Everyone loves lists, so I tried my hand at creating a top 100 list for the upcoming season. As far as I can tell, I’ve only seen one of these players in person, so I can’t make my own evaluations. What I can do is digest and analyze information provided from the pros like Jim Callis, Kevin Goldstein and Keith Law. I can look at the stats and with all the information I have available, determine which player I think could provide more ML value. I couldn’t have tried this without all the great work those guys do compiling scouting reports and catching players themselves.
I devised a system of arriving at 100. I created aggregate ranking of each team’s top 10 prospects, combining lists from Baseball America, Kevin Goldstein, Keith Law and John Sickels. I took the best prospect for each team and made six lists of five, one for each division (Houston has already moved to the AL West for these purposes.) I then chose the best prospect from each division out of those short lists for a semi-final of six players where I chose the best one to take the next spot in the ranking. I would then replace players on the division list and semi-final list when necessary. These are the results:
I didn’t include Yu Darvish or Yoenis Cespedes as older players coming from foreign professional leagues, but if I were to include them, they’d certainly be in the top eight.
100. Jonathan Schoop, INF, Baltimore: Schoop could be a long time double play partner with another Orioles prospect much higher on this list. Right now he plays shortstop, but it’s possible that he outgrows the middle infield. Fortunately for Baltimore, he has the fielding chops to handle any spot in the infield.
99. Jose Campos, RHP, Yankees: After 2009, the Yankees traded Arodys Vizcaino as a very young prospect in the failed Javier Vazquez trade. In the Jesus Montero trade, the Yankees were on the receiving end this time. Like Vizcaino, Campos hasn’t pitched in a full-season league yet, but his ceiling is very high.
98. Matt Purke, LHP, Washington: Purke could have been a top five pick in last year’s draft, but a lingering shoulder injury affected his stuff and lowered his stock dramatically. Most expected him to go back to TCU for his junior season, but Washington took a risk and gave him the big signing bonus he was looking for. He has the stuff to be a big riser this season.
97. Alex Meyer, RHP, Washington: Meyer is another big bonus draft pick by Washington from the 2011 draft. The Nationals are hoping their development staff can tap into his potential by improving his command. Even if he doesn’t pan out as a starter, he has the stuff to be a late inning reliever.
96. Brandon Nimmo, OF, Mets: Nimmo was a surprise pick on all fronts. Wyoming isn’t exactly a baseball hotbed, and it was expected that the Mets would not be willing to meet the bonus demands of a player that wanted overslot money. They did, and he could be a cornerstone for the Mets’ rebuild. He’s athletic and not incredibly raw like a lot of similar players.
95. Dillon Howard, RHP, Cleveland: After the Ubaldo Jimenez trade emptied the system of high ceiling arms, it was imperative that Cleveland meet Howard’s bonus demands. He has the look of a frontline starter with his huge, durable frame, and his fastball gets both swings and misses and ground balls.
94. Taylor Guerrieri, RHP, Tampa Bay: With the information that’s been made public, it’s puzzling why makeup concerns caused Guerrieri fell all the way to Tampa Bay’s pick. He’s at the head of the pack when it comes to their big draft, and the Rays hope he can develop to replenish a system that graduated a lot of high ceiling talent in recent years.
93. Jed Bradley, LHP, Milwaukee: After trades for Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum last offseason, the Brewers were left with a barren farm system. Fortunately, they had two first round picks that they used to draft pitchers that could replace Greinke and Marcum if they depart as free agents. Bradley offers a middle of the rotation ceiling with an above average fastball, some nice secondary pitches and an ability to throw strikes.
92. Brandon Jacobs, OF, Boston: Jacobs ends the run of 2011 draft picks. He’s a big slugger that will occupy left field, so he’ll really need to hit to profile at the position. He showed he can do it in low-A with 17 home runs and a .881 OPS in 115 games. If he keeps hitting as he advances through the system, he has the power to rank much higher.
91. Brian Goodwin, CF, Washington: In recent drafts, Washington has had a philosophy of taking high ceiling talent and hoping their development staff can make them major leaguers. Goodwin and his five tools fit that mold, and Washington thinks he could be their centerfielder of the future, a position they’ve had trouble filling even as their organization because one of the strongest in the league.
90. Blake Swihart, C, Boston: Baseball America saying that Swihart “has the Buster Posey starter kit” might be setting the bar too high, but he has the tools to become a really good major league catcher. He has a nice all-around game that combines athleticism and ability at and behind the plate. He just needs some significant game experience to rise on this list.
