correa has the potential to be an elite defensive shortstop thanks to his above-average range and plus arm. So, there should never be a concern about whether he can remain at the position.

    At the plate, the 18-year-old makes consistent, hard contact, but is still gaining a feel for using the entire field. He hits a lot of doubles as is, so there’s no reason to believe he’s not capable of above-average power as a big leaguer.

    It may take him some time to ultimately reach the major leagues—2016 at the earliest, in my opinion—but the fact that he batted .371/.450/.600 in 11 Appalachian League games to end the season could mean that he opens the 2013 season at Low-A.

17. Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Position: RHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 225

    DOB: 8/10/1992 (Age: 19)           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

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

    Preseason Rank: 18; Midseason Rank: 14

    2012 Stats (A-): 12-6, 136 IP, 3.84 ERA, 1.257 WHIP, 5.8 H/9, 10.1 K/9, 5.6 BB/9 (27 GS)

     

    At 6'4", 225 pounds, Bradley has a power-pitcher’s frame and the arsenal to match. The 19-year-old hammers the strike zone with a 92-96 mph fastball and low-80s curveball that, when thrown correctly, is an absolute yack. And considering that he has an advanced feel for a changeup and an average slider, Bradley has the potential to be another front-line pitching prospect for the Diamondbacks.

    His mechanics are clean; however, the right-hander tends to lose his arm slot and therefore struggles with his overall command.

    Making 27 starts (136 IP) for Low-A South Bend this season, he allowed only 87 hits but walked 84 batters. Luckily, his stuff can be so unhittable at times that he was able to offset all the baserunners with a 10.1 K/9 rate.

16. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox

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    Position: SS                

    Height/Weight: 6'3", 175

    DOB: 10/1/1992 (Age: 20)          

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2009, Aruba

    Preseason Rank: 39; Midseason Rank: 21

    2012 Stats (A+, AA): ,307/.373/.523, 60 XBH (20 HR), 81 RBI, 106/44 K/BB (127 G)

     

    While his 85/43 K/BB suggests room for improvement, the 19-year-old’s .302/.378/.505 slash line with 15 home runs in 104 games for High-A Salem exceeded all expectations. In fact, the performance ultimately earned him a late-season promotion to Double-A Portland where he batted .326/.351/.595 with 15 extra-base hits and 21/1 K/BB in 23 games.

    While there are legitimate concerns about how plate discipline will translate at higher levels, I find Bogaerts’ unusually low line-drive rate to be more worrisome.

    However, the 19-year-old’s found a way to be successful despite the inefficiency, and there’s plenty of time for him to make improvements. Bogaerts could reach the big leagues ahead of schedule as he’ll likely begin the 2013 season at Double-A with the chance of a September call-up.

15. Tyler Skaggs, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Position: LHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'3", 195

    DOB: 7/13/1991 (Age: 21)           

    Bats/Throws: L/L

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

    Preseason Rank: 13; Midseason Rank: 10

    2012 Stats (AA, AAA): 9-6, 122.1 IP, 2.87 ERA, 1.218 WHIP, 11.3 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 (27 GS)

    MLB Stats: 1-3, 29.1 IP, 5.83 ERA, 1.466 WHIP, 6.4 K/9, 4.0 BB/9 (6 GS)

     

    Ever since his impressive full-season debut in 2010, Tyler Skaggs has been regarded as one of the game’s premier left-handed pitching prospects. At 6’3”, 195 pounds, he has a lanky frame with deceptive arm action and repeatable mechanics.

    When he’s throwing from the same, consistent arm slot, the 21-year-old pounds the knees with his 88-93 mph fastball. Skaggs may also own the best left-handed curveball in the minor leagues, a double-plus offering that neutralizes right-handed hitters as effectively as lefties. At times he can rush his delivery and lose pitches up-and-away to his arm side.

    Skaggs also throws a decent changeup that should continue to improve, but it’s more of a show-me pitch used to set up his fastball-curveball mix.

    Recalled from Triple-A Reno to make his big league debut in late August, the southpaw ultimately made six shaky starts for the Diamondbacks. There’s a chance that he breaks camp as a No. 4 or No. 5 starter out of spring training, but I expect him to log more time at Triple-A to begin the 2013 season.

14. Nick Castellanos, 3B/RF, Detroit Tigers

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    Position: 3B                       

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 210

    DOB: 3/4/1992 (Age: 20)                        

    Bats/Throws: R/R

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

    Preseason Rank: 47; Midseason Rank: 15

    2012 Stats (A+, AA): .320/.365/.451, 172 H, 46 XBH (10 HR), 57 RBI, 118 K/36 BB (134 G)

     

    After leading the Midwest League (Low-A) in hits as a 19-year-old in 2011, Castellanos absolutely raked at High-A to open the season. And after batting .405 in 55 games, the Tigers promoted him to Double-A where he was challenged for the first time as a professional.

