Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
This is my seventh such ranking for Insider, with a lot of movement within the list from last year's but many of the same names still present. Six of last year's top 10 players are still on the list, and only 13 of last year's top 50 lost their eligibility for 2014. The list is heavy on position players up the middle, including shortstops near the top of the list and many potential everyday catchers further down. First base is extremely weak, and the pitching talent in the minors is still skewed heavily toward right-handed arms.
Law's prospect rankings
Jan. 28: Farm system rankings
HOU No. 1 | MIN close | Luhnow
Jan. 29: Top 100 prospects
No. 1-50 | 51-100 | Law chat Jan. 30: AL East top 10s | ALC | ALW
Jan. 31: NL East top 10s | NLC | NLW
• The rankings are limited to players who still have rookie eligibility; that means they have yet to exceed 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the majors and have not yet spent 45 days on the active roster of a major league club, excluding call-ups during the roster expansion period after Sept. 1. That means St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez is ineligible, based on his days on the 25-man roster.
• Only players who have signed professional contracts are eligible.
• I do not consider players with professional experience in Japan or Korea "prospects" for the purposes of this exercise, which means no Masahiro Tanaka this year (among others). I've also excluded Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, as he's already 27 years old, too old for a list that by design is comprised of players who are almost all 22 and under.
• When ranking players, I consider scouting reports on players -- usually my own, supplementing with conversations with other scouts and front-office executives as needed -- as well as performance, adjusted for age and context. I've made one adjustment in my ranking philosophy in recent years, favoring higher-upside prospects over lower-ceiling prospects who are closer to the majors. This better reflects how these players are valued now by front offices and scouting departments, and gives me a chance to deliver more information on prospects whose names or scouting reports might be new to you.
• I use the 20-80 grading scale in these comments to avoid saying "average" and "above average" thousands of times across the 100 player comments. On that scale, a grade of 50 equals major league average, 55 is above average, 60 is plus, 45 is fringy or below average and so on. Giancarlo Stanton has 80 raw power. David Ortiz has 20 speed. Carlos Gomez is an 80 defender. An average fastball for a right-hander is 90-92 mph, with 1-2 mph off for a lefty.
• I've included last year's rank for players who appeared in the top 100 in 2013. An "ineligible" player was still an amateur at this time last January, whereas an "unranked" player was eligible but didn't make the cut. I've also tagged players who were on last year's sleepers list or list of 10 players who just missed the cut.
Top 100 index | No. 1-50 | No. 51-100
1Byron Buxton, CF
AGE: 20DOB: 12/18/93B/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 189
AVG: .334OBP: .424OPS: .944HR: 12SB: 55
The best player available in the 2012 amateur draft turned out to be even better than expected in his first full year of pro ball, showing off four plus tools right away with a solid approach befitting his status as an older high school senior last spring.
Buxton is an outstanding athlete, like a 20-year-old Eric Davis with a grade-70 arm in center, among the fastest runners you will ever see on a baseball field and with the potential to grow into power in time. He's always had very quick wrists, but the Twins have done a great job of smoothing out Buxton's swing; he's more balanced through contact and already has more power because he keeps his back foot in contact with the ground so he gets more loft in his swing.
Buxton's instincts in the field were evident in high school, but he's proven to be a more advanced hitter than anyone anticipated, given his relatively advanced age for a high school draftee (more than 18 1/2 years old on draft day) and experience playing against mediocre prep competition in rural Georgia. He's comfortable running deep counts and recognizes balls and strikes well already, although his recognition of off-speed stuff lags a little behind that. This combination of quick-twitch actions with size and feel for the game is extremely unusual, something we see only once a decade or so.
Buxton could be the next 20-homer/50-stolen base player, with high averages and OBPs and great defense in center, which would make him a perennial MVP candidate for the Twins for years.
Top level: High Class A (Ft. Myers) | 2013 rank: 22
2Xander Bogaerts, SS
AGE: 21DOB: 10/1/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 185
AVG: .297OBP: .388OPS: .865HR: 15SB: 7
For all of Bogaerts' tools -- and he has many -- it was his patient approach at the plate that stood out in the Aruban's brief major league stint in 2013. Bogaerts has explosive potential as a hitter, as the ball comes off his bat exceptionally well, and the fact he sees the ball so well and makes good decisions as a hitter bodes well for his ability to adjust to major league pitching if he's handed an everyday job in 2014.
He has quick and very strong hands at the plate, with moderate hip rotation that still projects to plus power because of the speed and force of his swing. He's a natural shortstop, with soft hands and very good actions as well as plenty of arm for the left side of the infield. Although his frame could allow him to get too big for the position, he's maintained his conditioning well enough to stay at short for the near future, and the possibility of a 25- to 30-homer bat with strong on-base skills at that position gives Boston strong incentive to leave him there.
He could be Troy Tulowitzki with a little less arm, and that's an MVP-caliber player.
Top level: Majors (Boston) | 2013 rank: 5
3Addison Russell, SS
AGE: 20DOB: 1/23/94B/T: R/RHT: 6-0WT: 195
AVG: .269OBP: .369OPS: .865HR: 17SB: 21
One of the best pure hitters in the minors, Russell is an incredibly gifted player who has a mature approach at the plate and some of the softest hands you'll ever see in the field.
Once a muscled-up third baseman, Russell dropped more than 20 pounds before his senior year of high school because he wanted to prove to scouts he could stay at shortstop, a decision that has worked out in every respect and also reflects his work ethic and humility as a ballplayer.
He has a simple, fluid right-handed swing with some loft through his finish to generate line drives; his bat speed is so good and the contact he makes is so hard that I still see more power in the future for him, 15-20 homers a year, if not more. In the field, he has the hands to be an elite shortstop and his actions are fine, with only his feet lagging slightly because he doesn't have the first-step quickness of traditional shortstops. He has plenty of arm for short or third and has shown he can take instruction well enough that no one is seriously talking about him moving to another position.
He had a slow start for high Class A Stockton in 2013, but from June 1 until his promotion to Triple-A, he hit .319/.421/.578 in 299 plate appearances as one of the youngest regulars in the California League. If the A's wanted to make him their everyday shortstop in 2014, it wouldn't be that far-fetched an idea. His hands and his eye are ready to play; his aptitude for the game is so good that the bat will catch up.
Top level: Triple-A (Sacramento) | 2013 rank: 10
4Carlos Correa, SS
AGE: 19DOB: 9/22/94B/T: R/RHT: 6-4WT: 205
AVG: .320OBP: .405OPS: .872HR: 9SB: 10
Correa played the whole year at 18 in the low Class A Midwest League, one of the youngest regulars in any full-season circuit, and after a rough April, blew everyone away with his combination of physical potential and on-field acumen.
He hit .338/.410/.479 after an early-May DL stint caused by a pitch taken off the wrist, improving his approach at the plate as the season went on, and making far more contact than you'd expect of a player his age in his first year of pro ball -- he ranked above the league median in strikeout rate even with the bad start to his season.
Correa is a big kid, already 6-foot-4 and more than 200 pounds, likely on his way to 220 or so, which will push the boundaries of what typically plays at shortstop in the majors. But he's very athletic for his size, with solid footwork and a 70-grade arm. The tradeoff with his size will be power, as he already shows plenty of raw power and could end up in the 25-30 homer range.
He's got a quiet approach, short to the ball with great hand acceleration, moderately rotational, producing more line drives now than big flies but with the hand-eye coordination to do so down the road. Other than a lack of speed, he's close to the ideal prospect, and if he ends up following the Manny Machado route to third base, his bat will still make him a star.
Top level: Low Class A (Quad Cities) | 2013 rank: 24
5Oscar Taveras, OF
AGE: 21DOB: 6/19/92B/T: L/LHT: 6-2WT: 200
AVG: .310OBP: .348OPS: .819HR: 5SB: 5
It was a lost year for Taveras, who spent most of 2013 hobbling around in a boot to protect an injured ankle that refused to heal. He remains the Cardinals' best prospect and is probably ready to take over in right field for the departed Carlos Beltran, but losing out on several hundred Triple-A at-bats won't help his development as a hitter or as a professional ballplayer.
Taveras has tremendous leverage at the plate, with a high-effort swing that he's only slightly toned down since he first emerged as a top prospect in low Class A. He's a great bad-ball hitter with power to all fields, rarely striking out, but rarely walking, either. He's a lot like a left-handed Vladimir Guerrero at the plate, with a better glove in right but less arm (there are sniper rifles less powerful than Vlad's arm).
Besides health, Taveras has been knocked for appearing to play with less than full effort at times, although much of that in 2013 may have been a function of trying to play when he could barely walk. I still think he peaks as a .300 hitter with 30-homer power, but the lack of Triple-A time may slow him down in the near term.
Top level: Triple-A (Memphis) | 2013 rank: 2
6Francisco Lindor, SS
AGE 21DOB: 11/14/93B/T: B/RHT: 5-11WT: 175
AVG: .303OBP: .380OPS: .787HR: 2SB: 25
Lindor continues to play well above his years, reaching Double-A while still 19 years old, walking more than he struck out and playing major league-caliber defense already. I'm not sure what remains for Lindor to learn before he's ready to take over the position in Cleveland, and while they could wait for him to fill out a little more physically, he's strong enough now that big league fastballs aren't going to knock the bat out of his hands.
Lindor is a plus runner and switch-hitter with a good swing on both sides of the plate; his right-handed swing is a little better, as he keeps his weight back longer, but his platoon splits flipped this year from 2012 and I think he'll produce against all types of pitching. His feel for the game has always been his greatest strength -- he has instincts and game awareness, and when you combine that with soft hands and a plus arm, you get a Gold Glove-type of defender at a critical position.
Lindor doesn't look like a power hitter but has exceptional lower-half strength and his swing will allow him to eventually get to that power even though he doesn't finish with a ton of loft. Even at 12-15 homers, which is probably a neutral projection for him, he'll be an All-Star thanks to grade-70 defense and OBPs up near .400 with plenty of doubles and 20-plus steals a year.
Top level: Double-A (Akron) | 2013 rank: 7
7Javier Baez, SS
AGE: 21DOB: 12/1/93B/T: R/RHT: 6-0WT: 195
AVG: .282OBP: .341OPS: .920HR: 37SB: 20
Baez has the best bat speed of any hitter in the minors right now, and the ball explodes off his bat like he's splitting atoms with contact.
He's got 30-plus home run power, and showed at least some signs in the second half of 2012 that he could improve his plate discipline, working the count a little more effectively in some of his plate appearances. He's still prone to the at-bat where you watch him and wonder what he was thinking, the kind of brain cramp that won't be forgiven in the big leagues, but he can turn around the next time and hit a ball 400 feet the other way if the pitcher tries the same trick twice.
Baez is agile enough to handle shortstop, and could even be average or a tick better there, but his arm will play anywhere on the diamond and he's quick enough to handle second if the Cubs move him there. Wherever he plays, he'll probably start his career as a low-walk guy, maybe a .270/.310/.450 type of hitter right out of the chute, but the progress he showed in 2013 may give us hope he can improve that OBP in time and become an MVP candidate.
Top level: Double-A (Tennessee) | 2013 rank: 31
8Miguel Sano, 3B
AGE: 20DOB: 5/11/93B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 195
AVG: .280OBP: .382OPS: .992HR: 35SB: 11
Sano is the best pure offensive prospect in the minors, boasting 80-grade raw power and an easy swing that generates hard contact using his hips and legs, along with a history of making adjustments to his plan at the plate.
He reached Double-A at age 20 last year, and after a slow start there hit .258/.374/.609 after the Eastern League's All-Star Game. His power is slightly ahead of his ability to hit and make contact, but he has shown plenty of the latter skill, with strong walk rates since he reached full-season ball and the ability to pick up spin and changing speeds.
His defense is still the main question, as he's still rough at third base and that body is only going to get bigger as he gets into his 20s. Sano is also dealing with an elbow issue which shouldn't require Tommy John surgery, but the possibility he'll need that procedure remains on the table, and it would cost him a few hundred at-bats he needs and could prevent a late 2014 call-up.
If rehab alone does the trick, or a move to first base, Sano should be in the Twins' lineup on Opening Day of next year, on his way to 30- to 35-homer seasons with mid-.300 OBPs.
Top level: Double-A (New Britain) | 2013 rank: 11
9Archie Bradley, RHP
AGE: 21DOB: 8/10/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-4WT: 225
W-L: 14-5ERA: 1.84IP: 152.0SO: 162BB: 69
This is what they're supposed to look like: Big, strong, athletic, aggressive, with a pair of 70-grade pitches and promise of a third one.
Bradley, who passed up a scholarship to be a quarterback at Oklahoma after high school, effectively skipped high Class A, throwing just 28 innings there before a promotion to Double-A at age 20, and improved his performance across the board despite the two-level jump.
His command and control were both significantly better in 2013; his walk rate dropped by nearly 30 percent from low Class A to Double-A, and his rate of walks plus hit batsmen dropped by 40 percent, while he even slashed his wild pitch total (which could also be a function of who was catching him) from 17 to 2.
Bradley works with a 92-98 mph fastball and a power curveball in the low 80s with depth and right rotation. He needs more work on his changeup, and needs to use his large frame to stay on top of the fastball so it doesn't sit up in the zone. His arm works and he's extremely competitive on the mound, so the Diamondbacks were right to move him out of the hitter-friendly Cal League as quickly as possible.
He'll be ready to help the major league team by the second half of this year and projects as their future No. 1 starter.
Top level: Double-A (Mobile) | 2013 rank: 29
10Kyle Zimmer, RHP
AGE: 22DOB: 9/13/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 215
W-L: 6-9ERA: 4.32IP: 108.1SO: 140BB: 36
Zimmer's season ended on a bit of a down note, as a bout of shoulder tendinitis led the Royals to shut him down for precautionary reasons (an MRI was clean), but before that he'd been on a run that established him as a legitimate top-of-the-rotation prospect who's not that far away from the majors.
Zimmer will show you two 70-grade pitches in addition to his 93-97 mph fastball -- a yellow hammer curveball with depth and angle, and a mid-80s changeup with great arm speed and some late action to it. He's an outstanding athlete, as you might expect from a converted position player, and has less mileage on his arm than most college products.
He does use a fourth pitch, a below-average slider that he needs to junk or at least limit to just a few pitches a game, and he has a tendency to rush off the rubber and speed up his entire delivery, costing him command and reducing his body control through the process.
Zimmer finished his season on fire, punching out 63 and walking eight in his last eight starts of the summer, half of them after a promotion to Double-A Northwest Arkansas, and as long as his shoulder is happy he should move quickly to Triple-A. He's the future ace the Royals have been trying to develop since they traded Zack Greinke.
