1) Max Scherzer
Everybody has been waiting for a season like this from Scherzer. Ever since his days in Arizona he has had elite stuff but there were always questions about his command. He has absolutely figured out his mechanics, keeping his head straight allowing him to repeat his delivery and throw consistent strikes. Pitching record aside, Scherzer struck out 240 batters in 214 innings of work while only walking 56 batters. Taking into account a larger workload in 2013, Scherzer significantly increased his K/BB ratio (4.29). He finished the season with a 2.90 ERA and other ERA normalizers favorably rated him as well (Take your pick from his 2.74 FIP, 3.16 xFIP or 2.98 SIERA). There were many outstanding starters in the American League this year (Felix, Sale, Darvish, Sanchez, Iwakuma) but Scherzer is the cream of the crop in my opinion.
2) Anibal Sanchez
I have to say that I thought the contract Sanchez received from the Tigers last offseason was excessive and slightly ridiculous. But Sanchez responded by having his most outstanding season of his career. If you are going by straight statistics, ratios and metrics, Sanchez compares favorably to his teammate Scherzer. But Sanchez however threw about 40 less innings as a result of missing a handful of starts. For me, that is what pushes Scherzer ahead of Sanchez in terms of valued added on the field. Sanchez finished the season with an AL Leading 2.57 ERA that was wholly supported by some terrific peripherals (2.39 FIP, 2.91 xFIP, 3.10 SIERA). He struck out 202 batters in 182 innings pitched, good for a career best 9.99 K/9 ratio. If Sanchez had made a few more starts, we might be having to nitpick between him and Scherzer for the top spot.
3) Chris Sale
After last season, I wanted to see Chris Sale “do it again” before buying into the fact that he is a number one starter who would be able to last over 32 starts in a season. He did it again and in impressive fashion. I thought a dip in velocity and form int he middle of 2o12 was a HUGE red flag for his long term durability but Sale actually bumped up his average fastball velocity 1 1/2 MPH this year. He eats lefties alive with the slider coming in from the three quarters arm slot. It is nearly unhittable. Righties also didnt fare too well either posting an aggregated .307 wOBA (well below league average) in approximately 700 total at-bats vs Sale. In 214 innings pitched, Sale struck out 226 batters (9.49 K/9) and demonstrated excellent command by only walking 46 batters (1.93 BB/9). Both of these ratios were significant improvements from 2012. The 11-14 pitching record is meaningless. Sale was outstanding this season. I wouldn’t be shocked at all if he blows out in the next 2-3 seasons with that arm action but he has proven to everyone that he is a top 10 starter in baseball at the moment.
1) Clayton Kershaw
R.A. Dickey was an amazing story in 2012, but this should be Kershaw’s third consecutive Cy Young Award. He has cemented himself as the premier pitcher in baseball at the age of 25 and is on the path to being an all time great. His WAR was tops in baseball at 6.5, but that was only slightly better than the rest of the field. I am buying into the idea that Kershaw has the rare skill to significantly decrease and maintain the BABIP against him and therefore increasing his Left On Base percentage. Since WAR tries to normalize outlier stats like these based on mostly randomness, then that would mean that Kershaw’s WAR would be significantly understated. Suppose Phil Hughes finished a season with a .250 BABIP and an 80% LOB. We would immediately judge this as a fluke. But with Kershaw, he has demonstrated over seasons worth of data that he will always have an extremely low BABIP against. That is a skill, whether he means to do it or not. His season ending 1.83 ERA is absurd, in an era where pitchers inefficiencies can be examined and exploited rather easily. He struck out 232 batters and only walked 52 in 236 innings pitched. That is simply outstanding. He was by far the best pitcher in baseball this year and should be rewarded with a mega-extension that I suppose could exceed $300MM.
2) Adam Wainwright
After a slow start in 2012 back from Tommy John Surgery, Wainwright picked up right where he left off in the second half of last year and just dominated. He doesn’t blow batters away but his success is derived from outstanding command and a devestating 12-6 curveball. After throwing 241 innings, Wainwright only walked 35 total batters (1.30 B/9). That was tied for the best in baseball (if you round) with David Price and Cliff Lee. He finished the season with a 2.94 ERA and struck out 216 batters. Peripherals also favorably rated him to back up the ERA (2.55 FIP, 2.80 xFIP, 3.01 SIERA). In any other year, Wainwright’s season would be Cy Young Award worthy. Maybe he will win one of these days.
3) Matt Harvey
When ranking starting pitchers, I always consider the balance between effectiveness and durability. Even taking into consideration Kershaw’s excellence, I think it is perfectly acceptable to say that Matt Harvey was the most dominant starting pitcher in baseball this season. Had his season not ended early, he would have rivaled Kershaw for the crown of best pitcher in baseball. In his first full season in the majors, Harvey added elite command to his already elite repertoire that includes (in my opinion) a grade 80 fastball and a grade 80, 88-92 MPH slider. It seemed like every other start he was heading into the 7th with a no hitter intact. In 178 innings pitched, Harvey struck out 191 batters and only walked 31. That is simply outstanding for a pitcher entering the season with questions about his command. His 2.00 FIP and 2.63 xFIP were both tops in the majors and his 2.27 ERA was second only behind Kershaw. It is a shame that a potential historic season had to end early.
1) Mike Trout
For the second season in a row, 22 year old Mike Trout was the best player in baseball by quite a wide margin. He finished the season with a .323/.432/.557 line while significantly improving his BB % (15.4% from 10.5% last season) as well as slightly trimming down his K rate. His 27 home runs was a slight decrease from his total of 30 from last season but as he matures, Trout should be a shoe-in for 30+ home runs and 75 XBH’s a season. His 33 steals total was also down from last years 49 figure, but regardless that is plus to elite added value on the bases. He did this all while playing center field. He wont win the award again this year due to a lack of narratives that Miguel Cabrera carries with him. Writers that have votes also don’t really give too much thought to the TOTAL value Trout adds to the Angels with his glove and legs. Its a real shame.