    The 6’4”, 210-pounder still enjoyed a phenomenal overall season, and even saw adjusted to life in right field while preparing for a potential September call-up. Third base remains his most attractive position, but improved versatility could have him in the major leagues late next season.

    Castellanos also offered fans a savory preview of his potential during the XM Futures Game, when he was 3-for-4 with a home run, three runs scores and three RBI, and walked away with the game’s Most Valuable Player award.

13. Christian Yelich, OF, Miami Marlins

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    Position: OF                       

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 189

    DOB: 12/5/1991 (Age: 20)           

    Bats/Throws: L/R

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

    Preseason Rank: 30; Midseason Rank: 12

    2012 Stats (A+): .330/.404/.519, 46 XBH (12 HR), 48 RBI, 20 SB, 85/49 K/BB (106 G)

     

    Still only 20 years old, Yelich’s hit tool already grades out as a plus tool and should continue to develop with improved plate discipline. A left-handed hitter, his swing is balanced and fluid, and he does an excellent job keeping the bat head in the zone for as long as possible.

    Yelich will probably only produce slightly above-average power, but if he's able to add some loft to his swing, then there’s 20 to 25 home run upside annually.

    Had it not been for two separate trips to the disabled list earlier this season, it’s likely that Yelich would have finished the year at Double-A. Regardless, he possesses one of the best and more advanced hit tools in the minor leagues and will be ready for the challenge of Double-A in 2013.

12. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians

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    Position: SS 

    Height/Weight: 5'11", 175

    DOB: 11/14/1993 (Age: 18)

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (HS: Montverde Academy, Fla.)

    Preseason Rank: 29; Midseason Rank: 13

    2012 Stats (A-): .257/.352/.355, 33 XBH (6 HR), 27 SB, 78/61 K/BB (122 G)

     

    One of the top shortstop prospects in the game, Lindor has been on the fast track to the major leagues since he was drafted eighth overall last season.

    Competing in a level and league (Low-A, South Atlantic) known for high error totals, the 18-year-old received rave reviews for his defensive prowess at shortstop—he makes jaw-dropping plays look routine. Once Lindor reaches the big leagues, he’ll be there for a long, long time.

    A switch-hitter, Lindor’s offensive value will come from his hit tool and on-base skills. He’s already showing the ability get on base at a decent clip thanks to plate discipline well beyond his years.

11. Jose Fernandez, RHP, Miami Marlins

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    Position: RHP

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 215

    DOB: 7/31/1992 (Age: 20)

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (HS: Tampa, Fla.)

    Preseason Rank: NR; Midseason Rank: 18

    2012 Stats (A-, A+): 14-1, 134 IP, 1.75 ERA, 0.925 WHIP, 6.0 H/9, 10.6 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 (25 GS)

     

    Jose Fernandez is a rare breed of teenage pitcher in that he already possesses advanced command of above-average offerings, demonstrates an impressive mound presence and is comfortable working deep into games.

    The right-hander features a heavy fastball that sits between 92-96 mph and occasionally scrapes 97-98. Throwing from a high arm angle, the 20-year-old consistently throws the pitch with tilt on a downward plane.

    Fernandez already boasts three off-speed pitches, the best being his hard, late-breaking slider. His curveball is at least a solid-average pitch, but it can become too loopy and lose its pace at times. He also showcases a unique feel for his changeup, which only enhances the notion of him as a future front-line starter.

10. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Position: RHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'6", 225

    DOB: 11/18/1991 (Age: 20)           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

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

    Preseason Rank: 11; Midseason Rank: 11

    2012 Stats (A+, AA): 9-8, 142 IP, 3.55 ERA, 1.113 WHIP, 7.4 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 (26 GS)

     

    Taillon’s quick arm generates fastballs that sit in the 93-97 mph range, and he’s been known to flirt with triple digits on occasion. This season, however, he struggled to keep the ball down in the zone, which resulted in too many hittable fastballs over the plate.

    With a 6’6” frame, the 20-year-old complements his heater with two different breaking balls: a power slider and a 12-to-6 curve. He also features a changeup—a pitch that will be crucial toward his overall development over the next couple seasons.

    The Pirates have been cautious with his development, but the right-hander began to move up the ladder this season. He finished the year at Double-A, where he registered a 3-0 record, 1.59 ERA, 9.5 K/9 and 0.5 BB/9 over three starts.

