Our Mid Season Top 50 prospect list is comprised of players who are were in the minor leagues at the time of publication (6/21/13) and who still have rookie of the year eligibility. That excludes such recently promoted players such as Wil Myers, Jurickson Profar, Gerrit Cole, and Zack Wheeler. Additionally, no players from the 2013 first year player draft were included.
What I found interesting in doing the list was the number of prospects from my pre-season list that have already been promoted to the big leagues. 18 of my top 100 prospects at the start of the season have been promoted including six out of the Top 10. Additionally, many of the players on the Mid Season Top 50 list are in the upper minors. In analyzing the list, it would appear that the influx of talent that started with the promotion of Mike Trout should continue for at least another year before things get back to a more normal cadence of prospect promotions.
Team: San Diego Padres, League: California – High-A
Previous Ranking: 65
I had a chance to catch a series in early April with Austin Hedges and while he went 1 for 8 in game action, I concluded that he was going to be a star. In fact, I think my ranking is a little low. The swing looked good as he was short to the ball with a nice compact swing. During BP, he showed power that I think will eventually result in double-digit power at the highest level. But it’s the defense that’s special. He has a gun for an arm and is in complete control of the game – complete backstop presence. In June, Hedges has heated up (spent most of May on the DL) and is batting .340 in 37 at-bats. I would expect to see Hedges in San Diego sometime in 2015 and once he’s up, he’ll be there to stay.
Team: Tampa Bay Rays, League: Midwest – Low-A
Previous Ranking: 41
Taylor Guerrieri is one of those prospects that everybody seems to forget about. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s in the Rays organization and people just assume that they have to pace their enthusiasm because it will take forever for him to reach the majors (yes, that’s a shot). Guerrieri is having a very nice year in Bowling Green where he has posted a 2.50 ERA with a 7.17 K/9 while walking only 1.67 per nine. Guerrieri throws a heavy fastball that he can run up to 95 MPH . In 54.0 innings this year, he has a 5.19 ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio (G/F). He also throws what looks like a spike curve to me. It has a classic 11 to 5 delivery but then really darts indicating that it’s not a classic curve. I really like the pitch and believe it will produce a lot of swing and misses. His change-up is emerging and should be a quality pitch down the road.
Team: St. Louis Cardinals, League: Pacific Coast – Triple-A
Previous Ranking: 77
Michael Wacha started three games in the majors in the first half of 2013 and definitely held his own by posting a 14K/4BB in 17.2 IP and a 4.58 ERA. At 6-foot-6, Wacha pitches with great downward plane but does pitch up in the zone resulting in more fly balls than ground balls. The arsenal is primarily a fastball/change-up as he rarely throws his curve (5.5% of the time in his three starts). While he has very good command and his change-up is a flat-out weapon, he needs to continue to work on his breaking pitch or he’ll settle in as a mid-rotation starter.
Team: San Diego Padres, League: Midwest – Low-A
Previous Ranking: 50
Selected with the seventh overall pick in the 2012 draft, Max Fried is flashing the stuff that got him a $3M signing bonus but is also struggling with his control. All this is very typical and the important thing is that stuff is playing well and he is getting a lot of swing and misses (8.23 K/9). I expect Fried to spend the entire season in Low-A and then be moved quickly in 2014 through the California League. In fact, if you’re looking for a profile and a potential roadmap, Archie Bradley might be the place to look.
Team: Pittsburgh Pirates, League: Florida State – High-A
Previous Ranking: 31
I’ve had a chance to see Alen Hanson play a number of times and I still believe he will be an offensive force in the middle of the diamond. He has a nice speed/power combination and a hit-tool that should allow him to achieve a high OBP and hit at the top of the lineup. Will he stay at shortstop? 40 errors in 2012 and another 19 so far in 2013 are clearly concerning, but the Pirates seem committed to having him play there; at least for now. If he has to move to the keystone, I still believe the bat will play and Hanson will be a solid major league contributor.
Team: Cincinnati Reds, League: Midwest – Low-A
Previous Ranking: 66
Stephenson has had an excellent 2013 campaign and is simply dominating the Midwest league with over 11 strikeouts per nine and a 2.30 BB/9 ratio. He has an excellent arsenal with his fastball sitting 93-95 and touching higher. He also has an above average curve that is flashing plus more and more often. His change-up is already a plus pitch with a great deal of deception. If you add it all up, you have an athletic pitcher, who should be able to repeat his delivery with potential elite stuff. That’s the definition of a front-line starter. I would expect the Reds to start picking up the pace with Stephenson with a promotion to High-A in the second half of 2013.
Team: Toronto Blue Jays, League: Florida State – High-A
Previous Ranking: 44
Aaron Sanchez has some of the best stuff in the minor leagues with a plus-plus fastball that can top out in the upper 90’s and curveball that also grades out as plus-plus. His big problem has always been controlling the elite stuff. In 2013, Sanchez has improved his control and the performance is now beginning to reflect his raw stuff. He has been on the DL since mid-May and depending on when he returns, will determine if he sees Double-A this year or next.