2) Miguel Cabrera
Cabrera has cemented himself as the premier hitter in baseball as well as one of the best hitters of all time with his body of work over the past few seasons. A groin injury slowed down what was mounting up to be a historic offensive season. Cabrera raked for the majority of the season and finished with an astounding .348/.442/.636 line, while also hitting 44 home runs. On the scouting scale that is 80 power and 80 hit tools. Unfortunately, Cabrera reduces his absurd total value added by his bat by being a poor defender at 3rd (not all his fault he is being asked to play out of position) and a below average baserunner. This is where Trout rises above Cabrera in total value. Cabrera will win the MVP because he was the best hitter in the league this year (absolutely true). But I cannot simply overlook his deficiencies.
3) Josh Donaldson
Donaldson came out of nowhere to have an incredible season after being just a fringy role player in 2012. He finished the season with a fantastic .301/.384/.499 line with a strong BB% (11.4%). This seems to be a very fluky, unrepeatable season after spending the 2 and a half seasons in AAA for the Athletics. But he was also rated as a plus defender at third base this season. He managed to hit 24 home runs while playing in a terrible park for power hitters. I wouldn’t bet on him having another campaign in 2014 like he did this season, but he should be applauded for a really special season. He was by far the best player on the A’s.
1) Andrew McCutchen
McCutchen followed up 2012′s MVP-like campaign with an even better one this season in which he hit .317/.404/.508 (even after a slow start). Like Trout, McCutchen adds value in all three facets of the game. Besides his gaudy slash line and 21 home runs hit, he also stole 27 bases and was rated as an above average defender in center field. A slight increase in BB% and huge cut in K% is a great sign for McCutchen going forward as he continues to get better. Even after a 20+ point decrease in BABIP, he was still able to maintain an outstanding batting average. I won’t be outraged at all if another candidate wins MVP in the NL because the margins were much closer this season, but given his positional value and just overall fantastic offensive production, I rate McCutchen slightly above everyone else in the NL. The 6 year/51MM dollar extension given to McCutchen by the small market Pirates is without a doubt one of the best deals in baseball in terms of value added.
2) Yadier Molina
When taking positional adjustments into consideration, I do not think any player excels in his spot on the field like Molina does at catcher. Before I get into statistical analysis of Molina’s offensive production, first consider the fact that Molina is a plus-plus defender behind the plate. He is certainly one of the best defending catchers all time and definitely the best since Ivan Rodriquez in his prime. Molina is an outstanding framer of pitches, something that cannot be measured. But the relationship is pretty easy to understand. The more balls turned into called strikes, the more outs that are made. Molina also significantly decreases the oppositions running game with his arm and his ability to throw behind runners. Now lets consider that he hit .319/.359/.477 as a catcher, good for a .362 wOBA. That is elite offensive production at the catching position.
3) Paul Goldschmidt
Recently thought of as a decent, platoon split first base prospect, Goldschmidt broke out like no other player in the league this year. The 25 year old hit .302/.401/.551 and mitigated his high K rate with 99 walks in 710 plate appearances. Most of Goldschmidt’s value is derived from his power as he crushed 36 home runs and he showed no inflated power numbers while playing at home. He also answered may questions about his apparent platoon split by hitting .300 with 25 home runs against right handed pitching this season. I still rate Joey Votto as the premier first baseman in the NL but Goldschmidt has to be in the discussion.
Last nights game between the Marlins and Mets featured two of the brightest and most talented young arms the game has to offer. 20 year old Jose Fernandez faced off against 24 year old Matt Harvey. We have already seen through 15 starts between last season and this season that Harvey is the real deal and has a 4 pitch repertoire that can overpower lineups. But Fernandez demonstrated last night that he probably should have been the number one pitching prospect coming into 2013, ahead of the now injured Dylan Bundy.
The cuban defector burst onto the scene in 2012 after dominating A-Ball as a 19 year old. Coming into 2013 Fernandez was essentially a consensus top flight pitching prospect by flashing a close to grade 80 fastball with a filthy, hard curveball and third pitch slider that was pretty good too. But the only issue scouts really had with Fernandez was his lack of a change-up. In the lower minors, it is easy for quality arms to dominate lineups with a good fastball/breaking ball combination since most under-derveloped hitters can’t touch either. But for Fernandez, to reach his potential as a future ace, he would need to develop at last an average change-up to be able to get both lefties and righties out. He experimented with a change-up in the minors last season but it was still a work-in-progress. Well, last night against the Mets, he flashed a plus-plus change that no hitter could get near (Lucas Duda in particular).
This Fernandez change-up was no ordinary change-up however. He used it very sparingly but when he did throw it, it was extremely effective. The pitch came out of the same arm slot as his fastball but it acted more of like a 2-seamer than the typical circle change that has late fading action. Instead, it ran sideways, away from left handed batters who stood no chance. It was absolutely unhittable. Fernandez’ change sat at 87-88 MPH, which is a little hot for a true change (His fastball was sitting 93-95 MPH). Ideally, a complimentary change should be roughly 10 MPH slower than the pitchers fastball. This discrepancy is just enough of a speed difference to throw a hitter’s timing off and the fading action misses the bat.
But regardless, Fernandez now has a legitimate third plus-plus pitch that will put him at the top of the Marlins rotation in time. This running change-up is very similar to Stephen Strasburg’s 89-90 MPH pitch, which I personally consider to be the best change in baseball. He now has a blazing fastball that sits in the mid-90′s, a filthy curveball that is around 81-83, and now this swing-and-miss, running change at 87-88. Don’t forget about that 4th pitch slider that is pretty good too. Fernandez only lasted 4 innings last night, giving up 3 hits, 2 earned runs and walking 3 other batters. But I was blown away by the weapons he now has at his disposal. If the change-up was this good at the end of last season, Fernandez would have definitely been by #1 pitching prospect in baseball coming into 2013. Can’t wait for his next start.
