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July 18, 2011

Future Shock

The Midseason Top 50 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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The latest top 50 is restricted to players still in the minors, so no Mike Trout, Eric Hosmer, and so on. June, 2011 draftees are also excluded. The preseason Top 101 can be found here.

1. Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals (Preseason: #1)
Somehow, just like last year at junior college, Harper has exceeded expectations that were set sky high. Whatever your idea of the best slugging prospect imaginable is, Harper is a bit better than that.

2. Matt Moore, LHP, Rays (Preseason: #10)
Moore has led the minor leagues in strikeouts over the last two years, yet has somehow gotten better, adding 1-2 mph on his fastball and throwing far more strikes. The new best pitching prospect in baseball.

3. Julio Teheran, RHP, Braves (Preseason: #5)
Hasn't lost his crown due to performance, it's just that Moore has passed him. MLB starts should not be a concern as many future aces were in Low-A when they were Teheran's age.

4. Shelby Miller, RHP, Cardinals (Preseason: #15)
The Cardinals thought about beginning the year with him at Double-A. He forced his way there by the end of May, and the Texas League isn't slowing him down. Could open 2012 in the big league rotation.

5. Jurickson Profar, SS, Rangers (Preseason: #78)
Profar is hitting, hitting for power, drawing walks, stealing bases, and playing plus defense at a premium position. He's also younger than Bryce Harper, putting his ceiling somewhere above the roof.

6. Manny Machado, SS, Orioles (Preseason: #16)
Was off to a fantastic start before a knee injury occurred, looking like the rare shortstop with plus power. Even if he moves to third base, the bat will still make him a star.

7. Jesus Montero, C, Yankees (Preseason: #3)
He has not yet put up big numbers this year; there is clearly a frustration factor as he has nowhere to go in New York. At some point, the Yankees just have to trade him and accept the fact that he'll rake elsewhere.

8. Brandon Belt, 1B, Giants (Preseason: #22)
Still technically a prospect and still an offensive machine who didn't get much of a chance in the big leagues. Forget about trades, Belt might be the second half's biggest addition to a contending team.

9. Desmond Jennings, OF, Rays (Preseason: #18)
As with Montero, stagnation has set in a bit, but Jennings is still a future 20/40 center fielder with on-base skills and outstanding defense. I'm as confused as you are as to why Sam Fuld keeps getting playing time.

10. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pirates (Preseason: #8)
Being treated with kid gloves, and while his secondary pitches need work, his size and combination of velocity and command for a kid so young is downright special.

11. Devin Mesoraco, C, Reds (Preseason: #53)
His ranking heading into the year was a bit tentative as the 2010 performance came so out of nowhere, but he's looking more and more like the rare catcher who can hit in the middle of a lineup.

12. Brett Lawrie, 3B, Blue Jays (Preseason: #57)
Triple-A Las Vegas sure helped his numbers, but the explosion in power was the real deal, and he'd be in the big leagues if not for the recent injury. Too bad the defensive reviews are not as kind.

13. Martin Perez, LHP, Rangers (Preseason: #33)
He has eliminated the occasional stinker from his starts and earned a mid-season promotion to Triple-A as a 20-year-old. Ceiling remains more No. 2 than No. 1, but the likelyhood of reaching it has increased.

14. Manny Banuelos, LHP, Yankees (Preseason: #27)
Command has slipped a bit, but he remains a lefty with two excellent pitches in his fastball and changeup. Has looked better as the season has worn on and could be poised for a big second half.

15. Jason Kipnis, 2B, Indians (Preseason: #28)
In 163 games at the upper levels, he's hit .304 with 72 walks, 21 home runs, and 18 stolen bases in 19 attempts. There is no weakness in his game.

16. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Mariners (Preseason: NR)
Seeing his full-season debut was almost a revelation: he's throwing in the mid-to-upper 90s, flashing a viscious slider, and he's still only 18 years old. The sky is the limit.

17. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP, Braves (Preseason: #50)
When the Braves traded Javier Vazquez to the Yankees, it wasn't about Melky Cabrera; it was about this guy. Don't be surprised if he makes his big league debut this year in either a starting or relief role.

18. Miguel Sano, 3B, Twins (Preseason: #31)
His full-season debut won't come until 2012, and he'll probably be a right fielder by then, but his power potential is nearly unmatched in the minor leagues.

19. Hak-Ju Lee, SS, Rays (Preseason: NR)
Has exploded with the Rays by hitting for average, drawing walks, stealing bases, and playing a solid shortstop with an outstanding arm. Shortstops that can hit at the top of the order are worth their weight in gold.

20. Drew Pomeranz, LHP, Indians (Preseason: #43)
The first college pitcher selected in the 2010 draft dominated the Carolina League with his fastball and curve and could rank even higher if his changeup improves.

21. Travis D'Arnaud, C, Blue Jays (Preseason: NR)
Finally showing off what he can do when he's healthy, D'Arnaud is very athletic for a catcher and is just beginning to tap into his power potential.

22. Carlos Martinez, RHP, Cardinals (Preseason: NR)
The fastball is special, and the breaking ball at least flashes the same, but he's small and the delivery isn't pretty. Huge ceiling, but already some knocks against him.

23. Mike Montgomery, LHP, Royals (Preseason: #21)
The stuff is still there, but his command has suddenly faltered. He's been excellent after skipping a recent start and could be in the big leagues by September.

24. Dellin Betances, RHP, Yankees (Preseason: #32)
Dominant stuff to be sure, but whispers about him possibly being better off as a late-inning reliever are becoming more common these days.

