Tag: MLB Prospects

Each MLB Team’s Untouchable Top Prospects Entering 2017

It’s risky these days to call any prospect untouchable, as we’ve seen too many blockbuster deals in recent years to truly believe anyone is 100 percent safe from being moved in the right deal.

After all, who would have guessed that Yoan Moncada would be dealt this winter?

That said, a handful of prospects around the league come awfully close to being untouchable, as their future upside and expected long-term role with their teams make trading them highly unlikely.

Ahead is a look at each MLB team’s most untouchable prospect, though a number of teams didn’t necessarily qualify for this exercise, as you’ll see in the first three slides.

Is this a 100 percent guarantee that none of these players will be traded in 2017? Definitely not, but it would be a shock if any of them were moved.


Note: Players who still have rookie eligibility but are expected to begin the 2017 season on a major league roster were not considered for this article. That notably includes Josh Bell (PIT), Andrew Benintendi (BOS), Jeff Hoffman (COL), Alex Reyes (STL) and Dansby Swanson (ATL).

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Each MLB Team’s Prospect Who Will Become a Household Name in 2017

Not every baseball fan keeps an eye on prospect development and the minor league ranks, but most are familiar with the top prospects around the league.

It wasn’t just Boston Red Sox fans and Washington Nationals fans whose ears perked up when they heard that Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito had been traded during the winter meetings.

So what exactly is it that makes a previously unheralded prospect a household name? We’ll lump them into two categories:

  • Breakout Prospect: If a lower-level prospect turns in a breakout season that vaults him into the top tier of prospects in his organization and perhaps onto leaguewide top-100 lists, there’s a good bet he’ll become a household name along the way.
  • MLB Impact: Even if a player is not a top-tier prospect, he can make a name for himself by contributing at the MLB level. Few knew who Ryon Healy was prior to the 2016 season, but a strong showing after he joined the Oakland Athletics made him a household name.

Ahead we’ve taken a crack at identifying one prospect from each MLB team that has a chance of falling into one of those two categories this coming season.

For the sake of clearly identifying which prospects already rank as household names, anyone that appeared on Baseball America‘s midseason top-100 list was not eligible to be included.

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Gleyber Torres’ Fall Breakout Shows Yankees Their Superstar of the Future

Nolan Arenado caught scouts’ eyes in the Arizona Fall League when he was 20 years old. So did Derek Jeter, Corey Seager and Francisco Lindor.

Gleyber Torres is 19.

“He’s playing against older guys,” Carl Moesche of the Major League Scouting Bureau said in an interview on Saturday on MLB Network. “And he’s not intimidated.”

Torres is the youngest player in baseball’s well-respected fall development league. As of Monday, his 1.026 OPS ranked third-highest in the league. In 12 games, he had more than twice as many walks (11) as strikeouts (five), with three home runs.

“The bat’s going to play,” a National League scout said.

As dangerous as it is to declare prospects to be future superstars, the current trend has young players starring earlier than ever. Five of the nine players in the Chicago Cubs‘ World Series Game 7 lineup were 24 or younger, and the Cleveland Indians‘ best hitter through the postseason was the 22-year-old Lindor.

It’s enough to persuade every other team searching for young stars of its own, just as the New York Yankees did when they demanded Torres as the key part of the July 25 deal that sent Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs.

As Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told George A. King III of the New York Post, Torres is “someone you can dream on.”

And as the Cubs were realizing a dream by winning a World Series with Chapman’s help, Torres was in Arizona, continuing to justify Cashman‘s faith. The Cubs have no reason to regret giving him up, not with a trophy to show for it, but the Yankees have even more reason to believe their side of the deal will play out well, too.

“I saw [Torres] in [Class-A] Tampa and in Arizona,” another National League scout said. “He’s going to hit in the 2-hole or 5-hole, and he’s good defensively, too. Very instinctive. I like him a lot.”