Top level: Double-A (Northwest Arkansas) | 2013 rank: 27
11Mark Appel, RHP
AGE: 21DOB: 7/15/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-5WT: 190
W-L: 3-1ERA: 3.79IP: 38.0SO: 33BB: 9
Appel came into last spring with an agenda on the mound after turning down a multimillion dollar offer from the Pirates, who took him eighth overall in the 2012 draft.
After hearing questions about his willingness to attack hitters and get swings and misses on his off-speed stuff, Appel tightened everything up for 2013, showing a little more velocity, a sharper breaking ball and a real willingness to claim the inner half of the plate and get into hitters' kitchens more than he had in the past. His decision to return to Stanford ended up paying off when the Astros selected him first overall in 2013.
On the right night, he'll show three plus pitches, sitting 92-97 mph on a fastball he complements with a wipeout slider and a low-to-mid-80s changeup with action and deception to it, but it's how he deployed those pitches last spring that impressed -- getting ahead with the fastball, changing eye levels, backing hitters off -- rather than just the pure stuff. Appel is a great athlete who repeats his delivery, getting out over his front side with a late release point and very clean mechanics.
Moving to every fifth day in pro ball might impact his stuff a little, but even if he loses 2 mph he's still a potential front-line starter with command and control of three above-average to plus offerings.
Top level: Low Class A (Quad Cities) | 2013 rank: Ineligible
12Jonathan Gray, RHP
AGE: 22DOB: 11/5/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-4WT: 255
W-L: 4-0ERA: 1.93IP: 37.1SO: 51BB: 8
Gray burst on the amateur scene last February when he hit 98 on a freezing Saturday in Oklahoma City on the college season's opening weekend, and it only got better from there, as he hit 100 mph a few weeks later and showed a venomous mid-80s slider that he could throw effectively to right- and left-handed batters.
The Oklahoma product's stock took a small hit when he tested positive for Adderall in MLB's predraft testing program, but after signing he made rapid improvement in the Rockies' system as Colorado made him throw the changeup more, to the point where it was flashing plus by the end of the summer.
Gray's a physical presence on the mound, with a lightning-quick arm, taking a long stride toward the plate with moderate hip rotation and accelerating his arm quickly after a slightly stiff landing. Other than the changeup, which is coming along faster than expected, his main issues are fastball command and maintaining his delivery when working out of the stretch.
He's a potential No. 1 starter with a very high floor as long as he stays healthy, as even fringy command will still lead to a ton of swings and misses on his primary two pitches.
Top level: High Class A (Modesto) | 2013 rank: Ineligible
13Gregory Polanco, RF
AGE: 22DOB: 9/14/91B/T: L/LHT: 6-4WT: 220
AVG: .285OBP: .356OPS: .791HR: 12SB: 38
Polanco is one of the most exciting position-player prospects in the minors due to his combination of all five tools and a very mature approach to all parts of the game.
His main calling card now is his plus-plus defense in center, with great range due to his speed and much better reads on balls than he was making early last year. He shortened up his swing without sacrificing any power, maintaining his high contact rates despite spending half of 2013 at Double-A in just his second year in full-season leagues. He's a 70-grade runner out of the box, and his plate discipline and approach are way beyond what you'd expect from a player so young and inexperienced.
He's going to impact the game on offense, on defense and on the bases, a 25-homer guy with high OBPs and outstanding glovework in the outfield. The suddenly talent-rich Pirates can prepare to get even richer.
Top level: Triple-A (Indianapolis) | 2013 rank: 55
14Julio Urias, LHP
AGE: 17DOB: 8/12/96B/T: L/LHT: 5-11WT: 160
W-L: 2-0ERA: 2.48IP: 54.1SO: 67BB: 16
The Dodgers signed Urias -- who is the youngest player on this list by a wide margin -- during the same trip to Mexico that netted them Yasiel Puig, which may end up one of the most productive scouting runs in baseball history, as Urias has enormous upside if he can just stay healthy while Los Angeles gradually builds up his arm to handle a starter's workload.
He has four pitches now, with a fastball up to 95 mph and a plus curveball, but stood out more for his feel for pitching, carving low Class A hitters up with his full assortment and by locating his fastball around the zone. He's barely 5-foot-11, but is young enough that he could still be growing; his weight is of greater concern, as he's a little chubby already -- although guys like Fernando Valenzuela weren't exactly body-beautiful, either. He also has a drooping eyelid (ptosis) that scared some teams off, but the issue is cosmetic and doesn't affect his ability to pitch.
For Urias to reach his ceiling, it's about staying healthy, and continuing to improve his command as he faces tougher hitters who won't chase fastballs up or watch curveballs right over the heart of the plate.
Top level: Low Class A (Great Lakes) | 2013 rank: Unranked
15Kris Bryant, 3B
AGE: 22DOB: 1/4/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-5WT: 215
AVG: .336OBP: .390OPS: 1.078HR: 9SB: 1
A first-round talent out of high school who ended up at the University of San Diego, Bryant went second overall to the Cubs in 2013 after crushing NCAA leaderboards into singularities all spring, then proceeded to do the same in a month and a half of pro ball, slugging .688 over the summer and .727 in the Arizona Fall League.
Bryant has big-time power, especially to his pull side, with huge hip rotation after starting with a very wide base. He has no stride and a tendency to slightly overrotate; combined with just average bat speed, it creates some risk that his contact rates will drop as he faces better velocity in Double-A or higher. He's a good athlete for his size and has a chance to remain at third base; if he has to move to the outfield, he'll be above average to plus in right, with plenty of arm for any position on the field.
At worst, he'll be an impact power bat with good defense in right and adequate OBPs; his ceiling is a 30- to 35-homer bat with .350-plus OBPs and solid-average defense at third, the kind of bat you stick in the cleanup spot so you can build your lineup around him.
Top level: High Class A (Daytona) | 2013 rank: Ineligible
16Taijuan Walker, RHP
AGE: 21DOB: 8/13/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-4WT: 210
W-L: 9-10ERA: 2.93IP: 141.1SO: 160BB: 57
Everyone still loves Walker's combination of athleticism, height and absurdly easy velocity, all of which earn comparisons to a young Doc Gooden, but with better makeup.
He took some small steps backward mechanically in 2013 while supplanting his curveball with a cutter, and while his ceiling remains very high, there's a little less probability than there was last winter. Walker gets into the mid-90s on his fastball with minimal effort, and the first part of his arm swing is easy and fluid. When he's on, his cutter is a swing-and-miss offering, although he's still developing his feel for it, time and attention that may be part of the deterioration of his curveball.
Walker's stride is shorter than ever now and he finishes very upright, which robs him of depth on his curveball and leaves his fastball finishing up in the zone, rather than with downhill plane from his height. He also wraps his wrist on the curveball and doesn't get the tight rotation he used to get on the pitch.
A pitcher with his classic frame who can hit 97 mph and has a potential out pitch (the cutter) is still an outstanding prospect, the best in the Mariners' system, but there will be unrealized potential here if he doesn't get back to finishing over his front side and getting that bite back on his curveball.
Top level: Majors | 2013 rank: 9
17Eddie Butler, RHP
AGE: 23DOB: 3/13/91B/T: B/RHT: 6-2WT: 180
W-L: 9-5ERA: 1.80IP: 149.2SO: 143BB: 52
The Rockies took Butler in the second round of the 2012 draft on the basis of his combination of a plus fastball with tremendous sink and a hard slider, but his low arm slot and lack of a solid third pitch had many teams viewing him as a likely reliever in the majors.
His slot is still low, but Butler is more than a two-pitch guy now and the Radford alum profiles as a future top-of-the-rotation starter. Butler will work in the mid-90s, touching 98 mph from the windup, with big-time life on the pitch because of his low slot -- not just sink, but tailing life as well, producing a ground out/air out rate just under 60 percent across three levels this year.
His silder is still there and still plus in the mid-to-upper 80s, but the changeup was the real revelation this year; if you saw the Futures Game, you saw him throw one at 90 mph that moved almost like a screwball, and you probably heard the gasps from everyone in the scouts' seats. He probably didn't belong in the low Class A South Atlantic League to start the year, but he was just as effective at his next two stops, with no platoon split to speak of in high Class A or Double-A.
With three pitches and the ability to keep the ball down, he's at least a No. 2 starter, and you couldn't find a better fit for Coors Field than this kind of power and life.
Top level: Double-A (Tulsa) | 2013 rank: Unranked
18Corey Seager, SS
AGE: 20DOB: 4/27/94B/T: L/RHT: 6-4WT: 215
AVG: .269OBP: .351OPS: .824HR: 16SB: 10
Seager proved to be an advanced hitter for his age when he tore up the low Class A Midwest League right out of high school, showing a good approach at the plate and developing power, especially after he came off the disabled list in early June. He has some mechanical issues to work out at the plate, weaknesses that high Class A and Arizona Fall League pitchers exploited, but they're fixable, and his size and athleticism give him star potential once he moves off shortstop to third base.
As a hitter, Seager has 25- to 30-homer potential thanks to outstanding hip rotation and a huge frame that is the main reason he'll eventually slide to third base. Late in 2013, he changed his stance, drifting and rolling over his front foot, which made him late on fastballs and gave him less time to recognize pitch types, but it wasn't something he did in high school or earlier in the year, and should be simple to correct. He's also hit southpaws well since entering pro ball, unusual for a left-handed high school hitter but a great sign for his future development.
Seager has very good hands and plenty of arm, but he'd be the largest shortstop in MLB history if he doesn't move, and most teams will opt for an above-average defender there. He'll be a above-average defender at third who gets on base and hits for power, which would make him one of the best third basemen in the majors when he reaches that peak.
Top level: High Class A (Rancho Cucamonga) | 2013 rank: 46
19George Springer, OF
AGE: 24DOB: 9/19/89B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 200
AVG: .303OBP: .411OPS: 1.010HR: 37SB: 45
Springer may be a mold-breaker, a player whose raw abilities are so outsized that he can overcome contact problems that would sink almost any lesser player.
He grades out highly in all five tools, with plus power already and 70 speed once he's underway. His swing has a ton of leverage in it, almost knocking him over at times, but his hands are so quick that he makes a lot of hard line-drive contact -- when he's not swinging and missing, which he does often, in large part because he makes no adjustment at all with two strikes.
He's continued to improve his routes in center field and probably will stay there unless Houston ends up with a 70- or 80-grade defender to replace him. Springer could be a 30/30 player who draws plenty of walks; his ultimate value will depend on the contact he makes still being hard contact.
I could easily see him being a consistently high-BABIP guy who strikes out 180 times a year and still hits .280 or better, because of how quick his hands are, and that player in center field would be an All-Star.
Top level: Triple-A (Oklahoma City) | 2013 rank: 43
20Tyler Glasnow RHP
AGE: 20DOB: 8/23/93B/T: L/RHT: 6-7WT: 195
W-L: 9-3ERA: 2.18IP: 111.1SO: 164BB: 61
Glasnow was 88-91 mph as a high school senior but had a ton of physical projection to his 6-foot-7, broad-shouldered frame, some of which has already started to appear and has kicked up his velocity into the mid-90s.
His fastball is heavy and hard to elevate, so while he doesn't command the pitch that well yet -- not uncommon for a tall, lanky pitcher who's working to get those long levers working consistently -- low Class A hitters couldn't do much with the pitch.
He throws both a curveball and slider, with the slider the better pitch right now, hard and tight at 84-87, while the curveball has good 11-to-5 break and sits in the upper 70s. His command and control lag behind his stuff, as he's only a fair athlete and needs more reps to learn to improve his body control, but he did show gradual improvement in strike-throwing as the season went on. In his last three outings of 2013 he faced 54 batters over 14 innings, allowing one hit, walking 10 and punching out 24.
The scariest part about Glasnow is that he could still get stronger, and it's not hard to imagine him with three plus pitches, bumping 98 with plane and cleaning up the mess at the plate with either of his breaking balls.
Top level: Low Class A (West Virginia) | 2013 rank: Unranked
21Lucas Giolito, RHP
AGE: 19DOB: 7/14/94B/T: R/RHT: 6-6WT: 225
W-L: 2-1ERA: 1.96IP: 36.2SO: 39BB: 14
Giolito might have been the first high school right-hander ever taken first overall in the draft had he not suffered a thickness tear to one of his right elbow ligaments in March of 2012, eventually requiring Tommy John surgery. He was back on the mound as early as you can possibly return from that operation, back to hitting 98 mph again with great downhill plane that prevented hitters from elevating the ball against him all summer.
His curveball flashed plus-plus again, and his feel for the pitch will likely return with more reps; while he does need to work on his changeup, it was the best it's ever been during instructional league this past September, with good separation from the fastball and better arm speed. He's a very hard-working kid who does a lot of the little things well, like fielding his position and holding runners, which endears him to old-school coaches who place a lot of emphasis on those "fundamentals." I like those too, but I don't care as much when the pitcher is 6-foot-6 and has a chance for two 70-grade pitches with command and feel.
He might move slowly in 2014, as he's just 19 years old and will be in his first full year back from the elbow surgery, but he projects as a No. 1 starter not too far down the road.
Top level: Short-season Class A (Auburn) | 2013 rank: 77
22Raul Mondesi, SS
AGE: 18DOB: 7/27/95B/T: B/RHT: 6-1WT: 165
AVG: .261OBP: .311OPS: .672HR: 7SB: 24
Mondesi didn't turn 18 until the last week of July, but spent the entire year in the low Class A Midwest League as one of its youngest regulars, thanks to his plus defense at short (arguably a grade 70) and outstanding feel for the game, two attributes that earn him comparisons to Texas infielder Jurickson Profar.
The son of the former Dodgers Rookie of the Year with the same name, Mondesi has his father's face but not his body type, which is a good thing, as he's not likely to end up slow and fat as his father did in his 30s. Raul Jr. is lithe and quick, with easy, natural actions on all kinds of plays at shortstop, with a plus arm to go with it.
At the plate, he needs to get stronger first and foremost, and tends to glide a little over his front side, something he can make up for because his hands are so quick; his approach is solid, considering his youth, and he keeps his hands inside the ball really well for such a young player.
I don't see him developing his father's power, as he's more of a line-drive hitter, but he has a rotational swing that could get him to 40-odd doubles in the majors, and I wouldn't be shocked if he broke out this year at age 18 the way Profar did at 18 in 2011.
Top level: Low Class A (Lexington) | 2013 rank: Sleeper
23Kevin Gausman, RHP
AGE: 23DOB: 1/6/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 190
W-L: 3-6ERA: 3.51IP: 82.0SO: 82BB: 14
It wasn't the ideal year for Gausman in 2013. He probably should have been left in the minors for a few more months before he was given so much as a spot start in the majors, where he struggled over 47 ⅔ IP, but he looked more like his old self later in the year when he resumed throwing his slider more often.
