We’ve officially passed the half way point of the season, and here’s a look at an updated ranking of the game’s best prospects. Some to note, however, players who are likely to surpass the rookie criteria by the end of the season have not be included.
1. Byron Buxton, CF, Minnesota Twins — Previous Rank #40
The #2 pick in last June’s draft has hit a combined .333/.416/.530 between A-ball and High-A. Buxton flashes five-tool potential and could develop into a Barry Bonds-type player circa the Pittsburgh Pirates.
2. Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins — Previous Rank # 6
Dominated High-A to the tune of .330/.424/.655 as a 20-year-old, but has struggled since his promotion to the Eastern League (.196/.300/.478), though an absurdly low .211 BABIP is mostly to blame. Has elite-type power.
3. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox — Previous Rank # 9
Exploded on the scene last year (.307/.373/.523) and has followed that up with another impressive campaign (.290/.390/.489) in 2013. He could be MLB-ready by mid 2014 and profiles as a top-of-the-order type bat. Bogaerts has 25-HR potential.
4. Oscar Taveras, CF, St. Louis Cardinals — Previous Rank # 3
He’s struggled with injuries a bit, and both his power and patience have declined a bit during his debut in Triple-A.
5. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians — Previous Rank # 14
Plus defender whose bat isn’t on the same level as the other top shortstop prospects, but it should develop into a better than average tool. On offensive, he does everything well without having a true standout tool. He was recently promoted to Akron (maybe a possible precursor to an Asdrubal Cabrera deal?).
6. Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros — Previous Rank # 29
The power’s starting to develop for the 6-foot-4 Correa — he’s posted a .131 ISO — and, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, he’s been 48% better on offense than Midwest League. Not bad for an 18-year-old.
7. Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers — Previous Rank # 73
Among the biggest risers this year, Pederson, 21, is developing into a complete hitter, offering power, speed, patience, and average. He’s been a whopping 61% better than the Southern League, and should be a far more productive and cost efficient option than Andre Ethier starting as soon as next year.
8. Addison Russell, SS, Oakland A’s — Previous Rank # 70
Above-average pop with a solid walk rate, Russell’s K-rate, 25.5%, is hedging towards red flag territory. But he’s more than held his own as a 19-year-old in High-A (.263/.341/.481).
9. Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs — Previous Rank # 25
Baez has made major strides in his plate discipline this season, going from a walk rate under 4% during his time in A-ball last season to 6.2% this year in High-A. He could develop into a 25/25 threat and was recently promoted to Double-A.
10. Christian Yelich, CF, Miami Marlins — Previous Rank # 4
Banged up a bit early this season, Yelich’s K-rate is up a bit and he’s not running nearly as much as he has in the past. His problems against southpaws this year (.194/.293/.333) should prove to be an aberration (.269/.341/.411 during his career, including the poor showing this year).
11. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners — Previous Rank # 10
He likely could have slid into the back end of a big league rotation prior to this year, Walker’s control has taken a slight step forward, and he’s positioned himself for a September call up. A duo of Felix Hernandez and Walker could go a long way towards righting the Mariners’ ship.
12. Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks — Previous Rank # 30
Control’s taken a big step forward, but it’s still below-average at this time. He doesn’t generate a ton of groundballs, but has given up just 10 career bombs, suggesting just how dominate he’s been.
13. Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs — Previous Rank # N/A
I had Bryant as the #1 guy on my board this year among collegiate players. And despite not making his professional debut yet, I remain quite bullish on his overall potential.
14. Mark Appel, RHP, Houston Astros — Previous Rank # N/A
The elite arm in this year’s draft, Appel could be up before the end of 2014. Maybe not true ace potential, but he’s going to be very, very good.
15. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates — Previous Rank # 41
I was a bit down on Taillon coming into the season, thanks in large part to his alarmingly low K-rate with Bradenton. This year, however, it’s rebounded nicely, back to almost one per inning. He knows how to pitch.
16. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets — Previous Rank # 28
Breezed through High-A with relative ease (9.05 K/9, 2.226 BB/9, 52% GB-rate and a 3.09 Skill Independent ERA). He’s made four Eastern League starts and could be poised for the big leagues late next year. How’s a Matt Harvey/Zach Wheeler/Noah Syndergaard-led rotation sound, Mets fans?
17. Jackie Bradley, CF, Boston Red Sox — Previous Rank # 20
He’s an elite defensive glove with phenomenal plate discipline, average pop and 20-stolen base potential. Bradley could peak as a 20/20 guy. And he’s the heir apparent to Jacoby Ellsbury in CF.
18. Garin Cecchini, 3B, Boston Red Sox — Previous Rank # 53
I was much higher on Cecchini than most coming into the season. He showed plus-speed and doubles pop. Now, though, he’s batting .349/.466/.529 this season. It’s still doubles power, but should develop into 20-homerun potential down the line.
19. Adalberto Mondesi, SS, Kansas City Royals — Previous Rank # 88
After a rather impressive debut for a 16-year-old in rookie ball, Mondesi has essentially been a league average bat in A-ball, showing promising power, plate discipline and speed. He could be one of those guys that just jumps up the prospect boards in a year or two. He’s definitely, definitely a name to know. Don’t be surprised if he jumps ahead of Correa within two years.
20. Allen Webster, LHP, Boston Red Sox – Previous Rank # 64
It’s almost comical that Boston got anything in return for the massive salary dump last season, but Webster’s got front of the rotation potential. Typically, he’s shown slightly below-average control so that would need to take another step forward. But a lefty mid a mid- to high-90s fastball is pretty valuable.
21. Yordano Ventura, RHP, Kansas City Royals — Previous Rank # 49
Underrated because of his size (5-foot-11 and 178 pounds), Ventura misses bats with the best of them. His innings are likely going to monitored closely in the second half; he’s only topped 100 once in his career and has totaled 92.1 thus far. Hopefully, the Royals avoid Aaron Crow-ing him.
22. Zach Lee, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers — Previous Rank # 43
Saw a noticeable decline in his K-rate upon his promotion to Double-A last season, but it rebounded nicely. He should be a very good #2/#3-type guy.
23. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Kansas City Royals — Previous Rank # 22
Zimmer has really outperformed his 4.81 ERA: 11.34 K/9, 3.11 BB/9, and a 2.71 SIERA. The main culprit is a low strand rate (59.6%).
24. Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Houston Astros — Previous Rank # 27
50-game pot suspension served, but he’s looked absolutely lost in 30 Triple-A games.
25. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles — Previous Rank # 7
How’s that old adage go? There’s no such thing as a pitching prospect, right? Bundy hasn’t thrown a single pitch this season because of a wonky elbow. At least it’s not the shoulder though.
26. Carlos Martinez, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals — Previous Rank # 24
Big, big time fastball, but where are the Ks?
27. Nick Castellanos, 3B/LF, Detroit Tigers — Previous Rank # 12
Sure, it’s an above-average or better hit tool. But his power still has a bit to go. Hopefully, the Tigers push Miguel Cabrera to DH and let Castellanos back at the hot corner where his bat plays up.
28. Travis d’Arnaud, C, New York Mets — Previous Rank # 11
He’s getting awfully close to having that “injury-prone” label slapped on. The bat will play anywhere too.
29. Jonathan Gray, RHP, Colorado Rockies — Previous Rank # N/A
An elite Colorado Rockies pitching prospect? Stay tuned.
30. Jesse Biddle, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies — Previous Rank # 44
Again, higher on him than most prior to the year, Biddle has really impressed in Double-A thus far, averaging 9.84 K/9 through 17 starts. The one problem, though, is his control has taken a noticeable step backward.
