- I'm not a scout, but lists are fun
- This list is just personal preference, and my opinions could change rather vigorously with more data and evidence
- Feedback and counterpoints are encouraged, especially from a community that I lean hard on for knowledge
- Josh Bell and Jameson Taillon were among a small handful of guys that got squeezed because I left out all prospect-eligibles who are on the MLB roster. Bell in particular deserved a write-up since he's supposedly heading back down right away; I'd guess he'd have landed in the late 30's.
- Part 2 should be posted on Thursday, and Part 3 (1-25) is TBD.
69. Grant Holmes, RHP, Dodgers
Holmes has held his own as a 20-year-old in the vaunted California League, flashing a sinking fastball and a power curve that seem to ensure a high-leverage relief role is his floor.
Though his command has wavered some in July, Holmes still boasts an improved walk rate from his time in the MWL last year. He's on track for a Double-A assignment by the end of the season, but durability remains the big question. The righthander seemed to run out of steam last August, and we're unsure if he can maintain velocity and effectiveness late in games. Holmes has never topped six innings in a pro start.
68. Anthony Alford, OF, Blue Jays
Alford has not looked right since coming back from a concussion, and the former option QB/box safety/punt returner was essentially a volunteer Toronto farmhand his first three years in the system. His busy gridiron schedule only afforded him 25 total games on the diamond, though he added an additional 36 with Canberra of the Australian Baseball League.
Still, the 21-year-old drips rare athleticism and has a sound approach despite his relative youth in 'baseball years'. In writing up Alford last month, I noticed he'd been gradually adding elements to his load in an effort to generate more power. If he's able to tap into it, it gives him five-tool potential at a premium position. On the flipside, he needs to stay out of harm's way on the field to make up for lost development time and avoid fizzling out.
67. Justus Sheffield, LHP, Indians
Sheffield looks to be turning the corner on a rough June that saw him get touched up for 14 ER in his 15 innings. Despite the bump in the road, his package of pitchability and athleticism portends a bright future.
Though undersized at 5'10", Sheffield derives power from a thick lower half and quick, loose arm action. The repeatable, low-maintenance delivery should help him stay healthy and provide a window to tightening his command. The velocity on Sheffield's low 90's heater is likely maxed out, but he uses it effectively in tandem with his pair of promising breaking balls. Thus, the things to monitor in his development will be refinement of the changeup and an effort to limit free passes.
66. David Paulino, RHP, Astros
Paulino has served his brief team-imposed suspension, but deserves extra attention because he's also said to be resting a sore right arm. Ganked by the Astros in the 2013 Jose Veras deal, Paulino's stuff ticked up in a big way upon last year's return from TJS. The 6'7" Dominican product has one of the liveliest arms in the minors, topping out in the upper 90's with his four-seamer and massaging an improved 11-5 bender into a legit bat-misser.
Paulino brings easy heat from a repeatable low-effort release, which aids his above average command and eases the burden on his arm. He's been lights-out for Corpus Christi this season in a quasi rotation role, and will try to pick up where he left off following a month-long timeout. Paulino's progress with his changeup, where his deliberation can be seen from the press box as well as the batter's box, seems to be the final piece of the puzzle in becoming a mid-rotation guy. But given how swiftly he's worked his top two offerings into shape, you might like his chances of rounding out the arsenal and sticking as a starter.
65. Jesse Winker, OF, Reds
Though all of his peripheral numbers are in line with the past, a first-half power outage followed by a wrist injury in early June have put a temporary halt to the Jesse Winker Express. He's back after a three-week layoff, and will try to regain his stroke and put himself in a position to battle for a platoon role with the Reds down the stretch.
64. Kevin Newman, SS, Pirates
Newman will never be a purveyor of power hitting, but his track record in all other areas equates to a high-floor contributor. His above-average arm and range should keep him at the premium position in the short term, while his precocious contact and on-base skills should keep him near the top of the order as he advances.
Newman isn't a 'scout's delight' that you can dream on, but instead one not to sleep on as he could factor in quickly. Last year's #19 overall pick has already reached AA Altoona in his second pro season, and owns a blistering .355/.411/.468 line through Monday.
Across the Allegheny, Pittsburgh's Jordy Mercer has kicked up his OBP but has seen his defensive metrics fall off the cliff. Mercer turns 30 in August and is under team control for two more seasons, but there could be a point soon where Newman is asked to approximate his on-base efforts while playing a superior shortstop.
63. Francisco Mejia, C, Indians
I'm willing to be reactive and include Mejia with the big boys after just a half-season of brilliance from the switch-hitting catcher. The data doesn't imply he's doing anything markedly different to see his batting average surge by .100 points, but he has some of the shiniest tools at the position and it's hard not to get swept up in his current 33-game hit parade.
