Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and the Top 50 Prospects in Baseball
2011 was a sensational year for MLB prospects.
The class of 2011 made many lasting memories, whether it was Ryan Lavarnway's mind-blowing performance in the final week of the season as the Red Sox tried to prevent a historic collapse or Tampa Bay's Matt Moore's stunning outing in Game 1 of the American League Division Series, in which he dominated a powerful Rangers lineup for seven shutout innings.
They also put up some otherworldly numbers. The diminutive Jose Altuve shot down concerns about his size by chasing .400 for the Astros for a time after being called up to the majors for the final 57 games of the season.
Fan favorite and prospect expert non-favorite Paul Goldschmidt tore up the Southern League (.306, 30 HR and 94 RBI in 103 games) and likely would have challenged for the circuit's triple crown had he not made the jump directly to Arizona, where he was a welcomed boost to the D-Backs' division-winning effort.
It was also an excellent year for pitching.
Three players (Matt Moore, Trevor May and Edwar Cabrera) topped the 200-strikeout mark, and another three came withing 20 of joining the terrific trio. The biggest names dominated as expected, with Moore winning 12 games in the minors while posting the second-lowest ERA in baseball (1.92). He also threw a nine-inning no-hitter.
The top right-hander in the minors, Julio Teheran, also performed incredibly, winning 15 games (second in MiLB) and posting a 2.55 ERA in between trips to Atlanta.
Heck, it was even a banner year on the basepaths, where Cincinnati's resident speedster Billy Hamilton stole 103 bases in just 123 attempts and 135 games.
Of all the players who made lasting memories, however, only Moore and Teheran were good enough to warrant inclusion among the top 50 prospects in baseball entering the offseason. Those two arms are joined on this list by 48 others, including the possibly top two prospects of our time, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.
Without further ado, I present the top 50 prospects in the minors, ranked according to both their 2011 production and their helium heading into the 2012 campaign.
Jedd Gyorko, 3B, San Diego Padres
Adding Gyorko to a system that already featured James Darnell and Chase Headley seemed a bit like overkill when the Padres drafted him with their second-round pick last year, but Gyorko more than lived up to his billing.
This year he's hit .333 with 47 doubles, 25 home runs and 114 RBI. He's showed a solid eye at the plate and decent defensive ability. Considering he offers more pop than either Darnell or Headley, the third-base job could be his long-term.
Tyler Thornburg, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers were no doubt hoping to get a seasoned college vet when they selected Thornburg with their third-round selection last year, but they've gotten a whole lot more than just a poised pitcher. In fact, the 22-year-old right-hander put together the best season of any Brewers minor leaguer. In 24 starts, he went 10-6 with a 2.57 ERA and 160 punchouts in just 136.2 innings.
Some are of the opinion that Thornburg would be better suited to a relief role, thanks to his mid to high 90s velocity and his inability to refine a usable third pitch.
Jon Singleton, 1B, Houston Astros
By dealing Singleton to the Astros, the Phillies not only got a star outfielder (Hunter Pence), but they also worked out the kinks of Singleton's progression. Once upon a time blocked at first base by Ryan Howard, Singleton now only has Brett Wallace standing in his way of claiming the long-term job in Houston—the same Wallace who was demoted to the minors earlier this year because of his lack of production.
Singleton put together another solid season, splitting time between the FSL and Cal League, showing great plate discipline (70-to-123 BB:K), the ability to hit for average (.298) and decent power (13 HR).
Trevor May, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
One reason the Phillies felt confident dealing top pitching prospect Jarred Cosart was because they had May, now the team's top overall prospect with the departure of Jonathan Singleton in the same trade. May exploded as a strikeout machine this year, racking up punchouts by the truckload. He finished third in all of the minors with 208 Ks.
That wasn't all May did well. He also contributed 151.1 innings and tossed three complete games, two of which were also shutouts. He held hitters to a .221 batting average and surrendered just eight home runs. Most of all, he emerged as a staff ace and a force to be reckoned with in coming years.