He has a strong three-pitch arsenal to project as a No. 2 starter, with a fastball that sits 94-97 mph and has touched 100 in shorter looks, with good life down in the zone, as well as a plus changeup that has long been his primary out pitch, with good arm speed and a very severe late tumble. His slider has come and gone since the Orioles drafted him, but at the end of September he used it more and it became sharper and more consistent, 83-86 with late bite, sometimes sweeping it away from right-handers but other times giving it an almost 11-to-5 break, although he was working in relief at the time.
He was in the majors too soon and could use a good 15-20 starts in the minors to focus on improving his command and feel for that pitch, but the promise he showed with it in relief -- MLB hitters failed to put any of the last 25 sliders he threw in 2013 in play -- should give Orioles fans a lot of optimism.
Top level: Majors (Baltimore) | 2013 rank: 26
24Noah Syndergaard, RHP
AGE: 21DOB: 8/29/92B/T: L/RHT: 6-6WT: 240
W-L: 9-4ERA: 3.06IP: 117.2SO: 133BB: 28
Syndergaard had an awesome 2013 season from start to finish, improving in multiple ways as the season went on while putting up superb numbers as a 20-year-old in high Class A and Double-A, and still has room for further improvement.
He already has the build of a workhorse starter, with velocity up to 98 mph that's easy like Sunday morning and the ability to get downhill plane on it when he stays on top of the ball. His changeup is comfortably plus already, but his curveball, a grade-40ish pitch in high school and early in his pro career, is already solid average, and plays up because he gets on top of the ball and releases so close to the plate; hitters swing and miss at it like it's a sharper, harder pitch.
It's very unusual to have a pitcher this young show this kind of athleticism, present command and pure stuff and even if Syndergaard doesn't improve further, he's at least a quality third starter who can handle 200-inning workloads, but the curveball could get a little tighter and push him up to a No. 2 or better.
Top level: Double-A (Binghamton) | 2013 rank: 97
25Braden Shipley, RHP
AGE: 22DOB: 2/22/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 190
W-L: 0-3ERA: 4.99IP: 39.2SO: 40BB: 14
Shipley fell to the 15th spot in the 2013 draft thanks mostly to a run on bats in the 10 picks before the Diamondbacks selected, but that just made him a great value for Arizona, getting the sixth-ranked player on my own board, a super-athletic converted position player who already had a plus secondary pitch in his changeup.
After he signed, the Diamondbacks had Shipley correct a problem with his hand break that made it too easy for hitters to pick up the ball, but once he corrected that, he found it easier to get on top of the ball, and the curveball his college coach rarely called started to emerge as a plus pitch. (At Nevada, he would usually be prohibited from throwing the curveball at all until the fifth inning.)
Shipley pitches at 92-95 mph with his heater but can flash a little higher than that, with a legitimate big league out pitch already in his changeup, with good deception at 83-86 as well as heavy late action. His stride is very long toward the plate and his arm accelerates quickly once he turns it over; as you'd expect from a converted guy, he fields his position well and has the body control to repeat his delivery.
If the curveball he showed late in 2013 is a permanent feature he's on his way to being the No. 2 starter in Arizona not too far down the line.
Top level: Low Class A (South Bend) | 2013 rank: Ineligible
26Jorge Soler, OF
AGE: 22DOB: 2/25/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-4WT: 215
AVG: .281OBP: .343OPS: .810HR: 8SB: 5
Soler, who the Cubs signed for $30 million out of Cuba in 2012, was 55 games into a promising first full season in the minors when he fouled a ball off his leg, breaking a bone and missing out on a likely mid-year promotion to Double-A.
He returned to action in the Arizona Fall League, looking rusty but physically imposing, with a good 15-20 pounds of added muscle since I'd seen him the previous summer in rookie ball. Soler has outstanding hand speed and acceleration at the plate, with big-time power when he concentrates on staying back and letting his hips work to add leverage to his swing; he does have a tendency to cut across the ball rather than finishing toward the middle of the field, which reduces his power. His plan at the plate has been better than anticipated, and he's going to be above-average to plus in right field.
Soler was also suspended at one point for an on-field incident during which he threatened the opposing dugout with a bat after a hard collision at second base (and some words exchanged), a sign that while he's very competitive, he's still got some maturing and adjusting to U.S. baseball culture ahead of him. I see explosive offensive potential, with easy plus power and enough feel for the zone to be a middle-of-the-order bat.
Top level: High Class A (Daytona) | 2013 rank: 42
27Jameson Taillon, RHP
AGE: 22DOB: 11/18/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-6WT: 235
W-L: 5-10ERA: 3.73IP: 147.1SO: 143BB: 52
Taillon's a very good starting pitching prospect, but might fall a little short of fan expectations because the whole is less than the sum of the parts.
He has the raw ingredients to be an ace -- size, velocity (92-98, often more 94-98), a hard-breaking slider, and a history of throwing strikes. He can use the breaking ball to get left-handers out, backdooring it in counts where they might be looking for his changeup.
The problem is that hitters get a good look at the ball out of his hands, and say that his fastball is easier to hit than the velocity would indicate. He also has limited feel for his changeup, which comes in too hard and misses up to his arm side, possibly because he's overthrowing it. Taillon just turned 22 and is already in Triple-A, even with those areas for improvement, and could probably be a league-average starter for the Pirates by Opening Day of 2015, with a good probability of becoming a top 30-40 starter in the league at his peak.
Top level: Triple-A (Indianapolis) | 2013 rank: 20
28Albert Almora, OF
AGE: 19DOB: 4/16/94B/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 180
AVG: .329OBP: .376OPS: .842HR: 3SB: 4
Almora lacks the huge upside of the three Cubs position player prospects ahead of him on this list because his tools aren't as explosive, but he makes up for that with incredible instincts and game awareness that make him a very high-probability prospect who looks like a lock to spend a decade in the big leagues in center field.
He gets some of the best reads off the bat I've ever seen from an outfield prospect, so although he's a below-average runner he still plays a plus center field. At the plate, Almora has a clean, controlled swing that produces a lot of hard contact, with hip rotation for future average to above-average power. He has great hand-eye coordination that allows him to square up a lot of pitches, but has to learn to rein himself in and wait for a pitch he can drive to make full use of his hit and power tools -- and if that means taking a few more walks, well, both he and the Cubs could use that right about now.
Almora won't end up the superstar that the Cubs are hoping to get from Baez/Bryant/Soler, but should be a solid producer for years who sneaks on to a few All-Star teams as the baseball world learns to appreciate what he can do in the field.
Top level: Low Class A (Kane County) | 2013 rank: 33
29Robert Stephenson, RHP
AGE: 21DOB: 1/24/93B/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 190
W-L: 7-7ERA: 2.99IP: 114.1SO: 136BB: 35
The Lighthouse made solid progress this year despite missing about a month with a hamstring injury that still nagged at him even after he reached Double-A in mid-August.
Despite the leg issue, Stephenson still showed premium stuff, a 93-98 mph fastball and a power breaking ball in the low 80s that is almost unhittable, especially for right-handed batters. His changeup still has a ways to go, although the Reds are forcing him to throw a certain number each game so he doesn't just rely on blowing his fastball by left-handed hitters (which he can do, at least at the lower levels).
Stephenson stays over the rubber well and takes a long stride toward the plate, but he's pretty late turning his pitching arm over and is stiff when he gets out over that front side. He also has a head-bobble after release, which is usually a bad sign for the pitcher's command, but in Stephenson's case command isn't a problem, nor is control; he walked just 22 batters across both A-ball leagues this year, just 5.6 percent of the men he faced.
He'll pitch at 21 years old in 2014, likely starting in Double-A, and the Reds have handled him carefully enough to keep him healthy; as the changeup goes, so goes Stephenson, with that No. 1 starter upside still within reach.
Top level: Double-A (Pensaocola) | 2013 rank: 48
30Aaron Sanchez, RHP
AGE: 21DOB: 7/1/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-4WT: 190
W-L: 4-5ERA: 3.34IP: 86.1SO: 75BB: 40
The gap between Sanchez's ability and his results grew a little this year, a season when the latter should have been catching up to the former as he gained experience and his body matured. He continues to show top-of-the-rotation stuff, but not the command or control required to get there, and alterations to his delivery were at least one reason why.
Sanchez has hit 99 mph and sits 92-96 with very little effort to get there, and shows four pitches, led by a hard two-plane curveball in the upper 70s with shape and depth to it. He generates a lot of ground balls already, but the Jays tried to have him switch to a sinker grip this year, resulting in an outing where he faced nine batters, walked four, and couldn't finish an inning of work.
His delivery has also regressed, as he now has a terribly short stride and finishes with his torso almost completely upright, so his fastball rides up, his head jerks at release, and he doesn't get the same finish to his breaking stuff. Upright finishes are also associated with higher risk of arm injuries, so there's every reason to try to get him striding longer and finishing out front -- it'll keep him healthy and make him a better pitcher.
Until that happens, though, he's going to pitch below the raw grades of his stuff, which would be a shame given his arm and great makeup.
Top level: High Class A (Dunedin) | 2013 rank: 19
31Dylan Bundy, RHP
AGE: 21DOB: 11/15/92B/T: B/RHT: 6-1WT: 195
W-L: 9-3ERA: 2.08IP: 103.2SO: 119BB: 28
Note: Stats listed are from the 2012 season.
Bundy missed all of 2013 after tearing a ligament in his right elbow (an injury that was first called a forearm strain, then a flexor mass strain), which led to late-June surgery that probably puts him out until about the same point in 2014. When healthy, he was the best pitching prospect in baseball, boasting a fastball up to 99 mph, a wipeout cutter that he could command like a 10-year veteran, a hard curveball and a developing changeup.
He has an outstanding delivery -- the mere act of pitching does bad things to an elbow -- but Bundy generated most of his power from his lower half, and if we graded conditioning and work ethic Bundy would have graded out as an 80 in both. It may take a half-season or longer for Bundy's command and feel for his off-speed stuff to return, and I hope that the Orioles' emphasis on getting him quicker to the plate takes a backseat until he's back to full strength.
He's an incredibly special talent who should still be an impact player if the surgery proves to be nothing more than an extended vacation for him.
Top level: Majors (Baltimore) | 2013 rank: 3
32Nick Castellanos, 3B
AGE: 21DOB: 3/4/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-4WT: 210
AVG: .276OBP: .343OPS: .793HR: 18SB: 4
The Tigers' trade of Prince Fielder allows Miguel Cabrera to move to first base and clears the way for Castellanos -- who had been getting reps in the outfield in deference to Cabrera -- to return to the infield, which helps him as he's more valuable if he can prove he can handle third base. Castellanos is a batter first, posting an above-the-median batting line as the Triple-A International League's youngest position player (minimum 300 plate appearances), finishing in the top 20 in slugging and leading the league in total bases.
He's very strong for a 21-year-old, with a simple, repeatable swing that starts with a deep load and is heavily rotational, leading to that above-average power that will end up plus, probably 25-30 homers per year, even in Comerica Park. He tightened up his approach at the plate this year, recognizing after reaching Double-A last year that he needed to be more disciplined about pitches just off the corners. He'll need work at third base, as he's a below-average runner without much natural quickness, but with better footwork and more reps at the position he should end up at least fringe-average.
If he costs them five runs a year in the field, which I doubt, he'll more than make up for it with his bat, hitting .290-.300 with doubles and homers.
Top level: Majors (Detroit) | 2013 rank: 38
33Austin Hedges, C
AGE: 21DOB: 8/18/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-1WT: 190
AVG: .260OBP: .333OPS: .723HR: 4SB: 8
The minors' premier defensive catcher is one of the best bets on the list to have a long MLB career, although it remains to be seen what kind of role he has. His glove will keep him playing as long as he's healthy, regardless of whether or not he hits, but he has the raw power to become an impact bat for the position as well.
Hedges is as natural and smooth a receiver as any in the minors, with one of the strongest and most accurate arms as well. At the plate, he's reduced his stride and is more balanced than he was a year ago, still showing big-time rotation and loft in his swing, but his power wasn't evident on the field this year, only in BP, although some of that may have been a hangover from getting hit on the left hand with a pitch in early May. His contact rates are very strong for a hitter so young, as he was well below the Cal League median for strikeout rate despite being the second-youngest position player in the league after Addison Russell, so it's about getting into better counts to drive the ball, not an inability to hit.
He's ranked here because I see 20-25 homer power potential with a .250-.260 average, which, with plus defense, would make him an All-Star.
Top level: Double-A (San Antonio) | 2013 rank: 36
34Andrew Heaney, LHP
AGE: 22DOB: 6/5/91B/T: L/LHT: 6-2WT: 190
W-L: 9-3ERA: 1.60IP: 95.1SO: 89BB: 26
The Marlins' first pick (ninth overall) in the 2012 draft, Heaney showed himself to be more than just a "pitchability" lefty, working with a solid-average fastball and two plus secondary pitches as he dominated high Class A and came close to doing the same in Double-A in six August starts.
Heaney comes from an arm slot a little under three-quarters and cuts himself off slightly, but those two points both add to his deception, and the way he can manipulate the ball makes him even harder for hitters to square up. His slider and changeup are both in the upper 70s/low 80s, with the slider showing good tilt and angle and the changeup bringing good arm speed and downward fade, and he commands all three pitches.
If he threw harder and had a somewhat cleaner delivery, he'd be a top 10 or 15 overall prospect, but as is I think he's a good No. 3 starter trending up toward a No. 2 because of his control and how hard it is for hitters to pick up the ball.
Top level: Double-A (Jacksonville) | 2013 rank: Unranked
35Austin Meadows, CF
AGE: 18DOB: 5/3/95B/T: L/LHT: 6-3WT: 200
AVG: .316OBP: .424OPS: .977HR: 7SB: 3
Meadows, who ranked fifth on my 2013 draft board, went ninth overall to the Pirates in the pick they received for failing to sign Mark Appel in the previous draft, and the Bucs had to be celebrating when the best athlete in the class was still on the board for them with that selection.
He was a two-sport star in high school and seemed a little raw in baseball, especially at the plate, getting notice more for his explosive power/speed combination and the potential for his 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame to put on another 20 or so pounds of strength. He's a plus runner who can play center as long as he doesn't outgrow it and lose speed; his arm is fringy and would push him to left, raising the bar his bat has to reach for him to be a star.
Meadows has a sound left-handed swing, with good bat speed and the rotation to generate power from his legs as well as his arms; his finish is a little flat, and he could add a small stride rather than just a toe-tap. The Pirates have already made some minor tweaks, but were also thrilled to see that he had more feel at the plate and in center than anyone thought based on his spring.
He might have the best shot of anyone in the 2013 draft class to explode into an 8-WAR player, the way Mike Trout -- another huge, athletic center fielder who proved more polished than forecasted -- did after 2009.
