For better or worse, the Top 101 Prospects list only has those 101 spots for us to put players that we like. Fortunately, there’s no statute of limitations on talking about prospects that we debated putting on the list, and just fell short in the end. Here are a group of such prospects.
Cody Bellinger, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers
Bellinger’s leveraged swing from the left side was tailor-made for California League power, but it remains to be seen if the increasing aggressiveness with which he deployed it last season will pass muster against higher-caliber arms in more neutral contexts. It’s a long swing with its share of holes, and he’s just as likely to come up empty against in-zone velocity as he is a curveball in the dirt. But the legitimately plus raw power belies his lanky, still-filling-out frame, and he brings an elegant athleticism to first base, with enough of it to spare that he garnered a trial run in centerfield along the way. While the glove isn’t likely to play up the middle, some corner outfield versatility is certainly on the table, and he can develop into a well above-average defender at first. His conquest of High-A came while extremely young for the level, and the Dodgers will have nothing but time and options to develop him as they see fit. If he shows the ability to hang with the bigger boys next season he’ll be about as no-doubt a riser into the 101 as anybody on this list. —Wilson Karaman
A.J. Cole, RHP, Washington Nationals
Is Cole suffering from a bit of prospect fatigue? Perhaps. After all, he’s appeared on six BP Top Ten lists over the course of his minor league career. He was all the way up at 30 on last year’s Top 101 and was within the top 101 on early drafts of this year’s list but ended up sliding further and further, the deeper we got into the process. It’s not that Cole’s future as a major-league contributor is in doubt, but rather that it’s now looking like he’s more of a back-end starter than the mid-rotation horse his tools once suggested he’d be. He has a deep repertoire and fills up the zone but there just isn’t a killer out pitch to carry the arsenal. Maybe we’re not giving Cole his due—even the version with adjusted expectations—and he should be rated within the 101, perhaps above some of the deep-projection guys toward the bottom of the list. Either way, we’re going to get immediate feedback as he’ll either open the season as the no. 5 in Washington’s rotation or be one of the first guys called upon to fill in. —Ezra Wise
Lucius Fox, SS, San Francisco Giants
Fox's athleticism is off the charts, a double-plus runner with an excellent first step—both on the bases and in the field. At the plate, his line drive swing from both sides of the plate will suit him well, and his strong wrists give him "sneaky" pop to put the ball into the gaps so he can put those wheels to work. There's a question as to where Fox will play defensively, but the Giants will give him every chance to stick at shortstop. If he can't handle it, the profile fits perfectly in center field, with second base being the worst-case scenario. Any time you have a player with this little experience you're talking about a lot of risk, but the reward here is potentially a top-of-the-order shortstop—and those are good things to have around. —Christopher Crawford
Frankie Montas, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Montas debuted last season, and I don’t think you can find a guy on the brink of the big leagues who throws as hard as he does as a starting pitcher. He’ll probably be eligible for the 2017 list—the Dodgers have a lot of pitching depth this year—but he’s about as sure a bet as any to be discussed here after next season, insofar as any upper-90s flamethrower who can kind of keep average secondaries around the zone should be talked about as a top prospect. He might be the ‘just missed-iest’ of any guy on this list, if you’re the type of person that values proximity to the big leagues more than most. He should make an appearance for the Dodgers this season, and he has the type of stuff that could force his way on to the roster if he has a knockout spring training.
Montas looks like a higher-probability relief pitcher, and when you consider the rotation options the Dodgers have otherwise, shorter stints might be his clearest path to the 25-man roster. He has the stuff to get hitters out at any level; his 80-grade fastball and power slider are double-plusses when he’s on. Still, it's hard to see him being more than something of a novelty as a starting pitcher; it’s a max effort delivery and the body paired with the velocity just seems a little bit of a reach in terms of making 20+ starts every season. He can throw strikes, but that could be something that opens the door for him to pitch in higher-leverage spots, just as easily as it could lead to him sticking in the rotation. He’s also an interesting candidate to fill the type of emerging ‘swing role’ that teams are getting increasing value from—a power-armed guy who could pitch more than one inning at a time. —Adam McInturff
Carson Fulmer, RHP, Chicago White Sox
It’s difficult to watch a Fulmer start and not come away with at least a subtle desire to run through a brick wall. He boasts the kind of up-tempo pace and aggressive swagger on the bump that engages the defense behind him, and the raw stuff and arm speed were as good as any in last year’s draft class. Despite his much-analyzed sub-six foot frame he holds his velocity deep into starts, working a heater that he can manipulate in any direction in the mid-90s, and complements it with a plus hook that he can keep in or take out of the zone with equal effectiveness. He’s an interesting intersection of prototype limitation and individual talent, and if the latter wins the day in 2016—as I’m confident it will—he’ll not only make it easily into the 101, but also likely leapfrog a couple dozen guys already on it in the process. —Wilson Karaman
Cornelius Randolph, LF?, Philadelphia Phillies
Randolph's profile is not all that dissimilar from Trent Clark or Forrest Wall's, both of whom snuck into the last few spots of this year's list. Randolph doesn't have Clark's athleticism or Wall's full-season performance on his resume, but he might end up a better hitter than either. “Might” and “end up” are the operative phrases there, and there is even more uncertainty around Randolph's defensive projection than his fellow teenaged comps. Clark should be fine in left field and may end up with enough speed to play some center. Wall is a second baseman, which isn't sexy, but it is an up-the-middle position by definition. Randolph is…well, we don't know yet. He doesn't have the arm or range to stay on the infield (well, outside of first base) and he is a very inexperienced outfielder.