Blake Swihart, C, Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox knew they were going to have to spend big to get Swihart, the top overall catcher in the 2011 draft class, to sign. In the end it took $2.5 million, chump change for Boston, to get the switch-hitting catcher with plenty of raw power and potential above-average defensive ability to agree to forgo a college commitment to the University of Texas.
50) Brett Jackson, OF, Chicago Cubs
Before the season began, Jackson was arguably the only elite prospect left in the Chicago system. While the Cubs have added a few interesting pieces over the last few months, he still represents quite possibly the best all-around package of any player in the Cubs system.
The only question is how long he's going to remain a Cub. Jackson has been rumored to be the main name included in talks between Boston and Chicago as the teams progress in their negotiations for Red Sox GM Theo Epstein.
No doubt, Jackson is a legit five-tool guy who has slightly above-average tools across the board.
Riding the momentum that he generated with a breakout 2010 campaign that saw him hit .297 with 32 doubles, 14 triples, 12 home runs, 66 RBI and 30 steals, Jackson put together another great season.
He began the year with the Cubs' Double-A affiliate and performed strongly in 67 contests, batting .256 with 10 doubles, 10 homers and 15 steals. He showed good patience, drawing 45 walks and posting an on-base percentage near .400.
He struggled out of the gate after a promotion to Triple-A but rebounded strongly and finished the season as the team's top hitter. He clubbed another 10 home runs, giving him 20 for the season, and added six more steals, giving him one of MiLB's only 20 HR-20 SB seasons.
He raised his average all the way to .297, allowing him to finish with a respectable, combined .274 number.
Jackson sparkled on defense and showed great instincts on the basepaths, and those two talents could very well be what initially get him called up. His bat may take some time to adjust to the big leagues, but he should be just fine in the long run, and for the first time in a very long time the Cubs will have a player who is exciting to watch but, as opposed to Carlos Zambrano, for very good reasons.
.274, 84 runs, 23 doubles, five triples, 20 homers, 58 RBI, 73-to-138 BB:K, 21-of-28 SB (Double-A and Triple-A)
49) Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Boston Red Sox
Middlebrooks had the kind of dream season that only former Red Sox prospects can understand.
Despite having one of the best offensive seasons of any third baseman in the minor leagues, the only exception being guys who spent chunks of their season in the hitter-friendly Cal League, the 23-year-old was consistently overshadowed by the play of Adrian Gonzalez, the MVP-caliber year of Jacoby Ellsbury, constant trade talks, the final-week heroics of former teammate Ryan Lavarnway and eventually the Sox's late-season collapse.
Such is life as a prospect in the Boston system.
Middlebrooks hit .285 on the season with 23 homers and 94 RBI. Most of his damage came with the Sox's Double-A club, although he did receive a late-season promotion to Triple-A, where he slugged two homers and drove in eight runs in 16 games.
As impressive as Middlebrooks' offensive outburst was (it earned him a spot on Team USA in the Futures Game), his defensive awakening was even better. He committed three fewer errors and frequently made highlight-worthy plays. Bottom line...he showed he has what it takes to play third base for the long run.
Barring some catastrophic injury to a big leaguer, Middlebrooks will return to Triple-A to try to prove that his .161 showing, along with 18 strikeouts in 56 at-bats, was an aberration.
.285, 62 runs, 26 doubles, one triple, 23 homers, 94 RBI, 10-of-11 SB (Double-A, Triple-A and Low-A)
48) Anthony Gose, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
The fact that a 20-year-old outfielder who just had a terrific season at the Double-A level ranks No. 48 on this list just tells you how much talent there currently is in the minor leagues.
While Jays fans will no doubt have their concerns about Gose ranking this low, he has enough question marks to keep him from cracking the top 40.
For starters, there's his plate discipline. Gose struck out 154 times in 509 at-bats this season, a rate of more than 30 percent. Those aren't the kinds of numbers that usually signify "big-league star"—unless, of course, your name is Adam Dunn.
