Bleacher Report's 'Future 50': Ranking MLB's Stars of the FutureJune 22, 2016
Bleacher Report's 'Future 50': Ranking MLB's Stars of the Future
Hello and welcome to Bleacher Report's Future 50.
This project aims to identify the 50 most promising prospects in Major League Baseball. Players must have rookie eligibility to qualify for consideration, so anyone with more than 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the majors isn't on the radar.
Aside from that, it's up to how each prospect fares in a scoring system that assesses his upside.
For position players, this means looking at hitting, power, speed, arm and defense tools. The individual point allotments vary depending on position. But in keeping with the traditional 20-80 scouting scale, they all add up to 80 possible points.
The same goes for pitchers, who are graded based on their fastballs, breaking balls, changeups and command tools. In case anyone is expecting to see them, no relief prospects made the cut. This is a starters-only list.
When all the points are tallied, some players end up with the same score. That turns the rankings into a judgment call, in which case upside is the deciding factor.
Read on for more detailed breakdowns on how the scoring works, and then the list itself.
How They're Ranked: Hitters
For the position-player scoring, there are a few things to note:
- Like the overall scores, the individual numbers draw inspiration from the 20-80 scale. A score of 50 denotes average, with anything below being fringy or below average and anything higher being above average, plus or double-plus.
- The point allotments mostly mirror the 20-80 scale. But in some cases, extra consideration is given to players who have especially good tools relative to the standards of a given position.
- That said, don't expect to see many perfect scores. True 80-grade tools are rare.
- Players are assigned to the positions they're currently playing, but any potential moves to other positions will have a bearing on the scores.
Here's how the points are distributed for each position:
- C: Defense (28), Hitting (16), Arm (16), Power (16), Speed (4)
- 1B: Power (32), Hitting (24), Defense (12), Arm (8), Speed (4)
- 2B: Hitting (24), Defense (16), Power (16), Speed (16), Arm (8)
- 3B: Power (24), Hitting (24), Arm (16), Defense (12), Speed (4)
- SS: Defense (20), Arm (16), Hitting (16), Power (16), Speed (12)
- LF: Power (24), Hitting (20), Defense (16), Arm (12), Speed (8)
- CF: Defense (20), Hitting (16), Speed (16), Power (16), Arm (12)
- RF: Power (24), Hitting (20), Arm (16), Defense (12), Speed (8)
A combination of statistics, video scouting and, in cases where neither were available, expert scouting reports from sources like Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, ESPN.com and FanGraphs informed the scores.
Garden-variety statistics come from Baseball-Reference.com, FanGraphs and MiLB.com. In addition, MLBFarm.com helped provide spray charts and batted-ball types. All stats are current through Monday, June 20.
How They're Ranked: Pitchers
For pitchers, the scoring is more straightforward:
- Fastball: 20 points
- Breaking ball: 16 points
- Changeup: 16 points
- Command: 28 points
Basic statistics such as strikeout rates (K/9) and walk rates (BB/9) are used in support of the scoring. Once again, all stats are current through Monday, June 20.
The scoring for pitchers also incorporates video and, when available, measurable data from Brooks Baseball and Baseball Prospectus. You'll also find more up-to-date scouting notes for pitchers than you will for hitters.
Now then, who's ready to start the show?
50. Kyle Tucker, CF, Houston Astros
Kyle Tucker is living up to his reputation as a pure hitter, batting .306 with a .374 on-base percentage in his first full pro season. His approach is producing walks (9.4 BB%) without many strikeouts (17.4 K%). He's calm in the box and shows plenty of bat speed. Further, the lefty swinger's spray chart shows almost an equal approach to right and left field. That makes the 19-year-old tough to defend.
Tucker only has one home run this season, which highlights that he doesn't have the same raw power as his older brother, Preston. He only has 190 pounds on a 6'4" frame, however, giving him room to fill out. His swing has some loft in addition to bat speed, two things that are good for cultivating in-game power. He may not have much present power, but he has a good deal of potential power.
Tucker has 41 stolen bases in only 119 minor league games. Those numbers make him look like a burner on paper. But he's not, and he won't get any faster if he does indeed bulk up. The word from Christopher Crawford of Baseball Prospectus, however, is Tucker gets "outstanding jumps" on the basepaths. Those will help him maintain some level of productive baserunning.
Tucker is already up to seven outfield assists this season, but that could be because baserunners are testing the book on him. He's not regarded as having a great arm, and he doesn't challenge the notion on video. It looks like a garden-variety center field arm.
We're counting Tucker as a center fielder based on where he's gotten the bulk of his starts in 2016, but it's not a given that he is a center fielder. Neither his size nor his speed project well in center field. And because of his iffy arm strength, he's probably not a right fielder either. He's likely due for left field in the long run, where his tools will allow him to be a solid-to-good defender.
49. Tim Anderson, SS, Chicago White Sox
Tim Anderson hit .301 in the minors before getting the call, but he has his faults. An aggressive approach and a swing-and-miss problem restricted his OBP to just .340. With a 3.1 BB% and 22.7 K% at Triple-A, those issues weren't getting better before the 22-year-old got the call. The good news is he keeps the ball out of the air with a short, quick swing, with an emphasis up the middle of the field. He may never master OBP, but such talents are good for keeping one's average up.
Anderson is capable of giving the ball a ride, but it's not by accident he only hit 19 homers with a .426 slugging percentage in the minors. He's more of a gap-power guy, and he'll have to get the ball airborne more often if he wants to expand his horizons. If he can do that, the wiry strength he has in his 6'1", 185-pound frame could lead to double-digit homers.
Anderson stole 94 bases in parts of four minor league seasons, peaking at 49 last year. That all stems from plus-plus speed that's going to make him a base-stealing threat in the majors, albeit with fewer chances due to his low OBP ceiling.
Though Anderson doesn't have the arm strength of an Andrelton Simmons, it's good enough for shortstop. He releases the ball quickly and gets good zip on his throws to first base. There are bigger questions where his defense is concerned, however.
Due to his arm strength and the range he gets from his speed, Anderson has at least half the ingredients of a great defensive shortstop. What he's lacked are the fundamentals, as iffy hands and feet have contributed to a major problem with boots. If time doesn't heal this shortcoming, a move to the outfield could be necessary.
48. Robert Stephenson, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
Robert Stephenson used to be known for blistering fastballs that routinely touched the upper 90s. Now he's more of a low- to mid-90s guy with his four-seamer. There also may be no real room for development now that he's 23 and already made his MLB debut. That's still good velocity, though, and Stephenson has enough arm-side run on his fastball to make it a dangerous pitch.
In light of the glowing reviews Stephenson's curveball has gotten, what he showed in his brief time in the majors was disappointing. It didn't look like a plus-plus breaking ball, a la Adam Wainwright. It's a good pitch, though, and it has good looping action and some arm-side run that will ensure it gets its share of whiffs.
Stephenson's changeup hasn't been as well-regarded as his curveball, but it's been better since the Reds let him go back to the grip he used in high school. It now features splitter-like diving action in addition to some arm-side fade. It's arguably nastier than his curve and should serve him well against lefties.
With a career 4.1 BB/9 in the minors, walks have been a problem for Stephenson. This will be difficult to fix. He uses a drop-and-drive delivery with plenty of moving parts, making it a hard one to repeat. It's possible he'd be better suited for relief work in the long run, as he could cut loose and overcome his fringy command with sheer velocity.
47. Javier Guerra, SS, San Diego Padres
Javier Guerra is only a career .254 hitter, with his biggest problem being a strikeout habit that's gotten worse as the competition has gotten tougher. The lefty swinger does have quiet, uncomplicated hitting mechanics, but there's also some length in his swing, and he doesn't have great bat speed to balance it. The 20-year-old's hit tool may never be anything special.
With 21 homers since the start of last season, power appears to be Guerra's true calling as a hitter. He has some uppercut in his swing, and he already has a strong lower half. It should get even stronger as he adds more weight (currently 155 pounds) to his 5'11" frame. It's almost exclusively pull power, though, and it's hard to imagine him filling out to a point where he expands significantly on that.
Guerra has stolen only 18 bases in parts of four minor league seasons. That backs up the general opinion that he has middling speed. Exhibit A: his 20 career caught-stealings.
In a recent viewing of Guerra, Wilson Karaman of Baseball Prospectus rated his arm a 65 on the 20-80 scale. "Easy plus velocity plays up with quick transfer," he wrote. That fits with the general opinion of Guerra's arm, which is more than good enough for shortstop.
This is Guerra's primary calling card. There are plenty of video highlights that tease his ability to make spectacular plays. Despite his suboptimal speed, that comes from his quick jumps and smart reads, as well as an ability to finish plays with his arm.
