See the Top 100 Prospect Chat for more details on the process and reasoning behind the rankings. Also see the Rankings Index for links to other lists, ranging from the 16 year olds of the international signing period to big league free agency.
Some of the prospects you'll see on other lists aren't on this one, as I've excluded any players that will be Opening Day starters in the big leagues. That means players like Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Jr., Carlos Martinez, Kolten Wong, Travis d'Arnaud, Nick Castellanos, Billy Hamilton and Matt Davidson aren't on the list and neither are newly-signed players from professional foreign leagues like Masahiro Tanaka, Miguel Gonzalez or Jose Abreu. I wanted the list to reflect what it is called--the top prospects in the minor leagues--and, to me, starting the season in the big league lineup is enough to not qualify, regardless of MLB service time or AB/IP limits.
In my midseason top 50 prospects list (1-25 & 26-50+), I mixed things up by including amateurs and foreign professionals on the list, but, again, wanted to keep this list to just to current minor leaguers. North Carolina State LHP Carlos Rodon, East Carolina RHP Jeff Hoffman, North Carolina State SS Trea Turner and Texas prep RHP Tyler Kolek are my top four draft-eligible talents and were in play for that midseason list. There are also a couple players still playing professionally abroad that would also be threats to make the list, like Japanese RHPs Shohei Otani and Shintaro Fujinama along with Cuban 2B Jose Fernandez.
Of these players not appearing on the list, Bogaerts, Rodon and Tanaka would all comfortably in the top 10 with Hoffman landing in the top 25 and almost all of the others mentioned landing in the top 75.
Who I Love/Hate
I sent this list around the industry for comments from dozens of scouts and there was a wide range of opinions even on individual players, much less the list as a whole. As a pre-emptive frequently asked questions of sorts, here's some quick comments on a few players that some thought I had too high or too low:
- Albert Almora/CF, Cubs: Most thought I had Almora a little high as a top 10 guy, but when pressed, almost every scout conceded he's a high-probability, quick-moving guy that conservatively has a ceiling of .280 with 15 homers and plus defense. Almora may not have the flashy raw tools of other prospects ranked this high, but those projected numbers are close to what Carlos Gomez did this year, posting an 8-win season.
- Lucas Giolito/RHP, Nationals & Dylan Bundy/RHP, Orioles: Both are highly-regarded arms coming off Tommy John surgery. Giolito got hurt first and already had his stuff come back, flashing plus-plus stuff in a playoff start late in the season. Bundy hasn't thrown off a mound yet (which is why I have Giolito one spot ahead) but is on schedule and hasn't had a setback. The ranking is aggressive, but when I polled scouts on who they'd take between these two and the next few ranked pitchers (Glasnow, Owens, Gray), we realized that's how talented these guys are and how routine Tommy John surgery has become.
- Marcus Stroman/RHP, Blue Jays & Clint Frazier/OF, Indians: These are the other two guys I'm notably higher on than others, and have been for awhile. I have only broken down the details on the podcast so far (will write it soon), but my Black Swan Theory fits both of these guys to a T. Essentially, it says that super-elite talents with notable outlier qualities (such as size) tend to make adjustments better than other similarly-regarded prospects. I'm all in on these guys, so buy low while you can.
- Jameson Taillon/RHP & Austin Meadows/OF, Pirates: These two prospects that I'm a little lower on than many just happen to be on the same team, though the Pirates are well-repesented on the list and both are in the top 60. Taillon hasn't really made progress in the last two years, but could still be a solid #3 starter while I've been the low man on Meadows for over a year. Both could be above average everyday players and are ranked as such, but the hype is a little rich on both of them for my taste.
- Kyle Crick/RHP, Giants, David Dahl/CF, Rockies & Sean Manaea/LHP, Royals: These were my three biggest challenges on the list. Crick has all the elements to be a frontline starter except command and I was told multiple times he was both too low and too high. Dahl was a favorite of mine in the loaded 2012 draft class but essentially had a lost development year in 2013. Manaea flashed frontline starter potential on the Cape but had an injury-riddled, inconsistent draft year punctuated with hip surgery after signing. He hasn't thrown on a mound since signing and this could still go any direction.
- Jesse Hahn & Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Rays: I have an unpopular opinion on these two Rays pitching prospects, with Hahn ahead of Odorizzi. One source said Hahn's medical was a "train wreck" even before he got Tommy John surgery a few years ago, but he had a breakout season in the Florida State League last year. Hahn has power stuff in a plus-plus sinker and plus curveball that has a chance to fit in the middle of a rotation while Odorizzi is more of a back-end starter. Odorizzi is closer to contributing and a safer bet, but ended up just missing the list.
There's always a couple players that were tough to cut at the end and may prompt me next year to make this list whatever length I feel comfortable with, as I did with my high school prospects lists. Some of the last cuts from the list included Jesse Winker, Jose Berrios, Luke Jackson, Michael Choice, Trevor Story, Alberto Tirado, Kaleb Cowart, Hunter Renfroe, Kyle Parker and Odorizzi
Dollar Sign On The Muscle
Lastly, I haven't ranked and pegged values to every player in every system yet, but wanted to give you guys an idea of where the top prospects in baseball grade out. I've got #1 prospect Byron Buxton at $74.7 million in asset value and the rest of the top 10 all over $55 million. Right around the 50th prospect, asset values are about $40 million and at the back of the list are around $25-30 million.