The Arizona Fall League is about dreams, and it’s never a perfect indicator of future success. Kris Bryant was an Arizona Fall League MVP (2013 at age 21), but so was Chris McGuiness, now out of baseball after 10 major league games.

And while Torres has been impressive at the plate, he also has three errors and has at least one scout concerned that he won’t be able to stick at shortstop.

“Defensively, he’s just OK,” the scout said. “He has good arm strength, but he’s erratic. He could end up moving to second base or maybe even third. He’s not terrible defensively, but he’s not [Yankees shortstop] Didi Gregorius.”

The same scout said Torres doesn’t run as well as you might expect, but even after the critiques, he went back to how good of a hitter he expects Torres to be.

“The one thing he can really do is hit,” the scout said. “He centers the ball, and he drives it.”

Gregorius is just 26 years old, and the Yankees have another young and touted middle infield prospect in 21-year-old Jorge Mateo. It’s too early to know if Torres will remain at shortstop and become the Yankees’ answer to Lindor or Seager or Carlos Correa, but his skills with the bat should enable him to be a key part of their future lineup.

Torres’ offensive numbers so far in Arizona are impressive because of his age and relative lack of experience. His third home run was against Chris Ellis, a 24-year-old Atlanta Braves right-hander who spent most of the 2016 season in Double-A.

One scout who goes to Arizona every fall said the pitching was significantly better in the league this year.

Torres, who signed with the Cubs for $1.7 million at age 16, according to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com (via colleague Adam Berry), is accustomed to facing older players. The Cubs moved him to High-A Myrtle Beach at the end of the 2015 season and started him there again in 2016. He was one of the youngest players in the Florida State League when the Yankees sent him to Tampa after the trade.

“Mature bat for a young kid,” a scout said.

“Just keep him challenged,” another said.

The challenge for the Yankees will be sticking to their plan of developing a strong, young core, even if it takes longer than they would like. Scouts in Arizona have also been impressed by Miguel Andujar, a 21-year-old third baseman who is one of Torres’ teammates at Scottsdale.

“He has great wrist action and big power,” one scout said. “I think he can be their everyday third baseman by 2018.”

If Torres and Andujar move quickly from the fall league to the Bronx, they’ll only be following a path Jeter laid two decades ago and one Gary Sanchez followed much more recently. Sanchez played in last year’s Fall Stars Game and led the league in home runs before quickly becoming a hit himself when the Yankees called him up in August.

Sanchez turns 24 on December 2, which makes him young by major league standards but almost exactly four years older than Torres, who will turn 20 on December 13.

By season’s end, Sanchez was the Yankees’ best player. Perhaps he will be for years to come.

Or maybe it will be the young shortstop, the kid already starring in the fall league before he even turns 20.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Top MLB Prospects Making Waves in the 2016 Arizona Fall League

The Arizona Fall League gives some of baseball’s top prospects chances to further hone their skills against some of the best talent minor league baseball has to offer.

This year, 21 players from among the league’s top 100 prospectsaccording to rankings from MLB.com’s Prospect Watchare suiting up for one of the league’s six teams.

We’ve highlighted the standout performers from among that group of top prospects, which is primarily made up of position players, as most elite pitching prospects generally hit inning caps during their seasons.

From New York Yankees shortstop Gleyber Torres to Boston Red Sox right-hander Michael Kopech, here’s a look at the top MLB prospects who are making waves in the 2016 Arizona Fall League.

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MLB Futures Game 2016: Live Score, Analysis and Top Prospect Grades

This year’s MLB All-Star festivities officially kick off Sunday afternoon with the 18th annual Futures Game from Petco Park in San Diego.

The game gets underway at 7 p.m. ET, with some of the league’s top prospects making up the U.S. Team and World Team rosters.

A number of players from last year’s rosters have already broken through at the big league level, including names such as Trevor Story, Nomar Mazara, Ketel Marte, Lucas Giolito, Blake Snell and several others.

