Mar 5, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres (81) triples during the fifth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Ah, prospects. They constantly disappoint you. They’re endlessly overrated by fans and not just casual ones. The majority of the time, prospects end up not living up to the hype and expectations and sometimes, flat out flop.
BUT, they are exceptions. Prospects, sometimes, do live up to expectations. Some even succeed them. Some go on to become All-Stars. Some go on to become MVPs and Cy Youngs. Some even go onto to become Hall of Famers.
It’s those possibilities that earn our love and interest of prospects, no matter how unlikely those potential outcomes happen to be.
Now, I am not saying every single guy that I am about to list and breakdown has the ceiling of a Hall of Fame baseball player. I am definitely not saying every single guy on here has the upside of an MVP or Cy Young. Hell, I’m not even saying every ball player that you’re about to read about is going to be or even has the ceiling of an All-Star player.
But, it’s the unpredictability and uncertainty in prospects, which most of the time is to be referring to if someone can live up to expectations, but can also be if someone can SURPASS the hype, that makes some, not all of these guys unique and flat-out awesome to dream about.
How this is going to work and the rules to it are simple. I am going to put together a team of which I believe to be the best prospect in the minors at that position, followed by a Runner Up/2nd place guy. This is strictly my opinion, and I am fully aware that there will be many disagreements from many people and that is something I welcome. Something I am not going to factor into this the possibility of prospects being moved to other positions at the next level, or my or someone else’s belief that they can stay at that position at the next level. To be eligible to be listed at a certain position, that ball player must have spent more time at the position last season than any other position. I also, for duration relevancy purposes, decided not to include players that started off the year in the Major Leagues. So for example, you will not see players like Andrew Benintendi or Dansby Swanson listed here. Seem simple enough? Great. Let’s get started.
Right-Handed Pitcher – Michael Kopech, White Sox
To kick off this list, we’re starting with the guy who happened to be the secondary piece in the trade that sent Chris Sale to Boston, Michael Kopech, who happens to be, in my opinion, the best Right-Handed pitching prospect in the minors (which shows how much it took to get Sale and how good he is, but that’s for another day). Kopech on first initial impressions earns attention due to his lively fastball, and rightfully so. He fastball sits between 95-97 MPH, and he consistently hits 100. He even reportedly hit 105 MPH on his fastball in his second start of 2016. His fastball is not the only pitch in his arsenal, though, as he also has a slider that he apparently has made many hitters look foolish with, topping out at 90 MPH, ridiculously for an offspeed pitch. From my looks of it, Kopech has the ceiling of a Top-of-the-Rotation-Starter. Pitchers like the recently injured Alex Reyes and Kopech’s potential future teammate Lucas Giolito were also considered, but ultimately I decided to go with Kopech because of his poise, production, and ceiling. Runner Up: Alex Reyes, Cardinals
Left-Handed Pitcher – Josh Hader, Brewers
This one was a tough one to choose from, but I ultimately went with Hader due to his short distance away from the majors and lively two pitches. While he still needs to improve his control and develop a 3rd pitch, the former Astros farmhand who was sent to the Brewers in the deal for Carlos Gomez should be up in the majors at some point this season for the Brew Crew. The talent of left-handers in the minors seems a little weak right now, at least compared to what it was like when Julio Urias and Steven Matz were at the top of left-handers lists. Runner Up: Justus Sheffield, Yankees
Relief Pitcher – Joe Jimenez, Tigers
Out of all the positions, I would say this one was the toughest to choose from just based on the reasoning I did not factor in starters who I thought are likely to be relievers at the next level, and no reliever in the minors is exactly highly-touted. I did, however, ultimately decide to go with Joe Jimenez of the Tigers. His story is a remarkable one, as he went undrafted in 2013 and signed with the Tigers as an undrafted free agent out of High School. And now, he’s almost a lock to pitch in the majors at some point in his career, most likely at some point this season. He spent 2016 at 3 different levels, overall pitching to a 1.51 ERA, 13.1 K/9, 0.81 WHIP, and 30 saves. He did that presumably because of his well above average fastball which can hit triple digits and his reportedly above average slider. I’m glad I learned about this guy who defied all odds, and I’m rooting for him at the next level. Runner Up: Jimmie Sherfy, Diamondbacks
Catcher – Francisco Mejia, Indians
And now we get into the position players as we start off them with the position of catcher. This one is close between Mejia and Cardinals catcher Carson Kelly, but I decided to go with Mejia because I believe he has more upside than Kelly and will likely be the superior hitter to Kelly, although Kelly is superior defensively. Mejia is a guy you just cannot help but be intrigued by. The 5″10 catcher hit a robust .342/.382/.514 with 11 HR and also threw out 43% of would-be base-stealers, which would have been 2nd in the majors last year to Royals catcher Salvador Perez. He has the bat and arm to play catcher at the next level, and although his work behind the plate still might need some work, the 20-year-old still has time to improve his already impressive game and I would say he has superstar potential at the next level. Runner Up: Carson Kelly, Cardinals
First Baseman – Cody Bellinger, Dodgers
