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
70-61 can be found here
60-51 can be found here
50-41 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 set of players rated 40-31.
Jeff Ellis: Corey Ray was my number two college bat and number five overall prospect in this past draft. I know there has been debate at points about whether he was more likely a future left fielder or center fielder. I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt for now in terms of position, but recognize that, at best, he would be an average defensive center fielder. Ray is a plus runner and that is his best tool. The rest of his tools project as above average and should give him a chance to be a top five offensive center fielder in baseball. Ray hurt his knee and had surgery this offseason, which is going to be something to watch this summer. Ray was aggressively pushed by the Brewers, who put him directly in high-A, where he struggled. This is not a surprise, due to the level he was put into. Ray has had some swing and miss for Louisville and it was an issue in his debut. A healthy Ray has a chance to end this year in AA and could help the Brewers as early as 2018. His ability to provide above average skills and play a passable center field are what elevate him up on this board.
Jeff Ellis: I have to admit this feels too high for Kevin Maitan, for me. The scouts we talked to while compiling this list were just so glowing. Every time we walked to a scout they said he needed to be moved up more. Now he is sitting here at 39 and I don’t love it. Maitan has tools for days and a ceiling as high as Everest or Olympus Mons. The issue is that he is all of recently turned 17 and has yet to play in the minors. I have seen so many bonus babies bomb that it is hard for me not to be afraid of the chances for failure when a player is so far away. Maitan’s position is still very much in debate and depends on how he grows. At this point, there is nothing definite I can say on Maitan. He has a chance to be the best shortstop or third baseman in baseball. He also has a chance to never reach AAA. I just tend to value safety over ceiling often with players, so putting a player in the top 40 who has this much uncertainty is hard for me. I like the reports, but that is all I have right now--reports and projection.
Jeff Ellis: Mitch Keller’s ascension to top prospect is one of the more surprising stories on this list. Keller was a second round pick back in 2014. He pitched entirely in the rookie league that year. In 2015, he pitched 19.2 ineffective innings while struggling to stay healthy. So to start 2016, here was a pitcher in his third year who had not been effective or pitched an inning in A-Ball. This is a recipe, typically, for a bust, not a top prospect. This year, Keller was fully healthy and hitting the high 90’s by the end of the year. I would not hold it against anyone who thought that Keller was the Pirates top pitching prospect over Glasnow, which shows just how bullish I am on Keller. Keller’s control this year was excellent, after being a real issue in his first two seasons. He kept his strikeout rate high this year, while showing drastically improved command and control. Keller might be entering his fourth year in the minors, but he won’t turn 21 until April, meaning there is plenty of time for him to climb the ladder. Keller should spend time in AA this year. If the Pirates do make a trade for a player who can help them this year, I would expect the other team to start by asking for Keller as the centerpiece.
Jeff Ellis: Francisco Mejia is a player I have known about for a great many years. The refrain on him has been talented headache. Mejia might be the best catching prospect in baseball. He has a cannon behind the plate and has made improvements defensively to the point where I never hear people question if he can stick behind the plate. He has a potential plus hit tool and gap power from the catching position. He has always been one of the younger players in his level and some of his hitting development has undoubtedly been slowed by his transition to catcher. He makes a lot of contact, as one would guess by his 50 game hit streak this year. He doesn’t strike out or walk much. At last year's deadline, I wrote about how Mejia would headline a deal, because of maturity issues. I had negative reports on his attitude from more than half a dozen sources. The upside is I heard that, after the Lucroy deal fell apart, Mejia seemed like a different player personality wise. The reports weren't glowing, but more that he seems to get it and be trying. When you see a player who did what he did last year as a catcher, at age 20, he should be higher. The problem is, in my time covering the Indians, I never have had more negative reports on one player. I appreciate the fact that he was starting to turn things around. If he can continue show improvements across the board, Mejia could be a top ten prospect this time next year.
Jeff Ellis: Kyle Lewis’s slide in last year’s draft was one of the more surprising things to happen on day one of the draft. He has been rumored to go anywhere from two to ten. He ended up going 11th, but to see Lewis slide out of the top ten still surprised most of us. Lewis was placed directly into low-A and was playing very well for 30 games before he tore his ACL. As a fan of baseball, this injury was crushing to me. Just from a cultural perspective, baseball needs more players like Kyle Lewis. Lewis, as a junior, won the Triple Crown of the Southern Conference and somehow played even better the next year. It seemed he heard the talk that he was too much of a free swinger and, as a junior, walked more than he struck out. As a matter of fact, his walk total tripled from his sophomore to junior year. Lewis is a big kid, with big power, who had found success already in the lower levels. His injury, unfortunately, will set back his progress. As a small school player, he could use reps against top competition more than your traditional high pick. I still see a corner outfielder with plus power, who has shown major improvement every year in college. I would not bet against him coming back and just getting better and better.
