Mike Rosenbaum's End-of-Spring Top 100 MLB Prospects

Mike Rosenbaum@GoldenSombreroMLB Prospects Lead WriterMarch 26, 2014

Mike Rosenbaum's End-of-Spring Top 100 MLB Prospects

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    Javier Baez (No. 5 prospect)
    Javier Baez (No. 5 prospect)Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

    So far this offseason, Prospect Pipeline has broken down each team's top 10 prospects and ranked all the farm systems, and we even looked at baseball's top 100 prospects entering spring training. 

    But with the spring winding down and Opening Day less than a week away, it's time to re-evaluate the early season rankings of Major League Baseball's top prospects.

    For the most part, the placement of the top 25 players is unchanged after spring training. However, there are several prospects, such as Aaron Sanchez, Julio Urias and Stephen Piscotty, who improved their respective rankings thanks to strong performances in major league camp. 

    As is the case with all my rankings, any player who’s accrued 130 at-bats or 50 innings in the major leagues no longer qualifies as a prospect. Additionally, I don’t treat international free agents as true prospects, because there’s no benefit in comparing a 26-year-old Cuban player to an 18-year-old draft pick until they log significant stateside experience.

    We hope everyone enjoys Prospect Pipeline's end-of-spring top 100 prospects for 2014.

How They're Ranked

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    Archie Bradley (No. 7 prospect)
    Archie Bradley (No. 7 prospect)Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

    Position Players

    • Body type/athleticism
    • Speed
    • Hitting mechanics; bat speed
    • Injury history
    • Statistical trends
    • Age vs. level: how well a player fared at a certain level relative to his age and that of the competition
    • Tools: number of projectable tools a player possesses in relation to his position, age and competition; present vs. future tool grades.
    • Hit tool: In the evolution of the prospect landscape, the hit tool is the most important but also the hardest to project
    • League and park factors
    • On-base skills: approach; strike-zone management; pitch recognition
    • Makeup/character
    • Place on organization's depth chart
    • Positional scarcity; up-the-middle potential 

    Pitchers

    • Body type/athleticism/strength
    • Mechanics: delivery; arm speed; release point
    • Age vs. highest level of experience
    • Injury history (durability)
    • Statistical trends
    • Arsenal quality and depth
    • Pitch projections: present vs. future grades
    • Hittability: How tough is he to barrel? Does he keep the ball on the ground/in the park?
    • Control/command: Is he usually around the zone? Does he effectively command his stuff? How much development/refinement is needed?
    • Pitchability: feel (and confidence) for using and sequencing entire arsenal
    • Approach: Does he fearlessly attack and challenge opposing hitters?  
    • Projection: Does he project as a starter? If so, what type? Or is he likely to be relegated to the bullpen? If so, why?

    Resources

    • Firsthand scouting
    • Video analysis
    • Industry contacts
    • Statistics

Close Calls...

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    2B Taylor Lindsey (Los Angeles Angels)
    2B Taylor Lindsey (Los Angeles Angels)Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Jorge Bonifacio, OF, Kansas City Royals

    Taylor Lindsey, 2B, Los Angeles Angels

    Lewis Thorpe, LHP, Minnesota Twins

    Jose Ramirez, RHP, New York Yankees

    Luis Sardinas, SS, Texas Rangers

    Lance McCullers, RHP, Houston Astros

    Edwin Escobar, LHP, San Francisco Giants

    Mitch Nay, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays

    Hunter Renfroe, OF, San Diego Padres

    Marco Gonzales, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals

    Joe Ross, RHP, San Diego Padres

Nos. 96-100

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    OF Nick Williams (Texas Rangers)
    OF Nick Williams (Texas Rangers)Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    100. Daniel Norris, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays

    Age: 20

    Highest Level: High-A 

    ETA: Late 2015

    2013 Stats

    Daniel Norris made big developmental strides during the second half of the 2013 season, adjusting the length of his stride so as to achieve a more consistent release point and better stay in line with his target.

