MLB Prospects: 10 Prospects Who Could Be the Next Mike Trout
Since making his 2012 debut on April 28, Mike Trout has been on an absolute tear, turning around the dismal Angels’ season and emerging as a legitimate All-Star and MVP candidate.
Trout’s tools have been on full display, as he’s hitting for both power and average, swiping bases like it’s going out of style and playing eye-opening defense in both left and center field.
Headed into Wednesday’s game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the 20-year-old is batting .345/.406/.552 with 15 stolen bases, a 170 wRC+ and 3.1 fWAR.
But now that he’s in the major leagues, which prospect has the potential to be the next Mike Trout? Considering that Trout is an absolute freak and that I’m not entirely confident that there’s an outfield prospect in the minor leagues capable of matching his production, I’ve lowered the qualifications in order to take a deeper look at some of baseball’s finest prospects.
Therefore, I’m looking at guys who have the potential to be a top-of-the-order hitter with 20 home run, 20 stolen base potential, as well a hit tool capable of producing a .300 batting average.
10. David Dahl, Colorado Rockies
Height/Weight: 6’2”/190 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2012 first round (Oak Mountain HS, Ala.)
Overview: One of the more athletic and toolsy players in the 2012 draft class, David Dahl is a prospect who’s incredibly skilled but still involves a considerable amount of projection.
A left-handed hitter, Dahl has a level, smooth swing and plate discipline that allow him to handle quality pitching and drive the ball across the whole field. He does project to have some power, though it’s never really reared its head, as Dahl appears more focused on roping base hits rather than jumping the yard.
He has the speed to stick in center, though it’s uncertain whether he has the instincts or on-field demeanor to handle the position at the next level. He has all the tools that project well at the next level, though his power remains suspect.
9. Mason Williams, New York Yankees
Height/Weight: 6'0", 150
Drafted/Signed: 2010, fourth round (HS: Winter Garden, Fla.)
Low-A: .306/.362/.471, 16 SB, .165 ISO, 124 wRC+ (51 G)
Overview: In his first professional season, Williams was ranked as the New York-Penn League’s top prospect after leading the league with 28 steals and posting a .349 batting average. He's a toolsy player who is both extremely athletic and projectable.
At the plate, Williams has quick wrists and solid hand-eye coordination and a swing that projects for some power. Right now, he’s mainly an arms/upper body hitter, so the incorporation of his lower half could yield significant results.
He possesses nearly 80-grade speed that plays better in the outfield than it does on the basepaths. He has excellent range in center field and a strong enough arm to be considered for right field. In the running game, Williams has the speed but lacks the intuition of a polished base-stealer.
Williams' current performance at Low-A could earn him a promotion to High-A at some point during the season.
8. Rymer Liriano, San Diego Padres
Height/Weight: 6'0", 210
Drafted/Signed: 2007, Dominican Republic
High-A: .297/.362/.427, 19 SB, .129 ISO, 113 wRC+ (62 G)
Overview: Rymer Liriano is a young outfielder with tons of upside. He struggled at High-A to begin the 2011 season and was subsequently demoted to Single-A, where he garnered Midwest League MVP honors by slashing .319/.383/.499.
He possesses both plus power and speed as well as an above-average knowledge of the strike zone. His ability to hit for a high average is still suspect, but shouldn’t detract from his overall game.
Liriano’s ability to cover ground in center field and his above-average arm should allow him to stay in center field for the time being, but his thick build suggests he might get bulky over time and require a move to right field.
Already on the Padres’ 40-man roster, he’s currently taking another crack at High-A. If it goes well, Liriano could rise quickly through the Padres’ system.
7. Anthony Gose, Toronto Blue Jays
Drafted/Signed: 2008, second round (HS—Bellflower, CA)
Triple-A: .296/.372/.422, 24 SB, .124 ISO, 111 wRC+ (64 G)
Overview: One of the most toolsy players in all of the minor leagues, Gose has game-changing speed that grades out as an easy 70. His plus defense and arm in center field will allow him to stick at the position, as he’s able to cover an obscene amount of ground. He flashed above-average power last season at Double-A, though he’ll likely produce only average pop in the major leagues.
His hit tool is the only thing that stands in the way of an immediate spot in the Blue Jays outfield. Although he did a better job of drawing walks last season, his average didn’t reflect it. His plate discipline will need to improve even more this season—especially his recognition of secondary offerings.
6. Wil Myers, Kansas City Royals
Height/Weight: 6'3", 205
Drafted/Signed: 2009, third round (HS: Wesleyan Academy, N.C.)
Double-A: .343/.414/.731, 27 XBH (13 HR), 4 SB, 42 K/16 BB (35 G)
Triple-A: .333/.407/.719, 17 XBH (9 HR), 20 K/11 BB (26 G)
Overview: A lot of writers penalized Myers for his lack of power in 2011, which stemmed from a knee injury and subsequent infection that limited his ability to drive through the baseball. However, his .360/.481/.674 slash line in the Arizona Fall League indicated that he had regained his power.
Since entering the minor leagues in 2009, Myers has absolutely raked at every level—excluding his 2011 campaign. He has quick wrists and outstanding bat control that allow him to effortlessly drive the ball to right field. By the time he makes his debut, Myers should have 20-plus home run potential and the ability to be a .310-.320 hitter.
