List…everyone loves list. I get it…you need to see where the guys you own are ranked in relationship to your fellow owners players. Plus, it just makes you feel good that you have 7 of the Top 50 prospects. But I do this as more than a passing hobby and what I’ve learned is that there is NO pure science to the list. I consider how close the player is to the big leagues as well as upside. If you have them both, like Yoan Moncada, you get ranked #1. While I love Alex Bregman, he’s not the third most talented guy on the list but he’ll be up very soon and that counts. I try to blend it all together, review it, re-review it and then have some friendly industry guys look at it; not other writers, but scouts, player dev. guys, etc…
The list includes guys who were in the minor leagues as of about July 7th when I locked the list in. As luck would have it, three guys were promoted before the all-star break. I kept them in the list but promise to publish a list of “just missed guys” in a few days to make up for the lame three guys that shouldn’t really be on the list.
I hope you enjoy and as always, I look forward to your feedback.
1. Yoan Moncada (Bos, 2B)
Yoan Moncada had no trouble in High-A to begin the 2016 season. The Red Sox quickly recognized that he needed another challenge and promoted him to Double-A where he has continued to hit. Eventually his single digit home run power will turn into 20 and his 40 stolen bases will turn into 25 but no matter how you add it up, he has the upside of an impact player.
2. Tyler Glasnow (Pit, RHP) – Promoted: 7/7/2016
The size and stuff is all there for Tyler Glasnow to pitch at the top-of-the-rotation for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The problem is his control has taken a step backwards this year and he’s now walking nearly five per nine. It hasn’t mattered as nobody can hit him as he’s only given up 57 hits in 96 innings. At 6-foot-8 and a tremendous stride to the plate, it’s still going to take some time, but when it comes together, it could be special.
3. Alex Bregman (Hou, 3B)
I’m a big fan of the player evaluation and development process of the Houston Astros. They are smart and making things happen. They are not perfect though…see the Kenny Giles trade, but they hit on more things than not. Enter Alex Bregman. Arguably the most big-league ready talent in the 2015 draft class, Bregman is flying though the minor leagues. He’s a hitter first that also has double-digit power and speed. Nobody controls the strike zone better in the minor leagues and once he’s promoted, he could post one of the highest OBP in the majors. While others on this list have more upside, he’s nearly ready and that accounts for a lot.
4. Andrew Benintendi (Bos, OF)
Andrew Benintendi, the 2015 Golden Spikes award winner has had little trouble in his brief stay in the minor leagues and could be an injury away from helping the big league club this year. Regardless, the starting outfield for the Red Sox in 2017 should comprise of the three B’s very soon. While the upside is still 20 HR/20 SB, his swing is still more line drive oriented. Until then, enjoy the high batting average, 20 plus stolen bases and 10 to 12 home runs while the power develops.
5. J.P. Crawford (PHI, SS)
I thought J.P. Crawford and Francisco Lindor would be similar major league players. That was until Lindor’s offense game exploded. While the same could happen for Crawford, I just don’t see the kind of offensive player that Lindor has become. While the 2016 stat line is not overwhelming, he’s still walking as much as he’s striking out and there is still double-digit home run power lurking in the bat.
6. Alex Reyes (Stl, RHP)
Alex Reyes year was delayed as he served a 50 game suspension for using recreational drugs. It was a painful but hopefully valuable lesson for the 21-year-old right-hander. The stuff is still the best in the minor leagues but he has yet to produce a sub-4.00 BB/9 rate. Until he does, he likely will not be starting in the major leagues. The mechanics and athleticism says he’ll figure it out, so patience is the operative word.
7. Orlando Arcia (Mil, SS)
Orlando Arcia entered the year as the Brewers shortstop of the future and despite a first half all-star performance by Jonathan Villar, he still is. Villar’s .401 BABIP and 27% strikeout rate will eventually catch up to him and when it does, he’ll become the utility player that he has always been. Will the Brewers sell high? I would. Arcia is a true five-tool talent, even tough the power has yet to develop. I think it will and when it does, you could be looking at the real all-star shortstop in Milwaukee.
8. Brendan Rodgers (Col, SS)
While Brendan Rodgers upside is higher than that of Alex Bregman, he follows the budding star in Houston because, well he’s only 19-years-old and playing in Low-A. He’s having little trouble with the league but don’t expect a promotion to High-A until 2017. However, given his talent, he could jump two levels in 2017 and be on-track for a 2018 promotion to the big leagues. I know, Trevor Story is a great “story”, but Rodgers is the better hitter with more power.