Jeff Ellis: Josh Bell loses a few points because he is a first baseman and has been one exclusively for two years. Bell was so well thought of that, when he was drafted back in 2011, he signed right before the deadline, for five million dollars. Last year, only two players signed for five million or more. This example illustrates just how much money owners have saved under this new pool system. The Pirates have always been aggressive with their placement of Bell who, as a high school player, went directly into A-ball in 2012, his first minor league season. Bell has always been a strong hitter in the minors, but his power has been very slow to show in game. Bell’s size and swing would allow one to think he should have above average power but, until this season, he has not shown much, or really any, power in games. If you have been reading this series, then you know this is actually a common refrain among just about every first base prospect we have written on. The future is now for the Pirates, who should start with Bell as their first baseman, after he appeared in 45 games for them a year ago. Bell’s power is still developing, but his hit tool is ready for the majors.
Jeff Ellis: Bradley Zimmer is another player I have seen a lot of, and know both his strengths and weakness very well. Zimmer is an above average runner who, with his size, covers a lot of ground quickly. He should be an average defender in centerfield, but there is a chance he might move to the corner, if adding bulk slows him down. He is a big kid, at 6’5”, and that leads to his biggest problem, which is huge strike out totals. This is a rather large red flag for Zimmer and the main reason many have jumped off the bandwagon. He also struggled this year once promoted to AAA, but I am not concerned about a player who struggled in half a season post promotion. If a player doesn’t struggle, it's a plus, if they do, it's rather common. Akron is a huge park that suppresses power, but Zimmer had no problems with the park. He is a strong kid with 20-30 home run potential. He also walks quite a bit, which helps balance out his high strikeout rate. One last caveat--Zimmer has always struggled heavily against left handed pitchers, which means he is a candidate for a platoon bat or fourth outfielder if he can’t improve. I still think there is a potential center fielder, with above average to plus power and acceptable on base percentages, because of his walk rate. Zimmer is a legitimate potential 20/20 player in the future, albeit one with a lot of strikeouts and a low average.
Jeff Ellis: The Milwaukee Brewers are the third organization for Josh Hader. He was traded by the Orioles for Bud Norris and then later flipped by the Astros as a lesser piece in the Carlos Gomez deal. At the time of the Carlos Gomez deal, I would have ranked Hader behind Phillips and Santana. Hader is a player that has to be painful for the Orioles scouts to watch develop. The scouts did a fantastic job finding him in the 19th round of the 2012 draft. Hader’s fastball sits in the mid 90’s and his slider is a plus offering as well. The fact that Hader is left handed, with two potential plus pitches, means his floor is that of an elite pen arm. The biggest issue over multiple levels in the minors for Hader has been with his control and command. His walk rate jumped this year in AAA, but it has tended to be closer to four than three for his minor league career. Hader has ace potential, with a floor of an elite pen arm. Hader was added to the 40 man this year. I expect he should see significant time in the majors this season. If he can improve his control, then Hader could be the Brewers ace for a long time to come.
Jeff Ellis: One of my favorite things when it comes to the draft is when I take criticism for being higher on a player early on, who then ends up being a top selection. Two years ago, the player was Andrew Benintendi, last year it was Mickey Moniak. In my February mock, I had Moniak going to the Rockies and took a lot of heat. So it was fun a few months later when I heard he was the leading candidate to go number one. I knew he would be a player that would be easy for scouts to fall in love with. Moniak was a likely center fielder, with an advanced approach as a hitter and a tireless work ethic. Moniak should be a future leadoff hitter. He likely won’t be more than an average power hitter, which was why he was not the prep hitter in last year’s class, to me. He was the number three prospect on my draft board and, I think, in terms of prep players, is one of the safer ones I have seen in recent years.
Jeff Ellis: Jose De Leon is an interesting player to follow. In 2016, he went from an unknown to a prospect darling. His rise from 24th round pick to top prospect caught a lot of eyes and talk. Now give me a second to give credit to the scouts here. De Leon signed for a paltry 35K in the 24th round. The Dodgers then flipped him for a top ten second baseman. If they were to sign a player like Forsythe, it would cost them millions of dollars. In other words, the scouts saved the Dodgers millions of dollars. This year, at age 23, he made his Major League debut, before he was flipped to the Rays for second baseman Logan Forsythe. De Leon has posted high strikeout and low walk totals, while always being young for his level. De Leon has mostly been a fastball/changeup pitcher, with a slider for a show me type of pitch. I don’t think De Leon is a top of the rotation arm. Yet, there is a lot of value in a ready number three starter. De Leon will help the Rays this year and be part of what could be a formidable young rotation with Archer, Snell, Cobb, and soon, Honeywell. Corey Ray Milwaukee Brewers Mickey Moniak Philadelphia Phillies Jose De Leon Tampa Bay Rays Josh Hader Bradley Zimmer Cleveland Indians Francisco Mejia Josh Bell Pittsburgh Pirates Kyle Lewis Mitch Keller Kevin Maitan Atlanta Braves