    The left-hander’s fastball works in the 92-94 mph range, and he can reach back for a few additional ticks as needed. His best secondary offering is his slider, which is a swing-and-miss pitch with plus potential, thrown with depth and late bite.

    Norris also has the makings of an above-average changeup, but his command of the pitch will require significant refinement in future seasons. Meanwhile, the southpaw’s curveball lacks projection but should serve as a serviceable, change-of-pace offering at maturity.

    Assuming he repeats his mechanics like he did late last year, Norris should be able to better develop his secondary arsenal next season and take a huge step toward the major leagues.

    99. Nick Williams, OF, Texas Rangers

    Age: 20

    Highest Level: Low-A

    ETA: 2017

    2013 Stats

    A second-round draft pick out of high school in 2012, Nick Williams opened eyes with his pure hitting ability last season while playing for an absolutely loaded Hickory team.

    At 6’3”, 195 pounds, Williams is a premium athlete with a collection of loud and potentially impact tools. The left-handed hitter flat-out rakes, demonstrating an innate ability to barrel and drive the ball courtesy of superb hand-eye coordination.

    Williams has the potential for legitimate plus hit and power tools at maturity, as his impact, plus bat speed allows him to turn around high-end velocity with ease. Even though he shows decent recognition of secondary pitches, he still is an overaggressive hitter who attacks the ball and doesn’t attempt to coax walks.

    Williams is a 70-grade runner with long strides that cater to his overall range in center field, though he played left field for most of the 2013 season in deference to Lewis Brinson. He should continue to see time at both positions moving forward. In general, his arm is below average and is really his only down tool, while his inconsistent reads and routes reflect his overall rawness and highlight areas for improvement.

    Given the amount of swing-and-miss in his game, Williams would benefit from a return to Hickory next season. However, there's no question he has the tools and athleticism to hold his own at a higher level. The only question is whether he's developed the capacity to make the swift adjustments necessary for such an aggressive assignment.

    98. Dominic Smith, 1B, New York Mets

    Age: 18

    Highest Level: Rookie (Appalachian League) 

    ETA: 2016

    2013 Stats

    Lauded for having the most advanced prep bat in the 2013 draft class, Dominic Smith is a mature hitter for his age who projects to hit for both average and power at the highest level.

    The left-handed batter has a smooth but powerful swing as well as an impressive feel for hitting, thanks to good hand-eye coordination and solid approach. He already recognizes spin better than most of his peers, while his knack for working counts should result in favorable on-base rates.

    Smith’s ability to drive the ball from line to line suggests potential for a hit tool that’s above average or better, and his plus raw power should play in games with great frequency moving forward. The one major knock against him is that he can get too pull-happy when his hips trickle forward, which, in turn, prevents him from staying inside the ball. However, that’s an issue with a majority of hitters his age.  

    While Smith is more athletic than his stocky frame suggests, concern about his soft-ish body type and how it will mature physically makes him a no-doubt first-base-only prospect. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though; he’s an instinctual defender who moves well around the bag and can flash plus with the glove.

    97. Tyrone Taylor, OF, Milwaukee Brewers

    Age: 20

    Highest Level: Low-A 

    ETA: 2016

    2013 Stats

    Selected by the Brewers in the second round of the 2012 draft, Tyrone Taylor showed his potential in 2013 during his impressive but under-the-radar full-season debut at Low-A Wisconsin.

    Taylor has an athletic build with broad shoulders and a projectable body. Though he has a fluid swing, the right-handed hitter has too much pre-pitch movement with his hands but gets quieter before initiating swing.

    He has slightly above-average power potential and is still learning how to use it in games. And while his swing lacks the leverage to consistently drive the ball over the fence, he has present gap pop and a feel for using the entire field.

