MLB prospects work a little bit differently than other sports in that it is rare for prospects to play right away and make a significant impact for the teams they were drafted by. It is also common for top 10 picks to be complete busts and not even play in the major leagues and for later first round picks to be some of the best players in the game. Mike Trout comes to mind who was the 25th overall pick in 2009 and did not become an everyday player until the 2012 season, but now he is an MVP award winner and a highlight machine.
Prospects are a good foundation to any solid major league team and every successful franchise knows how to build their teams through their farm system. In this day and age of baseball prospects are also quite often used as trade bait to make a run for the World Series title as my hometown Toronto Blue Jays did last year. They unloaded most of their top pitching prospects to acquire the likes of David Price and Troy Tulowitzki and brought excitement back to the city of Toronto for the first time in over 20 years.
I used MLB.com to formulate my list of prospects since they have an in depth section with the top 100 prospects in baseball and the 30 best prospects for every team. Most of the prospects I mention made the top 100 list and are cornerstones for their respective franchises. For the prospects I picked I put an emphasis on those prospects that are close to making the big leagues or are at the top of the 100 list.
Arizona Diamondbacks – Brandon Drury
Drury was part of the blockbuster trade in 2013 that sent Justin Upton to the Atlanta Braves and he has already had a taste of the major leagues. Even though he struggled early in his MLB career he put in the time and work and refined his hitting approach and has become of the top prospects in the Diamondbacks system. He is currently on the major league roster and has played in six games and has collected three hits. It won’t be long before Drury becomes an impact player in Arizona.
Atlanta Braves – Dansby Swanson
Acquired by the Braves this past offseason in the trade for Shelby Miller, Swanson is the first 1st overall pick ever that was traded in the same year he was drafted and the Braves think they have a keeper. Swanson has all the skills to become the long-term solution for the Braves at shortstop and he is projected to make the team in 2017. He also has a winning pedigree which you can not teach, an advanced approach at the plate and quick hands and feet which make him a terror on the base paths.
Baltimore Orioles – Mychal Givens
Givens pitched for the Orioles last year and sparkled in 30 innings, posting an 1.80 ERA and striking out 38 batters. His best pitch is a fastball that tops out at 98 mph but he compliments this with a nasty slider and a serviceable changeup. He is on the team this year as the main setup guy for Orioles’ closer Zach Britton. A converted shortstop, Givens figures to be an integral piece of the team’s bullpen this season and should be capable of stepping in as the closer if Britton struggles.
Boston Red Sox – Yoan Moncada
The Red Sox were so excited to acquire Moncada’s services from Cuba that they paid $31.5 million last March, the highest contract for an amateur player ever. What makes Moncada special is his huge offensive ceiling as he projects as a Robinson Cano type player with more speed. Moncada’s best asset is his speed but he also makes consistent, hard contact from both sides of the plate so far in his minor league career. He’ll likely spend all of 2016 in the minors but could be ready to make a Major League impact by next season.
Chicago Cubs – Willson Contreras
Willson Contreras is ranked the best catching prospect in the minor leagues because of his offensive production. He led the AA Southern League in batting last year with a .333 batting average as well as extra-base hits with 46 in addition to driving in 75 runs and scoring 71. He is also showing signs of being a solid catcher and owns a strong arm and quickness and athleticism that most back stops do not possess. You should see Contreras in the Major Leagues by the end of the 2016 season.
Chicago White Sox – Tim Anderson
Anderson is another prospect that will rely on his bat and speed to make it to the big leagues. His speed makes him a huge base stealing threat and he has the ability to square up the ball and make consistent contact. Unfortunately, Anderson is lacking in the defensive area and has questionable hands and footwork for a shortstop, but there is a chance he gets a look this year for the White Sox in a pinch running or pinch hitting capacity.