Top level: Short-season Class A (Jamestown) | 2013 rank: Ineligible
AGE: 25DOB: 2/10/89B/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 195
AVG: .286OBP: .420OPS: .934HR: 3SB: 0
d'Arnaud would be a top-10 prospect if he could stay on the field, but 2013 was yet another injury-shortened year for the twice-traded prospect who has reached 400 plate appearances in just two of his six full pro seasons.
When he's on the field, he's an impact player on both sides of the ball, featuring outstanding receiving (including pitch-framing) ability, an above-average arm, and good relationships with pitchers, as well as above-average power that should lead to 20-25 homers if he plays a full season. His hand-eye coordination is excellent but his approach isn't as polished, as he's not a patient hitter and struggled terribly against both sliders and curveballs in his brief major league time in 2013.
A premium defensive catcher who even hits .240 with power is still a highly valuable commodity right now, as replacement level at catcher is low enough to give a GM the bends, so for d'Arnaud the main issue is just trying to avoid the trainer's room so he can get 450-500 plate appearances in 2014.
Top level: Majors (New York Mets) | 2013 rank: 14
37Dominic Smith, 1B
AGE: 18DOB: 6/15/95B/T: L/LHT: 6-0WT: 185
AVG: .301OBP: .398OPS: .837HR: 3SB: 2
Smith was the best pure hitter in the 2013 draft class, sporting a beautiful left-handed swing and flashing above-average power, along with plus defense at first base and an arm that reached 92 mph when he was on the mound in high school.
When Smith keeps his weight back, he generates big-time power from his lower half, with hard contact thanks to quick, strong wrists. He had a habit of drifting too quickly over his front leg, something the Mets seem to have worked on eliminating. He's a low-heartbeat hitter, approaching at-bats as if he were much older and more experienced. Smith is athletic but not a runner, and his footwork has limited him to first base, where he projects as a 70-grade defender thanks to incredibly soft hands. He has areas to work on, mostly recognition of breaking stuff and keeping his focus on using the whole field, which is minor stuff compared with the bigger issues of swing mechanics and plate discipline.
His ceiling is an impact bat at first, a cleanup hitter with 25-30 homer power and .300-plus averages to go with outstanding defense. I'd like to see him challenged with an assignment to the low Class A Sally League this year, as he's too advanced a hitter for short-season ball.
Top level: Rookie (Kingsport) | 2013 rank: Ineligible
38Hunter Harvey, RHP
AGE: 19DOB: 12/9/94B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 175
W-L: 0-1ERA: 1.76IP: 25.1SO: 33BB: 6
The son of former big league closer Bryan Harvey, Hunter went to Baltimore with the 22nd overall pick of the 2013 draft, thanks to those bloodlines, a fastball consistently in the 90-94 range, and a hammer curveball he seemed to manipulate into different shapes.
He's a projectable kid, but the velocity ticked up right after he signed, as he was sitting 94-97 mph by the end of the summer and his command was just as good as if not better than what it was in the spring. His changeup flashes above-average but he still needs reps with it as it lags well behind his other two pitches; in a minuscule sample, lefties hit him much harder (.350 batting average against) than right-handed hitters (.154) did in pro ball. His arm slot is high, which gives depth to the curveball but can make it tough to turn over a changeup, which he'll need to combat lefties.
The Orioles have started to try to clean up and simplify his delivery, getting him more online to the plate. He's going to put on another 15-20 pounds, and if the changeup comes along he might end up in the same tier as Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy as a potential No. 1 or 2 starter.
Top level: Short-season Class A (Aberdeen) | 2013 rank: Ineligible
39Matt Wisler, RHP
AGE: 21DOB: 9/12/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 195
W-L: 10-6ERA: 2.78IP: 136.0SO: 131BB: 33
The Padres' seventh-round selection in 2011 had a solid full-season debut in 2012, but last year was his coming out party as he improved in just about every possible way, from stuff to command to confidence on the mound.
Wisler works with two plus pitches already, a fastball at a legit 93-96 mph and a slider that's a grade 60 or a 70, working consistently in the bottom of the zone and showing no fear when attacking hitters on the inner half or even when falling behind in the count. The main knock on Wisler is his delivery, as he doesn't use his lower half as much as he should and he pronates his pitching arm late, with his front foot already touching the ground. That leads to some inconsistency in his slot, but he hasn't had any trouble yet with command or control, only with his feel for his changeup, which he can't turn over properly when his arm drifts down.
He's an 80-grade competitor and a diligent worker, giving him a better chance than most pitchers to reach his ceiling, which for him is a No. 2 starter who can handle 200-plus innings a year.
Top level: Double-A (San Antonio) | 2013 rank: Unranked
40Lucas Sims, RHP
AGE: 19DOB: 5/10/94B/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 195
W-L: 12-4ERA: 2.62IP: 116.2SO: 134BB: 46
Sims came on right from the start of 2013, his first full year in pro ball after Atlanta took him with the 21st overall pick in the 2012 draft.
Still just 19 years old, Sims works in the low-to-mid 90s, touching 96 frequently, with a power breaking ball that's already plus -- showing good depth and 11-to-5 break -- while his hard changeup improved as well this year with good fading action and adequate arm speed. He's put on 10-15 pounds since high school, helping him throw a little harder and maintain his velocity better into games. It's not an ideal delivery, as he pronates his elbow a little late and tends to fly open, but his arm is also very loose and once he gets it turned over it's extremely quick.
Sims still has a little room to fill out and add more velocity or just increase his potential workloads, and if the effort required to speed that arm up doesn't affect him -- or if Atlanta gets him to generate more torque from his legs -- he's a potential No. 2 starter for the Braves.
Top level: Low Class A (Rome) | 2013 rank: Unranked
41Joc Pederson, OF
AGE: 21DOB: 4/21/92B/T: L/LHT: 6-1WT: 185
AVG: .278OBP: .381OPS: .878HR: 22SB: 31
I whiffed on Pederson last year after he looked terrible in the AFL, a stint when (in hindsight) it seems obvious he was exhausted and couldn't show off any of his above-average tools. That became clear in the first half of this season, as Pederson showed power and speed as well as a great approach against right-handed pitchers, all while playing above-average or better defense in center.
I think he profiles better in right, as he's got the arm for it and most teams will have a better option on defense in center, but he won't hurt anyone out there if he ends up the starter. At the plate he has plus raw power already, trending up, with outstanding hip rotation after a moderately deep load back below his right shoulder, and a solid weight transfer as he strides into contact.
Pederson's only real weakness is facing left-handed pitching, as lefties dominated him this year across the board (.206/.282/.382 line) and he struggled to make contact against lefty breaking stuff. His father threw him BP left-handed when he was growing up, making this issue a bit of a surprise, and he's young enough to overcome it with experience; his front leg can get a little soft and roll over, which may (or may not) be connected. That's probably the only thing standing between him and becoming an All-Star big league outfielder.
Top level: Double-A (Chattanooga) | 2013 rank: Unranked
42Henry Owens, LHP
AGE: 21DOB: 7/21/92B/T: L/LHT: 6-6WT: 205
W-L: 11-6ERA: 2.67IP: 135.0SO: 169BB: 68
Owens was prospect No. 101 on last year's rankings, first in the column of guys who just missed the main list, but he showed across-the-board improvement in 2013 and now projects as a No. 3 starter with a chance to be a good No. 2.
He has always been a strike-thrower, but was working in the upper 80s as a starter in high school and right after signing, showing 90-92 in short stints. In 2013, he was working at that higher range as a starter and his curveball got sharper and harder as well, now more 72-74 as opposed to the upper 60s he showed the year before. The curve will settle in as an average to slightly above-average pitch, but he already has the swing-and-miss weapon in his plus-plus changeup, made even more effective because hitters do not pick up the ball out of his hand.
Owens has always had feel and control, but now the stuff is catching up to his polish and he's not far away from contributing in Fenway.
Top level: Double-A (Portland) | 2013 rank: Just missed
43Eduardo Rodriguez, RHP
AGE: 20DOB: 4/07/93B/T: L/LHT: 6-2WT: 200
W-L: 10-7ERA: 3.41IP: 145.0SO: 125BB: 49
A gut-feel choice for me last year at No. 100, Rodriguez came out throwing well from the start of the season, showing three pitches, two above-average and one with promise, earning a midyear promotion to Double-A at age 20.
Rodriguez will sit 91-94 mph with his fastball, mostly four-seamers with the occasional two-seamer, and has a plus changeup in the 84-88 range with good arm speed and hard fading action to his arm side. His slider is inconsistent, mostly 82-83, short and sometimes flat but other times sharp enough for him to backfoot a right-handed hitter. His arm swing is sound, although he's not consistent off the rubber, staying over it on some pitches and drifting forward on others, with more effort in his delivery when he drifts.
Rodriguez won't turn 21 until April and has both physical and mental development ahead of him, with the stuff to be a No. 2 starter but not yet the feel or command.
Top level: Double-A (Bowie) | 2013 rank: 100
44Jorge Alfaro, C
AGE: 20DOB: 6/11/93B/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 185
AVG: .265OBP: .346OPS: .809HR: 18SB: 18
Alfaro, one of my two sleepers for Texas going into 2012 (along with Cody Buckel, who broke out in 2012 but missed all of 2013 with the "yips"), repeated low Class A Hickory for most of last season after only about a half-season's worth of at-bats there the previous year, but made visible progress in many aspects of his game the second time around.
He has always had the raw tools to be a superstar, with an 80-grade arm and 80 power, but had no discernible plan at the plate other than "swing, then swing," and his tools behind the plate weren't matched by the effort or energy required to be an asset at the position. In 2013, he grew up, taking better at-bats and working harder at all aspects of his game, with good enough results for a late-season promotion to Myrtle Beach.
He's an unusual specimen for a catcher, built like a corner outfielder but athletic like a middle infielder, with the quick-twitch muscles of a player like Justin Upton, just lacking the finer things like instincts and effort required to convert them into performance. His 2013 season shows those aspects of his game are now coming, and if Myrtle Beach (a brutal park for power) doesn't stifle him, he could start to move more quickly toward an everyday major league job.
Top level: High Class A (Myrtle Beach) | 2013 rank: Unranked
45Clint Frazier, OF
AGE: 19DOB: 9/6/94B/T: R/RHT: 6-1WT: 190
AVG: .297OBP: .362OPS: .868HR: 5SB: 3
If you take Javier Baez out of the discussion, Frazier probably has the best bat speed of any player in organized baseball, with furious hand acceleration producing hard contact and surprising power for a player his size.
His value is all in his bat, as he's almost certain to end up in left field because he's an average-at-best runner with a fringy to below-average arm, although he has the aptitude to play up the middle if the situation forced it. That bat projects well at any position, however, thanks to those unbelievably quick wrists and a sound swing that doesn't leave him collapsing as so many "swing as hard as you can" hitters do. Frazier's main developmental need is recognizing off-speed stuff, which was a problem for him in high school, and even A-ball pitchers who have a little command of their breaking pitches will present him with a challenge.
His floor is low, as he has to hit to have value, but he's got an All-Star ceiling if he improves his recognition and can maintain high batting averages with 20-25 home run output.
Top level: Rookie (Arizona League) | 2013 rank: Ineligible
46J.P. Crawford, SS
AGE: 19DOB: 1/11/95B/T: L/RHT: 6-2WT: 180
AVG: .308OBP: .405OPS: .805HR: 1SB: 14
Crawford could have gone as high as 10th in the 2013 draft, as he was one of the Blue Jays' final choices for their pick in that spot, and was in every team's mix on down to the Phillies at 16, who were on him all spring as one of the draft's only true shortstops.
The Phils aren't afraid of slow-development guys, which Crawford appeared to be as a physically immature player who had present speed and some feel to hit. For these reasons his performance in the Gulf Coast League was surprising -- he finished second in the league in OBP and walked as often as he struck out, all while playing above-average defense at shortstop. He even held his own in a brief trial in low-A, an aggressive assignment for an 18-year-old just out of high school.
Crawford needs some help with his first step and actions around the bag at second base, and he's going to have to get stronger so he can continue to hit as he faces better fastballs, but the Phillies may have just nabbed an impact player in the middle of the diamond.
Top level: Low Class A (Lakewood) | 2013 rank: Ineligible
47David Dahl, OF
AGE: 19DOB: 4/1/94B/T: L/RHT: 6-2WT: 185
AVG: .275OBP: .310OPS: .735HR: 0SB: 2
I'm sure Dahl wishes 2013 never happened, as it began with a punitive demotion to extended spring training after just one game in the Sally League and ended in mid-May with a torn hamstring that refused to heal until instructional league. The demotion came after Dahl missed a team flight, a one-time event that by all accounts was an outlier for Dahl, and by instructs he was in great physical shape and able to move around without limitations. That puts us almost where we were last year with Dahl, except that he's lost about 350-400 at-bats of development that might have sped him to the majors.
On the field, Dahl boasts strong tools across the board, with above-average speed now that may trend down as his frame fills out, a variable that will determine whether he stays in center or moves to right field; his arm is strong enough for either spot and he'll likely show plus range in a corner. His real impact will come at the plate, where he's got a very quick bat and is short and direct to the ball, with good loft in his finish for future-plus power, possibly projecting as a 25 homer, 20 steals guy with good OBPs.
He looked very advanced at the plate in 2012 and may not suffer too much from the time off. He'll turn 20 on April 1, and even if he starts back in Asheville should be ready to spend most of the year in high-A or above.
Top level: Low Class A (Asheville) | 2013 rank: 37
48Max Fried, LHP
AGE: 20DOB: 1/18/94B/T: L/LHT: 6-4WT: 185
W-L: 6-7ERA: 3.49IP: 118.2SO: 100BB: 56
Fried had a good but not ideal first full year in pro ball, showing improved stuff and staying healthy but struggling more with command than anyone might have anticipated.
He worked in the low 90s all year but showed he can reach back for 96 when he needs it, and both his curveball and changeup will show plus, with the curveball a solid 65 or 70 on the 20-80 scale. Fried is extremely athletic with a loose if slightly long arm action, taking a good long stride toward the plate and turning over his pitching hand in plenty of time to bring it forward. He can repeat his delivery, but has a habit of nibbling as if he didn't have power stuff, trying to be too fine when he should try to blow a hitter away with velocity or a curveball breaking down and away from a left-handed hitter.
He's very competitive with great makeup, so no one doubts he'll make this adjustment in time and cut his walk rate as he moves up; he'll have to do so to continue to project as a future No. 2 starter.
