In a Friday television special, MLB Network revealed its top 50 prospects for the 2016 season. Last year's top two prospects, Byron Buxton of the Minnesota Twins and Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs, both made their MLB debuts in 2015. Buxton struggled to find his place, hitting .204 with 44 strikeouts and just six walks, but Bryant hit 26 home runs and had 99 RBI during an All-Star and Rookie of the Year campaign.
So while the list may not be a perfect representation of who the next-biggest MLB stars are, it's a safe bet if your team has players toward the top, the future could be bright. Twins fans are hoping that proves true, as Buxton was ranked in the top two for the third straight season. There is no denying his talent, but in an era where everyone wants instant gratification, tangible production at the MLB level is a must for the 22-year-old.
Los Angeles Dodgers fans should be feeling good as their team has two prospects in the top 10, including No. 1 talent, short stop Corey Seager. The 6'4", left-handed hitter is thought to have one of, if not, the best bats of any prospect in the game. MLB Pipeline called him a "hitting machine:
A full ranking of the top 100 prospects can be found on MLB.com, but first here's a look at MLB Network's top-10 list:
|MLB Network Top 10 Prospects for 2016|
|Rank||Player, Pos||MLB Team|
|1||Corey Seager, SS||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|2||Byron Buxton, OF||Minnesota Twins|
|3||Lucas Giolito, RHP||Washington Nationals|
|4||Julio Urias, LHP||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|5||J.P Crawford, SS||Philadelphia Phillies|
|6||Orlando Arcia, SS||Milwaukee Brewers|
|7||Yoan Moncada, 2B||Boston Red Sox|
|8||Dansby Swanson, SS||Atlanta Braves|
|9||Joey Gallo, 3B||Texas Rangers|
|10||Tyler Glasnow, RHP||Pittsburgh Pirates|
There was drama as the countdown unfolded when Seager and Buxton were the final two players left. Buxton had been ranked No. 1 the previous two seasons, but the 21-year-old Seager laid claim to the top spot this time.
Jim Callis of MLB.com was live tweeting during the show and seemed to admit there was not much space between the two top prospects when responding to a fan who thought Buxton should be No. 1:
Austin Meadows, an outfielder in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, complimented the top prospect after the rankings were revealed:
Seager slashed .307/.368/.523 with 62 home runs and 278 RBI in 390 career minor league games. He showed some of that promise in 98 major league at-bats in 2015, hitting .337 with four home runs and 17 RBI.
Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register thinks Seager will be a mainstay in the Dodgers' lineup next season:
Buxton's drop in the rankings, albeit just one spot, could have as much to do with his production as it did with Seager's strong performance. However, as this MLB.com scouting report on Buxton shows, the Twins are still relying on him to be contributing at the big league level:
In an ideal world, Buxton would have received an additional 200-300 at-bats in the Minors to help his development. He wasn't ready to hit in the big leagues, having trouble with breaking-ball recognition and having some holes in his swing exploited. Even when Buxton is not hitting, he can impact the game in so many other ways. He'll be a Gold Glove center fielder in the future, with plus range and arm. Buxton's plus plus speed will make him a basestealing threat. Once he settles in, he will adjust and hit for average and power.
Injuries have really hampered Buxton's development and a full healthy season would help put any questions to rest. The Twins were pleased with how he handled adversity in the big leagues, and they think that bodes well for 2016 and beyond.
The MLB.com report on Seager predicts batting titles could be in his future:
Seager has a higher offensive ceiling than any big league shortstop except for Carlos Correa. He combines a sweet left-handed swing, bat speed, strength, tremendous feel for hitting and the willingness to use all fields. The only knock on Seager at the plate is that he can get somewhat aggressive at times, but that shouldn't prevent him from challenging for batting titles and producing 25 or more homers per season.
Because Seager is 6-foot-4 and a below-average runner, he has faced doubts about his long-term ability to stay at shortstop since he has turned pro. His strong arm and his instincts allow him to make plays, however, and he may stick there longer than expected. Eventually moving to third base wouldn't prevent Seager from being a star, because his bat will play big at any position.
Los Angeles, which advanced to the National League Division Series in 2015 and led the NL with 187 home runs last season, could use one more bat like Seager's to put it over the hump in its quest for the franchise's first World Series since 1998.
The Twins, on the other hand, have not made the playoffs for five seasons, and their 83 wins in 2015 were their most since 2010. They showed improvement from a 70-win 2014 season, which should excite a fanbase that must be eager for Buxton to join the club permanently.
The center fielder could step into a leadership role early on if he plays well considering the Twins projected outfield of Buxton (22 years old), Max Kepler (24) and Eddie Rosario (24) will be among the youngest in all of baseball.