I’m going to open up with a somewhat blasphemous statement for a prospector, so bear with me loyal Prospect Disciples. Here it goes… Top 100 lists are crap. There I said! I know, how dare I bite the hand that feeds me. Insulting my own signature post. Before you storm my castle built on the backs of talented minor league stars, hear me out. Top 100 lists are a snapshot at a given moment, and lose much of their value nearly weeks after they’re out. Are there ultimate truths within these posts? Abso-freaking-lutely, but development is fluid, always changing shape, regressing, and developing. For example, a player we’ll talk about today in Michael Kopech is viewed as significantly less risky than he was even a month and a half ago. Why? Because Kopech made tweaks to his mechanics and tightened up his control. My greater point is while these lists can be great discussion points, the league and these prospects are constantly in flux, improving, and struggling with each passing day. With this in mind I’ve decided to spend the next 8-9 Thursday’s updating my ranks with the top 10 players at each respective position. I’m undecided about catchers, but we’ll see how my off-season plans out. Sorry, unlike Vanessa Williams I save the worst for last. Laugh now millennials, and use the google when your ass gets home.

 

1) Michael Kopech, RHP White Sox | Level: AAA | 2017 Stats: 9-7, 124.1 IP, 2.90 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 159 K’s, 62 Bb’s

The flamethrowing righty acquired in the Chris Sale deal has taken a major step forward with the command of his secondaries (slider and change), and the results have reached elite levels. He was solid in his AAA debut last week, and looks to be on the radar for a summer 2018 callup to the Southside. My biggest concern with Kopech is health, but that’s mostly based on his insane triple digit velocity. Great competitor, elite stuff, inning eater’s build.

2) Brent Honeywell, RHP Rays | Level: AAA | 2017 Stats: 12-8, 131 IP, 3.50 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 167 K’s, 32 Bb’s

The screwball king is really the pitchability king, the screwball is more a marketing ploy. Though I’m not saying it’s not real, it just doesn’t define Honeywell for me. The real Brent Honey-bear is a pitcher’s pitcher, employing 6 different pitches, including three plus offerings in his four-seamer, splitter, and changeup. His command and control is amongst the best in the minors, and looks to be his greatest asset. I think Honeywell has the very real possibility of being a perennial Cy Young candidate even in the treacherous AL East.

3) Alex Reyes, RHP Cardinals | Level: MLB | 2017 Stats: Tommy John Surgery Has Not Played

I understand that Reyes was ranked as my top arm in my mid-season list, and he’s closer to a return now than he was last year. I get that, but Kopech’s new found command, and Honeywell’s mastery of the AAA level the past two months has driven them higher. I still love Reyes, and hope he can come back bigger, stronger, and better conditioned than he was previously. Great four-seamer, hammer curve, an above average changeup, and a fringe slider.

4) Walker Buehler, RHP Dodgers | Level: AAA | 2017 Stats: 3-3, 83 IP, 3.36 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 117 K’s, 29 Bb’s

The recent bullpen experiment not withstanding, Buehler has been one of the most dynamic pitching prospects over the course of 2017. He began his season in the high-A California League before dominating AA, and then seeing promotion to AAA Oklahoma City. He gets the nod over Triston McKenzie due to proximity, but I have my concerns with Buehler. Chief amongst them is his durability. In this day in age with the 10-day DL, and tons of pitching injuries we need to avoid these land mines at all costs. Mixes an elite fastball and curveball, with an above average cutter, and average changeup.

5) Triston McKenzie, RHP Indians | Level: A+ | 2017 Stats: 10-6, 130 IP, 3.67 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 165 K’s, 44 Bb’s

Sticks! I know everyone is all worked up about recent struggles (3 bad starts out of his last 10), and that he’s breaking down, but I ask you to look at the build of the best starter in the American League. He just turned 20, has already thrown 130 innings, and has maintained a high infield flyball rate, and a 14% SwStr%. Mixes three plus pitches in his four-seamer, curveball, and change; and commands them all well.

6) Jack Flaherty, RHP Cardinals | Level: AAA | 2017 Stats: 13-4, 143.2 IP, 2.13 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 144 K’s, 34 Bb

A less exciting starter from a fantasy perspective than probably just about any on this list, Flaherty is an elite control/command starter that misses enough bats to have top 20 fantasy starter upside. His fastball-changeup combo, and elite control play up his other offerings. Might see a start or two in September, but who can tell with the Cardinals?