Another hole in Gose's game, and one that is directly related to his strikeout issues, is the fact that in four professional seasons, never once has he finished with a batting average above. 262. For a guy whose best tools are his speed and instincts on the basepaths, that doesn't bode well.
Still, for all the question marks, there's no denying Gose's talents. His speed is as good as any player in the minors, as evidenced by his 70 steals for Double-A New Hampshire this year. Even more impressive was the fact that he was only caught 15 times, down from 32 last season. A success rate of 82 percent on the basepaths bodes very well indeed.
Gose also surprised everyone this year and showed some solid pop, slugging 15 home runs, nearly doubling his career total in just 137 games. He also upped his walk total to a career-high 62, leading many, especially Jays fans, to come to the conclusion that he's starting to hone his batting eye.
MLB.com had this to say about Gose prior to the season:
The Blue Jays are playing a more up-tempo kind of game and Gose's skills should fit perfectly once he gets to the big leagues. He's still raw in some aspects of the game, but he made a very good impression in big league camp this spring, going 9-for-10 in stolen base attempts. He's a plus runner who is a plus defender in centre field. As he learns to be more selective and read pitchers better on the bases...
.253, 87 runs, 20 doubles, seven triples, 16 home runs, 59 RBI, 62-to-154 BB:K, 70-of-85 stolen bases (Double-A)
47) Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners
The Mariners started off the season with a pretty strong farm system. They had one of the top hitter-pitcher combos in all of baseball with polished hitter Dustin Ackley and fireballer Michael Pineda.
Those two graduated to the majors early on, but they also managed to add some solid pieces throughout the course of the season, including Francisco Martinez (from Detroit), Chance Ruffin (Detroit) and Trayvon Robinson (Los Angeles).
Through it all, though, the top-performing prospect was a guy who began the season late and with little fanfare. Over the course of 18 starts, however, first-year player Taijuan Walker showed he had the stuff and the polish to grow into one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball.
The results were astounding: a 2.89 ERA, a nine-inning complete game, 113 strikeouts in 96.2 innings and just 39 walks. Somehow, Walker was able to achieve those numbers playing the majority of the season at age 18. He turned 19 in early August.
What's even more impressive is that Walker hasn't been playing baseball for that long and was actually considered by far the rawest prospect taken in the early parts of last year's draft. There were experts who thought he might spend all of the 2011 campaign in rookie ball or at best a short-season league.
Instead, he took the Midwest League by storm and emerged as one of the circuit's top prospects.
6-5, 2.89 ERA, 18 games started, one complete game, 96.2 innings, 113-to-39 K:BB, four homers allowed (Low-A)
46) Wilin Rosario, C, Colorado Rockies
Rosario likely would have received a big-league call-up last season if not for an injury that prematurely ended his 2010 season.
This year he repeated Double-A and showed all of the same traits that have made him one of the top all-around catchers in the minor leagues. He hit 21 home runs in 102 games and dealt well with the fact that the Rockies didn't promote him to Triple-A.
After a slow start and some definite pressing at the plate (see 91 strikeouts and just 19 walks), Rosario caught fire. In the two months leading up to his promotion to Colorado he slugged 10 homers.
Finally, in September he got his shot, getting sent straight from Tulsa to the big leagues. He performed decently but showed a lot of the same flaws that plagued him in the minor leagues.
Rosario will likely stick in Colorado due to the fact that in addition to his offensive prowess, he also happens to be one of the top defensive backstops in baseball, posting a 40 percent career caught-stealing rate.
.249, 52 runs, 15 doubles, one triple, 21 homers, 48 RBI, 19-to-91 BB:K, 1-of-2 SB (Double-A)
.208, three runs, one double, two homers, three RBI, 1-to-8 BB:K, 1-of-3 SB (Majors)
45) Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Kansas City Royals
Odorizzi built a solid reputation for himself over in Milwaukee, where he ranked as that team's top prospect before coming over in the Zack Greinke deal. He posted a 3.43 ERA and racked up 135 strikeouts in 120.2 innings last year. This season, however, he took his game to a whole new level.
