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April 4, 2016

2016 Prospects

The Top 175 Players 25-and-Under

by Brendan Gawlowski, Christopher Crawford, Mark Anderson and BP Prospect Staff

Below, you will find the BP prospect team’s list of the top 175 players aged 25-and-under. Like any list, this ranking is a snapshot in time, and elements of it will become dated very quickly. Twenty-year-olds will grow into their power. UCLs will tear. That one slugger will never learn to hit a curveball. We don’t know those things today though, and the arrangement of this list reflects our perception of where these players stand right now in regards to a blend of their peak, and cumulative value.

One note about the order of the list: the ranking of the players who also appeared on the top 101 prospects list has changed slightly. While nobody rose or dropped by more than a handful slots, we have new information about players that we didn’t over the winter, and we felt that our list would be better if we incorporated that into our analysis.

Tier 1

1. Mike Trout
2. Bryce Harper

Man what a time. To be alive.

Drake/Future lyrics aside, I hope you all can appreciate how good these two guys are―in particular Trout, but Harper is just beginning to tap into his other-worldly potential. These MVP winners, and they are the combined age of someone who would get carded if they tried to order off the senior menu at Denny’s. In many other generations, Harper would rank at the top of this list, but it’s this generation, and Trout is, well, a generational player. You can expect both guys to compete for who the best player in baseball is for the next decade or so. The only thing left is for these guys to to win championships and for baseball to figure out how to market them better. They’re good. —Christopher Crawford

Tier 2

3. Carlos Correa
4. Manny Machado

Trout and Harper are in a tier of their own—for now. They may well settle in as the two best players for the next half-decade, with nobody else capable of matching their year-to-year production. But if a third player enters their orbit, it will probably be Correa or Machado. Correa is the 21-year-old shortstop who can handle the toughest non-catcher position on the diamond, and he’s a potential .300/.400/.500 type hitter. Machado is still just 23 years old himself, and he’s already produced 16.3 WARP. He plays third base like Brooks Robinson, and after bashing 32 homers and stealing 20 bases last season, he’s in any conversation about baseball’s most well-rounded player. Barring a devastating injury, these two should be stars for the foreseeable future. —Brendan Gawlowski

Tier 3

5. Gerrit Cole
6. Jose Fernandez
7. Nolan Arenado

Remember when people were saying the Pirates were making a huge mistake taking Cole and not his teammate at UCLA? That was cute. Cole has everything you want from a top of the rotation starter already, and there’s a strong chance he’s going to get better. Scary.

Fernandez is the most talented pitcher on this list (yes including a name we’ll talk about in the next tier), but he drops below Cole because of the health concerns. He’s now seen two straight seasons end without reaching 70 innings pitched. He sure has looked healthy this spring, however, and if he can show the same dominating stuff over a full season, he could easily usurp a player or two on this list.

I’ve covered prospects for close to a decade now, and I’ve never seen anything like Arenado’s improvement as a defender at third. He went from liability who was almost assuredly going to have to move across the diamond, to one of—if not the—best third baseman in all of baseball. That’s unheard of. Oh, he also hit 42 homers last year and posted an OPS of .898 last year. So he’s got that going for him. Which is nice. —Christopher Crawford

Tier 4

8. Corey Seager
9. Mookie Betts
10. Byron Buxton
11. Xander Bogaerts
12. Kris Bryant
13. Lucas Giolito
14. Francisco Lindor
15. Jose Altuve
16. Miguel Sano
17. Noah Syndergaard

The group above oozes potential. With the exception of Altuve—who has already made three All-Star teams, won a batting title, and collected plenty of down ballot MVP votes—and maybe Betts, you could argue that none of the players here have hit their ceiling yet. In Betts and Bogaerts, the Red Sox have two up-the-middle talents capable of producing five wins annually. Seager and Buxton are the top two prospects in the sport. Giolito and Syndergaard are perhaps the two best pitchers alive without a full MLB season under their belts. Lindor might be the best shortstop in the league. Bryant and Sano destroyed the league in their first trip through the circuit, and each could hit 40 homers at full maturity.

There is a lot of volatility here, however. Almost certainly, a name or two from this grouping will find themselves higher on this list in the next year or two (I’d bet on Lindor). But as with any collection of prospects and young players, some will regress. It’s hard to look at a group this young and talented and see any downside, but it’s helpful to remember that there’s risk in any profile. —Brendan Gawlowski

Tier 5

18. Anthony Rendon
19. Yasiel Puig
20. Addison Russell
21. JP Crawford
22. Rougned Odor
23. Nomar Mazara
24. Julio Urias
25. Carlos Martinez
26. Yoan Moncada
27. Kyle Schwarber

Last year, Addison Russell made his debut as a 21-year-old. He played exclusively up the middle, eventually supplanting Starlin Castro as Chicago’s starting shortstop. He batted over 500 times, producing a solid, if unspectacular, 90 OPS+ with double-digit homers and strong defense. Baseball Reference graded him as a three-win player. In many years, it would have been enough to challenge for the Rookie of the Year award. Last year though, amidst the deepest crop of rookies MLB has seen in some time, he didn’t collect a single ROY vote. In part, that’s a reflection of the amount of great young talent in the league, as well as the latest sign of how much aging curves have changed in the last decade. There’s still plenty of room for players to develop though, and I’m expecting a big season for Russell.