9. Trea Turner (Was, SS/2B/OF) – Promoted: 7/9/2016
Trea Turner looked like a lock to be called up in the first half to play shortstop for the Nationals, but let’s face it, Danny Espinosa has been really good. Plus, he’s probably a better defender at short than Turner will be. So what do you do if you’re the Nats? Move him to the outfield and try to get him up that way. Turner is good, really good with double-plus speed and the ability to get on base. He’ll be a dynamic leadoff batter very soon. When??? I wish I could tell you.
10. Rafael Devers (Bos, 3B)
Scouting and results sometimes just don’t add up. This is clearly the case with Rafael Devers. After spending most of the season batting around the Mendoza line, Devers has finally started putting it together in July. While I haven’t seen him this year, I did several times in 2015 and loved the bat. There is premium bat speed with huge raw power with a good understanding of the strike zone. Remember, he’s only 19-years-old. Give him time, he’s going to be special.
11. Dansby Swanson (Atl, SS)
I had a chance to catch an early April game with Dansby Swanson and the first thing that comes to mind is he’s a ballplayer. I know it’s an overused cliché, but he plays hard, handles the bat well with great instincts. Does he have plus power and speed? No, he doesn’t; but he should be good for 10 to 12 home runs and stolen bases annually while posting a .280 batting average and .350 OBP. That’s not a perennial all-star, but a very good player.
12. David Dahl (Col, OF)
Drafted in 2012, David Dahl has had his share of injuries and struggles, but the talent is finally starting to come together. He handled the Eastern league by posting an .867 OPS in 76 games with 13 home runs and 16 stolen bases. It’s a power/speed combination with an improving hit tool…playing half his games in Coors. You do the math.
13. Manuel Margot (SD, OF)
I’ve been the chairman of the Manny Margot fan club for the past two years and believe my tenure should be coming to a close as he’ll likely be promoted sometime during the second half. Margot is a dynamic leadoff hitter who has consistently made contact at a 90% rate with enough walks to bat leadoff. He has plus speed with good instincts on the base paths and enough physicality to hit high single-digit home runs or more in the future. How’d I do? Good, right…
14. Lewis Brinson (Tex, OF)
Let’s face it, it’s not been a good statistical year for Lewis Brinson. I stuffed him in my Top 10 at the start of the year, but a .235 induced, .219 batting average is tough to ignore. He’s gotten a little too aggressive at the plate and needs to become more selective. The best news is that the plus speed and plus raw are still there, as is his ability to run it down in the outfield. Be patient, it’s all there and remember, he just turned 22.
15. Austin Meadows (Pit, OF)
After missing most of April with an orbital fracture, Austin Meadows made quick work of Double-A, slugging .611 in 45 games. In June, the Pirates promoted him to Indianapolis, where he’s gotten off to a slow start. The tools aren’t super loud, but Meadows can really hit and that should be enough to get him to the majors in 2017. Where does he play? I have no idea. Would the Pirates consider trading him? That has never been in their DNA…would they dare move Cutch??? Hmm….
16. Victor Robles (Was, OF)
I know…I’m probably over compensating for Victor Robles as I ranked him 100 in my pre-season list. Yeah, perhaps I was a little light four months ago, but Robles is showing that he’s one of the best prospects in the game. His ability to control the strike zone at 19-years-old has been the most impressive thing about his game. Sure, he has double-plus speed and elite bat speed that should eventually translate into plus power, but he can hit. He recently was promoted to High-A and could soon be on a fast train to the Nations Capital.
17. Corey Ray (Mil, OF)
For me, Corey Ray was the best all-around player available in the 2016 draft. He has a short, compact stroke with above-average raw power and the ability to hit 15 to 18 home runs. He also has stole 30 bases a couple of times in college. While the hit-tool needs some work, he should move through the minor league very quickly with a chance to see Milwaukee in 2018.
18. Josh Bell (Pit, 1B) – Promoted: 7/10/2016
I’m not sure what Josh Bell needs to do to be considered a top prospect. He has a lifetime .309/.378/.466 slash line and walks nearly as much as he strikes out. Sure, he’s first base bound and he’s only is adequate there, but the bat is significant. In fact, I’m not sure what the Pirates are waiting for. He’s batting .327 with 13 home runs in 82 games. I guess they don’t want to lose their leadoff hitter, Jon Jaso and his four home runs.
Gleyber Torres has done more than hold his own in the Carolina League as the fourth youngest player in the league. In fact, his eight home runs rank him eighth in the league. If he played in most any other organization, Torres would be receiving a lot more publicity, but he plays for the Cubs and given their strong and young major league team, it’s hard to project where he’ll play. In the mean time, he’ll continue to get better and rise in the rankings.
