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.
Jacob Nix and Logan Allen, both IMG guys from the ’15 draft, checked in as numbers seven and eight on our Padres Top Ten. Both logged a good number of full-season innings last year, albeit with Nix nearly doubling Allen’s output, with the latter also struggling through an elbow injury. Allen may get treated to Indiana in April, while Nix is all but certain to bring his big fastball to the Cal, where he’ll really be challenged to bring the secondaries along or die trying.
But wait, there’s more! Reigning eighth-overall pick Cal Quantrill probably won’t start the year out west—he logged less than five full-season innings among just 37 total last year, after all—but he’s not going to be long for Low-A if his body is ready for it. I’d expect that all systems will be a go, and he’s got a present arsenal that is well advanced to warrant stiff challenge. And lest we forget, Eric Lauer was also a first-rounder last year, and he’s also very likely to open the year with the TinCaps. I’ve been a fan since seeing him on the Cape a couple years ago, and as a polished, crafty college arm there’s fast-track potential to jump up to the California League right quick.
Mmm, oh, and Chris Paddack would’ve been in the mix as well, were it not for the dastardly blade. All told that’s six (and let’s call it a half) big league-caliber starting pitching prospects scheduled to probably log at least some innings at Elsinore, and that is just not too shabby. —Wilson Karaman
Taylor Trammell, OF, Cincinnati Reds
Many felt that by selecting Nick Senzel with the second pick in last year’s draft the Reds got the player with the highest floor in the amatuer ranks. 33 picks later, Cincinnati chose Trammell who arguably has a comparable ceiling. The former Georgia prep football star is still raw, but as an 18-year-old with Billings last year he showed why he commanded over slot money. I look forward to see what strides are made this year at Dayton. The speed is plus-plus, but there are questions: is the arm big enough to stick in center field? Can the power continue to develop as he fills out and gets stronger? Also, as he advances leagues and pitch sequencing and secondary offerings improve, can he respond with improvements in pitch recognition? The speed and hit tool will make him one of the most exciting players to track in the Midwest League. If Trammell’s defense and power follow suit, he will be one of the most exciting in all of the minors. —Nathan Graham
Austin Riley, 3B, Atlanta Braves
The Atlanta Braves are leaving the Carolina League for the new pitcher-friendly comforts of the Florida State League. The Florida Fire Frogs will begin their initial campaign with, on paper, should be a very impressive pitching staff. But while I look forward to them, I am most looking forward to seeing Austin Riley this upcoming season. Suffice it to say, he has his detractors. I can sum up his profile with this simple statement from his report in our Braves Top 10:
“Some aren’t able to fully pull the trigger and project a major leaguer, while others see the tantalizing plus power and want a corner power hitter.”
I see the tantalizing plus power. I know about the strikeouts, but the power is hard to ignore. These are the kind of players I am willing to bet on. His arm strength is plus, he is a big kid and while he has trouble with his range, he won’t be a liability at third base at this stage. He is also very young—he will play all of next season at 20 years old, profiling as one of the youngest everyday regulars in the league. But at the end of the day he does have to start hitting. All of the power and arm strength in the world won’t help if you can’t get past a 40 hit tool. —Steve Givarz
Brett Martin, LHP, Texas Rangers
Josh Morgan, INF, Texas Rangers
It’s well known that talent levels on the average individual minor league team will fluctuate. Occasionally, you’ll get lucky, and lineup spots one through seven, along with a few arms, will be filled with interesting dudes—maybe not prospects, but guys with something they could put on their business card. Sometimes, though, you’ll come to a point in the season where everyone with something has been promoted, and what’s left is tired.
That’s what happened in Frisco at the tail end of 2016, but 2017 is already looking up. While the Texas system is far weaker than it’s been at any point in the last five-plus years, there should be a decent number of interesting prospects entering the Double-A level over the 2017 season, including left-hander Brett Martin and utility man Josh Morgan. Neither are the kind of player that makes one think “future All-Star” but both offer the potential of future stability. Martin still has some development to do—it’d be nice if he could get a little more out of his athletic body than his stiff delivery allows him to currently—but he’s going to likely get the chance to test his stuff against far more advanced hitters than he saw last season, albeit in a friendlier environment. Morgan, who, as we said in the Rangers’ Top 10, “flirted with catching” last year, is not expected to make a return to the tools of ignorance, but is expected to show if his compact, quiet swing is successful against big pitchers with better command. —Kate Morrison
Francisco Mejia, C, Cleveland Indians
Long a favorite of mine, Mejia first appeared in the Carolina League last year. He might not be long for it either, but I should still be able to catch him (sorry) in the Eastern League when Akron visits Bowie. I’m a sucker for catchers who can hit, and Mejia is nothing if not that. The hit streak will get most of the attention, but the Indians’ top prospect is more than a headline. The switch-hitting backstop shows impressive bat speed from both sides of the plate. He likes to use it, too, as he can be a bit of a hacker. Still, he’s short to the ball and has the potential for double-digit homers. He was a little overactive behind the plate the last time I saw him, and I’m eager to see the reported strides he’s made since then for myself. Mejia beat up on the lower minors arms he encountered last year, and saw his stock rise accordingly. His value could truly explode if he shows he’s up to the task against premium arms and more advanced sequencing. —Craig Goldstein
