Bo Bichette, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays (High-A Dunedin)
Bichette jumped from off of our Top 101 in the offseason to No. 29 in the midseason, so it’s not as if we don’t like him. And the concerns about him are legitimate. He isn’t a shortstop, there is a decent amount of swing-and-miss in the game, and he was only in Low-A. That said, this kid is something special. While Bichette isn’t going to stick at the six, I believe his final home will still be on the dirt. His footwork will look at little clunky at short at times, but he’ll show solid lateral movement and an average arm, which makes it a profile I can envision working well at second.
However, the real reason we’re here is the bat. Despite a big leg kick and bat wrap, Bichette possesses elite bat speed that allows him to get the head into the zone on time. You’d expect there to be a few whiffs (and there are), but he also features a natural feel for hitting, and has better bat-to-ball skills and plate coverage than one would expect. One of the more impressive at-bats I’ve seen this year was when Bichette stepped in against a side-arming righty and laced an inside fastball through the left side. His hands are just crazy fast. There is a healthy dose of power too, and though he’s not going to slug .700, the pop is plus and it plays to all fields.
Bichette won’t hit close to .400 in the majors, but he’ll hit and hit for power. Even if he ends up in the outfield, that’s still a pretty solid prospect. If he ends up at second, that’s a star. —Emmett Rosenbaum
Adonis Medina, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies (Low-A Lakewood)
As I went over a few weeks ago, we’ve definitely got enough now to give Adonis Medina a nice bump from where he was coming into the season. He’s developed a potentially-plus new slider and is pitching more consistently towards the top end of his velocity range. But list season—even midseason list season—forces us to make a determination on just how big that bump is.
Medina ranked 91st coming into the season, part of the “interesting but flawed and/or really far away” group of higher-risk pitchers that usually starts around 75th in any given list. Medina was more on the really far away sector, a guy with a good base of skills to start from and solid growth potential. I think it’s safe to say that he’s actualized enough of the growth potential that he’s graduated out of that particular group into the next level of good but non-elite pitching prospects. And some of those guys made the list while others didn’t. There isn’t a whole lot of room in performance or reports between Medina and Ian Anderson or Forrest Whitley, to name two guys at a similar level that just barely made the list. Jeffrey noted in a discussion in the comments about Sandy Alcantara (39th) and Jack Flaherty (like Medina just off the list) that there really just isn’t a lot of space in the tier that starts around 30 or so on this list, and they could easily be reordered by preference or the slightest changes. Medina’s pretty comfortably in that tier, and I might take him over a few guys who actually made the list, granting that’s almost certainly because I’ve seen him more and have a stronger handle on his potential. He’s a very good pitching prospect. —Jarrett Seidler
Luis Urias, 2B, San Diego Padres (Double-A San Antonio)
Urias was the best pure hitter in the California League last year en route to winning the league’s MVP award as its youngest Opening Day regular, and he’s followed up that effort by posting an OPS 80 points north of league-average in Double A—again as one of the youngest players at the level, some four years younger than the average Texas Leaguer. When I wrote up Urias early last June I was enamored with the hit tool but skeptical of the rest of the package; if I’d taken the time to file a subsequent report at season’s end I’d have comfortably bumped the hit tool up to a 6 while openly pondering about the potential for more, knocked the power up to a 4, and lifted the glove and arm a half grade as well. He made the kind of wholesale, across-the-board progress after acclimating to his surroundings that you just frankly don’t see kids his age make on the regular (hence my initial skepticism).
We flirted with his name in discussions for the BP 101 last winter, but he ultimately didn’t make the cut. And after screaming out of the gates with a spectacular start to this season, he’s run into a prolonged period of struggle (as one does when 20 in Double A) that served enough of a check to draw him a similar close-but-note-quite lot in our midseason Top 50 discussions. But if you like Alex Verdugo this year—and on the heels of anointing him a top-30 talent in minor league baseball, it’s pretty clear we do—you’re probably going to feel pretty good about Urias at this time next year. The natural feel for hitting is something you just can’t teach, and it leads a profile that is at least much closer to average on balance than it initially appeared. His inability to threaten with power or speed limits the ceiling, but guys who carry a top-shelf hit tool and won’t cost you runs defensively tend to have long big-league careers. —Wilson Karaman
Franklin Perez, RHP, Houston Astros (High-A Buies Creek)
My typical pitcher write-up starts with a description of the stuff, then mechanics, maybe a sprinkle of relevant stats and notes on athleticism, before getting to the “softer” observations on pitchability, mound presence, confidence, etc. My boy Frankie P. isn’t typical though. My favorite thing about the 6-foot-3, 195-pound righty is all those “soft” observations, when combined with his plus stuff (oh yeah, it’s good; see below), lead me to slap a FV 55 on the 19-year-old, and if you made me chose between 5 and 6, I’d take the 6. In April, I watched him mow down a strong Brewers lineup in the High-A Carolina League. He was in complete control, used all four pitches, and mixed them like a savvy veteran, throwing all four with conviction. That, to me, is what makes Perez special; he’s greater than the sum of the parts.