91) Yasiel Puig: OF, LAD
-The big spending Dodgers shocked baseball by spending an egregious amount of money (42MM) to sign Cuban defector Puig last winter. The owners, scouts and executives were shocked at the contract given to Puig because he was widely viewed as a decent prospect and nothing more. The 22 year old however has shed a ton of weight and has displayed quick bat speed that projects plus power on a now more toned, athletic build. He still has a lot of work to do on his plate discipline and approach. An interesting name to watch as we get into the thick of things in 2013.
92) Trevor Story: SS, COL
-Story’s bat has come along enough already to assume that he could be an everyday regular at short. He is a glove first player, with good range and a strong arm that should make him at least an above average defender. He is a solid, not great runner but should be able to add some value on the bases. He has double digit home run power but that swing might generate a high K total, lowering his batting average. He is still only 20, with more time for the bat to come along.
93) Martin Perez: SP, TEX
-We have been waiting for years now for Perez’ results to catch up with his stuff that gave him top of the rotation potential. It hasn’t happened yet and I am starting to think that it never will. The wiry lefty has made his way up the minors with pretty mixed results at best, with a high BB rate and a K rate that has trended downward. He has a 4 pitch mix of fastball, changeup, slider and curveball but his stuff has ticked down a notch. But, Perez is STILL only 21, and I think that mid-rotation starter upside is still possible.
94) Casey Kelly: SP, SD
-Like Perez, we have been waiting quite a while for Kelly’s results to catch up with his once hailed ace stuff. The converted shortstop has now undergone Tommy John Surgery and will miss all of 2013 unfortunately. He has a 3 pitch mix of a low 90’s fastball, changeup, and hard curveball. He is extremely athletic off the mound but after seeing him debut last season for San Diego, I didn’t see what all the ranting and raving was about back in his Boston days. Assuming a full recovery, I see a mid-rotation starter as a probable outcome.
95) Robert Osuna: SP, TOR
-Osuna is still years away from potentially making it to the big leagues, as he will begin the 2013 season as a 17 year old. Even though he is still very young, Osuna has displayed advanced qualities of purpose pitching instead of just trying to blow every hitter away. Osuna will sit In the low to mid-90’s with his fastball and also features an advanced change-up for a pitcher his age. If his fringy 3rd pitch cutter comes along, he has a chance to become an impact starter. Long-term project for Toronto.
96) Delino Deshields Jr: 2B, HOU
-The son of the former big leaguer has generated some buzz heading into 2013 after an impressive 2012 campaign in which the 80 grade runner stole 101 bases. Despite his blazing speed, Deshields will only play an average second base in the field but should be able to comfortably handle the position. He is a contact-first hitter and has just the average power that one would expect a speedster like him to have. He should also be a decent OBP guy, generating a lot of his value on the bases.
97) Luis Heredia: SP, PIT
-It feels like Heredia has been around for a while in the Pirates minor league system, but it is important to note that he is still only 18 years old and already has experience in low-A ball. Heredia will pitch in the low 90’s with an advanced change-up for a teenager. And like many young pitchers in the low minors, Heredia still lacks a true average 3rd pitch. His curveball is “meh” and he will need to further develop it if he wants to be an above average starter.
98) JR Graham: SP, ATL
-The big, right-handed sinkerballer wowed scouts by touching 100 MPH in Spring Training for the Braves. Graham will pitch with a plus fastball, in the mid-90’s with an above average curveball as a compliment. His change-up comes and goes but as of right now he is probably doing batters a favor. He will pitch at 23 this season and his role as a starter or reliever has yet to be decided. 200 innings pitched out of a mid-rotation starter is much more valuable than a hard throwing reliever, but that isn’t that bad of a fallback option either.
99) Jose Iglesias: SS, BOS
-Iglesias has the best infield glove in professional baseball, plain and simple. He may well be the best defending shortstop since Rey Ordonez. The only problem is that his bat is so weak that it might not even play at the extremely low replacement level shortstop position in the majors. He does not have any power and will almost surely be a low OBP guy. But if he can live and die by BABIP, hitting a decent empty batting average, he could be a 2-3 WAR player with the amount of runs he will save.
100) Yordano Ventura: SP/RP, KC
-Ventura is an intriguing young arm for the Royals but his future is still yet to be decided. He featured in last years Futures Game, displaying his fastball that can touch 100. The righty has a small build, and only has a 2 pitch repertoire at the moment (average changeup). This screams reliever. But Ventura is still only 21 and currently working on a breaking ball. It’s a lot to ask, but if Ventura can establish a 3 pitch arsenal, he could become an impact starter. If not, he could be an impact arm out of the pen.
81) Arodys Vizcaino: SP, CHC
-Vizcaino was a great return for the easily replaceable Paul Maholm last summer. Vizcaino is currently rehabbing after undergoing Tommy John Surgery and should be able to return some time in 2013 if all goes as planned. The right-hander works with a plus fastball that will sit in the mid 90’s, topping out at 98, with a hammer curveball and a 3rd pitch changeup that’s about average. There is still speculation that Vizcaino will end up as a reliever. I think that’s a pretty likely outcome as well. But there is still a chance he ends up in the rotation for good, and if so, he could end up being dominant.
82) Oswaldo Arcia: OF, MIN
-The power hitting lefty as transitioned to right field for good in wake of the rebirth of Twins new centerfielder Aaron Hicks. Arcia had a very impressive 2012 campaign at AA, showing off lightning quick bat speed and a pretty good walk rate for a 21 year old. He has the potential for plus power in the future that could play up to 20+ at Target Field. This year at AAA will give us a better idea of how good Arcia really is. I see above average regular potential.
