I’ve struggled getting this list out due in part to the number of recent promotions to the big league – Carlos Correa (1), Joey Gallo (9) and Vince Valesquez (46) just in the last week. Before that, Kris Bryant, Joc Pederson, Noah Syndergaard, Archie Bradley, and others have all been promoted. With all of this activity, the list has been a moving target and getting my arms around it has been a challenge.
In putting together the list, I focused on the fantasy aspect of each player. While defense is still part of the equation, I primarily used it to evaluate the players opportunity to get consistent playing time instead of the players overall value. For instance, Francisco Lindor will be an above-average fantasy contributor but will likely be a better baseball player given his plus defensive chops. The list reflects that perspective.
While I agonized over the placement of each player, please do not do the same. If you think D.J. Peterson has more upside than Hunter Renfroe, even though Renfroe is ranked seven slots higher, then so be it. There’s no formula or “super scout” list that has the answer. It’s just my opinion. Enjoy and I look forward to your feedback.
While we still wait for Trea Turner to be as the PTBNL in the Steven Souza trade over the winter, he’s done nothing but excel at every level in the Padres organization. He’s batting .322 in 205 at-bats in Double-A while posting an .867 OPS. Assuming he continues to progress after the trade is completed, he has a chance to begin the 2016 season as the starting shortstop for Washington.
Josh Bell has quietly had a very nice first half of the season for the Pirates Double-A team. I say quietly, because his plus raw power has not translated to over-the-fence power. What he has done is hit. In 237 plate appearance he’s struck out only 23 times and walked 25 times, posting a .328 batting average. Once the power arrives, Josh Bell has a chance to be an impact middle of the order bat for the Pirates as early as 2016.
Jose De Leon is enjoying an impressive breakout season for the Dodgers after first dominating the California League, and with his recent promotion to Double-A, enjoying more of the same. While lefty Julio Urias has the higher upside, De Leon is starting to make it close. If he keeps this up, he should see Los Angeles sometime in 2016.
Ozhanio Albies got a ton of helium at the end of last season and started getting noticed by prospect watchers. Six months later, he’s a Top 30 prospect. How did he do it? The 18-year-old can really hit. As the youngest player in the SALLY League, Albies has posted a .793 OPS in 57 games. He can also really pick it in the field and if the Braves allow him to stay there, he could be a plus defender. He’s still two to three years away, but the upside is tremendous.
Blake Snell has always had the power arsenal, but in 2015, he’s learning to pitch. The results have been nothing short of dominate. He went 46 innings before giving up an earned run while striking out 10.01 per nine. The arsenal begins with a sinking fastball that sits 91 to 93 MPH while generating a ton of ground balls. He also throws a plus slider and a change-up that has vastly improved this year. He still needs to work on throwing strikes as he has yet to pitch a year where his walks-per-nine is less than four. Snell has the advantage of pitching for the Rays and they have a long history of fine tuning pitchers delivery in the upper levels. I know fantasy owners want to see him promoted to the big leagues NOW, but for as good as he’s been this year, he’s still not ready.
Taken with the 21st pick in the 2014 first year player draft, Bradley Zimmer has had a very loud start to the season. In 57 games, he’s posted a slash line of .309/.410/.512 with nine home runs and 25 stolen bases. While the tools are not over-the-top loud, there’s enough there to make Zimmer a solid major league regular with a chance to be a very good fantasy player.
Brett Phillips is the type of player that will get overlooked in most prospect lists because he doesn’t have the type of tools that scream star. However, he has a ton of average to above-average tools that when combined with his plus makeup, gives him the ceiling of an above-average regular with the chance to see an All-Star game or two. While it’s easy to be fooled by the stat line he’s putting up at Lancaster in the California League, I’ve seen him enough to project a ceiling of 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases. We should have a better sense in July and August on how realistic that projection is as the Astros will likely promote the 21-year-old to Corpus Christi in the Texas League.
