Michael Clevinger, RHP, Indians
It’s hard to find a high-upside guy in the upper minors who isn’t in the Top 101; it’s just hard to stay off the radar if you’re throwing smoke and getting people out in Double-A. Cleveland’s development staff is doing pretty special stuff with their minor-league pitchers right now though, and perhaps their most impressive trick is turning Clevinger from a thrower into a pitcher with four usable offerings, three of which flash plus.
For Clevinger, his attack starts with the fastball. The right-hander comfortably sits in the 92-94 mph range, and he’s been clocked at 97. His slider is his second-best pitch, and when he’s on, it’s a late-breaking bender with sharp tumble. His 12-6 curve has good spin, and his best ones change a hitter’s eye-level. His changeup is firm and doesn’t feature the movement his other off-speed pitches have, although it isn’t a throwaway offering either, and it should at least keep lefties honest. There is risk in the profile: Clevinger has Tommy John on his resume, he’s already 25 years old, and he’s only dated the strike zone for about a year. Still, he could be a mid-rotation starter and he’s ready for big-league work right now. Not a bad return piece for a few innings of Vinnie Pestano. —Brendan Gawlowski
Dylan Cease, RHP, Cubs
In a recent interview with Jason Rodgers, Cubs Vice President Of Player Development and Amateur Scouting Jason McLeod called Cease a “lottery ticket.” While I understand the thought process, there’s a legit chance that sells Cease’s upside short. This is a pitcher who can get his fastball into the upper 90s on a relatively regular basis, and its movement makes it an easy plus-plus offering. His curveball is a true power pitch with hard spin, and even if it doesn’t finish in the strike zone very often, that's no help to hitters who have to keep 99 mph fastball in the back of their mind. His change doesn’t have near the upside of his fastball/curve combination, but it should be a competent third offering when he’s ready for the big leagues.
There’s a great deal of volatility here—he underwent Tommy John surgery two summers ago and his command is still very much a work in progress—but if everything clicks and he can stay healthy, there’s top-of-the-rotation upside in his right arm. —Christopher Crawford
Carson Fulmer, RHP, White Sox
No one questions Fulmer’s two-pitch mix (his fastball and slider are easy sixes, with room for more), competitive fire, or top-flight makeup. What may have kept him off the 2016 BP 101 were a less-than-ideal frame and delivery, coupled with a short sample of pro innings pitched as a 2015 draftee. Though Fulmer proved plenty of doubters wrong insofar as his ability to be drafted as a starter last spring, he’ll have to keep proving that a (mostly) two-pitch mix and delivery with noticeable head-jerk will perform better as a starter than a back-end reliever at the highest level. That said, the stuff is definitely plus—and if there’s one guy who is going to gut his way to outperforming scouts’ projections, it’s Carson Fulmer. It says a lot about the quality of his fastball and slider that the consensus floor is still a late-inning piece—the ceiling being an upper-half-of-the-rotation starter with two dominant offerings. —Adam McInturff
Eloy Jimenez, RF, Cubs
If you ran a word cloud of scouting reports on Jimenez, "explosive" might just be the biggest word of 'em all. He's a physical specimen at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, with absurd strength in his wrists and forearms that, coupled with quick hips and a lightning-fast weight transfer, helps generate well-above-average bat speed. He gets extension and generates loft, and there are 25-plus home runs just itching to jump off his bat on the annual. The problems at present stem from an over-aggressive approach and an inconsistent barrel, and neither is a quick fix. The defensive profile is solid, especially if he comes close to actualizing his bat's potential. A 19-year-old with his raw skill set and physicality is exactly the kind of high-ceiling offensive force you want to gamble on if you're inclined to bet on upside. —Wilson Karaman
Lucius Fox, SS, Giants
You’ve likely heard the story already, but just in case you haven’t, Fox went from late-first-round talent to getting a $6 million bonus by relocating from Florida back to the Bahamas, where he grew up. We should all be so fortunate.