    Taylor is an aggressive defender in center field, with excellent closing speed and the ability to flat-out go get the ball. He has an instinctual first step and takes direct routes, and he’s especially adept at going back and tracking the ball. He has slightly above-average arm strength that plays up, thanks to a quick release, and his throws are accurate with good carry.

    Taylor is one of my top breakout prospects for the 2014 season, as he’s set to open the year in High-A as a 20-year-old. If he takes a step forward in the power department, then we’re talking about an under-the-radar 20-20 candidate.

    96. Alberto Tirado, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

    Age: 19

    Highest Level: Rookie (Appalachian League) 

    ETA: 2017

    2013 Stats

    The Blue Jays managed Alberto Tirado’s workload carefully last season—as they do with all their teenage arms—but that didn’t stop the right-hander from making an indelible impression in the rookie-level Appalachian League. 

    At a wiry 6’1”, 177 pounds, Tirado uses his long, lanky arms to create a consistent downhill plane toward the plate. However, because he’s still growing into his loose arm and slender build, his delivery is still inconsistent and raw. His fastball sits in the low 90s, and his frame suggests more velocity will come with physical maturation.

    His best secondary offering is currently his 81-84 mph changeup, which is naturally effective due to his quick arm, and it projects as a plus pitch at maturity. Tirado also throws a slider in the same velocity range that represents a third plus offering when he fully develops, though it’s presently a raw pitch that lacks consistent shape and will require considerable development.

Nos. 91-95

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    2B Jon Schoop (Baltimore Orioles)
    2B Jon Schoop (Baltimore Orioles)Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    95. Alex Reyes, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

    Age: 19

    Highest Level: Rookie (Appalachian) 

    ETA: 2016

    2013 Stats

    Alex Reyes is one of the more intriguing pitching prospects yet to reach a full-season level, and he already possesses arguably the highest ceiling among pitchers in the Cardinals system.

    The right-hander works comfortably in the 92-95 mph range with his fastball and was gunned as high as 96-97 mph last summer. Reyes’ long arms allow him to create a devastating downhill plane and achieve serious extension toward the plate, which in turn makes him difficult for opposing hitters to lift.

    His curveball is filthy and only going to get better, as he throws it with power from the same release point, creating tight spin and devastating two-plane break. It’s a legit swing-and-miss offering with outstanding pace that he can also throw for a strike early in the count.

    Reyes’ changeup lags behind his fastball-curveball, as expected, though his feel for the pitch steadily improved over the course of the 2013 season. In general, it has the potential to be an above-average pitch at maturity, possibly even more.

    94. Jon Schoop, 2B, Baltimore Orioles

    Age: 22

    Highest Level: MLB

    ETA: Expected to return in 2014

    2013 Stats

    Jon Schoop suffered a back injury last season that cut into his development at Triple-A Norfolk, but he still managed to reach the major leagues as a September call-up and, for good measure, homered in his first start.

    Schoop is a good athlete with present strength, but he isn’t a strong runner or particularly physical ballplayer. That being said, he’s still a versatile defender capable of playing multiple infield positions thanks to an above-average glove and plus arm strength.

    A right-handed batter, Schoop shows above-average bat speed and moderate power potential to all fields. He attacks the ball with his hands, relying on advanced barrel control to square the ball with consistency.

    He still has a tendency to bar his front arm and wrap the bat, which could make him vulnerable to same-side velocity on the hands, but the overall offensive package suggests a future as an everyday second baseman.

    Schoop entered spring training as a long shot to make Baltimore's Opening Day roster, but due to his strong performance and Manny Machado opening the year on the disabled list, the 22-year-old is still in the mix with a week remaining until Opening Day.

    93. Josh Bell, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

    Age: 21

    Highest Level: Low-A

    ETA: Late 2015

    2013 Stats

    Josh Bell is a physically strong and projectable switch-hitter with the potential for above-average-or-better hit and power tools. He employs a short line-drive stroke from the right side of the plate and a more leveraged and power-oriented swing from the left.

