July 6, 2017
Midseason Top 50
The ground rules haven’t changed here, folks. Our midseason list update does not include 2017 draftees, 2017 J2 signings, or any prospect-eligible player currently in the majors. This is going to change again in two months, so it’s a little more fluid than our offseason lists, but Craig tells me that the people love lists. So lists they shall have - Jeffrey Paternostro
Why He’ll Succeed: Moncada is a true five-tool player, with potential plus or better grades in all five slots. Slot that in at an up-the-middle-spot, throw in a dash of 70-grade pop, and you have the recipe for a perennial all-star.
Why He Might Fail: Moncada may end up more of a four-tool player, and when the missing tool is hit, the profile can get volatile. There’s potential for a lot of swing-and-miss here, and while a .230 or .240 hitting second baseman with pop is still a regular, it’s not an impact one. There’s also more true ‘bust’ potential than you’d like as your number one prospect, but hey, we put a pitcher who immediately blew out at one preseason. Risk doesn’t bother us.
Why He’ll Succeed: Rosario is a plus shortstop glove with plus-plus speed, and the bat has continued to develop. He’s a potential five-tool shortstop and only slots in behind Moncada because of varying reports on the ultimate power projection.
Why He Might Fail: The Mets may never call him up? Well, they will call him up eventually, where his unusual hand path—though it’s less unorthodox than it used to be—and aggressive approach may struggle against major league stuff and sequencing. The glove and speed should keep him in the lineup regardless though.
Why He’ll Succeed: Mejia barrels everything and has shown power from both sides of the plate. He’s a potential 7 hit, 5 pop catcher, and he’s improved enough defensively to make us confident he sticks as a backstop.
Why He Might Fail: We’re pretty confident Mejia is a catcher. If we were positive Mejia is a catcher, he’d have a good case for number one. His smaller frame might not hold up under the rigors of a 120-game major league catching assignment, making him more of a C/DH type. Bat could play there too though.
Why He’ll Succeed: Hey there, it’s another potential five-tool up-the-middle player. Robles is a sure shot centerfielder whose plus-plus speed will cause havoc on the bases and hoover up balls on the dirt. Oh yeah, he can really hit too, and some evaluators think there is average-or-better power to come. That’s a monster player.
Why He Might Fail: The offensive tools require a fair bit more projection than the defensive ones, and Robles may end up more of a Manny Margot type. Actually it feels like we wrote almost this same entry about Margot last year.
Why He’ll Succeed: Devers garners easy plus hit and power grades on his bat and one or both of those may end up light. He’s a better third baseman than you think with soft hands and a strong arm. He can make the necessary plays to stick there, where the bat could make him an all-star.
Why He Might Fail: The body is high maintenance, and while he’s a better third baseman than you think now, that might be less true five years from now. It isn’t hard to see a first baseman with an aggressive approach who is a useful regular, but not a star.
Why He’ll Succeed: While the tools might not be as loud as the infielders ahead of him, Rodgers will show all five, including a plus hit/power combo. The fears early in his pro career he might have to move down the defensive spectrum are starting to dissipate, as he’s shown himself to be a capable, sure-handed glove at the 6, making the offensive tools even more enticing.
Why He Might Fail: The offensive tools may end up closer to average, which would make him—get this—a useful regular, but not a star.
Why He’ll Succeed: Torres finally moved from bat projection to stud bat, actualizing his power into game situations while showing advanced hitting ability and approach. After conquering Double-A, he was on the precipice of taking over the second or third base job in New York (and a touch higher on early drafts of this list) until tearing his non-throwing UCL in a freak baserunning mishap.
Why He Might Fail: We honestly have no idea if or how Tommy John on a position player’s non-throwing arm will affect him. The raw power may never play to full in games, leaving him a hit-tool driven second baseman.
Why He’ll Succeed: Jimenez is the first prospect on our list that is likely to end up pretty far right on the defensive spectrum. So you’d expect a hell of a bat. Jimenez looks like he will deliver with thirty home run pop and more hit tool utility and approach than you’d expect from the still-accurate-descriptor “classic right field profile.”
Why He Might Fail: Jimenez is the first prospect on our list who is likely to end up pretty far right on the defensive spectrum. So there better be a hell of a bat.
