Jonathan Mayo, Jim Callis and the rest of the MLB.com prospect team unveiled their Top 100 Prospects list tonight, and as is always the case, the catalog has given baseball fans plenty to talk about.
Which teams came away with the most noteworthy prospects? Which players fell off last year's list? Who were the biggest surprises and snubs? MiLB.com has thoughts on those questions and more.
The Top 100 list fueled the proverbial fire in the discussion on best farm system. For starters, the Boston Red Sox cleaned up by placing nine players on the list highlighted by No. 2 prospect Xander Bogaerts. No other team produced more than seven, putting the defending World Series champions in exclusive company when it comes to quantity.
Quality was a slightly different story. After Bogaerts, Boston's next best prospect was left-handed pitcher Henry Owens, ranked 30th, and five of Boston's prospects fell outside the Top 50. Meanwhile, although Minnesota only placed five prospects among the Top 100, it also slid a pair into the top five in top prospect Byron Buxton and No. 4 prospect Miguel Sano. The Twins also had right-handers Alex Meyer (28) and Kohl Stewart (40) in the top 50.
The Chicago Cubs also fared well, placing two players in the top 10 and five in the top 50 in shortstop Javier Baez (7), Kris Bryant (9), Albert Almora (18), C.J. Edwards (42) and Jorge Soler (49). Also, middle infielder Arismendy Alcantara slotted in at No. 89 and right-hander Pierce Johnson at No. 100.
The Astros featured seven players on the list, including shortstop Carlos Correa (8), right-hander Mark Appel (17) and outfielder and reigning MiLBY Player of the Year George Springer (21). On the flip side, Oakland (shortstop Addison Russell at No. 12) and Milwaukee (right-hander Jimmy Nelson at 83) only placed one player apiece on the list, while the Los Angeles Angels didn't produce any Top 100 prospects.
One trend that emerged from the list was the disparity between right-handed and left-handed starters in the Minors right now. Twelve right-handed starters were listed ahead of the top left-handed hurler, Miami's Andrew Heaney at No. 29.
In total, just 10 left-handed pitchers cracked the Top 100 while 38 right-handers made the cut. While there are generally going to be more righties than lefties on such lists, it was only three years ago that Mayo placed nine left-handers in his Top 50, including two (No. 3 Matt Moore and No. 8 Martin Perez) in the Top 10. This year, only three left-handers cracked the top half (Heaney, Owens and San Diego's Max Fried at 43).
Another big change over the past few seasons has been the emergence of a number of elite shortstop prospects. Back in 2011, Mayo featured just six shortstops in his Top 50. This year, there were five shortstops among the first 12 prospects (Bogaerts, Baez, Correa, Francisco Lindor of Cleveland and Russell). Thirteen shortstops made the Top 100, more than any other position other than the outfield.
The right-side infield positions didn't fare quite as well. Just three second baseman made the list (St. Louis' Kolten Wong at 58, Texas' Rougned Odor at 59 and Boston's Mookie Betts at 62), while Houston's Jonathan Singleton was the only first baseman to crack the list at No. 50. That trend isn't very surprising, though, as most successful Major League first and second basemen rise through the Minors at more taxing defensive positions.
Sixteen players fell off the Top 100 since its last incarnation, headlined by a pair of Top 5 picks from the 2011 Draft in Seattle left-hander Danny Hultzen (formerly No. 24) and Kansas City outfielder Bubba Starling (formerly No. 41). Hultzen's omission isn't much of a shock. The University of Virginia product had underwhelmed scouts expecting more from the 2011 No. 2 overall pick in his time as a pro, and that was before he underwent shoulder surgery in October.
Starling, meanwhile, was expected to need development time when the Royals drafted him out of high school with the fifth overall pick. After showing some positive signs with Rookie-level Burlington in 2012, Starling struggled in 2013, when he hit .241 with a .727 OPS in hitter-friendly Class A Lexington. The outfielder's tools are still outstanding -- better than some of the outfielders listed on the Top 100 -- but his performance has lagged behind. Most notably, the 21-year-old struck out 128 times in 125 games last season.
A few other notable omissions include third baseman Mike Olt, who battled myriad issues in 2013 and was traded midseason to the Cubs, as well as Minnesota's Eddie Rosario and Chicago White Sox 2012 first-rounder (13th overall) Courtney Hawkins.
Among the players who jumped onto the list, Edwards made the biggest leap, landing at No. 42. Boston catcher Blake Swihart and Betts slid in at 61 and 62 respectively, and joined White Sox right-hander Erik Johnson (70) as the only other newcomers in the Top 70.
More notable omissions
Kansas City wound up with four players in the Top 100, but easily could've had two more in third baseman Hunter Dozier and left-hander Sean Manaea, both selections in the 2013 Draft. (For what it's worth, some might want to throw right-hander Miguel Almonte in that mix as well). The Royals popped Dozier with the eighth overall pick and immediately converted the Stephen F. Austin shortstop to the hot corner, where the 6-foot-4 22-year-old should be a strong defender and offensive contributor. In his debut, Dozier posted an .892 OPS in 69 games split between Rookie-level Idaho Falls and Lexington.
Manaea, meanwhile, was the Royals' competitive balance pick (34th overall) and could prove a steal if he can improve his health status. Prior to battling injuries last spring, Manaea looked like a potential Top 5 pick.
Two more 2013 draftees who could've earned Top 100 spots are Pittsburgh catcher Reese McGuire and Baltimore right-hander Hunter Harvey. McGuire, selected 14th overall, could be the complete package as a backstop, pairing excellent hands and catch-and-throw skills with good offensive potential. McGuire hit .330 in 46 Rookie-level Gulf Coast League games before earning a brief promotion to short-season Jamestown in his debut.
Harvey, selected 22nd overall, was perhaps the most impressive pitcher at the lower levels of the Minors, striking out 33 batters and posting a 1.78 ERA over 25 1/3 innings split between the Rookie-level Gulf Coast and short-season New York-Penn Leagues. Beyond the numbers, Harvey impressed with electric stuff, starting with a low- to mid-90s fastball and a hard-breaking curve.
The San Francisco Giants landed two pitchers on the Top 100 in right-hander Kyle Crick (32) and left-hander Edwin Escobar (95), but could've had a third in right-hander Clayton Blackburn. A 16th-round pick in the 2011 Draft, Blackburn and his big fastball struck out 138 hitters in 133 innings with Class A Advanced San Jose last summer. He managed a 3.65 ERA and limited opponents to 12 home runs in the hitter-friendly California League while allowing just 35 walks.
The Angels didn't post any Top 100 prospects, but an argument could be made for second baseman Taylor Lindsey. The 22-year-old middle infielder should at least hit for a strong batting average in the Majors, pairing a potential plus hit tool with a grinder mentality that helps his other average tools play up.
Among other names who could've appeared in the Top 100 are Atlanta right-hander J.R. Graham, Detroit right-hander Jonathon Crawford, Colorado outfielder Raimel Tapia, Washington outfielder Brian Goodwin and Pittsburgh right-handers Luis Heredia and Nick Kingham.