Golden Globes aren't the only thing Atlanta won this year.
N.B. These will vary a bit from the rankings in the 2017 Annual. Some of that is due to trades that happened after we went to press, but some of it is also due to my just not liking those rankings anymore. I guess I am taking the whole “snapshot in time” thing very literally. As with last year’s, we have organized them into tiers, described—unsurprisingly—with lyrics from noted singer-songwriter, author, and Cubs fan, John Darnielle.
“But you cannot run / And you cannot hide / From the wreck we've made of our house / From the mess inside”
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Gleyber Torres, SS, New York Yankees
We ranked Gleyber Torres as the 15th-best prospect in baseball, and word on the street is that makes us the low guys in the prospect ranking community on him. I suspect this is due to his monster Arizona Fall League in front of every scout and prospect writer in the known universe, where Torres became the youngest AFL MVP in league history. He’s slated to begin 2017 with the Trenton Thunder, one of my “home parks” and just a short jaunt down the New Jersey Turnpike or Interstate 195 for me. I’ll be fascinated to see whether the ginormous AFL was reflective of real late-season gains for Torres or just a small-sample in a great hitting environment against inconsistent and/or gassed pitching. Even the Torres that showed up in 2015 and for the bulk of 2016 is a heck of a prospect, a potential future star at short or second, so I doubt I’ll be disappointed by any version of Torres that shows up. But there’s a shot that I’m going to get to watch a shooting star fly up right to the doorstep of the majors, and that’d be really fun to see. —Jarrett Seidler
The Lake Elsinore Starting Rotation
Yes, pretty much all of them. The Padres have a system growing by leaps and bounds in its depth, and one of the great corners of coagulation for a bunch of their mound talent will be the Elsinore Valley. Enyel De Los Santos made 15 very solid starts for Elsinore last year but, given his youth, he may well be a candidate to return in April. He boasts top-shelf arm speed, mid-90s gas, and the foundations for a couple solid secondaries that can miss bats. That’s really not a terrible placeholder to start the season, if it comes to it, and it’s a quality warm-up act. Teen-aged wunderkind Anderson Espinoza is probably the headliner. That he didn’t thoroughly dominate full-season ball at Age 18 was enough to blunt some of the madness that had swept up his name last offseason, but the year was by and large a smashing success for him given age and league context, and he appears on track to maintain an aggressive promotion schedule.
Mitchell White, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
I wrote a good bit about White in our Dodgers Top Ten a few weeks back, but felt he warranted further advocacy in this here space as well. He’s a rare bird, in that he already has an arsenal capable of carving up left-handed hitters in spite of possessing very little in the way of a developed changeup. That’s because his cutter is an absolute weapon, holding plane effectively while it wanders to the glove side with well-above-average (and late) horizontal action. He can get in the kitchen as well as anybody I saw last year, and while the curve can lack for bite, it already shows quality depth that can generate field trips out of the zone. This all takes for granted a lively fastball that sits 91-93 right now, too. He generates quality extension to slot, and his velocity plays up a tick because of it. There’s some effort in the delivery, and it’s an up-tempo pace that can get too quick at times right now. The lack of a workload to date also makes him vulnerable to durability questions until he can build up some innings. But the frame is large and athletic, he controls it very well pitch to pitch, and I see a straight path to above-average command. Between White and the more-heralded Walker Buehler, the Dodgers have a couple very interesting post-surgery right-handers to monitor next year, and for my money there isn’t a ton of daylight between them. After crossing into triple-digit innings last year and looking no worse for the wear by the end of it, White has the potential to explode up prospect lists with 140-150 quality innings up into the high minors this season. —Wilson Karaman
Justin Dunn, SP, New York Mets
Honestly, Dunn would’ve fit in last week’s list of players who narrowly missed the 101 just as much as this week’s list. And on pure stuff, Dunn certainly belongs, with a plus fastball and the makings of a solid slider and change. Mostly a reliever at BC until midway through his junior season, the Mets were very careful with Dunn’s post-draft usage, using him for only two or three innings every six or seven days at short-season Brooklyn. Given that his track record as a starter is limited, he’s slight of frame, and there’s a touch of violence in his motion, we have just enough skepticism over Dunn’s long-term outlook starting, and the potential that he ends up in the pen kept him off the list this year. A couple dozen healthy starts and continued development of the offspeeds and command will easily put him pretty far up 2018’s 101, and you can dream on even more given the recent organizational track record with this sort of profile. —Jarrett Seidler
Ten names that came close but couldn't land that cigar.
