The Scout top 100 prospect list for 2017 is updated and can be found here.
100-91 can be found here
90-81 can be found here
80-71 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 70-61.
Jeff Ellis: Matt Manning was my number two right prep arm in the 2016 draft. The reason was his almost limitless upside. Manning’s dad, Rich Manning, was a pro basketball player and Manning has both his athleticism and size. Manning could have gone to college and played both sports, but instead signed with the Tigers, who had been connected with both Manning and Riley Pint leading up to the draft. On top of the size, bloodlines, and athleticism, Manning was also touching 97 last season. He also had not been a consistent starter in high school until his senior year. So he does not have the mileage some other arms have by this point. Manning has all the makings of a potential ace pitcher. He is also the rawest player who went in the top ten and his distance to the majors is the major drawback right now for Manning. If you like cathedral ceilings and Marianas Trench floors, then Manning is your guy.
Jeff Ellis: Justus Sheffield has a history of being secondary. He is the younger brother of Jordan Sheffield, who went in the first round to the Dodgers a year ago. He was the Indians second first round pick in 2014, after Bradley Zimmer. He was the second piece in the Andrew Miller trade, behind Clint Frazier. I firmly believe his secondary outcome would be as a reliever. Sheffield will be under estimated because he is short of stature, 5’10”, and doesn’t throw hard, mostly 91-94. He has been consistently multiple years younger than the level he pitched at and won’t even turn 21 until the middle of May. His strikeout to walk ratios were fantastic in 2015. This year, as he moved up the ladder, they stayed solid, but both numbers regressed. The walk rate rise was the most concerning of the number changes and is part of the reason he is lower than a year ago. Sheffield, I imagine, will spend the majority of the year in AA, but should be in the running to take over a spot in the Yankees rotation as early as 2018.
Jeff Ellis: Jeff Hoffman was one of the most hotly debated players on this list. I have been the low analyst on Hoffman dating back to his college days. My basic concerns have always been the same. Hoffman’s stuff is so good, but his performance has not measured up to his ability. His lack of dominance at Eastern Carolina always confounded me. He has strikeout stuff, but has never really missed bats. This year I actually gained more confidence in Hoffman, as he finally posted a strikeout rate at any level over eight, 9.4 in AAA. Hoffman has been very aggressively pushed in the minors. He did not even spend two full seasons in the minors before he made his MLB debut. This speed of movement means there is the possibility that he could take a jump as a pitcher but, as of now, I think he ends up a likely back end starter.
Jeff Ellis: Jorge Mateo had a rough year. His numbers across the board dropped from 2015 and he was also suspended for violating team policy. This story blew up a bit when Mateo tweeted, then deleted, a tweet where he talked about a lie, which most interpreted as a reference to the reasons for his suspension. Mateo’s best skill is his speed, followed quickly by his arm. He is a player, though, who did not make my initial list because he struck me as tools over production type. I am not sure I see a single plus tool inside the hitters box. I could see Mateo moving to third, where his arm could be an asset now that the Yankees have Torres as shortstop of the future. There is talent here for sure, but I need to see more consistent performance before I am ready to say he is a future regular.
Jeff Ellis: Raimel Tapia could be an average defensive center fielder with plus hit tool and plus speed. He has hit over .300 every year and at every level in the minors. I can’t help but see a bit of Juan Pierre when I look at Tapia, mostly because he was a Rocky as well. I will also admit it’s a bad comp, as Pierre was faster and Tapia a better and stronger hitter. Tapia’s value would be greatly increased if he was a slam dunk center fielder. He is likely going to end up in left field for the Rockies. I expect him to split the year between AAA and the majors. There is a chance that he could be a fourth outfielder, as his walk totals have been low and his power is going to be sub average. The other player I thought about a lot with Tapia was Jesse Winker. They have similar profiles--Winker is the safer player but Tapia has the higher ceiling. The higher placement is based on the positional opportunities more than anything else.