46. Albert Almora, CF, Chicago Cubs
After a rocky 2014, Albert Almora's offense has come back to life. He hit .272 at Double-A in 2015 and .318 at Triple-A this year before being called up. The 22-year-old has always been able to make contact with his simple, well-balanced swing. The difference is how much better his contact has been. You can see it in his pre- and post-2015 spray charts. It all points toward good batting averages to come.
Although Almora has made better contact over the last two years, it hasn't helped his power as much as you'd expect. There's not a ton of raw pop packed into his 6'2", 190-pound frame. He has more doubles and triples power than home run power.
You'd expect a player with Almora's hitting profile to be a burner, but he's not. He only stole 33 bases in parts of five minor league seasons. There's nothing wrong with his instincts, but most consider his speed to be average.
Almora has long been praised for having an above-average arm, and now we know what it looks like through the eyes of Statcast. He topped 90 mph on a throw that didn't even seem to require all his effort, and it was accurate to boot. That's a good arm, especially for a center fielder.
Almora's instincts may not allow his speed to play up on the basepaths, but they do on defense. He's the kind of center fielder who gets good jumps and takes good routes, making him appear to be gliding across the outfield. Add in his plus arm, and you've got a premium defender.
45. Amir Garrett, LHP, Cincinnati Reds
Amir Garrett's fastball is just one reason why his giving up basketball to pursue baseball is looking like a good choice. He can sit in the mid-90s with his velocity, and the extension he gets with his 6'5" frame probably makes it appear even faster. There's some good arm-side run there, too, making Garrett's fastball a plus pitch. At 24 years old, though, he may not have more room for developing the offering.
The main knock on Garrett's slider has been that it's inconsistent. It flashes plus, but it also flashes average and everywhere in between. The bright side, as JJ Cooper of Baseball America noted last year, is Garrett's slider has evolved from strictly a chase pitch into an offering he can throw for strikes. That counts for something.
Garrett has struggled to develop a changeup. But there's been optimism about its chances to develop into a solid pitch, and that seems well warranted. What we're seeing looks like a changeup that falls off the table at the last second. That's a weapon.
Unlike fellow Reds left-hander Cody Reed, Garrett's control hasn't drastically improved throughout his pro career. He's still walking over three batters per nine innings. It's good that he can throw his fastball and slider for strikes, but everything comes from a stiff delivery that's hard to keep in sync. There are worse command profiles than his but better ones, too.
44. Ozzie Albies, SS, Atlanta Braves
Ozzie Albies' .313 career average and .378 career OBP explain why he's already playing in Triple-A at 19. He's a switch-hitter whose quick wrists and bat speed allow him to make plenty of contact (career 12.8 K%), with an approach that focuses up the middle and the other way when he bats lefty. Per Michael Peng of MiLB.com, he's admitted to being surprised by the quality of pitching at Triple-A, where he's hitting only .242. But given his age, this is not yet worth panicking over.
Albies has hit all of four home runs in 225 career games, which basically says it all. He doesn't get much power out of his 5'9", 160-pound frame, but his approach isn't geared toward power anyway. He'll find the gaps now and again, but his power will be subpar even by shortstop standards.
What Albies lacks in power, he almost makes up for in speed. He topped 20 steals in his first pro season in 2014 and made a run at 30 in 2015. He has the plus-plus speed to keep pushing the envelope in that department, and his good on-base skills don't hurt either.
As Garrett Spain covered at SB Nation in 2015, there have been conflicting reports on Albies' arm. Some rate it as plus. Others are cooler on it. There seems to be nobody saying his arm is too poor for shortstop, however.
Albies' speed and solid arm strength give him the physical tools to play a good shortstop, and the Braves have gotten an up-close look at his quick reactions and willingness to get dirty. The one gripe to be made is his slight issue with errors, but it's not as extreme a problem as you'll come across with other young shortstops. And at his age, there's lots of time for Albies to smooth it out.
43. Franklin Barreto, SS, Oakland Athletics
Franklin Barreto is only hitting .236 at Double-A in 2016, in part because his aggressive approach has been more of an issue than it was at lower levels. There's still plenty to like about the swing that led to a .302 average at High-A last year, though. Barreto doesn't have complicated mechanics and is short to the ball with a level line-drive swing that produces contact in all directions. It's hit a snag, but the 20-year-old's hit tool still looks like a plus asset.
Barreto stands at 5'10" but has a solid 190 pounds on him. And as he showed in posting a .500 slugging percentage in 2015, he has good natural pop. It mainly applies to left field, but he's got some opposite-field power. One question is whether there's enough loft in his swing to get the ball airborne with consistency, but he should be a good power-hitting shortstop regardless.
Barreto has swiped 61 bases in four seasons, including 29 last year. That's reflective of speed that's at least above average and probably a tick better.
Arm strength is the least of Barreto's issues at shortstop. His arm is widely considered to be above-average, with some publications (i.e. MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus) giving it a 60 grade.
Barreto has the arm and athleticism for shortstop, but his 97 career errors are a red flag. His fundamentals have needed work, and Christopher Crawford of Baseball Prospectus has questioned his effort. If anything, the best hope may involve a move to second base. Barreto is already getting reps there, and it's a position that may suit him better anyway.
42. A.J. Reed, 1B, Houston Astros
Nobody could get A.J. Reed out in 2015, as he hit .340 with a .432 OBP. At the base of that performance was an outstanding eye (13.8 BB%) and a smooth left-handed swing that produced plenty of hard contact. But without great bat speed, Reed has a potential issue with hitting good velocity. He's also admitted to having trouble with an off-speed-heavy diet this year, per Bryant-Jon Anteola of the Fresno Bee. As such, the .257 average he has at Triple-A this year does raise questions about his hit tool.
Reed's sweet swing comes from a 6'4", 275-pound frame, so the power comes about as easily as you'd expect. He hit 34 home runs last year and has 10 this year despite his struggles. He hasn't had trouble getting the ball in the air and has blasted home runs in every direction. He may not have Joey Gallo's light-tower power, but Reed's pop is legit.
This is the big reason why Reed hasn't played a position other than first base. You wouldn't expect a guy his size to move well, and he doesn't. He's a slow runner, even by first base standards.
First basemen aren't known for having great arms, but Reed is an exception. He was a part-time pitcher at Kentucky, so Astros fans need not fear him showing up in many Lucas Duda lowlights.
Though Reed doesn't run well, it's widely observed that he's nimble for a guy his size. He also gets marks for good hands. Between these and his arm, there's no need to rush him into a designated hitter role.
41. Aaron Judge, RF, New York Yankees
Aaron Judge has a better hit tool than you'd expect to see from a 6'7", 275-pound giant, but his .237 average and .322 OBP at Triple-A raise questions. He's always going to have the hindrance of a big strike zone, and swings and misses may be unavoidable until he trims some movement from his swing. As such, the 25.9 K% he has at Triple-A isn't misleading. The 24-year-old's strong eye and easy ability to make loud contact are redeeming qualities, but these alone don't add up to a great hit tool.
Judge is similar in size to Giancarlo Stanton (6'6", 245 lbs) and has similar raw power. Making it show up in games has been a process, however. Judge has been more focused on having good at-bats than on driving the ball. To this extent, it's a good sign he's been getting the ball in the air more consistently in 2016, posting just a 35.0 GB%. That's the kind of habit that will allow his power to shine if he keeps it up.
If you'll pardon a Game of Thrones reference, Judge isn't quite the Mountain That Flies. But he is a better runner than you'd expect a guy with his size to be, as he's capable of covering ground with long strides.
Judge's arm is one of many things that makes him a good fit for right field. Its strength is short of Jose Guillen-esque, but it's the kind of plus that's going to make a mockery of runners who dare test him.
This may be where it's fairest to compare Judge to Stanton. The Miami Marlins slugger is a better defender than people realize, and Judge is as well. Between his solid speed and his above-average arm strength, there's no need for him to be rushed into first base duty.
40. Hunter Renfroe, RF, San Diego Padres
After cleaning up his swing and embracing the mental aspect of the game, Hunter Renfroe has hit .320 since arriving at Triple-A. But don't read too much into that. The 24-year-old is a power-first hitter who doesn't draw walks, so he must keep his strikeouts low. His big leg kick and active hands likely won't allow him to carry his 17.5 K% into the majors. Also, he has little knowledge of the opposite field.
Renfroe's power was the main draw when the Padres picked him in the first round in 2013, and it's coming to fruition. After hitting 41 home runs across 2014 and 2015, he's already up to 15 homers with a .578 slugging percentage this year. He has strength in his 6'1", 220-pound frame, and he's plenty good at getting the ball in the air. Between that and his pull habit, he resembles a Toronto Blue Jays slugger.
A power-first hitter with an iffy hit tool? Guy probably can't run, right? Wrong. Renfroe's not a burner, but he moves well for a slugger. His speed isn't plus, but it's a tick above average.