Team: Miami Marlins, League: Southern – Double-A
Previous Ranking: 36
Jake Marisnick has been overshadowed by some of the other top prospects in the Marlins organization but he’s definitely no slouch as he has the tools to be a 20/20 player at the highest level. He also plays an excellent center field and will eventually push Yelich to left field. While I like the hit-tool as he has a nice compact swing that is short to the ball, his approach is very aggressive and this will hurt his OBP and could push him lower in the batting order as he moves though the organization.
Team: New York Mets, League: Florida State – High-A
Previous Ranking: 55
Part of the R.A. Dickey trade, Noah Syndergaard is having an excellent 2013 campaign with a 3.11 ERA in 63.2 IP with a 9.05 K/9 ratio and an excellent 2.26 BB/9 ratio. Syndergaard arsenal consists of a plus fastball that sits 93-94 MPH with a lot of movement and sink that generates a ton of ground balls. His breaking pitch is primarily a curve and candidly, I don’t really like it. The spin is not tight and the Mets are moving him to throwing more sliders. The changeup though has promise and I believe could turn into a real weapon in the long run. As Wheeler moves to the majors and Montero to Triple-A, expect Syndergaard to be promoted to Double-A sometime in the second half of year.
Team: Kansas City Royals, League: Carolina – High-A
Previous Ranking: 49
So why is a polished college pitcher with a 5.98 ERA in High-A doing as one of the top 50 rank prospects? Candidly, his stuff is better than the results and what is more perplexing is that he is getting worse as the year goes along. In June, he’s sporting an 8.53 ERA. When I saw him in April, he looked great. His fastball was sitting 92-93 and topping out at 94 and the curve ball was mesmerizing – a real weapon. I’m not sure what has happened, but I’m not willing to give up on a talent like Zimmer. Look for a scouting report in the next couple of weeks as I make the two-hour trek down to Wilmington to get another look.
Team: St. Louis Cardinals, League: Pacific Coast – Triple-A
Previous Ranking: 60
Kolten Wong game is nearly ready for the Big Leagues, but unfortunately for him, he plays in the very deep Cardinals organization and there is just no room at the inn for him. Wong is not a physically impressive player as he stands only 5-9, but his weight, which he carries well, along with a small compact swing allows him to drive balls with authority. While his power is not impressive, I believe his swing mechanics will eventually lead to 15-18 home runs at the major league level. He does have above average speed with ability to steal 20+ bases at the highest level.
Team: New York Mets, League: Pacific Coast – Triple-A
Previous Ranking: Unranked
Rafael Montero has had the most helium of any prospect for me during 2013. In a word, he’s been dominate. In 78.2 IP across Double and Triple-A, he’s had a 9.65 K/9 and 1.37 BB/9. While not physically imposing at 6-foot and 170 pounds, he has a fastball that sits 92-93 MPH with an above average slider and changeup to complement. What makes Montero so effective is he can command each and every one of his pitches. While the stuff says a number three ceiling, the command says that might be the floor.
Carlos Martinez had a chance to pitch for St. Louis during a three week stint in May and didn’t disappoint. Working out of the bullpen, he showed his electric stuff by striking out nine batters in eight innings. His four-seamer averaged 98 MPH while his change-up came in at 87 MPH, which is harder than most pitcher’s fastballs. He has an electric arm, but it’s an all-out delivery that in the end, might be better served in the back-end of bullpen. Imagine a pen with Rosenthal and Martinez closing games for Miller, Wainwright, and Wacha. Scary!
I go to a lot of Trenton Thunder games as that is the closet minor league team to my house and therefore, I’ve seen Tyler Austin play many times. I was perplexed early in the season as he looked out of sync and over-matched. However, as the season has progressed, Austin has made adjustments and has been making hard contact over the past six weeks.
At 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, Austin is a solid kid with great bat speed and good hitting mechanics. His load is quiet with some length to his swing while using his lower half well to provide torque and leverage. While the power has been disappointing in 2013, Trenton is a notoriously poor offense venue and Austin’s splits reflect that with a batting average of .230 and one home run at home and a .307 BA with 4 home runs on the road.
Few top-ranked pitchers had a more disappointing 2012 season than Anthony Ranaudo as he battled injuries and the ability to find the plate (in 37.2 IP, he had 27 walks with 27 strikeouts). However, 2013 has been a different story as Ranaudo has returned to the form that got him a $2.5M signing bonus as the 39th drafted player in 2011. His fastball is sitting in the mid-90’s and his curveball is consistent again. Most importantly, he is able to throw all of his pitches for strikes and that is reflected in his stat line of 76K/21BB in 67.0 IP. At 6-foot-7, Ranaudo could always struggle with his mechanics, but he has a live arm and now that he is healthy, he could move very quickly.
