July 7, 2016
BP Top 50
The Best Midseason Prospects
Let’s make a couple things clear right up top:
1) There are no recent draftees or international prospect signings in this ranking. That means no Kevin Maitan or Corey Ray.
2) There are no prospect-eligible players who are currently in the majors in this ranking. This means no Lucas Giolito (pitching today for the Nationals) but yes Julio Urias (probably throwing one inning at a time for a while in Glendale to stay fresh/limit workload).
Another thing that has been made clear throughout this process is that the prospect landscape has flattened considerably. We might be exiting
the long summer a golden age of prospects (going back to... let’s say Stephen Strasburg) but that doesn’t mean Winter is here, or even that it is coming. Talking to those who have been doing this long enough to know, the current landscape appears much as it did before the recent glut of immediate-superstar prospects graduated; meaning that the distribution of talent is either flatter, or there’s more of it located in the lower levels, making the risk associated with that premium talent that much higher. As it pertains to ordinal rankings this means that the gaps between the players might not be as big as they seem, even in the upper echelons.
This bore itself out as our team discussed and debated the prospects below, including those at the very top. Nothing was a given, and the discussion for the top spot spread to the top four players on the list; beyond that it got even messier. Ultimately, this list is my own, informed and influenced heavily by the in-person views that our team supplied, as well as those provided by industry contacts. Enough preface: Below you will find the Baseball Prospectus Midseason Top 50 Prospects, along with the most compelling reason they’ll succeed as well as what might cause them not to live up to expectations. —Craig Goldstein
1. J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadelphia Phillies
Why He’ll Succeed: He has the broadest base of skills in the minors, and one of those skills is plus defense at shortstop. Couple that with a strong hit tool and approach, note the double-digit home run potential, and you may be looking at a perennial all-star at shortstop.
Why He Might Fail: Crawford hasn't hit as much against upper-minors competition as you'd like to see from your top prospect, the glove and approach give him a very high floor, but if he is more of a .260/.350/.350 hitter, he may just be a solid, everyday guy.
2. Yoan Moncada, 2B, Boston Red Sox
Why He'll Succeed: An explosive power/speed combination that propels him to stardom despite a non-premium defensive position.
Why He Might Fail: His shirts could become tighter and tighter until he earns Dan Uggla comparisons as a shirt-wearer and a baseball player.
3. Julio Urias, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Why He’ll Succeed: Urias’ potent three-pitch mix means he need only get stronger as he heads toward a legal drinking age (in the U.S.), allowing him to pitch deeper into games. If he does that, he’s a good number two.
Why He Might Fail: We don’t know what he looks like after 110 pitches in a game nor innings in a season. It’s not a given that the rate stats hold up to those thresholds (or beyond), and we have no real idea what the dropoff will look like. Also he’s a pitcher, so injury always looms.
4. Alex Bregman, SS/3B, Houston Astros
Why He'll Succeed: His plate discipline and knack for contact enable him to punish balls in the zone, making up for a lack of premium raw power and allowing the bat to function at third as well as short.
Why He Might Fail: The first-half power surge is more mirage than oasis, making the bat less palatable at the hot corner. He’s still pretty good.
5. Brendan Rodgers, SS, Colorado Rockies
Why He'll Succeed: Rodgers is one of the most talented offensive players in the class, and when you consider that there’s a chance for plus power and a plus hit tool while staying at a premium position, the sky’s the limit.
Why He Might Fail: It’s not a lock that he’ll stay at said premium position, and if he is forced to move to the hot corner, the value obviously drops substantially.
6. Austin Meadows, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
Why He'll Succeed: When you see Meadows on the right day—which has been pretty much every day in 2016—you’ll see an outfielder who flashes above-average tools everywhere but his arm, and the approach just keeps getting better.
Why He Might Fail: If he were to have to move from center field, he likely has to play left because of his arm, and continued health woes could sap some of his explosiveness.
7. Orlando Arcia, SS, Milwaukee Brewers
Why He'll Succeed: The high-contact approach translates to a top-of-the-order bat to pair with good speed and exceptional defense.
Why He Might Fail: If his aggressive approach is exploited by more advanced arms, it could culminate in a glove-dependent profile that doesn’t get on base enough to avoid the bottom third of an order.
8. Alex Reyes, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
Why He’ll Succeed: If the fastball and curveball mature into plus-plus offerings, with the cambio a playable option against opposite-handed hitters, he'll be a top-of-the-rotation arm who misses bats at an tremendous clip.
