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
40-31 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 30-21.
Jeff Ellis: Francis Martes has been one of the players that has been projected as the centerpiece of any trade the Astros would make for Jose Quintana. There is a divide with it comes to Martes. For those who aren’t fans, they comment on his height, 6’1”, and inconsistent mechanics. I see a pitcher who was very successful last year at AA at age 20. Martes fastball can hit 99 and sits mid 90’s. His curve might end up being his best pitch and is a legit plus plus offering. His change is a work in progress, as one might expect for a third pitch from a 20 year old starter. Martes control has been strong in the minors; upon reaching AA, it has started to tick up and is something that bears watching. His command has been inconsistent, which is a concern. Martes has ace potential and could end up helping the Astros this year as a pen arm if they need some help down the stretch. There are not many players anywhere in the minors with two pitches that potentially grade out as 70 pitches down the road.
Jeff Ellis: Ian Happ was one of my favorite players in the 2015 draft. The skill set was similar to that of Nick Senzel the previous year, and reminds me a bit of Keston Hiura this year. All three were second baseman with questions about their position, but no question about their ability to hit. If I were to rank them based on my valuation in college, it would be Senzel, Happ, and Hiura. Happ has the best chance of the group to stick at second, though he will never be a great defender there. His ability to play LF, CF, and 2B enhances his value, even if he is an average or worse defender at each. It is little surprise that Happ, being an advanced hitter, made it to AA in just his second season in the minors. The profile for Happ is similar to Ben Zobrist, but with a higher strikeout rate. Happ will have all of 2017 to work on his defense and continue to progress as a hitter. The biggest problem for Happ is that there is nowhere for him to go in the Chicago lineup now, or even in the immediate future. Happ is likely going to be a trade asset for the Cubs, maybe as soon as this year.
Jeff Ellis: Blake Rutherford was my top rated player in the last draft class. He is ranked lower than two players on this list because this is a joint list and we do listen to scouts as well. I could only push Rutherford up so far. While I understand why Senzel and Groome are higher, it doesn’t mean I always agree. While many got very concerned about Rutherford’s age, all I saw was a sweet swing and a potential 65/70 grade hit tool. I thought there might have been some fatigue with teams seeing too much of Rutherford and just picking him apart. Rutherford’s performance in the Appalachian League this year was impressive, but small. He played in just 25 games, but those games made an impact on multiple people I talked to. Rutherford is a future corner outfielder, but looks like a middle of the order bat who is going to get on base and show above average pop. He has one of the highest potential hit tools of any player in our top 100.
Jeff Ellis: James Kaprielian being right here means that the Yankees last two first round picks are back to back in our top 100. One could argue that no team has gotten better value in the first round the last two years than the Yankees. They turned a pair of picks in the teens into a pair of top 30 prospects in all of baseball. This placement might seem a bit crazy since, over the last two years, Kaprielian has pitched all of 29 total innings in the minors, thanks to injuries. Yet he is here because of the jump in velocity and stuff that he has shown this past season, in limited innings and in the Arizona Fall League. The jump in stuff has been kind of funny from my perspective. When Kaprielian was a junior at UCLA, it felt like everything I wrote on him was about the disappointment that, in spite of his build, he had not seemed to add any velocity during his time at UCLA. He was viewed back then as a polished arm, more than likely a three or four who knew how to pitch and had good control numbers. The jump in velocity and stuff means Kaprielian has legitimate ace potential, but also significant risk, because of the injury issues and lack of innings. The Yankees got lucky with Kaprielian, there is no way around it. One does not draft a polished college arm and expect his fastball to add five mph to it.
Jeff Ellis: Jason Groome, to many, was the top player in last year’s draft. The lefty was talked up a lot in the early going of the draft, to the point where I thought he was clearly overhyped. This is not to say Groome is a bad pitcher, just that I did not have him in the Allard or Aiken class from the previous two drafts. Groome slid on draft day because of attitude concerns and signability. The talk from the start was that Groome had a bit of a big head; this is not an uncommon occurrence in any star high school athlete. This talked seemed to rise the week of the draft which, along with his leverage and high bonus demands, lead to what had been unthinkable for many. Groome ended up being the fifth prep arm taken and the second prep lefty taken. I would argue the attitude talk was more a smoke screen or minor issue and the real concerns were his bonus demands and leverage. When it comes to pitchers, you want an over confident kid over a kid with no confidence every day of the week. I consider it a plus, not a negative. This is a bit high, for me, for Groome, but I understand the logic. He is a big left hander with front of the rotation potential. He pitched a little in low-A this year and should start the year there this year. He could move quickly for a prep arm. Groome was a top five talent in the draft, which made him a steal for the Sox.