31. George Springer, CF, Houston Astros — Previous Rank #
He’s exceptionally toolsy, but swings-and-misses an awful lot. He has 30/30/30 potential: 30 homeruns, 30 stolen bases, and strikeouts in 30% of his plate appearances.
32. Danny Salazar, RHP, Cleveland Indians — Previous Rank # 90
Highly, highly underrated despite having a plus-fastball, Salazar has been nothing short of dominant this season: 11.8 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a 2.22 SIERA between Akron and Columbus.
33. Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays — Previous Rank # 84
Back to missing bats after a down year in 2012. He’s not frontline potential, but should slide into the middle of the Rays’ rotation for many, many years.
34. Michael Wacha, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals — Previous Rank # 91
Wacha’s made three starts for the Cardinals, showing a low to mid 90s fastball, change, and curve. He hasn’t missed a ton of bats yet (6.88 K/9), but he essentially jumped from college to Triple-A. This might be a bit of an over-rank, at least in terms of ceiling.
35. Matt Barnes, RHP, Boston Red Sox — Previous Rank # 59
More than a full two-run difference between his ERA, 5.22, and SIERA, 3.05. Huge spike in his K-rate (11.21 K/9) too. Barnes could be a sleeper candidate for next year’s Opening Day rotation or a valuable trade chip in the coming days.
36. Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees — Previous Rank # 42
Triple-slash line in High-A isn’t exactly eye-catching (.264/.327/.456), but a 20-year-old backstop with a decent eye and above-average pop who has thrown out nearly half of would-be base stealers has a lot future value.
37. Jake Marisnick, CF, Miami Marlins — Previous Rank # 111
A personal favorite for several years now, Marisnick is finally capitalizing on his vast potential: .293/.358/.484. He could be like a Mark Kotsay-type player and is very likely to make his MLB debut before the end of the year.
38. Trevor Bauer, RHP, Cleveland Indians — Previous Rank # 15
He’s clearly not ready to be in the big leagues, and the Indians could be heading towards a dangerous climax. The talent’s there, though.
39. Henry Owens, LHP, Boston Red Sox — Previous Rank # 52
Huge lefty with front of the rotation potential, but he needs to reign in his control a bit.
40. Gregory Polanco, CF, Pittsburgh Pirates — Previous Rank # 65
Above-average speed with some pop and patience, the lefty-swinging Polanco hits fellow southpaws surprisingly well. Pirates could be home to the best all-around outfield in two years, with Andrew McCutcheon flanked by Starling Marte and Polanco.
41. Alen Hanson, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates — Previous Rank # 48
The power’s taken a noticeable step backwards this season (.219 vs. .159 ISOs) as he’s moved away from the friendly confines of West Virginia, but it should develop into 15 or so homeruns down the line. Above-average to plus-speed for the young switch-hitter.
42. Matt Davidson, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks — Previous Rank # 68
Another often overlooked prospect, Davidson’s hitting .291/.354/.500 during his first stint in Triple-A. It’s solid production, though a little misleading; he’s just 20% better than the league average.
43. Robert Stephenson, RHP, Cincinnati Reds — Previous Rank # 81
After a cup of coffee with Dayton last season, Stephenson has shown an increase in his ability to miss bats (11.2 K/9) while lowering his walk rate (2.3 BB/9). It’s a bit surprising that he hasn’t been promoted to High-A yet.
44. Kohl Stewart, RHP, Minnesota Twins, — Previous Ranks # N/A
The first high school arm taken in the draft and the number four overall pick, Stewart’s thrown just five innings in pro ball thus far.
45. Marcus Stroman, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays — Previous Rank # 136
Lost 50 games due to a drug suspension, it looked like the diminutive right-hander would be used primarily as a reliever. Through 11 starts this season, however, he’s averaging 10.19 K/9 to just 2.26 BB/9. He’s likely to be up before the end of the year. Wonder if he sticks in the rotation long term.