Jeff Ellis: A.J Puk was the top player on my 2016 draft board to start the year. His size and stuff for a left hander is something that is hard to find. Puk was fairly consistent with his strengths and weakness in college. His junior and sophomore years were very similar statistically. His walk rate did go up half a walk but his hit and home run rate were down and his strikeout rate was up. While he was injured, he actually started more games as a junior than he had as a sophomore. When I make a list in the fall, I expect improvements and, when Puk stayed consistent, he slipped a bit for me. I have noticed that pitchers with Puk’s size, 6’7” or greater, often have issues with control when they also have big velocity. When you hear about size concerns for pitchers, it is always about pitchers who are smaller. I have concerns, though, when a pitcher is too tall, as there are often problems with mechanics and health. Last year, I started to compare Puk to Drew Pomeranz, as both are big lefties from SEC schools who had control issues and injury issues as juniors. This comparison got even more interesting when Puk was drafted by the A’s, who Pomeranz had pitched for. There is certainly front of the rotation potential with Puk. I am just not sure if Puk’s control is something that can be expected to dramatically improve. Puk pitched at one of the best colleges in the country. Another interesting comparison for Puk could be Andrew Miller and, if that is a mid-level outcome, than he could be an incredibly valuable player in the future.
Jeff Ellis: Kyle Tucker is lower on this list than he is on almost every other one. This is partially my fault, because he has always been a player who I have been lower on than the consensus. I should be a huge fan of Tucker. He has great bloodlines, as his brother is a major league player. He has posted low strike out totals in the minors. He has performed in the minors, in spite of being very young for the level. He just turned 20 and has already spent time in high-A. He will more than likely, at the age of 20, see some time in AA this year. He has played centerfield in the minors, but he is going to move to a corner. The only negative offensively has been the fact that his power has yet to emerge. Tucker is a big kid, 6’4”, and his swing should generate power. I am waiting to see power emerge in his game before he shoots up my board. The package is there for a potential All-Star right fielder. There are a lot of reasons to be bullish on Tucker, who has a good chance to be a top 20 prospect in a year.
Jeff Ellis: The Texas Rangers system has been one of the deepest minors in baseball for a long time, thanks to excellent drafts and strong investments in Latin America. I would argue that this is the weakest the Rangers minors has looked in years, thanks to trades and graduations. There is not one sure fire blue chip prospect in the entire system, to me. The top prospect in the system for us this year is Yohander Mendez. Mendez started the year in high-A and ended up pitching in the majors. He did not skip a level, he pitched across four levels last year. It is so unusual to see a player start a year in A and end up in the majors. Mendez is a big lefty, with an above average fastball and change. The consensus is that he is a future mid rotation starter but, thanks to the fact that he has pitched so few innings in the upper minors and is so young (just turned 22), I think there could be a chance for a little more. While Mendez has pitched 293 minor league innings, only 64 were at AA or AAA. Mendez could be an option for the Rangers rotation later in the year. He looks like a likely mid-rotation, innings eating starter.
Jeff Ellis: I root for any player who comes out of the RBI program. For those who don’t know, RBI stands for Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities. Dom Smith is one of two guys on the top 100 who I know were a part of this excellent program. The concern for Smith since he has been drafted by the Mets was that his power through his first three years in the minors had yet to appear in game. Smith was always known as a plus defender at first, with a plus hit tool and excellent plate awareness. Smith hit double digit home runs for the first time last year. His AB/HR rate was more than cut in half. He was 21 in AA and, in spite of his youth, still hit over .300 with a low strikeout rate. His walk rate actually improved in AA this year. If the power did not emerge, then the profile for Smith was going to look a lot like peak Casey Kotchman. Smith’s power is likely an average trait going forward. He looks like a potential plus on base player, with plus defense and average power. It’s not a star profile, but he should be a solid above average regular for a long time. There were only six first basemen who posted an OBP of .380 or better and hit 20 home runs. Smith has a very good chance to join that group down the road.
Jeff Ellis: Jorge Alfaro’s profile has changed significantly this year. This is mostly because the consensus has changed from “no chance he can catch” to “hey, it might actually happen.” He is another player I got to see in person this year. His power display during the Eastern League All Star Game was the highlight of the evening, even if he did not win the contest. His first round was a sight to see and showed why he has plus plus power potential. The Akron RubberDucks have a park known for its size and ability to stifle even the best home run hitters. Alfaro showed no difficulty at all with the park’s dimensions. Behind the plate, Alfaro is likely going to be a sub average defender. His arm is his best tool and, behind the plate, it is a genuine weapon. His footwork was muddled when I saw him. His plate discipline is the big concern, though. Alfaro rarely walks and has yet to meet a pitch he did not think he could hit into the upper deck. The rarest commodity right now in baseball is a consistent offensive force at catcher. The risk is also high, though. There are few things that derail power hitters more than issues with strike zone discipline. Alfaro is still a risk-reward player, to me, at this point. His tools are so obvious in person, but his performance surprised me a bit this year, especially considering the hitter’s park he played in.