Renfroe's arm strength has been noted as being his other plus tool besides his power, and it shows. Here's him nailing a runner stretching for third base on a throw from the warning track. It was a two-hopper, sure, but that's still good for a desperation heave.
Renfroe's solid speed and plus arm give him an ideal right field profile, and there's nothing that challenges the idea. The video referenced above suggests he may struggle on balls he has to go back on, but otherwise his athleticism will allow him to play a good right field.
39. Josh Bell, 1B, Pittsburgh Pirates
Tougher competition hasn't hurt Josh Bell's hit tool. The switch-hitter has hit over .300 with high OBPs at Double-A and Triple-A, showing off an excellent feel for the strike zone (11.1 BB%) and a strong contact habit (13.1 K%). He has a smoother swing from the left side, and it's allowed him to barrel the ball all over the yard. However, he's no slouch from the right side either. As a switch-hitter with an advanced approach and a feel for the barrel, the 23-year-old's profile practically screams "HIT TOOL!"
For a guy listed at 6'2" and 245 pounds, Bell's power has been underwhelming. He's hit only 41 home runs in parts of five seasons, with a curiously high 49.6 ground-ball percentage since 2013. The raw power is there, though, and it's showed up more since he altered his leg kick last summer. With 11 homers and a .532 slugging percentage at Triple-A this season, he's trending in the right direction.
Though Bell can't be confused for a burner, he has stolen 21 bases in his minor league career and is quicker on his feet than your typical first baseman. They're a lumbering breed. He's not.
Had Bell stayed in right field, we might be talking about him having only average arm strength. But since he's now at first base, what was an average arm in right field is now an above-average arm at first base.
Bell didn't start playing first base on a full-time basis until last season, and he admitted it was a stressful transition, per Cory Giger of the Altoona Mirror. But while he may still be a work in progress, his athleticism should allow him to at least become a competent fielder.
38. Nick Williams, LF, Philadelphia Phillies
Nick Williams has his faults, including an an aggressive approach that's led to just a 5.6 BB% and a 24.4 K%. But he is a .295 career hitter despite these issues, for which he can thank a quick, compact swing that barrels balls to all fields. The 22-year-old is now hitting .291 at Triple-A, a pretty good tease of what he'll do in the majors.
Williams has slugged a solid .488 and been good for roughly 15 homers per year. At the heart of that is good raw power, and the lefty swinger makes the most of it by lacing extra-base hits to all parts of the yard. He's likely not going to be a big-time home run hitter, but he'll add plenty of doubles and triples to the home runs he does hit.
He's only stolen 47 bases in parts of five seasons, but Williams is faster than your typical left fielder. Though his 25 caught-stealings reflect how his feel for stealing bags needs refinement, he has enough speed to steal 20 per year in the majors. Though he's probably only a 60-grade runner, that's worthy of extra consideration relative to left field standards.
Nobody thinks Williams has a cannon for an arm. But as far as left fielders go, it's at worst average and at best slightly above average. Put simply, it's the kind of arm runners will have to think twice about testing.
Williams' arm would be fine for a center fielder, and his speed allows him to close ground in a hurry when he does play the position. But as Jeffrey Paternostro of Baseball Prospectus wrote before the season, the book on Williams says he takes too many "interesting" routes to balls. If that leaves him stuck in left field, the good news is his speed will give him good range for the position regardless of his routes.
37. Jorge Mateo, SS, New York Yankees
Jorge Mateo is a .279 career hitter who's keeping it up with a .277 average at High-A. The 20-year-old's big flaw is a 21.4 K% that's too high for a leadoff-type hitter. But in the long run, his short, quick stroke should allow him to cut down on strikeouts. Factor in a ground-ball tendency befitting of his speed and a solid eye (9.7 career BB%), and you get a guy who should be a good hitting shortstop.
The book on Mateo says he has good pop for a speed-first player, but his power potential only goes so high. With home run power that doesn't extend far beyond the left field foul pole, the righty swinger is more of a gap-power guy. And as long as he keeps the ball primarily on the ground, his power is going to have a natural cap on it.
No matter where you look—MLB.com, Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America, ESPN.com—you'll see Mateo graded as an 80 runner. That's as good as it gets, and it's hard to question it. Mateo has stolen 170 bases in five seasons, and he sure looks fast on video.
The book on Mateo at MLB.com notes there were questions about his arm initially, but not anymore. Steve Givarz of Baseball Prospectus has even gone so far as to rate Mateo's arm as a plus tool, as his throws now feature good accuracy and carry.
Due to his arm and speed, Mateo should have good range. The big question is his consistency. He's been prone to errors, topping out at 30 boots last season. This points to split opinions on how good his hands are. The amount of development he still has in front of him allows for some optimism, but not too much.
36. Amed Rosario, SS, New York Mets
Amed Rosario has upped his average from the mid-.200s to .309 at High-A this season, showing an improved approach that's led to more walks (7.5 BB%) and fewer strikeouts (12.5 K%). A swing he struggled to control earlier is now on point after he gained 10 pounds of muscle. The 20-year-old is hitting ropes up the middle and the other way. And at his age, what's good could get better.
The extra weight has also helped Rosario's power, as he's already tied his previous career high of three home runs. Power is still not his thing, though, nor is it ever likely to be. His approach is geared toward making contact and hitting it where they ain't. One of the byproducts is a steady stream of ground balls.
Grades for Rosario's speed range from above average to plus to, as Baseball America noted before the season, to double-plus in some circles. But now, it's fair to wonder if this is where his weight gain isn't doing him favors. He's up to 13 steals this season but has also tied his career high with six caught-stealings. He's not slow, but those double-plus grades are on thin ice.
There was never a question whether Rosario had the arm for shortstop, and there's still not. It's universally graded as a plus tool.
Although Rosario's arm was always well-regarded, there was a time when he was viewed as a future third baseman because of the growth potential in his 6'2" frame. But not anymore. He's bulked up, but he hasn't sacrificed any defensive athleticism. His plus arm comes with good hands and good actions, resulting in above-average defense at shortstop.
35. Raul A. Mondesi, SS, Kansas City Royals
Even before his performance-enhancing drug suspension, Raul A. Mondesi was struggling at Double-A with a .250 average and .304 OBP. He has an over-aggressive approach and a swing-and-miss tendency, leading to more than four times as many strikeouts as walks in his career. The 20-year-old has a nice swing with good bat speed from both sides of the plate, however. That allows for optimism that he'll find himself if he's given more time to get up to speed with his competition.
The young Mondesi doesn't have the same stocky, powerful build as his old man, Raul. Because of that, power probably never will be his thing. But he has good bat speed with a swing that features some loft and pull power from the left side of the plate. That should help ensure decent power by shortstop standards.
Mondesi has stolen 82 bags in parts of five seasons despite his OBP limitations. That reflects his double-plus speed, which could make him one of the better stolen base artists in the game if he can get his hit tool squared away.
This is one thing Mondesi has inherited from his old man. The elder Mondesi had a cannon for an arm, and Christopher Crawford of Baseball Prospectus is of the mind that the younger Mondesi has inherited one for himself. That appears to be more or less the consensus.
Mondesi has the athleticism and arm for shortstop, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. He's also been praised for smooth actions, good hands and a quick transfer, which even show up on video of him taking infield practice. He's had issues with errors in the past, but that should be less of a problem in his future. This is a potential Gold Glover.
34. Anthony Alford, CF, Toronto Blue Jays
Anthony Alford's .205 average at High-A this year doesn't look good, but that a knee injury set him back makes that easy to forgive for now. The bigger issue is a swing-and-miss problem (26.0 career K%) that needs fixing, which will likely involve calming down his over-complicated swing mechanics. The good news is he's shown a terrific eye (12.5 BB%) for a guy who only recently committed to baseball full time. And when the 21-year-old righty does hit the ball, he's shown a focus up the middle and the other way.
Alford hit only four home runs in his first full season last year. Given that his swing has produced a 51.3 GB%, neither that nor his one homer this year is surprising. There's room for growth, though. With a rock-solid 6'1", 215-pound frame, Alford has the strength to develop more home run power. With experience, he could learn to do so to salvage a fringe-average power tool.
Alford's speed made him a dual-threat quarterback when he was still trying to play football. Going forward, it should lead to plenty of stolen bases. The speed that's led to 42 steals in only 50 tries in his career is plus-plus all the way.
You can't be a quarterback with at least some arm strength. And though nobody thinks Alford has an especially great arm, it's no worse than most of the arms you see in center field.
John Sickels of SB Nation wrote last year that Alford's "defense in center field can be erratic." Given his relative newcomer status, that's understandable. But he has plenty of time to establish some consistency with his reads and routes. Once he does, his athleticism will take him the rest of the way.