7) Kolby Allard, LHP Braves | Level: AA | 2017 Stats: 6-11, 136 IP, 3.51 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 115 K’s, 44 Bb’s

The numbers aren’t as eye-popping as some on this list, but keep in mind the recently minted 20 year old, has pitched all but one start as a 19 year old in AA. This aggressive assignment speaks volumes about Allard’s advanced ability, and the Braves aggressive approach. The top southpaw on the list, and the owner of one of the most devastating breaking pitches in all of minor league baseball in his curveball. The strikeouts will come, trust Prospect Hey-Zeus.

8) MacKenzie Gore, LHP Padres | Level: RK | 2017 Stats: 0-1, 20 IP, 0.90 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 31 K’s, 4 Bb’s

The third pick in this year’s draft looks like a monster in the making. Yes Mrs. Gore he has moved ahead of Hunter Greene on all of my lists, and yes I was wrong. The difference is I’ve had a chance to watch Gore in person (on video) and not against high school hitters, but actual professional players. He looks tremendous, just look at the stat-line. A stable of pitches, that he can locate, and command, plus a fun delivery make MacKenzie a sure shot to climb my rankings in the years to come.

9) Mitch Keller, RHP Pirates | Level: AA | 2017 Stats: 7-4, 104.1 IP, 3.02 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 98 K’s, 30 Bb’s

The Pirates top pitching prospect under his limits (Tyler Glasnow is past his), Keller much like Jack Flaherty is an elite command pitcher with some swing and miss upside. Unlike Flaherty, Keller is led by an elite breaking pitch in his curveball, and a better fastball than Flaherty. He however isn’t as close to the majors, and might not have as high a ceiling.

10) Michel Baez, RHP Padres | Level: A | 2017 Stats: 6-2, 50.2 IP, 2.66 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 79 K’s, 10 Bb’s

This is the name likely to cause the most debate. Baez has come out of the mist to place himself amongst the best pitching prospects in baseball. Since first surfacing in spring training as a hard-throwing giant (he’s 6’8), out of Cuba, he has progressed rapidly as a pitcher, honing his mechanics, breaking ball, and changeup. He strikes out batters in bunches, and limits hard contact, though homers have been an issue of late. I still love Baez, and could see him progressing quickly.

**Going to a minor league game? Get in on our crowdsourced scouting video project! Use your phone to shoot at bats, pitches, etc of some of the top prospects, and email them to me at [email protected]**

Follow me on Twitter @ProspectJesus and Tune on Tuesday’s @ 9PM (EST) to my Live Baseball Show on Fantrax YouTube.  (and join the Crab Army in the chat)

 

81 Comments
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Malicious Phenoms
Malicious Phenoms
4 years ago

Great stuff as always Ralph! Thanks for your in-depth analysis of prospect!

I watched some video of McKenzie Gore in the State championship game, kid is poised and competitive and looks like the real deal, will be fun to watch him as he progresses through the minors.

Have also been keeping tabs on Alec Hanson, also seems to be the real deal, has the look of a top of the rotation SP.

David
David
4 years ago

Thanks Ralph for all the good info you provide.

Raindoggg
Raindoggg
4 years ago

Best guess as to who will be starting and have more value in 2018 out of Senzel and JP Crawford?

Raider
Raider
4 years ago

If Josh Hader moves to a starting role for MIL, what is his outlook the next couple years? Stats look great right now, peripherals not so much in pen

Huffin Gas
Huffin Gas
4 years ago

Any chance Sixto Sanchez can make the jump to the big leagues next year, a la Julio Urias?

Jose
Jose
4 years ago

Great stuff Ralph! With our Keeper league being pretty shallow and a not a true Dynasty format, SP generally fall on and off waivers until they’re finally called up, but it’s great to keep tabs on their progress.

That being said, Hitters tend to be held onto more regularly. I’ve been holding Acuna since the All Star break and wanted your opinion on a September call up. His last 10 game stats mirror the clinic he’s been putting on since arriving at AAA. I realize other than his other worldly performance, there’s no reason for the Braves to bring him up, what says you?

Jose
Jose
Reply to  Geoff
4 years ago

@Ralph Lifshitz:
That’s all I’ve seen as well. I cant blame them. They have a very special group they’ve assembled.