He hit the ground running, winning five of his first 15 starts for the Wilmington Blue Rocks. He posted a 2.87 ERA in 15 starts and struck out an astonishing 103 batters in just 78.1 innings. That was more than enough to warrant a promotion to Double-A, where he struggled but managed to find some consistency towards the end of the campaign.
In his final start of the year, he threw seven innings of one-hit, shutout ball, a fitting end to an amazing year.
Odorizzi finished the '11 campaign with a lower ERA and more strikeouts than the better-known, more highly ranked members of the Royals pitching prospects group that includes Mike Montgomery, Chris Dwyer, Tim Melville and John Lamb.
10-7, 3.73 ERA, 27 games started, 147 innings, 157-to-44 K:BB, 17 homers allowed (High-A and Double-A)
44) Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies
After a slow start, Arenado got going in May and never slowed down.
He hit .358 in June and drove in at least 21 runs in five different months. He ended the year, all of which was spent in the California League, as Colorado's organizational leader with 122 RBI. That number was also good to take home the minor league RBI title.
For the second consecutive season Arenado was prolific with the doubles, rapping 32 (41 in 2010), although playing in the higher altitudes of the hitter-friendly Cal League turned a lot of his two-baggers into home runs, and he ended up with 10 more long balls (20) than he had in 2010.
A major developmental step forward in Arenado's game occurred in his plate discipline. He was never an easy guy to strike out (52 K in 373 ABs in 2010), but this year he became more willing to take a walk. He improved his walk total from 19 to 47 and struck just once more than he did last year despite getting more than 150 extra at-bats.
Defensively Arenado also had a strong year. Once considered the long-term heir to Todd Helton at first base, he improved his play at third so much that he's now considered likely to stick there. In 50 more games he only committed three more errors than last year.
Obviously, Arenado has the raw power to rank with some of the top sluggers in the minors, but the fact that he's so patient at the plate should make him one of the Rockies' top prospects entering 2012.
.298, 82 runs, 32 doubles, three triples, 20 homers, 122 RBI, 47-to-53 BB:K, 2-of-3 SB (High-A)
43) Michael Choice, OF, Oakland Athletics
When Michael Choice showed up at A's spring training this year—less than a year after being drafted, mind you—he opened plenty of eyes, both with his physique (possibly unrivaled even on the big-league squad) and with his raw power (arguably the best of any player in the minors).
It was no surprise, then, that Choice was one of just two Oakland farmhands to crack the 30-home run mark. Watching him take batting practice and tee off on Cal League pitchers was very similar to reliving Marlins outfielder Mike Stanton tear his way through the Southern League last year.
Like Stanton at the beginning of 2010, Choice was a home run waiting to happen. He hit one every 15 at-bats this season and paced the highly offensive Cal League with his final total.
He also ranked among the leaders in RBI, slugging percentage, OPS and total bases. In a stunning development, also Choice continued to improve his plate discipline as the season wore on and actually cut down on his strikeouts on a monthly basis, although he still finished near the top in that category among A's minor leaguers.
.285, 79 runs, 28 doubles, one triple, 30 homers, 82 RBI, 61-to-134 BB:K, 9-of-14 SB (High-A)
42) Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins
Sano's combination of power and youth is enough to catapult him up the list of top MLB prospects.
With another fine season he could be looking at a top-25 or even top-10 ranking heading into 2013.
This past season was truly a breakout one for the 18-year-old, who signed with Minnesota back in late 2009. After a mediocre showing in 2010 (seven HR and 60 Ks in 212 at-bats), Sano exploded, hitting 20 home runs in five more contests (66), driving in 59 runs and slugging an astounding .637.
He was a doubles machine (18) and showed well-timed speed, legging out seven triples.
Strikeouts continue to plague the youngster, as he upped his total to 77 in 50 more at-bats than he received in 2010. He drew one fewer walk and saw both his batting average and on-base percentage drop from his 2010 numbers.
Sano was twice named Appy League Player of the Week and was named a Baseball America Postseason Rookie All-Star.