46. Alex Meyer, RHP, Minnesota Twins — Previous Rank # 37
His control has taken a noticeable step backward this season. Otherwise, he’s been very good. He could be a long shot to make the Twins’ rotation come Opening Day next year. But more likely than not, he’ll be a mid season promotion in 2014.
47. Max Fried, LHP, San Diego Padres — Previous Rank # 69
The elite left-handed high school arm in the draft last year, Fried basically jumped straight to A-ball in 2013, averaging 8.59 K/9 and 4.42 BB/9. Also showing an elite groundball rate (55.9%).
48. Domingo Santana, RF, Houston Astros — Previous Rank # 51
Previously, wrote about his concerning K-rate, which now stands at a whopping 31.6%. It has improved over the course of his career and he’s still quite young for his level. Very toolsy. Santana could be the better long term prospect when compared to George Springer.
49. Rafael Montero, RHP, New York Mets — Previous Rank # 119
Overshadowed by Zach Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard, Montero’s flashed pinpoint control (1.8 BB/9) with the ability to miss some bats. He doesn’t have the ceiling as his fellow top prospects, but he should settle in nicely as a very good #4-type.
50. David Dahl, LF, Colorado Rockies — Previous Rank # 46
Dominated during his debut and lost a significant portion of time due to some immaturity issues this year. He’s hitting a rather unimpressive .275/.310/.425 in A-ball, though that’s through just 10 games thus far.
51. Albert Almora, CF, Chicago Cubs — Previous Rank # 79
More than tripled his walk rate this year (1.38% to 4.5%), but it’s still well below-average. None the less, he’s hitting .333/.371/.486 in A-ball.
52. Clayton Blackburn, RHP, San Francisco Giants — Previous Rank # 131
Highly underrated, Blackburn continues to miss a ton of bats (10.01 K/9) while being a curmudgeon with the free passes (2.63 BB/9). The big righty is the type that quietly goes through the system and after several years of big league success the question always is asked: “How’d we not here more about him?”
53. Trevor May, RHP, Minnesota Twins — Previous Rank # 107
Part of the Ben Revere deal with Philadelphia, May looked like he was headed for a late inning relief role, flashing big time strikeout numbers doused with problematic control. This season, his first in Minnesota’s system, he’s posting the second lowest walk rate of his career (3.97 BB/9). He could wind up with a Chris Archer-type ceiling.
54. Clint Frazier, OF, Cleveland Indians — Previous Rank # 64
Tribe’s first round pick this year is off to a promising start: .333/.379/.596 through 66 PA.
55. Danny Hultzen, LHP, Seattle Mariners — Previous Rank # 21
Really turned it around after an awful debut in Triple-A last season, Hultzen has been hampered by a cranky shoulder recently. Otherwise, he’d rank much higher.
56. Michael Choice, CF, Oakland A’s — Previous Rank # 67
A rather blasé season this year (.292/.38/3/.430), one wonders if he’s not 100% back from a hand injury in 2012. The power’s better than he showed the past two years.
57. Billy Hamilton, CF, Cincinnati Reds — Previous Rank # 39
This isn’t going to be completely fair, but:
- Vince Coleman, Age 22: .257/.323/.334
- Billy Hamilton, Age 22: .243/.300/.331
Granted, Hamilton is playing up one level. But I’m not so certain the comparison can’t be made right now.
58. Jorge Soler, RF, Chicago Cubs — Previous Rank # 66
Temper issues aside, Soler has performed reasonably well this season (.281/.343/.467), but it’s a bit of a disappointment. The in-game power is solid-average for now.
59. Andrew Heaney, LHP, Miami Marlins — Previous Rank # 104
The ninth pick last season, Heaney has sparkled in High, posting a near-perfect 1.09 ERA. Of course, his SIERA is nearly two full runs higher at 2.91. He’s missing a lot of bats, but I’m not sure that continues as he moves up the ladder.