9. Trevor Bauer, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Position: RHP

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 185

    DOB: 1/17/1991 (Age: 21)

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (UCLA)

    Preseason Rank: 8; Midseason Rank: N/A

    2012 Stats (AA, AAA): 12-2, 130.1 IP, 2.42 ERA, 1.289 WHIP, 10.8 K/9, 4.2 BB/9 (22 GS)

    MLB Stats: 1-2, 16.1 IP, 6.06 ERA, 1.653 WHIP, 9.4 K/9, 7.2 BB/9 (4 GS)

     

    Bauer employs a torque-heavy delivery that unleashes 90-96 mph fastballs upon opposing hitters, while his best pitch, a plus curveball, draws lots of swing-and-misses. To round out his arsenal, the right-hander also mixes in an above-average slider and changeup, as well as the semi-pointless “reverse slider.”

    Even though he struggled with his command all season at Double-A and Triple-A, he offset many of the baserunners with a 10.8 strikeout-per-nine rate. The issues with his command persisted following a midseason call-up, as he was optioned back to Reno in the wake of a 6.06 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP over four starts.

    Bauer arguably needs more refinement in the major leagues, but he’s also the type of competitor who thrives in a more challenging environment. 

8. Travis d'Arnaud, C, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Position: C                       

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 195

    DOB: 2/10/1989 (Age: 23)          

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2007, first round (HS: Lakewood, Calif.)

    Preseason Rank: 17; Midseason Rank: 9

    2012 Stats (AAA): .333/.380/.595, 39 XBH (16 HR), 52 RBI, 59/19 K/BB (67 G)

     

    It seemed as though d’Arnaud was in line for a September call-up until a torn PCL in his knee prematurely ended his 2012 campaign.

    A right-handed hitter, d’Arnaud has plus power and should hit for a decent average in the major leagues. Having traditionally posted high line-drive rates, his 2012 production shouldn’t solely be attributed to the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.

    The 23-year-old’s blocking and receiving skills continue to improve and he’s received rave reviews from both his coaches and staff. While he’s always been highly regarded for his strong arm, refined footwork led to better accuracy this season, as he threw out 12-of-40 base-stealers (30 percent) prior to his injury.

    It’s hard to find offensive production such as d’Arnaud’s in a catching prospect who also possesses the defensive skill set to stay behind the plate—exactly why he’s a top 10 overall prospect.

7. Gerrit Cole, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Position: RHP            

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 220

    DOB: 9/8/1990 (Age: 22)           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (UCLA)

    Preseason Rank: 15; Midseason Rank: 6

    2012 Stats (A+, AA, AAA): 9-7, 132 IP, 2.80 ERA, 1.197 WHIP, 9.3 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 (26 GS)

     

    Gerrit Cole, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2011, is the epitome of a power pitcher. The 6’4” right-hander’s fastball routinely hits triple digits on the radar gun, though he typically works in the upper-90s. When he’s able to use his slider off his fastball, it’s a legitimate strikeout pitch that generates loads of swing-and-misses. Considering the velocity of his fastball, Cole also features a decent changeup with late fade.

    Even though he doesn’t necessarily walk a lot of hitters, the right-hander still falls behind too many hitters. Furthermore, when pitching from the stretch, he struggles to repeat his mechanics and often loses focus.

    After reaching Triple-A at the end of the year, it seems like a logical place for him to begin the upcoming season.

6. Zack Wheeler, RHP, New York Mets

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    Position: RHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 185

    DOB: 5/30/1990 (Age: 22)           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

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

    Preseason Rank: 20; Midseason Rank: 7

    2012 Stats (AA, AAA): 12-8, 2 CG, 149 IP, 3.26 ERA, 1.168 WHIP, 0.2 HR/9, 8.9 K/9, 3.6 BB/9 (25 GS)

     

    Possessing a lean 6'4" frame, Wheeler features a quick arm, clean arm action and explosive mechanics. The right-hander’s fastball runs as high as 97-98 mph; but he usually works in the mid 90s with late, arm-side action on his two-seamer.

    The 22-year-old’s curveball has a sharp downward break that frequently jelly-legs right-handed hitters, and his changeup should be at least a third above-average offering by the time he reaches the major leagues.

    After a strong season at Double-A, Wheeler was promoted to Triple-A when fellow prospect Matt Harvey was called up to the major leagues. Expect him to begin the 2013 season there, too.

5. Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Position: OF                       

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 180

    DOB: 6/19/1992 (Age: 20)            

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted/Signed: 2008, Dominican Republic

    Preseason Rank: 37; Midseason Rank: 8

    2012 Stats (AA): .321/.380/.572, 67 XBH (23 HR), 94 RBI, 10 SB, 56/42 K/BB (124 G)

     

    After posting a 1.028 OPS at Low-A Quad Cities as a 19-year-old in 2011, there were understandably lofty expectations for the left-handed hitter headed into the 2012 season.

    Not only has Taveras surpassed all expectations by showcasing the best hit tool in the minor leagues, his power developed in the face of advanced competition. And there’s nothing more encouraging than a 20-year-old tapping into his power at an advanced level while retaining a high batting average.