.292, 58 runs, 18 doubles, seven triples, 20 homers, 59 RBI, 23-to-77 BB:K, 5-of-9 SB (Rookie Ball)
41) Christian Yelich, OF, Florida Marlins
The Marlins were so sure about the ability of their first-round pick from 2010 that they had no problem sending Christian Yelich to the South Atlantic League to start the 2011 campaign. In fact, Yelich already had six games of experience he earned at the end of last year, a testament to how advanced the then-19-year-old's hitting ability was.
This season Yelich, still just 19, continued to show Florida it made the right call. In 122 games, all of which were spent with Greensboro, he hit .312 with 32 doubles, 15 home runs, 77 RBI and 32 steals. You could make the argument that there was no better player than Yelich. He was named the league's Player of the Month for July and was also named a Sally League All-Star.
Yelich was drafted as a first baseman but moved to the outfield this year. The move paid off, as he showed incredible athleticism and fantastic speed, both in the field and on the basepaths. His 32 steals ranked him in a tie for sixth place, and his success rate of 86 percent was one of the best percentages as well.
Yelich was at his best during July, when he hit .372, drove in 20 runs, slugged four homers and stole 11 bases in 12 attempts.
With one full season under his belt, Yelich is one of the top outfielders in the minor leagues, hands down.
.312, 73 runs, 32 doubles, one triple, 15 homers, 77 RBI, 55-to-102 BB:K, 32-of-37 SB (Low-A)
40) George Springer, OF, Houston Astros
Springer is a rare breed: a legitimate 30-30 threat who actually made it to college and played all three seasons.
Most players with Springer's talent get scooped up and offered way more money than they can turn down out of high school, making him all that more appealing. He's a potential five-tool outfielder with a decent amount of experience.
Springer's best tool is his potential above-average power. He set a school record last season with 18 homers, and he profiles as a 25-35 HR hitter as a pro. He's also blessed with incredible speed, which was on display last season as well when he stole 33 bases, getting caught only twice.
Springer could very well be a 30-30 guy in the majors while offering decent defense in one of the outfield corners. He's been playing a good bit of center field in college, but as he fills out and focuses more on his power stroke, he's likely be forced to slide over.
Houston has been sorely lacking elite position player talent and appears to be on the right track, selecting two incredibly talented athletes in back-to-back seasons.
39) Starling Marte, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
It's been a known fact for several years that Starling Marte's ceiling is one of the highest in the Pittsburgh system.
This year, however, the pieces finally came together, and Marte put together a campaign worthy of a top prospect. In addition to his first All-Star nod, Marte was also named to the Futures Game World roster and looked exceptional performing against the best prospects in the game.
He hit .332 in 129 games, all with Double-A Altoona. He ranked near the top of the Eastern League leaderboard with 38 doubles, eight triples and 91 runs. He also paced his own squad with 24 steals and finished second in home runs and RBI. For his efforts, the 22-year-old outfielder earned team MVP honors in his fifth year with the Pirates.
Marte has always been considered a premium talent, but until this year he had never appeared in more than 68 contests in a single season, limiting his exposure to the rigors and trials of a full season. He responded incredibly well and should end the season as one of the team's top prospects.
.332, 91 runs, 38 doubles, eight triples, 12 homers, 50 RBI, 22-to-100 BB:K, 24-of-36 SB (Double-A)
38) Grant Green, SS, Oakland Athletics
Green was the darling of the Futures Game during the All-Star weekend, going 2-for-2 with two doubles and an RBI. He also scored a run.
Also, after unexpectedly being asked to move over to second base after not taking any ground balls there for months, Green handled all of his defensive chances better than anyone expected.
Not only was he one of just three players (Jose Altuve and Austin Romine were the others) to notch two hits, but he also won game MVP honors after scoring the game-tying run in the bottom of the eighth inning.
The event also seemed to jump-start his bat. After making his appearance in the game, Green hit over .300 the rest of the way.