I thought of Albies as well. I actually have him as well. He was easier to get since he doesn’t project the same power. He’s been starting to show some adjustments maybe. Results are better at least. Even got that first stolen base tonight!

Quick speculation. Braves make a serious bid for Arrieta this summer. I think it makes sense for them.

Anyway, thanks for cooking the jets and enjoy the weekend!

Brian
Brian
4 years ago

Looking for upside in a 6×6 16 team dynasty league that uses OPS. I’ve traded away my 1st, 2nd, 3rd rd minor league draft picks next year so I’m trying to proactively pick up some prospects off the wire that have upside and essentially use them as my picks. for instance i already grabbed starling heredia. I can drop brett phillips to pick up one of jhailyn ortiz, yu-cheng chang, or brandon marsh. Would you? Also, would you rather have peter lambert or one of jordan sheffield, cionel perez, cole ragans, albert abreu, or vlad gutierrez?

tony
tony
4 years ago

Keep it up ralphie, gr8 list

Benny
Benny
4 years ago

What are some SPs in the upper minors that may be September call ups or break spring training with the big club next year and make an impact? Mainly I’m looking at Wilmer Font, Rogelio Armenteros, or Domingo Acevaedo. Are these guys numbers smoke and mirrors or can they somewhat translate to the bigs?

Darrell Lester
Darrell Lester
4 years ago

Ralph- New to dynasty. Is there any rhyme or reason when ESPN adds prospects into their database? Is it a dump in the off season or on specific dates or an unpredictable trickle here and there? Buehler, Gore and Baez aren’t in their database, for example.

bucktail
bucktail
Reply to  Darrell Lester
4 years ago

@Darrell Lester: Not until after their first appearance. If your league has waivers, they are put on waivers until claimed or waiver period expires. Some of the more hyped prospects are added at the beginning of the year. I think that is arbitrary.

Benny
Benny
Reply to  Darrell Lester
4 years ago

@Darrell Lester: @Darrell Lester: I’ve found its pretty random. They have some really no name lower minors guys in there and then sometimes it takes them a few days to add someone who’s made their debut (like Jordan Luplow this year).

Vlad Guerrero Jr wasn’t in the player pool when the league opened up in February but outta nowhere (RKO reference) he showed up in April I think it was.

In summary, I haven’t found any real true rhyme or reason how they add players to the pool and I’ve been doing ESPN baseball since 2008.

bucktail
bucktail
Reply to  Benny
4 years ago

@Benny: I agree. Below is from the ESPN FAQs

When are rookies placed on the Waiver Wire?
Players will be listed on the ESPN Fantasy Baseball waiver/free agent list the morning after they are officially added to the team’s 25-man roster (which is often the day after they play for the first time, since most big-league teams make the roster moves right before the start of the games.) Therefore, if you see a rookie make his debut, he will be in the player pool that next morning, if he is not already in it.
Before the season begins, ESPN may manually add without notice any player our experts believe has a legitimate shot at playing in the upcoming season, even if that rookie is not on the 40-man roster yet. When we do so, those players will show up, either in FA or on waivers.

Benny
Benny
Reply to  bucktail
4 years ago

@bucktail: Good info there. Thanks. I don’t think they keep 100% to that however. Like with Jordan Luplow who I mentioned earlier it was about 3 or 4 days after he debuted that he got added.

Jaaaaaake.crab
Jaaaaaake.crab
4 years ago

zero braves. garbage list. i love you ralphey

Jaaaaaake.crab
Jaaaaaake.crab
Reply to  Jaaaaaake.crab
4 years ago

@Jaaaaaake.crab: oh my god I can’t read. hate me, it’s fine. most people who comment don’t read it anyway

Packers
Packers
4 years ago

Do you see F. Martes starting for the Astros next year? Do you feel he is a must add in 12 team dynasties?

apox
apox
4 years ago

Ummmm, Forrest Whitley and Sixto Sanchez are both top-10. Soroka’s been much better than Allard, too.

apox
apox
Reply to  Geoff
4 years ago

@Ralph Lifshitz: then get better.

Cheese Eating Surrender Monkey
Cheese Eating Surrender Monkey
4 years ago

at least 2 blurbs now to the effect that flaherty might be starting saturday. it lines up with his day.