When I did my pre-season rankings, I was not as high on George Springer as his stat line projected due to his high swing and miss total. While the concern is still there as Springer is striking out an alarming 35% of the time, the tools are hard to ignore (18 home runs and 21 SB – 5 CS). While there’s a chance that Springer could become Brett Jackson, I believe the tools are louder with a comp of Chris Young more likely.
After an impressive year in Low-A in 2012, Mason Williams has had a disappointing 2013 campaign. The tools that landed him number 30 on my list are still intact, but injuries and an inability to make hard contact have me concerned. A 12 slot drop given the number of promotions is significant.
Another player that has had significant helium during 2013 is Philadelphia Phillies third base prospect, Maikel Franco. While Franco’s swing can get long at times, his power has started to show through as he’s slugged 16 home runs in the FSL; which is tied for league honors with Miguel Sano. Not only is the power showing through, he’s making excellent contact at 85%. All of this has led to a promotion to Double-A and should put Franco on a trajectory to making a big league appearance sometime in 2014. For fantasy players looking for speed, well, you need to look elsewhere as Franco has 20-grade speed.
At 22-years-old, Rafael De Paula completely dominated the SALLY League with a 13.43 K/9 and a 3.22 BB/9. The most perplexing thing is why the Yankees kept him there for 13 starts – maybe it was to build up his confidence after a long and arduous signing process that involved years of delays before he was able to immigrate to the U.S.
De Paula’s stuff is very good as his fastball sits in the low to mid 90’s with a lot of arm side run while his slider, hard curve, and changeup all grade out as above average pitches with the curve having a chance to be a plus offering. The command is also very good but De Paula, as with most young pitchers, can lose his release point and become wild.
My previous concern about Owens taking time to get his 6-foot-6 body into rhythm in order to command his arsenal appears to be well on it’s way to resolution. As a 20-year-old in High-A, he’s been dominating with an 80K/38BB strikeout-to-walk ratio in 65.1 innings. His fastball sits in the low-90’s but plays up given some deception in his delivery while his change-up is also a plus pitch. The curve is still a work in progress but when I saw him pitch in April in Wilmington, I thought it had real promise and a chance to be at least an above average offering if not more.
Tyler Skaggs may be over the official limits for rookie eligibility by time served in the major leagues, but I wanted to put him in my Top 50 but with some serious reservations. On the positive, he has one of the best curve ball offerings in all of professional baseball (majors or minors). It’s flat out nasty with tremendous downward bite. When he’s on, it’s unhittable. On the negative, his fastball is below average. While the velocity averages 90.53, which is slightly above average for a lefty, the fastball has no life due do Skagg’s lack of momentum. In a word, Skaggs short-arms the ball and this lack of forward-momentum is degrading his overall stuff. While I use to think that Skaggs had a front-of-the-rotation profile, I believe his ceiling is that of a number three starter.
My Top 50 list is full of very tall pitchers, but none taller than 6-foot-9 Alex Meyer. While Meyer is currently on the disabled list with a strained shoulder, he’s had an impressive season with a 73K/27BB strikeout-to-walk ratio in 61.0 innings. Meyer has easy velocity with his fastball sitting in the mid-90’s and a plus slider. The command has continued to improve and while his height will always put pressure on his ability to control his arsenal, the whole package is going to work very well at the highest level.
With a slash line of .253/.295/.382, you might be wondering why Raul Mondesi is in the mid-season Top 50 prospect list. A big factor is his age – he’s 17-years-old and holding his own against players sometimes 4 to 5 years older. As a switch-hitter, Mondesi has an advanced approach with a quick bat that is short to the ball. The bat speed should allow Mondesi to have mid-teens home run power at the highest level. Speed is also part of his game and the 11 stolen bases are just beginning to show the potential. He has easy 25+ stolen base potential as he learns some of the fine aspects of base stealing.
There’s a lot to like with young Raul Mondesi and it’s time to get onboard with the young phenom.
Adam Eaton should have been the starting center fielder in Arizona but a cranky elbow caused him to start the year on the DL and complications have put him back on the shelf. Assuming he works through the issue and can return shortly after the all-star break, Eaton should salvage his season and start contributing at the highest level. Don’t expect instant success, but long-term, Eaton should provide a .270 batting average with the opportunity to steal bases and score many runs as a top of the order threat.
I’ve long been a fan of Jonathan Schoop and believe he will be a solid major-league regular at either third or second base. While his minor league stats have never jumped out, he’s always been very young for each level. What I do like is the hit tool. He has plus bat-speed with a nice approach at the plate which I believe will translate into a .280 batting average with 20+ home runs at the highest level. Will he be a star? Doubtful…but he’ll likely have a very long career as a multi-positional player with an excellent bat.
Some other players that were in consideration for the list include: Mike Olt (Tex, 3B), Matt Barnes (Bos, RHP), David Dahl (Col, OF), Clayton Blackburn (SF, RHP), Tyler Glasnow (Pit, RHP), Sonny Gray (Oak, RHP), and Max Muncy (Oak, 1B).