Top 100 prospects (Nos. 1-50).Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Welcome to ESPN Insider's 2015 ranking of the top 100 prospects in baseball.
This is my eighth such ranking for Insider, with a lot of the same names near the top of last year's list but in a different order based on what we learned from those players' 2014 seasons. Just 10 players from last year's top 50 lost their eligibility for this year's list due to exceeding the limits for rookie of the year eligibility. 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, as with the previous year's ranking. A number of the top arms from last year's list were hit by the injury bug, including a few Tommy John surgeries and a number of other arm problems that kept them off the mound, some for almost the entire season.
Law's prospect rankings
Top 100 prospects
Nos. 1-50 Insider | Nos. 51-100 Insider
Full index Insider | Breakdown of top 3 Video
Farm system rankings
Cubs No. 1 Insider | Twins are close Video
• 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 Milwaukee Brewers infielder Luis Sardinas, for instance, 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 purpose of this exercise, which means no Jung-Ho Kang this year (among others). I also exclude Cuban players who are considered professional free agents by Major League Baseball by virtue of their experience in Cuba's Serie Nacional de Béisbol. This list includes Rusney Castillo and Yasmany Tomas, but will consider Cuban players whom MLB treats as amateurs, like Roberto Baldoquin (who just missed this list) and Yoan Lopez.
• When ranking players, I consider scouting reports on players -- usually my own, supplemented 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 2014. 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 Insider | Nos. 1-50 Insider | Nos. 51-100 Insider
1Kris Bryant, 3B
AGE: 23DOB: 1/4/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-5WT: 215
AVG: .325OBP: .438OPS: 1.098HR: 43SB: 15
Everyone is aware of Bryant by now, after his pro baseball-leading 43 home runs and a .325/.438/.661 line across two levels in his first full year in the minors. Bryant is the best prospect in baseball for 2015, a true middle-of-the-order bat who should be in the Cubs' Opening Day lineup for the next six-plus seasons.
Bryant was drafted late out of high school despite showing first-round abilities, matured quickly once he began playing at the University of San Diego and landed as the No. 2 pick in the 2013 draft. After he tore through the low levels of the minors that summer, the Cubs pushed him to Double-A to start the 2014 season and he proceeded to demolish the level in half a season before a promotion to Triple-A that saw him nearly repeat the performance against older competition.
Bryant's swing is very balanced, with a wide setup and good use of his lower half to generate power. While there were concerns when he was an amateur that his bat speed might not catch up to major league velocity, he really has had no problem with better stuff in the pros, probably because his eye is so good and his swing is very short from load to contact. He's a good enough athlete to be able to handle third base, although he'd probably be better defensively in right field with his plus arm and fewer quick-reaction plays to challenge him. Wherever he ends up, he has 30-homer, .400 OBP potential, and should challenge for MVP awards once he has a few years in the majors.
Top level: Triple-A (Iowa) | 2014 rank: 15
2Byron Buxton, CF
AGE: 21DOB: 12/18/93B/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 190
AVG: .234OBP: .307OPS: .702HR: 4SB: 6
Very little went right in 2014 for Lord Byron, who suffered everything but leeching during a season that saw him healthy enough for just 181 total at-bats, including his stint in the Arizona Fall League that also ended due to an injury. Buxton remained in great physical shape throughout his ordeals, and in October he still showed most of the same tools that made him baseball's best prospect going into 2014, though the rust in his bat was evident and he has lost a lot of important development time.
At full strength and health, Buxton is an 80 runner with an 80 arm and is capable of playing at least grade-70 defense in center field. His bat is quick and his hands are strong enough to drive the ball out to the gaps. He's more balanced than he was as an amateur, using his back leg more to generate power, which should end up above-average by the time he reaches his peak in his mid- to late 20s. His pitch recognition turned out to be better than expected -- given his background in rural Georgia, with few showcase appearances -- but lack of reps in 2014 meant he couldn't continue to improve in that regard, and he struggled to pick up sliders in fall league. His star ceiling hasn't changed, but the missing 400 or so at-bats around the wrist injury, the dislocated finger and the concussion have pushed his timetable back as much as a full year.
Top level: Double-A (New Britain) | 2014 rank: 1
3Carlos Correa, SS
AGE: 20DOB: 9/22/94B/T: R/RHT: 6-4WT: 205
AVG: .325OBP: .416OPS: .926HR: 6SB: 20
Only a horrific leg injury could have stopped Correa in 2014, as he had the seventh-best OBP and 22nd-best slugging percentage in the high-A California League despite being the circuit's youngest regular. A few days after the Carolina-California Leagues' All-Star Game, Correa slid into third base poorly and fractured his fibula, an injury severe enough that he couldn't return even to play in the Arizona Fall League or in winter ball.
Correa's bat continues to impress as his approach is advanced beyond his years, but it's his defense that earns him even higher praise, as he looks more and more like he'll at least be able to start his major league career at shortstop, a position I expected him to quickly outgrow. He played all of 2014 at age 19, and may still bulk up to the point that a move to third base makes more sense; right now, he could play an average shortstop in the majors, while his arm and bat will both profile well at third base. He might be Adrian Beltre in the end, but I wouldn't give up on him doing a little Troy Tulowitzki before he moves.
Top level: High Class A (Lancaster) | 2014 rank: 4
4Addison Russell, SS
AGE: 21DOB: 1/23/94B/T: R/RHT: 6-0WT: 195
AVG: .295OBP: .350OPS: .858HR: 13SB: 6
His performance left behind in much of the publicity around more famous Cubs prospects, Russell continued to rake in 2014 once he recovered from an early-season hamstring tear, and he kept right on producing after he was the big piece going to Chicago in the Jeff Samardzija trade.
Russell is a true shortstop with one of the best pure hit tools in the minors, both of which are a function of his outstanding hands, which are strong enough to produce hard contact yet smooth enough that he makes difficult plays look easy at short, whether it's a tough ground ball or a quick transfer on a 4-6-3 double-play turn. His swing did get a little longer in 2014, producing more power but also more ground ball contact, as he would get on top of balls he didn't square up. Russell always will face questions about his position because he's not a runner, but his footwork is more than adequate, and he has the hands and arm to be above-average there. Shortstops with the potential to hit .300-plus with double-digit homers are rare commodities -- Troy Tulowitzki was the only major leaguer to do it in 2014 -- which makes Russell's skill set extremely valuable.
Top level: Triple-A (Sacramento) | 2014 rank: 3
5Corey Seager, SS/3B
AGE: 20DOB: 4/27/1994B/T: L/RHT: 6-4WT: 215
AVG: .349OBP: .402OPS: 1.004HR: 20SB: 6
Unless he experiences a miraculous change in body type, Seager isn't going to be a shortstop in the majors. Cal Ripken Jr. has been the only one Seager's height to stay at the position, and Seager, who turns 21 in April, already has about 20 pounds on Ripken. Seager still has MVP-type upside at third base, where I expect him to be an above-average or better defender, just as his brother Kyle has become, but with a much stronger hit tool.
Seager's swing isn't textbook, but it's very quiet, especially in light of the thunder it produces, producing strong contact rates as well as plus power. He loads his hands a little low and deep, but he gets to everything -- velocity, spin, inside and outside pitches -- and has the ability to drive the ball the other way with what seems like a flick of his wrists. He has been young at every level he has played in pro ball, even skipping the complex league in 2012 to go right to Ogden, and has been able to make significant adjustments, including killing the tendency to let his front side go soft that led to a brief struggle at the end of 2013. Kyle Seager has turned into one of the top 20 players in the majors, but even as good as he is, brother Corey has the potential to be much better.
Top level: Double-A (Chattanooga) | 2014 rank: 18
6Francisco Lindor, SS
AGE: 21DOB: 11/14/93B/T: B/RHT: 5-11WT: 175
AVG: .276OBP: .338OPS: .727HR: 11SB: 28
True shortstops abound in the minor leagues right now, and while they won't all hit in the majors or stay at the position, Lindor looks like the strongest bet to do both of those things, not just now but for the bulk of his major league career. Lindor can hit, run, work the count, field and throw, pretty much everything but hit for power, and he makes all of those things look very, very easy.
Lindor is a legitimate switch-hitter whose swings from both sides of the plate are quite similar, a little longer from the right side but still functional, and 2014 was his best year yet against left-handed pitching. His swing is short, geared toward contact -- he was well above the median in strikeout rate in the minors this year, even compared to players of all ages -- but hard enough that he'll line plenty of balls to the gaps for extra bases. His plate discipline has always been outstanding, and he has managed to post strong contact rates despite being young for his levels; he struggled a little after a late-season promotion to Triple-A in 2014, but was one of the 10 youngest players in the league last year. He's an above-average to plus runner, although that hasn't led to big stolen-base totals in the minors; I think he could steal 30-40 if given the opportunity.
Cleveland doesn't have a true shortstop on their major league roster right now, with prospect Jose Ramirez their best option, though he's better cast as a second baseman or super-utility player. He's just keeping a spot warm for Lindor, who projects to be their leadoff man for years to come, posting .400 OBPs with stellar defense and great makeup.
Top level: Triple-A (Columbus) | 2014 rank: 6
7J.P. Crawford, SS
AGE: 20DOB: 1/11/1995B/T: L/RHT: 6-2WT: 180
AVG: .285OBP: .375OPS: .781HR: 11SB: 24
In a dismal 2014 for Phillies fans, the rapid emergence of Crawford as the team's shortstop of the future was one of the only bright spots, and allowed the Phils to trade Jimmy Rollins for two pitching prospects after the season. The 16th pick in the 2013 draft showed he was far more advanced as a hitter than even I expected -- I ranked him 46th last January -- while playing plus defense at shortstop and impressing scouts with how complete his game was at age 19.
Crawford's defense wasn't a real question coming out of high school, as he had quick feet (and is a plus runner) with a strong arm and good actions both on the dirt and around the bag. He'll need more work on plays going into the hole, but I see zero reason he can't become adept at that play in time. At the plate, his hands can load a little deep, but he accelerates them so quickly that he can cover almost anything except perhaps hard stuff inside. His aptitude and ability to make adjustments has also been above anything the Phillies could have hoped for. Their main goal for him this offseason was to help him continue to fill out his frame, which might sneak him up to fringy power, 10-12 homers a year, and should help him be durable enough to take the position 150 times a year. Rollins' departure was a tough emotional blow for many longtime Phillies' fans, but it'll be a lot easier once Crawford arrives and brings a similar mix of skills to Citizens Bank Park.
Top level: High Class A (Clearwater) | 2014 rank: 46
8Lucas Giolito, RHP
AGE: 20DOB: 7/14/94B/T: R/RHT: 6-6WT: 255
W-L: 10-2ERA: 2.20IP: 98SO: 110BB: 28
One year after his return from Tommy John surgery, Giolito was on the mound at the Futures Game in Minneapolis, giving up a homer on a hanging curveball but otherwise looking outstanding for someone only about 23 months off the operation. His 2014 season was remarkable on its own, but even more so given the context of his injury and missed time, and when you consider that he hasn't even been allowed to use his two-seam fastball and is still developing his changeup, you can see why there seems to be no limit on how good he can ultimately be.
Giolito looks the part of a future ace, a 6-foot-6, 255-pound workhorse who'll sit 94-96 mph and can go get 98, getting good leverage from his height and working on sitting in the lower third of the zone with the pitch. He gets great angle and depth on the plus curveball, 79-83 and unhittable unless he hangs it (which he did in the Futures Game). His changeup is in the low 80s and he's continuing to throw it more, all but shelving his curveball in his last few starts of 2014 because he wanted to develop the change. When he reaches Double-A, he'll be able to restore his two-seamer and become a true four-pitch guy. Giolito looks like a 220-inning, sub-3 ERA guy in the making, and he should be ready to see the majors at some point in late 2016, which gives the Nationals a lot to consider when looking at the impending free agents in their currently loaded big-league rotation.
Top level: Class A (Hagerstown) | 2014 rank: 21
9Julio Urias, LHP
AGE: 18DOB: 8/12/96B/T: L/LHT: 5-11WT: 160
W-L: 2-2ERA: 2.36IP: 87.2SO: 109BB: 37
No pitcher in recent minor league history has done what Julio Urias just did in an abbreviated season in the high-A California League. In 1983, an 18-year-old right-hander dominated the high-A Carolina League, racking up an unthinkable 300 strikeouts (and 112 walks) in 191 innings for Lynchburg, a campaign that launched him to the big leagues the following year, where that right-hander, Dwight Gooden, won the Rookie of the Year award and became an instant celebrity. Urias didn't pitch as much, but pitched at least as well, and did it despite being nine months younger than Gooden was when pitching at the same level of organized baseball.
Urias has a shot at a legitimate four-pitch mix, a fastball from 92-95 with little effort, a future-plus curveball at 78-80 and an average changeup at 81-84 with some fading action to it. I've also seen him throw a hard slider at 84-86 that he'd use to lefties and backdoor to righties. He stays on line well with a clean delivery that is highly rotational, and he manages to hide the ball well in the early part of his delivery. Urias is still only about 5-foot-10, so there isn't a lot of plane or sink on his fastball, and his command is still below-average, although the delivery is clean enough that that should improve rapidly with experience. He's so young for a full-season pitcher that the Dodgers have tied themselves into knots trying to manage his workload, limiting him to no more than 22 batters in any start and letting him start the sixth inning just once all year.
The story here is less about his age than about his present skill set, which isn't that far away from being ready. By the time he has been built up enough to handle a starter's workload, he'll be working with three or four above-average pitches and ready to make an immediate impact on a major-league rotation.
Top level: High Class A (Rancho Cucamonga) | 2014 rank: 14
10Blake Swihart, C
AGE: 22DOB: 4/3/92B/T: B/RHT: 6-1WT: 175
AVG: .293OBP: .341OPS: .810HR: 13SB: 8
In an era when no one seems to have any catching, the Red Sox are fortunate enough to have two young backstops close to major league-ready in defensive specialist Christian Vazquez, now their primary catcher for 2015, and top prospect Swihart, a supreme athlete who is nearly as good a defender as Vazquez but with All-Star upside with the bat.
Swihart is a switch-hitter who was a part-time catcher in high school but has taken to the position incredibly well in pro ball, improving rapidly in every aspect of the game, to the point where he's now a plus or better receiver with a 65 to 70 arm (nailing 46 percent of would-be base stealers in 2014). He's built like a middle infielder or center fielder, with a lithe, athletic body, and runs better than most backstops do. At the plate, his hand-eye coordination is outstanding and has helped carry him as his pitch recognition and power have developed over the past three seasons. His right-handed swing is better and still produces more power, but he's improving from the left side and has the loft to hit 10-15 homers against right-handers.
The Red Sox have long raved about Swihart's work ethic and aptitude, both critical in developing a true two-way catcher given the mental and physical demands of the job.