83) Joe Ross: SP, SD
-Ross had a pretty disappointing 2012 for the Padres, getting hit with shoulder troubles that shortened his season dramatically. He will pitch this year in A-ball as a 19 year old, so he is still a pretty raw talent. Ross possesses a mid 90’s fastball with a good changeup combination but will still have to improve on his curveball that comes and goes. I imagine the Padres will be very slow with Ross, but he is a candidate to move up this list about 40 or so spots for 2014 with an impressive full season.
84) Eddie Rosario: 2B, MIN
-The Twins are stacked with young talent in the outfield, leading to a switch to second base for Rosario in effort to try and maximize value. He is a hit first player whose bat should easily play at second, having gap-to-gap power and double digit home run potential. He probably wont be anything more than an average defender at second, leaving all of his value in his bat. I see Rosario with the potential for some above average seasons at the position, as he lives and dies with BABIP and extra base hits.
85) Clayton Blackburn: SP, SFG
-Giants fans like to play up Blackburn as the next elite starting pitcher to come through their system, he not. But that does not mean he is not an intriguing prospect either. Blackburn’s bread and butter is his sinker that will sit in the low 90’s, complimenting it with a good to plus changeup but still lacks a true average 3rd pitch breaking ball that is still being worked on. The right-hander has a very big frame that projects durability in the future. He could end up being a mid rotation starter, with an innings eater role as a floor. Still pretty valuable nowadays.
86) Didi Gregorious: SS, ARI
-In one of the most shocking trades that I have ever seen, Gregorious is now the future shortstop for the Diamondbacks after making mad scientist Kevin Towers fall in love with him. Gregorious as of right now is a 1 way player, playing an outstanding shortstop with a plus arm who should save a lot of runs in the field. But his bat is still a big question mark, leaving many wondering if he will be able to hit enough to be an everyday guy. However, given the replacement level at SS, if Gregorious even hits a little bit with an empty batting average and some steals, he could be a regular 2-3 WAR player.
87) Alex Colome: SP, TB
-Colome is one of the highest beta prospects on this list. Given his dominating repertoire, he has a chance to be a top of the rotation starter who ends up being a strikeout machine. However, durability issues might push him to the bullpen. The right-hander works with an explosive, mid 90s fastball with a hard cutter and sharp curveball that both miss bats. His changeup is still touchy, feely but even if it ends up being average, gives Colome an impressive selection of weapons to get hitters out with. There is a logjam in the Rays rotation this season, so barring any serious injuries, Colome’s impact will come from the bullpen.
88) Jarred Cosart: SP, HOU
-The right-hander’s results have not yet quite caught up to the raw stuff that Cosart possesses in his time in the minor leagues so far. He pitches with a big fastball that sits in the mid-90’s with a decent changeup and low 80’s curveball. Cosart’s problem is generally throwing strikes with all of his pitches. Because of this, his long-term destination might end up being the bullpen if he does not improve. Its tough to say that any season is a make-or-break season for a 22 year old with no major league experience, but 2013 could very well decide Cosart’s future.
89) Zach Lee: SP, LAD
-Lee had an up and down 2012, having stretches of both ineffectiveness and dominance. The righty’s star has faded a bit but he still has the build and repertoire to project as a back end guy at least. Lee’s stuff is not that overwhelming, pitching with an average fastball that will sit at 90 with a decent changeup and combination of a slider and curveball, both of which are just pedestrian. With a little more refinement, a 3-4 average pitch repertoire and athletic build give him a chance to be a decent mid-rotation guy with a pretty high floor.
90) Cody Buckel: SP, TEX
-Buckel’s name floated around this offseason in trade rumors as the Rangers looked for a win-now piece to add after a pretty horrendous winter. He reminds me a bit of a right handed version of Jon Niese, pitching with just an average fastball, changeup and slider/cutter but with a plus curve and good feel for the position. He isn’t going to dominate big league lineups with his stuff, but his control, combined with a decent, mixed arsenal of pitches gives him mid rotation upside.
71) Justin Nicolino: SP, MIA
-One of the pieces the Marlins received after they hit the “abort mission” button this offseason really defines the word “pitcher”. Nicolino will pitch with just average stuff, sitting around 90, but really battles and has a good idea of what he’s doing on the mound. His fastball and curveball are just average, but the lefty does have a legitimate plus changeup with deception and fading action. I see Nicolino as somewhat of a poor mans Danny Hultzen, having a chance to develop into a solid #3 starter.
72) Wily Peralta: SP, MIL
-Peralta is a sinkerballer whose stuff should translate to a top of the rotation starter, but he himself may never catch up to it. Peralta’s fastball sits in the mid 90’s and he is a legitimate strikeout threat with good secondary stuff as well. But he has had a history of being very wild and it continued in his short stint in the big leagues in 2012. I think the Brewers would be happy with Peralta ending up as a mid rotation starter, who is either brilliant or all over the place.
73) Matt Barnes: SP, BOS
-The big Boston right hander has burst onto the prospect scene after a terrific season in A-ball in 2012. Barnes will sit in the low to mid 90’s with his fastball, commanding it well, while complimenting it with a solid curveball and decent changeup as well. We should have a better idea of Barnes’ potential in 2013 as he makes the jump to the next level. But given his tools, he looks like he has a chance to be a #3 starter at least.
74) Adam Eaton: OF, ARI
-The trendy NL Rookie Of The Year pick unfortunately will miss a good portion of the first half of the season with an elbow injury but has the abilities to at least be an average regular in center for the D’Backs. He does not have a true “plus tool”, but Eaton handles center well, with above average speed, solid power and good on-base skills. That combination gives Eaton above average potential in center, and he should at least be an everyday guy for Arizona.