The rest of the tier is composed of “yes, he’s great, but...” type of players. For Rendon, health is the bugaboo. Puig just had his worst season. Crawford, Moncada, and Mazara have not faced a big-league test. Urias has never thrown 100 innings in a season. Martinez went from reliever to no. 2 a little too quickly for comfort. Schwarber doesn’t have a defensive home. Like the group above, this is a volatile tier: there are future stars here, but also a role player or three. —Brendan Gawlowski

Tier 6

28. Joc Pederson
29. Joey Gallo
30. Steven Matz
31. Gregory Polanco
32. Salvador Perez
33. Michael Conforto
34. Alex Reyes
35. Carlos Rodon

If the season ended before the All-Star game, Pederson would be a tier or two higher. Some say he was exposed, I’d just say baseball is really hard, particularly for a rookie. He should be a starting center fielder for a long, long time.

Joey Gallo is stronger than you.

If you wanted to say that Polanco has been a slight disappointment in his first couple of seasons as a big leaguer you could; an OPS+ of 90 and so-so defense doesn’t exactly suggest superstar. He appeared to make some adjustments in the second half of the season, however, and the talent is still immense. Don’t give up on this guy just yet.

Rodon wasn’t dominant in his first big-league season, but when you consider that he was pitching in the American League not even a year after being overworked by his college coach, the numbers look a lot better. Maybe the slider is closer to 70 than an 80 offering and the fastball command will never be elite; he still has a chance to be a top of the rotation starter, and no one should be surprised if he took a big step forward in 2016. —Christopher Crawford

Tier 7

36. Michael Wacha
37. Christian Yelich
38. Aaron Nola
39. Yordano Ventura
40. Tyler Glasnow
41. Orlando Arcia
42. Stephen Piscotty
43. Trea Turner
44. Maikel Franco

Here we have a bunch of first-division starters. Wacha is already there, straddling the line between a no. 2 starter and a good no. 3. Yelich is a three-win player, and there may be more power coming. Nola has been billed as a mid-rotation starter since he was in diapers college. Ventura will always confound: how a pitcher with his slight frame generates 100 mph fastballs without breaking is beyond us. Still, he has a 3.66 FIP in 61 starts, and it’s hard to justify ranking him much lower. Franco was a pleasant surprise for the Phillies last year. Wrist injuries are power sappers in the short term, but he could have 30+ homer seasons in his future.

There’s a case that Arcia, an excellent gloveman who can hit, belongs two tiers higher alongside Crawford and Russell. He may not have their pedigree yet, but he could conceivably take the National League by storm as soon as the second half of this season. —Brendan Gawlowski

Tier 8

45. Jorge Soler
46. Wil Myers
47. Manuel Margot
48. Marcus Stroman
49. Shelby Miller
50. Lewis Brinson
51. Jurickson Profar
52. Raul Mondesi

If Soler was on pretty much any other club, we’d be talking about how he might be one of the true breakout candidates for 2016. Because of the depth in the Chicago outfield, that probably won’t happen, but the potential for long-term success is still here. There’s plus power and his feel for the barrel gets better every year.

Myers has shown just enough flashes of brilliance these past few seasons to justify a place in the top 50, but if you’re looking for a candidate to make a considerable drop in next year’s iteration (you weirdo), here’s your guy. The discipline at the plate has gone backwards, and both the hit and power tool have suffered in response. When you factor that in and that he might be limited to first base defensively, you get a guy who is closer to frowny face sticker than a gold star.

I don’t think anyone thought Marcus Stroman was going to be this good this quickly—outside of Stroman himself, of course. The movement on his fastball means the lack of plane doesn’t matter, and he’s that rare guy who can make you look silly with both the slider and the curveball. There’s obvious durability concerns, but even if he’s not a 200-plus inning guy, he’s still awfully valuable.