In the long view, the most important factor in his development may be his body. At 5'10" 175, it's unclear how well he'd hold up behind the dish. This might be controversial, but I suspect the Indians would be willing to try Mejia at any position on the diamond except shortstop and CF if his catching career doesn't work out. He has the quick feet and cannon arm to *perhaps* be passable anywhere else, and it might be necessary to keep his explosive bat in the lineup as he climbs.
62. Carson Fulmer, RHP, White Sox
The Vanderbilt product is a polarizing prospect in baseball circles. Many are bearish on Fulmer's future as a starter because of a lack of size combined with a max-effort delivery that contributes to wavering command.
The bullpen question is one that'll likely take a couple more years to answer, as the Southsiders are highly invested in Fulmer and will give him every chance to succeed as a starter. He definitely has the stuff that plays in a rotation: mid-90's heater with lethal movement, a high-70's curve with plus potential, and usable change that could play up if he can master the arm speed part of the equation.
Fulmer was challenged with a Double-A assignment this April, and saw his stock take a bit of a tumble following an inconsistent and wild first half in the Southern League. But he's showing signs of life coming off his best three-start stretch of the season, and has an outside shot at earning an MLB call-up before the year is through. White Sox management is operating a must-win campaign with several jobs on the line, and it'll be all hands on deck to help the playoff push.
61. Luis Ortiz, RHP, Rangers
'Lulu' has shown advanced stuff and feel for a 20-year-old, breezing through the CAL League and now holding his own in AA Frisco on the strength of his fastball-slider combo. Like most mid-rotation hopefuls Ortiz needs to get his changeup established to help his cause, and his improved work against LHH's this year is a positive indicator.
Despite a proven arsenal, Ortiz harbors plenty of risk in the areas of stamina, conditioning, and health. His forearm and elbow issues in the past two years point to a heavy burden on his arm, and also have prevented him from building up innings. Generously listed at 6'3, 230 lbs., Ortiz has already surpassed his career high in IP and figures to be handled with caution in the second half.
60. Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, Blue Jays
Reid-Foley is one of the hottest pitchers going in affiliated ball, and his first five FSL starts this year have been off the charts: 31.1 IP, 38 K, 7 BB, .139 BAA. That he's also been able to recreate Rance Mulliniks' mustache some 20 years later shows his dedication to Blue Jays' team spirit and style.
The rub with Reid-Foley is he's moved to a simplified, modified stretch version of his torque-heavy delivery. The results are evident as he's cut his walk rate in half from last year, going from 6.3 to 3.0 BB/9. Competition in the AA Eastern League would really test his mettle, and he may get a look there just as Connor Greene did at the tail end of 2015.
59. Luke Weaver, RHP, Cardinals
Weaver's season got off to an unlucky start after fracturing his left wrist in an outfield collision. He's returned with a vengeance, dominating Texas League hitters to the tune of a sub-1 ERA in his first seven turns. The FSU product is another polarizing prospect in the community, with many pointing to his lack of quality breaking ball and dangerous arm action as reasons he'll end up in the bullpen.
Weaver's current scouting report might be due for a re-write. He's showing promise with a slider-cutter combo that fit snugly with his low-mid 90's heat and one of the best changeups in the minors. His command of the arsenal stands out, as he owns a stingy 1.7 BB/9 with just 4 HRA in his first 158 pro innings.
The optimistic view is that Weaver could add mass on his wiry 6-foot-2 frame to better support his arm. I don't mind stirring the pot in suggesting that if the Cards are forced to reach down for an arm this summer, Weaver could be the choice* over Alex Reyes.
(*Futures Game Update: Nevermind.)
58. Tyler Jay, LHP, Twins
Jay is a late-bloomer who busted out in a multi-inning relief role with the Illini and Team USA. The Twins started him slow but gave him a chance in the Fort Myers rotation to start the year, despite only two spot starts in his college career.
Jay's first 13 turns in high-A were exceptional considering the context. He surpassed 80 pitches in 10 of them, struck out a batter per inning, and earned an FSL All-Star nod. His performance earns him an early July promotion to AA, but John Manuel reports he'll work out of the bullpen for the rest of the year. The counterpoint to this report is a 95-pitch debut on Sunday for Chattanooga, hinting the Illinois native is still ready to roll.
Jay's command of a four-pitch mix, highlighted by a filthy FB-SL combo, appears to have played quite well in a starter's role. But we'll probably have to wait another year to answer questions about whether his heavy arm action, coming from an undersized frame, will hold up in the rotation.