75) Corey Seager: SS/3B, LAD
-The younger Seager possesses a lot more upside than his brother, but is a long ways away from the big leagues. Seager is a premium athletic body, standing tall at 6’3’’, but will probably outgrow shortstop as he fills out. Lots of tools to like with Seager. He has both potential plus raw power combined with a potential plus hit tool. He is a good runner and should play an above average third base in the future. A player that could make a real jump up prospect lists with a strong, full campaign in 2013.
76) Matt Davidson: 3B, ARI
-Davidson is kind of in prospect limbo, just hanging out waiting to see what the radical D’backs decide to do with him. Davidson has 20+ home run power and should draw a fair share of walks, giving him extra value by getting on base at an above average clip, despite taking a hit with a mid 200’s batting average. He can handle third just fine but probably won’t save any more runs than he will allow. But being at a corner, Davidson’s abilities make him a valuable commodity.
77) Jake Marisnick: OF, MIA
-The toolsy outfielder still has a lot of work to do at the plate if he is to live up to his potential of being an above average regular in the outfield. Marisnick has great range in center and should be a plus defender regardless of how he hits, giving him a floor of a 4th outfielder. He has good speed and power but wont be able to use those tools if he doesn’t get on base enough. There is still time for him to make necessary adjustments, but his star has faded a bit after a poor 2012.
78) Daniel Corcino: SP, CIN
-Corcino is a righty who impressed in 2012 after reaching AA, pitching to a combined 3.01 ERA in 143 IP with a good 7.93 K/9 rate. Corcino will pitch with a slightly above average fastball, topping out at 94 MPH combined with a good changup and solid average slider. The repertoire alone gives him a chance to be at least a mid-to-back end starter, with room for improvement on that.
79) James Paxton: SP, SEA
-Seattle fans like to refer to the “Big 3” when talking about their pitching prospects, and Paxton rounds out the trio. The southpaw pitches with a plus fastball, sitting in the low to mid 90’s and compliments it with a swing-and-miss curveball in the high 70’s. His changeup is coming along but is definitely just a third option at this point. Paxton is a pretty high-beta prospect, struggling with his control in 2012 and he is already 24 years old. He should reach the big leagues this season though, barring injury of course.
80) A.J. Cole: SP, WAS
-Cole struggled with the injury bug in 2012, and it showed with diminished stuff and poor performance as a result. He is back in D.C. now after that odd Michael Morse trade and you’d imagine the Nats are very happy. The righty stands at 6’4’’ with a wiry build and a fastball that that reaches the mid 90’s. The rest of his repertoire is still coming along, his changeup and curveball coming and going at times. Cole was the jewel of the Gio Gonzalez haul, but will have to prove himself in 2013.
61) Gregory Polanco: OF, PIT
-Another young, under the radar prospect that Pittsburgh has in the lower levels of their system. Polanco has an exciting combination of blazing speed with moderate power. His speed should allow him to play a plus center field and he’s already displayed the ability to hit for a high batting average. 4 of the 5 tools are either already plus or could end up being plus. Polanco is definitely a player who could end up much higher on prospect lists in 2014.
62) Jedd Gyorko: 2B, SD
-Gyorko is one of the trendy picks this season to win the NL Rookie Of The Year Award after cementing himself as the Padres starting second baseman. Gyorko is a very big player for an infielder and there are question marks surrounding his ability to handle second. His best tool is the hit tool, allowing him to hit for a high average. He’s an average runner at best but has moderate power and should be a shoe in for double digit home run totals (he hit 30 home runs in 126 games in 2012). I would be shocked if Gyorko hit 30 home runs ever in a season in the big leagues, but 20+ seems reasonable.
63) Michael Wacha: SP, STL
-The hype around Wacha this Spring has been a bit overblown in my opinion. The 2012 first rounder is a big framed (6’6’’) righty who projects to be a durable innings eater. His fastball sits in the low 90’s, topping out at 94 along with a solid average change-up and curveball. His stuff doesn’t scream top of the rotation, but 3 solid pitches with the potential for a bit more with the offspeed offerings combined with durability gives Wacha the potential to be a solid number 3 starter. He should be big league ready sooner rather than later.
64) Jake Odorizzi: SP, TB
-The newly acquired Rays right hander is one of the more safe bets in the minor leagues right now and should reach the big leagues sometime this season. Odorizzi has a 4 pitch repertoire, with solid fastball that can touch 94 at times and 3 average offspeed offerings including a change-up, slider and curveball. None of his pitches are “plus”, but the durable starter should quickly be able to slide into the Rays rotation once Fauxsto Carmona implodes. Solid #3 starter potential.
65) Allen Webster: SP, BOS
-The recently acquired sinkerballer in the midseason blockbuster has impressed so far this Spring. Webster’s fastball, change-up, slider combination is exciting, as all 3 pitches are either plus now or have plus potential. Webster throws a heavy sinker that tops out at 98 along with a fading change-up that misses bats and a slider that comes and goes. Command is the main thing that holds Webster back at the moment, and if it improves, he has top of the rotation upside. More of a #2-3 than a #1 though.
66) Courtney Hawkins: OF, CWS
-The 2012 first rounder is an impressive physical specimen and will begin the season in A-ball at the young age of 19. Hawkins is very strong and athletic, demonstrating his abilities by doing that backflip in Studio 42 after he was drafted. It looks like Hawkins is going to develop plus raw power to go along with his above average defense in the outfield and good, but not elite speed. He doesn’t seem to be the complete package yet though and there are questions about his ability to get on base and hit for average as he moves up the minors. But even without excelling in those areas, Hawkins still has above average regular potential.