Margot and Brinson are among the best center field prospects in baseball, and there’s a good chance you’ll see both playing everyday in 2017. Margot does it more with the hit tool and speed while Brinson has more power, but they both have high upside, and because they can go get it in a premium position, they both have substantial floors, as well. —Christopher Crawford

Tier 9

53. Jose Berrios
54. Julio Teheran
55. Luis Severino
56. Kevin Kiermaier
57. Aaron Judge
58. Zack Wheeler
59. Tim Anderson

Let’s call this the uncertainty tier. Will Teheran bounce back from his worst full season? Can Severino survive in the rotation without an average changeup? Does Kiermaier’s glove really make him a five-win player? Will Judge be able to make enough contact to tap into his massive raw power? Will Wheeler fully recover from Tommy John surgery? Would Anderson belong here if we knew for a fact that he couldn’t play short? The answer to some of these questions will be “yes,” but for the first time on this ranking, you can squint at a tier and see how it might be devoid of future all stars.

If there is a star here, it’s probably on Berrios. He already has three plus pitches, and service time, not performance, kept him off the opening day roster. The knock on Berrios is size, but there are an awful lot of short pitchers with plus fastballs surviving in the big leagues right now. —Brendan Gawlowski

Tier 10

60. Brendan Rodgers
61. Blake Snell
62. Austin Meadows
63. Lance McCullers
64. Ender Inciarte
65. Javier Baez
66. Marcell Ozuna

I thought Rodgers was the best player in the 2015 draft, and nothing has changed over the past nine months to suggest that he won’t be the best player to come from the draft, with apologies to Mr. Swanson. He’s the uncommon player who has a chance for plus hit and power tools at a premium position, and if you keep the fact that he’ll (probably) make his living in Coors Field, that should excite you.

Snell might have been the most improved pitching prospect in all of baseball in 2015, and there’s a great chance he’s pitching in the Tampa Bay rotation this summer. He shows three plus pitches at times, but the big difference between now and 2014 is that he has a clue where those three pitches are going.

Raise your hand if you thought Ender Inciarte would be one of the best young starting outfielders in baseball at this point last year. There are three possibilities: You are a liar, you are/related to Inciarte, or a combination of both.

Baez still frustrates the everloving crap out of...pretty much everyone, but the offensive upside is undeniable. It’s just a matter of putting it all together. Whether it’s at second, third, or the outfield, a chance to hit 25 homers with the ability to hit for average is still within reach. —Christopher Crawford

Tier 11

67. Andrew Heaney
68. Bradley Zimmer
69. Dansby Swanson
69.5 Matt Duffy
70. Taijuan Walker
71. Jeff Hoffman
72. Nick Williams
73. Franklin Barreto
74. Jose De Leon
75. Victor Robles
76. Eduardo Rodriguez

A comparison of two lefty starters:

Pitcher A: 3.85 ERA, 3.92 FIP, 4.05 xFIP, 121 IP, 7.25 SO/9

Pitcher B: 3.49 ERA, 3.73 FIP, 4.21 xFIP, 106 IP, 6.64 SO/9

A is Eduardo Rodriguez while B is Andrew Heaney. Rodriguez throws slightly harder, Heaney threw more strikes. Both should settle in as mid-rotation starters.

Swanson and Zimmer are exciting, good at everything, spectacular at nothing type players. That skill set is a good way to wind up underrated, in everything from MVP voting to salary.

Walker proved he could throw strikes last summer, walking just 17 hitters in his last 20 starts. He needs a better breaking ball: neither his cutter nor his curve missed bats consistently last year, and he reportedly scrapped the former to incorporate a slider this off-season. He’ll survive in a rotation even without a good bender, but it leaves him very reliant on velocity. He was the 15th-hardest thrower among starters last season, and if his velocity ticks down, he’s more likely to take a step back than a leap forward. He strikes me as a pitcher more likely to burn brightly and fade quickly than a guy who will enjoy a long career of sustained success.

It’s a shame Hoffman was dealt to Colorado: He has electric stuff and he could debut in 2016. But until the Rockies player development machine proves it can turn throwers into pitchers, it’s hard to be optimistic. —Brendan Gawlowski

Tier 12

77. Daniel Norris
78. Blake Swihart
79. Martin Perez
80. Robert Stephenson
81. David Dahl
82. Dalton Pompey

The Detroit farm system wouldn’t be good even if Norris counted, but when looking at that group, keep him in mind. He may have exhausted his status as a prospect, but he’s still developing as a pitcher, and there are three plus pitches at his disposal. If he can throw them for strikes on a consistent basis? Look out.

It’s weird to say that an upper-echelon Red Sox prospect has had a quietly productive season, and yet that’s what Swihart did. The power should come as he gets stronger, and he has a aesthetically pleasing swing from both sides of the plate. This is another player that is primed for a big rise in 2016.