Cincinnati Reds – Cody Reed
Another prospect that got dealt last year, Reed rocketed through the minor leagues last year and has become one of the best left handed pitching prospects in the game, one who could pitch at the top of a rotation one day. His two best pitches are a plus fastball and wipeout slider and he is also developing a changeup which has improved tremendously over the past year. Over this past year he has also improved his command of all three of his pitches and all of these attributes have made him one of the top pitching prospects in the game today.
Cleveland Indians – Clint Frazier
The Indians have two solid outfield prospects in Frazier and Bradey Zimmer but I picked Frazier as their more exciting prospect because his minor league numbers are just a little bit better. Frazier is blessed with raw power and excellent bat speed and he has big league All-Star potential. His only drawback at this stage in his career is that he has problems hitting the breaking ball and strikes out too often, but this is something that most prospects have dealt with sometime in their careers. The 21-year-old Frazier should be ready for the bigs by 2017.
Colorado Rockies – Trevor Story
Story is the only no brainer of a selection for a team’s most exciting prospect due to his hot start in the big leagues this year. He set a record by hitting seven home runs in his first six games during which he also had 12 RBIs. The funny thing about Story is that he did project to be a starting player and it was his versatility to play all infield positions that was supposed to be his ticket to the big leagues. Other than his big bat, Story is also capable of stealing bases as he was successful on 88% of stolen base attempts through his first five years as a pro.
Detroit Tigers – Michael Fulmer
The key prospect acquired from the New York Mets in the Yoenis Cespedes deal, the Tigers should start seeing some big league return in the near future. Fulmer has accomplished all that he can in the minor leagues by improving both his stuff and command over the past season. His ticket to the big leagues and potential star power comes from possibility that he might have above-average command of all three of his pitches. He began the 2016 season back in the minors, but should be in Detroit before the year is over.
Houston Astros – A.J. Reed
Tyler White might be off to a good start with the Astros this season but I picked A.J. Reed as their most exciting prospect because he is a little bit younger and White will most likely lose playing time now that Evan Gattis is back with the team. MLB.com ranked Reed the best first baseman prospect this year and for good reason. At 22 years of age he already shows the power and patience to hit the ball to all fields and take walks if pitchers do not challenge him. He is also a good athlete and should be an adequate defender at first base.
Kansas City Royals – Raul Adalberto Mondesi
Son of former all-star Raul Mondesi, R.A has some of the same tools as his father. A speedster with range at the shortstop position his biggest asset is his prime defensive skills. He lacks discipline at the plate but has 15 home run potential and is a switch hitter which is always a plus. Mondesi made his major league debut in the World Series, going 0 for 1 with a strikeout. He’s just 20 years old, so there’s still plenty of time for his patience at the plate to develop.
Los Angeles Angels – Jahmai Jones
Jones’s biggest assets are his raw athleticism and possession of the intangibles it takes to be a successful major leaguer. His makeup has allowed him to make the changes it takes to be successful in his career so far and he is a hard worker. But the only meaningful skill he possesses so far is his incredible speed which should at least make him a solid defender and base stealing threat at the major league level. There’s lots of times for Jones’ offensive abilities to develop as he’s only 18 years old and doesn’t project to be ready for the big leagues until 2019.
Los Angeles Dodgers – Julio Urias
Urias is the best left-handed pitching prospect in the game today and is ranked #2 on MLB.com, Urias has plus or better stuff across the board. He can plant his 95 mph on both sides of the plate and he has a deadly 12-6 curveball as well as a devastating changeup. At only 19 years of age the Dodgers have been patient with their prized possession, but he might still get a look in the big leagues this year. What makes Urias’s success all the more amazing is that he had surgery to remove a benign tumor from his left eye. Urias projects as a #1 starter but his only drawback is that in the minors he has had durability issues, never pitching more than 88 innings in a season.