89. Austin Hedges, C, San Diego: While Swihart has the potential to be a really good catcher, Hedges could be even better. His defensive ability is unheard of for a catching prospect, and it’ll be a matter of his offense catching up. While many Padres prospects currently rank higher on this list, Hedges may have one of the highest ceilings in the system.
88. Luis Heredia, RHP, Pittsburgh: Heredia’s statistics weren’t impressive in 2011, but factoring in the fact that he was pitching in the GCL as a 16 year old. His fastball can sit in the mid 90’s, and his secondary stuff shows a lot of potential. As long as his height and growing body don’t affect his mechanics, he could be a key part of Pittsburgh’s future.
87. Taylor Jungmann, RHP, Milwaukee: Jungmann’s stuff is a bit better than Bradley’s which is why he ranks six spots ahead of Bradley. However, he comes with some delivery concerns that could leave him in the bullpen. Whatever his future role, as one of college’s best pitchers in recent years, he should arrive in Milwaukee quickly.
86. Justin Nicolino, LHP, Toronto: Nicolino’s short-season stats were very impressive, but he needs to get stronger and prove it at higher levels. He should continue his success in the lower levels thanks to his very good feel for a changeup, something that isn’t seen often in young pitchers. If he adds fastball velocity, Toronto has themselves another really good pitching prospect.
85. Robbie Erlin, LHP, San Diego: No one will be overwhelmed by Erlin’s stuff, but his tremendous pitchability makes him a really good prospect. He can locate his average fastball wherever he wants, and his secondary pitches are deceptive and effective. Petco Park suits his flyball tenendcies well, but he should be fine in any environment.
84. Joe Wieland, RHP, San Diego: The Padres received Erlin and Wieland in the Mike Adams trade, and they share some similarities. Both rely on control and command rather than an overpowering fastball to attack hitters, and his secondary pitches are just as reliable. He had a comical 96:4 K:BB ratio in high-A this year with Texas.
83. Cory Spangenberg, 2B, San Diego: It should already be clear that the Padres have a deep farm system, and he’s certainly not the last prospect they have on this list. He’s the kind of hitter they need at Petco Park where power hitters often don’t succeed. He puts his bat on the ball, gets on base, and his great speed and baserunning will be huge at the top of their lineup.
82. John Lamb, LHP, Kansas City: After a breakout 2010 season, Lamb never got going in 2011 due to a couple injuries, notably one to his elbow that required Tommy John surgery. He commands an above average fastball well and complements it with a plus change and developing curveball. If he proves he’s healthy, he’ll regain his spot much higher on this list.
81. Jedd Gyorko, 3B, San Diego: Gyorko’s bat is going to have to carry him since he’s not athletic and probably won’t hit for much power, but he really can hit. He sprays line drives to all fields, and if he manages to stay at third base in his career, he can be a solid contributor to the San Diego lineup.
80. Addison Reed, RHP, White Sox: I don’t believe relievers carry as much value as starters and position players, but Reed is probably the best in the minors right now. With his two plus or better pitches, he has a chance to become the White Sox closer in 2012. He completely dominated at every stop in the minors, and it won’t be long until that translates to the majors.
79. Allen Webster, RHP, Los Angeles: Webster struggled in AA after a midseason promotion, but his stuff is still good. He has the potential for three plus pitches with his fastball and changeup leading the way. If he improves in his return trip to AA in 2012, he could soon occupy a spot in the Dodgers rotation behind Clayton Kershaw.
78. Jonathan Villar, SS, Houston: Villar isn’t the best prospect the Astros have acquired from the Phillies in recent trades, but he has the chance to be a major contributor. He’s still very raw which makes Houston’s aggressive assignments for him puzzling, but there aren’t many athletes in minor league baseball that can hit and play up the middle like he’s capable of.
77. Joe Benson, OF, Minnesota: Benson is a solid, all-around outfielder that appears to be ready for the majors, but the Twins seem hesitant to give him a job. His hit tool is his worst which is always dicey for position players, but his plus speed, power, arm and ability to handle centerfield should more than make up for it.
76. Andrelton Simmons, SS, Atlanta: He’s not as highly touted as recent Braves rookies like Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman, but he could fill a gaping hole in the Atlanta lineup. Simmons is a smooth fielder up the middle which is always a coveted asset. He should make enough contact at the plate to not be a completely one dimensional player.
Come back tomorrow as the countdown continues with prospects 51-75.