None of that matters if he hits, of course, but without much of a professional track record in that regard, it was tough to squeeze him onto the 101 this year. The Phillies have recently been very aggressive with their prospect tracks—whether or not that continues under their revamped front office remains to be seen—but Randolph's bat is ready for the South Atlantic League at least. And if he hits there as a 19-year-old, the lack of a clear defensive position will not be nearly a large enough impediment to keep him off the 2017 list. —Jeffrey Paternostro
Jomar Reyes, 3B, Baltimore Orioles
Reyes will not be a third baseman in the long run, as it’s simply unreasonable to think a human being of his size will maintain the mobility that’s needed at the position into his 20s. However, Reyes possesses tantalizing offensive potential—more than enough to carry first base—and because of that, he was in serious contention for the 101. It’s just a bit too soon for a player with such a bat-dependent profile, as Reyes is only 18 (19 by Opening Day) and it’s hardly a given that his hit tool will reach a level that allows the majority of his double-plus raw power manifest in-game. If his chances of sticking at a non-first base position were higher, Reyes would have been a shoo-in for the 101, but because of the steep, high-variance developmental trajectory that lies ahead, we felt it was best to hold off for now. Shortening his at-times lengthy swing and sharpening his inconsistent approach will go a long way toward strengthening his candidacy for future lists. —Ezra Wise
Spencer Adams, RHP, Chicago White Sox
The argument for Spencer Adams making the 101 next year is based around the actualization of his projection. He’s maintained the same type of stuff that made him the White Sox second-rounder in 2014, while progressively turning the plus arm speed and athleticism scouts dreamed on into improvements to his control and delivery. Adams will almost certainly require at least another full year in the minors, but the ‘arrow is up’ as the scouting phrase goes. His walk rate (1.3 BB/9) during his 19-year-old first full professional season is extremely encouraging for the ‘type’ of prep arm he was coming out of the draft, that being one who was more ‘stuff and projection’ than ‘control and polish.’
Scouting the player, I’m not terribly concerned Adams forever traded stuff for control in 2015—I think the dip in swings and misses last year was more a byproduct of his increased focus on aligning his delivery and adjusting to the pro grind. He still will land overly closed at times, but the number mechanical adjustments he's made since turning pro is impressive. Adams shows the same lively, running 91-95 mph fastball he did in high school, and the improved delivery is allowing a lot more strikes earlier in the count. The depth of his breaking ball probably will be the largest key in aiding Adams’ strikeout ability at higher levels—if I had any qualm with him it was that he didn’t change the swing plane on any of his pitches very much.
In general, though, if every high school pitcher actually started making such mechanical changes and throwing strikes the year after they signed the way Adams has, there probably wouldn’t be such a stigma around high school pitching in the first place. That should tell you something about the degree Adams showing immediate improvements aids in projecting him even further; the adjustments he has made already hint at the changes he could continue to make. Especially if he can bring out his ‘best’ breaking balls with more regularity next season, Adams is a guy we could be talking about this time next year with 60-grades next to his fastball, breaking ball, and control—all in an athletic 6-foot-4 frame. —Adam McInturff
Chance Sisco, C, Baltimore Orioles
One would think a player who appeared at 101 on last year’s list, decimated High-A offensively, then more than held his own at Double-A as a 20-year-old would have received some major helium on this year’s 101. That’s not the case, however, as Sisco’s development at the plate is well ahead of where he’s at behind it with serious concerns about footwork, receiving, blocking, and game calling holding him back. That being said, we have not seen the last of Chance Sisco on the 101. Catchers are faced with overcoming all sorts of developmental hurdles players at other positions don’t have to deal with, thus patience is a virtue when it comes to both evaluating Sisco specifically and catchers in general. He has the ingredients needed to be at least average behind the dish thanks to above-average athleticism, excellent hand-eye coordination, and above-average raw arm strength. Given his substantial upside as a top-five offensive catcher, Sisco could realistically marinate in the upper minors for the next 2-3 years refining his defense and still maintain his hefty prospect appeal. —Ezra Wise
Kohl Stewart, RHP, Minnesota Twins
The fourth-overall pick in the 2013 draft, Stewart is blessed with a strong, athletic frame, and when at its best, his arsenal is as well rounded and has a ceiling as high as almost any pitching prospect's in the game. However, Stewart hasn’t amounted to the hype that surrounded him just a few seasons ago. In Low-A, Stewart looked as though he would amount to his no. 2 starter ceiling with a little fine tuning, aging, and the ability to maintain his health. Stewart logged a career-high 129 innings in 2015, which was nice to see from a guy who saw his first two seasons curtailed by second-half shoulder soreness. However, Stewart just wasn’t able to perform at the level expected. It’s hard to explain the 4.9 strikeout-per-nine rate he posted in the most pitcher-friendly league in baseball with the upside his arsenal holds. His inability to miss bats has taken a tremendous bite out of his stock and has many believing that he is more of a back-end guy now. Stewart should hit the Double-A level with Chattanooga this year, and hopefully he will be able to improve his pitch sequencing in order to miss more bats and get back to performing closer to those original lofty expectations. —Brandon Decker
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