Miami Marlins – Josh Naylor
The only Canadian on this list, Naylor has the potential to be a special player because of raw power and natural feel for hitting. Not expected to make the major leagues until 2019, Naylor, despite an aggressive approach does not have much swing and miss to his game but he will need to become more selective as his career progresses. Due to Naylor’s lack of speed he is limited to first base and though athletic for a big man, he does not possess much defensive ability so he will need to develop that part of his game as well.
Milwaukee Brewers – Orlando Arcia
Arcia has always been seen as a premium defender in the minor leagues but his bat took major strides last year in AA. He led the Southern League with 47 doubles, and ranked with fifth with a .307 batting average and was also in the top five in hits, runs, extra-base-hits and RBIs. Arcia already has the skills to be a Gold Glove caliber shortstop in the major leagues and also has the ability to steal 20 plus bases once in the show. His offensive upside is what makes Arcia a very intriguing prospect and Brewers fans might get a look at him later this year.
Minnesota Twins – Jose Berrios
Berrios is the earliest drafted pitcher out of Puerto Rico and his fastball, curveball and change up are already plus pitches. His curveball has developed so much that it might be his out pitch and his fastball is often clocked in the mid 90s. His only problem right now that is that he tries too much and speeds things up but this is something the Twins organization is confident they will rectify as he matures. Berrios projects as a #2 starter, one with 20-win potential. He’s started the 2016 season in the minors, but should join the Twins rotation by midseason.
New York Mets – Steven Matz
The Mets are in the business of developing major league arms in their starting rotation and Matz is no different. Already the envy of the league with the likes of Harvey, Syndegard and deGrom in their rotation, Matz is another in a line of young pitchers under 25 years of age that can simply deal. Matz is blessed with a mind 90s fastball that has sink and he uses to get ground ball outs, a change up that also has sink and an improving curveball that he has already used with great success in the big leagues. Matz’s biggest asset is his command of all three of his pitches and this projects him as front-line starter.
New York Yankees – Aaron Judge
What makes Judge an exciting prospect is that he is built in the mold of Giancarlo Stanton who is one of the most feared power hitters in the game today. Currently Judge lacks some discipline but possesses a lot of raw power and how well he balances this will determine how well he performs in the big leagues. As it stands he projects as a 20 homer per season first baseman for the New York Yankees. There’s a good chance that Judge could find himself in the Yankees lineup at some point this season.
Oakland Athletics – Franklin Barreto
Barreto was the key piece acquired from the Blue Jays in the Josh Donaldson trade a little over a year ago and even though Donaldson won the AL MVP last year, Barreto is a very nice prospect. His bat and raw power are his calling card to the big leagues at the moment as he contributed a career-worst 34 errors in 84 games at shortstop in 2015. His key assets are his quick bat and ability to hit to all fields which help him project to be a .300 hitter. He also does not strike out much despite his overly aggressive approach.
Philadelphia Phillies – J.P. Crawford
Crawford has an excellent blend of defensive and offensive skills that make him the ideal major leaguer. Currently his defensive skills are ahead of his offensive abilities but at the plate he has a very patient and disciplined approach that allowed him to walk more than strike out last year. Defensively he has outstanding range with very soft hands and a strong arm which should allow him to stay at the shortstop position for the long term. He is projected to impact the Phillies lineup sometime this year.
Pittsburgh Pirates – Tyler Glasnow
Glasnow already has swing and miss stuff and his big money pitch is his mid 90s fastball that he can throw strikes with on both sides of the plate. How good Glasnow ends up being in the big leagues depends on how well he commands his curveball and changeup, but both have made significant improvements over the past year. The Pirates are already blessed with one of the best young teams in baseball and Glasnow should be able to contribute for them in the very near future.
San Diego Padres – Hunter Renfroe
Renfroe’s biggest assets are his upper cut swing, bat speed and physical strength all that should allow to be a productive power hitter once he makes the big leagues. He also makes consistent, loud and hard contact and has shown the ability to make adjustments in all the levels that he has played in so far. He also has a cannon of an arm in right field and has notched 25 outfield assists since 2014. The 24-year-old should be able to make an impact for the lowly Padres by 2017.
