1. Matt Moore, SP, TB- Moore is a true staff ace and a special talent. He didn’t come into the fanfare of Stephen Strasburg, but in my opinion he’s every bit as good, if not better. He sports plus velocity from the left side, around 96 MPH, a plus-plus slider and a plus changeup, a devastating arsenal that rivals that of any pitcher in the big leagues. In 2011, his command took a massive step forward and went from being a glaring weakness to an above average part of his game. He will rank behind Trout and Harper most places, but his proximity to the majors gives him an edge to me, and his upside is limitless.
I've been casually following the minor leagues for the last couple seasons, but this year I decided to really brush up on my stuff and become knowledgeable. I still have a long way to go, but I've been spending a lot of team reading and watching video on anyone I can find, I've started putting together my own list, which hopefully have upwards of 100 players on it once I'm done. For now, I wanted to post what I've gotten through and ask for some feedback on my top 30 names and writeups. Any comments/criticisms are appreciated!
2. Bryce Harper, OF, Was- Harper is a special bat, such talents don’t come along every year or even every decade. He has plus power and a plus hit tool and has a good approach at the plate. He also has a tremendous outfield arm and is a prototypical right fielder at the big league level. He has some wheels, too, and should be able to steal 15-20 bases in the majors. At just 19 years old, he has nowhere to go but up, and I think his ceiling is Ryan Braun with more power- a true superstar.
3. Mike Trout, OF, LAA- Mike Trout became the most recent teenager to reach the majors last year at just 19 years old and held his own, a remarkable feat. He has shown a great approach at the plate and the ability to hit for both average and power. He is an elite runner with 50 SB speed, and will be an elite defender at any OF decision the Angels might choose to deploy him. However, the potential in Harper’s bat outweighs Trout’s legs to me so Trout comes in at a very close 3rd.
4. Jurickson Profar, SS, Tex- Just as there are a clear top 3 prospects in my eyes, there is a clear #4 in the class in Profar. At just 18 years old, Profar not only handled the SAL league, he excelled. While he is a smooth defender at shortstop, he is by no means an all-glove prospect. His slash line of .286/.390/.493 is superb for a player of his age in a full season league, and his 65 walks against 63 strikeouts are a thing of beauty. As if that weren’t enough, he swiped 23 bags in 32 tries. Profar has everything going for him and will be a joy to watch as he ascends to the major leagues.
5. Shelby Miller, SP, StL- Miller possesses one of the best fastballs in the minors, and he knows how to use it just as well as anybody else. His heater sits in the mid-nineties and features nice side run produced by his silky smooth delivery. He’s a great athlete, which, coupled with his gorgeous mechanics, bodes well for his command continuing to improve. He fills out his arsenal with two above-average offspeed pitches, a hard curveball and a changeup.
6. Manny Machado, SS, Bal- An unfortunate knee injury derailed Machado’s 2011, but what he was doing before that injury puts him firmly in my top 10. Machado was raking at the plate with a slugging percentage over .600 in low-A ball, which is incredible for a player of his age. He is a good defender and at the very worst will settle in as a great defensive third baseman. I’m not worried about him slowing down after being promoted and I think he’ll justify this ranking once he is fully healthy again.
7. Anthony Rendon, 3B, Was- Considered for a long time to be the #1 talent in the 2011 draft, concerns about a nagging shoulder injury caused Rendon to slide to the nationals at the 6th pick. If the shoulder checks out, he could be a steal. Rendon will likely move to 2B to accommodate his shoulder, but he will be a superb defender no matter where he plays. His bat is tremendous, though I have some concerns that his shoulder injury could sap power. He is a great pure hitter though, and he should be a fine major leaguer no matter what, even if the shoulder continues to bother him. If he’s truly 100%, he could be a superstar.
8. Julio Teheran, SP, Atl- A lanky Colombian starter with a ton of upside, Teheran got knocked around in his major league cameos but was great at AAA for a player of his age. His stuff is top notch- he has three plus offerings and is learning to command them effectively. If and when he is able to harness his stuff and command it consistently, he should be a staff ace, and at just 21 years old, my money is on him doing just that.
9. Trevor Bauer, SP, Ari- A polarizing prospect, Bauer is an explosive pitcher with an equally explosive presence on the mound. He has competitive fire and an unorthodox delivery, and a great arsenal of pitches. He can pound the zone with mid-to-upper-90s heat, and a nasty changeup and breaking ball. Some question his command, but I think his willingness to attack hitters will make him one of the most exciting pitchers, and one of the most successful, of this class of prospects.
10. Jesus Montero, C/DH/1B, Sea- The Mariners showed just how highly they think of Montero’s bat when they shipped Michael Pineda and Jose Campos to New York in exchange for him and Hector Noesi. Montero has not developed as much defensively as some hoped, but his defense is never what carried his stock as a prospect. Montero projects as one of the best hitters in baseball. He has had stretches of absolute dominance in AAA and has been continually young for his league. Montero is a great pure hitter and has prodigious power, and should be one of the more dangerous hitters in baseball for a long time to come.