I thought that Jesse Winker would be competing for a mid-season call-up, but a slow start to the 2015 season has likely delayed his promotion. In 52 games in Double-A, he’s posted an anemic .365 slugging percentage after slugging nearly .500 in the prior three season. The good news is that the bat speed and plate discipline are still intact and it’s likely just an adjustment period for the 21-year-old. Fantasy owners should not lose confidence as the ceiling remains a 20 home run bat with .280 batting average and a .350 plus on-base percentage.
With Alex Myers sporting a 6.13 ERA and unable to throw strikes, Jose Berrios has emerged as the best pitching prospect for the Twins. At 6-foot and 185 pounds, he doesn’t have the prototypical body for a top-of-the-rotation starter. However, the stuff is very good and more importantly, he’s able to throw strikes. In 12 starts in Double-A, he has a 9.75 K/9 to go along with a 2.50 BB/9 which has resulted in a 3.21 ERA. He’ll likely always be homer-prone but the ceiling is a strong number three starter.
Most observers believed that Raimel Tapia would really enjoy the hitting confines of the California League and while he’s done well, posting a .775 OPS as a 21-year-old, a 35K/7BB strikeout-to-walk ratio shows there is still a lot of room for improvement. I still don’t love the wide stance as it takes away from his power-ceiling, but I’m still hopeful that the Rockies get him more upright to unlock his 20 home run potential. With several players in Asheville looking for a promotion, I expect the Rockies to promote Tapia to Double-A sometime in the second half.
After Carlos Rodon, Aaron Nola was the most polished college pitcher in the 2014 draft class. He’s proven the point by posting an impressive 1.76 ERA over 11 starts in Double-A, setting himself up for a second half callup to Philadelphia. The stuff is good with a fastball that sits 92 to 93 MPH with two very effective secondary pitches, but all play up with his ability to throw strikes. His ceiling is a solid mid-rotation starter with better than league average ratios and six to seven strikeouts per nine.
While many of the players drafted in front of him in the 2011 draft have gone on to have success in the big leagues, Robert Stephenson is still working his way to the promise land. The arsenal is top-shelf with a plus fastball and curve combination and a feel for a change-up. The problem has been an inability to throw consistent strikes and that continues to haunt him. However, the stuff should play in the major leagues and it might be time to see what he can do there.
The White Sox continue to aggressively push Tim Anderson and so far he’s responded. As a 22-year-old in Double-A this year, he’s batting .300 with 21 stolen bases in 26 attempts. He’s very aggressive at the plate and will chase balls outside of the zone as his 54K/8BB strikeout-to-walk ratio in 230 at-bats demonstrates. He’ll need to improve his approach to reach his ceiling and if he does, it could mean gold for fantasy owners.
Based on pure stuff, Luis Severino should be ranked higher on this list. However, I’m still not convinced that he’s a starter long-term as his delivery lacks the power from his lower body. That said, his double-plus fastball and slider combination can get big league batters out now and the Yankees might just promote him over the next several weeks to work at a minimum out of the bullpen.
It’s not been a good start to the 2015 season for Alex Jackson, the number sixth overall pick in the 2014 first year player draft. After batting .157 in 28 games in the Midwest League, the Mariners sent him back to extended spring training after he complained of shoulder stiffness. Hopefully the Mariners can get him healthy and his swing straighten out so that he can unlock his enormous talent. His ceiling remains unchanged as a middle of the order power bat with an above-average hit tool.
The Texas League has proven more difficult than I thought for Hunter Renfroe, the 13th overall selection in the 2013 first year player draft. After slugging a woeful .263 in April, Renfroe has been better but the plus raw power I saw last year has not yet translated into in-game power. The swing can get long and the power is born more out of leverage than premium bat-speed, but I still believe the ceiling remains at 20 plus home runs with high single-digit stolen bases.
Nick Williams has walked 24 times in 229 at-bats so far in 2015. That’s a huge improvement for the 6-foot-3 outfielder and if it is indeed a skill he is starting to learn, he has a chance to be a consistent .300 hitter. He has premium bat speed and although he’s yet to demonstrate in-game plus power, it’s in there. Throw in a handful of stolen bases per year and if it all comes together, Williams could be a monster fantasy contributor.