    If there’s one prospect that I believe could handle major league pitching at the moment, it’s Taveras. His hand-eye coordination is something special, and his ability to square-up the baseball with such consistency is something that simply cannot be taught.

    As an outfielder, Taveras’ average speed allowed him to play all three outfield positions, but his highest ceiling comes as a right fielder given his strong arm.

    He may begin the 2013 season at Triple-A, but it will be hard for the Cardinals to keep him in the minor leagues.

4. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners

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    Position: RHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 210

    DOB: 8/13/1992 (Age: 19)          

    Bats/Throws: R/R

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

    Preseason Rank: 14; Midseason Rank: 5

    2012 Stats (AA): 7-10, 126.2 IP, 4.69 ERA, 1.374 WHIP, 8.4 K/9, 3.6 BB/9 (25 GS)

     

    A highly athletic and projectable right-hander, Walker spent the entire 2012 season pitching for Double-A Jackson in the Southern League as a 19-year-old.

    While the overall results seemingly weren’t anything special, the right-hander demonstrated an ability to make improvements throughout the long, arduous season and finished on a high note with two highly impressive playoff starts.

    With a three-pitch mix of above-average offerings, smooth mechanics and outstanding athleticism, Walker has the potential to be a special pitcher. Expect big things from him in 2013.

3. Wil Myers, OF, Kansas City Royals

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    Position: OF                       

    Height/Weight: 6'3", 205

    DOB: 12/10/1990 (Age: 21)            

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2009, third round (HS: Wesleyan Academy, N.C.)

    Preseason Rank: 19; Midseason Rank: 3

    2012 Stats (AA, AAA): .314/.387/.600, 69 XBH (37 HR), 109 RBI, 140/61 K/BB (134 G)

     

    Coming off a disappointing 2011 season that featured time lost due to a lingering knee injury and a .745 OPS in 99 games, questions were raised regarding Myers’ power and overall potential at the plate.

    Thanks to a highly productive Arizona Fall League, the 21-year-old righted the ship as he went on to post a 1.146 OPS in 35 games in Double-A to open the 2012 season. He was subsequently promoted to Triple-A, where he spent the remainder of the season and continued to rake.

    Even though he’s perfectly capable of drawing walks, the right-handed hitter focused on driving the ball to all fields this season. Myers will be nothing more than an average defensive outfielder in the major leagues; however, the plus arm that made him a highly-touted catching prospect out of high school is still present.

2. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles

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    Position: RHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 200

    DOB: 11/15/1992 (Age: 19)           

    Bats/Throws: S/R

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

    Preseason Rank: 9; Midseason Rank: 2

    2012 Stats (A-, A+, AA): 9-3, 103.2 IP, 2.08 ERA, 0.916 WHIP, 5.8 H/9, 10.3 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 (23 GS)

    MLB Stats: 1.2 IP, H, BB (2 G)

     

    The right-hander began his 2012 campaign—also his professional debut—in a historic manner, tossing 30 scoreless innings for Low-A Delmarva while allowing only five hits and two walks and tallying 40 strikeouts. The Orioles offered him a promotion to High-A Frederick after only eight starts.

    Although he wasn’t as dominant at the new level, Bundy was still incredibly impressive given his age. The promotions didn’t end there, though, as the Orioles promoted him to Double-A Bowie to finish the 2012 season and even start a postseason game. The 19-year-old held his own at that level, posting a 3.24 ERA over three starts.

    And despite the organization’s insistence that their phenom would not pitch in the big leagues this season, a fatigued bullpen forced the Orioles to ultimately call him up on Sept. 19.

1. Jurickson Profar, SS, Texas Rangers

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    Position: SS

    Height/Weight: 5'11", 165

    DOB: 2/20/1993 (Age: 19)

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2009, Curacao

    Preseason Rank: 5; Midseason Rank: 1

    2012 Stats (AA): .281/.368/.452, 47 XBH (14 HR), 62 RBI, 16 SB, 79/66 K/BB (126 G)

    MLB Stats: .176/.176/.471, 3 XBH, 2 RBI, 4 K (9 G)

     

    Since making a name for himself as the most exciting prospect in the South Atlantic League (Low-A) last season, Profar has quickly developed into the top prospect in the game.

    Only 19 years old, everything he did this season was beyond his years, as he seemingly improved in every facet of the game. The switch-hitting shortstop can do it all on the field, and showcases all five tools on a nightly basis. Most importantly, though, Profar demonstrated the ability to make adjustments at an advanced level (I’m referring to Double-A, not the major leagues)—the true sign of an elite prospect.

    While it came as somewhat of a surprise that the Rangers promoted him directly from Double-A to the major leagues in early September, given his advanced, all-around skill set and superstar upside, you can’t blame their aggressiveness. If anything, it’s a testament that Profar is that special of a player; the more he’s challenged, the better he becomes.

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