San Francisco Giants – Christian Arroyo
Arroyo is a rarity in that at his young age he already has the ability to barrel balls consistently and make hard contact almost at will. He almost does this too easily and he needs to become more selective and as he does he should be able to hit 15 or so home runs in the majors. Arroyo also has sure hands and a nice arm for a shortstop but his lack of range at the position may lead to a position change down the line. The Giants also have Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik anchored in their middle infield and this might ultimately lead to a move to a corner outfield position for Arroyo.
Seattle Mariners – Alex Jackson
The Mariners are a little lacking in the prospect department but Jackson might end up being one of the better prospects on this list. Jackson has plus bat speed and enormous strength from the right side of the plate but he lacks plate discipline and strikes out too much and he struck out an alarming 29% rate through the first 100 games of his professional career. Regardless, Jackson has the upside to be a middle of the order type of bat once he figures everything out. The 20-year-old is still two years away from being major league ready, so there’s no rush.
St. Louis Cardinals – Alex Reyes
Reyes might have the best stuff of any pitching prospect and that will just add to an already deep Cardinal pitching staff. Only 21 years old, he can already touch 100 mph on his fastball and has a nasty curveball that leads to swings and misses. What makes Reyes stand out from other pitching prospects is his understanding of the value of his changeup. Thought not up to standard with his other two pitches, it is well on its way to being a big league pitch. Command and control are his only obstacles to the big leagues but the Cardinals have had a history of developing young pitching studs and Reyes should not be any different.
Tampa Bay Rays – Blake Snell
Snell is blessed with a plus fastball with late life and a wipeout slider that has late tilt and helps miss plenty of bats. Snell struggled with command of his slider in the past but this improved immensely in 2015. Snell’s change up is still a work in progress but also shows potential because of its arm action. The Rays have a long history of developing young arms with a large upside, and it likely won’t be long before they can add Snell to list of successful starters who’ve emerged in Tampa Bay.
Texas Rangers – Joey Gallo
Gallo got a taste of the big leagues last year and hit 6 home runs, had 14 RBI and stole 3 bases in 36 games. Gallo is a monster at 6’5 that can generate tremendous strength and leverage and tape-measure shot after tape-measure shot. He also has a very quick bat and an extremely aggressive approach to hitting which allowed him to average 51 home runs per 162 games in his first four professional seasons. His strikeout rate is a bit of a worry, but that’s an issue with many power hitters.
Currently a third baseman, Gallo’s abilities may be better suited for the outfield and with the Rangers locking up Adrian Beltre for another two years, there doesn’t appear to be an opening for him at the hot corner anytime soon.
Toronto Blue Jays – Anthony Alford
The Blue Jays may have cleaned out most of their farm system last year in their pursuit to make the playoffs but they did manage to hold onto one of their best prospects. Alford’s football background contributes to his above average athleticism and physical tools but it is his mature feel for the game of baseball that he has already developed even though he has only played one full season in professional baseball that is his most impressive quality. At this early stage of his baseball career Alford is already a well-polished player and hit .298 with 27 stolen bases in 107 games in the minors last season. Alford’s biggest skill is his speed and this helps him on the bases and in the field. The Blue Jays already have Dalton Pompey waiting in the wings, but Alford might soon push Pompey aside as the Jays top prospect.
Washington Nationals – Lucas Giolito
Giolito is the number one rated prospect on mlb.com because he has the highest ceiling among all Minor League pitchers. He achieved this by possessing an elite fastball that he can throw in the upper 90s and a 12-6 curveball that he can throw with power and hard, downer action. Giolito has all the stuff to develop into an ace, but the Nationals are being patient with him because they want him to further develop his changeup and be more comfortable with runners on base. However, there is no doubt in their minds that he is almost ready to contribute at the highest level and when he does it will most likely be special.
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