Top level: Low Class A (Fort Wayne) | 2013 rank: 51
49Eddie Rosario, CF/2B
AGE: 22DOB: 9/28/91B/T: L/RHT: 6-0WT: 170
AVG: .302OBP: .350OPS: .810HR: 10SB: 10
Rosario is a mix of positives and negatives, a player who can really hit and run but hasn't settled into any position yet and whose makeup remains a major question, especially after a failed drug test that led to a suspension for the first 50 games of 2014.
At the plate, he has quick, strong hands and a good approach that leads to lots of contact but not walks; he's an above-average runner but has little or no idea what to do with it, posting a 50 percent success (or failure) rate in base stealing for the second straight year. In the field, he's solid-average in center field and would probably be plus in a corner, but the Twins' surfeit of center fielders has led them to try Rosario at second base, where he's fringy if you like him and a lost cause if you don't.
Rumors about Rosario being less than a great kid have been around for a while, but the drug suspension, for a second failed test for a drug of abuse, is the only tangible evidence that's the case so far. He needed those at-bats, as it's most likely at this point that he ends up back in the outfield, probably in left where he'll have to continue to produce 35-40 doubles power with a high average; missing 50 games at second base doesn't help his cause to stay at that position, either.
Top level: Double-A (New Britain) | 2013 rank: 65
50Yordano Ventura, RHP
AGE: 22DOB: 6/3/91B/T: R/RHT: 5-11WT: 180
W-L: 8-6ERA: 3.14IP: 134.2SO: 155BB: 53
Ventura still looks a lot like a reliever to me, a slight, 5-foot-10 right-hander with a huge fastball but a strong fly ball tendency that may make him too homer-prone to start in the majors.
He has improved his arsenal since this time last year, however, as the Royals worked hard to help him improve his changeup to ensure he has the three-pitch mix to start. Ventura will sit in the mid-to-upper 90s even as a starter, hitting 99 mph for me in one 2013 outing and repeatedly hitting 97 when I saw him start in 2012. His best pitch is a power curveball in the low 80s, short but very sharp thanks to its velocity, while the changeup, maybe a grade 40 before the year, was flashing average by year-end. He's also mixing in a slider/cutter in the 90-92 mph range, a pitch he's overthrowing a little but could certainly use as a fourth option, especially if the changeup ends up more of a fringy weapon against lefties.
Ultimately, his role is going to come down to whether he can keep the ball in the park enough; the fastball is hard but lacks life and he doesn't get plane on it, so he'll have to command it extremely well or pitch more with his secondaries to be a No. 2 or 3 starter. Otherwise, he's a potentially explosive reliever who'd probably sit 97-100 in one- or two-inning stints.
Top level: Majors (Kansas City) | 2013 rank: Just missed
Top 100 Prospects (#51-#100).
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
51Jackie Bradley Jr., OF
AGE: 23DOB: 4/19/90B/T: L/RHT: 5-10WT: 195
AVG: .275OBP: .374OPS: .842HR: 10SB: 7
While Bradley Jr.'s Jackpot Wad took over Fort Myers last spring, with a .419/.507/.613 line in 62 at-bats, the push for his Hall of Fame induction might have been a touch premature, as Bradley wasn't the same guy when the bell rang in April as he was when the games didn't count.
Major league pitchers were able to beat him in the zone with plus velocity and down and away with off-speed stuff, but Bradley managed to perform as well as expected after a demotion to Pawtucket. His ideal game is plus-plus defense in center with a high OBP at the plate and fringy power, maybe 10 to 15 homers a year; when he tries to over-rotate to hit the ball out to right, he expands his zone and makes less contact as a result.
Staying short to the ball and focusing on going line-to-line rather than trying to hit for power should make him an above-average regular, with OBPs in the .360 to .380 range. He could also save 10 or more runs a year on defense, enough to make Red Sox fans say "Jacoby who?"
Top level: Majors (Boston) | 2013 rank: 40
52Billy Hamilton, CF
AGE: 23DOB: 9/9/90B/T: B/RHT: 6-0WT: 160
AVG: .256OBP: .308OPS: .651HR: 6SB: 75
I was a little too optimistic about Hamilton's hit tool last year, and his 2013 season in Triple-A showed he's not quite ready to make an impact in the majors.
Hamilton's an 80-grade runner, perhaps the fastest man to step on a baseball field in a few decades, and his baserunning has improved to an unheard-of degree since he signed with the Reds, who've also taught him to switch-hit and switched him to center field, with the latter transition more successful so far than the former.
His issue is that pitchers have begun crowding him on the inner half because his wrists aren't strong enough to handle hard stuff in on his hands; you need a certain degree of hand/wrist strength to hit what major league pitchers are throwing, especially to that area of the zone. If he can find that missing strength, he has the other tools to be an impact player -- his speed is game-changing, and he's already an above-average defender in center.
I'm still concerned about Hamilton's ability to make this adjustment, as his frame is narrow, so his probability isn't great, while his upside still is.
Top level: Majors (Cincinnati) | 2013 rank: 30
53Garin Cecchini, 3B
AGE: 21DOB: *****/92B/T: L/RHT: 6-2WT: 200
AVG: .297OBP: .388OPS: .865HR: 15SB: 7
Cecchini had a minor hamstring issue that slowed him down in 2013, but he showed he could really hit, projecting as a consistent .300-plus hitter whose future hit grade is a 65 or a 70. Now he just has to show he can stay at third base.
As a hitter, Cecchini has an extremely advanced approach at the plate, actually walking more than he struck out this year despite moving up a level midseason. He has some raw power but rarely shows it in games, preferring to use the middle of the field, although with no stride and a tendency to stay more linear and short to the ball, he'll have a hard time getting past 15 homers. His defense at third will never be pretty, but I believe he can stay there based on his instincts and game awareness, which will make up for a lack of first-step quickness.
His downside is a Bill Mueller-type of career, but I see Cecchini hitting for higher averages and OBPs while providing comparable defense at third base.
Top level: Double-A (Portland) | 2013 rank: Unranked
54Rosell Herrera, SS
AGE: 21DOB: 10/16/92B/T: B/RHT: 6-3WT: 180
AVG: .343OBP: .419OPS: .933HR: 16SB: 21
Herrera was my sleeper prospect for the Rockies going into 2012 but ended up demoted to short-season ball that summer and looked like he might never capitalize on his prodigious talent. He turned it around in 2013 in a return to Asheville, showing more maturity in all aspects of his game, with speed and power and even a surprisingly high walk rate.
His offense is a function of his immense physical gifts, as his lower half is going to generate noise complaints from neighbors, from a comically high leg kick and late landing to a soft front side when he overswings. He has very quick hands and likes to get his arms extended to drive the ball out to the gaps, with good hip rotation once his legs are firmly on the ground.
He might not stay at shortstop; he has the actions and quickness, but his frame is big and he could end up outgrowing the position and moving to third. He should have the power for the position, 20-plus homers a year, with solid OBPs once the Rockies can smooth him out at the plate.
Top level: Low Class A (Asheville) | 2013 rank: Unranked
AGE: 21DOB: 10/1/92B/T: L/RHT: 6-4WT: 190
AVG: .299OBP: .354OPS: .796HR: 4SB: 1
Moran went fifth overall in the 2013 draft, the first time the Marlins selected a college position player with their first-round pick since taking Mark Kotsay in 1996. In doing so, the Marlins passed on better athletes and players with more upside to take a very strong college performer who did almost everything you'd want from an amateur player at the plate.
His swing isn't pretty the way you'd expect from a left-handed hitter with his pedigree; he takes a long stride forward in the box but keeps his weight back, also keeping his hands very deep, with good hip rotation as well. His hands come set in a different spot from swing to swing, and he can get locked into a "grooved" path that has him cutting up too much through the ball. What he does have, beyond performance, are very strong wrists and forearms that allow him to drive the ball even when he's a half-tick behind in his timing, as well as excellent plate discipline and a willingness to lay off pitches he can't drive.
At third base, he has the hands and arm but is rough getting his feet started, in part because he always starts on his heels, and in part because he's not a quick-twitch athlete.
He'll have many questions to answer in the Florida State League in 2014, from his defense to his ability to hit better pitching, but if he answers most of those, he's a potential No. 3 or No. 5 hitter and above-average regular at third base.
Top level: Low Class A (Greensboro) | 2013 rank: Ineligible
56Blake Swihart, C
AGE: 21DOB: 4/3/92B/T: B/RHT: 6-1WT: 175
AVG: .298OBP: .366OPS: .794HR: 2SB: 7
Swihart, the No. 100 prospect on my list before the 2012 season, had a slow start that year but finished strong, and then carried it over with a breakout season in 2013 that saw him improve on offense and defense.
He is a tremendous athlete who played all over the field in high school, but last year the athleticism started to translate into very good defensive skills, with a plus arm that's quite accurate to go with better actions and receiving behind the plate. As a hitter, Swihart started to control the zone more effectively in 2013, with a 20 percent drop in his strikeout rate and a 33 percent hike in his walk rate even with the move up to high-A. He's a switch-hitter who lacked reps from the left side before entering pro ball but made substantial progress in his approach from that side last year, taking more than 80 percent of his plate appearances from that side.
Right now, Swihart is more of a line-drive hitter with doubles power but still projects to have average to above-average power when he peaks, 15 to 20 bombs a year, along with a strong OBP and plus defense behind the plate. He wasn't young for his level in either of the past two years, as he graduated high school at 19, but he's ready for Double-A now. With defensive wizard Christian Vazquez ahead of him, Swihart should get plenty of time in the high minors to continue to work on hitting left-handed and keeping his arm stroke short and simple behind the plate.
Top level: High Class A (Salem) | 2013 rank: Unranked
57Stephen Piscotty, OF
AGE: 23DOB: 1/14/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 210
AVG: .295OBP: .355OPS: .819HR: 15SB: 11
Piscotty was the Cardinals' supplemental first-round pick in 2012, their third overall selection after Michael Wacha and James Ramsey, an upside play on a player with ability who came from a program at Stanford that didn't make full use of his skills.
Freed from those constraints, Piscotty finished his first full year in pro ball in Double-A, striking out in less than 10 percent of his plate appearances on the year, then tearing up the Arizona Fall League in a hint of more production to come. Piscotty has a line-drive approach right now with hard contact to all fields, but he'll show plus pull power in batting practice, and you could see him becoming more comfortable dropping the bat head to drive the ball out to left as the season went on.
He's adequate in the outfield, better with reads and routes than with quickness or raw range, with a strong arm to stay in right. He's not a great athlete and is a below-average runner, but there's All-Star upside in the bat, a future No. 2 hitter profile who hits for average and power.
Top level: Double-A (Springfield) | 2013 rank: Sleeper
58Marcus Stroman, RHP
AGE: 22DOB: 5/1/91B/T: R/RHT: 5-9WT: 185
W-L: 9-5ERA: 3.30IP: 111.2SO: 129BB: 27
As a relatively short, African-American pitcher, Stroman will get compared to Tom Gordon until the day he retires, but that might sell short the breadth of his arsenal and his chance to at least work as a starter in the majors for longer than Gordon did.
Stroman is an outstanding athlete who was drafted as a position player out of high school by the Nationals. He shunned Washington to attend Duke and made himself into a 2012 first-round pick on the mound, with a fastball that consistently sits 92-95 mph for 100 or so pitches. He'll now show three average-or-better secondary offerings in a hard slider/cutter at 86-88 that touched 91 for me in a short Arizona Fall League stint, a power slurve at 83-85 and a changeup with good tailing action in the 84-86 range. He has a very quick arm, and hitters don't pick up the ball well out of his hand, especially right-handed hitters who have to face his under-three-quarters slot coming right at them.
The knock on Stroman is his height. He's listed at 5-foot-9 and could be an inch under that, which makes it hard for him to get downhill plane on anything and will probably always leave him fly ball- and homer-prone. You can survive like that in the majors if you don't walk anyone, which Stroman doesn't, and if you miss a lot of bats, which so far he has. He's either a top-tier reliever, up in the Craig Kimbrel/Aroldis Chapman stratosphere, or a midrotation starter if he can keep the ball from leaving the park more than 25 to 30 times a year.
Top level: Double-A (New Hampshire) | 2013 rank: Unranked
59Erik Johnson, RHP
AGE: 24DOB: 12/30/89B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 235
W-L: 12-3ERA: 1.96IP: 142.0SO: 131BB: 40
Johnson built on a solid full-season debut in 2012 with an even better 2013 that saw him move from Double-A to Triple-A and reach the majors in September, racking up a full workload of 170 innings with just 51 walks across the three levels.
His stuff was better most of the year than what you might have seen from him in September, but when he isn't overthrowing his slider, he gets more depth to the pitch and misses a lot of bats with it. The slider is new to Johnson since his college days at California, replacing the mid-70s curveball that had a sharp break but was less effective against better hitters. He sits best at 92-93 mph, able to throw harder but with less life and command. His main developmental need is to improve his changeup, which looks good out of his hand but has not been effective enough against left-handed hitters since he reached Double-A.
He's built like a workhorse who can handle 220-plus innings in his peak years, with the fastball and swing-and-miss pitch to get him there if he can find a solution to get left-handed hitters out more consistently.
Top level: Majors (Chicago) | 2013 rank: Unranked
60Rafael Montero, RHP
AGE: 23DOB: 10/17/90B/T: R/RHT: 6-0WT: 170
W-L: 12-7ERA: 2.78IP: 155.1SO: 150BB: 35
Montero has a lower ceiling than the pitchers ahead of him on this list -- and even many of the pitchers behind him -- but he's extremely advanced right now and has better stuff than your standard "command right-hander," which is often a euphemism for a guy with a light fastball.
He will show plenty of 93s and 94s and commands the heck out of it to both sides of the plate, pairing it with an above-average slider and an above-average changeup, nothing knockout but all very effective because he can locate. His arm is quick, and while he's got a slight build for a starter, there isn't much effort involved in his delivery. My one concern on Montero is that he's a fly ball guy and could be homer-prone in the majors, although in his favor is the fact that in Las Vegas, a brutal park for a fly ball pitcher, he gave up just four homers in 88 innings.
He has the stuff and control (walking just six men in his final six starts of 2013) to contribute in the majors right now, and if the Mets need an extra starter in April or May, he should get the call before Noah Syndergaard.
Top level: Triple-A (Las Vegas) | 2013 rank: Sleeper
61Mookie Betts, 2B
AGE: 21DOB: 10/7/92B/T: R/RHT: 5-9WT: 156
AVG: .314OBP: .417OPS: .923HR: 15SB: 38
Betts was one of the year's biggest breakout prospects, a 2011 fifth-round pick who had an unremarkable pro debut in short-season Class A Lowell in 2012, but ripped through both full-season A-ball levels last year and established himself as one of the best middle infield prospects in the game.