Top level: Triple-A (Pawtucket) | 2014 rank: 56
11Joey Gallo, 3B
AGE: 21DOB: 11/19/93B/T: L/RHT: 6-5WT: 205
AVG: .271OBP: .394OPS: 1.009HR: 42SB: 7
Smashing car windows at the Futures Game was just another day at the office for Gallo, whose 80 raw power and proclivity to swing and miss make him the game's preeminent sonic-boom-or-bust candidate: If he hits a little, he'll be a star. Finishing second in minor league baseball this year with 42 homers (one behind Kris Bryant), Gallo has more pure raw power, but he isn't as advanced as a hitter, and still struggled with contact after a midseason promotion to Double-A. He did make a significant adjustment from 2013 to 2014, tightening up his command of the strike zone. He'll always swing and miss, but he was doing so at pitches (notably fastballs) within the zone less frequently in high-A to start the 2014 season.
Gallo is improving at third base but is just so big that he may end up having to move to first, which would be a shame given a grade-80 arm that had him sitting in the low to mid-90s as a pitcher in high school. No one in the minors swings as hard or generates as much force on contact as Gallo does, and if he can just hit .230-.240 in the majors he'll hit 40-45 homers, if not more, with enough patience thrown in to be a 5-WAR player on his bat alone.
Top level: Double-A (Frisco) | 2014 rank: Unranked
12Carlos Rodon, LHP
AGE: 22DOB: 12/10/92B/T: L/LHT: 6-3WT: 234
W-L: 0-0ERA: 2.96IP: 24.1SO: 38BB: 13
Rodon was the top college prospect in the 2014 draft class, and could have gone first overall had he had a stronger junior year, perhaps one on par with the outing he put up against Cuba while pitching for the U.S. Collegiate National Team in the summer of 2013, when he was up to 96 mph with the best amateur slider scouts had seen in 15 or 20 years. That pitch wasn't around last spring, but he can still miss a lot of bats even when it's not a grade-80 offering, throwing sliders from 87 to 92 even when his fastball is mostly 90-94, so hitters have very little time to figure out which pitch it is before they discover they've already swung through it.
Rodon's fastball command is below-average and his delivery doesn't have the same power to it, especially in its finish, as it did in his first two years at NC State, where he was worked very hard and became a casualty of his own success. There's still some head violence in his finish, which will likely always be part of his delivery and limits the ceiling for his command. On the other hand, the White Sox have an exceptional track record of working with pitchers with different or unorthodox deliveries and improving their performance while keeping them healthy, making their system the perfect fit for Rodon's skill set and mechanics. He has the wipeout pitch to work at the top of someone's rotation, striking out 200-plus batters a year, and his upside is limited mostly by how often he can locate his fastball where he wants.
Top level: Triple-A (Charlotte) | 2014 rank: Ineligible
13Tyler Glasnow, RHP
AGE: 21DOB: 8/23/93B/T: L/RHT: 6-7WT: 195
W-L: 12-5ERA: 1.74IP: 124.1SO: 157BB: 57
Every team hopes one of the many projectable high school pitchers they take after the first two rounds of the draft blossoms into a hard thrower in pro ball; Glasnow, a fifth-rounder in 2011, has done more than that, going from the upper 80s in high school to throwing bowling balls at 93-98 mph, finishing ninth in the minor leagues in strikeouts in 2014 at just 20 years of age. He has passed several other talented arms in the Pirates' system to become their top prospect.
Glasnow comes from a three-quarters arm slot and gets some plane on the fastball from his 6-foot-7 frame, although he's more a power/neutral pitcher than a ground ball specialist. His curveball at 79-81 mph is plus, with tight rotation and good depth to it, major league-ready in terms of shape and velocity. His changeup is still below-average and looks more like a weak fastball, often as hard as 91 mph, insufficient separation for it to be a real change of pace for him to keep hitters off the fastball, although left-handed hitters haven't sniffed him through two full seasons in the minors anyway. His command has gradually improved as the Pirates have worked with him to sync up his delivery, a real challenge for a pitcher with long levers like Glasnow has. There's still work to do, between the third pitch (which he might not need) and the fastball command, but that curveball and the big fastball point to a potential MLB strikeout champ.
Top level: High Class A (Bradenton) | 2014 rank: 20
14Jorge Soler, RF
AGE: 22DOB: 2/25/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-4WT: 215
AVG: .292OBP: .330OPS: .903HR: 5SB: 1
After a year and a half of good performance interrupted by numerous injuries that left him struggling to stay on the field, Soler reached the majors at the end of August and set expectations at an impossible level at least initially, going 10 for his first 19 with three bombs across five games. He scuffled the rest of the way as pitchers took advantage of his overaggressive approach, but the explosive bat speed and plus-plus raw power will still be enough to make him a star.
Soler has gotten much stronger since he first signed a nine-year, $30 million contract with the Cubs in 2012, retaining much of his athleticism but losing some running speed as he bulked up. He always had enormous power thanks to very rapid hand acceleration and a beautiful, rotational swing with long extension through contact. He has a right fielder's arm and the ability to be an average or better defender there, but for now his routes are a bit suspect and he'll need more work out there to avoid being the new Domonic Brown. Soler wasn't patient in the majors, but he had been so in the minors, and I expect that skill to return as he gains experience in the majors and stops trying to recreate what he did in those first five games. He projects as a 25-30 homer guy who hits .270-280 with a solid OBP and, we hope, average defense, which would make him maybe the Cubs' third- or fourth-best hitter in their suddenly loaded lineup.
Top level: Majors (Cubs) | 2014 rank: 26
15Miguel Sano, 3B
AGE: 21DOB: 5/11/93B/T: R/RHT: 6-4WT: 235
AVG: .236OBP: .344OPS: .915HR: 19SB: 2
Stats listed are from 2013. Didn't play in 2014 due to injury.
Sano missed all of 2014 after Tommy John surgery and is expected to be ready to go this spring training, but the loss of a full year of at-bats -- he didn't even play in the AFL or winter ball -- won't do his development or timetable any favors. When healthy, Sano has grade-80 raw power, with the potential to hit 30-35 homers a year in the majors, generating that output with a rotational swing that makes good use of his hips and legs. He's done a good job of improving his ball/strike recognition, but will probably always be a 150-plus strikeout guy, as he can overswing and expands his zone when behind in the count.
He's always been rough at third base, and if the arm doesn't come all the way back, that'll speed his move to another position, likely first base due to his sheer size, although the bat will profile anywhere on the field. It may take him a few weeks or months to shake off the rust, and he's more likely to see the majors in 2016 than 2015. He's still the Twins' cleanup hitter of the future now that this injury is completely behind him.
Top level: Double-A (New Britain) | 2014 rank: 8
16Hunter Harvey, RHP
AGE: 20DOB: 12/9/94B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 175
W-L: 7-5ERA: 3.18IP: 87.2SO: 106BB: 33
Less well-known than his system-mate Dylan Bundy, Harvey came out of the chute in 2014 with a bang before his delivery started to break down on him in the second half, leading to a minor elbow issue that caused the Orioles to shut him down at the end of July. That shutdown was merely precautionary and he's expected to be fine in 2015, when the emphasis will be on dialing down his tremendous stuff to work more on the art of pitching.
Harvey sits 91-96 mph with hard, boring life that threatens to break right-handed hitters' bats, making it hard for hitters to elevate the ball against him. His out pitch is a hard 77-80 mph curveball with power and depth, flashing plus, although he doesn't command the pitch that well and relied on Sally League hitters who had no chance to pick up its spin. His changeup is rudimentary, and he prefers to use the curveball against left-handed hitters; the change is 83-86 with minimal action, and he had many starts in which he barely used it at all. Ultimately he'll need that third pitch because of the way his curveball tends to break in toward left-handed hitters' bats, but the biggest issue for Harvey is in maintaining his mechanics. As the year went on, he went from being slightly closed but mostly on line to throwing increasingly across his body, which gave him some glove-side run at the cost of command and possibly health. I don't think it's a coincidence that Harvey's elbow barked as his delivery became more cross-fire, so the priority now is keeping him on line while forcing him to throw more changeups. It's a special arm, with the potential for two 6s or 7s in his fastball and curve, and the body and athleticism to pitch near the top of a rotation.
Top level: Class A (Delmarva) | 2014 rank: 38
17Noah Syndergaard, RHP
AGE: 22DOB: 8/29/92B/T: L/RHT: 6-6WT: 240
W-L: 9-7ERA: 4.60IP: 133.0SO: 145BB: 43
Syndergaard just keeps chugging along fairly quietly compared to most pitchers who throw 95-plus, getting results while refining his off-speed stuff gradually but consistently. He's now to the point where he seems like the safest bet of any of the premium pitching prospects on this list. Syndergaard will hold mid-90s into the seventh inning, working with what seems like negative effort, and his changeup is plus at 78-79. His curveball, about a grade-35 pitch when he was first drafted by Toronto in 2010, has advanced to be at least solid-average, showing as a 55 in most outings, playing up in particular because he can throw the pitch for strikes.
His Triple-A stat line was hurt by his home park, a very good environment for hitters, and some generally bad luck, but to the extent that it forced him to continue to refine his command -- which is already a strength -- the experience won't hurt him. The Norse God of Velocity is ready for the call to Queens, with the floor of an above-average starter who can carry 200-plus-inning workloads.
Top level: Triple-A (Las Vegas) | 2014 rank: 24
18Daniel Norris, LHP
AGE: 21DOB: 4/25/93B/T: L/LHT: 6-2WT: 180
W-L: 3-1ERA: 3.18IP: 22.2SO: 38BB: 8
The Blue Jays have done an excellent job turning raw teenage pitchers into legitimate starting-pitcher prospects, whether for trade (Syndergaard) or their own uses, as in the case of Norris, who entered their system as an erratic arm-strength guy who needed major delivery help just to be able to throw strikes. On any given night, Norris can show you four average or better pitches, with a plus slider and changeup and the ability to touch the mid-90s (though at the risk of coming out of his delivery).
At 90-92, Norris can stay on line to the plate and maintains some fastball command, but when he humps up to try to throw harder he tends to land on the side of his foot and spin off, which is when he loses his command. He's athletic enough to be able to maintain a consistent delivery, and the raw stuff is certainly there -- he was fifth in the minors in strikeouts in 2014 -- for him to be a front-line major league starter.
Top level: MLB (Toronto) | 2014 rank: Unranked
19Braden Shipley, RHP
AGE: 22DOB: 2/22/1992B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 190
W-L: 7-8ERA: 3.86IP: 126SO: 127BB: 42
The knock on Shipley as an amateur was that his breaking ball, which the coaching staff at Nevada never called, wasn't good enough, but once he was unleashed by the Diamondbacks, it turned out he had a really good 12-to-6 curveball with power and depth to it. Shipley, a converted position player who has been pitching full-time for only three years, has always had a plus changeup, 83-86 with late downward action, and easy velocity, 92-95 with a little more when he needs it, so he's working now with three above-average pitches.
The areas for improvement now are in fastball command and the lack of plane or movement on the pitch, which may make him more homer-prone as he moves up the ladder. He can get ground balls and miss bats with both secondary offerings, and the Diamondbacks have cleaned up a little hand break that might have tipped his pitches, giving him at least No. 3 starter potential, with the chance to be more depending on how much his command develops.
Top level: Double-A (Mobile) | 2014 rank: 25
20Henry Owens, LHP
AGE: 22DOB: 7/21/92B/T: L/LHT: 6-6WT: 205
W-L: 17-5ERA: 2.94IP: 159SO: 170BB: 59
Owens continues to rack up huge strikeout numbers (fourth in the minors in 2014) despite the lack of a big fastball, thanks to one of the minors' best changeups and a ton of deception that leaves hitters guessing until it's almost too late to adjust to whatever he's thrown. He still has some projection remaining, and some work to do on the breaking ball, putting him perhaps a half-year away from the major league rotation once there's a spot for him.
Owens will pitch at 90-94 mph, even sitting in the lower end of that range but getting a little more velocity once he needs it. The changeup is his money pitch, as his arm speed is indistinguishable between that and the fastball and he knows how and when to use it, but in the early part of 2014, hitters started to adjust to the fact that he was mostly fastball/changeup, forcing him to work on the curveball more to change eye levels. That pitch, in the mid- to upper 60s in high school, is now 72-76 and at least fringe-average with a change to be above-average to plus in time; the spin is there, but the rotation needs to keep getting tighter, though the fact that he can throw it for strikes is a huge help already. He'll probably pitch with an average fastball or just slightly better, but a 70 change and a 55 curveball with good command and an advanced feel for setting up hitters adds up to a well above-average major league starter.
Top level: Triple-A (Pawtucket) | 2014 rank: 42
21Archie Bradley, RHP
AGE: 22DOB: 8/10/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-4WT: 235
W-L: 3-7ERA: 4.45IP: 83SO: 75BB: 49
It was something of a lost year in 2014 for Bradley, who missed two months in the first half because of an elbow injury (called a flexor mass strain) that didn't require surgery. He never quite looked like his old self after his return, even in his stint in the Arizona Fall League. His stuff was all or mostly there, 92-95 mph touching 97 with an above-average curveball in the low 80s, but didn't have quite the same bite as before, especially not the curveball, which previously graded out as a 70 but this year was more like a 55. Flexor-pronator strains, in which the muscle stretches and starts to tear, reduce flexion in the wrist and fingers, which would in turn reduce the snap or finish on a curveball. He also never had the same command or control as he'd had before, and command was never a strength for Bradley, who came into pro ball without as much pitching experience as his peers because he was also a highly rated high school quarterback.
Bradley still has the raw ingredients to be a top-of-a-rotation starter, between his size, delivery and the chance for two plus pitches. If the tear has completely healed after an offseason of rest -- it's typically not associated with elbow ligament tears in pitchers this young -- look for Bradley's old curveball to be back and his command to improve, which would put him back on the fast track to the big leagues.
Top level: Triple-A (Reno) | 2014 rank: 9
22Jon Gray, RHP
AGE: 23DOB: 11/5/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-4WT: 235
W-L: 10-5ERA: 3.91IP: 124.1SO: 113BB: 41
Gray's first full season in pro ball was solid. Perhaps a bit below reasonable expectations given his stuff and draft status (he went No. 3 overall in 2013), but a good foundation for him going forward as he works on developing that all-important third pitch and learning the craft of pitching. Gray would hit 100 mph in college, but didn't flash that while pitching every fifth day last year, and was mostly 89-94 with the occasional 95 or 96, working more on trying to sink the ball or keep it down in the zone so he could be more efficient with his pitches. His slider was above-average rather than plus, but his changeup, not a new pitch but a new emphasis for him, was solid-average or better by the end of the season.
He's not likely to ever have plus command, so the key variable for Gray will be re-establishing either the fastball (via velocity) or slider as a bona fide out pitch again, which they weren't during 2014. His summer ended slightly early due to a sore shoulder, but he's expected to be ready to go in March; perhaps fatigue was behind the slightly reduced velocity. As is, he's a solid future rotation member, but closer to average than an ace. If he gets his old swagger back, he'll regain that status as a potential No. 1.