Why He’ll Succeed: He was no. 1 before the season for a reason. There’s top-of-the-rotation stuff here with a true 8 fastball as a starter and two potential plus offspeeds. He’ll come off Tommy John rehab into a major league spot of some sort, and if the stuff comes back, he could be one of the better starters in baseball as soon as 2019. That’s still a quicker timetable than a lot of the names below him.
Why He Might Fail: Guys don’t always come all the way back from Tommy John. Reyes has some stuff to give back and still be a good major league arm, but you wonder a bit more now if the good major league arm might be best deployed in the late innings.
Why He’ll Succeed: Elite athleticism means potential gold glove defense in center and a dynamic power/speed combo at the plate. He’s made a habit of tinkering with his swing, eliminating some holes and giving hope that he can continue to do so going forward.
Why He Might Fail: There’s a balance of risk to reward with a profile like Brinson’s. His holes were exploited in a brief cameo and that could continue against MLB pitchers going forward. Despite his aptitude, the learning curve could be steep, with several years of struggles before it all clicks, if it ever does.
Why He’ll Succeed: He’s 19 and mashing in Double-A, after mashing in Advanced-A, after mashing in A. The tools back up the performance and he’s closer to the majors than you think. He might end up sacrificing some hit for pop, but he potentially pairs that with a centerfield profile. And it’s significant pop.
Why He Might Fail: In five years he has a chance to be 24, and the swing-and-miss might eat up his offensive value while the body forces him to right field.
12. Juan Soto, OF, Washington Nationals
Why He’ll Succeed: He’s been dubbed “The Dominican Bryce Harper.” You really need more? Okay fine, it’s a classic right field profile with a short stroke that portends continued good contact and produces surprising pop. Maybe he’s not Bryce Harper, but Nomar Mazara sure seems possible.
Why He Might Fail: Nomar Mazara actually hasn’t been great yet? Now we think both Mazara and Soto will get there in the end, but you have to hit an awful lot to be a good right fielder.
Why He’ll Succeed: Yeah, he’s probably a first baseman in the end. If there’s 7 hit/7 power here does anyone care?
Why He Might Fail: He’s probably a first baseman in the end. Smashing the Midwest League at 18 is nice, but that’s a long way from the majors, and the bat’s going to have to carry the profile. If it falls short, he’s a guy, but not a dude.
Why He’ll Succeed: After having everyone tell me the power would come this offseason while I gave them the side eye, welp, here it is.
Why He Might Fail: He’s played more and more right field each year, and power against Double-A arms may not translate to better ones. The old school swing plane is unusual enough that major league arms might be able to exploit it.
Why He’ll Succeed: Senzel is a safe, polished college bat that has hit well at appropriate assignments in his first full pro season. The tools back up the performance, and while it’s not a super sexy profile, he’s a good bet to be an above-average third baseman in the majors carried by a plus hit tool and strong approach at the plate.
Why He Might Fail: While it’s not hard to find evaluators that see average or better pop for Senzel eventually, that’s not a sure thing, and there isn’t a standout tool here generally. He may just end up an unspectacular role 5 third baseman.
Why He’ll Succeed: They’re good screwballs, Brent. Honeywell also features mid-90s velocity, and an assortment of average-or-better secondaries. He also knows how to deploy his whole arsenal, and the profile is better than the sum of its parts. It might very well add up to a number two starter.
Why He Might Fail: Honeywell doesn’t always have that mid-90s velo in every outing, and he can be a bit more hittable at times than you’d expect given the stuff. That kind of sounds like one of those frustrating mid-rotation arms we write about 25-50 spots lower on this kind of list.
Why He’ll Succeed: Two plus or better offerings, advanced present control and command, a starter’s body, If you were sculpting a pitching prospect from scratch, he might look a lot like Keller.
Why He Might Fail: Even the Venus de Milo’s arms fell off.
Why He’ll Succeed: Sixto may have the best stuff on this list of the guys not currently sitting out the season due to Tommy John surgery. He can touch 100 when he needs it, but prefers to sit mid-90s with a fastball he can cut or run. He shows above-average fastball command already. Sixto will throw five to seven pitches in total—depending on how strict your categorizations are—and all of them could end up plus. There’s a legitimate ace outcome on the table here.
Why He Might Fail: Sixto is listed at six foot. He is probably not six foot. There are general concerns here about fastball plane and durability, and the Phillies have been very careful with his usage in A-ball this year. We simply don’t know if the frame can hold up to the rigors of a starting workload, at least not without bleeding some of his top-level stuff.