He has some early hand movement before he loads his swing, but it's window-dressing and doesn't prevent him from being short and direct to the ball, with good hip rotation and some loft in his finish that could eventually produce 20-homer power. He's a plus runner and at least a 55-grade defender at second, with good range to his right and the athleticism to end up plus there; I know some scouts see him as a potential shortstop if the opportunity were to arise. His best attribute might be his feel for the strike zone; he's very balanced at the plate, even when he sees off-speed stuff, and makes quick adjustments within each at bat like a player with more pro experience would.
He could be an All-Star at second, maybe close to that at short, and despite his short stature there's still upside here because he's such a good athlete that he has untapped potential on both sides of the ball.
Top level: High Class A (Salem) | 2013 rank: Unranked
62Alex Meyer, RHP
AGE: 24DOB: 1/3/90B/T: R/RHT: 6-9WT: 220
W-L: 4-3ERA: 2.99IP: 78.1SO: 100BB: 32
When Meyer is on, he looks like a top-of-the-rotation guy, sitting in the upper 90s with sink and a slider sharp enough to sever someone's femoral artery on its way to the plate. He doesn't throw his changeup enough yet, and it's a grade-45 on bad days and a 50 (average) to 55 on good days, just something he needs to throw more and more to improve his feel for it, since his low-three-quarters arm slot gives left-handed hitters a nice long look at the ball out of his hand.
He is very lanky, and long-levered pitchers don't have a great history in MLB, as they often take more time to learn to repeat their deliveries and seem, anecdotally, to be injury-prone; only Randy Johnson and J.R. Richard have reached 20-plus WAR among pitchers 6-foot-8 or taller, and only Johnson has made 250 starts.
Meyer does have exceptional stuff, however, and there's not a lot of effort involved in him throwing 97 mph lawn darts, so there's cause to believe he can be a starter and potentially a No. 2 given enough time and patience.
Top level: Double-A (New Britain) | 2013 rank: 61
63Maikel Franco, 3B/1B
AGE: 21DOB: 8/26/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-1WT: 180
AVG: .320OBP: .356OPS: .926HR: 31SB: 1
Franco had a huge year at the plate in 2013, showing power and outstanding plate coverage, ripping through two levels just a year after he looked like he might need a late-spring demotion to short-season ball.
The 20-year-old punched out just 70 times in nearly 600 plate appearances, so while his recognition of off-speed stuff is poor, he has enough hand-eye coordination to foul off some of those pitches and keep himself alive to hunt for another fastball. His hands get very high and deep, and between that and his raw strength he has at least grade-65 power, although he doesn't always get to it between that deep load and inconsistent hip rotation.
Franco's main problem right now is position; he is a poor defender at third, a well below-average runner with thick lower legs whose first step was too slow for the position, although he has a 70 or so arm. The Phillies have indicated they intend to move him to first base, likely because they see Cody Asche as their third baseman of the future, limiting Franco's potential peak value.
He's an everyday player as a first baseman who should hit .290 or so with a low OBP but 25-30 homers a year, which might get him into the occasional All-Star game along the way.
Top level: Double-A (Reading) | 2013 rank: Sleeper
64Rougned Odor, 2B
AGE: 20DOB: 2/3/94B/T: L/RHT: 5-11WT: 170
AVG: .305OBP: .365OPS: .839HR: 11SB: 32
Odor doesn't have huge tools, but he has the one that counts, the hit tool, and tremendous feel for the game that has always had him playing above his raw abilities.
His swing isn't textbook, with a lot of extraneous movement in his front leg and in his hands before he loads, and he never really comes set, but still manages to whip the bat through the zone and generate lots of hard contact, mostly doubles power now but probably growing into 10-15 homers down the road. He's a very good defender at second base and an above-average runner with good instincts on the bases -- and pretty much everywhere else on the diamond. He's an aggressive, intense player, one who is now learning how to channel that into consistent production at the plate.
I'd like to see a quieter approach, but you can't change a kid who's had this much success as is and may never need to make that kind of adjustment; he's a potential All-Star at second, most likely a consistently above-average regular whom coaches love for his energy as well as his talent.
Top level: Double-A (Frisco) | 2013 rank: Unranked
65A.J. Cole, RHP
AGE: 24DOB: 1/5/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-9WT: 220
W-L: 10-5ERA: 3.60IP: 142.2SO: 151BB: 33
Cole was traded to Oakland in the Gio Gonzalez deal before 2012, flopped in high Class A for the Athletics, then went back to Washington in the three-team John Jaso/Michael Morse deal, after which he seemed to right the ship somewhat, even working his way up to Double-A by year-end.
His best pitch is still his fastball, 93-97 mph without a lot of effort, a little true but also one that gets in on right-handed hitters quickly. His curveball is more of a power slurve, 77-84 mph and varying in shape as he tries to maintain a consistent arm slot for the pitch; when he stays up toward three-quarters, it has angle and depth, and when he finishes it out front, it's a real weapon for him in pitchers' counts.
He began using his changeup more in Harrisburg and it was approaching average by the end of August, although he still showed a large platoon split in Double-A. His control is well ahead of his command, but the latter will come as he gets more consistency with his arm slot and release point.
Cole's still on the thin side with room to add some muscle, more for stamina than for added velocity, but the key for him is body control and repeating that delivery. With the Nats having one of baseball's best rotations, they can take their time to get Cole right, and develop him into a good midrotation starter.
Top level: Double-A (Harrisburg) | 2013 rank: 89
66Taylor Guerrieri, RHP
AGE: 21DOB: 12/1/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 195
W-L: 6-2ERA: 2.01IP: 67.0SO: 51BB: 12
Guerrieri was off to an excellent start in low Class A Bowling Green, running his career line to a 1.59 ERA in 119 innings with just 17 walks and 96 punchouts before his elbow snapped, requiring Tommy John surgery that will put him out of action until at least late summer.
He was a power arm out of the 2011 draft, but showed right away he had feel for pitching beyond anyone's evaluations of him in high school, locating down in the zone and throwing strikes with his fastball and breaking ball. Guerrieri will run it up to 97 mph but can find success a grade below that because he can sink it and work side to side, and the Rays have made him work more on the changeup since his curveball was already a plus pitch. He tested positive for marijuana while injured, leading to a 50-game suspension that will be covered by his time on the disabled list; it has little bearing on his on-field projection, but tells us something about a player's desire to reach the majors.
If Guerrieri can keep himself clean and get back on the field by August, he could be just a couple of years from a rotation spot, with No. 2 starter upside once he develops more feel for his change.
Top level: Low Class A (Bowling Green) | 2013 rank: 47
67C.J. Edwards, RHP
AGE: 22DOB: 9/3/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 155
W-L: 8-2ERA: 1.86IP: 116.1SO: 155BB: 41
The Cubs acquired Edwards in the Matt Garza trade last July after which we quickly saw the return of his electric stuff and athletic, if slight, build.
Edwards will sit 91-96 mph with little effort, getting natural cutting action on the pitch as well as some downhill plane, and he has a big, old-school curveball that's a 55 or 60 on the 20-80 scale, and both pitches have missed bats in the minors. His changeup has made progress and was solid-average by year-end, giving him a three-pitch mix along with average control, similar in total package to Chris Archer at a similar stage of development.
Where Archer had size to go with his athleticism, Edwards is a rake, listed at 6-foot-2, 155 pounds, and while he's not that emaciated, he's still on the skinny side for a potential 200-inning starter. He's been healthy so far, and he has No. 2 starter upside if he can handle the workload associated with making 33 starts a year in the majors, a tremendous get for the Cubs for two months of Matt Garza's time.
Top level: High Class A (Daytona) | 2013 rank: Unranked
68Gary Sanchez, C
AGE: 21DOB: 12/2/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 220
AVG: .253OBP: .324OPS: .736HR: 15SB: 3
Sanchez shows flashes of star potential but has yet to put any of it together for an extended stretch of time -- although in his defense, he played all of 2013 at age 20 and has already reached Double-A, where he'll probably spend most or all of this season.
He has huge upside as a hitter, with plus-plus raw power and very hard contact, even with a slightly noisy approach, thanks to huge hip rotation and great strength in his wrists and forearms. His recognition of secondary stuff needs work, but his hand-eye coordination is so good that he's always had good contact rates, even striking out less often in the Florida State League than fellow young'uns Miguel Sano, Javier Baez and Byron Buxton.
Sanchez is often compared, unfairly, to former Yankees prospect Jesus Montero, but Sanchez has always been a better catcher across the board -- catching, throwing, agility -- and just needed to show the commitment and a better work ethic, which he did in 2013. He has a cannon, at least a 70-grade arm, and has improved his release over the past few years, but the finer points of catching like game-calling are still a ways off, and he may never be a good framer.
Even a grade-45 defender back there with Sanchez's potential offensive upside will be an MVP candidate, and if he continues to work at receiving and on his plate discipline he'll be ready to take over and make a real impact for the Yankees by 2016.
Top level: Double-A (Trenton) | 2013 rank: 18
69Kyle Crick, RHP
AGE: 21DOB: 11/30/92B/T: L/RHT: 6-4WT: 220
W-L: 3-1ERA: 1.57IP: 68.2SO: 95BB: 39
Crick has two huge pitches in his fastball and slider, and hitters have a hard time connecting with either pitch, as his 34 percent strikeout rate in high Class A attests (43 percent in the Arizona Fall League).
The fastball is 92-97 and the mid-80s slider has average tilt but plays up because it's hard and hitters pick up the break late. He's got the size to be a starter as well, country strong and already looking like a big leaguer physically. There's a lot of refining to do from here, however, starting with his well below-average command, thanks to a high-effort delivery that he still hasn't gotten under control. His changeup remains a below-average pitch, hard and straight and easy to pick up, leading to big platoon splits. Crick missed time in the regular season with an oblique strain, throwing just 83 innings on the season including the AFL, so he may spend 2014 facing an innings cap.
Double-A will be a key test for Crick, who will have to command his fastball better and find a way to get lefties out now that he'll be facing a higher caliber of hitter. I know many scouts who see him as a potential No. 2 starter, but his probability right now is low and he may be more of a power reliever instead.
Top level: High Class A (San Jose) | 2013 rank: 76
70Mike Foltynewicz, RHP
AGE: 22DOB: 10/7/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-4WT: 200
W-L: 6-3ERA: 3.06IP: 129.1SO: 124BB: 66
Foltynewicz, which is Polish for "throws gas," had a strong showing in his second season at low Class A in 2012, and came into last season needing to show that his success there had nothing to do with his experience level. It's fair to say now that that's the case, as Foltynewicz was quickly promoted out of high Class A and pitched fairly well as a 21-year-old in Double-A, hitting 100 mph in every start of the year but his final one (when he topped out at 99, he must have been exhausted) and showing improvement in both secondary pitches.
His curveball and changeup are both developing, the curve (present grade of 55, future 60) more than the change (45/50), although with his impressive arm speed he could probably pick up a slider like it was a $20 bill lying on the pavement. For Foltynewicz, it's now about refinement -- improving his fastball command, working more to the bottom of the zone, and getting consistency with the two off-speed weapons.
It's an ace's fastball, but I think the overall package is more of a league-average to above-average starter, 200-plus innings of better performance than the Astros have seen from a starter in quite some time.
Top level: Double-A (Corpus Christi) | 2013 rank: Unranked
71Arismendy Alcantara, 2B
AGE: 22DOB: 10/29/91B/T: B/RHT: 5-10WT: 160
AVG: .271OBP: .352OPS: .804HR: 15SB: 31
Alcantara was a bit of a surprise pick for the 2013 Futures Game, given how many higher-profile prospects the Cubs have, but homered from the left side and impressed scouts with his range of tools; he had a cold spell right after the game, but bounced back in August for a solid seasonal line that still doesn't give you a great idea of his upside as a potential All-Star at second base.
He can run and is a legitimate switch-hitter with sneaky power thanks to very strong wrists. He's a versatile athlete who could back up shortstop but probably shouldn't play it every day; he could also likely handle center or third base if needed, and might be a candidate for a Tony Phillips-type super-utility role.
He needs to tighten up his control of the strike zone and a full year of playing second base would help him substantially. Of note: He bears a striking resemblance to Chris Paul.
Top level: Double-A (Tennessee) | 2013 rank: Sleeper
72Chris Owings, SS
AGE: 22DOB: 8/12/91B/T: R/RHT: 5-10WT: 180
AVG: .330OBP: .359OPS: .841HR: 12SB: 20
Owings returns to the rankings after an absence of two years; he ranked 84th in 2011 but comical walk rates and a lack of development in his approach at the plate seemed to slow his progress.
His 2013 line was boosted by playing in hitter-friendly Triple-A Reno, but Owings' bat speed is undeniable and his swing is simple and direct. I don't see loft in the swing for home-run power, but he's an above-average runner and I think he'll hit plenty of line-drives to the gaps for 30-40 doubles a year. At shortstop, he has great instincts, quick feet, and a plus arm, everything required to be at least a 60-grade defender there -- very much what Didi Gregorius was supposed to be, but with better hit and run tools.
Owings was 17 years old when he signed, so he had 2,000 pro plate appearances before he turned 22 and is more than ready to take over as the everyday shortstop in Arizona now, where he might walk once a week but will contribute in plenty of other ways to keep the job.
Top level: Majors (Arizona) | 2013 rank: Unranked
73Nick Kingham, RHP
AGE: 22DOB: 11/8/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-5WT: 220
W-L: 9-6ERA: 2.89IP: 143.1SO: 144BB: 44
Kingham was the Pirates' fourth-round pick in 2010 out of Las Vegas powerhouse Sierra Vista High School, which has also recently produced Astros first baseman Chris Carter and Tampa Bay's 2011 first-round pick Jake Hager.
Kingham looks like the best prospect the school has churned out so far, a command right-hander with three solid to above-average pitches and a fluid delivery that's easy for him to repeat. He'll sit in the low 90s with an above-average curveball, and his changeup has gradually improved over the past two seasons to the point at which it's consistently average or better -- at times the superior weapon to the breaking ball. Kingham comes from a slot just below three-quarters but gets on top of the ball well; his stride is moderate, but there's so little effort to his arm swing it's hard to believe he can reach the 93-94 range.
I wish he had a little more life or plane on the fastball, as he's a moderate fly ball pitcher, but all of the other elements are in place for a league-average, 200-inning starter once he gets a few reps in the majors.
Top level: Double-A (Altoona) | 2013 rank: Sleeper
74Alen Hanson, SS
AGE: 21DOB: 10/22/92B/T: B/RHT: 5-11WT: 170
AVG: .274OBP: .329OPS: .755HR: 8SB: 30
The 2013 season was a mixed bag for Hanson, who came into the season needing to work on his defense at shortstop. He did so, but perhaps to the detriment of his offensive performance.