The big selling point here is speed, as Fox is a plus-plus runner, and that athleticism should make him a weapon on the bases while keeping him in the middle-infield. He’s not just an athlete, however, as the switch-hitter has good hand-eye coordination and a quick swing that sprays the ball to the opposite field. There’s not much power projection at all, and it’s a 50/50 proposition as to whether or not he’ll stick at shortstop, but if he can, he has a chance to be an above-average—maybe even plus—regular there. —Christopher Crawford
Michael Matuella, RHP, Rangers
Six-foot-six, 93-96 mph fastball with absolutely dominant late, arm-side, sinking life, and late burst. Low-to-mid-80s slider with flashes of plus tilt. Enough changeup to start. When you put it that way, Michael Matuella absolutely is one of the top 101 prospects in baseball. So why isn’t he? Matuella has a lot to prove to scouts in terms of his health, consistency of his stuff, and ability to compete. He tantalized scouts with the frame and stuff of a big-league no. 2/3, but he was both a late bloomer at Duke, as well as one that never hit the Team USA or Cape Cod showcase circuit full bore. Last spring, Matuella left Duke’s rotation for good when Tommy John surgery ended his season. Compound that with a rare degenerative back condition (spondylosis) and the question marks that left him out of our 101 become clearer. Matuella is affable and intelligent—he’s easy to root for—but the prospect path he will chart is entirely predicated on his ability to show health and consistency over the raw stuff that made him a 1/1 candidate leading up to 2015’s draft season. If he can do that, he’ll absolutely factor into next year’s list. —Adam McInturff
Touki Toussaint, RHP, Braves
Acquired for the low, low price of bearing the burden of Bronson Arroyo’s contract, Toussaint is one of three first-round picks that the Diamondbacks have shipped to Atlanta in the last few years. He first popped onto radars as a prep product with a good fastball and a hellacious curve. He’s an easy 90-93 these days, with moderate arm-side run and less-than-moderate command. His curveball still qualifies him for The Last Airbender status, which is a positive. Unfortunately, the movie and his career also align in terms of not living up to expectations thus far. He needs to improve his ability to locate, more than anything, and his athleticism gives hope that he’ll have the tools to make that adjustment. It’s a big if, but if he can do so, the potent nature of his one-two punch will make him a top of the rotation starter, even if his change never gets beyond average. —Craig Goldstein
Brady Aiken, LHP, Cleveland Indians
Go ahead, pick your favorite way to conclude that Aiken is a potential elite prospect. You could go for the fact that he was the first-overall pick in 2014, famously didn’t sign with the Astros, then still went 17th to the Indians in 2015, despite undergoing Tommy John surgery a little over two months before the draft. Or, you could go for the fact that physically he represents everything you could ask for in a high-end pitching prospect: a 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame with both maturity and projection, quality athleticism, and surprising coordination for a player his age. You could even opt for the fact that he owns a four-seam fastball that reaches 96-97 mph, a two-seam fastball with excellent movement at 92-93 mph, a plus curveball that some scouts will grade higher, and a potential plus changeup. Honestly, take your pick! The only thing Aiken doesn’t have at this point, and frankly the reason he’s not currently in the Top 101, is health. Assuming his raw stuff returns to prior form once he steps back on the mound, Aiken has the potential to be considered among the top 20-30 prospects in baseball by this time next year, and among the top handful of prospects in the game by this time in 2018. —Mark Anderson
Tyler Jay, LHP, Twins
Minnesota took Jay sixth overall in last year’s draft on the strength of a twitchy, athletic left-handed frame that routinely flashed lively mid-90s fastballs and a hard, two-plane slider at Illinois. Jay was the top first-round selection last spring not to factor into our 101—and even behind him, Golden Spikes winner Andrew Benintendi (seventh, Red Sox) and Ian Happ (ninth, Cubs) did actually crack the list. The rationale behind Jay’s 101 omission isn’t a knock on his stuff so much as a reflection of a lack of demonstrated track record as a starting pitcher. He literally did not start a baseball game as a pitcher all four years of high school and his first two years at Illinois. Even last year, he served as Illinois’ closer for most of the year—and some scouts saw his two 2015 starts for the Fighting Illini as a pure showcase for the hard-throwing southpaw. If there’s a guy who has the stuff and athleticism to make a quick conversion to the rotation, it probably is Jay—the industry just needs to see him do it first to go full bore on the top-half-of-rotation ceiling that accompanies a lefty with two or more plus pitches, good athleticism, arm speed, and body control. —Adam McInturff
Braden Bishop, OF, Mariners
Look for under-the-radar outfielder Braden Bishop to make a showing in the offensive arena this season. A third-round draft pick out of the University of Washington in 2015, Bishop put up decent numbers in short-season Everett, slashing .320/.367/.393 last season after worries that he would struggle at the dish professionally. Primarily known for his defense and speed, which boast above-average grades, another year of physical maturity and a full season at High-A Bakersfield should allow his offensive tools to catch up a bit to his defensive tools. If Bishop can improve his ability to get on base and utilize his speed, you could be looking at a very dangerous all-around player in the near future. I fully expect him to open up some eyes this year and extinguish the worries about his bat. —Colin Young