August 23, 2011
Prospects Will Break Your Heart
The Best of the Best
From a scouting perspective, Miller has everything I look for in a future top-of-the-rotation arm. With prototypical size (6-foot-3, 195 pounds) and room for additional strength, Miller has the body and the delivery to log innings and maintain his stuff deep into games. His fastball is a legit plus pitch, and can show plus-plus velocity, as he touches the upper 90s at times. The curveball is another above-average offering, flashing plus more than it flashes the potential to be plus, with excellent depth to the break and a tight spin. As with most young power pitchers, Miller’s changeup was underdeveloped in relation to his other offerings when he was drafted, but it has quickly emerged as another plus-potential pitch. It plays well off his fastball with good weight and some arm-side fading action.
With his frame, his tenacity, his smooth delivery, his being a Texan, his power arsenal that could/should leave him with three plus pitches when he reaches maturity, and the overall command that seems to gain refinement by the outing, Miller is the present leader of the pack of right-handed pitchers, and one could make a very convincing case that he is the top prospect in the game itself. After all, legit aces are baseball’s most precious commodities, and Miller has all the characteristics necessary to fulfill this projection.
*Update: Still Texan. Staying with Miller.
The changeup projects to be an average major-league pitch at the very least; it already flashes plus potential, with good arm-side fading action and natural weight. The delivery has been considered noisy, leading to bouts of inconsistent command, but reports on the delivery have been positive and the command has been much improved in 2011.
With a strong, durable frame, a collection of above-average pitches, and a preternatural ability to miss bats, Moore projects to be a legit top-of-the-rotation arm at the major-league level. The Rays like to take it slow and low with their prospects, and that could keep Moore in the minors until late 2012. But don’t let the developmental philosophy cloud the legitimacy of his prospect status. Moore is the best left-handed pitcher in the minors, and looks to remain in this position until he vacates the farm.
*Update: Moore is the top arm in the minors.
*Update: After starting the season in Low-A, Reed and his plus (to plus-plus) arsenal have reached Triple-A. His stuff has gotten even better, and Reed looks like a future late-innings force for the White Sox.
Behind the plate, Mesoraco is slowly improving, but he’s never going to be a special defender. His arm is in the 60/65 range, and his release and accuracy make him a good weapon in controlling the running game. With enough athleticism to become a solid-average defender, and the ability to stick in the middle of a batting order, Mesoraco is the current Leader of the Pack among his catching brethren, and given the value attached to his position on the field, you can make a case that Mesoraco is one of the top-tier talents in the minors. He’s ready for the next challenge.
*Update: Staying with Mesoraco. He’s still the best catching prospect in the minors.
Montero could be special at the plate, with the ability to hit for a high average and produce well above-average power numbers. In other words, the bat is good enough to have value despite the obvious defensive deficiencies. Montero could have been a major leaguer last season, and should have been at the major-league level to start this season, but regardless of when his time arrives, his bat will carry the burden of success. He is by far the best-hitting first baseman.
*Update: Again, this is cheap, but the cast of characters at the position is weak, and even though Montero is a natural designated hitter, he deserves a place on these rankings, and first base has to be that place. Deal with it.
Also, Montero might have more cracks in the offensive armor than previously recognized. Professional stagnation arguments aside, Montero has struggled to find consistency at the plate (mechanically speaking), and the big-time power potential is still living off the currency of the word “potential.” The youth and projection remain, and until they fade the future is still incredibly bright for the young Venezuelan slugger, but the bat has to be special if he is going to have value as a designated hitter, and some reports aren’t quite that optimistic.
Kolten Wong (Cardinals)
*Update: Former “Leader of the Pack (Present),” Jason Kipnis, was promoted to the majors. Wong is my choice to take over the position, although Jonathan Schoop might deserve his day in the sun.
Machado has acclimated to professional ball like most scouts thought he would, showing off a plus-plus potential hit tool, developing in-game power, a mature approach, and the defensive skills to excel at shortstop. He has yet to turn 19 and his tools still have a long journey to the height of their developmental arc, but if everything continues as planned, Machado will have an All-Star level ceiling, plus offensive tools, and above-average chops from a premium defensive position. He could always physically outgrow shortstop, but from what I can see, he looks like he can handle the part. He’s the Leader of the Pack (Present).
Jurickson Profar (Rangers)
In the field, Profar can do it all—clean actions, preternatural instincts for the position, and an arm that the majority of baseball wanted to see developed on the mound. He isn’t a burner, but he has quickness and instincts that allow his average-at-best raw speed to play up. Again, I can’t stress the instincts enough. He’s probably the most instinctual player I’ve seen at his age; it’s unreal how often he ends up in the right place at the right time. Profar lacks the elite tools to become an elite player at the highest level, but he could develop into a first-division starter with all-star appearances in his future. Despite being only 18 years old and already playing (read: playing well) in full-season ball, Profar could no doubt handle a more aggressive assignment, and should reach the major-league level before his 21st birthday.
*Update: Profar are Machado are a coin-flip for me at this point, as I view each prospect as a future first-division player at the major-league level. Profar has established himself as one the top prospects in the game, showing the necessary polish and promise to become this year’s model. Machado has struggled with some injuries and some inconsistencies in 2011, but the offensive upside remains. Gun to my head, I’d rank Profar higher on a prospect list because of the age/level/production. But when looking at the bigger picture, I still go back and forth on which prospect tickles my fancy with more persuasion.
In the field, Rendon projects as an above-average defender at third, with both the leather and arm grading out as plus tools, and the instincts necessary to bring the physical package together. Speed isn’t a part of Rendon’s game, but his feet aren’t heavy, and he shows good first-step quickness and reactions. Despite not being a physical force, Rendon has all the attributes necessary to become an All-Star talent at the hot corner, with the ability to hit for average, reach base, hit for some power, and play above-average defense. It remains to be seen if Rendon ends up at third base for the Nationals, but that’s a byproduct of organizational depth, not a developmental deficiency in Rendon’s skill set.
*Update: I feel confident about this selection. Rendon is going to be very good. If you assume that Rendon moves off third base, Miguel Sano is next in my queue, although he might end up in right-field after a few more years of left-side of the infield experimentation.
*Update: Pimentel might end up in right field, which will no doubt taint my rankings and shame my family. But he could end up with elite power, so I’m going to leave him at the top of the left-field rankings. If he ends up as a big-league right fielder, I’ll send you a letter of apology and a basket of tulips.
*Update: As long as Trout is in the minors, he’s the best at his position. Period.
Let’s start with the power, which is already an 80-grade tool, and should make Harper a perennial home-run champ, with video game numbers if everything clicks. The hit tool has been scrutinized by some within the industry, who say it is merely a tool with “average” potential. (The word “average” caused the prospect tide to roll back and the moon to turn black.) With such overwhelming all-fields power in the bat and the ability to reach base at a high clip, Harper could hit .275 every season and still be an offensive behemoth. For Harper, an average hit tool will be enough to let the power beast out of the cage.
On defense, Harper’s arm has easy 80-grade strength, but the utility of the raw physical tool is still in the process of refinement and doesn’t quite grade out at the elite level… yet. The game speed and quickness are above-average at the present, which allow for plus range in right field, and some scouts have suggested the defensive tools could find a home in center for several years before a move to a corner was necessary. The glory rests on the bat, but Harper should develop into an above-average defensive player as well, making him a weapon on both sides of the ball.
*Update: Like Trout, Harper is the best at his position as long as he remains in the minors.
Top Prospects (By Position)