25. Matt Harvey, RHP, Mets (Preseason: #75)
Similar to his 2010 draft brethren Pomeranz, Harvey cruised through High-A, primarily pitching off his mid-90s heat and power slider.  Now he'll need to become more rounded at Double-A.

26. Jacob Turner, RHP, Tigers (Preseason: #23)
Still not missing as many bats as one would like, but the body, stuff, and age still impress as he's limited the Eastern League to a .233 batting average at the age of 20.

27. Brad Peacock, RHP, Nationals (Preseason: NR)
Few pitching prospects have seen their stock jump more.  Peacock has shown plus-plus velocity and command with the potential to be a monster if he can upgrade the rest of his arsenal.

28. Chelsor Cuthbert, 3B, Royals (Preseason: NR)
A potentially special player, the ball just sounds different off his bat. He already has a feel for in-game power, and has rounded out the package with surprisingly polished defense at the hot corner.

29. Jarred Cosart, RHP, Phillies (Preseason: NR)
Had the second most impressive Futures Game performance after Moore but rarely maintains both his stuff and command throughout a game.

30. Yasmani Grandal, C, Reds (Preseason: #86)
Last year's first-round pick has already reached Double-A in his full-season debut while showing excellent on-base skills, solid power, and average defense. He could have huge trade value.

31. Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Royals (Preseason: #77)
He's refined his stuff, improved his command, and found an average changeup. Moving quickly and on pace for a 2012 debut.

32. Robbie Erlin, LHP, Rangers (Preseason: NR)
He was arguably the best pitching prospect in the minors, statistically speaking, during the first half of the year, but he's still learning how to use pitches outside the strike zone at Double-A. It's still hard to give him more than the ceiling of a good No. 3.

33. Zach Lee, RHP, Dodgers (Preseason: #54)
The numbers fall more into the good category than the great, but the scouting reports are better than the numbers, and this is the first time in his life he's focused full-time on baseball.

34. Tyler Skaggs, LHP, Diamondbacks (Preseason: #83)
Pitched well in a nearly impossible environment and yet remains far more about projection than reality. Still plenty of room to move up.

35. Casey Kelly, RHP, Padres (Preseason: #48)
The best pitching prospect that rarely dominates? For now, Kelly has two plus pitches, throws strikes, and gets plenty of ground balls, but it just seems like there is more there.

36. Zack Wheeler, RHP, Giants (Preseason: #52)
The stuff is great, the command is not; for now his ability to miss bats overrides other concerns. If he starts throwing more strikes, his ceiling explodes.

37. Leonys Martin, OF, Rangers (Preseason: NR)
Has played fewer than 40 games as a pro, but has already showcased plus hitting skills, gap power, good wheels, an outstanding approach, and good defense. Could play a big role in a pennant race come September.

38. Bryce Brentz, OF, Red Sox (Preseason: NR)
From a flop of a debut to one of the better power prospects around, scouts see a classic corner outfield profile with 65 power and on-base ability.

39. Gary Sanchez, C, Yankees (Preseason: #29)
Seemingly in the process of being written off because he hasn't dominated, Sanchez has shown impressive power for an 18-year-old while making sufficient strides behind the plate for scouts to project him as an adequate defender.

40. Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Red Sox (Preseason: NR)
Was always known for his top notch defense at third base, but the bat has finally come around with truckloads of doubles and a projection for 15-20 home runs a season in the big leagues.

41. Jean Segura, SS, Angels (Preseason: #35)
Hampered by injury, but all of the tools and skills from 2010 have been on display, and he's proving that he can play on the left side of the infield.

42. Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros (Preseason: NR)
Over the winter, a scout told me that if I had any cojones, I'd sneak him onto the Astros Top 11 list, which I did. Half a year later, and he's the top prospect in the system.

43. Michael Choice, OF, Athletics (Preseason: #74)
The Three True Outcomes king among prospects at nearly 43%, Choice has cut down on his strikeouts recently, and when he makes contact, he crushes balls.

44. Nick Castellanos, 3B, Tigers (Preseason: #65)
A slow start in the Midwest League is no surprise, but since April he's been among the circuit's best hitters with a downright pretty swing and power that is going to come down the road.

45. Jedd Gyorko, 3B, Padres (Preseason: NR)
He's short, he's squat, he doesn't run well, and he's not pretty defensively, but man can he hit, with bat speed, great hands, and gap-to-average power.

46. Gary Brown, OF, Giants (Preseason: NR)
Looking like the Giants center fielder and leadoff man of the future, which could come as early as mid-2012. Continued improvement in his approach will be key.

47. Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Angels (Preseason: #90)
Pioneer League stats need to be taken with a grain of salt, but early reports from scouts have them drooling over his .400-plus average so far.

48. Allen Webster, RHP, Dodgers (Preseason: NR)
Fastball/changeup combination created plenty of hype in the California League, but reviews haven't been as kind at Double-A, where he needs a deeper arsenal.

49. Jonathan Schoop, 2B, Orioles (Preseason: NR)
Has impressed with his ability to hit and to drive balls, giving Baltimore one of the best middle-infield prospect combinations in the game.

50. Wil Myers, OF, Royals (Preseason: #13)
He still gets some credit for last year's explosion, but a knee injury has slowed him in 2011, and scouts who have seen him for the first time have been left scratching their heads as to the lack of hard contact.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

Related Content:  The Who,  Power,  Big League Debut,  Year Of The Injury

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