Top level: Double-A (Tulsa) | 2014 rank: 12
23Aaron Judge, OF
AGE: 22DOB: 4/26/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-7WT: 230
AVG: .308OBP: .419OPS: .905HR: 17SB: 1
Judge's size was expected to be an impediment to his ability to hit, but so far it hasn't proven to be an obstacle at all. He showed outstanding plate discipline and ability to make contact in his first full year in pro ball while giving glimpses of the huge raw power you'd expect from someone of his build. Judge shouldn't have started his professional career in the low-A Sally League since he was a 22-year-old college product, but the Yankees got him to the Florida State League midyear, and he continued to rake while proving he can get on base and hit a few balls over the fence.
Judge has a short swing, surprisingly so given the length of his arms, and very strong command of the strike zone (which is partly why I didn't like seeing him in low-A to start the year). The challenge for him will be to learn when he can uncoil and turn on a ball without losing that compact stroke, which keeps his contact rate up. He hit 17 bombs this year, plus four more in the Arizona Fall League, so there's some power there, but he should be able to hit 30 without needing to get bigger or stronger. He's an above-average defender in right, faster than you'd expect, with the arm to profile there and the potential to post strong triple-slash numbers if he can make that one big adjustment.
Top level: High Class A (Tampa) | 2014 rank: Unranked
24Jose Peraza, 2B/SS
AGE: 20DOB: 4/30/94B/T: R/RHT: 6-0WT: 165
AVG: .339OBP: .364OPS: .806HR: 2SB: 60
Peraza is a natural shortstop, but the presence of defensive wizard Andrelton Simmons in the major league lineup has led Atlanta to try Peraza at second base, where he should be a 65 or 70 defender and half of a historically great middle-infield tandem when he gets settled in the majors. At the plate, he has a very compact, direct swing that produces line-drive contact without power. He's a 70 runner, albeit from the right side, enough to have high impact on the bases but not enough to give him Billy Hamilton-type value from pushing bunts toward third base. He's not a patient hitter since his hand-eye coordination and short stroke mean he can square up almost anything in the zone. As long as he's hitting .330, that trick works, but Howie Kendrick, who hit .360 in his minor league career, can testify to how that skill doesn't always translate to the majors if you don't work the count.
Peraza has a very high floor, as Kendrick did, thanks to his speed, defense and ability to make contact. He could become an impact leadoff guy if he can work himself into 20-30 more walks a year.
Top level: Double-A (Mississippi) | 2014 rank: 99
25Kyle Zimmer, RHP
AGE: 23DOB: 9/13/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 215
W-L: 0-0ERA: 1.93IP: 4.2SO: 5BB: 4
When healthy, Zimmer shows ace-caliber stuff -- a fastball up to 97-98 mph, a plus-plus curveball, a plus changeup -- with a strong build and good control. Unfortunately for Zimmer and the Royals, he hasn't been healthy for most of the past 18 months, finally succumbing to a shoulder ailment that required minor surgery (a debridement, to clear out debris and loose bodies in the joint) in October. The shoulder has been bothering him in various presentations since late summer 2013, limiting him to just 14 1/3 innings total in the last calendar year, and he might not be ready to return to the mound until late April 2015. The surgery was successful and minor, and if that means his stuff is back without the tightness and discomfort, the Royals can work on building his strength back up over the summer and perhaps giving him a major league trial in the bullpen in the fall, the way they did with Brandon Finnegan in 2014.
When healthy -- and he showed it again for two starts in the Fall League before he got hurt -- he'll pitch at 93-97, spin a tight 11-to-5 curveball up to 80 mph with depth, and flash a late-tailing changeup at 86-87. His slider is still a below-average offering, and I think he'd be fine without it since he already has two above-average secondary pitches and his slot is more conducive to the true curveball anyway. His upside is near that of anyone on this list; right now it's about proving he can stay healthy for a full season.
Top level: Double-A (Northwest Arkansas) | 2014 rank: 10
26Dylan Bundy, RHP
AGE: 22DOB: 11/15/92B/T: B/RHT: 6-1WT: 195
W-L: 1-3ERA: 3.27IP: 41.1SO: 37BB: 16
Bundy went into the 2013 season as the top pitching prospect in baseball, then blew out his elbow -- perhaps the result of very heavy usage in high school -- but was back on the mound pitching in competitive games less than a year after surgery. His stuff was not back yet, though. It was good, but not as electric as it had been before the ligament screamed; he was up to 98 mph with a plus cutter, big but sharp curveball and some feel for a fringe-average or better changeup. He was more 90-94 over the summer, barely using his cutter (probably on orders from above), with less consistency on the curveball but occasionally breaking off a good one. He touched 96 in early August before the Orioles shut him down due to a strained lat muscle, so there's hope he's just slow in regaining his velocity and will have his old stuff this spring after a long offseason of rest.
He seemed like a sure-fire No. 1 starter before his injury, with a great delivery that generated power from his legs and a major league out pitch in the cutter. This spring will probably tell us whether that ceiling remains.
Top level: Majors (Baltimore) | 2014 rank: 31
27David Dahl, OF
AGE: 20DOB: 4/1/94B/T: L/RHT: 6-2WT: 195
AVG: .299OBP: .335OPS: .827HR: 14SB: 21
Dahl was the Rockies' first pick in 2012, but a badly torn hamstring wiped out most of his 2013 season, so he entered 2014 having faced no live pitching in about 11 months. Dahl showed up for spring training in outstanding shape, having added some muscle for more strength and bat control, still running plus despite the previous leg injury. He's always had good bat speed, and he tweaked his swing to increase the torque he gets from his hip rotation, which should lead to greater power in time, although much of the boost he got in Asheville this year came from his home park (he slugged .556 at home, .438 on the road). Once he got his timing back, he was able to murder fastballs from lefties and righties, but left-handed breaking stuff still gives him some trouble, and he'll roll a lot of soft, away pitches over to the second baseman.
He's an above-average defender in center, trending toward plus as long as he doesn't lose speed as he matures physically (or to another catastrophic injury), and as long as he can stay there he projects as an above-average regular. Dahl did make some adjustments to his plan at the plate at the behest of the Rockies' coaches, working the count more effectively before his promotion to high-A, which will be key to him reaching his ceiling. Now that the rust is off, he should be ready for the breakout year I thought he might have in 2014.
Top level: High Class A (Modesto) | 2014 rank: 47
28Joc Pederson, CF
AGE: 22DOB: 4/21/1992B/T: L/LHT: 6-1WT: 185
AVG: .303OBP: .435OPS: 1.017HR: 33SB: 30
I thought Pederson was ready for a call-up late in the summer, particularly since he can handle center field and the Dodgers didn't have a true center fielder on their major league roster, but his passivity at the plate was exploited by big league pitchers in September. He's a very good athlete with an unusual power/speed combination that could make him a 4-5 WAR player in center as long as he can take better advantage when he gets ahead in the count, and adjust when he falls behind.
Playing a full season in one of the minors' best hitters parks, Albuquerque, probably didn't help his development, although he still punched out in 27 percent of his plate appearances there. He may always be a high-strikeout guy, but because he's not cluelessly hacking up there, I think he can manage that down to a reasonable level and become a 25-homer guy who adds value with speed and defense.
Top level: Majors (LA Dodgers) | 2014 rank: 41
29Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP
AGE: 21DOB: 4/7/93B/T: L/LHT: 6-2WT: 200
W-L: 6-8ERA: 3.60IP: 120SO: 108BB: 37
The Red Sox stole Rodriguez from the Orioles in a deadline deal for reliever Andrew Miller, who is a great pitcher to be sure, but not enough to make me willing to give up six years of Rodriguez, who has the elements to be a No. 1 starter with a few developmental hurdles ahead of him. Rodriguez is up to 97 mph with his fastball and will sit between 93 and 95, with a plus changeup, quick arm and athletic delivery. He seemed to gain confidence after the trade, throwing harder with better strikes once he went to Boston.
Fastball command is one real issue, although the Red Sox were pleased with how well he could work side to side with the pitch, and the slider is another, as I've seen it anywhere from a 50 grade to a 40. To be a No. 1 or No. 2, he needs to have that as a solid average or better pitch. He turns 22 in April, young enough for these two problem areas to improve, and the change of scenery seems to have agreed with him. He's not major league-ready, and is not likely to be so this year, but he should be in Boston's rotation in 2016.
Top level: Double-A (Portland) | 2014 rank: 43
30Alex Meyer, RHP
AGE: 25DOB: 1/30/90B/T: R/RHT: 6-9WT: 220
W-L: 7-7ERA: 3.52IP: 130.1SO: 153BB: 64
Meyer still hasn't quite put everything together to be a front-line starting pitching prospect, but he's closer than he's been before, and with two plus pitches and a history of durability he would be wasting some of his talent if he had to go to the bullpen. Meyer has hit 100 mph and sits in the mid-90s with huge sink that will kill a lot of worms at Target Field, with a vicious slider up to 90 mph or so that kills right-handed batters. His control wavers, although taller pitchers often need more reps and time to get their deliveries in sync, and his discomfort with his changeup has long held him back against left-handed hitters. He altered his grip early in 2014, but wasn't that confident in the pitch until the end of the summer, when the Twins feel like it finally clicked for him (although it's really not even an average pitch on its own).
Anything that keeps left-handed hitters, who see the ball better from his low three-quarters slot, off his fastball is a good thing, and might allow him to jump into Minnesota's rotation this year, where the major league staff can continue to work with him on hitting the lower end of the zone.
Top level: Triple-A (Rochester) | 2014 rank: 62
31Nomar Mazara, OF
AGE: 19DOB: 4/26/95B/T: L/LHT: 6-4WT: 195
AVG: .271OBP: .362OPS: .840HR: 22SB: 4
When the Rangers signed Mazara for $5 million in 2011, it set a record for an international amateur, which stood for three years and led to the change in the system for such "July 2" players that we now have in the current collective bargaining agreement. It also led to a lot of sniping that Mazara wasn't worth the price. But that appears to have been wrong, as he has shown an advanced feel to hit at a very young age, reaching Double-A last year after a two-level jump even though he won't turn 20 until April.
Mazara has plus bat speed and excellent hand-eye coordination -- the fact that his approach is a little noisy doesn't seem to hold him back -- while his ball-strike recognition has improved substantially over the past two years. He still has some weaknesses against breaking stuff, and I wouldn't be shocked if he struggles out of the gate in Double-A this year, but at the same time, he has the elements (bat speed, eye and wrist strength) to put up adequate production even as he's learning to make adjustments. He might be a full two years away from the majors, with the potential to be a middle-of-the-order bat, hitting 25 bombs with a .280/.360/.520 kind of line when he finishes filling out.
Top level: Double-A (Frisco) | 2014 rank: Unranked
32Austin Meadows, OF
AGE: 19DOB: 5/3/95B/T: L/LHT: 6-3WT: 200
AVG: .317OBP: .394OPS: .881HR: 3SB: 2
Meadows' season started very late due to a severe hamstring pull that just wouldn't heal, keeping him in extended spring into June and limiting him to just 164 plate appearances in the regular season. When he did return, he played as well as could be expected for a teenager who lost about three months' worth of at-bats, showing a good approach and flashes of the power -- if not the speed -- he'd shown in high school that made him the ninth pick in the 2013 draft. Meadows played center field in low Class A this year, but there's no chance he remains there in pro ball. I think he profiles better in right field, perhaps even more so because left field in PNC Park is difficult to play, and should be above average in either corner due to his running speed.
At the plate, he's a low-heartbeat hitter, very calm about his at-bats, willing to work the count but primarily hunting for something he can drive. The Pirates have worked with him to extract more of that power from his contact because he was hitting the ball on the ground far too often for a guy his size. The power must come for him to be a regular in a corner, but if it comes, it's going to be 25-plus homers and a slew of doubles, which, along with his hit tool and above-average speed (when his hamstring permits it), would make him a star.
Top level: Class A (West Virginia) | 2014 rank: 35
33Eddie Butler, RHP
AGE: 23DOB: 5/13/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 180
W-L: 6-10ERA: 4.00IP: 117SO: 69BB: 37
Butler would be ensconced in the Rockies' rotation already were it not for a recurring shoulder issue that bothered him right after his first major league start and popped up again in September, scotching plans to send him to the Arizona Fall League. When healthy, Butler can pitch at 95-98 mph with plus sink, coming from a low three-quarters arm slot that is very tough on right-handed hitters, and he shows a plus slider in the upper 80s that is a swing-and-miss pitch for righties, especially those busy trying to cover the inner half against the fastball. His changeup is inconsistent but can be plus, with fading action comparable to that of a two-seam fastball; unfortunately he doesn't have the feel for it to neutralize left-handed hitters, who hit .290/.342/.507 against him in 2014. (That includes his splits from three MLB starts, when lefties went 11-for-28 with two bombs and no strikeouts against him.)
The rotator cuff is supposed to be 100 percent again, but given that issue, his low slot and widening platoon splits, there's a higher chance now that he ends up a dominant eighth- or ninth-inning guy. The Rockies have every reason to continue to work him as a starter, of course, and if his arm permits it, they should let him compete for a spot in the rotation again this spring.
Top level: Majors (Colorado) | 2014 rank: 17
34Tyler Kolek, RHP
AGE: 19DOB: 12/15/95B/T: R/RHT: 6-5WT: 260
W-L: 0-3ERA: 4.50IP: 22.0SO: 18BB: 13
If "The Golem" was a pitcher, this is what it would look like: 6-foot-7, 275 or so (he's generously still listed at 260), with a fastball that can reach 100 mph and regularly sits 94-97, and a very hard slider. It's the raw material for a staff ace, a Jeff Niemann build without the Rice workload, but needs a lot of refinement to become a pitcher rather than a thrower. Kolek doesn't command either of his pitches well, and lacked a real weapon for lefties in high school, trying to backdoor his slider rather than come in with either pitch. His changeup is in its infancy, with the Marlins trying just to emphasize maintaining his arm speed as they work on building consistency in his delivery without making it stiff or slow.
The challenge for Kolek will be learning the finer points of pitching -- command, setting up hitters, mixing pitches -- even though he'll be able to overpower A-ball hitters with pure stuff. I don't think he's a fast mover given how much work there is to do, but there are few prospects anywhere in the minors who look more like a front-line starter than Kolek does.
Top level: Rookie (GCL Marlins) | 2014 rank: Ineligible
35Jorge Alfaro, C
AGE: 21DOB: 6/11/93B/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 185
AVG: .261OBP: .323OPS: .763HR: 17SB: 6
Alfaro is an enticing, yet maddening, mix of monumental tools and consistent inconsistency: He can look like an All-Star one at-bat or inning and like a 21-year-old kid (which he is) the next. Alfaro has 80 raw power, with an 80 arm behind the plate, and he has the hands and athleticism to be an above-average receiver as well, with the bat speed to hit for a high average. Alfaro's issue is that he plays hard all the time; he's fourth gear, full throttle on every play, which means he can be too aggressive at the plate (walking on around five percent of his career plate appearances) and behind the dish (he can drag pitches out of the zone because he's moving his hands too much).