57. Brett Phillips, OF, Brewers
Phillips' star has waned just slightly in the first half, as his K-rate sits north of 30%. The bright side is the whiffs are about the only thing standing in the way of a promotion. Phillips combines unquestioned defensive ability with a max-effort style that ensures he gets the most out of his tools.
Phillips deserves a pass for his slow start because he's restored his power stroke, added some walks, and appears to be working with a new approach in his second trip through AA. MLBFarm has the centerfielder flicking eight of his 11 HR this season to left, a year after registering just one oppo job. His next stop would be Colorado Springs in the PCL, where Phillips could get the last laugh over those who doubted him.
Hunter Renfroe, photo by Harry How/Getty Images
56. Hunter Renfroe, OF, Padres
At 24, Renfroe is likely ready for a shot in the Show and may get it soon if the Pads are able to find a taker for Matt Kemp or Melvin Upton. His current .335/.362/.611 line is due for a sizable correction when he moves from the PCL to Petco, but he still has the goods to profile as a classic RF when he arrives.
Roughly 3,800 feet above sea level, El Paso's hitter-friendly element has no doubt aided Renfroe's league-leading 21 bombs and .276 ISO. But a trip down the rabbit hole reveals that he went from a toe-tap to a leg lift in his load immediately after joining El Paso last August.
The proof of these changes are in the pudding, and the results jump out like the crusted film that sits on top. The Mississippi State alum has seen modest gains in his untenable K-rate, but the real kicker is he's back to bashing southpaws while tapping into his double-plus power to the opposite field. Per MLBFarm, Renfroe's ripped 8 HR to right-center after hitting none in 2015.
55. Jorge Alfaro, C, Phillies
Alfaro is making low-key but necessary progress in his second spin through AA. He's been overshadowed by Reading teammates Cozens and Hoskins, but has cut down on K's and tapped into oppo-power that he hadn't previously shown.
Displaying more contact to all fields is a common theme among talented prospects repeating a level, as Alfaro is. What's uncommon is finding a backstop that matches Alfaro's requisite tools and improvement with the bat, putting him in the conversation for best catcher in the minors.
54. Robert Stephenson, RHP, Reds
Stephenson is still highly-regarded for a killer FB-CRV combo, but seems to be stagnating in the high minors and hasn't curbed a troublesome walk rate since hitting AA ball three years ago. He's also served up 11 longballs in 88 first-half innings, in what would be the highest HR rate of his career.
At just 23, Stephenson still has time on his side as well as a durable track record. His high-end stuff gives him the ceiling of a #2 starter, but to reach it will require gains in command and likely some initial struggles at the big league level.
53. Jake Bauers, OF/1B, Rays
I'm not at all concerned with whether Bauers can reach 20 HR annually, but instead intrigued with the ceiling of a player who's shown an advanced approach at every stop despite being between 3-5 years younger than the competition.
The millenial version of J.T. Snow has added to his versatility by manning RF for over three-quarters of his games this year. He's also answered questions by ratcheting up the power and walk rate slightly in his second turn through the Southern League. Bauers doesn't turn 21 until October, but could get a look at AAA Durham before the season is over.
52. Alex Verdugo, OF, Dodgers
As a 20-year-old in AA, Verdugo's done nothing to hurt his standing as a future sparkplug capable of playing all three outfield spots. The most notable development is a current walk rate nearly double what he showed in first crack at full-season ball. But he's also making the most of his hacks, ratcheting up the power to his pull side while continuing to be a certified sprayer of hard contact.
Verdugo may not have the foot speed desired in center, but he could be preferable there over Joc Pederson in the early portion of his career. Right field would be a natural fallback for the former pitcher.
51. Tyler O'Neill, OF, Mariners
The son of a former Mr. Canada bodybuilder, O'Neill has blitzed the Southern League with his trademark power and also enhanced other facets of his game. He's doubled down with improved selectivity and less K's this year, while trading in groundballs for more all-fields, line drive contact. O'Neill moves quite well for a tank, and should continue to provide above average defense in right field.
The venom in O'Neill's bat is apparent, and his line-to-line power is uncommon. If the 21-year-old can make any progress with the whiff rate in his last minor league stop, he could be a true menace once he arrives in Seattle.
Juuuust a Bit Outside:
Domingo Acevedo, Kolby Allard, Christian Arroyo, Harrison Bader, Tyler Beede, Phil Bickford, Bobby Bradley, Dylan Cozens, Jacob Faria, Derek Fisher, Jack Flaherty, Ke'Bryan Hayes, Teoscar Hernandez, Ariel Jurado, Mitch Keller, Andrew Knapp, Michael Kopech, Triston McKenzie, Ryan McMahon, Yohander Mendez, Frankie Montas, Braden Shipley, Mike Soroka, Dillon Tate