20. Nick Senzel (Cin, 3B)
Nick Senzel was the best college hitter in the 2016 draft and the Cincinnati Reds decided to pay him $6.2 million dollars to be their third baseman of the future. I do worry about how much power he will have, but the approach and the hit tool are both advanced and he should move through the system very quickly. The upside is 15 to 20 home runs with a .290/.360 BA/OBP.
21. Amed Rosario (NYM, SS)
Honestly, I was a little worried after last season when Amed Rosario posted a .257/.307/.335 slash line. I was invested in him on several Dynasty Leagues and thought I made a mistake. What a difference a year makes. While repeating High-A at the ripe age of 20, he slashed .309/.359/.442 with 21 walks and 36 strikeouts. He was recently promoted to Double-A and has gotten off to a fast start. There’s just a lot to like about Rosairo.
22. Jorge Mateo (NYY, SS)
Blessed with double-plus speed, Mateo’s power is now starting to emerge. If it does, you could be looking at a 20/20 contributor at shortstop. He still strikes out too much but has also started to show better plate zone awareness as he’s walked 25 times in his 76 games in High-A. He was slated to be in the Futures game, but was suspended by the Yankees for disciplinary reasons. Prospect watchers will need to keep track of this development to determine whether this is an isolated incident or not.
23. Clint Frazier (Cle, OF)
Clint Frazier always had the bat speed but early in his career, he swung from his heels and tried to pull everything 500 feet. Now at age 21, he’s more in control with a much improved approach. Given some of the struggles of Brad Zimmer, he’s now back as the number one prospect in the Indians organization. He should see at-bats in the big league sometime in 2017.
24. Jason Groome (Bos, LHP)
As of this writing, Jason Groome has yet to sign with the Boston Red Sox. Many observers believed he would go in the Top three of the 2016 draft and I actually had him at the top of my list. He has size at 6-foot-6 with a fastball that sits 94 to 95 MPH and the best curve ball in the draft. I did get a chance to see him pitch this year and he looked poised and determined on the mound. If he signs, the Red Sox got a steal.
25. Kyle Lewis (Sea, OF)
There was talk that Kyle Lewis could go number one overall in the 2016 draft but fell to 11th where the Mariners picked him up and paid him $3.3 million dollars. He’s got size at 6-foot-4 and plus raw power. The question is can he hit enough? The swing can get long but he does show good plate patience. He’s gotten off to a solid start in Northwest League but he should have as college players should not have much trouble with short-season leagues.
26. Jose Berrios (Min, RHP)
On April 27th, the Twins finally promoted Jose Berrios after the six foot righty from Puerto Rico posted obscene numbers in 2015. As happens more times than not, he pitched poorly and after four starts, was demoted. Of course, he went back to pitching great at Triple-A, posting a 2.43 ERA and striking out over a batter an inning. To me, Berrios should be learning to pitch in the major leagues. While he doesn’t profile as a top-of-the-rotation arm, he should be a solid number three for years to come in the big leagues. He’s surely better than what the Twins are throwing out there now.
27. Anderson Espinosa (Bos, RHP)
I had a chance to see Anderson Espinosa pitch on a cold April Day on the Jersey shore and while he wasn’t hitting the upper-90’s, he showed plenty of velocity at 94 to 95 MPH. The delivery is solid and his secondary pitches are promising. My one knock is his height. He’s 6 foot tall and must keep the ball down in the zone to be effective. While I’ve ranked him very high on this list, just know that I’m not fully bought in yet. There is definitely hair on this one.
28. Franklin Barreto (Oak, SS)
When you are signed as a 16-year-old, prospect fatigue can set in. That might be happening to Franklin Barreto as Dynasty League owners are tired of seeing him on their minor league squad. Now in Double-A, Barreto continues to make steady progress, hitting seven home runs and stealing 20 bases in 81 games. His ability to control the strike zone has also improved. And by the way, he’s still only 20-years-old, making him the youngest player in the Texas League. Patience is the operative word!
29. Kevin Newman (Pit, SS)
Kevin Newman has hit at every level he’s played and while the secondary tools are not loud, he has enough pop and foot speed to be solid fantasy contributor. While the Pirates will likely keep him at short, long term, he could be forced to move to second base.
30. Blake Rutherford (NYY, OF)
When evaluating the 2016 draft, I preferred Blake Rutherford to Mikey Moniak. Clearly the Phillies didn’t and selected Moniak number one overall with Rutherford dropping to the Yankees at pick 18. Rutherford has plus raw power with very good bat-to-ball skills. If it all comes together, he could be a middle-on-the-order bat, hitting from the left-side in Yankees stadium. That would indeed play nicely.