67) Hak-Ju Lee: SS, TB
-Lee had a disaster of a season in 2012 after beginning the year extremely high on some prospect lists. Mechanical issues led to some real struggles at the plate, which have scouts questioning his offensive potential. Lee is an excellent fielder and is already a plus defender at shortstop, with a great arm and plus speed. This combination alone gives Lee a floor of a defensive replacement/utility player who wont hit. But there is still a chance that Lee does hit. He won’t ever be a power threat but if he is able to be a solid average/OBP player, he has above average regular potential. with most of his value coming from defense and on the bases.
68) Rymer Liriano: OF, SD
-Unfortunately, Liriano will miss all of the 2013 season after undergoing Tommy John Surgery, as an outfielder. Liriano has plus raw power with the potential to be a 25+ home run guy who is also an above average runner. He will most likely end up in right field and be able to more than handle the position. Liriano is a power first hitter however and probably won’t ever be able to hit for a high average. Jay Bruce seems like a good comparison, with more steals and a bit better defense on Liriano’s part.
69) Kyle Crick: SP, SF
-Crick is now arguably the top prospect in the Giants now weak system due to plenty of recent graduates over the past few seasons. Crick is a righty with a plus fastball that will top out at 96-97 with a fringy change-up and hard curveball that misses bats. He could end up being a #2 starter if his third pitch comes along a bit more, and there is still some time to work on it as Crick is only 20 years old and still in A-ball. But there is still a possibility that he ends up as a reliever, but maybe a good one. Crick also needs to improve his command, which led to 67 BB’s in only 111 IP in 2012.
70) Dorssys Paulino: SS, CLE
-The “other” teenage high upside shortstop prospect in Cleveland’s top heavy system. Paulino had an impressive rookie campaign in 2012 as a 17 year old, demonstrating his ability to hit for a high average. He is an above average runner but probably won’t end up being the elite defender that Lindor might become, and if they both stay in the Cleveland system you have to wonder if Paulino will be moved to second base to accommodate both players. He has decent pop and has the speed to be an XBH threat, making him an impact bat up the middle.
51) Kyle Gibson: SP, MIN
-Gibson has been on the prospect radar for a long time and is finally healthy and fully recovered from Tommy John Surgery. He sits in the low 90’s with his fastball, topping out at 94 and compliments that with a plus slider that is capable of missing bats in the big leagues today. Twins fans should temper their expectations for Gibson this season given his recent return from injury. But he has a chance to develop into a solid #2-3 starter in the near future. Given the lack of pitching in the majors right now for the Twins, Gibson will be up ASAP.
52) George Springer: OF, HOU
-Springer has all of the things you look for in an impact prospect, except it seems like he has no idea what he is doing at the plate. Springer is a legitimate 25+ home run threat and is also a very good runner with an above average glove. He has a strong arm and should have no problems handling center field with his athleticism. However, his main blaring flaw is an extremely high strikeout % due to a low contact rate that will only get further exposed in the big leagues. He must make the necessary adjustments before getting to the big leagues. If he is able to improve his contact rate and approach at the plate, he has All-Star potential.
53) Max Fried: SP, SD
-Fried is a big, athletic lefty who was selected by the Padres in last summers draft at the #7 spot. He will pitch at the age of 19 this season and will probably begin the year in short season ball. Given his age, Fried has a lot of time to develop his secondary offerings, which are still coming along. He throws a slow curve to compliment his sneaky fastball that will sit in the low 90’s and a solid change-up that will flash plus. Fried has the build to comfortably project him as a future durable innings eater in the future. He does not have the repertoire of a number one starter, but should pitch towards the front of the Padres rotation.
54) Aaron Hicks: OF, MIN
-Hicks is a favorite to be the AL Rookie Of The Year after winning the Twins starting center field job after being highly touted for quite some time. “Toolbox” is a great word to sum up the 23 year old switch hitter. Hicks is a terrific runner who will be a pitchers nightmare on the bases and his plus speed allows him to play great defense in center field. He has a cannon of an arm and has a chance to develop moderate, not plus, power. The bat is still coming along but Hicks has all the ingredients to be an above average regular, with some potential star seasons.
55) Austin Hedges: C, SD
-The main reason to love Hedges is his terrific arm/defense combination behind the plate. There are only a handful of catchers that can really slow down a running game in the majors right now and Hedges has a chance to be one of those guys. But a defensive catching specialist is only his floor. He also has solid power and could end up being a 20 home run guy in the future. He might not hit for a great average, but given the replacement level at catcher right now, that’s an above average regular.
56) Danny Hultzen: SP, SEA
-Hultzen was a college star at Virginia who’s draft stock was improved greatly by his apparent big league readiness. He was well on his way to reaching the big leagues in 2012, breezing through AA before hitting a wall in AAA when he suddenly lost all of his usually impeccable control. Hultzen works 90-93 MPH with the fastball and has an outstanding change-up out pitch that will miss both lefty and righty bats. Hultzen doesn’t project as an ace, but should end up being a #3 starter that might be able to play up a bit in Seattle.
57) Slade Heathcott: OF, NYY
-Heathcott plays like his hair is on fire, which makes him an extra risky player going forward as he continues to rack up the injuries. He is a very toolsy player who could make a move upward towards the games elite prospects with a healthy 2013 as he moves up to AA. He is an above average runner who will certainly be a 20+ steal guy and should be able to play above average defense with his athletic ability. He has already displayed the ability to hit for a high average and get on base at a very high clip. He has star potential, but can’t reach that potential from his couch or in the trainer’s room.
58) Nick Franklin: SS, 2B, SEA
-Franklin has not yet settled on a permanent position yet, but either way should end up being a solid average defender up the middle at either shortstop or second. He has moderate power and has a chance to be a 20 home run guy in the future (max) along with being an average runner who can steal double digit bases. He will never be an elite average hitter but should definitely be able to hit in the .270’s if he reaches his potential. Given replacement level at those positions, Franklin’s skills give him the chance to be an average to above average regular.