He signed as a raw 16-year-old out of Colombia and has made big strides in learning the mental side of the game, even carrying a notebook to keep track of hitter tendencies so he can improve his game-calling. He has All-Star upside behind the plate, because he should hit 20-25 homers with a solid average but low OBP, and should end up controlling the running game as well as any backstop in the big leagues.
Top level: Double-A (Frisco) | 2014 rank: 44
36Jameson Taillon, RHP
AGE: 23DOB: 11/18/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-5WT: 245
W-L: 5-10ERA: 3.73IP: 147.1SO: 143BB: 52
Note: Stats listed are from the 2013 season.
Taillon was likely headed for a June call-up to PNC Park in 2014, but his elbow snapped in spring training shortly after teammate Clayton Holmes' did the same, making them partners in Tommy John surgery rehab and wiping out the entire season. His rehab has gone well, and the Pirates are hoping to get him back on a mound by the middle of the season, deliberately taking it cautiously given his tremendous upside if he returns to full health.
Before the surgery, Taillon's fastball sat in the mid-90s and could comfortably get to 97 or 98 when he needed to, with a breaking ball that flashed plus, and his size and frame pointed toward the ability to handle 200-inning workloads. He had issues with command, in part due to a tendency to overthrow both pitches and miss to his glove side but perhaps also because there was something wrong or unstable in his elbow in 2013. He didn't have great deception and needed to continue to refine his changeup, the latter of which would have been a priority for him in Triple-A at the start of last year. The calculated rehab process is a good opportunity for the Pirates to address some of these issues, like maintaining his tempo and keeping him on line to the plate so he can command the fastball, while working to both get him healthy and give him the opportunity to help the major league club in September and October.
Top level: Triple-A (Indianapolis) | 2014 rank: 27
37Aaron Blair, RHP
AGE: 22DOB: 5/26/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-5WT: 230
W-L: 9-5ERA: 3.56IP: 154SO: 171BB: 51
Although I don't have them ranked this way, there's a decent argument that Blair is the best of Arizona's "big three" pitching prospects, and I know some folks in the Diamondbacks' organization believe he is. That's a testament both to their player development and to Blair's relentless work ethic, as he has gone from being a big kid with arm strength who profiled as a two-pitch reliever to a no-doubt three-pitch starter who profiles as a potential No. 2.
Blair hits 91-95 with his fastball and can touch 97, but he's more comfortable in the low 90s, where he gets more sink. He pairs that with a plus changeup that makes him very tough on left-handed hitters. He really improved his breaking ball this year, raising his arm slot slightly to make it more of a true curveball, getting power to it in the low 80s for a put-away pitch but also flipping it in the low 70s when he needs a get-me-over strike. He's a great athlete who probably didn't get enough credit for it in the draft because of his sheer size, but that has helped him make adjustments and keep his delivery on line to the plate. His control was improving all summer, with 10 walks in his first seven Double-A starts, until he had a six-walk outing in his final appearance of the year. Don't overlook him in the mix with Archie Bradley and Braden Shipley, as Blair might be the most major league-ready of the three and has at least an equal chance to remain in the rotation.
Top level: Double-A (Mobile) | 2014 rank: Unranked
38Raul Mondesi Jr., SS
AGE: 19DOB: 7/27/95B/T: B/RHT: 6-1WT: 165
AVG: .211OBP: .256OPS: .610HR: 8SB: 17
Mondesi was the youngest high-A regular by six months, so his struggles at the plate in 2014 aren't a huge surprise; he's physically immature compared to just about everyone else in the Carolina League and doesn't have as much pro experience either. Mondesi is a true shortstop with good actions, plus running speed and very good feel to hit. Despite poor walk/strikeout numbers, he actually has a good idea of the strike zone and ability to recognize pitches. He likes to bunt to try to reach base, especially when hitting left-handed, which the Royals view as an important part of his game as long as it doesn't detract from his development as a hitter, especially since he projects to have average power once his body fills out.
To give you some sense of how young Mondesi was for high-A, there were only five players younger than him to get at least 200 plate appearances in 2014 in low-A, so while it's certainly disappointing that he didn't make more contact, there's a lot of time as well as reason to remain optimistic. He needs to develop a better two-strike approach, and he also has a slight leak when hitting right-handed that robs him of extra-base power. The defense at short and overall aptitude still project to make him a star once his strength arrives.
Top level: High Class A (Wilmington) | 2014 rank: 22
39Hunter Renfroe, RF
AGE: 23DOB: 1/28/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-1WT: 200
AVG: .232OBP: .307OPS: .659HR: 5SB: 2
Renfroe has four above-average tools, including plus raw power and a plus arm, as well as the ability to run and play good defense in right field, so the main question was and is how much he's going to hit for average. He's ahead of expectations so far, posting solid contact rates in high-A and even in a tougher hitter's environment in Double-A, and the Padres were wise to refuse to deal him in any of their high-profile moves this winter.
Renfroe is built like an NFL cornerback, strong but athletic, and has the juice you'd expect from someone of his build, with a hard swing and heavy hip rotation, and good loft in his finish, though he can sometimes over-rotate a little and swing above the ball in the lower half of the zone. His bat speed is just fair, which is probably the genesis of questions about his hit tool, but the contact he makes is hard enough to compensate for 150 or so strikeouts a year. He has improved his reads in right field since entering pro ball, and his arm allows him to make more plays than the typical right fielder, to the point where he'll ultimately be a 5-10 runs per year defender. Petco may hold down his home run numbers, but in a neutral park he's a 25-plus homer guy who might steal 10-15 bases and hit .250-260 with a bunch of walks, a very good everyday player who should be ready for the majors by the end of this year.
Top level: Double-A (San Antonio) | 2014 rank: 94
40Jesse Winker, LF
AGE: 21DOB: 8/17/93B/T: L/LHT: 6-3WT: 210
AVG: .287OBP: .399OPS: .917HR: 15SB: 5
Winker is one of the most advanced pure hitters in the minors, considering swing, hand-eye coordination, approach and ability to make contact, and he'd rank higher if he had any place to play other than left field. Winker is a very confident hitter, extremely selective but clearly looking for something to hit, with an unbelievably simple approach and quick hand acceleration, so he can let the ball travel and still put a really good swing on the ball to drive it out to right-center.
In left field, he has had the reputation of a below-average fielder, but I've seen him play average or above-average defense out there. His reads are very good and he has enough speed to cover it, although his arm wouldn't play in right. He might not hit for much power in Pensacola (with the wind coming in off the bay) or Louisville, but he's probably an 18-22 homer guy with a .400 OBP in the major leagues, someone who'll be discussed as one of the toughest outs in baseball.
Top level: Double-A (Pensacola) | 2014 rank: Unranked
41Michael Conforto, LF
AGE: 2121DOB: 3/1/93B/T: L/RHT: 6-1WT: 211
AVG: .331OBP: .403OPS: .851HR: 3SB: 3
Conforto was the best pure college hitter in the 2014 draft class, with a tremendous combination of feel to hit, an advanced approach and above-average power, but he slipped to the 10th overall pick probably because he's limited to playing left field, in which he had a rough reputation dating back to his freshman year. He has improved significantly on defense between his reads on balls and his throwing accuracy and now projects as an average or better defender there.
What he truly brings to the table, however, is his bat. He loads a little high and deep, but his hands are quick, so he can get the bat head into the zone quickly, and he rotates his hips well for power from right field out to center. He's a patient hitter -- he led Division I in OBP and walks in the spring and finished fifth in the New York-Penn League in OBP this summer -- but he's not passive. I see him as a fantastic two-hole hitter, posting high averages and OBPs with 20-homer power while adding value with his defense and smart baserunning.
Top level: Low Class A (Brooklyn) | 2014 rank: Ineligible
42Dalton Pompey, CF
AGE: 22DOB: 12/11/92B/T: B/RHT: 6-2WT: 195
AVG: .317OBP: .392OPS: .861HR: 9SB: 43
Pompey will try to accomplish the Herculean task of going from low Class A to major league leadoff hitter inside of two years, no small feat for the 22-year-old Canadian prospect who came to pro ball without a tremendous amount of playing experience. Pompey has an extremely advanced approach at the plate for someone so young, combining excellent pitch recognition with the ability to know what pitches to take. He's a switch-hitter with a shorter, simpler swing from the left side, much more balanced but using his lower half less, while on the right side he gets a little longer but with more rotation, likely to make somewhat less contact but hit for more power when he does.
He's a plus runner with good instincts in center, and the Jays were impressed enough by his confidence and lack of panic (such as when he started out 3-for-36 in Double-A) that they were willing to promote him to the majors, his fourth level of the season, at the end of 2014. He needs to get stronger, but otherwise his bat and glove appear to be ready for the majors right now, with his eventual peak being that of a high-OBP, 40-steal leadoff hitter who plays plus defense in center field.
Top level: Majors (Toronto) | 2014 rank: Unranked
43Nick Gordon, SS
AGE: 19DOB: 10/24/95B/T: L/RHT: 6-0WT: 160
AVG: .294OBP: .333OPS: .699HR: 1SB: 11
Gordon, the son of Tom Gordon and half-brother of Marlins second baseman Dee, was the fourth pick in the 2014 draft and the first position player taken, a testament to his very advanced feel for the game and ability to play a key position in the middle of the diamond. Gordon was a sophomore on Olympia High School's team when Jesse Winker was a senior, and he spent two summers out at showcases, so scouts have a lot of history seeing him. He also has played a lot of games against very good competition. He improved his footwork and hands at short this spring, to the point at which I think he'll stay at the position and play it well. He has the arm to play anywhere on the diamond but would probably have to go to center field if for some reason he can't stay at short.
His bat-to-ball skill is strong, and he has a good approach for his age, with doubles power at best and above-average but not plus speed, so drawing more walks to post a high OBP will be key for Gordon as he moves up the ladder. His ceiling is an everyday shortstop who can hit leadoff in a good lineup; the floor might be more of an 8- or 9-hole hitter if he doesn't develop a more patient approach.
Top level: Rookie (Elizabethton) | 2014 rank: Ineligible
44Mark Appel, RHP
AGE: 23DOB: 7/15/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-5WT: 225
W-L: 3-7ERA: 6.91IP: 83.1SO: 78BB: 24
Appel's 2014 started out in the most miserable fashion -- an appendectomy, an abbreviated spring training and an assignment to pitch on the surface of Mercury -- for the Lancaster Jethawks in the California League. He was awful there, showing velocity but neither command nor his old aggressiveness, and he had an ERA over 10 until his last start, his best at the level and all the reason Houston needed to promote him to Double-A, at which he performed much more in line with expectations.
Appel's velocity remains plus at 93-97 mph, although the pitch is straight and he doesn't have much deception in his delivery. His slider is also plus, 84-88 mph with varying tilt, and he throws it for strikes, even using it when he needs to get ahead in the count. His changeup has been inconsistent from start to start, sometimes average or a tick above, with good arm speed, coming in other outings too firm at 87-88, like a batting practice fastball. He's fine out of the windup, but with men on base his delivery starts to come apart, and his command goes along with it. Appel is an outstanding athlete and very competitive kid, but his delivery had lost some of its fluidity by the end of the year and he tended to rush his finish, although he was finishing on line and in good position to hit the plate. I don't think he has No. 1 starter upside and is most likely a very good No. 3 or 4, a durable pitcher who can handle 200 innings and will turn in a half-dozen "wow" outings each year, but settles in as above average without becoming a star.
Top level: Double-A (Corpus Christi) | 2014 rank: 11
45Kevin Plawecki, C
AGE: 23DOB: 2/26/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 225
AVG: .309OBP: .365OPS: .825HR: 11SB: 0
Ask anyone in a major league front office about the state of catching in MLB, and you'll probably get a scatological term in response: There isn't enough of it to go around, and if you aren't lucky enough to have one of the dozen or so good ones, you're constantly looking to upgrade. That means prospects such as Plawecki, a good receiver who can hit and is about ready for the majors, have very high value not just in terms of future production, but also in the trade market. Plawecki, the Mets' second-round pick in 2012 out of Purdue, has great hands behind the plate and should be a strong framer pitchers want to throw to, with a good feel for the softer aspects of catching, such as game-calling. His arm is just average, and I think even with his work ethic, he'll top out as a 30 percent caught-stealing guy.
At the plate, he might have the shortest swing of anyone in the top 100, very consistent and simple, with strong hands to let him run into a dozen or so homers a year with a slew of doubles. His ability to hit for average should separate him from other catchers -- only five regular or semi-regular catchers hit .280 in 2014, and only 14 hit even .260 -- with added value from his glove, all boosted by the fact that he could play every day for someone by the middle of 2015.
Top level: Triple-A (Las Vegas) | 2014 rank: Unranked
46Andrew Susac, C
AGE: 24DOB: 3/22/90B/T: R/RHT: 6-1WT: 215
AVG: .273OBP: .326OPS: .792HR: 3SB: 0
Susac is a high-probability big league regular behind the plate, and might be the player who lets the Giants ease Buster Posey out from catching to a position where he might get more at-bats while reducing his risk of another major injury. Susac is a plus throwing catcher, nailing more than a third of runners in his pro career, with good arm strength and a simple release, and he has developed into a solid-average receiver whom the Giants trust to handle their staff. At the plate, he's more of a power hitter than a hitter for average; he has a noisy lower half, and he loads his hands low by the base of his ribs, getting good leverage in his swing but probably working too much to his pull side.
If he gets to play every day, which may not happen right away in San Francisco, he'd hit .260-270 with 20 bombs and add a few runs of value on his defense, good enough to start in 2015 for maybe half the teams in the majors.
Top level: Majors (Giants) | 2014 rank: Just missed
47Mike Foltynewicz, RHP
AGE: 23DOB: 10/7/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-4WT: 220
W-L: 7-7ERA: 5.08IP: 102.2SO: 102BB: 52
Foltynewicz went from Houston to Atlanta in the January trade that sent Evan Gattis to the Astros, but he alone is a more valuable asset than Gattis is and should help Atlanta in the near term. He's a high-beta prospect with the upside of a potential No. 1 starter if he can develop a more consistent arm slot and find an average third pitch to go along with an 80-grade fastball and 70-grade curveball. He drops down on the fastball at times and comes back up to get depth on the curveball, a trick that major league hitters will exploit and an impediment to his command. His changeup will show plus, and ditching his slider (which he did early in 2014) might allow him to spend more time working on the change, but the change isn't good enough now to keep lefties from sitting on his four-seamer. He has to throw more strikes, and more quality strikes, and develop that third pitch to remain in the rotation.
Drafted in the first round in 2010, he has never seen the disabled list and has the size and frame to be a durable, 200-inning starter. His floor is a Nathan Eovaldi type, and he'd be a wipeout reliever, but Atlanta has to develop him as a starter and hope the changeup comes along to the point where he can lead their rotation in 2017.