This year’s game should again serve as a great preview of what’s to come around the league, and we’ll have inning-by-inning scoring updates, analysis and player grades right here throughout the event.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Predicting MLB Arrival Date on Each Prospect in 2016 All-Star Futures Game

While the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game are still the main attractions of MLB‘s All-Star festivities, the Futures Game has continued to grow in popularity in recent years.

The annual prospect showcase gives fans a chance to see some of the sport’s future stars on the big stage, as minor league representatives from all 30 MLB teams square off in a World Team vs. U.S. Team format.

This year’s game will be played Sunday at 7 p.m. ET at Petco Park in San Diego.

We’ll have a live blog up the day of the game to track all of the action. But until then, the following will serve as a useful primer for this year’s contest.

We’ve provided a quick overview of each of the 50 prospects participating in this year’s event and given our best guess at when you can expect to see them arrive in the big leagues based on current development and their path to playing time in the majors.

If the expected arrival is this year, we provided a month. If it’s next season, we specified first half or second half, and if it was any time beyond 2017, we gave a year.


Note: The “Rank” referenced alongside each prospect’s name refers to where he falls among that team’s top 30 prospects, according to MLB.com’s Prospect Watch.

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Hot MLB Prospects on the Cusp of MLB Breakthroughs

MLB teams can’t count on prospects flying in from the minor leagues to save the day. 

Last year’s influx of talent spoiled baseball fans. Kris Bryant, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor and Noah Syndergaard wasted no time assimilating to the big leagues, instead offering All-Star production from Day 1. Welcoming such an exceptional crop of future stars isn’t the norm.

Few rookies have successfully jumped from the minors to majors this season. Nomar Mazara and Michael Fulmer haven’t shined enough to offset the struggles from marquee prospects Byron Buxton, Jose Berrios and Julio Urias.

None of the following pitchers will dominate like Thor, and the position players won’t vault into MVP candidates next season. Yet as long as franchises and fans keep expectations in line, these prospects will mix solid immediate gains with the promise of long-term stardom.

All beckoning for a promotion—and a couple recently receiving one—with tremendous minor-league results, these players should get an MLB audition this season.

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MLB’s Phenom Shortstop Revolution Is Only Just Beginning

The conversation began with Jorge Mateo, the 20-year-old shortstop Baseball America ranked as the best prospect in the New York Yankees’ farm system.

“His speed is incredible, and he’s good defensively,” a veteran scout who follows the Yankees system said. “But you know, it feels like everyone has one. Right now, we might have the best group of young shortstops ever.”

You know, he might be right.

Baseball America ranked Trea Turner of the Washington Nationals as the ninth-best prospect in the entire minor leagues—but only as the fourth-best shortstop. Corey Seager of the Los Angeles Dodgers topped the list, with J.P. Crawford of the Philadelphia Phillies sixth and Orlando Arcia of the Milwaukee Brewers eighth (Mateo was 26th).

Two incredibly talented 22-year-olds and an even more talented 21-year-old didn’t make the list at all. You’ve got to be in the minor leagues to be considered a prospect, and Francisco Lindor, Addison Russell and Carlos Correa were all in the big leagues last year.

Correa and Lindor finished one-two in the American League Rookie of the Year voting, a first ever for shortstops. With Seager the preseason National League favorite for 2016, and with Turner, Crawford and Arcia all with some chance to make an impact, it’s hardly crazy to think it could happen again.

There are more behind them.

The first three players picked in the 2015 draft were all shortstops (Dansby Swanson, Alex Bregman and Brendan Rodgers), another first. Baseball America‘s team-by-team prospect rankings listed a shortstop atop the list for 11 of the 30 teams (and second for three other teams). At least six teams plan to open the 2016 season with a shortstop 23 or younger, and four others have one who could take the job at some point this year.

