Saturday, January 14, 2012

2012 Top 100 Prospects (#1-#25)

We are at the end of the my four part Top 100 Prospects analysis. As with all lists, these rankings are a compilation of hands-on scouting, dialogs with scouts and industry experts, as well as statistical analysis. As always, I welcome your feedback.

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Thanks for your support. Here you go...
1. Bryce Harper – OF (Washington Nationals)

I had Harper listed at #2 in June’s 2011 Top 50 list, but the more I see Harper, the more I’m realizing that we are looking at a very special player. Harper has true 80 grade raw power that could translate into 40+ home runs in the majors. He’ll have decent speed initially (10-15 stolen bases per year) but as the body fills out, the speed will diminish. There has also been a lot of discussion about Harper’s make-up. What I’ve seen and experienced is an intense competitor that has a great relationship with his teammates and works extremely hard. Is he going to be an arrogant megastar? Possibly, but I’ll take that and the great make-up any day of the week.

2. Mike Trout – OF (Los Angeles Angels)

Everyone got a chance to see Trout display his skills in the Majors last season. While the production was not there, a careful observer could see the plate discipline, bat speed, and raw 80 speed that will make him a potential all-star for years. A scary comp is Carl Crawford with more power or Grady Sizemore (circa 2008) with a .300 batting average. His make-up is off the charts as is illustrated by his participation in the AFL. After a long season that included significant playing time in the majors, Trout was there.

3. Matt Moore - LHP (Tampa Rays)

Matt Moore came into his own over the 2011 season, culminating in an impressive 7.0 IP, 2 hit, and 6 strikeout performance in the ALDS. The scary thing about the performance was Moore’s stuff was not at it’s best that afternoon. When you see Matt Moore pitch, it’s hard to believe that he’s hitting the upper 90’s with his fastball. The delivery is free and easy with great movement. His curve is a plus-plus tool and his change-up has moved to a 55-60 pitch. Throw in great control and you’ve got a future Ace. The only question left is will the Rays put him in the starting rotation out of Spring Training or hold him back ala Desmond Jennings? Bet on the former.

4. Julio Teheran – RHP (Atlanta Braves)

The Braves have been very aggressive with Julio Teheran’s development, moving him quickly through the organization and even starting him three times in the majors during the 2011 season. All three of those starts were sub-optimal and illustrates while Teheran is very advanced at age 20, he still has room for improvement. Some have even started to sour on Teheran’s upside and while his breaking ball is average at best, his fastball, change-up and command are all plus.

5. Shelby Miller – RHP (St. Louis)

Recently promoted to Double A, Miller has a 93-95 MPH fastball with an above average curve. The command is still developing. There’s a lot to like with Miller and along with Julio Teheran, is the best right-handed pitching prospect in the minors.

6. Jesus Montero – DH (New York Yankees)

The Yankees are a veteran team that takes delicate managing of the many egos on the team. That style of managing led to Jorge Posada playing DH in 2011, forcing one of the best hitting prospects in the minors to continue to hone his craft down on the farm. The reports of Montero being bored are well known. But once he got a chance, he showed the 70 hit tool and power that will make Montero an absolute beast in the Majors. I have Montero listed as a DH and playing for the Yankees, that is what his position will be. If he gets traded, don’t expect him to play catcher, but instead, be moved to 1B.

7. Anthony Rendon – 3B (Washington Nationals)

The Washington Nationals have two of the top 7 prospects in the minor leagues. That’s impressive. While listed second on the Nationals depth chart, Rendon has future star written all over him. He has a very quick bat that moves fast and level through the hitting zone with great plate discipline. That approach should make Rendon a .300 hitter with plus power (20-25) at full maturity. Rendon is also a very nice defender and has the tools to stay at 3B. If the Nationals make a long-term commitment to Ryan Zimmerman, Rendon has the quickness to move to 2B. The speed is only average given his multiple ankle surgeries over the past two years.

8. Jurickson Profar – SS (Texas Rangers)

Everybody talked about how young Bryce Harper was in the Sally League, but Jurickson Profar, the young shortstop prospect from the Texas Rangers, was even younger and wound up as the MVP of the league. Profar has five average to above average tools with no apparent weakness but also no true elite skill. In Low-A, Profar hit 12 home runs, stole 23 bases with a 65/63 strikeout to walk ratio. He defense is also excellent with an above average lateral movement and arm. Scott Boras and Elvis Andrus might equal Jurickson Profar in 2014.