Stuff-wise, it starts with a future plus-plus fastball at 92-95 mph with run and plus command. He moved it around the zone with aplomb, elevating to cause hitters fits. That set up his slider, which was spotty, but bonkers-good when he had it—he just learned it, and while some reports note its flatness, I’m bullish that Perez can develop the pitch with more experience just based on the quality of the ones he got right. The third time through, he brought out his changeup, which is presently below-average with limited tumble, but works as part of his mix and should get to average or better at maturity (it’s worth noting that others have had plus-or-better grades on the changeup, but that quality cambio didn’t show in my viewing). And then just to be mean, he dropped in a few mid-70s curveballs in slider counts to fool hitters, steal some strikes, and give them something else to think about. The delivery has effort with lots of momentum to footstrike, but he brings it together with a quiet finish, all repeated well. This is a No. 3 starter in the making if the arm holds up to the workload—some added strength will help—and with slider and changeup development, he could be a no. 2 starter at maturity. —John Eshleman
Conner Greene, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays (Double-A New Hampshire)
Still just 22 years of age, Greene missed out on the midseason top 50, but was certainly part of the discussion. The athletic right hander has wowed at times this season, but hasn’t consistently dominated, sitting at just a 4.37 ERA in 16 starts. However, Greene’s power stuff indicates that he could be a force when he reaches the big leagues. When I saw Greene back in early June, I graded him as a 60 OFP, likely No. 3/4 starter. He has this kind of upside because his fastball sits in the mid-high 90s and he can even pump it to triple digits when needed. Hitters were frequently late and he flashed enough command for the pitch to play to its velocity. He has a bulldog mentality on the mound, unafraid to attacks hitters in any count. While this may seem like he’s destined to be a potential closer, he has a loose enough arm to make you think his that he’s got the durability to stick as a starter. His secondaries were inconsistent, but have enough potential to play at least fringe, which will allow them to be relatively effective when he plays them off his plus-plus heater. There is concern that Greene doesn’t strike out nearly enough hitters with his power stuff (64 K in 90.2 IP), but he should improve on this some as he continues to hone his breaking ball command and gains more experience against better competition. There are pitchers ahead of Greene who have had better years up to this point, but any hurler who can throw the way the Blue Jays farmhand does should continue to climb up these rankings as he inches closer to the big leagues. It’s not a certainty that Greene sticks in the rotation, but he’s got the athleticism and arm speed to give him a solid chance of starting in the years to come. I’m personally willing to bet that his fastball is electric enough to shield the fringe command and secondaries as a starting pitcher. All in all, we may come to regret not putting a pitcher with this much upside into the top 50. —Greg Goldstein
Ryan Mountcastle, SS, Baltimore Orioles (High-A Frederick)
It’s a real joy to watch Mountcastle hit, and it had to be for him to make this list, because his stated position of shortstop doesn’t seem to be a realistic long-term option. Mountcastle displays above-average bat speed and plus raw power, with quick hands and a leveraged swing that allow him to drive the ball to the gap with ease. It’s easy to see him adding more muscle to his upper body as time goes on, which should allow the power to become fully realized. There have been few players I’ve seen this year that can generate that wonderful “Crrrr-ack” sound at the plate everyone craves, and Mountcastle can; he makes solid contact often, though he can become a hacker at times and his plate discipline could use a little bit of work. All that being said, we’re talking about a guy in his age-20 season who has fit in well at both levels of A-ball thus far and displays a bat that looks like it would play well in AA right now. That’s worth noting, and it's exactly why he made our list.