Twenty years ago, we debated Derek Jeter vs. Nomar Garciaparra vs. Alex Rodriguez. Now it could be Correa vs. Lindor vs. Seager vs. Xander Bogaerts vs. Crawford vs. Arcia vs. Swanson, the top overall pick last June and the prize the Atlanta Braves got for trading Shelby Miller to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Why now?

Part of it is just the natural cycle of the game. Shortstops also claimed four of the top nine spots on the Baseball America prospect rankings in 1995 (Rodriguez, Chipper Jones, Jeter and Alex Gonzalez), but for four years from 2008-11, no shortstop was ranked among the game’s top 15 prospects.

Part of it is that teams often draft high school and college shortstops knowing some will move to other positions. Jones made his big league debut as a shortstop but became an All-Star and likely Hall of Famer as a third baseman. Justin Upton, Manny Machado and Mike Moustakas were drafted as shortstops, too.

“Your athletes play shortstop,” one American League executive said. “And as we move past the steroid era, the game is getting more athletic again.”

Fair enough, but even before the steroid era, we never had a group of this many young shortstops this good all show up at about the same time.

Correa, as Jayson Stark of ESPN.com pointed out in a recent column, could make history by batting third at age 21. According to Stark, only Joe DiMaggio, Ken Griffey Jr., Al Kaline and Eddie Mathews batted third for 130 games in a season when they were 21 or younger, and only DiMaggio did it for a team that made it to the postseason.

All of those guys are in the Hall of Fame. None of them were shortstops.

Correa was hailed as the best shortstop in the American League soon after he debuted with the Houston Astros last June. By the end of the year, he wasn’t even a clear pick as Rookie of the Year, with Lindor getting 13 of the 30 first-place votes.

A year later, guys like Seager and Crawford and Mateo and Turner are getting the spring training attention. And guys like Raul A. Mondesi, who pinch-hit for the Kansas City Royals in the World Series just a few months after his 20th birthday.

The Royals won that World Series with a pretty good young shortstop named Alcides Escobar. Or does Escobar, who turned 29 in December, even qualify as young?

For that matter, do Didi Gregorius, Jose Iglesias, Andrelton Simmons and Adeiny Hechavarria still qualify as young? All four will begin the 2016 season at age 26.

We should still be watching them for a few years to come, and we should still be watching Correa and Lindor for a lot of years to come. And Seager and Crawford and Turner.

“Don’t forget Addison Russell,” our AL executive helpfully added.

No, don’t forget Addison Russell. But in what is quickly becoming baseball’s golden era for shortstops, it’s awfully hard to remember everyone.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez Will Be Critical Big Bats to Watch at Yankees Camp

The New York Yankees have the right idea. The bigger question is whether they have the right players.

The Yankees are trying to rebuild without rebuilding, to get younger and better without coming close to any charge of tanking a season. The process is difficult enough that they haven’t won a playoff game since 2012 but so far painless enough that they’ve stayed in the 84-87 win zone that at least guarantees some form of contention.

They spent 100 days in first place in the American League East last year, with a team built mostly on the very old (Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira) and the fairly young (Didi Gregorius, Nathan Eovaldi, Dellin Betances). They hung on to win a spot in the American League Wild Card Game, in large part because when they needed late help, then-22-year-old Greg Bird and 21-year-old Luis Severino were there to provide it.

So now we come to 2016, after another winter where the Yankees stayed out of the free-agent market and their biggest position-player acquisition was again a 20-something infielder acquired in a trade. If new second baseman Starlin Castro does as well as his new double-play partner Gregorius did in his first Yankee season, the building process will be seen as working.

But just as the Yankees eventually needed Bird (after Teixeira got hurt) and Severino (after Eovaldi got hurt), they’re sure to need help from the farm system again this year. That’s even more true now, with Bird out for the season after shoulder surgery.

And that’s why two of the first players featured in stories coming out of Yankees camp were outfielder Aaron Judge (by Dan Martin in the New York Post) and catcher Gary Sanchez (by Anthony McCarron in the New York Daily News). They’re not the two best prospects in the Yankees’ improved farm system—20-year-old shortstop Jorge Mateo is an even better long-term bet—but they could be the ones who make a difference in 2016.