What lies below are ten prospects who were in the batch of names that came closest to our Top 101 but ultimately landed on the cutting room floor. To be very clear: The prospects below are not the next ten names in order on our list. They are ten of the next group of names, so please do not take it to mean a name not mentioned wasn't considered. The universe of relevant prospects is unfortunately larger than we can devote time and space to. That said, please enjoy! —Craig Goldstein
Josh Lowe, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays
Lowe is massive. Sometimes you hear about a body before you first see it and it doesn't really live up to the hype. Stand next to Lowe and he lives up to the hype. He has the ideal slugger's frame with room to become even more ideal (if that were possible). With the frame and present strength come some of the best raw power in his draft class and now in the Tampa Bay system. When he catches the barrel, it arcs to the moon. At the same time, Lowe faces the typical hit tool questions often paired with impressive power. There's some length to the swing and he sometimes relies on his bat speed to get by. There are also initial questions about his defensive future as he works to stay at third base. The arm is obviously more than enough for any position, so a move to right field is possible. Regardless, he'll need to prove he can handle pro pitching, because the power will play anywhere. Right now, it's a boom-or-bust profile, and the chances are good that he'll hang at the plate. Factors such as athleticism, bat speed and flashes of barrel awareness are on his side. The outcome could be a very solid corner slugger. —David Lee
Dylan Cease, RHP, Chicago Cubs
Cease has been a hot topic within prospect circles over the last year-plus, and his performance with short-season Eugene in 2016 did little to dissuade folks from discussing him further. Any time you play for one of the game’s most popular franchises while also owning an electric fastball that can reach 100 mph, you are going to garner attention. Cease lacks consistency beyond the fastball, though his curveball made strides in 2016 and could give him a second plus pitch to torture hitters with. Both the command and changeup lag considerably behind which is the primary reason he missed the back of the Top 101 despite his obvious gifts. As an undersized right-hander with a history of injuries, many in the scouting community are already projecting him for a relief role, which is never a good sign this early in a career, even if that relief projection lands him as a top shelf closer. Cease is going to continue to be a high-profile prospect and one that tantalizes with a potential impact fastball-curveball combo, and as he quiets the concerns around his secondary traits and projection, he may no longer appear in “Just Missed” articles, but rather in the entrée piece as a member of the Top 101. —Mark Anderson
Luis Castillo, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
I know what you all are thinking: a 24-year-old, pop-up arm who spent the majority of the year in High-A being a potential 101 guy? If we ignore some context and focus on the profile, the stuff is worthy of top 101 consideration. Castillo packs a pure 80 fastball that holds velocity through games, a potential plus slider, a changeup that has flashed average to better, and the results to go with it. But we do not ignore context and because of the factors mentioned above, Castillo is in the just missed portion. While the slider should get to plus with more consistency, the changeup hasn’t been there on a consistent basis, which could push him towards a relief future. Fortunately for Cincinnati, this is an arm with a chance to have a major impact on their roster, either sooner in a bullpen, or perhaps in 2018 in a starting rotation. —Steve Givarz
While it's entirely likely you'll skip right ahead to the rankings, we wanted to provide some context for the list. As always, prospect lists are a snapshot in time—in this case January 1, when the list was compiled. It's possible a prospect's situation has changed since then, or that our evaluator's feelings on a prospect have changed, due to new information. Within a week of the list being submitted, Jeffrey Paternostro told me there were only seven rankings he hated already. I'm guessing that number has risen as time's gone on. We hope you enjoy reading and debating the list as much as we enjoyed putting it together. —Craig Goldstein