Top 15 MLB Prospects
MLB Top 15 Prospects
We’ve seen a historic run of prospects over the past few years. Once-in-a-generation-type prospects are labeled as such for a reason, yet the Washington Nationals got to draft two of them in back-to-back years. The emergence of Mike Trout as an MVP candidate in his rookie season has set a new, and unfair, standard by which all rookies and prospects will now be judged.
Despite its inherent part of learning about prospects, it’s important not to compare the prospects we have now to the ones that have recently passed. The 2012 major league season featured an unprecedented group of young rookies, with more production from players under 21 than ever before.
This year’s crop may not offer the transcendent talents that came with Trout, Steven Strasburg, Bryce Harper, but what we are seeing is a refinement of prospects at the minor league level. Their ceilings may not be as astronomically high as that of a prospect like Harper, but what we’re seeing now is an ability to contribute immediately upon arrival in the majors.
The ranking of prospects is a tricky business. Which is more important, potential or predictability? How important is it to be able to count on this prospect rather than wish on the abilities of a teenager? In these rankings, I’ve taken into consideration the overall potential of a player, how likely it is that he reaches that full potential, and his proximity to the majors.
15 - Trevor Bauer
Trevor Bauer would have been near the top of this list last season with many predicting that he could have been a rookie of the year candidate in the National League this past year. It didn’t work out that way for Bauer, who dominated the minors once again but struggled in his first stint of major league action. He has a unique style to pitching and walks a lot of batters, although it’s not always because of a lack of control. He nibbles around the plate, trying to get hitters to hit the pitches he wants, but will have to adjust and throw more strikes in the majors. He should adjust and help anchor the Arizona Diamondbacks rotation, perhaps as early as next season.
14 - Jameson Taillon
The second overall pick in 2010 (behind Bryce Harper), the Pittsburgh Pirates took the handcuffs off of Jameson Taillon in 2012 and let him make 26 starts and throw 142 innings. He fared ok as a young pitcher in the Florida State League, but was very impressive in three Double-A starts at the end of the season. Much like his teammate Gerrit Cole, Taillon doesn’t always put up the numbers to match his potent stuff, but he’s young and still learning how to pitch.
13 - Mike Zunino
The only 2012 draft pick to make this list, Mike Zunino, the third overall selection, took the minor leagues by storm after signing and hit .360 across two levels. Zunino should be able to answer the Seattle Mariners issues at catcher, with the only question being whether he develops into an all-star caliber hitter or merely a strong regular behind the plate. Regardless, the polished prospect shouldn’t need too much time in the minors.
12 - Travis d'Arnaud
If it hadn’t been for an injury, Travis d’Arnaud would have finished the season as the Toronto Blue Jays starting catrcher and probably wouldn’t even be eligible for prospect lists any more. The best catching prospect in baseball, and the most major league ready, he profiles as a potential all-star catcher with a legitimate impact bat and good enough defense to be a catcher his entire career.
11 - Billy Hamilton
In 2012, Billy Hamilton went from great base stealer to great all-around prospect. He still stole the bases, setting the minor league record by swiping 155, but he also dramatically improved his plate discipline and hit over .311, allowing the Cincinnati Reds to envision him at the top of their future lineup. He’ll be making the transition from shortstop to center field next season, but there’s no reason to believe he can’t handle the switch. The sooner he does, the sooner he can be in the majors.
10 - Christian Yelich
Christian Yelich doesn’t have one necessarily overwhelming tool, but he does everything well and has the polish and refinement that can’t be taught. Yelich dominated the Florida State League in 2012 and should have no trouble in Double-A next season. He should be batting third and playing centerfield for the Miami Marlins by 2014.
9 - Zack Wheeler
The New York Mets still can’t believe they got Zack Wheeler in exchange for two months of Carlos Beltran. Wheeler has among the most powerful arms in the minor leagues and since coming over to the Mets, has learned how to use it properly. His biggest test will come next season, as the Mets move their Triple-A affiliate to Las Vegas and the Pacific Coast League, but if there’s a pitcher than can handle the extreme hitting environments of the PCL, its Wheeler. He should be in New York by mid-summer.
8 - Jonathan Singleton
Of all the prospects the Philadelphia Phillies have traded away over the past few years, Jonathan Singleton is the one they will miss the most. The first baseman has emerged as one of the best power hitters in the minors, he has developed to combine his power, hitting ability, and strong plate discipline to become a true middle of the lineup hitter. He should be anchoring the Houston Astros lineup by the end of the 2013 season.
7 - Taijuan Walker
The Seattle Mariners have a stable of arms that would make any organization in the majors jealous, and Taijuan Walker is the best of that class. Walker took his lumps at Double-A this season, but was just 19 and still held his own. He has among the highest ceiling of any pitching prospect in the minors, and if the Mariners have the patience to let him develop, he could slide right behind Felix Hernandez in their starting rotation.
6 - Oscar Taveras
Oscar Taveras really came onto people’s radar in 2011, when the St. Louis Cardinals prospect hit .386 in his first year of full-season baseball. This season was the test to see if he could back it up, and he do so despite jumping all the way to Double-A, where he hit .321 with 23 home runs. The way he handled the jump should give the Cardinals the confidence to promote him whenever they have an opening in their outfield.
5 - Shelby Miller
Shelby Miller had dominated the minor leagues without much trouble before hitting a speed bump in Triple-A in the first half of the 2012 season. He straightened things out in the second half and returned to the fireballing pitcher he’d always been, making a cameo in the majors in September and making the St. Louis Cardinals post-season bullpen in the NLDS as an injury replacement. He has some maturity issues that have gotten him suspended by the team in the past, but he appears to have gotten those issues together, at least for the time being.
4 - Gerrit Cole
Gerrit Cole, the first overall pick in the 2011 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates, has perhaps the best arsenal of pitches in the minors, and a major league frame from which they are offered up to hitters. He’s been good in the minors, but hasn’t dominated the way you’d expect from a pitcher who hits the high-90’s with such ease, and has a major league curveball. There’s little doubt he’ll be a reliable major league starter, and should be able to do so almost immediately. The only question is whether or not he develops into the ace the Pirates believe he will become.
3 - Wil Myers
In most organizations, Wil Myers would already be in the majors, but the Kansas City Royals felt no need to rush him. Myers offers the best combination of power and pure hitting ability in the minor leagues, and shouldn’t miss a beat in the majors. He’s primarily an outfielder, and should be able to handle center field for the first few years of his career before moving to a corner as he ages.
2 - Dylan Bundy
Dylan Bundy made the leap from facing high school hitters to pitching in a major league pennant race in around 15 months. After dominating Low and High-A ball this season, he was just very good instead of great in Double-A, as a 19-year-old, of course. The Baltimore Orioles restricted his innings this season, but the handcuffs could come off next year. He’ll be in spring training to compete for a rotation spot, and despite any plans the Orioles have to send him back to the minors, he may make their rotation anyway simply because he’s already one of their five best pitchers.
1 - Jurickson Profar
Jurickson Profar is the best all-around prospect in the minors, with the ability to stay at shortstop defensively, and the bat and power potential to become a middle-of-the-order hitter. He’s not a true power hitter, but he generates enough pop to bat third in a major league lineup. He’s ready for the majors next season, if the Texas Rangers can find a place for him in their lineup. Depending on what the Rangers do in free agency, Profar could find time at second base or center field next season in difference to Elvis Andrus, but it’s not a knock on his abilities at short.