60. Lance McCullers, RHP, Houston Astros — Previous Rank # 126
The Astros second best pitching prospect, McCullers has transitioned well into the professional game, averaging 10.13 K/9 and 4.07 BB/9. He’s still raw and several years away, but he has #2/#3-type potential.
61. Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals — Previous Rank # 116
The overall numbers (.298/.360/.455) are a bit misleading because his total production is just 13% above the league average. Still not a particularly huge fan of his, but he’s the type that becomes a league-average starter for the better part of decade and spends the next half-dozen years as a serviceable role player. Perhaps Adam Kennedy-esque.
62. Bruce Rondon, RHP, Detroit Tigers — Previous Rank # 83
Have to wonder why he hasn’t been recalled with Detroit’s ongoing bullpen roles.
63. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, Boston Red Sox — Previous Rank # N/A
Finally healthy, Boston would be wise to flip the injury-prone Ranaudo at the deadline. Not sure he’s in a big league rotation in three years.
64. Dorssys Paulino, SS, Cleveland Indians — Previous Rank # 57
Uncharacteristically pushed to A-ball ball as an 18-year-old, Paulino’s hit just .238/.288/.347 this season, though he’s improved every month. The walk and strikeout rate are pretty much in line with his career numbers, but the power has more than halved (.256 ISO to .109 ISO).
65. Robbie Erlin, LHP, San Diego Padres — Previous Rank # 78
His K-rate regressed noticeably in Triple-A this season, in large part due to below-average fastball, but he knows how to pitch. Numbers will play up in Petco.
66. Sean Nolin, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays — Previous Rank # 105
Most of his pitches are rather clumped together (89 mph fastball, 86 mph slider, and a low 80s slider), Nolin, nonetheless, has averaged more than one punch out an inning and an elite walk rate (1.91 BB/9). Another backend starter, or a solid middle reliever at worse.
67. Taylor Guerrieri, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays — Previous Rank # 72
Owns a sparkling 1.59 career ERA, but where are the strikeouts?
68. Matt Magill, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers — Previous Rank # 87
Always one to battle control issues, Magill flat-out lost the war this season, averaging 6.19 BB/9. He’s made six starts for the Dodgers, where he’s walked 28 in 27.2 innings.
69. Matthew Wisler, RHP, San Diego Padres — Previous Rank # 142
Continued his brief history of above-average K-rates and modest walk numbers, Wisler looks like a solid back of the rotation guy.
70. Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies — Previous Rank # N/A
Destroyed High-A (.299/.347/.576) and Double-A (.386/.400/.651 in 20 games) pitching, but his pitch recognition is pretty horrendous. Still only 20-years-old though.
71. Nick Delmonico, 1B/3B, Baltimore Orioles — Previous Rank # 134
Delmonico’s already set career highs in homeruns (13) to go along with an impressive walk rate (14.1%). Still only 20-years-old.
72. Jesse Winker, CF, Cincinnati Reds — Previous Rank # 123
Twenty- to 25-homerun potential.
73. Josh Bell, RF, Pittsburgh Pirates — Previous Rank # N/A
Finally healthy after two years, Bell is hitting .282/.345/.453 in A-ball, with 26 doubles, a pair of triples, and eight dingers. He has 30-homerun potential, and could be one of the biggest risers come this time next year.
74. Kyle Smith, RHP, Kansas City Royals — Previous Rank # 114
Overlooked even in a middle-level farm system, Smith owns a career 2.84 ERA as well as rates of 9.9 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9.
75. Delino Deshields Jr., 2B, Houston Astros — Previous Rank # 71
Prior to the season, I wrote: “It wouldn’t be surprising to see Deshields outlast [Cincinnati Reds’ outfielder Billy Hamilton], mainly because Houston’s future second baseman shows far more power.” Well, the power hasn’t been there like it has in the past (.110 ISO).
Photo of Byron Buxton Courtesy of Jeff Murwin/MiLB.com