This should come as no surprise. Bellinger hit well in the minors last year, hitting .271/.365/.507 with 26 HR. He has a unique skillset at first base, being a plus-plus defender while also having solid speed and athletism. He’s even athletic enough to have played all three outfield positions, and yes that includes CF in the minors a few times. But, Dodgers will be leaving him at 1B, where he will probably eventually take over for Adrian Gonzalez at the next level if his development continues to go smoothly. I personally see Bellinger as eventually being a Middle-of-the-Lineup bat at the next level if everything goes as planned. Runner Up: Bobby Bradley, Indians
Second Baseman – Yoan Moncada, White Sox
This should also come as no surprise, at the distance between Moncada and the 2nd best Second Base prospect is large. Moncada was the main piece dealt in the deal that Chris Sale to Boston. So what made this man valuable enough to headline a deal for a top 7 pitcher in the sport? The answer is simple. Moncada is a rare talent with legit 5 tool potential. The Red Sox felt so confident in his ability, in 2015 they gave him a 63M to sign with him, including a 33M signing bonus which almost doubled the previous amateur record held by Alrodis Chapman at 16.25M. He does strikeout a lot and will need to improve on that, but he’s a legit hitter, power threat, and stolen base threat. He did make his major league debut last season, but since he started off the 2017 season in the minors, he qualifies for this list. With Benintendi in the majors and not mentioned on this list, Moncada is probably the top prospect listed here. He has enormous upside and it’s likely he will see the majors at some point this year. Runner Up: Ian Happ, Cubs
Third Baseman – Nick Senzel, Reds
Yes, yes, I know. Rafael Devers is usually the guy you see mentioned here on these type of lists, and rightfully so. Rafael Devers has a chance to be an absolutely elite player at the top level, because of his bat and tremendous raw power. But I decided to slide with Senzel here for a couple reasons. One being I see Senzel as more of a pure hitter than Devers. He definitely does not have the raw power Devers has (but has a fair amount in his own right) but one of the main concerns I have with Devers is he does not walk much, only having a .052 different in between in AVG and OBP. Senzel, on the other hand, has tremendous plate discipline and tendency to draw walks, having a .093 difference in his average and OBP. Senzel also happens to be a plus defender at 3B and also swiped 18 bags in 68 minor league games last year. Runner Up: Rafael Devers, Red Sox
Shortstop – Gleyber Torres, Yankees
And now we come to probably the closest competition, in my eyes, on the list. That competition being between Yankees Shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres and Mets Shortstop prospect Amed Rosario. Ultimately, I decided to go with Torres. Ultimately, it came down to Gleyber’s advantage in the power department, but the two of them are different types of SS and in prospect value, very, very, close. Torres is rated as a plus defender at SS, but it remains to be seen where they Yankees prefer him to play. Acquired in the deal that sent Aroldis Chapman to Chicago, his upside is huge, regardless of where they choose to play him. Runner Up: Amed Rosario
Left Field – Eloy Jimenez, Cubs
The outfield is much more of a mixed bag than the other positions I’ve already covered obviously, as who knows which outfield position these guys will play at the top level. Ultimately, as I stated in the introduction into this article, I went by whichever position these guys played the most of that year, and out of all the prospects that played most of their time in left field, I came to the conclusion Mr. Jimenez was the top prospect out of all of them. Signing with the Cubs for 2.8M in 2013 out of the Dominican Republic, Jimenez has faired much better in Professional Ball than basically all other of his fellow International Signees of 2013 (except maybe the man mentioned at SS), hitting .329/.369/.532 with 14 HR during his age 19 minor league baseball season. Jimenez actually has a well-above-average arm, so he may not stay in Left Field for long, the outfield spot typically reserved for those with weaker arms. Runner Up: Clint Frazier, Yankees
Center Field – Victor Robles, Nationals
I’ve mentioned his name a couple times in this article, but just any case anybody skipped to here to see his name and what I thought about him, I did not put Andrew Benintendi here because I decided not to include anybody currently in the majors, and would have for sure put Benintendi in this spot if he would have fallen under my qualifications. Instead, we have the 19-year-old, toolsy OF in the name of Victor Robles. Robles is definitely an exciting prospect and someone I am looking forward to watching one day at the next level, maybe even next to Bryce Harper. Robles has elite plate discipline, having a slash line of .280/.376/.423 last season in the minors. He also almost managed to crack double digits in home runs last year, hitting 9. But the main part of Robles game is the following: Speed. He can run, and he can run really fast. He stole 37 bases in the minors last year, but in only 110 games. He also plays borderline gold glove caliber defense in CF. Someone who gets on base at a .376 rate, has solid power, plays plus defense and is also poised to be one of the top stolen base threats in the majors as soon as he steps foot on a Major League diamond? Man, I cannot wait to watch this guy. Runner Up: Mickey Moniak, Phillies
Right Field – Tyler O’Neill, Mariners
Finally, we get to the last position on the list, RF, in which I put Tyler O’Neill as the top prospect of. O’Neill hit well last season, with a line of .293/.374/.508 with 24 HR, 26 doubles and also managed to leg out 12 stolen bases. The problem with O’Neill is obvious though, and that is he strikes out. A lot. Last year, he struck out 150 times in 492 at-bats, a rate of 30%. Obviously, he will need to improve that, but he has a repertoire of tools that may not seem overly impressive like some of the guys on this list, but ultimately could wind up making him a solid MLB contributor, and earned him the title of the best Right Field prospect in the minors from me. Runner Up: Jesse Winker, Reds
Looking over everything that I’ve written, the prospects on here seem weaker than what it would have been if I had written this article 2-3 years ago. However, prospects continue to remain valuable and the key for teams looking to go from an average team to a contender.