Why He’ll Succeed: You can make an argument Buehler has the best raw stuff in the minors right now. The fastball can touch 99, and he complements it with two advanced breaking pitches, both of which are potentially plus major league offerings.
Why He Might Fail: His frame and mechanics don’t exactly scream “this is a safe starting pitching prospect.” He has been healthy for only the last ten months. I’m not going to overuse “also, he’s a pitcher” on this list, but it feels appropriate here at least.
20. J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadelphia Phillies
Why He’ll Succeed: We will be the last place to give up on JPC, and there’s good reason for that. He’s a good shortstop glove with an advanced approach at the plate. You can handwave some of his offensive struggles in the upper minors to a series of minor injuries and focus on a potential plus hit tool with surprising raw pop lurking within as well.
Why He Might Fail: We implore you not to scout the statline, but he’s a career .232/.328/.323 hitter in over a season worth of PA in the International League. He might just not be that good a hitter?
21. Austin Meadows, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
Why He’ll Succeed: He has a long track record of minor league success. He has a well-rounded tool box that would look nice as an everyday outfielder in PNC Park.
Why He Might Fail: He has a recent track record of struggling against Triple-A pitching. He doesn’t have much of a track record of staying healthy.
Why He’ll Succeed: The plus power/speed combo ends up carrying the profile at whatever position he ends up. And hoo boy are the early returns there encouraging.
Why He Might Fail: That position is unlikely to be shortstop and there is risk that he whiffs enough that the power doesn’t play in games, and he isn’t on base enough to utilize his speed.
Why He’ll Succeed: An explosive, upper-90s fastball from a 6-foot-7 lefty will cover a multitude of sins. A wipeout upper-80s slider should hide the rest. There is significant upside here.
Why He Might Fail: That’s a lot of limbs to corral. Puk is mechanically inconsistent, his command is below-average, and his changeup a work in progress. There is significant downside risk here.
24. Kolby Allard, LHP, Atlanta Braves
Why He’ll Succeed: If there is a recurring theme to the list, it would be “19-year-old Braves dudes killing the Southern League.” Allard came back from a 2016 back issue, skipped Advanced-A and hasn’t missed a beat. He features a low-90s fastball, paired with a potential plus hook, and enough control and command to slot into a mid-rotation spot before he can legally drink.
Why He Might Fail: The fastball is merely above-average. There’s a history of back issues. Also, he’s a pitcher (who might end up profiling as a command and control no. 4 lefty type) (okay this may show up a couple more times).
25. Michael Kopech, RHP, Chicago White Sox
Why He’ll Succeed: The 105 report may have been a wonky gun, but Kopech is no stranger to triple digit heat, and he may have the highest sitting velocity of any pitcher at any level, majors or minors (sorry Thor). There’s a plus slider lurking in the profile too. He doesn’t need much of a change or command bump to be a scary starting pitching prospect.
Why He Might Fail: He does need a change and command bump though. And while you don’t need to be too fine with 100-mph gas, Kopech has struggled to throw strikes with his arsenal and has already set a career high for IP in a season in 2017. There’s legitimate questions about his ability to start, and 100 mph and a plus slider isn’t as special in the pen as it was even five years ago.
26. Willy Adames, SS, Tampa Bay Rays
Why He’ll Succeed: He continues to stick at shortstop (pretty likely now). He maintains his hit tool against major league pitching (we’re reasonably confident). And he adds some more game pop (not impossible)
Why He Might Fail: He ends up at second base (It’s the Rays, they might even play him at first). His hit tool only plays to average against major league arms (major league baseball is hard, man). And he tops out around 10 bombs a year (that’s been about the number so far).
27. Alex Verdugo, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Why He’ll Succeed: If you’re going to have one carrying tool, the hit tool is a good one to have. Verdugo’s might be double plus. He’s got a dynamic arm too, which should serve him well in right field if he can’t stick up the middle.
Why He Might Fail: There’s a decent chance he doesn’t stick up the middle as his speed is average and he could slow down as he matures. If the hit tool isn’t what we think it is, there’s not a ton to fall back on.
28. Yadier Alvarez, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Why He’ll Succeed: The raw stuff is so good you could open a restaurant in a trendy part of NYC. It’s really easy, elite velocity paired with two potential plus secondaries. He’s long, lanky and has the athleticism to make it all work as a starter.