31. Mickey Moniak (Phil, OF)
With the Philadelphia Phillies picking number one overall in the 2016 MLB draft, they selected California prep outfielder Mickey Moniak. He’ll be a good ballplayer, a solid defender who can control the strike zone with some speed and pop. However, there just isn’t any standout tool. Could power develop or a Dustin Pedroia-esque hit-tool, sure, but he’s more likely a .270, 10 to 12 home run bat hitting in the number two hole of a lineup.
32. Ozzie Albies (Atl, SS)
While I like Ozzie Albies a lot, he’s the kind of player that will be a better baseball player than fantasy player. My problem is the secondary tools. He has well below average power and while he stole 29 bases last year, he’s really not a burner. While there is 25 stolen bases in his game, I do worry whether he’ll be strong enough to hang in there against premium pitching.
33. Raul Mondesi (KC, SS)
Raul Mondesi made his major league debut in the 2015 World Series. Talk about an outlier…but the Royals have always pushed their 20-year-old Phenom hard and candidly he’s always looked overmatched. He has a lifetime career OPS of .688 but the skills are better than that. The approach is lacking but again, it’s more likely a result of playing against guys much older than him. His time frame did get delayed when he was suspended for PEDs, but from reports, he took an unapproved cold medication and not synthetic testosterone.
34. Bradley Zimmer (Cle, OF)
I had a chance to see Brad Zimmer in April and candidly, he looked a little overwhelmed. He was late on several 94 MPH fastballs from Ronald Herrera and just looked out of sync. There have been more strikeouts than I would have thought when he was drafted in 2014 and his inability to hit lefties is starting to become a problem. While the upside is a power/speed guy, there’s definitely some hair forming on him.
35. Jeff Hoffman (Col, RHP)
Yes, he’ll pitch half his games in Coors Field and yes, he’s pitching to a 4.03 ERA playing in an even more difficult Triple-A park than Coors, but Jeff Hoffman has big time swing and miss stuff that will get big leagues batter out. At 6-foot-5, he’s long and lean and pitches with nice downward plane that should limit home runs and therefore, big innings. He’s just about ready and could in fact see Colorado in the second half.
36. Reynaldo Lopez (Was, RHP)
I still think Reynaldo Lopez profiles better in the pen than in the starting rotation, but there’s no denying the stuff. He dominated the Eastern League striking out 100 while walking 25 in 76.1 innings and I expect similar results as he starts Triple-A. He does have a tendency to pitch up in the zone and his upper nineties fastball allows him to do that. However, he’s only 6-feet tall with a delivery that is top-heavy. I wrote before the season that he reminds me of Luis Severino. I stand by that.
37. Brett Phillips (Mil, OF)
Brett Phillips is one of my favorite players in the minor leagues. While he doesn’t have any offensive stand out tool, he does everything pretty well and that should allow him to have a long and successful major league career. That said, he is striking out at a 32% rate, which will not get it done at the next level. It is an increase by 50% in his previous two years as a professional baseball player. A comp for Brett Phillips could be Kevin Keirmaier of the Rays – elite defenders with sneaky offensive potential.
38. A.J. Puk (Oak, LHP)
While I’m not a huge fan of A.J. Puk, 6-foot-7 lefties that throw into the mid to upper nineties don’t grow on trees. With that alone, he’s a top prospect and that’s what each major league team thought during the draft. The fact is the delivery is non-traditional, which does add funk but I do worry that he’ll be able to consistently repeat his delivery. Given his pedigree, he should move through the system quickly with a chance to see Oakland in 2018.
39. Ian Happ (CHC, 2B/OF)
You think the Cubs know what they’re doing? They have the best team in baseball, which has been built primarily though the player development process and they don’t stop. The 2015 draft brought them Ian Happ, a college bat that is nearly ready for the big leagues. He’s had no problem in his first 148 games in professional ball, batting .291 with 18 home runs. His 141K/92BB strikeout-to-walk ratio is particularly impressive and shows the magic of the Cubs. Select guys in the draft that can hit. Where does he play and when? I don’t know, but he can clearly play.
40. Aaron Judge (NYY, OF)
I really thought Aaron Judge would have made his major league debut by now, but he has struggled in Triple-A more than I would have thought. However, over the past month, things have started to come together and Judge is starting to take form. There is easy 25 home run power but it will come with a bunch of strikeouts. He’s learning better plate discipline and together, he should be able to sustain a .240 plus batting average. That together with a .320 plus OBP and 25 bombs, should play well in New York.