Why He Might Fail: If the changeup lags and makes him a two-pitch guy with effort in his delivery. That sounds a lot like a reliever, albeit a damned good one.
9. Victor Robles, OF, Washington Nationals
Why He’ll Succeed: Owning a potential five-tool skill set with across-the-board projection gives him a variety of ways to impact a major-league roster down the line.
Why He Might Fail: There are still questions about how much power will ultimately manifest, and he has yet to be tested against advanced arms with an ability to locate and sequence.
10. Dansby Swanson, SS, Atlanta Braves
Why He'll Succeed: His above-average hit, power, glove, arm, hair and smile could power him to a marketability we haven’t seen since Jeter.
Why He Might Fail: All of that above-averageness might be somehow less than the sum of the parts, in which case he’s still above average.
11. Andrew Benintendi, OF, Boston Red Sox
Why He’ll Succeed: The roaring start to Benintendi’s pro career is indicative of a player who has rapidly—and in some cases unexpectedly—grown into a hitter capable of maintaining a high average, getting on base, and slugging the ball.
Why He Might Fail: Advanced arms figure out how to sequence against and manipulate an aggressive hitter who can’t counter with his own adjustment.
12. Joey Gallo, CI, Texas Rangers
Why He'll Succeed: 80 power, 80 power, 80 power. If he can keep his strikeout rate in the stratosphere, Gallo will hit 30-plus homers annually and become a regular contender for the home run crown. He’s sneakily playable on defense too.
Why He Might Fail: He just might not make enough contact. He’s struck out in nearly half of his big-league at-bats and is running a strikeout rate north of 30 percent in his second spin through Triple-A.
13. Trea Turner, SS, Washington Nationals
Why He’ll Succeed: Turner is an exceptional runner with good feel to hit, backed by an ability to play solid defense up the middle, making him a valuable commodity across baseball.
Why He Might Fail: The lack of power results in major-league pitchers challenging him more and pressuring the hit tool, without a strong-enough glove to carry the profile.
14. David Dahl, OF, Colorado Rockies
Why He’ll Succeed: Finally healthy, Dahl is now showing off the development of his game, including an ability to drive the ball over the fence more than previously thought, while also showing hints of an approach….
Why He Might Fail: …..The approach at the plate is still developing and could stagnate, leaving the hit tool and power a little short of the mark.
15. Amed Rosario, SS, New York Mets
Why He’ll Succeed: Rosario keeps getting better, every season. His ability to put on good weight without sacrificing athleticism enables him to stick at the six and rake at the plate, making him a threat on both sides of the ball.
Why He Might Fail: Still a work in progress, the approach and an unusual hand path could falter against better arms and better spin. If the bat doesn’t develop as anticipated, it is still a major-league package, but not an impact one.
16. Manuel Margot, CF, San Diego Padres
Why He'll Succeed: A well-rounded player, Margot will hit and play a plus center field at the highest level. Even if the power never shows up, he’s an easy regular, and he could hit .300 for years.
Why He Might Fail: Fail is a relative term here. Sure, anyone could pull a Brandon Wood and just not hit at all, but realistically, Margot’s floor is as a player who hits .250 with no power instead of .280. That’s still a big leaguer, if not an impact one.
17. Jose Berrios, RHP, Minnesota Twins
Why He'll Succeed: Berrios sits in the low-to-mid-90s with an above-average curve and a dandy of a changeup that has already induced plenty of whiffs from big-league hitters.
Why He Might Fail: An ugly showing in his first few starts demonstrated how even “safe” pitching prospects can get hit around if they don’t command the ball well. Berrios probably will do better in that regard down the road but, well, we saw what happened when he isn’t on.
18. Jeff Hoffman, RHP, Colorado Rockies
Why He’ll Succeed: Hoffman is close to the ideal pitching prospect: A big frame, a big fastball, three secondaries that project as average or better, including a hard, bat-missing slider with plus-plus potential, and reasonably clean mechanics.
Why He Might Fail: Is it too glib to just write “Coors Field?”
19. Rafael Devers, 3B, Boston Red Sox
Why He'll Succeed: He maintains his lower half and defensive range enough to stick at the hot corner, where his plus hit and power tools make for a special profile.
Why He Might Fail: He could gain weight in his lower half, forcing a shift to first base, where the power and hit tools aren’t quite as special.