At the plate, Hanson has a compact left-handed swing that makes a lot of contact with below-average power, while his right-handed swing has more loft but has produced less contact as he's moved up the minor league ladder. He's patient enough to work deep counts but isn't at the point at which he can convert that into either a high OBP or hard contact in hitter's counts; in the Arizona Fall League, in which he was clearly tired, he was chasing fastballs up and sliders down and away, looking completely overmatched as a result.
His defense improved substantially over the course of 2013; he was always athletic enough for the position but worked on his footwork and his mental approach at short, reducing the mistakes that bedeviled him in 2012.
His ceiling is an average defender at short who hits .300 with 50-60 walks per season and doubles power, which would be an above-average or better regular, but to get there, he'll have to shorten up from the right side and continue to improve his ball-strike recognition.
Top level: Double-A (Altoona) | 2013 rank: 34
75Zach Lee, RHP
AGE: 22DOB: 9/13/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 190
W-L: 10-10ERA: 3.22IP: 142.2SO: 131BB: 35
I like Lee a little more than this ranking indicates, in part because I believe in betting on superior athletes to improve, even when a comparable player of less athletic ability would have plateaued.
If Lee never gets better, he's still a future No. 3 starter with a solid, average fastball at 90-94 mph which he can locate and an average-to-tick-above curveball that could be a little sharper. He'll also show a changeup with good action and a slider that, depending on the day, can look better than the curveball, although the consensus is that the latter will be his primary breaking ball.
Lee's an excellent athlete -- formerly committed to play quarterback at LSU -- with an easy, fluid delivery and superlative body control. I still think there's another gear in there when he gets to age 24 or so, maybe another grade of fastball, maybe a little quicker arm that makes the curveball sharper. He has a high floor thanks to his command and feel, but there is plenty of reason to hope for a little more.
Top level: Double-A (Chattanooga) | 2013 rank: 67
76Kohl Stewart, RHP
AGE 19DOB: 10/7/94B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 195
W-L: 0-0ERA: 1.35IP: 20SO: 24BB: 4
Stewart, a two-sport star who turned down a scholarship to play quarterback at Texas A&M to try his luck at baseball instead, was the fourth overall pick in the 2013 draft and the first high school player taken.
He is a great athlete with exceptional arm strength but has a long way to go to develop into a frontline starter because his delivery is so crude. He's up to 97 mph without a lot of effort, sitting at 92-94 with good downhill plane and a little arm-side run. His slider is his best pitch right now: 85-88 with good, late tilt, but his command of the pitch is below average, not where his command of his power 79-82 mph curveball is. He does throw a changeup, making him an unusual prep pitcher with the full four-pitch mix, and has good arm speed at 83-85 with no action.
Stewart's delivery doesn't reflect his athleticism, as his hips are stiff and he gets his pitching arm turned over late, drifting off the rubber rather than striding with more force. All of those factors mean he has ace stuff, with a chance for at least two plus-plus pitches and four that are average or better but lacks the command or control right now to put them to good use.
The Twins will likely spend a lot of time with Stewart this spring, working on making him into a pitcher rather than a thrower, so he might be a good five years away from the majors, though he is the system's most exciting pitching prospect.
Top level: Rookie (Elizabethton) | 2013 rank: Ineligible
77Jesse Biddle, LHP
AGE: 22DOB: 10/22/91B/T: L/LHT: 6-4WT: 225
W-L: 5-14ERA: 3.64IP: 138.1SO: 154BB: 82
Biddle is the Phillies' top pitching prospect, a local product who was outstanding early in the season before he came down with whooping cough.
When healthy, Biddle will sit at 90-92 mph but has 93-94 potential when he needs it. He complements the fastball with a big, slow curveball that lefties do not pick up at all, as well as solid-average changeup that he's continuing to improve his feel for. His fastball command came and went this season, with the illness -- which didn't prevent him from making every start until his last scheduled one of the season -- one factor behind that, but in his favor was an increased ability to get swings and misses on the fastball, something he'll need as neither the curve nor the change is a bona fide out pitch.
He's a solid No. 3 starter -- a little above league average -- with the potential for more if he doesn't contract diphtheria this summer.
Top level: Double-A (Reading) | 2013 rank: 95
78Jonathan Singleton, 1B
AGE: 22DOB: 9/18/91B/T: L/LHT: 6-2WT: 235
AVG: .230OBP: .351OPS: .753HR: 11SB: 1
Singleton missed the first 50 games of 2013 after testing positive for marijuana, a drug for which players on the 40-man roster aren't tested, meaning this is no longer an issue for Singleton going forward. After his return, however, he wasn't in great shape and never got going at the plate until going to Puerto Rico for winter ball. He's probably in line to return to Triple-A to start 2014.
Everything the industry liked about Singleton in 2012 is still there -- a beautiful left-handed swing with extension through contact for power and great balance from start to finish. He's ready to face right-handed major league pitching right now, but his recognition against lefties has long been a weakness, with 48 punchouts in 120 plate appearances against them in 2013.
The floor here is a platoon regular who destroys right-handers but needs a caddie against southpaws; he has just 600 plate appearances against lefties in his pro career, though, and might just need more reps to become a complete player who is capable of hitting .270-280 with 25-plus homers and a strong OBP.
Top level: Triple-A (Oklahoma City) | 2013 rank: 32
79Hak-Ju Lee, SS
AGE: 23DOB: 11/4/90B/T: L/RHT: 6-1WT: 170
AVG: .422OBP: .536OPS: 1.136HR: 1SB: 6
I saw Lee play on April 18 and was pleased to see a much better setup and swing from him at the plate than he'd showed in the Arizona Fall League in 2012. In his next game, however, he suffered a tramautic knee injury that knocked him out for the season and leaves his future potential up in the air.
So much of Lee's game revolves around his speed that if the injury reduces his ability to run or limits his lateral quickness at shortstop, he might lose any chance to be an impact player. That would be a shame because, prior to the injury, he looked like a star at shortstop, a potential plus defender and runner who has a very good approach at the plate with a line-drive swing, lacking only power among the five tools.
He's ranked in a holding pattern here until we see how much of his quickness remains, and for his sake and baseball's in general -- another Korean star player in MLB would only help grow the game globally -- I hope his tools are all intact.
Top level: Triple-A (Durham) | 2013 rank: 78
80Delino DeShields, OF
AGE: 21DOB: 8/16/92B/T: R/RHT: 5-9WT: 205
AVG: .317OBP: .405OPS: .873HR: 5SB: 51
DeShields didn't steal 100 bags again in 2013 but did have a solid season as a 20-year-old in hitter-friendly Lancaster, although, at this point, it's looking more like he'll end up in the outfield, most likely in left.
He can hit, with a short swing and strength to drive the ball to the gaps and maybe peaking as a 10-12 homer guy. An 80-grade runner in high school, he's more of a 65 runner now when underway, which is still plenty fast to rack up high stolen-base totals in the majors. His defense at second and in center remains below average, and his arm might limit him to left field down the road, where the Astros would hope he'd be a modern-day Tim Raines: getting on base with good defense and baserunning value.
His main issue, however, is a lack of effort -- his on-field effort level is often embarrassing and has many scouts I've talked to dismissing him as a top prospect entirely. I see a 21-year-old with a lot of physical ability who needs to grow up to reach his ceiling, but he's far too young to assume he'll never be able to do it.
Top level: High Class A (Lancaster) | 2013 rank: 83
81Miguel Almonte, RHP
AGE: 20DOB: 4/4/93B/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 180
W-L: 6-9ERA: 3.10IP: 130.2SO: 132BB: 36
Almonte was one of several sleepers I mentioned in the still-exciting Royals system last season and should join fellow top-100 prospect Raul Mondesi in high Class A Wilmington this April on a club that might have half of the Royals' top 10 prospects on its Opening Day roster.
Almonte's potential is tremendous, with the upside of a No. 1 or 2 starter if everything clicks for him. He'll show an above-average fastball every time out now, but he'll flash a 70-grade fastball in some starts, hitting 95-96 mph on those nights, and his changeup is plus right now -- so good, in fact, that he might use it too often when he needs to work on his breaking ball and fastball command. He likes to throw two variations on the curve -- one a spike that he can't command (almost nobody can) -- and it's going to be time for him to pick one and focus on developing it to the exclusion of the other. Almonte's arm is very quick but he's still learning how to generate that speed from his lower half instead of just relying on his arm quickness.
That's about three major areas for him to improve on to reach that ceiling, which sounds like a lot until you see his birth date and consider that he started 2012 still in the Dominican Republic. He's a player Royals fans can dream on.
Top level: Low Class A (Lexington) | 2013 rank: Sleeper
82Vincent Velasquez, RHP
AGE: 21DOB: 6/7/92B/T: B/RHT: 6-3WT: 203
W-L: 4-3ERA: 2.99IP: 78.1SO: 100BB: 32
My sleeper prospect for Houston going into 2012 came back late in that season from 2010 Tommy John surgery but was back at full strength last season and quietly had an outstanding season for a kid making his full-season debut, even if it was a year later than expected.
Velasquez has filled out nicely since high school and now sits at 93-94 mph with his fastball -- touching 96. He's always had a good changeup, which now shows plus at times, with average command of both pitches and above-average control overall. Velasquez's biggest issue now is the breaking ball, which ranges from well below average to above average within the same game -- sometimes within the same inning -- because he hasn't found consistent feel for his release of that pitch -- a little surprising given his three-quarters arm slot and ability to stay on top of the ball.
He needs more reps -- he is 21 and has fewer than 200 innings of pro experience across three-plus seasons -- to see if the curve can become an average or better pitch; if it does, he's at least a mid-rotation guy, and, if not, I think he has the control and changeup to still be a No. 4 starter.
Top level: High Class A (Lancaster) | 2013 rank: Unranked
83Brian Goodwin, CF
AGE: 23DOB: 11/2/90B/T: L/RHT: 6-1WT: 195
AVG: .252OBP: .355OPS: .762HR: 10SB: 19
Goodwin skipped high Class A in the summer of 2012, largely because the field conditions at Potomac are so poor that the Nats don't like sending outfield prospects there. Instead, he went right to Double-A Harrisburg, where he showed flashes of all five tools but never put everything together like I'd hoped, and returned there for all of 2013.
His season was uneven -- not bad -- as he did a lot of smaller things well, like working the count more effectively and improving his reads on defense. Goodwin is a plus-plus runner with quick wrists and generates plenty of bat speed for doubles and triples power with enough rotational action for maybe 10-15 homers per season. His arm would play in right or center, and with his speed, I think he's a lock to stay in center. His approach against right-handers is good, and his recognition problems with breaking stuff show up mostly against lefties, resulting in a growing platoon split.
When he's "on," there's an explosive aspect to his game that makes me think there's more production coming down the road and that he'll put everything together and end up a 70-grade defender who hits .280 with 70-80 walks per season and a slew of extra-base hits. He's just progressing in fits and starts and might be a guy who needs an extra 500 at-bats before the tools fully translate into results.
Top level: Double-A (Harrisburg) | 2013 rank: 44
84Jake Marisnick, CF
AGE: 23DOB: 3/30/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 225
AVG: .289OBP: .350OPS: .840HR: 12SB: 11
Marisnick didn't belong in the majors in 2013; it seems like the Marlins might not have realized that he and Christian Yelich could play on separate teams, so when they promoted Yelich in July, they brought Marisnick up at the same time, but Marisnick hit just .183/.231/.248 in 118 plate appearances.
He's a very good athlete who already plays an excellent center field and whose power-speed combination might make him a better fantasy hitter than real-baseball hitter. Marisnick has a lot of swing and miss in his approach -- from poor pitch recognition to timing problems -- but when he gets his arms extended, he has above-average-to-plus power out to left and left-center and has the speed to turn some singles into doubles.
Rushing him a half-season too early won't help him work on his ability to pick up breaking stuff; he could probably use three months in Triple-A, if not more. Even if the Marlins feel like his defense will help them now, they might be leaving some potential untapped by forcing him to sink or swim against major league arms.
Top level: Double-A (Harrisburg) | 2013 rank: 44
85Tyler Austin, OF
AGE: 22DOB: 9/6/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-1WT: 220
AVG: .265OBP: .351OPS: .730HR: 6SB: 4
Austin's all about the bat -- he can play right field but is nothing special there, and two seasons removed from any time at third base means he has no real chance to return to the dirt.
Unfortunately, he suffered a bone bruise in his wrist in late April, which he tried to play through it into July, that wrecked his first season in Double-A. He returned briefly in August and went to the Arizona Fall League but left there after two weeks with further discomfort in the joint. When healthy, Austin has a very sound swing that is geared both toward contact and power and is short to contact with good extension. He rotates his hips well to generate power, all with enough patience to keep his OBP in the .350 range. The wrist injury left his bat speed slower -- you see he was late on fastballs he'd have squared up a season before -- and it sapped most of his power as well.
He'll be only about average in right field -- making the necessary plays but not much more -- so he needs to hit and hit for power to be a regular. Like Hak-Ju Lee, he's still on this list as I wait to see if he's back to full strength in 2014, because I do believe in his potential with the bat.
Top level: Double-A (Trenton) | 2013 rank: 52
86Jonathan Schoop, SS
AGE: 22DOB: 10/16/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 210
AVG: .278OBP: .330OPS: .790HR: 14SB: 1
Schoop's season was all but ruined by a stress fracture in his lower back, so while he appeared for six different clubs in 2013 (including the Dutch World Baseball Classic team and Surprise in the Arizona Fall League), he was never quite himself anywhere he played.
He is a monster physically, and when he's healthy, he has plus to plus-plus power already, with 25-30 homer potential in a few years. He had some trouble with his swing this season after the back issue cropped up but looked better in the AFL -- more balanced throughout his swing and looser than he had been all season. But his timing was off and he didn't perform any better in Arizona than he had in Triple-A.
Schoop has played shortstop, but he's too big for the position, and after the back injury, Baltimore moved him to second base full time. I think he's a better fit at third; he has a 55- or 60-grade arm, and his hands are more than good enough for the infield, and the power will play at third base. Schoop needed the reset button of an offseason, and if he's healthy to start 2014, he could be in Baltimore by midseason at the keystone.
Top level: Majors (Baltimore) | 2013 rank: 50
87Mason Williams, OF
AGE: 22DOB: 8/21/91B/T: L/RHT: 6-1WT: 180
AVG: .245OBP: .304OPS: .641HR: 4SB: 15
Williams was one of several top Yankee prospects to get hurt and have a disappointing 2013 season; the biggest knock of all on Williams was that he was out of shape to start the season and seemed to be playing and moving without energy. He did look more like his old self in the Arizona Fall League, having dropped some weight and running sub-4.2 seconds down the line again while playing better in center field.