59) David Dahl: OF, COL
-Dahl has exploded on the prospects scene after being drafted in the first round this past summer out of high school. He led his rookie ball league in batting average, hitting an astonishing .379 in a smallish sample of 280 at-bats. Dahl plays in center for now but could end up playing a corner as he develops physically (He is 18). He has a chance to hit for a high average and be a 20+ home run threat. He is only an average runner but should be able to more than handle a corner spot on defense. He is a ways away from Coors Field, but has above average potential with maybe a bit more.
60) Nolan Arenado: 3B, COL
-Arenado has fallen way down prospect lists due to makeup issues that were apparent all through 2012. Issues aside, Arenado has an impressive hit tool that should lead to high batting averages and above average power. He is a poor runner and is just adequate at third base but will never be anything more than decent. His star potential has taken a sizeable hit but the possibility of being a .290+ guy with 20+ home runs in the future still leave Arenado with an above average regular ceiling.
-If I hadn’t already ranked and evaluated #1-40, Stephenson might be a bit higher. The huge righty will pitch at the age of 19 this season after being taken late in the first round of the Bundy draft in 2011. Stephenson is still a work in progress but already has 2 plus pitches in a mid 90’s fastball that will reach 98 and a knockout slider. The change-up must still be developed further if he is to become a top of the rotation starter. But what 19 year old has 3 plus pitches in the minors right now? Plenty of time.
42) Billy Hamilton: OF, CIN
-I am not on the Billy Hamilton bandwagon that grew exponentially in 2012 as he broke the record for most steals in a season. However, this does not mean I don’t think he will eventually become a good player in the future. Hamilton is obviously a grade 80 runner and is probably the fastest runner in the majors and minors combined. But he is learning a new position in center field and still is a bit slappy for me at the plate with the bat. He should at least be able to play an average center field with his speed, and probably better with experience. If he gets on base at an above average clip, he is going to be a very valuable player with what he brings on the bases and in center. But I don’t see a franchise player here or a perennial All-Star.
43) Trevor Rosenthal: SP/RP, STL
-Some think Rosenthal has the potential to become an ace. Some think he is going to end up being a dominant late inning reliever. I peg him somewhere in between. Rosenthal’s fastball is explosive, touching triple digits on occasion with a hard, Gerrit Cole-like slider that will touch 90, a sharp curve and a fringy change-up that probably does hitters a favor. Throwing 100 as a starter is unrealistic, but his secondary stuff is good enough to make him at least a potential number 3 starter and possibly more.
44) Alen Hanson: SS, PIT
-Hanson has not gotten as much hype as he deserves due to other terrific SS prospects in the minors right now. Hanson showed impressive moderate power for a guy who is a plus runner and plays up the middle. Combine that with a solid hit tool for a switch hitter and above average on-base skills and you have a potential franchise building block. Hanson will play at 20 years old this season and only reached A ball in 2012 so he is still a ways away from the big leagues, but Pirate fans should be optimistic.
45) Kaleb Cowart: 3B, LAA
-The only interesting prospect left in the destitute Angels farm system. The 20 year old switch hitter provides the potential of a power hitting corner infielder who will also play excellent defense. Cowart has a plus arm at third and is athletic enough to provide decent value on the bases with solid speed. But Cowart looks as if he will also provide significant value at the plate. He probably won’t ever bat .300 or post an elite OBP, but a combination of all of his skills at his position make him a potential above average regular.
46) Brian Goodwin: OF, WAS
-Goodwin was one of the most impressive players at the Arizona Fall League and has flown up prospect lists after a good season in AA for the Nationals. Goodwin has surprisingly good power for a smaller player who is widely recognized for his speed. He is going to get on base at a good clip and pose as a serious XBH threat. His speed should allow him to play an above average center field as well. However, Goodwin might end up leaving more to be desired in terms of his batting average as he seems to be a high strikeout guy (23% K rate in 2012). But K’s and batting average aside, Goodwin still has a lot to offer and has above average regular potential.
47) Alex Meyer: SP, MIN
-Meyer was the piece sent back to Minnesota in the Denard Span trade and finally gives them a legitimate top of the rotation type arm in their farm system. Meyer is a huge, righty standing at 6’9’’ and giving him plenty of plane on his blazing fastball that regularly will hit the high 90’s. He features a knockout slider as well that gives him two plus pitches and two legitimate strikeout pitches. However, like most hard throwing prospects, Meyer still lacks a solid 3rd pitch change-up (it’s a work in progress) and can get a little wild at times. He is 23 years old so its not like he has a few years to figure this stuff out. He may never have the control to be a number 1 starter but even a solid feel for a change-up can give him number 2 starter upside.
48) Mike Olt: 3B, TEX
-Maybe the 2nd most overrated prospect in baseball other than Billy Hamilton by the media and fans due to his big league readiness. But again, that does not mean I think Olt won’t be a valuable player in the very near future. Olt’s two most attractive skills are his plus raw power and great defense at third base. Olt is a legitimate 30 home run threat if he is able to make enough contact, a flaw in his game. Olt is going to strike out a lot, resulting in a lower batting average than desired. But he should get on base enough to offset his high K rate and still be an above average regular in his prime.
49) Noah Syndergaard: SP, NYM
-Two top 50 prospects in exchange for 38 year old R.A. Dickey!? Syndergaard is an under-the-radar coup for the Mets and the 20 year old is coming off of a terrific season in A-ball for the Jays. Syndergaard is a huge framed righty with a great fastball/change-up combination that gives him two plus pitches already. The fastball will sit in the mid 90s but a lack of a 3rd pitch breaking ball leaves Syndergaard’s ceiling somewhat in question. 2013 should be dedicated to finding a feel for that pitch. If he finds it, Syndergaard has top of the rotation upside.