33. Francis Martes, RHP, Houston Astros
Francis Martes' 225 pounds give him a thick build for his 6'1" frame, and that's helped him add velocity. As James Chipman of FanGraphs chronicled last summer, Martes has gone from sitting in the low 90s to the 95-97 range. Reports have him touching as high as 99 this season. Add in some "wicked" late life, and you get an easy plus pitch. And since he's only 20, there may still be some untapped potential.
Martes' breaking ball is arguably more impressive than his fastball. It features some tight spin and sharp two-plane break that make it a true hammer of a pitch. As then-High-A Lancaster manager Omar Lopez said in 2015, per Evan Drellich, then of the Houston Chronicle: "When that pitch is good in an outing, oh my God, he’s unhittable.”
Martes' changeup doesn't get the marks his fastball and curveball get. And if this is it, that's understandable. He's still young enough to develop it into a useful pitch, but for now there's nothing there.
Martes showed good command at Single-A and High-A last year, but he's walked 4.4 batters per nine innings since moving to Double-A. This highlights the need for him to stay in control of his quick-twitch delivery. But since he doesn't feature an excess of moving parts, he should be able to repeat his delivery and throw strikes as he gains more experience. His potential is better than his present.
32. Rafael Devers, 3B, Boston Red Sox
Rafael Devers' .233 average at High-A makes for a good excuse to note he has some work to do. He must quiet his overactive hands and get more experience against southpaws. However, he has excellent bat speed that produces loud contact in all directions. Also, his 23-to-43 walk-to-strikeout ratio reflects a good approach for a 19-year-old. As such, it's not surprising his average is creeping up. Dude can hit.
Devers owns just 22 homers and a .434 slugging percentage in parts of three seasons, but don't be fooled. He has plus-plus power packed into his 6'0", 195-pound frame, and he'll add to it as he adds more weight. For now, he needs to work on developing power the other way and translating his uppercut swing into more fly balls. Once he does these things, he'll have 30-homer potential.
Athleticism is more of a requirement at third base than it used to be, so this part of Devers' game sticks out like a sore thumb. He has below-average speed, and it's not going to get better as he bulks up.
Keith Law of ESPN.com rates Devers' arm as a 70 on the 20-80 scale, but he seems to be alone there. Grades for his arm generally fall more in the 50-60 range. That's above-average but short of great.
Devers has the arm to play third base, and everyone agrees he has the hands for the position, too. Where opinions differ is on his range, but there's room for optimism. He may not be fast, but he's good on his feet for a big guy. The big worry, as noted by Mike Rosenbaum of MLB.com, is Devers will eventually outgrow third base. But in the near term, he can be a capable defender.
31. Trea Turner, SS, Washington Nationals
With a .303 average and .360 OBP at Triple-A, Trea Turner's bat isn't the reason he's not already a Nats regular. His 9.2 career BB% reflects an approach that will play well. And though his swing has moving parts that will make it difficult for him to overcome his slight issue (19.8 career K%) with whiffs, a line-drive stroke that produces good contact to all parts of the yard helps make up for it. Whiffs aside, the 22-year-old fits the mold of a pesky leadoff type.
Turner has a slight frame at 6'1" and 185 pounds. That and his speed force him into an approach geared more toward batting average than slugging percentage. That shows in how rarely he hits fly balls. He does have decent pull home run power, though, and his speed will make him a threat to take second or third on any ball in the gap.
Though he hasn't topped 30 steals in any of his minor league seasons, Turner is already up to 22 in 23 tries at Triple-A this year. That comes from what's at least 70-grade speed, and he told Michael Peng of MiLB.com his improved efficiency comes from "knowing the game" better. Between this skill and his OBP prowess, he's going to be a major baserunning threat.
Turner's arm is in the good-not-great realm. His throws from short are unlikely to make him a Statcast darling, but he has above-average arm strength that should keep him at the position.
A good arm and good speed are two ingredients that can hypothetically lead to rangy plays at shortstop. Lo and behold, Turner has teased he's equal to the task. But both he and the Nationals are aware his defense could be better. Though the physical tools are there, Adam Hayes of Baseball Prospectus wrote in May that Turner's reads and timing need work. With experience, those issues should smooth out.
30. Clint Frazier, RF, Cleveland Indians
Clint Frazier is a .282 career hitter whose physical attributes make him look even better. He has a simple setup and a swing that features blink-and-you'll-miss-it bat speed. He's shown he can hit with authority to any field. He also shows off a good eye, posting a 10.9 career BB%. His 25.3 career K% highlights the 21-year-old's swing-and-miss habit, though. He could be stuck with it thanks to his aggressiveness.
This is where Frazier's bat speed comes in handy, as his 41 career home runs actually undersell his power potential. He's hit plenty of rockets to his pull side, but he also has pop the other way. He's already sturdily built at 6'1" and 190 pounds, but there may yet be more power to come as he bulks up. Eventually, he'll be a big dude who lights up the exit velocity leaderboards.
Though it's Frazier's power that deserves the bulk of the attention, he can also run a bit. He's stolen 39 bases as a pro, and he has the above-average speed to turn that into solid baserunning in the majors.
Frazier doesn't have the kind of cannon arm strength that you like to see in right field, but his arm is generally graded as above-average. Adam McInturff of Baseball Prospectus thinks Frazier has enough arm for right field, which is good, because that's where he projects best.
With above-average speed and arm strength, Frazier has the physical tools to cut it as a quality corner outfielder. This wouldn't have been the case if he was still playing primarily in center field, as McInturff noted he lacks the first-step quickness and route-running smoothness that good center fielders have. But in either left or right field, he'll have good range and enough arm.
29. Brett Phillips, CF, Milwaukee Brewers
Brett Phillips is a .290 career hitter, but he's found some trouble at Double-A. He's run into more strikeouts, and that may not be fixed until he calms down his herky-jerky mechanics. But on its own, his swing is nice and compact. He's also continued to show off a solid eye (9.7 BB% at Double-A). In the long run, there's enough there for the 22-year-old to find his stride.
With nine homers in 2016, Phillips has now hit 42 long balls since 2014. It's especially encouraging to see the lefty slugging some opposite-field home runs. His swing isn't necessarily geared for power, which limits his potential. But he has enough raw pop to project as a solid power source.
Phillips hasn't been an efficient base stealer in the minors, as his 55 successes come with 34 fails. But that's not a reflection of his speed, which is above average. Fun fact: He once got a double out of an infield pop-up.
Though no video highlights are readily available, Phillips' arm is generally regarded as his best asset. It earns 70 grades at MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus. That would be a great arm for right field. In center field, it's beyond great.
Phillips' arm arguably makes him better suited to play right field than center field, but he doesn't have to fake it in center field. Though nobody sees him as an instinctive marvel in the spirit of Jackie Bradley Jr., his good speed and route-running ability allow him to run down plenty of balls in center. That and his arm will make him a good defensive asset.
28. Sean Newcomb, LHP, Atlanta Braves
Sean Newcomb is a big left-hander (6'5", 255 pounds) with a big fastball. He can easily sit in the 94-95 mph range with his velocity, which can also creep into the upper 90s. There's some late movement on it as well. The 23-year-old may not have room to add to his fastball, but it's already 65-grade pitch for Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America and a 70-grade pitch for MLB.com.
Newcomb's fastball isn't the only reason he's struck out 10.5 batters per nine innings in his pro career. He also features a sharp curveball with enough two-plane break to back-foot even the best right-handed hitters. It's a plus pitch that should at least be a spin-rate oddity in the majors and should earn many whiffs.
Newcomb's changeup lags behind his fastball and curveball, but it's better than it used to be. Keith Law of ESPN.com remarked this is due just as much to Newcomb's arm action as the action on the pitch itself. It looks like a fastball out of his hand. Given that hitters need to gear up for his velocity, that alone should have 'em fooled.
You can watch Newcomb throw and see the kind of easy, low-effort delivery you'd expect from such a big guy. But walks have been a huge problem all the same. He's walked 4.8 batters per nine innings in his career. The fact that his delivery doesn't need an overhaul is good news, and his size and low effort level allow for optimism. Even still, his command needs work.
27. David Dahl, CF, Colorado Rockies
Health issues haven't made it easy for David Dahl, 22, to improve his approach. But he's making progress with a career-best 11.9 BB% at Double-A this year. The downside is swings and misses (25.2 K%) are also a part of his game, but his uncomplicated mechanics and quick swing could allow that to fade over time. Factor in a preference for left field and center field, and the .303 career hitter looks like a sweet swinger who should hit for average with good OBPs.
Dahl has already cranked 13 homers and slugged .522 in 2016, a power surge he chalks up to being aggressive early in counts, per SB Nation's Isaac Marks. These numbers oversell his pop, but his power projection is solid. He's a sturdy 6'2", 195 pounds, and he has a Christian Yelich-like tendency of only pulling balls he means to drive over the fence. And remember, his future home is Coors Field.