Top level: Majors (Houston) | 2014 rank: 70
48Sean Newcomb, LHP
AGE: 21DOB: 6/12/93B/T: L/LHT: 6-5WT: 240
W-L: 0-1ERA: 6.28IP: 14.1SO: 18BB: 6
Newcomb was a top-10 talent in the 2014 draft class but fell for unknown reasons. Perhaps teams were scared off by a kid at a very small school, pitching in one of the worst conferences in Division I. Or perhaps they were concerned that he's a quiet kid who doesn't like small talk. He's also exactly what we want starting pitchers to look like: 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, with no effort to his arm action, a 55-grade fastball that touches 96 mph and two above-average secondary offerings in his changeup and curveball.
The curveball has good two-plane break and good depth, coming in the upper 70s, while the mid-80s changeup has good deception and a little late tail. He showed a slider that probably won't be a factor for him because the other three pitches are going to be plus, although I'd be curious to see what he could do with a cutter. He's at least a quality fourth starter -- assuming no improvement in anything -- but given his very limited pitching experience and the chance to work with pro coaching for the first time, I think he'll develop the command and the sharper secondary pitches to be a good No. 2.
Top level: Class A (Burlington) | 2014 rank: Ineligible
49Robert Stephenson, RHP
AGE: 21DOB: 2/24/93B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 195
W-L: 7-10ERA: 4.75IP: 136.1SO: 140BB: 74
Stephenson can be Jekyll or Hyde on the mound, at times looking like a future No. 1 starter and at others looking like he'll end up in the bullpen. Stephenson has two plus pitches to be able to work near the front of a rotation: a fastball at 93-98 mph and a hard wrecker of a curveball with power and depth. His delivery isn't ideal -- he has a long stride and good momentum toward the plate somewhat undercut by late pronation and a stiff finish -- including some head violence that never seemed to impact his ability to throw strikes until 2014. His changeup has improved but still isn't an average third pitch, and when in trouble he still chooses the wrong box, trying to throw harder rather than thinking about changing locations or speeds.
He's reaching an inflection point in his development. If the fastball command, the changeup and the pitch selection improve, he'll get back on track to be a high-end starter; if not, those two plus pitches would make him a dynamite reliever.
Top level: Double-A (Pensacola) | 2014 rank: 29
50Ryan McMahon, 3B
AGE: 20DOB: 12/14/94B/T: L/RHT: 6-2WT: 185
AVG: .282OBP: .358OPS: .860HR: 18SB: 8
McMahon was Colorado's second-round pick in 2013, the 42nd overall pick, a two-sport guy in high school who had a little less baseball experience than his peers because he was busy playing hand-egg as the quarterback for Mater Dei HS in Santa Ana, California. He showed unexpected polish as a 19-year-old regular in the Sally League in 2014, with light-tower power already and solid-average defense at third base. He's extremely rotational at the plate, getting his back elbow quite high when he loads, and he may run into trouble with stuff on the outer half as he moves up the ladder. As it is, he struggled against southpaws in 2014, but that's common for young left-handed hitters as they first enter pro ball.
His range at third base is outstanding; his main area for work is on the routine play, just getting his feet started so he's in the right position to grab and throw. He's a potential middle-of-the-order bat, with 25-30 homer power; the main obstacle is his ability to cover enough of the plate given his current swing. Defensively, he has a future at third base.
Top level: Class A (Asheville) | 2014 rank: Unranked
Top 100 prospects (Nos. 51-100).Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Top 100 index Insider | Nos. 1-50 Insider | Nos. 51-100 Insider
51Aaron Sanchez, RHP
AGE: 22DOB: 7/1/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-4WT: 200
W-L: 2-2ERA: 1.09IP: 33SO: 27BB: 9
Sanchez was filthy as a short reliever for the Jays (stats listed above) at the end of the year, pumping 96-98 mph bat-breaking fastballs that hitters just pounded into the ground when they could hit them at all, throwing the occasional plus breaking ball just for kicks and leaving his changeup, itself not a bad pitch, in the minors. Sanchez has shortened his stride substantially in the past two years, and although it hasn't impacted his stuff, his command isn't what it once was and he's putting the health of his arm at unnecessary risk. The Blue Jays are working on trying to get his arm back up a tick so that his elbow isn't so low and so he can work downhill more by staying on top of the ball through his delivery, a process that coincidentally means lengthening his stride a little. (Two other notable prospects to have this problem in recent years: Tyler Skaggs, who blew out his elbow out after the Angels restored his old stride, and Taijuan Walker, who has had a few bouts of shoulder soreness since shortening his own stride.)
The Blue Jays believe he can be a starter, and they should, given his chance for three plus pitches. Sanchez has shown the capability to become a shutdown reliever, but that's a waste of his ultimate potential to pitch near the front of a rotation.
Top level: Majors (Toronto) | 2014 rank: 30
52Jake Thompson, RHP
AGE: 20DOB: 1/31/94B/T: R/RHT: 6-4WT: 235
W-L: 10-5ERA: 3.12IP: 129.2SO: 130BB: 47
Thompson, who ranked fifth in Detroit's system last offseason, was a slider-heavy monster in 2013, posting strong results but worrying scouts with his over-reliance on that pitch in the Midwest League. The Tigers did an excellent job fashioning him into a more traditional starting pitching prospect last spring, getting him to pitch more with his fastball, a shift that increased his value and allowed them to trade him for Joakim Soria in July.
Thompson is a big, physical horse with above-average velocity and that slider, which is a swing-and-miss pitch against right-handed batters and good enough to get some left-handed batters as well. It has power and tilt at 83-84 mph, but having him use it less often so he can work on his still-developing changeup, not yet an average pitch, would better set him up to join the rotation in 2016 or 2017. One concern is that despite his size, there's still some effort to his delivery, with no pause at his leg kick and slight stiffness at release. He looks the part of a mid-rotation starter and has the necessary out pitch to get there.
Top level: Double-A (Frisco) | 2014 rank: Unranked
53Kohl Stewart, RHP
AGE: 20DOB: 10/7/94B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 195
W-L: 3-5ERA: 2.59IP: 87SO: 62BB: 24
Stewart was a top football recruit, signed to Texas A&M to succeed Johnny Whatever We're Calling Him These Days, but always had a huge ceiling as a pitcher once he committed to baseball full-time and started receiving some real instruction on his delivery. He'll show four pitches, any or all of which could end up as plus, with a fastball already up to 97 mph and a slider that is probably closest to being a true swing-and-miss offering. He's a great athlete, as you'd expect, and the Twins have already started to refine his delivery to the point he can at least throw more strikes, although it is control over command, because in low Class A, he can pump it down the middle and the hitters might not even see it.
Stewart has the potential to front a rotation given a few more years of development; he might have to learn to pitch at 92-94 first so he can develop some command, and he needs to work in particular on his changeup before Double-A hitters force him to do so.
Top level: Class A (Cedar Rapids) | 2014 rank: 76
54Orlando Arcia, SS
AGE: 20DOB: 8/4/94B/T: R/RHT: 6-0WT: 165
AVG: .289OBP: .346OPS: .738HR: 4SB: 31
The younger brother of Twins outfielder Oswaldo, Orlando fell off the map briefly when he broke his ankle in extended spring training in 2012, missing that entire season and requiring much of 2013 just to shake off the rust, even though he was quite young for low Class A that year. The 2014 season was his coming-out party, with a strong showing as the Florida State League's youngest full-season regular, then a seven-homer outburst in the Venezuelan Winter League. His plan at the plate is straightforward: He's there to hit, not to walk, so he's after the first pitch he can hit, and he has the hand-eye coordination to get away with that. He has more pop than his regular-season stat line might indicate, as Brevard County is brutal for right-handed hitters, and he hit all four of his homers on the road.
Arcia's value is boosted by his defense, as he's an above-average defender, not as flashy as former Brewers prospect Alcides Escobar but steadier, with the arm for everything except the play deep in the hole, but the hands and instincts to make every routine play. He projects as a clear everyday shortstop, the kind of high-contact player who can develop into a .300 hitter in time, with 15-homer peaks once he fills out.
Top level: High Class A (Brevard County) | 2014 rank: Unranked
55Rafael Devers, 3B
AGE: 18DOB: 10/24/96B/T: L/RHT: 6-0WT: 195
AVG: .322OBP: .404OPS: .910HR: 7SB: 5
Devers signed in July 2013 for $1.5 million, and the Red Sox, believing his approach was mature enough to handle it, pushed him to the Gulf Coast League midway through this summer. Despite his youth -- he was the third-youngest regular in the GCL -- and his late arrival, he finished tied for eighth the league in homers, and was also 12th in slugging percentage. Everything he does at the plate is easy; his wrists are extremely strong and quick, so he can backspin the ball all over the field, crush it to right-center or drive it out to the left-field wall, and he adjusts very well to changing speeds. He's very capable at third base despite his broad frame, with quick feet and more agility than you'd expect from his build, although he split time at the position last year with first-round pick Michael Chavis.
Devers turned 18 in October and is probably three years away from the majors in an optimistic scenario, but he has All-Star upside, with the bat speed and strength to hit 30 homers and still post high batting averages while staying at third base.
Top level: Rookie (GCL Red Sox) | 2014 rank: Unranked
56Vincent Velasquez, RHP
AGE: 22DOB: 6/7/92B/T: B/RHT: 6-3WT: 203
W-L: 7-5ERA: 3.53IP: 63.2SO: 91BB: 25
Velasquez will flash the repertoire of a No. 2 starter but so far has had trouble staying on the field enough to demonstrate he can handle that workload. To continue to develop the breaking ball, he'll need to profile as that kind of pitcher. When he's healthy, Velasquez will pitch 93-96 mph from a low, three-quarters slot, cutting himself off slightly at landing but getting great extension over his front side, pairing the fastball with a plus changeup that has both good arm speed and late movement. That same slot puts him on the side of his slider too often, so it's often flat at 82-84 mph and he tends to try to guide it toward the plate.
He was hurt twice in 2014, but neither injury was arm-related. The concern is that he's missed a lot of development time, with only 263 pro innings scattered over parts of four seasons, rather than that there's something wrong with his delivery or arm action. The fastball/changeup combo gives him a solid ceiling of an above-average major league starter. The key now is for him to make his 25-odd starts this year and find a third pitch that works from his slot.
Top level: High Class A (Lancaster) | 2014 rank: 82
57Aaron Nola, RHP
AGE: 21DOB: 6/4/93B/T: R/RHT: 6-1WT: 195
W-L: 4-3ERA: 2.93IP: 55.1SO: 45BB: 10
Nola was the most advanced college arm in the 2014 draft, at least in terms of readiness for the big leagues, with three years of success in the SEC behind him. Nola has grade-70 command of his 91-94 mph fastball, with very good life on the pitch, locating it where he wants to either side of the plate and showing little fear when working with it. He pairs it with an above-average slider at 79-82 that he just needs to work to stay on top of and an above-average changeup, which is very difficult for left-handed hitters to pick up out of his hand at 83-85 with some tailing life. Nola works from a low, three-quarter slot, and his arm action is somewhere between unorthodox and bizarre; he has a short stride and appears to be hypermobile given how far back he can rotate his pitching elbow and forearm, but he finishes well out front and seems to have no problem repeating the delivery.
His upside is that of an above-average starter -- maybe a quality No. 3 in a good rotation, not an ace or a No. 2 -- but his floor is also quite high as long as he remains healthy. I believe he could make the Phillies' rotation in April on merit, not just on team need.
Top level: Double-A (Reading) | 2014 rank: Ineligible
58Andrew Heaney, LHP
AGE: 23DOB: 6/5/91B/T: L/LHT: 6-2WT: 185
W-L: 9-6ERA: 3.28IP: 137.1SO: 143BB: 36
The Marlins seemed to give up on Heaney quickly after his disappointing trial in the majors last year, during which his velocity was a tick below what it had been in 2013 and he was very susceptible to the long ball. Their loss -- they dealt him to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Dee Gordon -- appears to be the Angels' gain, as Heaney is now their top prospect. Heaney is a control lefty with excellent secondary stuff, and as he learns to command his fastball more, particularly working to keep it down in the zone, since hitters have shown they'll give it a ride if he leaves it up, he'll develop into at least a solid to average big league starter.
Heaney will show a plus slider and plus or better changeup, coming from just below three-quarters and using the slider against hitters on both sides of the plate, with an aggressive approach that probably didn't serve him well in the majors because he was too willing to attack hitters over the plate with his fastball. He might need to pitch less off his fastball given how good his off-speed stuff is, and as the fastball command develops, he has the ceiling of a No. 2.
Top level: Majors (Miami) | 2014 rank: 34
59Alex Jackson, RF
AGE: 19DOB: 12/25/95B/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 215
AVG: .280OBP: .344OPS: .820HR: 2SB: 0
The No. 6 overall pick in the 2014 draft, Jackson was a catcher in high school but moved to the outfield immediately upon signing with the Mariners because they believe his bat is advanced the way the bats of ex-catchers Wil Myers and Bryce Harper were out of the draft. Jackson is definitely a hitter first and foremost, with a clean, powerful swing that should work to all fields and more home run power to his pull side but enough hand strength that he'll drive a few out the other way. He generates that power from his lower half, with good extension through contact, so while his bat speed is above average rather than elite, he should make a lot of loud contact.
He struggled a bit to pick up spin during his brief time in the AZL, and his summer ended early when he misjudged a fly ball and suffered a broken bone in his cheek. I think he'll be fine in the outfield, with a 70-grade arm and maybe average range. The bat should play, assuming his trouble with breaking balls was just a small-sample fluke.
Top level: Rookie (Arizona League) | 2014 rank: Ineligible
60Josh Bell, OF
AGE: 22DOB: 8/14/92B/T: B/RHT: 6-2WT: 235
AVG: .325OBP: .375OPS: .834HR: 9SB: 9
Bell made up for lost time with a breakout campaign in the Florida State League to start 2014, reaching Double-A in late summer at age 21, making up for the season he lost to a knee injury in 2012. Bell is a gifted hitter who has great bat-to-ball skills and is a natural left-handed hitter who has worked hard to refine his right-handed swing since the Pirates signed him. He still does not get quite the same extension from that side but is improving to the point at which he'll reach the majors as a switch-hitter. His plate coverage is outstanding, so while he hasn't been a selective hitter, it hasn't limited his ability to make contact or get on base. He's strong top to bottom, with the left-handed swing to produce above-average to plus power, and should eventually reach 20-25 homers a year with a high batting average.
In a neutral scenario, Bell would be a left fielder because he doesn't have the speed for center or the arm for right, but PNC Park is replete with outfielders -- the proper collective noun here is a "henderson," so it's "a henderson of outfielders," like "a business of ferrets" or "a memory of elephants" -- so the Pirates have to find another place for Bell to play. He tried first base in the Arizona Fall League, and well, he's going to have to try it again. The bottom line for Bell is that he's going to play a position in which he has to hit, but all signs so far are that he will do so for average and with some thump.