For the season Green hit a respectable .291 with nine homers and 62 RBI for Oakland's Double-A squad. The power numbers are way down from 2010, when he hit 20 home runs, but he's still hitting at a solid clip while showing greater patience, and the A's are more than confident that the power will return.
Green is currently playing in the Arizona Fall League, where he's already homered once in three games.
.291, 76 runs, 33 doubles, one triple, nine homers, 62 RBI, 39-to-119 BB:K, 6-of-14 SB (Double-A)
37) Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals
Wong was one of just a handful of legitimate second baseman prospects in the 2011 MLB draft class, and his combination of fielding acumen and hitting ability, which according to many ranked second to only Anthony Rendon, made him an easy first-round pick.
Wong exploded onto the scene with a stellar freshman season at Hawaii, during which he hit .341 with 11 homers and 52 RBI. He added in 11 steals and a very impressive BB-to-K ratio (25-to-23) to boot.
He followed up his rookie campaign with an even more impressive 2010 season. Wong hit .357 with four triples, seven homers, 40 RBI and 57 runs. He stole 19 bases and had 16 more walks than strikeouts.
He boosted his stock even further with an impressive performance in the Cape Cod League. Wong hit .341 with three homers and 11 RBI in 38 contests. He also led the league with 22 steals and posted another strong walk ratio (18-to-13). He was rewarded for his efforts with the league MVP trophy.
Wong returned to Hawaii for his junior season and raked at a record pace, hitting .378 with seven homers and 53 RBI. He paced Hawaii in nearly every offensive category, including walks, steals and slugging percentage.
Wong has excellent plate discipline, and it was on display during his 47-game cameo in the Midwest League for St. Louis. He drew three fewer walks than strikeouts and hit .335 in 194 at-bats, showing good pop (five HR) and speed (nine SB).
.335, 39 runs, 15 doubles, two triples, five homers, 25 RBI, 21-to-24 BB:K, 9-of-14 SB (Low-A)
36) C.J. Cron, 1B, Los Angeles Angels
With maybe one or two exceptions, there has been no hotter hitter over the past year than C.J. Cron.
He ranked very high nationally in most offensive categories during his junior season at Utah, finishing the year with a career-high .434 average, 15 homers and 59 RBI. He also rapped 26 doubles.
He followed that up with a first-round selection in the June draft by Los Angeles and went right to work proving his worth ($1.47 million bonus) for the team's rookie league squad. In 34 games, he hit .308 with 13 homers and 41 RBI before succumbing to a dislocated kneecap that forced him to have surgery.
Cron has always been a strong hitter; see his .431 average and 20 home runs in 2010 and his .337 average and 11 homers as a freshman. Those numbers he accomplished with the old college bats. The damage he did this past year has come with the new equipment, which was supposed to keep offense down and limit the number of home runs from hitters.
Cron began his career as a catcher and has gone back and forth from there to first base, where he filled in last year after an injury to the Utes' primary first baseman and where he's played mostly this season, expanding his defensive chops.
He played first during pro debut and will remain there long-term.
.308, 30 runs, five doubles, one triple, 13 homers, 41 RBI, 10-to-34 BB:K (Rookie ball)
35) Taylor Jungmann, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
Despite concerns about his delivery and throwing mechanics, Jungmann was unstoppable in 2011.
The former Longhorns ace was named the Dick Howser Player of the Year for his performance during his junior season (13-3, 1.60 ERA), and the combination of his success and his filthy repertoire of pitches helped him earn a first-round selection in the June draft by Milwaukee.
The Brewers coveted Jungmann not only for his ideal size (6'6'', 220 pounds) and track record of being a winner (32 victories in three seasons), but also for his consistent velocity on the mound. Jungmann has been clocked as high as 97 mph, but sits comfortably in the 93-96 mph range. He's excellent at maintaining his velocity deep into games, and as a result, he tossed five complete games for Texas this season.
While Jungmann's secondary stuff isn't as impressive as fellow Top 15 pick Jed Bradley, also tabbed by Milwaukee, it's certainly good enough to rank him inside the Top 40.