20. Raul Mondesi, SS, Kansas City Royals
Why He’ll Succeed: He’ll eventually stop being young for his level, and by that time the performance will have caught up to the tools, which include plus-plus speed, a plus glove, and a potential plus hit.
Why He Might Fail: He’ll eventually stop being young for his level, making for fewer caveats or excuses for a lack of production. The hit tool gains don’t come to fruition, making for a glove-first profile that doesn’t support more than a second-division starting role.
21. Ozhaino Albies, 2B, Atlanta Braves
Why He’ll Succeed: As a plus runner with instincts for the game and excellent contact ability, Albies is the quintessential table-setter that can play either middle infield position.
Why He Might Fail: Albies’ free-swinging approach at the plate could be exploited by advanced pitchers, preventing him from hitting for average and getting on base to utilize his game-changing speed.
22. Lewis Brinson, CF, Texas Rangers
Why He’ll Succeed: His top-shelf makeup continues to drive improvement in his selectivity, which pushes the hit tool into average range and unlocks his superstar potential as an impact defender in center with above-average offensive production and 25-plus stolen bases.
Why He Might Fail: The glove carries him to the majors, but the hit tool could still stall against premium pitching and he might not make enough consistent quality contact to ever justify a starting role.
23. Nick Williams, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
Why He’ll Succeed: Williams has become a more refined hitter in the upper minors, and while he will never be on the first page of the OBP leaderboard, his approach at the plate is better than you would expect if you just looked at his walk rate. He has prodigious plate coverage and a bit of pop, and if you squint you can convince yourself he's a center fielder.
Why He Might Fail: Well, he's probably not a center fielder. And he doesn't have that much power. The arm would limit him to left field, where tweener profiles go to die. It is also possible Dave Brundage will just decide to never play him again, too.
24. Anderson Espinoza, RHP, Boston Red Sox
Why He'll Succeed: Espinoza’s stuff is ridiculously advanced for his age/lack of experience, showing a plus-plus fastball and two plus secondary pitches while throwing strikes with all three.
Why He Might Fail: Calling him slight of build is an understatement, and as good as the stuff is, you have to wonder if he’s going to be able to handle the rigors of a 180-200 inning workload.
25. Aaron Judge, RF, New York Yankees
Why He’ll Succeed: If his surprisingly short stroke for his size doesn’t give major-league pitchers too many holes to exploit, he'll be able to access his prodigious raw power to the tune of 30-plus home runs annually.
Why He Might Fail: His size could create a strike zone that has too many soft spots for him to hit for average and his penchant for taking pitches only exacerbates the issue, limiting the functionality of his power.
26. Clint Frazier, OF, Cleveland
Why He'll Succeed: If he continues to hone his approach at the plate and stay short to the ball, he'll make enough contact that his incredible bat speed and raw power compensate for the corner outfield profile.
Why He Might Fail: His aggressive approach to the game puts his body at risk, and could lead to a career peppered by injury. The swing remains lengthy to the ball, and he could have hot and cold streaks at the big-league level, struggling to find consistency.
27. Bradley Zimmer, OF, Cleveland
Why He'll Succeed: When you hear someone say a player can “do everything” they’re talking about Zimmer, a player who has three 60 tools in his speed, arm, and glove. He can make a difference with the bat, on the bases and in the field.
Why He Might Fail: His swing can get long, limiting the effectiveness of the hit tool; his troubles with lefties could limit him to a strong-side platoon role; and he might be best fit for a corner spot.
28. Eloy Jimenez, RF, Chicago Cubs
Why He'll Succeed: One of the two or three best young hitters in the minors, Jimenez has the size, bat speed, and hitting ability to develop into a middle-of-the-order hitter. If his approach matures, 30-homer seasons with a .300 average and a good OBP aren’t out of the question.
Why He Might Fail: His aggressive approach could get exploited as his moves up the organizational ladder and down the defensive spectrum, making the bat less palatable, though still playable.
29. Jorge Mateo, SS, New York Yankees
Why He'll Succeed: The speed is the impact tool and could carry the day no matter what, but progress with his bat could make his legs all the more dangerous.
Why He Might Fail: We’ve seen speed-first prospects struggle, in the form of Billy Hamilton, and a flip from shortstop to second could impact his defensive value as well. Alternatively, he could keep yelling at executives.
30. Willy Adames, SS, Tampa Bay Rays
Why He’ll Succeed: His power to all fields pairs with an above-average hit tool to form a potent combination for a glove that rates as “good enough” to stick at short.