Dahl has swiped 72 bags and been caught just 24 times, topping 20 steals in each of the last two seasons. He has the above-average speed to carry that level of production into the majors, giving him a well-rounded offensive profile.
Dahl doesn't have a great arm by center field standards, but it may be better than most. The general agreement is he has above-average arm strength, with good accuracy to boot.
You better have a good defensive profile if you want to play center field in Denver. Dahl does. His good speed allows him to cover large patches of ground, and his reads and jumps are good, too. Factor in his arm, and it's all there.
26. Gleyber Torres, SS, Chicago Cubs
Although Gleyber Torres is only a .280 career hitter, it's easy to see why his bat is so well-regarded. His swing is compact and features good bat speed. And with an approach geared up the middle and the other way, it's easy to make the Derek Jeter comp. One gripe is his 21.1 K%, but his 9.9 BB% highlights how that's related to his willingness to work counts. For a 19-year-old at High-A, this is solid stuff.
Torres is muscling up more often in 2016, clubbing eight homers with a .420 slugging percentage. This is slightly misleading, though. Torres' swing doesn't have much loft, as evidenced by his tendency toward ground balls. It also doesn't help that he prefers to avoid pulling the ball. More in-game power is going to happen as he adds weight to his 6'1" frame, sure, but he's not geared to make the most of it.
Torres topped 20 steals last year and is on his way again with 11 in 2016. He's not a burner by shortstop standards, but he has solid speed. And judging by his four caught-stealings, he's learning how to pick his battles after struggling in 2014 and 2015.
There's no disagreement about the quality of Torres' arm. His arm strength is widely rated as plus, with Baseball Prospectus also noting he gets good carry on his throws. That'll make him easy to work with as far as his first basemen are concerned.
Torres doesn't get much range out of his speed, but he has other talents to make up for that. His instincts allow for good breaks and crafty plays on balls, and he has the hands and arm strength to finish the deal. Addison Russell's presence at the major league level means Torres' future position may be elsewhere, but he won't be moved due to a lack of ability.
25. Brendan Rodgers, SS, Colorado Rockies
Brendan Rodgers has cooled off after a superb start at Single-A, but he's still hitting a solid .291. His swing is easy on the eyes, featuring little superfluous movement and good bat speed. His hard-hit balls have been to his pull side, but he's done fine using the whole field. He could stand to draw more walks, but his K% is down from where it was in Rookie ball in 2015. And at 19, what's good can get better.
Rodgers teased good power potential by clubbing three opposite-field homers last season, and he's already up to nine homers with a .484 slugging percentage in 2016. He's solidly built at 6'0" and 180 pounds, and his swing puts the ball in the air with authority to all directions. If anything, the only question is whether he'll choose not to sell out for power in favor of consistency.
Grades for Rodgers' speed (see MLB.com and Baseball America) fall around 50 on the 20-80 scale. That doesn't mean he's slow, but it means his speed is really just OK for a shortstop. With only six steals to his name, he's not challenging that perception.
It's hard to find a consensus on Rodgers' arm strength, but there's a general agreement that it's good enough for shortstop. Dan Farnsworth of FanGraphs, for example, writes that Rodgers has "has plenty of arm strength and can throw from every angle."
Rodgers' arm may be good enough for him to stick at shortstop, but it's not a foregone conclusion that he will. Though he gets good marks for his hands and feel for the position, he may not be mobile enough. He moves around well enough now, but that will change if he adds weight to his frame. His future home may be at third base, where he could be an above-average defender.
24. Andrew Benintendi, CF, Boston Red Sox
Andrew Benintendi started hitting right away after he was drafted in 2015 and continued in 2016 with a .314 average and .431 OBP at High-A. He's since been humbled with a .254 average at Double-A, but that's trending up. And overall, there's still plenty to like. He's walked more than he's struck out as a pro. And with a simple setup and a quick swing, he's produced plenty of quality contact. One gripe is that he has a slight pull tendency. Otherwise, the 21-year-old has one of the best hit tools in the minors.
With only two home runs in 2016, Benintendi seems to have the kind of modest power you'd expect from a guy listed at 5'10" and 170 pounds. He slugged 11 home runs in 2015, however, and could one day be a 20-homer guy. His swing gets the ball in the air regularly. That combined with his pull habit should allow what power he has to play up.
Benintendi has swiped 22 bags in 30 tries in 117 career games. That's not so much due to great speed. As Adam McInturff observed for Baseball Prospectus, Benintendi gets the most of merely good speed due to his instincts. He should be a pest on the basepaths.
Once again, you don't necessarily need a great arm to stick in center. Which is good, because grades for Benintendi's arm tend to fall between fringe-average and average.
Benintendi's speed gives him one tool that comes in handy in center field, and he's also shown off an ability to read and track balls well. There's enough there to make him a solid defensive center fielder. But with Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. already on the roster, Benintendi will probably end up being a really good left fielder rather than a merely good center fielder.
23. Dansby Swanson, SS, Atlanta Braves
Dansby Swanson, last year's No. 1 pick, has been slowed by a .242 average at Double-A. But he's hit .274 overall as a pro, and that's the more telling number. His advanced approach has led to a good balance between walks (47) and strikeouts (63). He has a swing that's as uncomplicated as any you'll see, and it's produced contact all over the field. The 22-year-old is hitting a bump now, but he's definitely going to hit in the long run.
Swanson has a solid frame at 6'1" and 190 pounds, but he's not likely to be much of a power hitter. His approach is geared toward consistency first and foremost, leading to a contact game that's more about hitting it where they ain't rather than hitting it over them. With five homers and a .426 slugging percentage this season, however, he's showing he will turn on one occasionally.
If Swanson's hit tool isn't his best skill, his speed is. He's swiped 10 bases in 12 tries this year, showing off speed that grades as plus. Between that and his OBP prowess, he should be a 20-30 steal guy.
Swanson's arm doesn't get mistaken for some of the rocket arms you'll find at shortstop, but it's generally graded as good enough to stick at the position. For evidence in favor of the idea, here's him making a long throw from the hole.
Swanson's arm and athleticism are good enough for shortstop. So is his feel for the position, as he gets good marks for his instincts and footwork. He started his college career at second base but has yet to play there in the pros. Nor is he likely to anytime soon. Fellow Braves prospect Ozzie Albies is a good shortstop in his own right, but Swanson looks like the better choice to stay at short in the long run.
22. Braden Shipley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Braden Shipley's fastball climbed as high as 98 mph when he was pitching at Nevada, but his game isn't so much about velocity now. The slightly undersized (6'1" and 190) 24-year-old sits in the low 90s with arm-side action that's good for racking up ground balls. When he does need some extra velo, however, he can reach back for 95-96.
You'd expect Shipley to be a sinker-slider pitcher, but his breaking ball is actually a power curveball. And a good one, at that. Its low-80s velocity and sharp 12-to-6 movement can beat hitters in the strike zone, and they can be made to look even more helpless when he buries it in the dirt. Either way, a plus pitch.
Shipley is the relatively rare pitching prospect whose changeup might be as effective as his breaking ball. His changeup doesn't have the kind of Felix Hernandez-esque splitter action that will give hitters nightmares, but it has good fade. He further adds to its deception by consistently throwing it with the same arm action he uses on his fastball.
Shipley has battled some mechanical issues here and there in the past, but the 1.2 BB/9 he has at Triple-A this season is a better reflection of his control than his past walks rates. He works on both sides of the zone with his fastball, and everything comes from a simple, well-balanced delivery. His past inconsistency shouldn't be ignored, but it shouldn't condemn him either.
21. Jose Berrios, RHP, Minnesota Twins
The book on Jose Berrios has always said he has more velocity than you'd expect from a 6'0" and 185-pound pitcher. He proved that right by sitting in the 93-94 mph range in the majors. The catch is that his four-seamer is awfully straight. The 22-year-old would do well to prioritize his two-seamer instead. As PitcherList.com can show, it has movement that can range from "good" to "eye-popping."
Berrios throws a curveball that has always looked good to the naked eye. Now it's time to wonder if it's actually been underrated. Berrios' curve has featured enough glove-side run in the majors to rival even Sonny Gray. It should be a dangerous swing-and-miss pitch in the long run. Until it's seen again in the majors, enjoy it in slow-motion.
There's a general difference of opinion on Berrios' changeup. He made it easy to see why in his time with the Twins. He's had trouble getting a feel for it, and he's also shown a changeup with nasty splitter-like downward action (check around the 0:15 mark). If he can achieve that kind of movement consistently, it's going to be another really good secondary offering.
Berrios has been effective at limiting walks throughout his career, posting just a 2.6 BB/9 in the minors. But walks have been more of a problem in 2016, leading to a 4.6 overall BB/9. This could be a theme here and there due to how he needs every ounce of strength in his small frame to repeat his delivery. He should mostly be solid, but there is room for error.