11. Danny Hultzen, SP, Sea- Limited upside my ass. Hultzen has a great combination of command and stuff, and while his command is his more valuable asset his stuff is top notch as well. His low-90s fastball is just fine from the left side, especially since it features nice late break. He also has a plus changeup that misses a lot of bats. His slider is inconsistent, but in time should be an-above average pitch. I think his combination of very good stuff and dominating command will make him an ace, and even if he doesn't reach that level I can't see him being anything less than a great #3 starter.
12. Wil Myers, OF, KC- Myers’s 2011 numbers look disappointing, but nagging injuries hindered him all year and are likely to blame. He rebounded in the AFL and kept his stock from dropping with his performance there. Myers has acclimated nicely to the outfield and looks like an above-average defender there. His bat his meal ticket, he commands the strike zone and has a flawless approach at the plate. His power isn’t elite but it he has plenty and 20 HR seasons aren't out of the question. He should hit for averages well over .300 with his consistent hard contact and smooth swing. In my opinion he is one of the rare prospects that combines a high floor with a high ceiling.
13. Dylan Bundy, SP, Bal- Honestly, the only thing I don’t like about Dylan Bundy is the organization he ended up in. I love everything I read in the scouting reports, from talk of a live, 100 MPH fastball, to a plus curveball, to the above average changeup and cutter. Four pitch arsenals are rare, and for Bundy to have one at such a young age is extremely impressive. Reports of his command are also encouraging. I hated to see him end up in an organization that has seen so many promising arms flame out, but if there is any pitcher who can overcome that it’s Dylan Bundy.
14. Devin Mesoraco, C, Cin- No prospect has seen their stock rise more over the last two seasons than Devin Mesoraco. After wallowing in the low minors and looking like a first round bust, he broke out in 2010 and ascended to the upper echelon of minor league catchers, and with a solid 2011 campaign, he is the consensus #1 backstop. He has displayed the ability to play good defense and all aspects of his hitting are above-average, which will make him a top-notch big league backstop offensively.
15. Gerrit Cole, SP, Pit- A thick, 6’4" power pitcher out of UCLA, Cole was selected #1 overall in the 2011 draft. He has three-digit heat with his fastball which sits around 96, and his two developing offspeed pitches, a power curve and a changeup, show potential to be plus. He’s a bit raw for a college arm, but if his command and secondary offerings progress as expected, the sky is the limit with Cole. He could slide a ways down this list or move into the top 5 after this season, we’ll just have to sit back and enjoy the show.
16. Taijuan Walker, SP, Sea- The second Seattle pitcher in the top 30, and not the last. Just imagine if they still had Michael Pineda in town! Walker exploded last season after being a supplementary first round pick in 2010. He has high 90s heat and life on his fastball, and pairs it with a plus curveball. His changeup and command have developed nicely, and if they continue to Taijuan will be a true ace, even if he comes after Felix Hernandez and/or Danny Hultzen in the Mariners’ rotation.
17. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Col- What most see in Anthony Rendon, I also see in Nolan Arenado. An athletic third baseman, Arenado has a superb approach at the plate, walking as often as he strikes out. He plays an okay third base, and sterling reports of his work ethic bode well for his defense improving. He could hit anywhere between 20 and 30 HRs in the big leagues with good pure hitting ability, which would make him well above-average at the plate. I expect him to be making waves at the major league level as soon as 2012, and to settle in as an elite third baseman soon after.
18. Travis D’Arnaud, C, Tor- A strong defensive catcher, D’Arnaud had a phenomenal season in 2011, pounding AA pitching with a .311 batting average and 21 bombs. He strikes out more than is ideal, but he should still be a fine offensive player, especially at the catcher position while playing some of the better defense behind the plate in the majors with his great athleticism. He won’t be an elite hitter, but he also won’t be spending his time in the 8-hole, his power is real and he’s a better contact hitter than current Toronto backstop J.P. Arencibia. I see a perennial all-star caliber player here.
19. Tyler Skaggs, SP, Ari- The centerpiece of the Danny Haren trade, Skaggs is an advanced lefty who gets strikeouts in bunches. His arsenal is an impressive 3 pitch mix of a fastball that sits around 91 and he commands very well, a huge breaking plus curve, and a very effective changeup. He was spectacular in AA for a 19 year old, and has command has yet to reach the level that it should as he matures. He looks like a great #2 starter at this point.
20. Jameson Taillon, SP, Pit- Taillon was babied by Pittsburgh to start his professional career but was relatively successful statistically, and his stuff and youth are enough to keep him in the top 20 for me. He possesses a top flight fastball that has great life and sits in the mid-to-high-nineties. His curveball is also an impressive weapon, and he has two developing offerings in his slider and changeup. His command can, and should, improve, and if it does he can be a frontline starter and perhaps a legitimate staff ace.