Given his advanced feel for pitching and his track record of winning wherever he pitches, it wouldn't be a total shock to see Jungmann start in High-A or even Double-A.
34) Javier Baez, 3B, Chicago Cubs
While Baez didn't receive the attention that some of his fellow Top 10 picks did, he has one thing that no one else from the 2011 draft class has, a comparison to Hanley Ramirez.
And while the youngster still has a long ways to go to even warrant being mentioned in the same sentence as the Marlins slugger, Baez is plenty talented. His electric bat was considered one of the best in the draft class, regardless of eligibility (college or high school), and he projects to have slightly above-average power down the road.
In addition, he's also an incredible athlete who played both shortstop and third base this past season. He's going to stick at third base, but there was talk before the draft that he could play any number of positions, including catcher and second base.
He has good, not great, speed, but he makes up for it with great athleticism and excellent instincts on the basepaths and on the field.
Basically, he's everything the Cubs thought they were getting with Josh Vitters.
Baez signed too late to get meaningful at-bats this season, but he did look sharp at the plate in the few games he did appear in.
.278, 2 R, 2 2B, 1 RBI, 0-to-4 BB:K, 2-for-2 SB (Rookie Ball and Low-A)
33) Jed Bradley, LHP, Milwaukee Brewers
Bradley had a breakout season for Georgia Tech and parlayed his success into a Top 15 selection and a $2 million signing bonus.
He was already a known name in college baseball circles, but the steps he took this year have not only cemented his spot in the first round, but also made many question whether he just might be the top overall pitcher from the college ranks.
It's easy to think that, with his polished approach and his repertoire that includes a low 90s fastball that can touch 95 mph. He also has an above-average changeup and a potential above-average slider. In addition, Bradley's fastball has some natural sink on it, making him a better bet to succeed since he won't be chasing the strikeouts like some of the other top pitchers with better velocity.
For the season, Bradley posted a very deceiving 7-3 record, the worst of any of Tech's starting pitchers.
He was roughed up a few times, and as a result, only averaged about six innings per start, which isn't that much in a year where pitchers racked up complete games by the boatload. On the plus side, batters only hit .239 off of him, and he served up just one home run.
32) Matt Harvey, RHP, New York Mets
The Mets' first-round pick from 2010, Harvey has seamlessly navigated through the team's farm system.
In this, his first season with the team, he shined brighter than any other individual, reaching Double-A and needing just 14 starts to do it. The right-hander dominated in his early season stint with the St. Lucie Mets, winning eight of those 14 starts and posting a 2.37 ERA. He racked up an astonishing 92 strikeouts in just 76 innings and mesmerized FSL hitters with a mid 90s fastball and a couple of solid breaking pitches.
Despite spending just two and a half months in the FSL, Harvey was named Pitcher of the Week twice and awarded a spot on the midseason All-Star roster. He also made an appearances at the Futures Game.
The Mets decided to get aggressive with him, just as the Indians had done with another former UNC ace, Alex White, and promoted him to Double-A midseason. The challenge in the Eastern League was greater, but by season's end Harvey was posting the same kinds of numbers he did in the FSL.
He finished with an organization best 156 strikeouts, held hitters to a .246 average and surrendered just nine long balls all year.
13-5, 3.32 ERA, 26 games started, 135.2 IP, 156-to-47 K:BB, 9 HR allowed (High-A and Double-A)
31) Mike Montgomery, LHP, Kansas City Royals
Montgomery has arguably the highest ceiling of any Royals pitcher, and that's quite an impressive feat considering the quality, and depth, of their pitching talent.
Part of it has to do with the fact that Montgomery is left-handed, but the majority of it is because of his stellar stuff. His fastball can touch the mid-90s, although it sits comfortably in the 91-94 mph range. He combines that stellar pitch with a lethal curveball and an improving changeup.
That three-pitch combo allowed Montgomery to breeze through the lower levels of the Kansas City system, posting a sub-2.50 ERA through his first three seasons. As evidenced by his struggles in 2011, however, he's going to need to sharpen his command of each pitch in order to succeed at the higher minor league levels and