Neither figures into the Yankees’ projected everyday lineup, but when your everyday lineup includes seven guys on the wrong side of 30, it’s best to figure some of those guys won’t make it every day. The Yankees got 500-plus plate appearances out of A-Rod, Beltran and catcher Brian McCann in 2015, and 462 from Teixeira, but a plan built around them better include backup plans.

That’s especially true behind the plate, with the Yankees trading John Ryan Murphy to the Minnesota Twins in the deal for outfielder Aaron Hicks. While Sanchez hasn’t been handed the backup spot behind McCann, the path is certainly open for him.

One rival scout who follows the Yankees system closely predicted Sanchez will open eyes this spring with his powerful arm and powerful bat, but he said big questions remain.

“His bat’s going to play,” the scout said. “But defensively, he’s got a really long way to go. He doesn’t block balls well, and he doesn’t have good hands. He’s probably a 35-40 [on a 20-80 scouting scale] defensively.”

Sanchez, who will play all this season at 23, hit 18 home runs in 365 minor league at-bats in 2015. He led the Arizona Fall League with seven home runs in 88 at-bats.

He still may not have as much power as Judge, the 6’7″ outfielder who has 37 home runs in two minor league seasons.

The trade with the Twins that potentially opened a spot for Sanchez created something of a roadblock for Judge, with Hicks now an option to start in the outfield if one of the three starters (Beltran, Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury) is hurt. One scout who follows the American League Central said Hicks could be a surprisingly important addition.

“I think he’s ready to click,” the scout said.

Judge will still get attention, and with his .224 batting average and .680 OPS after last year’s midseason move to Triple-A, you could argue he’ll benefit from some more minor league time.

“Every place he’s gone, he’s gotten better the longer he has stayed,” said the scout familiar with Yankee prospects. “The slider is still an issue for him, and he tends to be tentative, taking pitches and getting himself into bad counts.

“But he has monster power.”

That power has had Yankee fans wanting to see more of Judge, and it earned him the top spot among Yankee prospects in a winter ranking by MLB.com. It’s why Judge will be one of the biggest names to watch when the Yankees start playing exhibition games—and why he could be one of the Yankee keys later this summer.

It may not matter, if the fragile starting rotation doesn’t hold together. It may not matter, if all the old guys start to show their age.

But if this latest stage of the Yankees’ building plan goes pretty much the way the last few have, there’s going to be a point during the season when they’ll need a boost. There’s going to be a point when they’ll need some help.

Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez could be the two guys who provide it.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Byron Buxton Can Become MLB’s 2016 Version of Carlos Correa, Kris Bryant

Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton shared space atop draft boards in the spring of 2012, and they shared space on prospect lists in the years that followed. And when Correa showed up in the major leagues early last June, it seemed perfectly fitting that Buxton joined him there not even a week later.

But in a 2015 season that belonged to hot-shot rookies, Buxton was the one who wasn’t quite ready. He was the one who showed promise but not polish, the one who tempted us with his talent but had us asking what he would become and when it would happen.

We’re still asking now, but as spring training 2016 begins, Buxton is one of the guys we’ll be watching the closestwatching and wondering if he can be to 2016 what Correa and Kris Bryant and Francisco Lindor and all the other super kids were to 2015.

He’s not the only big prospect on this year’s list. In fact, the big prospect rankings pushed Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager ahead of Buxton this past winter. But Buxton is the guy we’ve been waiting for, the possibly five-tool center fielder who, on his best days, earns comparisons to Mike Trout.

He’s the Minnesota Twins‘ center fielder-in-waiting, with the idea that the waiting ended when the Twins traded Aaron Hicks to the New York Yankees in November. The Twins have said Buxton will still need to win the job this spring, but they left it open with the idea that he will win it.