Why He Might Fail: The control and command are loose enough, and the changeup far away enough that he might not be a starter if it one or more of those aspects don’t take a significant step forward.
29. Bo Bichette, SS, Toronto Blue Jays
Why He’ll Succeed: While we predicted Bichette would make the 2018 101, he was the biggest jumper from our preseason rankings in terms of pure real estate and arrived here a few months early. Why? An advanced approach paired with the controlled violence in his swing led him to blitz Midwest League arms and dispel concerns about the risk in the offensive profile. It looks like the bat might play anywhere.
Why He Might Fail: The bat might play anywhere, but the glove likely won’t play at shortstop. The length and leverage in the swing means he won’t hit .380 at higher levels. He may not hit .280.
Why He’ll Succeed: Tools play, the old adage goes, and Taveras has enough of them to stock your local Ace Hardware (stop giggling, Craig), assuming your local shop carries exactly five tools. That’s more than enough to make him one of the better center field prospects in baseball though and a potential star, albeit one that carries a lot of risk, because...
Why He Might Fail: ...those tools haven’t actually played yet. There’s enough fallback on the center field glove to get him to the majors, but we are a ways from the bat allowing for more than that,
31. Lucas Giolito, RHP, Chicago White Sox
Why He’ll Succeed: I mean, it will look really bad if the only OFP 8 reports we have in the archive are all Giolito and he’s just a setup dude. So here’s hoping the stuff is starting to come back as reports have indicated.
Why He Might Fail: Well, we now have a few years of reports that the fastball velocity is down, the fastball command is fringy, and the curveball command is worse than that. There is no such thing as a pitching prospect, I have been told, and a late-inning reliever outcome doesn’t look so bad now.
32. Mike Soroka, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Why He’ll Succeed: Soroka is a precocious arm, already carving up Double-A hitters at 19 by hitting is spots with a plethora of average or better offerings. He has the frame to start and the stuff to sit in the middle of a big league rotation.
Why He Might Fail: While his success at Double-A gives us more hope for the profile (and gave him a big bump from his preseason ranking), it’s still not clear that there’s an out pitch here, and all his polish and pitchability may not miss enough major league bats to be more than a backend starter.
Why He’ll Succeed: He’s an everyday shortstop with plus hit and speed tools that round out a well-balanced profile on both sides of the ball at the 6.
Why He Might Fail: He’s an everyday second baseman who hits some, but never develops enough power to be an above-average regular at the 4.
34. Jorge Alfaro, C, Philadelphia Phillies
Why He’ll Succeed: Long-heralded catching prospect with huge raw tools, questions about whether he will stick behind the dish, and some post-hype fatigue around him...hmm, sounds familiar.
Why He Might Fail: Long-heralded catching prospect with huge raw tools, questions about whether he will stick behind the dish, and some post-hype fatigue around him...hmm, sounds familiar.
35. Triston McKenzie, RHP, Cleveland Indians
Why He’ll Succeed: He already dominates with a fastball in the low-90s and a potential plus curve. Just imagine the potential above-average major league starter he’ll be 30 pounds and three extra mph from now.
Why He Might Fail: His physical comp is closer to Christian Bale in The Machinist than it is a major league starter. Despite gaudy age-relative-to-league performance you are still betting on projection that may or may not come.
36. Carson Kelly, C, St. Louis Cardinals
Why He’ll Succeed: Kelly’s continued to hit in 2017, dispelling concerns that his 2016 was the offensive outlier. He’s a plus glove behind the plate and that should carry the profile even if his newfound power doesn’t translate against major league arms.
Why He Might Fail: Catchers are weird, man.
37. Chance Adams, RHP, New York Yankees
Why He’ll Succeed: He’s probably a MLB fourth starter already.
Why He Might Fail: It’s more of an overall package with no obvious out pitch, and he’s only been a starter since his first full pro season last year.
38. Isan Diaz, SS, Milwaukee Brewers
Why He’ll Succeed: There’s the potential for an above-average hit/power combo with a mature approach from an up-the-middle position with Diaz. He can already shorten his stroke versus same-side arms for contact and muscle up against right-handers for power.
Why He Might Fail: He might be up the middle but it’s unlikely to be at short. That puts pressure on a bat that can be short to the ball, but still entails a lot of swing and miss. If he can’t make enough contact, the power isn’t going to play to the point to support a three true outcomes player.
39. Sandy Alcantara, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
Why He’ll Succeed: Number one regularly hits 100 and he’s got developing secondary stuff.