41. Dominic Smith (NYM, 1B)
I know…many of you hate Dom Smith, but I just don’t. I’m a fan and candidly, this is my list, so he makes it. I understand that there is a non-zero chance that he’s simply James Loney 2.0, but I still believe there is 20 home run power in the bat. What is not under question is his ability to hit and field. He has a .354 lifetime OBP and could eventually win a gold glove at first. If you’re a fantasy player, make an offer…buy low…I’m telling you, it will work out.
42. Robert Stephenson (Cin, RHP)
I think I’ve been writing about the upside of Robert Stephenson since the Carter administration. Yet, he still remains a prospect but one that is starting to fall based on his inability to throw strikes. He did get two starts in April and while the ERA shows a 3.00 in 12 innings, he also walked four while only striking out four. The stuff is still very good, with a fastball that sits 94 to 95 MPH and two above average secondary pitches. However, the 4.70 BB/9 this year along with a 4.15 career BB/9 tells the story. He still only 23-years-old but he’s a back-of-the-rotation starter if the control doesn’t take two steps-up.
43. Nick Williams (Phi, OF)
Nick Williams continues to do what he does…make hard contact with an extremely aggressive approach. There is plus bat speed and enough foot speed to steal double-digit stolen bases. If he would learn to become more selective at the plate, the upside is a Top 30 offensive player in the league. Without the improvement, he’ll still be a good player but the OBP will stick around .300, which will hurt his order in the lineup.
44. Hunter Renfroe (SD, OF)
Hunter Renfroe is nearly ready for the big leagues as his 21 home runs and .967 over the first half in the PCL have demonstrated. While the swing can get long and therefore strikeouts will always be part of his game, he has cut down on his swing and misses in a measurable way this year. While there’s currently no room in San Diego, the trading deadline should free up a roster spot as the Padres continue with the rebuilding process.
45. Derek Fisher (Hou, OF)
Few 20/20 prospects get less love than Astros outfielder Derek Fisher. Maybe it’s me, but I see a guy who controls the strike zone who has plus power and above average speed. Sure, he’s only batting .257 and striking out 27% of the time, but he’s also walking 17% of the time with .205 ISO and a .386 OBP. There’s something there with Fisher and fantasy owners need to buy-in.
46. Josh Hader (Mil, LHP)
Josh Hader has some of the best stuff in the minor leagues but I’m still holding out that he’s a bullpen arm. While that may diminish his overall baseball value, the stuff is good enough for him to be an elite closer and that should serve fantasy owners nicely. Having said that, there is a non-zero chance he stays a starter, but based on the Chris Sale-esque delivery, I’m betting on the under.
47. Jose De Leon (LAD, RHP)
First a sprained ankle and then soreness in his arm cost Joe De Leon the first two months of the season. Now back and fully healthy, the Dodgers right-hander is being stretched out and should see the big leagues in the second half. He doesn’t profile as a top-of-the-rotation starter, but instead should be a mid-rotation starter that pounds the strike zone and challenges hitters.
48. Kyle Tucker (Hou, OF)
Taken with the fifth overall pick last year, Kyle Tucker has had a nice introduction to professional baseball. In 72 games, the teenager has hit .289 with a 47-to-24 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The power has yet to show up, but at 6-foot-4 and plenty of bat speed, it’s going to down the road. The 28 stolen bases has been impressive but Tucker is not a 50 stolen base guy and 2016 could serve as his high watermark. There’s a ton of talent and if you haven’t bought in yet, now is the time.
49. Joe Musgrove (Hou, RHP)
Joe Musgrove was given the honor in starting the 2016 Futures game for the US team and put down the World team, 1-2-3, on three straight ground balls. He can run his fastball up to 95 MPH but generally sits 92 to 93 with plenty of sink. His secondary pitches all grade-out as at least average, but EVERYTHING plays up because he throws strikes in bunches. Last year he walked 8 in 100 innings and in a repeat, he’s walked 6 in 71.3 innings so far this year. He just needs a chance and given the fluid nature of the Astros starting rotation, that should come sometime in the second half.
50. Mitch Keller (Pit, RHP)
Finally healthy, Mitch Keller is showing why the Pirates drafted him in the second round of the 2014 MLB draft and paid him a million dollars in the process. The stuff has taken a step up and the control has been impressive. In 15 games started in Low-A, he’s struck out over 10 per nine while walking 11 batters. Everyone is looking for unheralded players who have taken a big step up, well, here you go.