20. Jose De Leon, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
On velocity alone, Jose De Leon doesn't have one of the better fastballs out there. He can push it over 95, but he mostly sits in the 92-94 mph range. His fastball often seems to play better than its velocity, though. Due to some natural deception in his delivery and good late life, it explodes on hitters. With his MLB debut fast approaching, De Leon's fastball is a future spin-rate poster boy.
For a guy with a career 12.5 K/9 in the minors, De Leon's slider is surprisingly mediocre. Its low-80s velocity gives it good velocity differential from his heat, but it lacks the eye-popping movement associated with plus or plus-plus sliders. He'll need to develop it if he wants to have a truly reliable swing-and-miss pitch against right-handers.
His slider may need work, but De Leon's changeup is nasty. It's a big-time swing-and-miss pitch, featuring late fade that makes it look like it just plain stops in midair. It's already a go-to pitch for left-handers, and it has a chance to surprise everyone as a weapon against right-handed batters.
All De Leon's strikeouts come with good control, too. He's posted just a 2.9 BB/9 in his career, and that number is only getting lower as he gets experience. There are moving parts in his delivery, but he's direct to the plate and capable of working anywhere in the zone with his fastball. He's an example of how, when it comes to strikeouts, throwing strikes is at least as important as missing bats.
19. Joey Gallo, 3B, Texas Rangers
We all know Joey Gallo has a problem with strikeouts. He's whiffed in 34.6 percent of his professional plate appearances, peaking at 46.3 percent in his MLB cameo in 2015. There's probably no fixing this, as his 6'5" frame and long swing will always create holes. It's a good thing he has patience (14.7 career BB%) and the ability to clobber anything he makes contact with.
True 80-grade power is among the rarest things in baseball. But that's what Gallo has. The 22-year-old generates huge raw pop, and his long swing has more than enough loft and bat speed to send balls whistling through the air. The lefty swinger's power isn't confined to his pull side, either, as he can also hit 'em out to left. Now then, go enjoy a video of a Gallo home run.
You won't mistake Gallo for Billy Hamilton by looking at him, nor by watching him run. He's a physical specimen, but one who has average speed at best.
Gallo has a power arm to go with his power bat. He used to moonlight as a pitcher in high school, where he was clocked in the high 90s with his fastball. That translates to plus-plus arm strength at third base.
Gallo has the arm for the hot corner, but he didn't impress in his time in the majors last year. His size is a natural disadvantage, and his so-so athleticism is another one. He's not quick enough to pass as an above-average third baseman. He's better off in the outfield, where his arm is more of a weapon.
18. Manuel Margot, CF, San Diego Padres
Even Manuel Margot's .284 career average and .349 OBP may undersell his hit tool. He has the big leg kick of a power hitter, but he stays back and balanced and makes plenty of contact (11.2 career K%) in all directions. His aggression has been a sticking point in the past, but he's not entirely unwilling to work a walk. With a .292 average and .348 OBP at Triple-A this season, the 21-year-old is knocking.
Margot has hit only 26 home runs and racked up just a .422 slugging percentage in parts of five seasons. Like speedy hitters should, he mostly keeps the ball on the ground with a 47.6 GB%. That speed and his gap power will translate into a strong doubles and triples habit, but his over-the-fence power is going to be limited.
Margot has landed in the 40-steal range in each of the last two seasons, and is on his way again with 20 steals in 2016. Some of that is owed to his on-base skills, but it's mostly due to speed that's at least plus and arguably plus-plus. Many more steals are in his future.
Margot has the speed for center field, but the not-so-great news is he also has a center fielder's arm. Baseball Prospectus describes it as a "fringe-average arm." That doesn't mean Margot has Ben Revere's arm, but it does mean you can't expect many eye-popping throws out of him.
As good as Margot's speed plays on the basepaths, it might play even better in the outfield. He can run down anything, be it a line drive in the gap or a drive to the wall. That's what you get when you combine great speed with good reads. He should have no problem covering Petco Park's outfield like a blanket.
17. Austin Meadows, CF, Pittsburgh Pirates
Austin Meadows is a career .312 hitter with a .377 OBP. His left-handed swing is nice and simple, and his quick wrists allow for plenty of contact all over the yard. And as his 9.0 BB% can vouch, he has a feel for working pitchers. After getting off to a slow start at Double-A, he rebounded to hit hit .311 with a .365 OBP to earn a promotion to Triple-A. It appears the 21-year-old is over his spring training eye injury.
At 6'3" and 200 pounds with a pretty swing, Meadows should hit for power. But his issue has been his approach, which has been geared more toward consistency. He's starting to show signs of life this season, however, clubbing seven homers with a .613 slugging percentage. He's notably roped a collection of triples to center field. Power like that could become something more.
Meadows topped 20 stolen bases last season, and there's the potential for more where that came from. He moves well for a guy his size, mainly because his long strides allow him to cover ground in a hurry once he gets going.
Meadows' arm gets 40 grades everywhere you look. This isn't a deal-breaker in center field, but it'll be an issue if he ever moves to a corner.
Meadows has yet to stray from center field, nor does he need to. His arm isn't an issue there, and his speed allows him to cover enough ground to pass as a quality center fielder. His size could mean a move to a corner spot is inevitable, but not before his speed goes. That shouldn't be until later in his career.
16. Cody Reed, LHP, Cincinnati Reds
As Ben Badler of Baseball America recounted, Cody Reed's fastball only sat in the mid-80s in high school. But his velocity was on the up and up when he was drafted in 2013, and now the 23-year-old sits in the low-to-mid 90s and has climbed as high as 99 mph. He sat 94-95 and touched 97 in his MLB debut, showing some good life to boot. Basically, what you'd expect from a 6'5" and 225-pound lefty.
Reed's fastball is a 70-grade pitch in some circles, yet there's also a train of thought (notably at Baseball America) that his slider is just as good. It comes in around the mid-80s and has nice, sharp glove-side run. Left-handed batters will have no chance at it, and it's going to back-foot many right-handed batters.
As with most prospects with great fastballs and breaking balls, Reed's changeup has been a work in progress. With mid-80s velocity, it will at least offer velocity differential on nights when he has a really good fastball. It also has some solid (not great, but solid) arm-side run.
Reed's command was a problem earlier in his career, but he's turned it around by walking under three batters per nine innings in the minors over the last two seasons. He's developed enough control over his three-quarters delivery to become a consistent strike-thrower. There is some effort in his delivery, though, so one wonders how much (if any) further improvement is in store.
15. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Tyler Glasnow is a 6'8" and 225-pound behemoth, so nobody should be surprised to hear he throws hard. The 22-year-old's fastball works in the mid-to-high 90s and should play faster than that due to the extra extension allowed by his height. Him and the term "perceived velocity" are going to be tight with one another once he reaches the majors. Maybe he won't be Noah Syndergaard, but he'll be close.
Glasnow complements his power fastball with a power curveball. It's a classic 12-to-6 breaker not unlike the one thrown by fellow Pittsburgh farmhand Jameson Taillon, except with seemingly sharper break. It's an easily above-average offering that will be his primary out pitch in the majors.
Glasnow was arguably ready for the majors at the start of the season, but the Pirates wanted him to further develop his changeup. Though indications are it remains a work in progress, it sounds like the pitch will fall into the "hard changeup" category with the kind of velocity he's achieving. That's worth something even if it doesn't quite have the movement to match.
Glasnow teased he was figuring his control out with a low walk rate at Double-A last year, but a regression has pushed his career BB/9 back up over 4.0. His mechanics are relatively simple, but having to maintain control of such a big body and such long limbs is going to lead to some inconsistency. This part of his game should eventually become above average, but it may never be a true strength.
14. Blake Snell, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Blake Snell's fastball has sat at 94-95 in his two major league starts, but nobody should get too used to that. He's more of a 92-94 guy. The real draw of his fastball is its rising action, which has been identical to that of a Clayton Kershaw heater. The 23-year-old's fastball will play above its velocity thanks to that, generating both whiffs and weak contact.
Trick question. Snell actually throws two breaking balls. His slider earns 60 grades at MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus, with low-80s velocity and sharp break. But it's his curveball that has everyone excited these days. It comes in the low 70s and features big, arching movement reminiscent of vintage Barry Zito. That gives him two plus breaking balls, which is one more than most prospects have.
Snell's changeup doesn't get as much attention as his breaking stuff, but it's yet another useful pitch in his arsenal. Between its roughly 10 mph velocity differential and its late fading action, it's a complement for his hard, rising fastball.
Snell's 4.4 BB/9 in the minors reflects how command has mostly been a problem for him, but his worst days appear to be behind him. He has a delivery without many moving parts, and there's room for more efficiency if he adds more strength to his 6'4" and 180-pound frame. Instead, the big worry might be how well he'll ever be able to control pitches that move as much as his.
