The Scout top 100 prospect list for 2017 is updated and can be found here
Prospects 100-91 can be found here
Taylor and Jeff will go through spot by spot explaining why these players were selected and why they fell where they did on this list. Here is the first set of players rated 90-81.
Adrian Morejon signed with the Padres for 11 million dollars. He cost the Padres a total of 22 million to sign because of penalties for overspending. Morejon has a long history of performance in international play and was already playing in the highest Cuban league before he defected. He signed at 17 and turns 18 this month. He has not pitched since he was 16, after defection from Cuba. Morejon has a mid-90s fastball and shows three other secondary offerings, the best being his knuckle change. The negatives here are many for the young pitcher. He is likely 5’11”, hasn't pitched competitively in years, and is far from the majors. Yet the upside here is a left handed ace. A team would not spend 22 million on a player with Morejon’s negatives unless they thought he could be a star down the road. If he had been draft eligible, Morejon might have been the top player in the class. The issue for me as an evaluator is that I have such limited data and information on the talented lefty. I have to trust others and what video I could find. After a full season in the minors, Morejon could fly up this list.
Erick Fedde was viewed by some as a potential top ten pick in the 2014 draft before Tommy John surgery sidelined his junior year at UNLV. He ended up being selected 18th overall by the Nationals. He did not make his debut until 2015 and, since then, has been steadily moved up by the Nationals. He made it up to AA last year for just 29 innings and is likely to start the year there again this year. Fedde has a low 90s fastball and a strong slider that has flashed plus. His control in the minors has been above average to plus. His fastball/slider combo has been strong enough to rack up strikeouts as well. Fedde is a likely three or four starter for the Nationals. He could end up helping the Nats out of the pen by the end of this year, as they likely fight for a playoff spot. He should be penciled in as a future building block of the Nationals rotation. So far in the minors, he has shown no major weakness that would block him from becoming a solid starter.
Christian Stewart has been a personal favorite of mine since his days at Tennessee. He was 43rd on my big board before the 2015 draft, which I think was the highest of any national publication. The negatives here are clear, Stewart’s position has always been left field or bust. His bat will lose a lot of value if he has to move to 1B or DH. He is not the biggest guy either, at about six feet, but is strongly built. His calling card is his power, which is a legitimate plus skill. He also has a strong eye at the plate and will earn his share of free passes, but is also going to strike out often. He reminds me a bit, due to his size and skill set, of a poor man’s Carlos Santana. I am not sure he will be able to cut down his strikeout rate, as Santana has, or if he will walk as much. Yet the base skill set as a low average hitter with solid on base percentage and power potential in a six foot frame is why I kept thinking of this comparison while I wrote this piece.
Thomas Szapucki was my favorite pick by the Mets in the 2015 draft. My reasoning at the time is very similar to why I am still a fan now. Szapucki is a lefty with mid 90s velocity on his fastball, a potential plus curveball, and a very high rotation rate on his pitches. This year Szapucki was a force of nature. He pitched across the rookie level and low A. He combined a hit rate under five at each stop with a strikeout rate over 14. He only pitched 52 innings this season, which does limit the sample size. A back injury meant his season ended in August. The profile here is a power left hander with two plus pitches. I would call that a potential ace. His growth over the past year in terms of his pitches and approach led to several glowing reports. I also know of one team that tried to target Szapucki at the trade deadline, with no luck. It's a limited sample and his control could use some work. When I see a marriage of reports and performance in Szapucki, it makes me wonder how he is not universally viewed as a top 100 prospect. There are risks, and next year is going to be huge as his first full season. Barring injuries, Szapucki looks like a future major leaguer who could at least help a team working out of the pen. I expect him to end up being significantly more than that.