Why He Might Fail: As with many pitchers in this area, command is a more theoretical construct, leading him to struggle some at Double-A. The bullpen may await.
40. Ozzie Albies, IF, Atlanta Braves
Why He’ll Succeed: He hits (a bunch) and runs (very quickly) until they tag him out while manning an up-the-middle position.
Why He Might Fail: The hardest thing to be sure of is how a hit tool like this will play against major league arms, and well, if he doesn’t hit there isn’t a ton more to the profile.
Why He’ll Succeed: He can hit and hit for power. He’s got above-average bat speed, the ability to control the bat head, and impressive hands that add together for potential plus power.
Why He Might Fail: He really has to hit because he’s not a shortstop and he might not be an infielder. If he has to move off the dirt, his arm makes him a liability anywhere but left, so...it’s a good thing he can hit.
42. Alec Hansen, RHP, Chicago White Sox
Why He’ll Succeed: He’s a big, durable righty that projects to have a plus fastball, plus curve, and average change. Yes, we are still in that mid-rotation starter range.
Why He Might Fail: The change isn’t there yet, the command isn’t there yet. He might be better suited to relief. You know the drill here.
43. Jason Groome, LHP, Boston Red Sox
Why He’ll Succeed: He may have already surpassed Lucas Giolito for the title of “prettiest natural curveball in the minors,” and he also brings a MLB quality fastball and change to a power pitcher’s body.
Why He Might Fail: He’s only pitched slightly more pro innings than you have.
44. Riley Pint, RHP, Colorado Rockies
Why He’ll Succeed: There’s potentially four average-or-better offerings here with the fastball comfortably plus-plus with the shot for even more if he refines his command.
Why He Might Fail: So about that command part…
45. Forrest Whitley, RHP, Houston Astros
Why He’ll Succeed: He’s a big, durable righty that projects to have plus fastball, plus curve and average change (plus a pretty good cutter). Yes, we are still in that mid-rotation starter range.
Why He Might Fail: He’s a big guy with long levers, and the command may never even be average. The change might also never be average. He might be better suited to relief. You know the drill here.
46. Magneuris Sierra, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
Why He’ll Succeed: An above-average hit tool paired with high-end speed is a good place to start. Mix in quality center field defense and a successful cameo at the major-league level, and baby, you got a stew goin’.
Why He Might Fail: There’s just not a ton of power and if MLB pitchers find out he can’t punish them for being in the zone, it could sink the profile down to a reserve outfielder.
47. Justus Sheffield, LHP, New York Yankees
Why He’ll Succeed: He’s a lefty with a mid-90s fastball that shows good late life and a potential wipeout slider.
Why He Might Fail: He’s a short lefty who doesn’t always command that fastball and only shows occasional feel for the changeup.
48. Ian Anderson, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Why He’ll Succeed: He’s an cold-weather arm, so there’s possibly more projection here than your standard issue athletic prep righty. The stuff is already pretty good with a fastball that can bump the mid-nineties and a curve that flashes plus.
Why He Might Fail: Command, change-up, relief. Darmok and Jalad with the third starter projection.
49. Adrian Morejon, LHP, San Diego Padres
Why He’ll Succeed: Morejon has more upside than most of the arms in this range, with a fastball that will sit plus, a potential above-average curve, a (gasp) change that projects as an out pitch, and (double gasp) advanced command for his experience level.
Why He Might Fail: His experience level is a couple starts in the Northwest League.
50. Scott Kingery, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies
Why He’ll Succeed: After percolating through the low-minors as a quality slash-and-dash second base prospect with minimal power, Kingery suddenly broke out into one of the minor’s best overall and power hitters. Baseball is weird.
Why He Might Fail: Bluntly, nobody thinks the 2017 statistical power surge is completely composed of MLB-quality game power; if we did, he would be dozens of spots higher.
N.B. From the reports we were able to compile, it seems obvious that Luis Robert is—broadly speaking—a top 50 prospect in baseball. Picking where he falls on the top 50, however, is akin to throwing a dart until we have actual stateside looks to add to our portfolio of information. This is a continuation of sorts from my Lourdes Gurriel essay from our preseason Blue Jays list. It’s probably unavoidable that we’ll have to deal with this in the offseason—we did rank Kevin Maitan preseason after all—but the backbone of our work is live looks, and those just aren’t in the offing for Robert right now.