13. Bradley Zimmer, CF, Cleveland Indians
Bradley Zimmer is only a .271 career hitter, but the number to focus on is his career .376 OBP. Much is owed to his 11.3 BB%, the product of a willingness to work counts and an excellent knowledge of the strike zone. He also has a quick, powerful stroke that produces rockets to all fields. But with a 23.7 career K% and overall numbers that are getting worse as the competition gets better, excitement for the 23-year-old's hit tool only goes so far.
After hitting 16 home runs in 2015, Zimmer is already up to 10 this year. The lefty swinger has notably showed off some impressive opposite-field power. This looks like a tease of what's to come. Zimmer's swing has some natural loft in it that should keep getting balls in the air. And with only 185 pounds on his 6'4" frame, he still has room to fill out and gain more pop.
Zimmer swiped 44 bags in 2015 and is already up to 26 in 2016. He's not the speed demon these numbers make him out to be, but his quick feet and long strides add up to above-average speed. And as Adam McInturff of Baseball Prospectus and others have noted, Zimmer's speed plays up thanks to his instincts.
Zimmer's older brother, Kyle, is a hard-throwing right-hander in the Kansas City Royals system. The younger Zimmer has a good arm in his own right, earning plus grades from several outlets.
Zimmer's size may take him out of center field somewhere down the line, but there's no need for the move to be immediate. His speed and arm give him the tools to be a quality center fielder, and his reads further help him expand his range.
12. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Jameson Taillon could touch 99 mph with his fastball when the Pirates drafted him No. 2 out of high school in 2010. He's battled injuries (including Tommy John surgery) since then, but his velocity is back strong in 2016. The Pirates clocked him in the mid-90s before calling him up in early June, and he sat 95-96 in his pro debut. The 24-year-old's fastball also features late life. All told, fun times.
Taillon's primary breaking ball is a curveball with big, looping 12-to-6 movement capable of freezing hitters where they stand. But though it's a plus pitch, it likely won't be a Jose Fernandez-like breaking ball that will get whiffs in any location.
This is where Taillon's two years off arguably hurt him the most, as his changeup is the pitch in his arsenal that's needed the most development since he went pro. The changeup he does have is of the hard variety, however, as it sits in the upper 80s and can go as high as 91 mph. Not many pitchers can do that when they "change speeds."
Taillon has put up a microscopic 0.9 BB/9 at Triple-A this season. That slightly oversells how good his command is, but it's not a big, fat lie. His current delivery is much calmer than the herky-jerky delivery he had in high school, allowing him to be more direct to the plate. He's a power pitcher who should also throw plenty of strikes.
11. Willson Contreras, C, Chicago Cubs
Willson Contreras hit .333 at Double-A last year and .350 at Triple-A this year before the Cubs called him up. One thing to praise is how far the 24-year-old's approach has come, as he's walking more and striking out less than he did earlier in his career. His leg kick and hand movement could lead to timing issues against major league pitching, but his swing itself is quick, level and capable of producing contact to all fields. This guy can hit.
Contreras' rise to power in 2015 didn't come with much, um, power. He hit only eight home runs. But he slugged nine homers at Triple-A before homering in his very first MLB at-bat. That's not as surprising as it probably should be. He doesn't have a ton of loft in his swing, but he generates power from a strong lower half. It's mainly pull power, but he can go out the other way too. For a catcher, this is exiting stuff.
Catchers aren't known for moving well. Contreras himself won't be confused for Dee Gordon any time soon. But he's also a guy who Baseball America had rated as a plus runner once, and he still moves well for a catcher.
You might expect this part of Contreras' game to be the catch in relation to his bat and speed, but it's not. He has an arm that's both strong and accurate. That and his quickness out of the crouch allow for good pop times. Here's one sub-2.00 pop time, and there are more.
Now, this. This is the catch. It's helpful that Contreras is going to be able to control the running game, but his receiving is another matter. Baseball America called his blocking skills inconsistent, and Baseball Prospectus and ESPN.com said he's a below-average framer. The Cubs are the kind of team that will emphasize improvement in these areas, but it's hard to give Contreras the benefit of the doubt now.
10. Alex Bregman, SS, Houston Astros
Just a year after being drafted No. 2 overall, Alex Bregman is already owning Double-A with a .304 average and .412 OBP. The 22-year-old has more walks (34) than strikeouts (23), showing off a sharp eye and a line-drive swing that's produced good contact in all directions. For all the praise that Dansby Swanson, last year's No. 1 pick, gets for his hit tool, Bregman's is pretty darn good in its own right.
Bregman has also been hitting for power, cracking 14 home runs and slugging .571. This seems like a bit much for a guy who's only 6'0" and 180 pounds with a swing that's more flat than lofty. But he's plenty capable of getting the ball in the air, and anything he turns on is as good as gone. This was only supposed to be a solid tool, but it's looking like a bit more than that now.
Bregman doesn't have blinding speed, but he's swiped 17 bags in 25 tries since turning pro. To hear MLB.com say it, this is because of "superb" instincts that allow Bregman's speed to play up.
Bregman doesn't possess cannon arm strength, but it's above average. And if it's good enough for shortstop, it's good enough for third base. The Astros have been trying him at the hot corner in 2016, and that may be his long-term home in the organization thanks to the presence of Carlos Correa.
Bregman isn't a physical marvel on defense, but the instincts that serve him well on the basepaths also serve him well in the field. How those instincts will translate to regular action at a reactionary position like third base is a tough question. But at the least, having those instincts can't hurt.
9. Lewis Brinson, CF, Texas Rangers
Lewis Brinson broke out with a .332 average and .403 OBP last season, showing off a smooth swing with good bat speed from the right side. His struggles this year (he's hitting .219 at Double-A) haven't been helped by left shoulder instability, but it's a fine excuse to bring up the 22-year-old's weaknesses. His patience has come and gone, and his swing mechanics have unnecessary hand movement that can throw off his timing. He could also stand to go the other way more.
Brinson has twice topped 20 homers and swatted seven homers to begin 2016 before his shoulder grounded him. He generates natural power from his 6'3" and 195-pound frame, and his preference for his pull side further aids his power potential. If he starts getting the ball in the air consistently, he could be a 30-homer guy.
Brinson has topped out at 24 stolen bases in the minors, but his potential exceeds that. His long strides go by in a hurry, equating to plus speed on the basepaths. With his 30-homer potential also comes 30-steal potential.
You don't need a good arm to play a steady center field, but Brinson has one. It gets above-average remarks from everyone, with Bernie Pleskoff of MLB.com writing that Brinson "gets good carry on his throws and makes good decisions about using his cutoff men."
Brinson's speed and arm give him the physical tools to be a great defensive center fielder, and there's not much doubt he will be. He's displayed an ability to get to seemingly uncatchable balls. Wilson Karaman of Baseball Prospectus credits that to the instincts Brinson has to go with his athleticism.
8. J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadelphia Phillies
J.P. Crawford's .377 career OBP says it all. He has a fantastic approach, consisting of a good eye and a feel for contact that's resulted in a basically equal collection of walks (204) and strikeout (207). He has a pretty swing, with no wasted movement and a feel for barreling the ball. He's not in the habit of hitting ropes despite that, but that doesn't matter as much when you're capable of finding holes. He's only hitting .209 at Triple-A, but that should prove to be a bump in the road toward a productive hitting career.
Crawford has only hit 21 home runs with a .393 slugging percentage in parts of four seasons. That goes back to the the quality (or lack thereof) of his contact. Still, he shows pull home run power and should have more of it as he can add to his 6'2" and 180-pound frame.
Crawford isn't a speed demon, but his speed is at worst average by shortstop standards and above average in general. He's swiped as many as 24 bags in a season and should be a double-digit steal guy in the majors.
It's agreed Crawford has a plus arm, and it shows up on video. Him having enough arm to stay at shortstop is not in question.
Crawford doesn't just have the arm for shortstop. He has everything else, too. Though he booted close to 30 balls in 2014 and 2015, he's widely praised for his hands and his actions at shortstop. He's going to be an above-average defender and possibly a Gold Glove contender.
7. Anderson Espinoza, RHP, Boston Red Sox
The Pedro Martinez comparisons are both too much and also somewhat valid. Anderson Espinoza sat in the mid-90s as a mere 17-year-old in 2015 and hasn't slowed down in 2016. It's easy to project him as a guy who will sit in the mid-to-high 90s with the occasional 100. That's 80-grade fastball territory. One nitpick, however, is that Espinoza's 6'0" frame will cost him in the perceived velocity department.
Alex Speier of the Boston Globe once described Espinoza's breaking ball as an "expletive-inspiring" pitch. It looks the part, featuring sharp downward action and glove-side run. Though the scouting community seemed cool on the pitch coming into the year, it's developing into a weapon.