9. Gerrit Cole – RHP (Pittsburgh Pirates)

Cole was the 2011 #1 overall pick in the amateur draft out of UCLA. He has elite stuff with an upper 90's fastball, a nasty change-up and an improving slider. He was being compared at the beginning of the college season to Stephen Strasburg, but scouts quickly realized that while the stuff is there, the command is lacking. A 6-4 and 220lbs, Cole should have the body to endure 200+ innings at the major league level. In his highly anticipated AFL debut, Cole did not disappoint; lighting up the radar with several triple digit readings.

10. Devin Mesoraco – C (Cincinnati Reds)

With Jesus Montero destined to be a designated hitter, Devin Mesoraco is now clearly the #1 catching prospect in the minors and has an excellent chance to break Spring Training with the Cincinnati Reds. Mesoraco is primarily an offensive catcher, although his defensive skills have improved in the last year. While he has a big hard swing, he makes great contact at 81% and also is walking at a clip of 11%. The power in Triple-A yielded 15 home runs but as he matures, Mesoraco should be able to contribute 20+ home runs annually. Wrap it all up and you have a first division catcher with all-star potential.

11. Manny Machado – SS (Baltimore Orioles)

Taken as the #3 overall pick in the 2010 Rule 4 draft, Machado had a terrific 1st year in professional ball given his age. Machado’s combines strong wrist and a quick bat to go along with above average power and speed to form a scary package of a future all-star shortstop. He also has shown nice plate discipline and approach with an 81% contact rate and a 12% walk rate between Low-A and High-A.

12. Jacob Turner – RHP (Detroit Tigers)

Tall projectable pitcher with smooth mechanics with great velocity (94MPH-96MPH) and the ability to spin a curve. Change-up is improving and while only 20, look for the Tigers to break camp with him as the #5 pitcher in the starting rotation.

13. Wil Myers – OF (Kansas City Royals)

A nasty knee infection slowed the development for Wil Myers in 2011, but the hit tool remains solid. While the move to the outfield will accelerate his path to the majors, the dream of an elite hitting prospect behind the plate is gone. In many 2011 pre-season list, Myers was a top 20 prospect but based on his 2011 season, his ranking could very well fall. However, don’t be fooled, Myers has tremendous upside and all-star potential.

14. Dylan Bundy – RHP (Baltimore Orioles)

One of the more advanced high school pitchers to be drafted in quite a while, Bundy sits 94-96MPH with a clean delivery and an advanced change-up for an 18 year-old. Many scouts believe that he has the highest ceiling of any pitcher taken in the 2011 draft. Expect Bundy to start in Low-A or even High-A to start the 2012 season.

15. Trevor Bauer – RHP (Arizona Diamondbacks)

In February, scouts initially went to UCLA games to see Gerrit Cole, but stayed for the Saturday game and saw the emergence of Trevor Bauer. Bauer is an advanced pitcher that led Division I in strikeouts with a 92-95MPH fastball and two above average breaking balls. He signed quickly and excelled in 25.2 innings in High-A and Double-A striking out 43 and walking 12. He does have a funky delivery that turned some scouts off but reminded others of Tim Lincecum. Bauer is on a fast track and could make his major league debut in 2012 with a #2 ceiling.

16. Taijuan Walker – RHP (Seattle Mariners)

Taijuan Walker has as much talent as any pitcher on this list. His fastball sits in the mid 90’s touching higher with a plus power curve. He’s still working on his change-up, but it projects to also be an above average pitch. Even after tiring in August, Walker managed to strikeout 113 batters in 96.2 innings while walking only 39 in the Midwest League (Low-A). At 6-4 and 195 lbs, Walker has the body that can handle the 200 innings that a staff ace eventually will have to log, particularly after he fills out. He’ll move up to the difficult CAL League (High-A) next spring.