21. Jacob Turner, SP, Det- Turner is the highest ranked pitcher on this list who I don’t really see as a potential true ace, but regardless he should be an incredibly valuable asset and a terrific big league pitcher. He has a big, durable 6’5" frame that he is continuing to grow into. His stuff is just fine- he has 3 above average offerings in his fastball, curveball and changeup and his command has continued to improve throughout his professional career. He is poised on the mound and works efficiently, and should fit in beautifully as a workhorse #2 behind Justin Verlander in Detroit.
22. Jarrod Parker, SP, Oak- Based on pure stuff alone, Parker is probably a top 5 pitching prospect. He has a filthy repertoire of 3 potential plus pitches- I look at his four and two seam fastball combo as a single offering- the four seam is straight with high-90s heat, while the deuce has nice late break with low-to-mid-90s velocity; in addition, he possesses a hard slider with late break and a changeup with hard, late sink. His command never really got going in 2011, but that isn’t a worry to me because of his athletic ability and the fact that he is fresh off of Tommy John surgery. It’s frightening to think about the kind of numbers he could put up in Oakland’s cavernous home park.
23. Xander Bogaerts, SS/3B, Bos- A revelation in 2011, Aruban sensation Xander Bogaerts has taken the prospect world by storm after posting a .250 ISO from the shortstop position as an 18 year old in full season ball, quite an impressive accomplishment. While he may very well outgrow shortstop and slide to the hot corner, he should remain a defensive asset and continue to add to his significant power. Yes, he hit just .249; yes, he struck out plenty, but scouts believe that the young Bogaerts will be able to polish his pure hitting skills and approach as he progresses. He’s a ways off, but he has a ton of upside and is a very exciting player going forward.
24. James Paxton, SP, Sea- Seattle has a lot to look forward to, as Paxton represents their third starting pitcher in the top 25, and let’s not forget that they have Felix Hernandez topping their current staff who is also very young. Paxton is another lefty who people often talk about as being similar to Hultzen, but in reality he’s a very different pitcher. His fastball is deadly in the mid-90s from the left side, and his curveball is already a plus offering. While Hultzen’s command is his biggest strength, it’s one of Paxton’s weaknesses, along with his still-a-work in-progress changeup. While I often see Paxton being profiled as a #2, I could see him being a #1 if he continues to improve the way he has so far.
25. Bubba Starling, OF, KC- One of the most tantalizing prospects in the 2011 draft, Starling is a 5-tool talent who fans of the prospect world cannot wait to see in pro ball. Often compared to players like Dave Winfield, there don’t seem to be many chinks in Starling’s armor from a talent perspective. He’s pretty trim right now, and could remain a balanced power/speed guy and perhaps play center field, or he could bulk up and play a great right field while settling in as more of a power hitter.
26. Archie Bradley, SP, Ari- A big, athletic 19 year old hurler with smooth mechanics and upper-90s heat, Bradley has the makings of a frontline starter. In addition to his stellar fastball, Bradley also features a hard breaking power curveball with plus-plus potential, and, as is the case with most young pitchers, a changeup that is a work in progress. His physical attributes and delivery suggest that he should be able to develop strong command, and assuming all goes to plan he could become a staff ace.
27. A.J. Cole, SP, Oak- In my opinion the player that made the Gio Gonzalez trade for Oakland, A.J. Cole is a lanky, athletic righty with a huge ceiling. His strength is his mid-90s fastball that erupts from his hand, and he pairs it with a plus curveball with nice sweeping motion. His changeup is still in development but has the look of an above average offering. Cole has the potential of a frontline starter, and comes with few concerns considering he is just two years removed from high school.
28. Drew Pomeranz, SP, Col- The centerpiece of the Ubaldo Jimenez deal, Pomeranz is an advanced lefty with a high floor. He held his own in a brief major league appearance and was dominant in the minors. His main weapon is his plus curveball which misses a ton of bats. He also has great command of his fastball, which sits in the low 90s, acceptable from the left side. His changeup is weak and needs to come along if he wants to become a top of the rotation guy, but his great breaking ball and command should make him a workhorse #3 starter if nothing else.
29. Miguel Sano, SS/3B, Min- The recipient of one of the biggest bonuses a Latin American signee has ever received, Sano’s calling card is his monstrous power. He won’t stick at short, the move to 3rd is a foregone conclusion, but if he is able to stay there he’ll still have plenty of defensive value. The plate discipline is about what you’d expect out of a player his age- he was just 18 during last season- but his 20 home runs in under 300 at bats are a demonstration of the kind of damage he has the potential to do at the plate.
30. Zack Wheeler, SP, NYM- The Mets did very well to cash in on Carlos Beltran’s likely short-lived resurgence when they swapped him for Wheeler, and made a mechanical change in his delivery upon his arrival that yielded great results. His fastball is his bread and butter, sitting in the mid-90s, and he is one of a few prospects that has a legitimate four pitch arsenal, though it remains to be seen whether he keeps both the slider and curveball in his repertoire. As is the case with all but a few pitchers in the minors, the biggest determinants of Wheeler’s success will be the progression of his changeup and command, but he has the potential to be a frontline big league arm.