Mountcastle is hurt by one pretty major hiccup, though: he’s unlikely to stick at shortstop. He doesn’t get great reads on the ball, doesn’t have the range or footwork to make even moderately difficult plays, and his arm doesn’t seem up to par for the position. The best-case scenario is that Mountcastle puts on that extra muscle, harnesses the plus raw power, and becomes a viable 20-homer guy capable of handling left field while becoming an above-average major-league regular at the position. —Victor Filoromo
Scott Kingery, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies (Triple-A Lehigh Valley)
Scott Kingery has always had plus speed and defense to get him a taste of the big leagues but the bat has been a step behind for him to ever really profile as an everyday major leaguer. 2017 has been a different story, as Kingery's bat has exploded during the first half of the season. While playing in one of the most hitter friendly environments in the nation it's easy to brush it off as the park being the main factor to his power output. While this undoubtedly has played a part in the home run totals he has continued his surge following his promotion to AAA. A change in approach at the plate over the offseason has been the major key in the transformation, it appears he has made a conscious effort to drive the ball more as evidenced by a 13% drop in his ground ball rates from 2016. While there may not be any major cosmetic change in the swing, for instance a major leg lift or hitch with the hands, the changes in swing plane and direction are evident when comparing his swings to last years, making the increase in "air balls" understandable. The fact that Kingery is even appearing in our midseason top 50 is impressive but if you believe that the bat has actually taken a step forward like I do, and you combine it with the plus speed and defense it is possible that we are looking at a bonafide big leaguer and could see his name jump up the rankings even further. —Derek Florko
Erick Fedde, RHP, Washington Nationals (Triple-A Syracuse)
Despite the Nationals previous conversion of Fedde to the bullpen (and subsequent transition back to the rotation), Fedde has always profiled well as a starter. He’s already reached Triple-A, and has introduced a new curveball into his already deep arsenal this season. The curve will probably max out at major-league average, but it’s a necessary pitch since Fedde’s change doesn’t show enough movement to be consistently effective versus left-handed batters. The implementation of the curveball gives him another weapon against those batters, while relying on his darting slider as an out-pitch against same-side hitters.
Fedde easily could have slotted in towards the back end of the top 50 as he’s close to major-league ready given that he’s already 24 years old, and could conceivably be helping the Nationals bullpen right now. Still, the slider is probably the only plus pitch in his repertoire and on the nights he doesn’t have it, he’s going to struggle. The guys who did make the list present a little bit more upside than Fedde offers, but if a sure-fire major leaguer is what you’re after, you’d prefer Fedde to a bunch of names on that list. —Craig Goldstein
Matt Manning, RHP, Detroit Tigers (short-season Connecticut)
It can be tough to justify shoving a guy from outside the Top 50 entering the year into the Top 50 when he’s made less than a handful of starts this season after starting the year in extended spring training. The Tigers were deliberate with Manning’s development this year, leaving him in extended to focus on refining his delivery, improving his extension, and polishing his curveball and changeup. He’s made strides in each of those areas, showing impressive extension out front and an athletic, more repeatable delivery in the start I observed. His curveball has also shown greater consistency, flashing as a plus offering and consistently showing average, giving him a strong second pitch to pair with a fastball that has been resting in the mid-90s. His changeup remains a relatively rudimentary third offering, but his arm speed and arm slot remain true, giving hope that the pitch will come with time. Manning has pounded the strike zone with his fastball, overpowering NYPL hitters and making a strong case that he should have been a Top 50 guy right now. Even with the addition of College World Series hero Alex Faedo to the Tigers system, Manning still earns the top spot in the organization, and could be developing into one of the better young arms in all the minor leagues right before our eyes. Manning hasn’t seen much of a challenge in the NYPL so far, and could see the Midwest League before the campaign is through, giving him plenty of opportunity to cement his case as an easy Top 50 prospect when this list is revisited in the off-season. —Mark Anderson
Francisco Mejia, C, Cleveland Indians (Double-A Akron)
“Someone internally made a huge and compelling argument to put him [#1] anyways, which goes like: this is the best hit tool in the minors and he’s a catcher that has a real shot to stay behind the plate.
So full disclosure: That someone was me.
So like, why isn’t he just at number one? It’s ostensibly my list. My name’s on the masthead. I get the e-mails and the subtweets. If I have a huge and compelling argument for a guy I can just do what I like, no? Well, if there’s one thing this gig has taught me, it’s that ultimately you just aren’t the sole voice on any prospect. I think Mejia is a potential 7 hit/5 pop catcher. It’s right there in his blurb that I wrote for his entry on the midseason 50. And if I was making a pref list I might very well have him over Rosario and Moncada. These aren’t pref lists though, and I am not the only voice that shapes the end product (though I may be the loudest, especially after an old fashioned or two). Actually, it is nice to still have “my guys,” to be able to buck the establishment lists that I guess I am also responsible for. There’s always a part of me that will miss the Young Turk that blustered about those national lists that overlooked my personal favorite prospect. Now I’m the guy that gets the @’s about being biased against someone’s favorite prospect or whoever. I do have my biases still of course, but right now they tilt in favor of Francisco Mejia. —Jeffrey Paternostro
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