Top level: Double-A (Altoona) | 2014 rank: 97
61D.J. Peterson, 1B
AGE: 23DOB: 12/31/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-1WT: 190
AVG: .297OBP: .360OPS: .912HR: 31SB: 7
Peterson just missed my top 100 last year, moving up to the middle of the list this offseason thanks to a strong debut campaign that saw him perform well at two levels despite a series of nagging injuries. This says nothing of the broken jaw that ended his 2013 campaign; Peterson showed no ill effects from that injury. (It was caused by a 96 mph fastball, and he never flinched or bailed out on inside pitches thereafter.) He's more of a pure hitter than a power guy but can get a little homer-happy and lose some of his knack for making hard contact. He has dropped his load further down toward his rear hip since college, which gives him a little more loft through contact but also puts him on top of the ball too often. I'd rather see him keep his hands a little higher and hit more line drives, even at the cost of five homers per year.
He's played more third base than first in pro ball, but first is his ultimate position. He can be a high-average, 15-20-homer hitter or a lower average, 20-25-homer hitter. The latter would make him more of an average regular, but the former gives him a chance to be a full grade higher.
Top level: Double-A (Jackson) | 2014 rank: Just missed
62Stephen Piscotty, OF
AGE: 24DOB: 1/14/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 210
AVG: .288OBP: .355OPS: .761HR: 9SB: 11
Piscotty looks like he should be a masher, and it's possible he'll still get to that point. For now, he has a high floor as a regular in right field who plays solid defense and hits for average and a slew of doubles. Piscotty has a strong sense of the strike zone and a confident, whole-field approach that might just mean he's trading some pull power for more singles the other way. His pitch recognition is strong, and he's among the best prospects at hitting the ball where it's pitched rather than trying to pull something he can't.
He'll show 65-grade power in BP, so it may develop in time, although given his performance to date, I think it's more likely he'll hit 40-plus doubles than 20 homers. A former third baseman, Piscotty has taken well to right, with a plus arm and roughly average range. If the power doesn't develop, he'll still be a regular, likely the Cardinals' right fielder of the future, and a player whose skill set St. Louis tends to value very highly. If the power comes, he will be a potential All-Star.
Top level: Triple-A (Memphis) | 2014 rank: 57
63Joe Ross, RHP
AGE: 21DOB: 5/21/93B/T: R/RHT: 6-4WT: 205
W-L: 10-6ERA: 3.92IP: 121.2SO: 106BB: 29
Ross, the younger brother of Padres pitcher Tyson, had a mediocre 2013 season after missing much of 2012 with a sore shoulder, as neither his stuff nor command was consistent and his performance was disappointing. Last year he moved up to a tougher environment for pitchers, and everything ticked up, resulting in a late-season promotion to Double-A and his inclusion in the big, three-team trade that sent Wil Myers to San Diego. Ross will hit 97 mph but is most comfortable at 92-94 with good two-seam tailing life, the latter the result of a slightly lower arm slot the Padres hoped would take some pressure off his shoulder as well. He always has had excellent feel for a changeup, but the lower slot also gave him more tilt on his slider, an above-average to plus pitch, whereas he'd previously been caught between a slider and a curve.
Hitters find Ross' stuff hard to square up, and he's a slight ground ball pitcher. He's a good athlete and competitor who throws strikes, although his control is still ahead of his command. I thought he had a chance to be a No. 2 starter before his shoulder barked, and there's probably less of a chance now that he evolves into a 200-inning starter, but he could be a very effective No. 3 who throws 180 or so innings in peak years.
Top level: Double-A (San Antonio) | 2014 rank: Unranked
64Marco Gonzales, LHP
AGE: 22DOB: 2/16/92B/T: L/LHT: 6-1WT: 195
W-L: 9-5ERA: 2.43IP: 122SO: 117BB: 27
Gonzales does it backward: He'll sit in the upper 80s with the fastball, maybe touching average velocity at best, but he still manages to get hitters out -- even make them look foolish -- because he has all the other things you could want a pitcher to have. Gonzalez's changeup is a 70 grade, he has an above-average curveball, and he throws all three pitches for strikes. It's more control than command right now; his delivery is simple and fluid enough for him to have outstanding command, but in his major league trial last year, he tried to nibble too much rather than trusting his stuff and his command within the zone.
He's a great athlete and competitor who can swing the bat a little, too, going 6-for-27 across three levels last year with two doubles and a homer, showing he's at least capable of putting the ball in play more often than most NL pitchers can. He's ready to pitch in a major league rotation now, assuming the Cardinals have a place for him, and I envision him having a long career as an average to slightly above-average starter, mostly under the radar until we all look up in 10 or 15 years and wonder how he did it.
Top level: Majors (St. Louis) | 2014 rank: Unranked
65Dominic Smith, 1B
AGE: 19DOB: 6/15/95B/T: L/LHT: 6-0WT: 185
AVG: .271OBP: .344OPS: .683HR: 1SB: 5
Smith's superficial stats don't give Mets fans a lot of confidence in his future, but he actually had a very solid year considering his age, experience and home ballpark. Smith was just 19 years old in Class A Savannah, going to a full-season league less than a year out of high school, whereas other recent Mets first-rounders, such as Brandon Nimmo and Gavin Cecchini, spent a second summer in short-season ball first. Savannah is a terrible park for left-handed hitters, especially for pull power, so Smith worked on going the other way much of the season, with far more of his extra-base hits going to left than to right. He has grade-70 raw power, but we may not see much of it until he reaches Binghamton late in 2015, or more likely 2016. He's an excellent defensive first baseman with a 70-grade arm, although defense at that position is secondary to offense. Don't be alarmed if his home run total is still low in the Florida State League this year, but once he reaches Double-A, I expect Smith to hit double-digit homers and peak at 20-plus per year in the majors, with high batting averages and OBPs north of .350, making him an above-average or better regular at first.
Top level: Class A (Savannah) | 2014 rank: 37
66Ozhaino Albies, SS
AGE: 18DOB: 1/7/97B/T: B/RHT: 5-9WT: 150
AVG: .364OBP: .446OPS: .891HR: 1SB: 22
It's hard to picture the diminutive Albies -- he's listed at 5-foot-9, 150 pounds, and that's a generous number on the height -- on a major league diamond, but his tools are outstanding for a player so small and young. Atlanta signed Albies out of Curacao in July 2013 for $350,000, a bold bet since he was probably 5-6, 130 pounds at the time, but they liked his combination of plus running speed, an above-average arm, very good hands and a compact (how could it not be?) stroke at the plate.
Albies projects as an everyday shortstop if he hits enough for it. His hands are soft and he has good instincts at the position, with enough arm for all but perhaps the play deep in the hole. He used to have a wide base with no stride at the plate, but Atlanta has added a little toe-tap to force him to transfer some weight. He'll never have much power, but at least he showed he could make hard contact this year, hitting .364/.446/.444 at age 17 across two short-season leagues. As the youngest player in the Appalachian League, Albies finished fourth in batting average and OBP, and his pace would have led the league in singles if he'd kept it up for a whole summer. It's hard to call a player this age a high-floor guy, but I'd be shocked if he didn't at least turn into a quality utility infielder. If he has the strength to maintain these high contact rates and OBPs and develop doubles power, he'll be an above-average everyday player at short.
Top level: Rookie (Danville) | 2014 rank: Unranked
67Tim Anderson, SS
AGE: 21DOB: 6/23/93B/T: R/RHT: 6-1WT: 180
AVG: .303OBP: .328OPS: .809HR: 9SB: 10
Anderson showed rapid progress with the bat in 2014 as the White Sox continued to overhaul almost every aspect of his game to mold him into a future regular at short. Anderson didn't play a ton of baseball in high school in Mississippi, and without a Division I scholarship offer, he headed for junior college, from which the White Sox plucked him in the first round in 2013. His inexperience has shown on both sides of the ball, but so has his tremendous athleticism, which is why Chicago's faith in him is justified.
They've balanced him out more at the plate, so while he still has no stride, he's added a toe tap for timing and to get a little hip rotation for better power to the gaps. His plate coverage is strong to a fault, since he's almost impossible to walk; he was bottom five among full-season regulars in walk rate in the minors last year. He's athletic enough to handle center field, second base or probably anywhere other than catcher, but the White Sox have worked extensively to improve his footwork and his transfer, as he has the hands and the plus arm to handle shortstop and really should stay there. He's still very much a work in progress, with the upside of an average defender at short who hits for a high average and some doubles power.
Top level: Double-A (Birmingham) | 2014 rank: 98
68Raimel Tapia, OF
AGE: 20DOB: 2/4/94B/T: L/LHT: 6-2WT: 160
AVG: .326OBP: .382OPS: .836HR: 9SB: 33
You'd never teach a hitter to hit the way Tapia does, but as long as it's working for him, why try to change it? Tapia starts with a base so wide that he nearly loses his balance on every swing, but his hand-eye coordination ranks among the best in the minor leagues, leading to strong contact rates and high batting averages everywhere he has played so far. His power is an open question and may not come until he changes his stance to allow more leg into his swing; he hit nine homers last year -- all at hitter-friendly Asheville -- with an ISO of just .073 on the road. He does have a wiry, projectable frame and could add another 10-15 pounds of muscle, but it won't result in a ton of home runs if he can't get his lower half involved.
Tapia is a plus runner who has the speed for center field but remains a work in progress in terms of reads and routes, splitting time in center last year with David Dahl. He might be good enough for center field but ended up pushed to a corner by better candidates within the Rockies system. A hitter with his bat-to-ball skills will get his chance to play, regardless of position; he's among the minors' best bets to hit .300 in the majors though without much power, so the question for Tapia will be how much he can change his setup at the plate without costing himself too many hits.
Top level: Class A (Asheville) | 2014 rank: Just missed/Sleeper
69Amed Rosario, SS
AGE: 19DOB: 11/20/95B/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 170
AVG: .274OBP: .320OPS: .691HR: 2SB: 7
Rosario was my sleeper prospect for the Mets last year, and the $1.75 million the Mets paid him in 2012 looks like it's going to more than pay off. Rosario is a toolshed, with athleticism, strength, plus raw power and a laser arm. He's a true shortstop with very good actions at the position, including soft hands and excellent reads on balls in front him on which he has to come in or in front of the bag. His bat is a blur through the zone, and he keeps his hands inside the ball exceptionally well. His approach is very mature for his age, atypical of an 18-year-old playing with much older competition; he'll hit the other way and show power there as well, with more than half of his career home runs going out to right-center.
He has broad shoulders and might fill out some but doesn't project to outgrow the position. He'll need to be challenged by better pitching, especially pitchers who can locate their off-speed stuff, which he might not see until high Class A or Double-A. Savannah has a brutal park for power, so his superficial stats might not show much progress this year, but if he keeps his contact rate up and works on adjusting to changing speeds, he won't be there for long.
Top level: Class A (Savannah) | 2014 rank: Sleeper
70Manuel Margot, CF
AGE: 20DOB: 9/28/94B/T: R/RHT: 5-11WT: 170
AVG: .293OBP: .356OPS: .818HR: 12SB: 42
Margot isn't flashy or explosive like system mate Rafael Devers, but he has been very steady and performed very well last year in two full-season leagues, all before his 20th birthday. He's an above-average defender in center field with good reads, and he has a simple, selective approach at the plate that has allowed him to succeed even when facing older and more experienced competition. His swing has good rotation but produces only doubles power; he might peak at 12 to 15 homers but could be a 35-plus doubles guy because he's able to go the other way so effectively.
He's currently a plus runner and should be a stolen-base threat in the majors as long as he doesn't get too big, although that same issue would be the only reason he'd move out of center field. It's a strong leadoff profile with the chance for high OBPs and 30-odd steals a year along with grade-60 defense, as long as he continues to work on his patience and can maintain his conditioning to stay in center.
Top level: High Class A (Salem) | 2014 rank: Sleeper
71Michael Taylor, CF
AGE: 23DOB: 3/26/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 210
AVG: .304OBP: .390OPS: .915HR: 23SB: 37
To their credit, the Nationals never lost faith in Taylor, not when he couldn't crack a .320 OBP until he was 22, not when he had to repeat high-A that year and still punched out 131 times. The former high school shortstop took to center field pretty quickly, but it took him a few years to fill out and grow into some power, with the help of a lot of work from the Nats' player development staff. Taylor's posture at the plate is better now, and he's better able to power through the baseball with significant torque from quick hip rotation. He hit 24 homers in 127 games across three levels last year, and he still could add some strength to his frame, although that might cost him some of his plus speed.
He has made a lot of progress at the plate, but it's all come fairly slowly, and given his contact issues and how quickly he gets the bat through the zone, I wouldn't be surprised if he took a year or two of major league at-bats to start posting adequate OBPs. He's a 70 defender in center and can impact the game with power and speed, with a chance to be a grade-60 regular in the majors once he gets 1,000 at-bats or so under his belt.
Top level: Triple-A (Syracuse) | 2014 rank: Unranked
72J.T. Realmuto, C
AGE: 23DOB: 3/18/91B/T: R/RHT: 6-1WT: 215
AVG: .299OBP: .369OPS: .830HR: 8SB: 18
Realmuto was my sleeper prospect for the Marlins going into the 2012 season, but his bat seemed to stagnate over the next two seasons and he appeared more likely headed for backup duty. He showed real improvement in 2014 while repeating Double-A, both on offense and defense, and was a popular target in offseason trade talks this winter. He's a great athlete who got a later start in baseball than most, playing two sports in high school and signing as a 19-year-old high school senior in 2010.
His arm is an easy plus with a career 38 percent caught-stealing rate, and he has developed into a solid-average receiver as well. He still has a lot less experience than most 24-year-olds, but he's major league-ready now and should be an average regular after a year or so of at-bats in Miami.
Top level: Majors (Miami) | 2014 rank: Unranked
73Colin Moran, 3B
AGE: 22DOB: 10/1/92B/T: L/RHT: 6-4WT: 215
AVG: .296OBP: .344OPS: .741HR: 7SB: 1
I think most people in the industry were surprised to see the Marlins move Moran just 13 months after making him the No. 6 pick in the draft, but the Astros have to be thrilled to end up with a player they were seriously considering with the first overall pick that year (with which they took Mark Appel). Moran is a very high-probability regular, a left-handed hitter with a great feel to hit and more than adequate defense at third, showing great instincts across the board that help him play above his tools. Moran's swing isn't classic; he has a long stride without a big weight transfer but rotates his hips well and has very strong wrists and forearms for unexpected power, which he put on display against future playoff hero Brandon Finnegan in a Double-A contest in August.
At third base, he has improved his footwork since signing, and while his arm is just a 50 grade, it's very accurate, so on balance, he should be at least a league-average defender. In the long run, Moran is probably more a hitter for average and contact than big power, but he has 15-20 homer juice if he wants to get to it. He has a high floor as an average regular at third but one who'll make some All-Star teams in years during which he hits .310 or so in the first half.
