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The 10 Biggest Breakout Prospects of 2017

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Which prospects jumped far up the rankings this year?

New York Yankees v Chicago White Sox
Miguel Andujar
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Now that the 2017 season is over a common question is what prospects have truly emerged this year? I decided to come up with a list of those guys for you.

Prospects who were in the Top 100 in the spring aren’t going to be considered other than a possible exception for a huge breakout. Prospects who have used up prospect eligibility are also being excluded.

Some of the guys I didn’t mention are because they were guys I didn’t consider breakout due to how I saw them heading into the season. That’s guys like Tampa Bay OF Jesus Sanchez, Pirates SS Cole Tucker, or Dodgers C Keibert Ruiz.

Taylor Trammell, Yusniel Diaz, Tyler Mahle, Jon Duplantier, Michael Chavis, Victor Caratini, Corbin Burnes would be the just missed. Trammell would have been the first runner up if I didn’t make an exception for one previously high rated player. All of these guys have really put themselves on the map and some(most) will be Top 100 guys heading into next year.

Finally Colton Welker and Yordan Alvarez were considered but just didn’t have enough games played. Welker absolutely would have made this list if he played more than 65 games, but he played less than half a season in total so it’s hard to label him ahead of any one of these guys.

Ronald Acuña, OF, Atlanta Braves

I mentioned a possible exception for a huge breakout. Well this is that guy. Out of the major sites, three had him in the 30s at the start of the spring, another two had him ranked in the 60s, while MLB famously left him off the list all together.

Why’d I make an exception for him? Simply because he was a middle of the pack ranked guy overall, and not a guy ranked by everyone this spring. Yet with his 20 HR/40 SB season achieved while he reached Triple A as a teenager, he’s emerged as a heavy favorite for the best prospect in baseball now that Rafael Devers has used up his eligibility. Making a jump up the rankings is one thing, but to move to the top of the chart deserves the exception.

Acuña is a true five tool talent who has only gotten better moving from High A to Double A and then to Triple A. If it wasn’t for service time and 40 man roster spots this winter, he would be ready for the big leagues now. If it wasn’t for a freak injury of a broken thumb that cost him much of 2016, he may have even forced his way there already.

Bo Bichette, SS/2B, Toronto Blue Jays

Bo Bichette wasn’t a first round pick last year, but that hasn’t stopped him from a special season. His numbers are those of a guy who should be heavily involved with the voting for any Minor League Player of the Year awards.

Through 110 games he’s hitting .362/.423/.565 with 41 doubles, four triples, 14 homers, and 22 steals. Not bad for a kid who doesn’t turn 20 until spring training to be putting up those numbers in the Midwest League and the Florida State League.

I’ll try to keep it short on him since I have a full scouting report coming, but he’s going to hit wherever he goes. And he’s going to hit for both average and power.

Forrest Whitley, RHP, Houston Astros

Another 2016 draftee, the Astros grabbed local prep arm Forrest Whitley in the first round after he re-made his body in the winter of 2015. What’s happened since that emergence with the stuff ticking up, being drafted in the first round, and reaching Double A as a teenager has been remarkable.

Whitley has mowed down hitters in three leagues this year, jumping from Low A to Double A in his first full pro season. The Astros have held him down to 88 innings, but he’s still managed a huge number of strikeouts with 137.

It’s not like he’s only having success with the strikeouts either, as he’s recorded a 2.76 ERA and 1.25 WHIP, overmatching hitters with his big fastball, plus curve, and potentially above average pitches in the slider and change.

Whitley is one of the game’s best pitching prospects already, and that will be reflected in the next version of prospect lists.

Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, San Diego Padres

Speaking of teenagers reaching Double A, Fernando Tatis Jr. is the youngest of all of them at just 18 years old. Tatis started in Low A and mashed at a clip of .281/.390/.520 with 26 doubles, seven triples, 21 homers, and 29 steals in just 117 games.

Just recently promoted to Double A, he’s already added another homer and three steals. His numbers there aren’t big, but he’s more than held his own so far despite being very young- the same age as Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

It’s not just the numbers and the aggressive assignments that stand out with Tatis. He really struggled early on and got off to a slow start, but has been doing an excellent job of making adjustments to what pitchers were throwing at him. He’s shown maturity beyond his years, something that could be due to being the son of a former big leaguer giving him a little more familiarity with the game than most teenagers.

When the spring prospect lists come out Tatis is going to rank towards the top. I’m talking about a guy who will be a clear Top 20 prospect in the game if not higher- and I think he’s probably close to the Top 10.

Did I mention he’s doing this all as a shortstop? Something tells me the Chicago White Sox are going to regret dealing him straight up for James Shields in 2016.