The scouting community was also shy about projecting too much for Espinoza's changeup, but it's also a pitch that's looking legit. It appears to feature good velocity differential from his fastball, as well as late arm-side fade. Those are important things to have in an out pitch against left-handed batters.
Plenty of teenagers have great stuff, but this is the area that really sets Espinoza apart. Though he's struggled a bit more with walks at Single-A in 2016, he still only has a 2.7 BB/9 as a pro. He throws strikes with a clean, low-effort delivery. He doesn't always finish it, but such instances should become infrequent as he gains experience.
6. Alex Reyes, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
A drug suspension delayed Alex Reyes' 2016 development, but his fastball didn't need further enhancement. He can work in the high 90s and has climbed as high as 102 mph. And because his delivery is so calm and effortless, hitters must feel like it gets on them even faster than that. This is already arguably an 80-grade pitch, and the 21-year-old might be able to make it better.
You expect power pitchers to have power curveballs, and Reyes doesn't disappoint. His hook has tons of downward action as well as some glove-side run, making it perfectly suited to make hitters look like buffoons. It can be inconsistent, but experience should fix that and cement it as a double-plus pitch.
Reyes is another power prospect who's had to develop his changeup, but he's apparently been more willing than most to take on the challenge. The result is a pitch that is now widely respected, featuring velocity and arm-side fade. With further development, it could become even nastier.
This is where Reyes' stalled development hurts the most. With a 4.6 career BB/9, walks have been a problem. But he already has a smooth delivery, and he looks bigger and stronger than the 6'3" and 175 pounds he's listed at. These things plus the Cardinals' tutelage should lead to improved command in the long run.
5. Orlando Arcia, SS, Milwaukee Brewers
Orlando Arcia started slowly but has since evolved into a .300 hitter over the last three years. The 21-year-old has an aggressive approach, so all the contact that comes from his 11.4 K% is ideal. The number of moving parts in his mechanics could make that rise in the majors, but his swing itself is quick to the ball and produces contact in all directions. With a .285 average at Triple-A now, Arcia is running out of things to prove the big club.
Arcia has yet to hit double-digit homers in a season, and the four he has in 2016 aren't worth reading too much into. With a 6'0" and 165-pound frame, he's not built to hit for power. And with his approach geared more for batting average than power, he doesn't force the issue. The best you can expect is frequent use of the gaps with only a few homers mixed in.
Arcia has stolen at least 20 bags every year he's been in the minors, peaking at 31 in 2014. That's befitting his plus speed that will make him a 30-steal threat in the majors.
Arcia's arm is just one of several reasons to believe he'll be a special defensive shortstop. He's regarded as having plus arm strength, and Dan Farnsworth of FanGraphs writes that Arcia's "ability to throw on the move and at every angle bumping his throwing grade into plus territory."
Brewers skipper Craig Counsell got an up-close look at Arcia's defense this spring and came away calling it "flawless," per Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. The scouting reports (and the video) agree, as Arcia's arm, quickness and mobility lead to good range, and his soft hands limit mistakes. He should be a Gold Glove contender.
4. Yoan Moncada, 2B, Boston Red Sox
Yoan Moncada started slowly, but then got hot last summer and hasn't let up with a .307 average and .427 OBP at High-A this year. His approach is impressive, as it's led to 45 walks and only 60 strikeouts. His swing from the left side is prettier (and more productive) than his swing from the right side, but he has enough bat speed and brute strength to sting the ball regardless of which side he's batting on. All this has the 21-year-old on a rampage now and should make him a star in the majors before long.
Moncada has only cracked 12 homers and put up a .463 slugging percentage, but it's easy to believe he'll develop more power. He's a physical specimen at 6'2" and a muscly 205 pounds, and he's shown with his left-handed swing that he has pop to right and left. The question is whether he has the loft to get the ball airborne consistently, but 20 homers is a possibility regardless.
Moncada has played in 142 minor league games, and he has 85 stolen bases and only 11 failures. Enough said, but we'll go ahead and say that he has at least 70-grade speed anyway. Point is, he's fast. And with his OBP talent, he'll make his 70-grade speed as productive as other guys' 80-grade speed.
It doesn't take a good arm to make the grade at second base, but Moncada has one. Grades for his arm tend to fall in the 60 range, with David Lee of Baseball Prospectus writing that it's accurate too.
Moncada has the tools to be an outstanding defensive second baseman, but reports on his defense have been mixed. Red Sox farm director Ben Crockett recently granted to Speier that while Moncada has shown he can handle the flashy plays, he needs to work on consistency. His 34 errors in two seasons support the notion. But at this stage, it's too early in Moncada's development to abandon hope.
3. Victor Robles, CF, Washington Nationals
Victor Robles is a 19-year-old who's already in his third pro season, and his .325 average and .422 OBP both jump off the page. He's aggressive, but not too aggressive. Further, his 12.6 K% reflects a legit contact habit. With very good bat speed, the sound off his bat is quite pleasant. All he needs to do now is use more of the whole field, and his limit will be the sky.
Robles doesn't have a power hitter's build at just 6'0" and 185 pounds, and his swing hasn't produced much power either. In three seasons, he has just 12 home runs. But there's room for projection with him. He has the bat speed for power, and he's teased both gap power and opposite-field home run power. With experience, what's unspectacular power now should get better.
It's no mirage that Robles has stolen 64 bases in 168 career games. Grades for his speed range from 70 to, if you ask Keith Law of ESPN.com, up to 80. He could lose a step if he bulks up a little for the sake of adding power, but his speed should still be way above average. And with his OBP talent, he'll use it often.
Robles' arm is better than you see on most center fielders. In rounding up the prospects with the best packages of tools, MLB.com rated Robles' arm as just a tick below that of Byron Buxton. That may not be hyperbole, as Mark Anderson of Baseball Prospectus wrote last year that Robles' arm is both strong and accurate.
With plus-plus speed and a plus-plus arm, Robles has the physical tools to become one of baseball's best defensive center fielders. The shortage of video makes it hard to judge his instincts, but Anderson's report also referenced good reads and strong routes in his viewing of Robles. Considering he's still only 19, those talents could get even better.
2. Julio Urias, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
At 6'0" and 215 pounds, Julio Urias isn't huge. But he's shown in the majors that he can sit in the 93-94 range anyway, and he has more than just velocity. His fastball also has a good spin rate that, in his case, leads to rising action. For example, see the one he got David Wright with. And because he's only 19 years old, his fastball could still go from "very good" to "great."
Urias' curveball is about as exciting as his fastball. It has the kind of two-plane break that you look for in breaking balls, and it seems like it all takes place right as the pitch is crossing the plate. The movement is late, sharp and ridiculous. He's in Rich Hill territory in terms of the glove-side run he gets on his curveball, which is about as good as it gets for left-handers. Oh, and he has an effective slider too.
Urias' changeup might not be as nasty as his curveball, but it's going to be an effective out pitch all the same. Its low-80s velocity gives it a lot of separation from his fastball, and it also has arm-side fade to further add to its deception. Just ask Jonathan Villar.
Urias is still only 19, and the Dodgers have watched his workload like so many hawks. You wouldn't expect a guy like that to have advanced command, but there he stands with a 2.9 BB/9 throughout his pro career. That's what you get when you combine an efficient, low-effort delivery with a feel for pitching. He hasn't been as sharp in the majors, but whatever kinks he still has will be ironed out.
1. Lucas Giolito, RHP, Washington Nationals
Lucas Giolito was projected as a hard-thrower coming out of high school in 2012, and Tommy John surgery hasn't derailed that projection. The 6'6" and 255-pounder can sit in the mid-to-high 90s with his fastball and crank it up even higher than that. Add in a calm delivery, and the 21-year-old is plenty capable of blowing hitters away even when he puts it right down the middle. That's a true 80-grade pitch.
Giolito's curveball is also arguably an 80-grade pitch. It has low-80s velocity and 12-to-6 movement, but it's much sharper and more devastating than you see in similar curveballs. It should generate whiffs both in and out of the strike zone, giving Giolito two elite out pitches at the top of his arsenal.
This is becoming repetitive, but Giolito is another power pitcher who's had to work on his changeup. And it still lags behind his fastball and curveball, as it just sort of floats toward home plate (see the 0:22 mark). But with mid-80s velocity, it at least has separation from his fastball.
Giolito has struggled with walks in 2016, posting a 4.1 BB/9. But after ironing out some mechanical difficulties, he's recovered with a 2.5 BB/9 in his last six starts. That fits with his career trajectory, and it should continue. His delivery features little to no wasted effort, and it ends with him being direct to the plate. Not unlike Noah Syndergaard, he'll be a power pitcher who also fills up the strike zone.