Top level: Double-A (Corpus Christi) | 2014 rank: 55
74Austin Hedges, C
AGE: 22DOB: 8/18/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-1WT: 190
AVG: .225OBP: .268OPS: .589HR: 6SB: 1
Hedges is one of a number of premium defensive catchers bubbling up through the minors, all of whom could probably catch and throw in the majors right now but whose ultimate ceiling is uncertain because of questions about their ability to hit. Hedges is the best pure receiver of the bunch, with great hands, an advanced feel for the game and what should end up as strong framing skills. He has a plus-plus arm that's quick and accurate, and he's improved his caught-stealing percentage slightly each year in pro ball, with a 38 percent figure in 2014 for Double-A San Antonio.
At the plate, he's power before hit, and he's not doing enough hit for the power to play, with a .225/.272/.314 line across 532 plate appearances in Double-A. However, he turned 22 in August and was young for the level, which gives the Padres plenty of justification to send him back there rather than push him to the strong hitters' environment of El Paso. He's too much of a dead-pull hitter right now, and while he has the bat speed and the hip rotation to drive balls to the gaps, he's just as likely to roll one over to the shortstop, especially since he often hits the top of the ball when he can't square it up. A year of trying to go the other way more would help, as his contact rates themselves are fine, and he has to hit only about .240 to get to that 15-18 homer plateau that would make him an above-average regular.
Top level: Double-A (San Antonio) | 2014 rank: 33
75Reynaldo Lopez, RHP
AGE: 21DOB: 1/4/94B/T: R/RHT: 6-0WT: 185
W-L: 7-3ERA: 1.08IP: 83.1SO: 70BB: 26
Lopez was throwing just 87-90 mph when he first signed for a pittance as an 18-year-old amateur in 2012, but his velocity picked up rapidly once the Nationals got a hold of him, to the point where they had to shut him down for nearly all of 2013 to keep him healthy. He stayed on the mound for all of 2014, and his talent exploded: He'd reach 100 mph in many starts, wouldn't throw a pitch under 94 and would show a 60 or 70 grade curveball as long as he could stay at the top of his release point. Lopez had been a more lateral front-side guy, but the Nats raised his front side when he was with Auburn this summer so he could get on top of that breaking ball and generate more plane on the fastball, producing more ground balls and more consistent strikes as well. He gets good action on his nascent changeup but lacks feel for the pitch because he has barely used it.
After he returned to Hagerstown from Auburn in late July, he allowed one run in 39 innings, on a solo homer, punching out 34 guys against 23 total baserunners, with that homer being the only extra-base hit he surrendered. His ceiling is second only to Lucas Giolito among Nationals' starter prospects, and the main hurdle for him to get there is to build up the stamina to be a 30-start guy.
Top level: Class A (Hagerstown) | 2014 rank: Unranked
76Brett Phillips, OF
AGE: 20DOB: 5/30/94B/T: L/RHT: 6-0WT: 175
AVG: .310OBP: .375OPS: .905HR: 17SB: 23
Phillips was a sixth-round pick in 2012, a draft in which I rated him as a third-rounder (he was 98th on my final board), and signed for just $300,000. After two quiet summers in short-season ball, during which he didn't hit a single home run, Phillips exploded in 2014, hitting 17 homers while showing off two other plus tools in his speed and his arm.
Phillips can play center field, and might end up a 60- or 70-grade defender there, but has a cannon for an arm and wouldn't be out of place in right. Phillips didn't get bigger, but he made some adjustments to his swing that unlocked a lot of power, reducing a wrist lock he had when he loaded that made it all but impossible for him to drive the ball. Now he has a real power/speed combo that would play anywhere, with that upside on defense as well. Don't be surprised if he sets the Cal League on fire this year because of his tools and the hitters paradise he'll play in at Lancaster.
Top level: High Class A (Lancaster) | 2014 rank: Unranked
77Alex Reyes, RHP
AGE: 20DOB: 8/29/94B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 185
W-L: 7-7ERA: 3.63IP: 109SO: 137BB: 61
Reyes is a U.S.-born right-hander who relocated to the Dominican Republic and signed as an amateur free agent, developing quickly as a potential high-end starter through two summers in pro ball. Reyes will show a 70 fastball and his curveball will flash plus, although he doesn't have great command of either pitch yet. His changeup is improving, with some tailing life to it, and he's better able to execute it consistently pitch to pitch now than he could last spring.
He's a big kid and needs to tighten up his body to avoid becoming too heavy. Reyes already has the potential for the three pitches he'll need as a starter, and he has shown he can miss bats. Learning to repeat his delivery better, maintaining his conditioning and eventually throwing more and better strikes are the key benchmarks to get him to be a No. 2 starter in the big leagues.
Top level: Class A (Peoria) | 2014 rank: Sleeper
78Justin O'Conner, C
AGE: 22DOB: 3/31/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-0WT: 190
AVG: .278OBP: .316OPS: .782HR: 12SB: 0
Everything I said about Austin Hedges (above) applies to O'Conner, even though they've taken different paths to this point. O'Conner was a two-way player who had almost no experience behind the plate until the Rays signed him, but has worked himself into above-average to plus tools across the board as a defender. He nailed 55 percent of runners over the two years since he came back from hip surgery, as well as 16 pickoffs, which is enough that he probably needs some kind of Fernando Rodney-style celebration move for them.
At the plate, O'Conner is another power-before-hit guy, showing more power than Hedges (although their raw-power grades are similar) but worse plate discipline. If Hedges projects as a guy who'll hit .240-.250, O'Conner projects as more of a .220-.230 hitter, but with 15 or so homers, and his defense will play every day in the big leagues. There is still room for more with both of these guys if they can become more selective as hitters.
Top level: Double-A (Montgomery) | 2014 rank: Unranked
79Grant Holmes, RHP
AGE: 18DOB: 3/22/96B/T: L/RHT: 6-1WT: 215
W-L: 2-3ERA: 3.72IP: 48.1SO: 58BB: 13
Holmes probably would have gone among the top 10 picks if he were a little taller, but even at 6-foot-nothing, he's definitely a baller, a highly competitive right-hander with good stuff who needs to work on location and learning how to work against better quality hitters. Holmes touched 100 mph this spring, but I doubt he'll ever do that as a pro. He's likely to work between 92 and 94 when pitching every fifth day, with 96 mph or so available if he needs it but better off throwing a little softer and trying to work down in the zone. He has a sharp power curveball with tight rotation and depth and a future average changeup that he's going to need to use more to develop a feel for it.
Holmes' biggest issue is that he's a control-over-command guy. He can fill up the zone with his fastball, but he throws too many strikes at the letters, and the lack of plane or movement on his fastball means the pitch will get hit. That adjustment will be the difference between being an above-average starter and one at the back of a rotation.
Top level: Rookie (Ogden) | 2014 rank: Ineligible
80Greg Bird, 1B
AGE: 22DOB: 11/9/92B/T: L/RHT: 6-3WT: 215
AVG: .271OBP: .376OPS: .848HR: 14SB: 1
Bird was Kevin Gausman's high school catcher and signed as a fifth-rounder in 2011 for an over-slot bonus of $1.1 million, moving to first base almost immediately because his defense was weak and he had back trouble in 2012. He's now had two strong seasons playing every day, showing patience and power across three levels of full-season ball. Bird's swing is very short to the ball, and he accelerates his hands quickly for hard contact to all fields, rarely putting the ball on the ground because he squares it up so frequently. He's a high-IQ hitter with outstanding plate discipline and understanding of how to work a pitcher, giving reason to think he'll continue to post high OBPs even though he'll probably hit only .250-260 with a lot of strikeouts.
My real concern with him is at first base, where he still needs work on fielding ground balls, and of course the fact that the back flared up on him again in late March is worrisome. He's lined up to be Mark Teixeira's replacement at first base as long as the glove improves and his back problems don't turn out to be chronic.
Top level: Double-A (Trenton) | 2014 rank: Unranked
81Matt Olson, 1B
AGE: 20DOB: 3/29/94B/T: L/RHT: 6-4WT: 236
AVG: .262OBP: .404OPS: .947HR: 37SB: 2
Olson led the minors in walks last year, and that, combined with his plus power, earns him some fairly easy comps to Adam Dunn, another patient, all-or-nothing type of hitter, but that might sell Olson a bit short. He's very selective but will hunt pitches early in the count he can crush, and he doesn't go up there just looking for walks. He's a power/strength guy who muscles the ball despite fringy bat speed, and he has to be this selective in his approach to be an impact player on offense; without that kind of discipline, he'd be an up-and-down guy, or even an organizational depth player. As long as he can get himself in good counts, he should get to 60-odd extra-base hits a year.
He's a mediocre defender at first, with stiff hands but adequate footwork around the bag, good enough that he shouldn't have to move to designated hitter. His value as an asset is mixed because his floor is so low. If it turns out he can't catch up to better velocity in the zone, I'm not sure if he'll be able to play every day. So far he has been able to make it work for him, and he projects as a .230/.370/.500 hitter who is average on defense.
Top level: High Class A (Stockton) | 2014 rank: Unranked
82Tyrell Jenkins, RHP
AGE: 22DOB: 7/20/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-4WT: 204
W-L: 6-5ERA: 3.28IP: 74SO: 41BB: 23
Jenkins was off the prospect map for two years while he tried to come back from shoulder surgery, but it wasn't until the second half of 2014 that he finally felt fully healthy, and it showed when he pitched in the Arizona Fall League. Out in the desert, his fastball was at 93-96 mph with good downhill plane, really turning over well even at 95 mph and generating lots of ground balls. His slider was plus at 83-87 mph -- with curveball depth -- while his changeup was fringy, straight at 86-88 and effective because his delivery of the pitch is close to the fastball's but lacking any life or action.
He's an excellent athlete who repeats his delivery very well, with outstanding makeup and a very competitive approach on the mound. Jenkins has yet to throw 100 innings in a calendar year as a pro, with his 98⅓ in 2014 (including the AFL) a new career high. He has to show he can hold up for a full season, and with his arsenal, he should miss more bats; I project he'll do more of the latter than ever before now that his shoulder is as good as new.
Top level: High Class A (Palm Beach) | 2014 rank: Unranked
83Daniel Robertson, SS
AGE: 20DOB: 3/22/94B/T: R/RHT: 6-0WT: 190
AVG: .310OBP: .402OPS: .873HR: 15SB: 4
Robertson was Oakland's sandwich-round pick in 2012, going to Tampa Bay this winter as the main piece of the package that sent Yunel Escobar and Ben Zobrist to the A's. Robertson immediately became Zobrist's most likely long-term replacement, a current shortstop who won't stay there in the majors but who should be able to play second or third (and well) while getting on base at an excellent clip. Robertson has a short, direct swing that starts with an open stance and barely transfers his weight; he doesn't have much rotation in his swing and is likely to be a line-drive hitter with below-average power, making a lot of contact and getting on base at a high clip given his strong walk rates so far in pro ball. He's a 40-grade runner and his footwork isn't good enough for shortstop, but he has the arm for third base and the hands to play third or second.
He has earned praise for his baseball acumen since high school, and if the Rays choose to make him a multi-position player, as they did with Zobrist, Robertson should be more than capable of handling it. Guys who project for a .400 OBP are pretty valuable commodities, and you can see from this ranking how rare Robertson's skill really is.
Top level: High Class A (Stockton) | 2014 rank: Unranked
84Brad Zimmer, CF
AGE: 22DOB: 11/27/92B/T: L/RHT: 6-4WT: 185
AVG: .302OBP: .400OPS: .892HR: 6SB: 12
Zimmer threw some scouts for a loop last spring while at the University of San Francisco, because he didn't seem like he'd have the power to play a corner but was tall and broad enough that they didn't think he'd stay in center. His game is so well-rounded overall, however, that he might stay in center and hit for more power than anyone expected. He's an above-average runner with long strides that help him cover more ground in center than you might expect at first glance.
My concern at the plate is less about power -- he's going to fill out well and has good extension in his swing's finish -- and more about contact, as he has long levers and loads deep enough that it adds some unnecessary length to the early part of his swing. He projects as an above-average regular in center, with 20-plus homers, high walk and strikeout totals, and a few runs saved a year on defense. He's perhaps two full years away from being ready for everyday duty.
Top level: Class A (Lake County) | 2014 rank: Ineligible
85Derek Hill, CF
AGE: 19DOB: 12/30/95B/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 195
AVG: .208OBP: .296OPS: .591HR: 2SB: 11
The son of longtime scout Orsino Hill and cousin of Darryl Strawberry, Derek Hill is already a plus defender in center at age 19 and a plus runner with an average or slightly above-average arm, but the question scouts had this spring was about his bat. Hill played only two years of high school baseball in California, moving there from Iowa, where he hadn't faced the same caliber of pitching. But he showed last spring that he could make rapid adjustments at the plate thanks to a simple swing. He has an exaggerated leg kick that helps give him some rhythm, but his hand path is very short, and he's as consistent swing to swing as almost anyone on this list. He's more likely to hit for average and contact than power; the way he swings now might get him to eight to 10 homers a year and probably nothing more without a mechanical change.
The Tigers promoted him to the advanced New York-Penn League in August and he was overmatched. Given his history, he might be a candidate to start the year in extended spring training and return to that league in June. Given the paucity of true up-the-middle position players with defensive chops, the Tigers should be thrilled they got Hill with the 23rd pick, as long as they're willing to take it slow with him at the plate to maximize his chances to become a leadoff type.
Top level: Low Class A (Connecticut) | 2014 rank: Ineligible
86Alex "Chi Chi" Gonzalez, RHP
AGE: 23DOB: 1/15/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-2WT: 195
W-L: 12-6ERA: 2.67IP: 138SO: 113BB: 41
The 23rd overall pick in the 2013 draft -- he was ranked 16th on my final draft board -- does a bit of everything well and (so far) nothing poorly, making him one of the highest-probability starter prospects in the minors. Gonzalez will sit 90-94 with good sink, but he has a major league out pitch in his cutter that makes him so effective, including a 55 percent ground ball rate across two levels last year.
His command has turned out to be even better than expected on draft day, and he rarely walks anyone; he walked two men or fewer in 14 of 15 Double-A starts. I'm a bit surprised he didn't miss more bats in high-A Myrtle Beach, but there isn't anything missing from the package here, as three of every five hitters he faced last year either struck out or put the ball on the ground, he doesn't walk guys, he has proven durable, and he gets left-handed hitters out as well as right-handed hitters. If the Rangers need a starter in the second half, he should be ready for the call.
Top level: Double-A (Frisco) | 2014 rank: Just missed
87Rob Kaminsky, LHP
AGE: 20DOB: 9/2/94B/T: R/LHT: 5-11WT: 191
W-L: 8-2ERA: 1.88IP: 100.2SO: 79BB: 31
What Kaminsky lacks in size or projection, he more than provides in frustration for hitters, who say he's tough to face because of his deception, something borne out in the high ground ball rates he posts and the infrequent line drives he surrenders. Kaminsky will sit 90-92 mph, occasionally bumping 94 but unlikely to ever pitch at that mark, with a plus curveball that he's been able to use against hitters on both sides of the plate. His changeup has improved over the past year, in part because he has spent time with Marco Gonzales (who has the best changeup of any Cardinal farmhand), and he gave up almost no power last year, just 16 extra-base hits allowed to 407 batters faced, with more than half of the balls he allowed in play going on the ground.