There will be no repeat of last year’s Bryant controversy with the Chicago Cubs. If Buxton comes to camp and shows he’s ready, he’ll be in the Twins lineup on Opening Day.

But will he be ready? Will this season belong to him, the way 2015 belonged to Correa and Bryant?

Even the scouts, coaches and executives who know Buxton the best and like him the most aren’t ready to answer that question. This kid is going to be good sometime, many of them told Bleacher Report over the last week.

But how good? And how soon?

“I think the raw tool set and athleticism is so overwhelming that he’ll be a star,” one scout who has followed Buxton‘s career and saw him several times last year said. “You have a potential All-Star. But do you have a potential Hall of Famer?”

The question seems unfair, but at the same time, it isn’t. Buxton is just 22 years old, with a mere 46 major league games (he kept rookie status for 2016) and 1,069 minor league at-bats. He has missed considerable time with injuries, including wrist trouble in 2014 and a thumb injury last year.

The scouting scale numbers rank him up there with the greats—MLB.com gave him a top-of-the-chart 80 for speed, with a 70 for his arm and fielding, 65 for hitting and 55 for power (higher overall numbers than Trout had at the same stage)—but the stats remind you he struggled terribly in last season’s cameo with the Twins.

Besides the .209 batting average and the 44 strikeouts in just 129 at-bats, Buxton showed little ability to recognize pitches. He admitted at times being overwhelmed, as when he struck out four times in a game against Chicago White Sox left-hander Chris Sale.

“You don’t see that [pitching] down there [in the minor leagues],” he told reporters.

He wasn’t ready, but Twins people remind you that they hadn’t expected him to be ready. They were in a bind in the outfield, with Hicks and Torii Hunter both hurting, and Buxton was their best option at the time.

They didn’t think he was ready then. By trading Hicks and opening center field for Buxton, they showed belief he is ready now.

At the worst, they think he can be a Gold Glove center fielder and a force on the basepaths, with occasional power and a chance to get on base often enough to contribute.

At best? Well, at best Buxton becomes the exciting rookie of 2016, the guy who takes a Twins team that already made progress last year and boosts it into the playoffs this season. Correa‘s Astros and Bryant’s Cubs did it, so why not Buxton‘s Twins?

At worst, Buxton is a guy you’ll want to watch, because speed like this is so exciting.

“He plays at a game speed that others can’t,” one Twins coach said.

“It’s like his feet barely touch the ground,” another American League Central coach said.

At best, he’s something like Trout, a center fielder who makes a difference in the field, at the plate and on the bases. So maybe it’s instructive that Trout batted just .220 (with 30 strikeouts in 123 at-bats) in his 2011 big league cameo, following it up with a 2012 season that won him the Rookie of the Year and nearly the Most Valuable Player award, as well.

The Twins remind you Buxton got better the longer he stayed at each level of the minor leagues. They say his major league at-bats improved as 2015 went on. They tell you he’s a great kid with a great attitudethe kind likely to benefit from his 2015 struggles.

“The transition for him has always been how to deal with the next level of pitching,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said at the winter meetings. “We saw some improvements, particularly in September. There will be a question of whether Triple-A at-bats are needed.

“Either way, he’s going to be an impact player, I believe, for a long time. We’re just going to see when that clock really starts ticking.”

The issue for the Twins could be that one clock already started, with the 113 days of major league service time they gave Buxton in 2015. They need him to become a star fairly quickly, as in before free agency approaches and we start wondering whether they can afford to keep him.

For now, though, this is about 2016. This is about what Buxton can do right away, and whether he can once again be mentioned alongside Correa.

They were the first two players picked in 2012, with Correa going first and Buxton second. They were first (Buxton) and third (Correa) on the MLB.com prospect list going into last season.

They showed up in the big leagues on nearly the same day, but only Correa really arrived in 2015. Last year belonged to him.

This year, possibly, will belong to Byron Buxton.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

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