Why He Might Fail: The glove might still demand a shift down the defensive spectrum, making the bat more common than special.
31. Josh Bell, 1B, Pittsburgh Pirates
Why He'll Succeed: Bell is a “true” switch-hitter, meaning he’s equally adept at hitting from both sides of the plate. His excellent hand-eye coordination helps him get ahead in counts while also avoiding strikeouts, putting the ball in play exceptionally well for a hitter of his ilk.
Why He Might Fail: Because Bell is going to play first base—at least as long as he’s a member of the Pirates organization—he has a ton of pressure on his bat, and if you’re looking for your prototypical 30-homer first baseman, you should probably look elsewhere.
32. Raimel Tapia, OF, Colorado Rockies
Why He’ll Succeed: He. Barrels. Everything. That and an improving approach give rise to the hope that he can do exactly what he does now at the highest level despite the unorthodox swing.
Why He Might Fail: His best defensive spot is left field, and the tepid power projection means there’s a ton riding on that unorthodox swing, which might not work further up the chain despite present success.
33. Francis Martes, RHP, Houston Astros
Why He’ll Succeed: His primetime fastball-curve combination overwhelms right-handed hitters and his hard change keeps lefty barrels off the ball enough that he could fulfill his destiny as one of the great complex ball scouting heists in league history.
Why He Might Fail: If his swagger on the bump too routinely blurs the line of stubbornness, he might never develop enough trust in his change and nibbles too frequently, forcing a move to the bullpen (where he can still be really, really good).
34. Gleyber Torres, MI, Chicago Cubs
Why He'll Succeed: There’s no real weakness to Torres’ game. Everything but the power flashes above-average to plus, and his instincts both at the plate and in the field are impressive for any age, much less a 19-year-old.
Why He Might Fail: If he doesn’t stick at shortstop, he doesn’t have the offensive skill set to be a first-division regular. That’s all I got.
35. Franklin Barreto, 2B/SS, Oakland Athletics
Why He’ll Succeed: If his approach catches up with his bat-to-ball acumen, as tends to happen with gifted young hitters, and he grows enough defensively to stay in the middle of the infield dirt, he could blossom into a first-division regular.
Why He Might Fail: If the aggressive promotion schedule reinforces failure in the box, the hit tool never quite actualizes, and his inconsistent fundamentals push him to the grass his bat doesn’t profile nearly as well.
36. Jake Thompson, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
Why He’ll Succeed: A plus slider leads a solid four-pitch mix with the two-seamer generating plenty of groundballs. He’ll flash days when the fastball command, slider, and curveball work in concert and appear to be something more than the mid-rotation arm he really is.
Why He Might Fail: He's a four-pitch guy who could lack a consistent swing-and-miss offering, making him more of a back-end starter than something more.
37. Amir Garrett, LHP, Cincinnati Reds
Why He'll Succeed: If the big fastball, plus slider, and in-progress change combine with Garrett’s athleticism, the mix of skills could push him toward the top of the rotation.
Why He Might Fail: The change might never get to “useful," in which case he becomes a two-pitch lefty with a nasty slider, which sounds a lot like a reliever.
38. Jose De Leon, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Why He’ll Succeed: If his above-average three-pitch mix continues to play up with deception and extension, and his extreme bat-missing tendencies pair with decent command to offset his vulnerabilities to the long ball, it would fuel actualization of his strong no. 3 ceiling.
Why He Might Fail: The delivery continues to cause issues for his lower-half health, which could lead to either a domino effect of structural injuries, compromised command, or both.
39. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP, Washington Nationals
Why He’ll Succeed: If improvements to his control over the last month are for real, Lopez is able to bring a dynamic mix of plus pitches to a starter's role every fifth day. Despite a higher-effort delivery and a short frame for a righty, his good physical strength and athleticism allow Lopez the durability to be a middle-rotation piece with swing-and-miss stuff.
Why He Might Fail: The frame and effort in his delivery could preclude reliable control, making him a middle reliever with good stuff but limited long-term utility at the big-league level.
40. Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston Astros
Why He'll Succeed: If he continues to spray line drives to all fields and grows into the current projectable frame, he'll provide the power that many are anticipating, culminating in a player who can impact the game at the plate and on the bases.
Why He Might Fail: It’s pretty much all projection for his power, and that power is going to be a prerequisite rather than a luxury if he ends up in a corner.
41. Sean Newcomb, LHP, Atlanta Braves
Why He’ll Succeed: He has a big fastball, a potential plus curveball, and has struck out a batter per or better at every minor-league level. Did we mention he's left-handed?
