Last Wednesday, I joined Rudy and Nick for the Razzball Baseball Podcast. On the show, we counted down my top 15 prospects, but truth be told, I was fully prepared to discuss my top 20. So, with the MiLB season winding down and all, I thought now would be a good opportunity to put the entire list out there in written form. This is a preliminary ranking — I’ll roll out more official and specific ranks during the off-season, once the dust has settled and I’ve had a chance to gather more intel. Please keep in mind that this list is limited to prospects still in the minors prior to September 1st call-ups. Also, in the interest of not being too farsighted, I included only guys who’ll be making their impacts within the next year or two (which is certainly a matter up for debate). Anyway, my top 20:
1. Jurickson Profar, SS, Rangers – Current Level: MLB Age: 19 – Five-tool shortstop projects to go 20/20 annually, and he’s certainly gifted enough to do more.
2. Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals – AA, 20 – Taveras is the best pure hitter in the minors. He swings a lot, but hits everything. He’s posted a .953 OPS over a full season at Double-A Springfield.
3. Wil Myers, OF, Royals – AAA, 21 – Myers got healthy and discovered his power stroke in 2012: 37 HR between Double-A and Triple-A.
4. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Orioles – AA, 19 – Bundy is the unanimous choice for top arm in the minors. He climbed from Low-A to Double-A in his first year of pro ball, posting a 2.08 ERA along the way.
5. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Mariners – AA, 20 – Spent the entire year at Double-A and didn’t turn 20 ‘til 8/13. Walker’s numbers aren’t wonderful, but scouting reports are still glowing.
6. Nick Castellanos, 3B, Tigers – AA, 20 – Hit .405 through 55 games at High-A before promotion to Double-A, where he’s come back to earth somewhat. A tall, lean 3B, Castellanos should build ample power as he matures.
7. Jose Fernandez, RHP, Marlins – HiA, 20 – This Cuban defector has broken out in 2012 and in a big way: 1.75 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 158 SO in 135 IP. There is legitimate ace potential here.
8. Shelby Miller, RHP, Cardinals – MLB, 21 – Miller struggled during the 1st half of 2012, but has returned to form of late: 64/4 K/BB through his last nine outings with Triple-A Memphis.
9. Travis d’Arnaud, C, Blue Jays – AAA, 23 – d’Arnaud was having a monster year in Las Vegas (.333/.380/.595, 16 HR in 279 PA) before a knee injury ended his season.
10. Javier Baez, SS, Cubs – HiA, 19 – Speed, power, and ability to hit for AVG will make Baez a major fantasy asset. Though, he probably moves to 3B before big league arrival.
11. Gerrit Cole, RHP, Pirates – AAA, 21 – 2011 No. 1 overall pick has had a solid first year of pro ball. He should bring his big time heat to the bigs next year.
12. Jameson Taillon, RHP Pirates – AA, 20 – Numbers don’t quite match the hype, but he’s reached Double-A at age 20, and he’s been quite impressive thus since his arrival in the high-minors. Massive ceiling here.
13. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox – AA, 19 – .307/.373/.523 with 20 HR between High-A and Double-A. His tools at the plate are very real, but Bogaerts figures to move to 3B or outfield defensively.
14. Trevor Bauer, RHP, D’Backs – AAA, 21 – Bauer has finished strong in Triple-A and still has huge potential.
15. Billy Hamilton, SS, Reds – AA, 21 – Crazy speed and great approach to go with very limited power.
16. Zack Wheeler, RHP, Mets – AAA, 22 – Plus fastball and plus curve have wheeler projecting as a front-of-the-rotation arm. He should offer plenty of value pitching out of Citi Field too.
18. Mike Zunino, C, Mariners – AA, 21 – The 2012 No. 3 overall pick has already reached Double-A. He’s hit 13 homers through his first 44 games as a pro.
19. Danny Hultzen, LHP, Mariners – AAA, 22 – Hultzen continues to struggle with command since his promotion to Triple-A, but still has a great shot to start 2013 in the bigs. It’s also tough to ignore the Safeco factor.
20. Julio Teheran, RHP, Braves – MLB, 21 – 2011’s 2.55 ERA at AAA ballooned to 5.08 in 2012. Teheran’s stock has certainly slipped somewhat, but he still has enormous potential.