The New Hampshire Fisher Cats
I’ve seen a lot of Fisher Cat baseball over the last few years. Often in April, and often at night, which is not the ideal clime for a baseball game in a Northeast industrial city. I’ve bought thermal underwear and wool socks at local Kohl’s stores in between night games. There’s a snowout in there somewhere too, also a sub-freezing first pitch and a whole lot of org guys. I’ve seen multiple Deck McGuire starts. I’ve seen Adam Loewen as a hitter, after he was a pitcher but before he was a pitcher again. I’ve contemplated writing a Dwight Smith, Jr. ten pack entry. I did see Aaron Sanchez, but it was a bad command Aaron Sanchez start, and I don’t recall him making it out of the second. I always enjoy a leisurely breakfast at The Republic Cafe, but there haven’t been many baseball reasons to schlep up I-93 in recent years. But this season there is a good chance I will catch six of the top ten Jays prospects there, perhaps as soon as Opening Day, when I am already slated for a four-game look. It can be tricky to write notes with heated fleece gloves on—and my handwriting is med-school-ready in the best of circumstances—but at least there will be plenty to write about. —Jeffrey Paternostro
Yeudy Garcia, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
It’s a difficult task to fly under the radar while pumping 96-97 mph heat, but Garcia has done just that largely because he was signed after his teenage years had already passed him by. Despite that, Garcia has continued to perform at each level, showing improved sustained velocity each season of his professional career, along with a developing breaking ball. Garcia will show some effort in his delivery that leads many scouts to project his ultimate role in the bullpen, but I’m anxious to get my eyes on him and form my own opinion in Double-A in 2017. With an electric fastball that could play up in shorter bursts, and a potential plus breaking ball, Garcia has the ingredients to maintain a fallback plan of pitching out of the bullpen, but if the reports of progress with his changeup are true from late last season, then he has a very legitimate chance to start at the big-league level. Garcia should get 25-plus turns in the Altoona rotation this summer, and I look forward to catching at least a couple as he maneuvers his way through the Eastern League, allowing me to form a well-informed opinion of him as he approaches his big league opportunity. —Mark Anderson
The Trenton Rotation, SPs, New York Yankees
A few times a year, circumstances like trades and development schedules collide to create prospect super-teams in the minors. The Yankees certainly have the makings of that at Double-A Trenton in 2017—not just with top infield prospects Gleyber Torres and Jorge Mateo, but also in the starting rotation.
Lefty Justus Sheffield clocked in at 52 on the BP 101, and he should open as Trenton’s top starter after being bumped there for the Eastern League playoffs. With further refinements to his command-and-control profile, Sheffield could easily shoot up our lists over the course of 2017. James Kaprielian came in just below Sheffield at 58. On merit, he’d open with Sheffield to form one of the minors’ best one-two punches, but he could stay in Florida so the Yankees can closely monitor his usage as the weather warms up in New Jersey. 82nd-ranked prospect Albert Abreu is more likely to start at High-A than Double-A, but probably isn’t more than a handful of good starts away from a promotion. On the flip side of that promotion edge is Chance Adams, who was just off the 101 and tenth in the system. He carved up Double-A with his fastball and slider in twelve late-season starts in 2016, and might be crowded out of the Triple-A rotation picture as he continues to build starting stamina.
Even the other, lower profile candidates for the Trenton rotation are interesting prospects in their own right. Domingo Acevedo wasn’t far from this loaded top ten. Former first-rounder Ian Clarkin still has the talent, but needs to prove his health. Erik Swanson is a live armed sleeper that New York picked up in the Carlos Beltran deal. The Yankees thought highly enough of both Domingo German and Yefrey Ramirez to place them on a tight 40-man roster having advanced no further than High-A. Any or all could pass through in what promises to be an exciting year in Trenton. —Jarrett Seidler
Brent Honeywell, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
There’ve been some lean years in Durham recently thanks to a string of poor drafting that began with Tim Beckham at 1-1 in 2008 and climaxed with the disaster of 2011. That run should come to an end in 2017, with seven of our Rays top ten—plus since-acquired Jose De Leon—likely to spend some or all of the season at Triple-A. There’s no more unique skill in that group than Honeywell’s ability to throw a screwball. Hector Santiago is the only pitcher to throw it in the majors with any regularity in the past half-decade, and I’ve never seen him in person. So yeah, I’m looking forward to simply observing something new to my eyes, to marveling at the pitch’s shape, its ability to turn unsuspecting hitters into statues and elicit awkward swings. More than that, I’m excited to witness Honeywell’s energy. As a franchise inextricably linked to the silver screen, there’s a special appreciation here for a good show. Honeywell seems likely to oblige; by many accounts, the extent to which he feels himself is downright LaLooshian, and for good reason. Honeywell’s mid-90s heat and broad repertoire has overwhelmed at every level thus far, including most recently in the AFL. He’s got one level left to check off on the road to Tampa. Assuming the elbow soreness that cost him some time in 2016 stays in the rearview, Honeywell should arrive in Durham by mid-summer, if not before. —Greg Wellemeyer