Pompey will start the season in Triple-A Buffalo and was not good in his big league time in 2015. It’s still reasonable to believe this is the Blue Jays center fielder of the future. The approach is sound, he can spray the ball to all parts of the field, and he’s a competent defender in center. The lack of strength hurts, but there’s enough there to suggest he’s a top of the order hitter in the next couple of seasons. —Christopher Crawford

Tier 13

83. Alex Bregman
84. Sean Newcomb
85. Kolten Wong
86. Ketel Marte
87. Trevor Rosenthal
88. Ken Giles
89. Alex Wood
90. Jon Gray
91. Joe Ross

There’s a lot of solid in tier 13. Bregman should move quickly, even if he has to swap organizations to do so. Newcomb has the stuff of a no. 2 but command problems may always prevent him from reaching his ceiling. Wong is a classic above-average regular. Rosenthal and Giles are two of the premier closers in the game. Wood has the least-aesthetic delivery in baseball, but if the reports that he’s found his old arm slot and velocity prove true, this ranking will look light in a few months.

A similar sentiment could prevail for Ross and Marte. Ross uses a low-90s sinker and a wipeout slider to generate outs; any improvement in his change spells trouble for the National League. Marte improved defensively over the course of 2015, with noticeably better footwork in the field, and he also showed more patience at the plate as a big leaguer than he ever did in the minors. He’s an above-average regular even if his OBP and SLG drop a bit in 2016. —Brendan Gawlowski

Tier 14

92. Jake Thompson
93. Rafael Devers
94. Ryan McMahon
95. Ozhaino Albies
96. Odubel Herrera
97. Marcus Semien
98. Braden Shipley
99. Aaron Sanchez
100. Grant Holmes
101. Gleyber Torres

Williams may have gotten the most hubbub in the Cole Hamels trade, but Thompson is a heck of a second piece, and some scouts believe he was the “get” in the move. There are two plus pitches in his fastball and slider, and he’ll show a competent curve and change as well. The upside is a third starter, and the floor is solid back-end option who should help the woeful Phillies rotation soon.

If you ever get a chance to watch Devers take batting practice, do it. It’s a real treat. There are questions about whether or not he’ll be able to stay at third and you’d like to see him work counts a little more, but the offensive upside competes with pretty much everyone.

If McMahon stays with the Rockies he’s going to move across the diamond because see Tier 3, but it almost seems like a waste. There’s average to above-average tools everywhere outside of his speed, and the power and arm are pretty close to plus. It’s tempting to give him a look in right field, but the offensive upside is good enough that he can be a regular anywhere on the diamond.

Some people might think Torres is being overrated because he’s a Cubs prospect, but some people put butter on their rice. The point is, people are often wrong. Does he have Bryant/Russell upside? Nope, but few do. Torres is going to provide solid defense at shortstop, hit for average, and there’s sneaky pop in his right-handed bat as well. There’s an awful lot to like about his skillset. —Christopher Crawford

The Rest

102. Raimel Tapia

103. Kevin Gausman

104. Eugenio Suarez

105. Trevor Bauer

106. Aaron Blair

107. Brandon Finnegan

108. Anthony Alford

109. Sean Manaea

110. Andrew Benintendi

111. Joe Panik

112. Cody Reed

113. Anthony Desclafani

114. Archie Bradley

115. Jonathan Schoop

116. Josh Bell

117. Jesse Winker

118. Jameson Taillon

119. Brent Honeywell

120. Clint Frazier

121. Willy Adames

122. A.J. Reed

123. Tyler Skaggs

124. Javier Guerra

125. Willson Contreras

126. Jorge Lopez

127. Austin Hedges

128. Hunter Harvey

129. Dillon Tate

130. Eddie Rosario

131. Max Kepler

132. Brett Phillips

133. Nick Gordon

134. Francis Martes

135. Randal Grichuk

136. Mark Appel

137. Jackie Bradley, Jr.

138. Jorge Mateo

139. Jacob Nottingham

140. Ian Happ

141. Kevin Plawecki

142. Luis Ortiz

143. Dylan Bundy

144. Jorge Alfaro

145. Jake Lamb

146. Frankie Montas

147. Cory Spangenberg

148. Brandon Drury

149. Anderson Espinoza

150. Erasmo Ramirez

151. Reynaldo Lopez

152. Roberto Osuna

153. Billy McKinney

154. Jean Segura

155. Reese McGuire

156. Amir Garrett

157. Yadier Alvarez

158. Austin Riley

159. Delino DeShields

160. Michael Taylor

161. Harold Ramirez

162. Jose Peraza

163. Robbie Ray

164. Kolby Allard

165. Albert Almora

166. Michael Lorenzen

167. Taylor Guerrieri

168. Daz Cameron

169. Billy Hamilton

170. Dominic Smith

171. Michael Fulmer

172. Devon Travis

173. Nick Castellanos

174. Henry Owens

175. Hunter Renfroe

Brendan Gawlowski is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Brendan's other articles. You can contact Brendan by clicking here
Christopher Crawford is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christopher's other articles. You can contact Christopher by clicking here
Mark Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mark's other articles. You can contact Mark by clicking here

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