Leody Tavares was signed by the Rangers, out of the Dominican Republic, for a little over two million in 2015. The Rangers liked his tools so much they eventually pushed the 17 year old up to low A this year. He didn’t turn 18 until September, after his season had ended. His numbers were not great, but he was significantly younger than the players he faced. At this point, when it comes to Tavares, it is more about tools than performance. He has plus speed and looks like a plus defender in centerfield. He has shown a good eye at the plate in the minors, and I think his ability to get on base will be his best future skill. He is like many young players who show power in batting practice, but it has not shown up in game. His youth could certainly be a reason for this, but I also get leery projecting more than average power right now for Tavares. The profile of a plus defender in center with above average on base skills and average power would make him in the upper tier of center fielders in baseball. He is so young and so far away, though, it's all projection right now. The tools have been easy to see and, in a few years, he should make an impact with the Rangers
I was a big fan of Grant Holmes entering the 2015 draft. This should come as no surprise. I mean, of course I would be a big defender of a small, hard throwing, right handed pitcher. For me, there is some disappointment with Holmes, especially when you look at other prep players from the 2015 draft who have already played significant innings in AA or AAA. Holmes has shown two potential above average to plus pitches in his fastball curveball, but has had issues with command and control. Holmes won’t be 21 until March. In spite of being a level to level player each year, he is still younger than the league average, so there is still plenty of time for development. There is potential for a middle of the rotation starter with Holmes. I heard some rumblings that HoImes wore down at the end of last year, which led some to think he might end up in the pen. I think he likely ends up being a starter, though, with a ceiling of a mid-rotation player. I see a little bit of Trevor Bauer in him.
Confession time--Sean Newcomb would not have made the top 100 if I made this list myself. His stuff is undeniable, but I just don’t think he will harness it well enough to be effective. I get why others are such fans of Newcomb. It is not often that you find a lefty who can hit 99 and throws at least two average secondary offerings. He has been a horse in the minors who has never had any issues with injury. I just am not sure if his control and command will allow him to be a reliever a team could count on, let alone a starter. Maybe he can pull an Andrew Miller and move to the pen and see his control improve. On stuff alone, Newcomb could be a front of the rotation starter, but his control and command make it extremely unlikely.
Zack Collins would be about 40 spots higher if I thought he had any chance to stay at catcher. Collins was excellent as a freshman at Miami and somehow still improved every year, sporadically. He has a great eye for the zone which, when combined with his hit tool, should give him plus on base skills. He combines this ability with above average power, so his bat will play at first base, which is necessary for his future. The White Sox dropped him right in high A and he played well. The White Sox are very aggressive with prospects. I could see Collins spending time in AA or AAA next year. I would be surprised, but not shocked, if he ended up seeing some time in Chicago in ‘17. He was the second most advanced, to me, in the last draft. The only thing I could see slowing down Collins is his defense. If the White Sox are determined to make him a catcher, it would add some time into his delivery.
I solemnly swear that I am not the reason Brady Aiken is this high. I had him on my initial list, but was ok if he did not make it. There was a story last year about the Indians being concerned and disappointed about the fact that Aiken’s velocity was not back yet. I had heard the Indians had no such issues. They knew that Aiken was a long term bet and that his surgery was not your typical Tommy John surgery. Aiken started to look better as the year went on, from reports I received. This is a big year for the young lefty, as he will be two years removed from surgery and should see his velocity rebounding. When he was taken first overall by the Astros, I wrote that Aiken had a Clayton Kershaw starter kit. This rank is interesting, because there is zero chance Aiken is here in a year. He is either going to rocket up boards or fall off, based on what he shows this season.
Anthony Alford is one of the best athletes on this list. He was considered a hard to impossible sign out of high school in 2012. The Blue Jays got him to sign by agreeing to let him play football and paying him 750K. Alford was a defensive back in college, before deciding to give up football and concentrate on baseball in 2015. This means that he is the player on this list who was drafted the longest time ago. Alford had a fantastic 2015 and an equally bad 2016. He struggled with injuries and performance. He just never got back on track after an early injury. He is likely a corner outfielder, but could end up being a plus defender because of his 65 grade speed. For a player who has been basically out of the game for a few years, he actually walks at a decent rate in the minors. His solid build and bat speed would make one think that he has a chance to develop above average power. If he could end up 55 grade on base skills, along with 55 power with his plus speed and defense, that is an all-star. Alford is raw, because of his time away from baseball. It is a testament to his ability that, after playing in just 25 games between 2012 and 2014, Alford was able to step in and play as well as he has over the last two years. A fully healthy Alford should have a big year coming up.
Adrian Morejon San Diego Padres Erick Fedde Washington Nationals Brady Aiken Cleveland Indians Leody Teveras Texas Rangers Anthony Alford Toronto Blue Jays Sean Newcomb Atlanta Braves Zack Collins Chicago White Sox Oakland Athletics Grant Holmes Thomas Szapucki New York Mets Christin Stewart Detroit Tigers