With that third pitch well on its way, Kaminsky needs primarily to work on command and control, but his 2014 was very promising for a 19-year-old from a cold-weather state pitching in full-season ball. I still see a future No. 3 starter here, one who'll have a long career because hitters will always have a hard time picking up the ball out of his hand.
Top level: Class A (Peoria) | 2014 rank: 100
88Trea Turner, SS
AGE: 21DOB: 6/30/93B/T: L/RHT: 6-1WT: 175
AVG: .323OBP: .406OPS: .854HR: 5SB: 23
Turner is technically still a Padre, because MLB is operating under a Dark Ages rule that prohibits teams from trading drafted players for a full year after they sign their first pro contracts, a rule that conflicts with the way a "player to be named" can be traded up to six months after the deal is completed. So now Turner gets to spend spring training and the first two months or so of 2015 playing for an organization that no longer has any stake in his future, and that's both wrong and dangerous. Turner himself is in an awful spot, because he's a good prospect who needs work in specific areas to become an above-average regular at shortstop.
He's a plus runner with the speed to stay at short but needs help on footwork to be able to make plays that require him to move well out of position and to be able to throw accurately from any spot. He has the bat speed to catch up to a good fastball but wraps his bat behind his head and can be a tick late getting the bat head into the zone. He could end up an average or slightly better defensive shortstop who hits .280-.300 with 40 steals a year, as long as he gets into an organization that is fully invested in his development.
Top level: Class A (Fort Wayne) | 2014 rank: Ineligible
89Alen Hanson, 2B/SS
AGE: 22DOB: 10/22/92B/T: B/RHT: 5-11WT: 170
AVG: .280OBP: .326OPS: .768HR: 11SB: 25
The Pirates moved Hanson to second base in August, as he remained erratic at short despite having all of the physical tools required to play it, which could in turn speed up his path to the big leagues. Hanson continued to have good at-bats and maintain a strong contact rate, improving as the season went on, faring well as one of the Eastern League's youngest regulars. He's a true switch-hitter with plenty of bat speed on both sides of the box, shorter from the left side for more contact, with fringe-average power overall that's more geared toward doubles than home runs. He's a plus runner who can have an impact on the bases as well as at the plate, although he's plagued by the same inconsistency in those aspects of his game as well.
He could have been an above-average regular at short if his glove had come along, but he profiles as a solid-average to slightly better regular at second, perhaps more if the shift to an easier position leads to positive defense and frees him up to focus more on tightening up his approach at the plate.
Top level: Double-A (Altoona) | 2014 rank: 74
90Kyle Schwarber, C/LF
AGE: 21DOB: 3/5/93B/T: L/RHT: 6-0WT: 235
AVG: .344OBP: .428OPS: 1.061HR: 18SB: 5
Schwarber was the fourth overall pick in the 2014 draft as a power-hitting catcher from Indiana University, then went and destroyed three different leagues after signing, ending the year in high-A just a few months out of college. Schwarber has very little chance to catch in the majors, as he's a poor receiver and is very muscular for the position, but his bat should make him a regular at another position, possibly first base, but most likely left field.
He has a chance to end up with a plus hit tool and plus power, showing much better plate discipline this summer than he did as an amateur, although his front side can get soft and he can be vulnerable to soft stuff away because his typical swing is so hard. If he hits .280 or so with a strong OBP and 25-30 homers, he'll be a good everyday player even if he ends up as a bad left fielder, and the Cubs certainly believe he has a chance to exceed even those marks.
Top level: High Class A (Daytona) | 2014 rank: Ineligible
91Brandon Nimmo, OF
AGE: 21DOB: 3/27/93B/T: L/RHT: 6-3WT: 205
AVG: .278OBP: .394OPS: .820HR: 10SB: 14
Nimmo started slowly in pro ball, the result of limited experience as a high school draft pick out of Wyoming, where there is no high school baseball, leaving an American Legion team as his only opportunity to play. He has had a great plan at the plate since day one, patient without being passive, and earns a lot of comparisons to similarly athletic, smart hitters in the big leagues for his advanced approach at such a young age. Nimmo reached Double-A this year at 21, doubling his career home run total after he escaped the power sink that is Savannah's home park. As he fills out, he should get up to 15 to 18 homers a year.
He spent most of his time in center field in 2014, but between his own average range there and the presence of Juan Lagares, he'll most likely end up in right field, where I expect his defense to be plus. He profiles as an everyday right fielder between his defense and potential for .380-.400 OBPs, but I'd like to see better results when he puts the ball in play against lefties, possibly shortening up his load so that he can adjust better when they spin something away from him.
Top level: Double-A (Binghamton) | 2014 rank: 92
92Clint Frazier, OF
AGE: 20DOB: 9/6/94B/T: R/RHT: 6-1WT: 190
AVG: .266OBP: .349OPS: .761HR: 13SB: 12
Frazier showed both his strengths and his deficiencies in his first full season in pro ball, and probably left 2014 with as many questions about his ultimate role in the majors as he had when he entered it. He still has the insane bat speed and quick-twitch reactions that give him 30-homer potential. He also led the Midwest League in strikeouts, chasing a lot of first pitches out of the zone, expanding too early in the count, struggling to react to breaking stuff, diving into the plate and cutting off his ability to drive some stuff on the inner half. He played center field for Lake County, and while Cleveland was happy with his progress there, he's going to end up in one of the corners by the time he reaches the big leagues.
Frazier was young for low-A last year, so the stat line itself shouldn't alarm Cleveland fans too much, but he needs to show he can make better adjustments at the plate and put himself into better situations to get a fastball he can murder. The power is there; it's an evolutionary process to get to where he can use it in games.
Top level: Class A (Lake County) | 2014 rank: 45
93Rio Ruiz, 3B
AGE: 20DOB: 5/22/94B/T: L/RHT: 6-2WT: 215
AVG: .293OBP: .387OPS: .823HR: 11SB: 4
Ruiz has matured quickly both in terms of his body and his plate discipline; his walk rate put him among the top 10 percent of minor league hitters this year, even though he was just 20 in high-A. Lancaster is a tremendous place to hit, however, and his power output was a little light given his home environment. He has good natural feel to hit and much of his contact is hard, but his load gets too deep with his weight too much on his back side, interfering with his timing and reducing his ability to drive the ball.
At third base, he has the hands and arm, but he lacks rhythm in his feet and the ball tends to play him unless he's coming in on it; I'd leave him at third for now, but it's at least 50-50 that he moves to first. Unlike a lot of young, left-handed hitters, he has no real problem facing lefties. He projects as something similar to what Matt Carpenter has become for the Cardinals -- a high-OBP doubles hitter, a little less glove, a little more pop -- if he can stay at the hot corner.
Top level: High Class A (Lancaster) | 2014 rank: Unranked
94Spencer Adams, RHP
AGE: 18DOB: 4/13/96B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 171
W-L: 3-3ERA: 3.67IP: 41.2SO: 59BB: 4
Adams was Chicago's second pick in the 2014 draft, 44th overall, but no draftee from after the first round made a stronger impression last summer than he did, toying with the Arizona Rookie League with just four walks and 59 strikeouts in his 41-plus innings there. Adams throws three pitches and has above-average present command, throwing all three offerings for quality strikes, including a fastball that reaches 95 and an above-average breaking ball with good depth.
Adams is very athletic and has a lot of physical projection remaining, having barely begun growing into his shoulders. He could sit mid-90s with two plus secondary pitches when it's all said and done. Given how advanced his command is already, he should go right to full-season Kannapolis and is a candidate to move quickly despite his youth.
Top level: Rookie (Arizona White Sox) | 2014 rank: Ineligible
95Franklin Barreto, SS
AGE: 18DOB: 2/27/96B/T: R/RHT: 5-9WT: 174
AVG: .311OBP: .384OPS: .865HR: 6SB: 29
Barreto is on the small side, and projects as an everyday middle infielder who can hit and get on base with added value on the bases. Barreto plays shortstop now, with the agility and arm to stay there long-term, but he lacks consistency on the routine play. If he has to move to second base, he should be no worse than above-average there, and he's quick enough that he could end up a 65 or better glove. He's going to hit, with a very short, direct path to the ball, and good hand-eye coordination that leads to copious contact. He's a plus runner, finishing third in the Northwest League in steals.
He was that league's youngest position player and finished in the top 20 in average, OBP, walks and slugging, plus he tied for the league lead in doubles. I don't think he'll hit for any home run power, probably peaking in the high single digits, but he should hit for average with a solid OBP and 30-35 doubles a year, which would make him at least a regular at second base and might make him an All-Star at short.
Top level: Low Class A (Vancouver) | 2014 rank: Sleeper
96Luis Ortiz, RHP
AGE: 19DOB: 9/22/95B/T: R/RHT: 6-3WT: 230
W-L: 1-1ERA: 1.77IP: 20.1SO: 19BB: 6
Ortiz was 10th on my 2014 MLB draft board but fell to 30th in large part because teams were concerned about the time he missed during the spring with a forearm strain. The strain wasn't serious but happened in the middle of a rash of Tommy John surgeries that took out three other top talents in the draft class. Ortiz has a physically mature body already, but the Rangers aren't waiting on future velocity, as he's already 92-95 with some downhill plane and an easy arm stroke he repeats very well. His slider, a sort of power slurve, flashes plus at 81-85, and while he doesn't have much feel for his changeup, he can turn it over pretty well out of his hand in the 83-86 mph range.
Ortiz throws his fastball for strikes and fields his position well for a big guy. He stays over the rubber well, with good momentum toward the plate and a clean arm action, just with a slightly abrupt finish that might require a little touchup to keep him healthy. He looks like a future No. 2 starter and could move way up this list with a full, healthy 2015 season.
Top level: Class A (Hickory) | 2014 rank: Ineligible
97Jose Berrios, RHP
AGE: 20DOB: 5/27/94B/T: R/RHT: 6-0WT: 187
W-L: 12-8ERA: 2.77IP: 139.2SO: 140BB: 38
Berrios was the Twins' second first-round pick in 2012, going 30 picks after Minnesota took Byron Buxton, and he has blown through the low minors with impressive strikeout rates. He'll pitch at 93-96 with his four-seamer, working up in the zone with it because he can blow it by a lot of minor league hitters, pairing it with a 75-79 mph curveball and a hard changeup in the mid-80s. The curveball is his best secondary pitch, tight when he finishes it but not consistent enough yet, while his changeup works when he keeps it down, but overall it's too firm. His arm action reminds me of Yordano Ventura's; it's loose, quick, very easy, maybe a little too arm-heavy (meaning he doesn't use his legs as much as he could). As a six-foot right-hander, Berrios doesn't get any plane on his four-seamer, so he's fly ball-prone and will probably run into more trouble with home runs as he moves up the ladder. Also, he left a start in late July with a sore shoulder. He skipped just one turn in the rotation, but he was just less sharp in general late in the season.
I've seen Berrios a number of times, dating back to the Excellence Games in his native Puerto Rico in 2012, and I've always had a sense Berrios' height and lack of life or plane on his fastball would push him to the bullpen. He has the ceiling of a third or fourth MLB starter if he keeps missing bats and can tighten up both off-speed pitches.
Top level: Triple-A (Rochester) | 2014 rank: Unranked
98A.J. Cole, RHP
AGE: 23DOB: 1/5/92B/T: R/RHT: 6-5WT: 200
W-L: 13-3ERA: 3.16IP: 134SO: 111BB: 32
Is there a worse place to be as a prospect than to be a starting pitcher at the top of Washington's farm system? All Tanner Roark did last year was post a 2.85 ERA in 198 2/3 innings, and he's expected to be out of the Nats' rotation. Cole could probably be someone's fifth starter now, certainly by midyear, but at the moment he's as blocked as any pitching prospect in baseball. Cole's results haven't quite matched his stuff -- the whole is less than the sum of the parts -- but both his slider and changeup have come a long way in the past 18 months, to the point where he looks like a true four-pitch pitcher who has the control to be at least a fourth starter. He works at 93-97 but still doesn't locate it that well within the zone; he could get all the way up to a No. 2 starter if he improves his fastball command and pitches more aggressively. He has also found a consistent arm slot that works for both his curveball, his main out pitch in high school, and his slider, which helps keep hitters from identifying pitches too easily.
Another half-season or so in Triple-A would probably help him, as he'll face a lot of hitters who have major league experience and will force him to work on his weaknesses. Once he gives up a little less hard contact, he'll be ready for someone to call him up, even if it takes a trade for that to happen.
Top level: Triple-A (Syracuse) | 2014 rank: 65
99Kyle Freeland, LHP
AGE: 21DOB: 5/14/93B/T: L/LHT: 6-3WT: 170
W-L: 3-0ERA: 1.15IP: 39SO: 33BB: 6
Freeland went No. 8 overall in the 2014 draft after an outstanding spring that saw him walk just 13 batters in 99 2/3 innings, after which he walked six more in 39 pro innings, even though he was throwing harder than ever as a Rockie. Freeland comes from a tough, low, three-quarter slot and was up to 95 mph in college, bumping 97 over the summer in pro ball, but it's the slider that stands out among his pitches. It comes at hitters from the same slot and on the same plane as the fastball, so lefties would have better luck if they dropped to their knees and prayed. (They went 4-for-35 against him in pro ball, striking out 13 times, without a walk.)
He has an average changeup now, one that the Rockies had him work on more over the summer; given his slot, he'll need that third pitch when he faces better right-handed hitters in Double-A and up. He should move quickly given his ability to throw strikes, and he might not face much of a challenge until he reaches the upper levels, with the chance to be a quality mid-rotation starter as long as he stays healthy.
Top level: Low Class A (Ashville) | 2014 rank: Ineligible
100Max Fried, LHP
AGE: 21DOB: 1/18/94B/T: L/LHT: 6-4WT: 185
W-L: 0-1ERA: 5.06IP: 10.2SO: 10BB: 5
Fried was the seventh overall pick in the 2012 draft, going nine picks ahead of high school teammate Lucas Giolito after the latter hurt his elbow in March of his senior year. Giolito needed Tommy John surgery that summer, while Fried stayed healthy until the spring of 2014, when his elbow snapped and he had the same operation. It'll cost him all of 2015 other than a possible return for instructional-league work if he doesn't suffer any setbacks.
When healthy, Fried would sit in the low 90s with a plus curveball and an above-average to plus changeup; he's an excellent athlete with a long stride toward the plate but a slightly long arm action. The Padres had become a bit frustrated with Fried's approach to pitching, trying to throw the perfect pitch rather than trusting his stuff, and the change of scenery might help him, as Atlanta has had a lot of success in recent years developing young arms. If the surgery and rehab go well, he still has the ceiling of a No. 2 starter.
Top level: Class A (Fort Wayne) | 2014 rank: 48