Braves are tops with six pitchers, two position players on rankings
Shohei Ohtani (left) has the potential to be a standout pitcher and position player. Ronald Acuna had a breakout 2017.
By Josh Jackson / MiLB.com | January 27, 2018 9:00 PM
The Atlanta Braves are set to enter the season with the most players on MLB Pipeline's new Top 100 Prospects list, including baseball's No. 2 overall prospect, with Ronald Acuna behind only a player who's prospect status likely will not last beyond the first few weeks of the Major League campaign.
The Angels' Shohei Ohtani, a two-way player and perhaps the only newcomer this century to draw comparisons to Babe Ruth, is the top overall prospect. As a right-handed pitcher, he features an 80-grade fastball and a five-pitch mix. As a left-handed-hitting outfielder, he has a 65-grade power bat, 65-grade speed and an 80-grade arm. Ohtani signed with the Angels for $2.3 million in December and is expected to break Spring Training with the big league club.
Acuna, who climbed from Class A Advanced to Triple-A while batting .325/.374/.522 with 21 homers and 44 steals, wrapped up 2017 by earning MVP honors in the elite Arizona Fall League. The outfielder turned 20 on Dec. 18. Ranked directly behind Ohtani, Acuna is one of eight Braves prospects to make the Top 100.
MLB.com's 2018 Top 10 Prospects for Opening Day
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Fernando Tatis Jr.
Blue Jays third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (No. 3), White Sox outfielder Eloy Jimenez (No. 4) and Yankees infielder Gleyber Torres (No. 5) round out the top five slots. Of the trio, only Torres placed in the top 10 spots -- third behind Andrew Benintendi (Red Sox) and Yoan Moncada (White Sox) -- on the 2017 preseason Top 100 Prospect rankings.
Beyond the Braves, six systems have five or more prospects in the Top 100.
The Padres boast seven, including six prospects among the top 50, more than any other organization has in the upper half of the list. Shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. comes in at No. 8 and left-hander MacKenzie Gore is No. 19. Like Atlanta, the system has a highly prized position player but is especially rich in pitching.
The White Sox, who in last year's rankings were behind only the Yankees and Braves (seven apiece) with six players, are tied with the Padres with seven this year. Two -- Jimenez and hard-throwing right-hander Michael Kopech (No. 10) -- are in the top 10, with Cuban outfielder Luis Robert at No. 28 to give them three players among the top 50.
With Torres leading the way, the Yankees have six players on the list, including outfielder Estevan Florial at No. 44 and left-hander Justus Sheffield at No. 48.
Like the Angels, the Rays feature a two-way player -- first baseman/left-hander Brendan McKay (No. 25) -- and have five other players in the Top 100. Right-hander Brent Honeywell, who was No. 31 last year, moved up to No. 12.
The Phillies also have six Top 100 Prospects, led by right-hander Sixto Sanchez at No. 26. The 19-year-old did not make last year's list but posted a 3.03 ERA in 18 starts across the Class A South Atlantic League and Class A Advanced Florida State League in 2017, his first full season. Second baseman Scott Kingery also was absent from last year's preseason list, but he rides a 26-homer, 29-steal campaign into the No. 35 spot. Shortstop J.P. Crawford slipped from No. 7 to No. 37.
Nick Senzel entered last year at No. 26 but jumped up to No. 7 after raking across two levels. He's one of five Reds prospects on the list and one of three (along with pitcher Hunter Greene at No. 21 and outfielder Taylor Trammell at No. 43) in the top 50.
Six of the Braves -- Kyle Wright (No. 30), Mike Soroka (No. 31), Luiz Gohara (No. 49), Ian Anderson (No. 51), Kolby Allard (No. 58) and Max Fried (No. 83) -- are pitchers. Only one other team, the Padres, placed as many as five hurlers on the list, with Gore, Cal Quantrill (No. 40), Michel Baez (No. 42), Adrian Morejon (No. 50) and Anderson Espinoza (No. 89). The White Sox (Kopech, Alec Hansen at No. 54, Dylan Cease at No. 61 and Dane Dunning at No. 92) and Tigers both have four pitchers in the Top 100, with the Detroit arms -- Franklin Perez (No. 39), Matt Manning (55), Alex Faedo (No. 59) and Beau Burrows(No. 77) -- being the only representatives from that system.
Allow me to introduce myself
Acuna made the biggest leap of any prospect who was part of a Major League organization last year, going from outside the Top 100 list to the No. 2 spot. Guerrero at No. 3 jumped 31 spots, while fellow Blue Jays prospect Bo Bichette debuts on the list at No. 14. Tatis also appears on the list for the first time. Astros right-hander Forrest Whitley climbed 75 spots to No. 9 and Dodgers right-hander Walker Buehler leaped from No. 93 to No. 13.
Where have you gone?
Among players who dropped off the list after ranking among the top 50 last year are Brewers outfielder Corey Ray (formerly No. 30), Rays right-hander Jose De Leon (No. 33), Marlins southpaw Braxton Garrett (No. 42) and Dodgers righty Yadier Alvarez (No. 49).
The Marlins avoided being shut out from the list with two prospects they acquired this week. Outfielders Lewis Brinson (No. 27) and Monte Harrison (No. 71) were part of the package that came over from the Brewers on Thursday for outfielder Christian Yelich.
The Brewers still have three players on the list -- second baseman Keston Hiura (No. 56) and righties Corbin Burnes (No. 69) and Brandon Woodruff (No. 96).
Back to the drafting board
The Cubs, Mets and Royals are the only clubs without a single prospect on the list. Of the three, Kansas City is the only one that also failed to land a prospect on last year's list.
Josh Jackson is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @JoshJacksonMiLB.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.