Austin Hays, OF, Baltimore Orioles

Austin Hays was the Orioles third round pick in 2016 out of smaller school Jacksonville. He was seen as a pretty solid prospect in the draft with a little bit of power and some speed, but he generally wasn’t viewed as an impact prospect.

The light for Hays has gone on this year though. He’s evenly split his time between High A and Double A, where he’s combined to post a slash line of .328/.364/.587 with nearly identical numbers at both stops.

Hays has continued to show that power, as he has a total of 32 doubles, five triples, and 31 homers. Like his slash numbers, these are also nearly even at both stops. I have more on him from an in person viewing, so I’ll save my thoughts for that time.

Estevan Florial, OF, New York Yankees

When the year started Estevan Florial was widely considered to be a very high upside prospect. He was also considered to be a very raw prospect who many would call a lottery ticket or a boom or bust prospect.

Since the year started Florial has done nothing but produce. He spent 91 games in Low A before spending his next 19 in High A, and has combined to hit .298/.372/.479 with 23 doubles, seven triples, 13 homers, and 23 steals.

Part of the reason the Yankees were so comfortable trading Blake Rutherford to the White Sox is because they saw Florial pass out Rutherford on their outfield prospect depth chart.

Florial is a potential five tool guy- he’s definitely a four tool guy but the hit tool is the only question mark. He’s got plenty of speed, power, defense, and throwing arm. All he needs to do is work on cutting down on the strikeouts, as he has 148 in 420 at bats.

Scott Kingery, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies

Scott Kingery was a second round pick in 2015. The only reason this bat first prospect didn’t go higher is because he was seen as a guy with zero power. That was going to be okay because he was going to hit for a high average, be a plus runner, and be a solid defender in the middle infield.

Then it changed. That non-existent power became a factor. He’s hit 26 homers so far this year, though to be fair he did have 18 in 69 games in Double A Reading- a stadium known for inflating power numbers. He’s since been promoted to Triple A where he’s hit a more normal eight in 61 games. All this while he’s hit .305 with 28 steals.

Don’t expect the Reading numbers to carry over, but the power increase is real. If he played in a more neutral Double A park, I would estimate he’d have hit between 8-12 homers instead of 18, giving him 16-20 on the year.

Michel Baez, RHP, San Diego Padres

The Padres spent $3 million on Cuban right hander Michel Baez in December, shortly before his 21st birthday. It wasn’t as highly talked about as some of their other many international signings from 2016, but he has proven to be just as talented as any of them so far.

Baez has made 11 starts, with 10 in Low A and the other in the Arizona League. Combined he is at 63.2 innings while pitching to a 2.54 ERA and 0.83 WHIP. He’s also added 89 strikeouts in those 63.2 innings.

Baez made the list despite pitching about a half season, or slightly less, of innings but his dominance plays a factor- especially the recent dominance.

He brings his plus plus fastball along with a potentially plus slider and some feel for a change. His command was considered to be something that he needed to work on, but he’s only walked nine hitters in those 63.2 innings.

It’s going to be quite the rise for Baez, from being left off prospect lists this past spring to being a clear Top 75 prospect next spring.

Bryse Wilson, RHP, Atlanta Braves

One of the most overlooked prospects on this list is Bryse Wilson. It’s not hard to be overlooked as a pitcher in a Braves system loaded with other arms that are Top 100 prospect caliber.

Wilson slipped to the fourth round in the 2016 draft because he was mostly seen as a pure fastball guy who would need to work on his other pitches after losing some developmental time due to football in high school. Of course that development has happened, as he’s mixed an above average slider and potentially average change in with his big fastball.

On the year Wilson has thrown 134 innings in Low A, pitching to a 2.55 ERA and 1.05 WHIP while striking out a batter per inning with 133 in total.

Unlike most other prep draftees Wilson doesn’t have much projection remaining as he’s already got a very strong build. However his time devoted to being a football quarterback means he likely still has plenty of room to grow with learning the finer points of pitching.

Wilson has put himself into a spot where he’s a potential Top 100 prospect at the start of next year. Not bad for a guy considered an afterthought by many this spring.

Miguel Andujar, 3B, New York Yankees

The Yankees have a real talent at third base just a step below the big leagues. The first time I saw him I wasn’t particularly impressed, but I’ve come around on him.

Between Double A and Triple A, Andujar has hit .317/.355/.503 with 36 doubles, two triples, 16 homers, plus five steals.

Andujar has really taken off this year and the power bat from third base is what really stands out in his profile along with being an above average defensive third baseman.

He’s going to need to show he can hit, but if he can he’s a guy who can be the next big Yankee trade chip- I call him that because they are pretty set with Didi Gregorius and Gleyber Torres on the left side of the infield.

Andujar has some issues but he is also a guy who could potentially be a middle of the order bat for someone if he’s able to get enough out of his hit tool.