He is a potential Gold Glove defender in center, a future 70 on the 20-80 scale with good reads off the bat and bursting speed to chase down balls in the gaps. He's not a hacker at the plate, but he's not as selective as he should be; he can make contact so easily that he often chases pitches he should let go by and needs to be willing to work the count more to his advantage. Williams also had some mechanical issues at the plate in 2013, finishing too closed after stridin and sometimes getting his front hip out too early, all of which need to be reined in to maximize his production.
His ultimate outcome should be a high-average, doubles-power guy who might hit 15 homers in his best season, but even .290-plus with 50-60 walks and 10 homers with great defense is an above-average regular.
Top level: Double-A (Trenton) | 2013 rank: 35
88Matt Davidson, 3B
AGE: 23DOB: 3/26/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 225
AVG: .280OBP: .350OPS: .831HR: 17SB: 1
Davidson has been on this list for four straight years and appears ready to take over as the White Sox's regular third baseman after they acquired him from Arizona in December.
He has a sweet right-handed swing: very simple and repeatable, with moderate loft in his finish. He is more of a 35-doubles candidate than a plus-power guy; he'll likely hit 15-20 homers per season if he doesn't get too pull-conscious, which, given his swing and approach would hurt him too much in the batting average and contact departments. He's an adequate third baseman, having worked substantially on his reads and getting his feet moving more quickly; you'd like to see him be more aggressive on balls in front of him -- especially ones he should play with one hand -- but he'll make the plays he has to make to be a solid defender.
He'll play at 23 years old in 2014 and still has a little development ahead of him -- mostly in pitch recognition -- but he should be an above-average regular at third base given a season or two there to continue to progress.
Top level: Majors (Arizona) | 2013 rank: 75
89Matt Barnes, RHP
AGE: 23DOB: 6/17/90B/T: R/RHT: 6-4WT: 205
W-L: 6-10ERA: 4.13IP: 113.1SO: 142BB: 48
Barnes had a very strong season in Double-A, missing a ton of bats and continuing to develop his curveball and changeup. He's still not at the point at which he's likely to have all three offerings working on the same day.
He shows a low-90s fastball and can add a little more when needed; hitters don't see the ball well out of his hand at all, so he gets a ton of swings and misses on his fastball, even within the zone. His curveball was much better in the second half of the season, a downer breaking ball that he didn't command early but was more effective with later in the season, while his changeup was probably better in the spring and might be a little too hard to be more than an average pitch. He continues to command his fastball better than his off-speed stuff and will probably spend most of 2014 in Triple-A working on the latter.
I see at least a mid-rotation starter here, with a chance to play above that if the secondary pitches come along. Guys who miss bats with fastball strikes like this are pretty uncommon, so I could be easily selling him short.
Top level: Triple-A (Pawtucket) | 2013 rank: 79
90Christian Bethancourt, C
AGE: 21DOB: 9/2/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 215
AVG: .277OBP: .305OPS: .741HR: 12SB: 11
Bethancourt repeated Double-A after an inexcusably bad season at the plate there in 2012 but seemed to make enough minor adjustments at the plate to at least get to his power more often and project as an everyday catcher in the majors.
His calling card is his defense -- perhaps the best in the minors right now -- which is good enough to challenge Yadier Molina's for the best in MLB when the time comes. He's a plus-plus receiver with an 80-grade arm that is strong, quick and accurate. At the plate, Bethancourt has plus power, but he's a relentless hacker, with just 78 walks in 1,824 career plate appearances (4.2 percent, if you didn't want to bust out Excel for that), and that lack of patience has held back his ability to get pitches he can drive.
If he gets a full season in the majors in 2015, he'll probably post an OBP of less than .300 but with 10-15 homers and two wins worth of defensive value. And if he ever figures out how to take a couple of pitches, there's more power in there -- enough to make him a fringe All-Star.
Top level: Double-A (Mississippi) | 2013 rank: Unranked
91Kolten Wong, 2B
AGE: 23DOB: 10/10/90B/T: L/RHT: 5-9WT: 185
AVG: .303OBP: .369OPS: .835HR: 10SB: 20
Wong has one above-average tool: his ability to hit. He combines that with very good instincts, so, despite his lack of any plus tools, the Cardinals are comfortable penciling him in as their everyday second baseman for 2014.
He has a short swing with above-average bat speed, letting the ball travel well and going for contact rather than power. His walk rates in pro ball haven't been great, but he doesn't strike out much and, in general, has been successful at putting the ball in play rather than just working the count for walks. His defense is average at second base; his arm is just a tick below average and his footwork is OK, but the Cardinals have done a great job at developing defenders and have improved Wong's reads and lateral range to the point at which he's more than fringy at the position. He's pretty much an average runner but massively improved his baserunning acumen last season.
I see an average regular here -- maybe a tick above -- with a little bit of upside if he develops a better on-base ability after some time in the majors.
Top level: Majors (St. Louis) | 2013 rank: 96
92Brandon Nimmo, OF
AGE: 21DOB: 3/27/93B/T: L/RHT: 6-3WT: 185
AVG: .273OBP: .397OPS: .756HR: 2SB: 10
Nimmo was the Mets' first-round pick in 2011 out of a high school in Wyoming that didn't have a baseball team, which left him with limited experience, mostly Americal Legion ball and some showcases the summer before his senior year. Despite having several above-average tools, he didn't have a lot of reps against decent pitching and moved slowly through short-season ball before reaching the hitter's graveyard of Savannah this season.
He raked away from Savannah (.302/.421/.405) and showed great patience at the plate, a hugely positive marker for a player as inexperienced as he is. Nimmo has great rotation in his swing but can be a little long to the ball because he loads his hands high, behind his left shoulder. He's a fringe-average defender in center -- better with reads than with range -- but he'll be plus in either corner. The main areas for improvement for Nimmo are against left-handed pitchers -- against whom he was better this season but still not where he'll need to be to play every day -- and staying healthy, as he had a nagging wrist injury last summer on top of knee surgery in high school.
High-OBP guys with other tools, especially defensive ability, are pretty uncommon, and a healthy Nimmo should be an average to above-average regular by the time he's 24.
Top level: Low Class A (Savannah) | 2013 rank: Just missed
93Justin Nicolino, LHP
AGE: 22DOB: 11/22/91B/T: L/LHT: 6-3WT: 190
W-L: 8-4ERA: 3.11IP: 142.0SO: 95BB: 30
Nicolino is the same guy he was a season ago, but the failure to miss bats this season was a disappointment given his combination of command and stuff.
He has a quiet delivery, extremely easy to repeat, which allows him to throw all three of his pitches for strikes with above-average command that will end up plus. His fastball is just average, but his changeup is already plus, if not better, and he'll show a 55-grade curveball that is a little short but plays up because he can locate it well. He's also played around with a slider, which isn't a viable weapon for him yet but could give him another way to keep hitters off balance.
Nicolino keeps his walk rates low and posts good (not huge) groundball rates, so his floor is high, but his ceiling isn't more than a slightly above-average starter until he shows he can strike more hitters out.
Top level: Double-A (Jacksonville) | 2013 rank: 62
94Hunter Renfroe, OF
AGE: 22DOB: 1/28/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-1WT: 200
AVG: .271OBP: .308OPS: .767HR: 6SB: 2
Renfroe had two nondescript seasons at Mississippi State before breaking out in the spring of 2013, which helped push him to the top half of the first round of the draft once he had some results to go with his plus power and speed tools.
He is broad-shouldered with a solid build and has the plus-plus power you'd expect from a guy that size. His swing is very rotational, with a good stride into the ball and excellent follow-through to generate all of that power. He lifts his back foot off the ground at contact, which isn't ideal since it means he's hitting entirely off his front foot, something a few good big league hitters have done but that most don't.
He's a plus runner with a strong arm and should be an excellent defender in right, saving up to 10 runs per season between his glove and his arm. The question on Renfroe, and it's a significant one, is his pitch recognition and the resulting trouble he has making contact; he doesn't pick up spin that well, and pitchers can change speeds on him to get him off balance, all of which (plus fatigue) seemed to catch up to him in his very brief time in low Class A last season.
Right now, he projects as a low-average, power-speed guy, a No. 5- or 6-hole hitter who adds a lot of value on defense and on the bases -- but he'll have to improve his contact rates to get there.
Top level: Low Class A (Ft. Wayne) | 2013 rank: Ineligible
95Nick Ciuffo, C
AGE: 19DOB: 3/7/95B/T: L/RHT: 6-1WT: 205
AVG: .258OBP: .296OPS: .604HR: 0SB: 0
The best receiving catcher in the 2013 draft has some work to do in other aspects of his game but offers a high floor thanks to his good hands and above-average raw power.
As a hitter, Ciuffo has a simple left-handed swing, with very little stride and a consistent path. He rotates his hips well and has the hand strength to pull the ball, even when he rolls over his front foot through contact; that power makes him pull-conscious at times, something he'll have to avoid to keep his contact rate and batting average up.
Behind the plate, Ciuffo should be an excellent framer thanks to strong, yet soft, hands, and he's already improved his footwork since signing. He has plus arm strength but a long throwing stroke -- like he's winding up to pitch -- which he'll need to cut down to help him control the running game. I'm less concerned with his fielding than with his hit tool, as he has more work to do to use the whole field so he can keep his average up.
He's a potential above-average regular, a plus defender across the board who might hit .240-250 with 18-20 homers per season in a position at which a pulse is enough to put you above replacement level.
Top level: Rookie (Gulf Coast League) | 2013 rank: Ineligible
96Chris Anderson, RHP
AGE: 21DOB: 7/29/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-4WT: 215
W-L: 3-0ERA: 1.96IP: 46.0SO: 50BB: 24
The Dodgers' first-round pick in 2013 had an up-and-down spring at Jacksonville University -- blowing everyone away early in the spring with a plus slider and a fastball up to 95 mph -- but the coaching staff worked him hard and he couldn't maintain it through the end of the college season.
His velocity was better this summer after a brief layoff and some lighter use in pro ball, with his fastball touching 98 mph and his changeup solid-average or a tick below.
Anderson is physically imposing -- built for big workloads -- with a strong lower half and a good, long stride to the plate. He doesn't have the command or poise of system-mate Zach Lee but has a higher ceiling as a potential No. 2 starter if he can locate better and maintains his composure when something goes wrong behind him.
Top level: Low Class A (Great Lakes) | 2013 rank: Ineligible
97Josh Bell, OF
AGE: 21DOB: 8/14/92B/T: B/RHT: 6-3WT: 213
AVG: .279OBP: .353OPS: .806HR: 13SB: 1
Bell was on my 2012 list but suffered a season-ending knee injury that April and missed key development time, especially given how much work he had to do at the plate.
He is a switch-hitter with well-above-average power, even to the opposite field. He is far more advanced from the left side of the plate than the right side, from which his swing gets longer and his swing path is much less consistent. His ball-strike recognition was solid in high school and remains a strength; his walk rate was only fair in West Virginia last season, but part of that is the result of his strong plate coverage, not a lack of patience. His ability to drive pitches on the outer half out to left field when batting left-handed is unusual, especially for his age and for a hitter who doesn't strike out at an alarming rate.
The Pirates have kept Bell in right field, but he's far more likely to end up in left because he's a below-average runner with a below-average arm. If the bat comes along now that the lost season is behind him, though, he'll still profile as an average to above-average regular in left, getting on base at a .350-plus clip with 20-25 homers per season.
Top level: Low Class A (West Virginia) | 2013 rank: Unranked
98Tim Anderson, SS
AGE: 20DOB: 6/23/93B/T: R/RHT: 6-1WT: 180
AVG: .277OBP: .348OPS: .711HR: 1SB: 24
Praise be the White Sox for finally being aggressive with their top draft picks; while it didn't work out for Courtney Hawkins in 2013, a raw high school kid who should have gone to low Class A rather than high A, pushing the 20-year-old Anderson to low A got him needed at-bats against better pitching.
Anderson held his own there, striking out a little more than you'd like but showing off his gap power and speed without ever looking overmatched. He has a very quick but mostly flat swing, more from his hands than his hips or legs, so he can slap the ball all over but isn't well set up to drive it in any direction. He drifts a little on to his front foot, which, combined with the lack of hip rotation, makes it hard to get maximum force into any contact he makes. He's a plus runner, and questions about his defense while in junior college were less evident in pro ball as the White Sox helped clean up his arm stroke, and his footwork has already improved.
He's a great athlete overall and does have the strength to surprise us down the road with 15-homer pop, but it's more likely he settles in as a slap-hitter/speed guy who plays above-average defense at short.
Top level: Low Class A (Kannapolis) | 2013 rank: Ineligible
99Jose Peraza, SS
AGE: 19DOB: 4/30/94B/T: R/RHT: 6-0WT: 165
AVG: .288OBP: .341OPS: .712HR: 1SB: 64
Peraza is an above-average defensive shortstop and a 70-grade runner who played well as a 19-year-old in the South Atlantic League in 2013 but will have to show he can hit for enough power to keep up that performance into the big leagues.
He has a very short, direct swing with almost no load and very little follow-through and has posted very high contact rates across his three seasons in pro ball but virtually no power -- a concern because, by the time a player like this reaches Double-A, pitchers will start to try to pound him inside with velocity, and he needs to find enough strength to fight that stuff off.
Peraza is slight, but not weak, and might end up with 10-homer power if he can relax his swing's finish and get more loft in it. In the field, Peraza has very quick feet and good actions for a shortstop; he projects as a 65 or better defender at second, where he might end up because of Andrelton Simmons' presence at shortstop and where Peraza would be a potential All-Star.
Top level: Low Class A (Rome) | 2013 rank: Unranked
100Rob Kaminsky, LHP
AGE: 19DOB: 9/2/94B/T: R/LHT: 5-11WT: 191
W-L: 0-3ERA: 3.68IP: 22.0SO: 28BB: 9
Kaminsky was one of the most polished high school arms in last year's draft, boasting already impressive stuff and good feel for pitching to make up for his lack of projection.
The New Jersey prep product sits at 90-92 mph with his fastball as a starter now, but his current money pitch is a grade-65 curveball with tight rotation and good depth; he has some feel for a changeup, but it's well behind the other two pitches due largely to lack of use in high school. He has a strong lower half and makes good use of it with a long "step-over" stride, moderate hip rotation and an arm swing by which he pronates his forearm quickly after an early Lincecum-like plunge. He's athletic for his build and finishes well over his front side, which he has to do to avoid the plague of the undersized starting pitcher -- a fly ball tendency from a fastball that doesn't sink or tail.
He doesn't offer any physical projection and will probably peak in the 90-94 mph range at best, but hitters say he's extremely hard to hit because they don't see the ball and can't distinguish between the fastball and the curve. If that changeup comes along, he's a potential No. 3 starter, and he should fare very well in the low minors as he's learning.
Top level: Rookie (Gulf Coast) | 2013 rank: Ineligible