Matt Wisler was traded right before the start of the 2015 season to the Braves in exchange for uber-closer Craig Kimbrel. While Wisler doesn’t have the profile to pitch at the top-of-the-rotation, the stuff and pitchability should make him a mid-rotation starter for a long time. With an impressive 2015 Triple-A campaign where he has posted a 3.52 ERA, a 49K/11BB strikeout-to-walk ratio in 61.1 innings, Wisler is nearly ready for the call.
Many people, myself included, drafted Andrew Heaney expecting him to be pitching in Los Angeles already. However, the Angels have elected to keep him in the minors to work on his craft. While his 4.39 ERA is unimpressive in 12 starts, he’s striking out a batter an inning and walking less than three per-nine. He’s also managed to navigate the PCL quite well and to-date, has only allowed two home runs. I think he’s almost ready and the next opportunity in Los Angeles should be his.
The Brewers finally gave up on the dream to have Clint Coulter catch and that decision should allow the 21-year-older to start a quick ascension to the major leagues. With a mature approach at the plate and plus bat speed, Coulter has a chance to hit for power and a high batting average. The swing does have a hitch and big league pitchers could expose him a bit, but the ceiling is a first division outfielder and significant fantasy contributor.
There’s a lot of warning flags with Jon Gray. His stuff has backed up a bit since being taken number three overall in the 2013 first year player draft, he’s a fly ball pitcher, and of course, he pitches for the Rockies. He does throw strikes and while he no longer is hitting triple-digits on the radar gun, he has enough velocity to setup his plus slider. While I’m worried, I haven’t given up on the 6-foot-4, 235 pound righty out of Oklahoma.
I have a feeling that Jeff Hoffman will wind up much higher on our list by the end of the season. However, after spending the entire 2014 season on the disabled list recovering from Tommy John reconstructive surgery, I’ve risk adjusted him to the 40 to 50 range on our list. Assuming he fully recovers, he has three plus pitches including a sinking fastball that bores in on right-handed hitters to get a ton of ground balls. He’s already pitched 23 innings and while the results haven’t been great, the reports on his stuff have been. It could take all of this year and next to fully get him back, but the upside is a strong number two, or higher.
A number of power hitters have struggled to-date and D.J. Peterson is one of them. After slugging 31 home runs last year, Peterson has hit three so far in 56 games in Double-A while batting .206. Part of the problem could be attributed to a .267 BABIP and perhaps switching to first base could be causing some lack of concentration at the plate. However, the bat speed and power are still present and owners need to be patient as Peterson adjusts. In fact, now is the time to buy low as the path is clear for him to be the starting first baseman in Seattle in 2016.
I’ve seen Trevor Story play several times over the past two years but have yet to see him in 2015. Candidly, I’ve never been enamored with the 22-year-old shortstop but from reports I’ve received, the turn around this year seems real. In 54 games, he’s posted a .942 OPS with eight home runs and 14 stolen bases. He’s still striking out a ton with a contact rate hovering around 70%. Assuming he stays in the Eastern League for the next month, I should catch a series with him and will then have a better feel for whether this resurgence is real. For now, he makes the list.
The Brewers had one player in our pre-season Top 100 prospect list and at the mid-way mark, they have three in our Top 50; and Tyrone Taylor isn’t even one of them. Michael Reed closes out our list and has had a truly breakout campaign so far in 2015. In 54 games in Double-A, he’s posted a .901 OPS with a 48K/26BB strikeout-to-walk ratio, five home runs and 16 stolen bases. He’s a plus defender and has the chops to stay in center field. With Carlos Gomez only signed through 2016, Reed could have his chance very soon. He doesn’t have the explosive skillset of Gomez, but does have the ceiling of a solid regular with the ability to get on base a ton with five to 10 home runs and 20 plus stolen bases.