    In general, Bell demonstrates a present feel for the strike zone and understands his strengths as a hitter. He hit nearly three times as many doubles as home runs last season, and as he continues to add strength and gain experience against quality pitching, it’s easy to envision him becoming a middle-of-the-order threat capable of hitting 20-25 home runs at maturity. 

    Defensively, Bell possesses enough athleticism and range for either corner-outfield position, though his above-average arm strength is better suited for a career in right field. Regardless of his defensive home, his value will always be tied to his average and power potential.

    92. Jesse Biddle, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies

    Age: 22

    Highest Level: Double-A 

    ETA: Late 2014

    2013 Stats

    Jesse Biddle put up impressive strikeout totals in 2013 at Double-A Reading, but his control and overall effectiveness regressed steadily during a full season against advanced hitters.

    The left-hander has a projectable build with broad shoulders, and his minimum effort and balanced delivery suggests he can be an innings eater at maturity. Biddle’s fastball sits at 90-93 mph, and he works it to both sides of the plate, though his control/command of the pitch noticeably deteriorated during the second half of season.

    His curveball is still his best weapon, thrown with tight spin and late, downer bite, and he’s comfortable throwing it for a strike and spotting it out of the zone to induce whiffs. While Biddle’s improved his changeup over the last two years, it still has a way to go toward becoming an effective offering at the highest level.

    Biddle has the potential for three average-to-plus pitches at maturity, but his secondary arsenal will need further refinement before he gets a crack at The Show.

    91. Phil Ervin, OF, Cincinnati Reds

    Age: 21 

    Highest Level: Low-A 

    ETA: Late 2015

    2013 Stats

    After his selection by the Reds in the first round of the 2013 draft, Phillip Ervin wasted no time making an impact in the professional ranks, as the toolsy outfielder posted impressive numbers across the board while reaching a full-season level.

    A right-handed hitter, Ervin has a quick, compact swing with plus bat speed and a strong top hand that allows him to consistently stay inside the ball. Thanks to his feel for the strike zone and ability to work deep counts, he may hit for a higher average than expected—at least until he reaches more advanced minor league levels.

    And even though he’s an above-average-to-plus runner with decent base-stealing skills, the outfielder’s stocky frame and thick lower half could cost him a step as he matures physically.

    With plenty of physical strength to his frame, Ervin back-legs the ball as well as anyone from the 2013 draft class, using his strong lower half and rotational swing to effortlessly to turn on inner-half offerings.

    Though he has plenty of thump to the pull side, Ervin should develop more opposite-field gap pop through evolution of his approach. He should continue to be developed as a center fielder due to his athleticism and wheels, but the bat and arm strength could also profile at a corner spot if necessary.

Nos. 86-90

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    RHP Rafael Montero (New York Mets)
    RHP Rafael Montero (New York Mets)Elsa/Getty Images

    90. Enny Romero, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays

    Age: 23

    Highest Level: MLB 

    ETA: Expected to return in 2014

    2013 Stats

    Enny Romero has a projectable frame with plenty of room to add strength, and he already possesses the best arm strength in Tampa Bay’s system. However, in spite of reaching the major leagues late last season, the left-hander is still more of a thrower than a pitcher, and he struggles to repeat a consistent release point.

    Romero’s plus fastball is explosive and ranges anywhere from 92 to 97 mph, though his control of the pitch is best described as effectively wild. His power curveball flashes plus potential due to its velocity and downer break, and his changeup is raw but shows at least above-average potential.

    Romero has the stuff to pitch in a major league rotation, but his below-average control resulted in an assignment to Triple-A Durham early in the spring. He has a few other prospects (Jake Odorizzi, Nate Karns) blocking his path to the major leagues, but the southpaw should be up at some point this season.

    89. Hunter Dozier, 3B, Kansas City Royals

    Age: 22

    Highest Level: Low-A

    ETA: 2