17. Jameson Taillon – RHP (Pittsburgh Pirates)

The Pirates took it very easy with their prized prospect, the #2 pick in the 2010 draft by limiting his starts to a maximum of 5 IP pitched per outing. At 6’ 6” and 220lbs, sitting in the mid-90’s with a plus curve ball already, Taillon has future Ace written all over him. In 2012, he should be promoted to High-A and have the training wheels lowered a bit to start working on his change-up, a pitch that Pittsburgh rarely let him throw in 2011.

18. Martin Perez – RHP (Texas Rangers)

Martin Perez has some of the best stuff in the minor leagues with three plus pitches and great mechanics. His fastball sits 92-95MPH with good movement while his curve rates plus and his change-up even better. While he has smooth mechanics, it has not manifested itself into great results as the command has been lacking (120K/56BB). He is still rated very high in part because he will only turn 21 at the start of next season and has already made it to Triple-A. The future is still very bright.

19. Travis d’Arnaud – C (Toronto Blue Jays)

d’Arnaud quietly had a nice season in Double-A New Hampshire showing a 77% contact rate, 8% walk rate while hitting 311, slugging .542, and hitting 21 home runs. He doesn’t have the raw power of major league incumbent J.P Arencibia, but his hit tool is superior. d’Arnaud should start 2012 in Triple-A Las Vegas and the positive hitting environment should play well for him. It will be interesting to see what Toronto does long-term as they now have two legitimate catchers in Travis d’Arnaud and J.P. Arencibia.

20. Tyler Skaggs – RHP (Arizona Diamondbacks)

Taken as the player to be named later in the Dan Haren trade, there’s a lot to dream on with Skaggs. He has size at 6-4 as well as plus velocity at 92-94MPH. To complement the fastball, Skaggs also has a plus classic 12-6 curve that he can control with a change-up that has now ticked up to above average. The best news is that he’s still very young at 20 years-old and may wind up being the best of an elite minor league crop of Diamondback pitchers.

21. Danny Hultzen – LHP (Seattle Mariners)

Danny Hultzen was taken with the #3 pick in the 2011 amateur draft by the Seattle Mariners. He possess a 91-94MHP fast ball with a good slider and change-up. The thing that sets Hultzen apart is his excellent command and polished approach to pitching. While his ceiling might not be as high as some of other standout pitchers in the 2011 draft, he should quickly work his way through the Mariners system with a 2012 major league appearance in the cards.

22. Hak-Ju Lee – SS (Tampa Bay Rays)

Chris Archer was supposed to be the center piece of the 2011 Matt Garza trade, but Hak-Ju Lee has surpassed him and is now the shortstop of the future in Tampa Bay. Lee has nice plate discipline and patience to go with plus speed and defensive ability. Across two levels in 2011, Lee had a 94K/53BB in 500 at bats resulting in a .292 average. This profile should play very well once Lee is promoted to the big leagues. While Lee stole 33 bases, he was thrown out 16 times and will need to improve in order to be considered an elite base stealer.

23. Carlos Martinez – RHP (St. Louis Cardinals)

Incredible young talented 20-year old with an explosive fastball that reaches the upper 90’s with late movement. Improving curve and an emerging change-up have scouts excited about the potential. Command is not there yet and as the Futures Game showed, Martinez can get amped up and overthrow. The stuff and velocity says “Ace”, the body at 6-0 at 170 have scouts unsure on whether he’s a starter or a late inning reliever.

24. Jean Segura – SS (Los Angeles Angels)

Hamstring problems hindered the explosive Jean Segura this year but there is a lot of talent in the 21-year old Dominican shortstop. He has a very wide batting stance with little lower body movement that allows him to have great balance through his swing and produce hard line drives to all fields. Segura posses plus speed and his 50 stolen bases in 2010 should be able to project once he arrives in the majors. Barring another physical setup, Segura will start the year in Double-A with a September call-up not out of the question.

25. Manny Banuelos – LHP (New York Yankees)

Manny Banuelos was all the talk a year ago as he exploded on the scene with an impressive 85K/25BB ratio in 62.2 innings showing a fastball sitting 93-95 and touching 97 with a great 12-6 curve. In 2011, the stuff remained the same but the command was not nearly as good as he progressed to the upper minors. Now people are questioning his size at 5-11 and 170. While not a star, I think a great comp is Wandy Rodriguez. The pitching style and delivery is very similar.

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