Why He Might Fail: Well, we definitely haven't mentioned yet that he walks a lot of dudes. Despite fairly simple mechanics, Newcomb struggles to repeat his delivery, and still lacks a clear third pitch. He may end up better-suited to a late-inning role.
42. Kevin Newman, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates
Why He'll Succeed: If his hit tool proves the doubters wrong, emerging as a plus or better bat despite the near-complete lack of power, and he’s able to stick at short, the entire package equates to an above-average player.
Why He Might Fail: A move down the defensive spectrum would put more pressure on a bat that is already without hope for pop, and could push the entire profile into utility territory.
43. Hunter Renfroe, RF, San Diego Padres
Why He'll Succeed: Big-league teams are always fixing for right-handed power, and Renfroe has the goods. He won’t be a high-OBP guy but he could combine plus pop with a .275 batting average at full maturity.
Why He Might Fail: His free-swinging ways hinder his hunt for power and push potential OBP problems to the surface. Right-handed power is the tool du jour, but it might show itself in a platoon role for Renfroe.
44. Brent Honeywell, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Why He’ll Succeed: The screwball gets the headlines—and it makes for good headlines—but Honeywell is more than a one-trick pony, and the depth of his arsenal allows him to churn through lineups as a mid-rotation starter.
Why He Might Fail: He’s referred to as “Brett” so often that he loses his vaunted confidence, doesn’t go after hitters, becomes a nibbler, and eventually an erratic bullpen arm.
45. Josh Hader, LHP, Milwaukee Brewers
Why He'll Succeed: Hader has two pitches that can give big-league hitters fits: A mid-90s fastball that has plenty of life, and a slider that is a true swing-and-miss pitch with its tilt and depth.
Why He Might Fail: The change is still in the developmental stages, the command and control both leave a lot to be desired, and his mechanics scare the heck out of many.
46. Jorge Alfaro, C, Philadelphia Phillies
Why He'll Succeed: If he refines his approach to the point that it allows both the hit and (big raw) power to fully blossom, his high-end athleticism allows him to stick behind the plate where his arm is a true weapon. He could the rare middle-of-the-order catcher.
Why He Might Fail: The glove might not work behind the plate, which would put too much pressure on a profile that’s dependent on a merely solid hit tool, even if the expected power does arrive.
47. Yohander Mendez, LHP, Texas Rangers
Why He’ll Succeed: Deception and a three-pitch mix has propelled Mendez to a mid-rotation profile, highlighted by a potent changeup and a solid fastball from the left side.
Why He Might Fail: He’s just now tasting Double-A, and many a plus changeup has carved up the lower minors only to stall at the upper levels. If he does stall, he can be a relief option who is effective against both sides thanks to the cambio.
48. Luis Ortiz, RHP, Texas Rangers
Why He'll Succeed: Ortiz works into the mid-90s with his fastball, and between that and a bat-missing slider, he has the one-two punch to thrive as a second or third starter. He throws strikes too.
Why He Might Fail: If he fails to develop a competent weapon to combat left-handed batters, it'll push him toward the back of the rotation or the back of the bullpen.
49. Brett Phillips, CF, Milwaukee Brewers
Why He’ll Succeed: If gains in power and approach that he made at Double-A stick around, it turns him into an above-average offensive weapon with an impact arm in center.
Why He Might Fail: If his laugh cascades around the rafters of Miller Park, it could touch off a seismic event that dislodges the beer slide and initiates a Rube Goldbergian series of events that drowns Bernie Brewer, knocks the sausage-race Brat unconscious, and leads to a pitchfork-wielding mob chasing him to Sheboygan, where he’s last seen jet skiing off across the dark waters of Lake Michigan.
50. Ian Happ, 2B, Chicago Cubs
Why He’ll Succeed: When he finds a long-term defensive home he'll be a solid, well-rounded regular with quality makeup and clubhouse contributions. Does a little bit of everything offensively, hitting for average, some power, and putting up double-digit stolen base totals.
Why He Might Fail: His longer swing and high strikeout totals could get exposed against big-league competition, and the unusual tool set might never quite fit an everyday profile, in which case Happ would ultimately have more of a utility future.
Special thanks to Brendan Gawlowski, Wilson Karaman, Christopher Crawford, Jeffrey Paternostro, Adam McInturff, Mark Anderson, and Bret Sayre for their assistance on this article.
Craig Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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