His plate discipline is advanced beyond his years—like teammate Eric Hosmer—and he’s comfortable hitting in any count. He’ll be nothing more than an average corner outfielder, although the plus arm that made him an elite catching prospect plays best in right.
Now fully healthy, Myers has arguably been the best hitter in the minors this season and could force his way to Kauffman Stadium much earlier than anyone expected.
5. Gary Brown, San Francisco Giants
Height/Weight: 6'1", 190
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (Cal State Fullerton)
Double-A: .232/.312/.301, 12 XBH, 16 SB, 45 K/19 BB (63 G)
Overview: In his first full season, Brown opened tons of his eyes with his 80-grade speed and ability to make consistent, hard contact. He has a knack for peppering the gaps with line drives and is an extra-base threat—he had 61 last season—the second he stands in the batter’s box.
His speed also makes him an elite defender in center, which compensates for an average arm. His first season at Double-A hasn't exactly gone swimmingly, so don't expect Brown to reach the Major Leagues before late-2013.
Still, he's a hard-nosed competitor with the type of game-changing speed that will be hard to keep in the minors.
4. Jake Marisnick, Toronto Blue Jays
Height/Weight: 6'4", 200
Drafted/Signed: 2009, third round (HS: Riverside Poly, Calif.)
High-A: .262/.338/.431, 22 XBH, 8 SB, 44 K/16 BB (48 G)
Overview: At 6'4", Marisnick is an extremely athletic outfielder who will stick in center field due to his plus range and arm.
After struggling at Low-A after a midseason promotion in 2010, Marisnick repeated the level in 2011 with much better results. His .320 batting average was second-best in the Midwest League, and his power blossomed after making an adjustment to his swing. He can drive the ball out of the park to all fields, and he should continue to get stronger.
He’s an excellent and intelligent base-stealer who was successful in 60 of 71 attempts over 2010 and 2011. Although his numbers aren't overly impressive, Marisnick is still having a solid season at High-A Dunedin, and I expect him to catch fire during the second half. Still, it remains to be seen if he ascends the minors as fast as I anticipate.
3. Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins
Drafted/Signed: 2012, first round (Appling County HS, Ga.)
Overview: Having drawn comparisons to the likes of B.J. Upton and Eric Davis, Byron Buxton is without a doubt the most toolsy and projectable player in the entire 2012 draft class. Also a standout pitcher for his high school, the right-hander originally warranted some draft consideration on the mound, but it’s very clear that his future is in center field.
If Buxton’s hit tool develops as many scouts predict, he has the chance to be a legitimate five-tool player—a term that’s religiously thrown around but rarely used appropriately. The Georgia native has plus speed that is as evident in the outfield as it is on the basepaths, and there’s even room for it to improve. In the outfield, he also has arguably the best prep arm in the draft, having been clocked regularly in the low-90s with plenty of carry.
At the dish, Buxton has plus raw bat speed and an easy swing, which has led many scouts to project that the right-handed hitter will develop at least above-average power. Furthermore, his ability to recognize quality off-speed pitches at such a young age suggests that he’ll be able to hit for average in time, as well.
Considering he’s only 18 years old and therefore has time to fully develop his baseball skills, Buxton won’t be rushed to the major leagues despite the struggling state of his new team. Fans should expect to see the exciting outfielder no earlier than 2016.
2. Bubba Starling, Kansas City Royals
Height/Weight: 6'4", 195
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (HS: Gardner Edgerton, Kan.)
Overview: Any conversation about five-tool prospects isn’t complete without referencing Bubba Starling. Heavily recruited for every sport out of high school, it cost the Royals $7.5 million to lure him away from a scholarship to be a quarterback for the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
At 6'4", 195 pounds, Starling is strong and athletic, and he has already flashed double-plus power. He should hit for some average in the future, although his true value is rooted in his power-speed combination. Also a standout pitcher, Starling has been clocked in the mid-90s off the bump and throws absolute pills from the outfield.
As it is with Mike Trout, it’s difficult to assign a ceiling to Starling. However, there’s no denying that he possesses one of the highest in all of baseball.
1. Christian Yelich, Miami Marlins
Height/Weight: 6'4", 189
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (HS: Westlake, Calif.)
High-A: .276/.354/.519, 21 XBH, 11 SB, 43 K/19 BB (42 G)
Overview: Still just 20 years old, Yelich’s hit tool already grades out as a plus and has room to grow with improvement in his plate discipline. His swing is incredibly smooth and fluid, which allows him to attack pitches throughout the entire strike zone.
Due to the level plane of his swing, Yelich will only hit for slightly above-average power, but I think he’ll have enough to annually belt a quiet 20 to 25. As of now, most of his power is to the pull side, but he should start driving the ball out the other way with more experience.
His easy speed and good instincts on the bases suggest that Yelich will have 20-20, perhaps even 30-30, potential in his prime.
Although he patrolled center field for Low-A Greensboro last season, Yelich profiles as a left fielder due to his fringy arm strength. However, the Marlins will allow him to develop in center for the time being.
George Springer, Houston Astros (High-A)
D.J. Davis, Toronto Blue Jays (2012 first-round draft Pick)
Mitch Haniger, Milwaukee Brewers (2012 first-round Draft Pick)
Aaron Altherr, Philadelphia Phillies (Low-A)
Aaron Hicks, Minnesota Twins (Double-A)
Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates (Triple-A)
Tyler Austin, New York Yankees (Low-A)
Travis Witherspoon, Los Angeles Angels (High-A)