50) Bubba Starling: OF, KC
-The 8 MM dollar lottery ticket has come along a bit slower than expected, but has still made viewable progress since being drafted in 2011. Starling is an athletic freak who could have went to college on a football scholarship if he wanted. Out of the 5 tools, Starling has 4 plus ones, including power, speed, arm and defense. But he is still developing his approach to the plate as well as pitch recognition. His future batting average and high K rate may be his biggest flaw but Starling is athletic enough to add value in other areas. A good 2013 with visible improvements could move him back high up the list.
31) Julio Teheran: SP, ATL
-Teheran’s stock has fallen significantly after being arguably the best minor league arm in 2011 at the age of 20. But he has struggled to make the jump to the big leagues after dominating AAA two seasons ago. Teheran features a pretty straight fastball with plus velocity that will consistently reach the upper 90’s and a knockout change-up that gives him two legitimate weapons. Teheran was supposed to use 2012 to develop his 3rd pitch breaking ball but he still has much more work to do before he is able to stick in the big leagues. He still has top of the rotation upside but the likelihood of reaching his potential has decreased.
32) Taylor Guerrieri: SP, TB
-Guerrieri is still a few years away from the big leagues after being drafted out of high school, but has ace upside if everything goes right. He already features a fastball that will sit in the low to mid 90’s and occasionally touch 97 along with a hard curve that is plus. Like a lot of pitchers drafted out of high school, Guerrieri is still getting a feel for his 3rd pitch change-up. Elite high school arms that throw hard can mow through lineups with just a fastball/breaking ball combo. But there is still a lot to get excited about here. He could move up prospect lists very quickly with another impressive season.
33) Jackie Bradley Jr.: CF, BOS
-Many people in the industry expect the Red Sox to let Jacoby Ellsbury walk after this season due to the emergence of Bradley Jr. He plays an outstanding center field and is one of the best defenders in the outfield in all of the minors. Bradley does not have Ellsbury power but should be a gap-to-gap hitter, hitting the occasional home run. He is a decent runner, capable of stealing double digit bases with terrific on-base skills and should eventually hit for a solid to high average.
34) Kyle Zimmer: SP, KC
-The Royals have been looking for a top of the rotation starter for quite a while now and they could have one here with Zimmer. He features a mid 90’s fastball that can once in a while touch 98 with a plus curve ball and an average change-up that still needs some work. He has the control and command to eventually pitch at the top of a rotation and with some improvement on his off speed pitches, Zimmer’s stock could increase significantly in 2013.
35) Tyler Austin: OF, NYY
-The converted corner infielder can absolutely mash. Austin has a strong, athletic frame with a powerful swing that is fundamentally sound. He is at worst passable, more towards average with the glove in right field and should be able to hold his own with more experience. The bat is something to get really excited about though. Austin can hit for power with above average on-base skills and has so far demonstrated an ability to hit for a high average. I don’t expect Austin to be a .300 hitter, but a .270+ hitter with an above average OBP and 25+ home run power makes him a future potential above average regular. Hitting in Yankees Stadium helps out quite a bit too.
36) Mason Williams: OF, NYY
-The toolsy center fielder made his way up to A+ in 2012 where he held his own but did not play superb in a small sample size of at-bats. He will begin the season at age 21 and is expected to spend at least most of the year in AA working on the finer aspects of his game, such as his approach. Williams’ best tool is probably his glove, as he is already an above average to elite defender in center. He is a plus runner (but not a burner) with a good hit tool that should play to a high average now and in the future.
37) Carlos Martinez: SP, STL
-Martinez exploded onto the prospect radar in mid 2011 after showing elite stuff in the lower minors. However, his star has faded just a bit since then due to concerns over his durability, particularly in his shoulder. His fastball is explosive that has touched 100 before with life along with a hard, hammer curve that will sit in the low 80’s. A solid, third pitch change-up gives him a great chance to stay a starter when he eventually reaches the big leagues. Martinez has top of the rotation stuff but must demonstrate durability in 2013 if he is to again join the elite group of starting pitching prospects.
38) Albert Almora: OF, CHC
-The Cubs were thrilled to land Almora in the 2012 amateur draft as the prep outfielder has already demonstrated the ability to play a terrific center field. Almora also has an impressive hit tool and should be able to hit for at least .280 in the future along with moderate to slightly above average pop. He is just an average runner but should be able to steal a solid amount of bases. His main flaw is his poor plate discipline, which directly leads to a low walk total and thus a lower OBP. Sounds a lot like Adam Jones of Baltimore to me.
39) Chris Archer: SP, TB
-Archer has a fastball/slider combination that is as good as any pitcher in the minors. His fastball sits in the mid 90’s and can touch 98 and his slider is a wipeout true strikeout pitch that sits in the mid 80’s. He is a smaller framed righty that can miss bats in the majors today (as he did at the end of 2012). But a lack of a feel for his third pitch change-up leaves his future role up in the air. If he can develop the change into at least a passable offering to keep hitters guessing, he has number two starter upside. If not, he has a solid floor of being a hard throwing late inning reliever.
40) Jorge Soler: OF, CHC
-The Cubs put up a lot of money for the Cuban defector but his pro debut (albeit a small sample) has given the team hope that they have gotten what they paid for. Soler has lightning quick bat speed that generates plus power and should allow him to hit 25+ home runs in his peak years. The jury is still out on Soler’s ability to get on base but his short pro debut in 2012 showed good signs. He is also an above average runner and should easily steal 15+ bases in the majors while playing a solid corner outfield position. The comparisons to Yoenis Cespedes should stop after the fact that both players are Cuban. I like Soler a bit more than Cespedes over the long haul.