Jeff Ellis: Man, Nick Senzel can hit. Senzel hit every year at Tennessee, he hit on the Cape, and he hit in the minors. I had him near the top of my draft board and, from March onward, he was my top college hitter, mostly on the strength of his hit tool and approach at the plate. He stepped right into low-A and excelled like it was just a continuation of his college season. I have to note that the ballpark in Dayton is a well-known hitter’s park; still, the performance was too good to look past. He has a clear plus hit tool, and plus approach. His power, I think, could be a 55/60 grade tool, which gives him the potential to be a top five third baseman in all of baseball. I would think the Reds would start him in high-A, with a chance to finish the year in AA. Senzel should be fast tracked, with the ability to take over at third base for the Reds at some point in 2018.
Jeff Ellis: Brent Honeywell’s father was a 5’10” lefty who went undrafted out of college, but still spent three years in the minors for the Pirates, reaching high-A. Brent Honeywell is a 6’2” right hander who the Rays took in the second round, so he must take after mom. Honeywell might be best known for the fact that he uses a screwball. The screwball is a pitch that is not often used by pitchers and the basic effect is that it breaks the opposite way of a curveball. There is a long standing belief, which has no real supporting evidence, that a screwball leads to injuries. Honeywell is by no means a one pitch pitcher. His fastball looks like a plus weapon and his change should also be an above average. His curve is the weakest of his four pitches. Honeywell put up strong numbers this year in AA over ten starts. He did get shut down for a few weeks, due to injury, which causes some concern. Honeywell’s combination of control, three above average pitches, and athleticism gives him a chance to be a front of the rotation starter. He is another young high upside arm for the Rays.
Jeff Ellis: Manuel Margot was the centerpiece of the Craig Kimbrel deal last year. He would have been the top prospect on this list for San Diego, if not for another Padres-Red Sox swap. Margot reached the majors this year at age 21. He started the year in AA and played the majority of the season there at age 20. Margot has always been very advanced for his age and, in spite of being several years younger than most players he faced, he has not been overpowered. He has posted low strikeout rates throughout the minors. He is not the biggest guy and will likely never post double digit home run totals in San Diego, partly because of the park as well. Margot’s best tool is his speed and, when you combine it with his ability as a hitter, he looks the part of a traditional leadoff hitter. Margot has a chance to be the Padres centerfielder to start the year. Margot is never going to be a big numbers guy. He should be a potential top five centerfielder thanks to his defense, speed, and hit tool. I am quite high on Margot and would have put him in my top 20 prospects in baseball personal list. The floor is so high and, with players this young, it is not uncommon to see unexpected growth of skills occur after a few years in the majors.
Jeff Ellis: Anderson Espinoza is the player I referenced in the Margot piece above. I personally would have rated Margot higher, even though it is clear Espinoza has the higher ceiling. Espinoza is an interesting case, to me, as scouts and writers have fallen in love with his tools and youth enough to look past things that would traditionally be negative marks on a pitcher. We had him a bit lower on this list before talking with scouts, who were adamant that he had to be higher and is the Padres top prospect. Espinoza is six feet tall which, for a right handed pitcher, is normally a huge negative. This is balanced out by a mid 90’s fastball and strong control numbers in low-A this year. If I were to play devil's advocate I would point out that, for all the age to level hype with Espinoza, Triston McKenzie is just eight months older, with five more inches, better rate data, and has already made it up to high-A. Espinoza certainly has better stuff but, in terms of floor, there is also a lot more risk. I tend not to get over hyped about any arm below AA, as the washout rate is so high. Espinoza’s natural stuff gets a lot of attention, but I can’t help but wonder that, if he had been a Padres prospect all along instead of starting in the Red Sox system, if he would not be as hyped as he has been this year. The ceiling is there for a front of the rotation pitcher. Yet, at the same time, he struggled a bit this year, is undersized, and faded towards the end. All of these things are explained away pretty easily, but it’s still a weird combo to see in a player that some have talked about as one of the top pitching prospects in the game, and we are as guilty of that as anyone. Again, this does not mean I dislike the player. The ceiling is undeniable, but the risk is higher than I think is being stated. I personally would have had him closer to 40 than 20, but I do have a natural aversion to arms below AA. Anderson Espinoza Manuel Margot San Diego Padres James Kaprielian Blake Rutherford New York Yankees Brent Honeywell Tampa Bay Rays Nick Senzel Cincinnati Reds Boston Red Sox Jason Groome Ian Happ Cincinnati Reds Francis Martes Houston Astros