Sport
Sport
4 years ago

Love your idea of positional rankings and always greatful for answering our questions…even when they are questioning your opinions, you always have replies that are informative.

Thanks to your insite I have Acuna and Honeywell on both my dynasty teams. Missed out on Keller but I have McKenzie on both as well!

I’m looking forward to the other positions!

Sport
Sport
Reply to  Sport
4 years ago

@Sport: I meant that missed out on Kopech. I have Honeywell and Triston McKenzie on both dynasty teams.

I’m going to be going nuts in the Yahoo trying to get Bichette and Gore added at the start of 2018!

SR
SR
4 years ago

You mentioned this in an earlier reply, but it seems like you have two tiers at present within this top 10. 1-4 present both upside and proximity, and 5+ is one or the other.

So it goes to reason there’s a few more guys in that next tier who are probably interchangable – I’d say Franklin Perez, Whitley, Sixto, Puk, and probably Greene. Maybe Mahle as well.

I think Groome and Gohara fall outside that tier due to significantly higher volatility.

I like Baez, and apparently the secondaries are showing a ton of development already this season. But the red flags add up across these last few starts – limited pitch mix, old for his level, homer prone.

Given that he’s going to be 22 by the start of next season, I wonder if the Padres make him a reliever and push him through a bunch of levels. Given the types of prospect hauls you can get for a flashy reliever, and that Baez’s profile seems tailormade for the role, it seems like the Preller thing to do.

Geoff
Ralph Lifshitz
Reply to  SR
4 years ago

@SR: Hahaha I KNEW I was getting this one. You’re not the first person even this week to tell me I’m too high on Baez. He’s my guy, right or wrong.

Three pitches isn’t hat limited to me. I also didn’t think he’d never allow a run or give up hard contact. To me his upside is as high as any, and the Padres have the luxury of bringing him along slow. He misses bats and it’s not smoke and mirrors it’s downhill plane, movement, and command. He’s already getting deep into games. I’ve read reports from scouts that put him in the top 20 in all of baseball, not just pitchers.

Brad Hand is a flashy reliever, he didn’t sell him, just saying.

Yes you’re right on the tiers. I like Gohara more than you, and Perez maybe a little less but not much.

Miketron
Miketron
Reply to  Ralph Lifshitz
4 years ago

@Ralph Lifshitz: I was the first to tell him he was too high on Baez. An intriguing guy for sure, but I think its a little early to anoint him a top 10 arm. Ralph just loves Preller. That said thanks for the work buddy I know its tough to come up with these arbitrary lists.

SR
SR
Reply to  Ralph Lifshitz
4 years ago

@Ralph Lifshitz:

Hey, I’m a Padres fan, so here’s to hoping you’re right on Baez. He’s on the mound tonight with a big lead early – I’m betting tonight’s performance dictates his value tremendously for all of those scouting the statlines, depending on how he rebounds from getting hit for the first time.

To be fair, Preller was doing his darndest to sell Brad “At the Left Hand ov God” Hand and the package never emerged. But Baez definitely has more “reliever sex appeal” if you will – a giant foreign guy who throws gas is going to get way more calls if the numbers show up.

Changing gears – We talk about prospect rankings being a snapshot in time, and I think the three most notable post-midseason production spurts have come from Estevan Florial, Taylor Trammell, and Jahmai Jones. The profiles are all relatively similar, but what range do they slot into a present day top 100?

I’d say the following, with a 2019 ETA on all three. If Trammell keeps hitting going into next year, he has some crazy helium potential.

Trammell 55 –> ~35
Florial 66 –> ~40
Jahmai 110 –> ~55

Thoughts?

Brad Havens
Brad Havens
4 years ago

It’s always tricky to balance proximity and ceiling, especially with pitching prospects. That said, I think Sixto Sanchez’s ceiling would have him at #6 on my list. He’s a little ways away and needs to pack on some innings, but he has velo, secondaries, and control.

Geoff
Ralph Lifshitz
Reply to  Brad Havens
4 years ago

@Brad Havens: Doesn’t have the build and he’s getting worked in high A. I love Sixto but he’s more 12 or 13 for me. Definitely behind Whitley at 11.

Brad Havens
Brad Havens
Reply to  Ralph Lifshitz
4 years ago

@Ralph Lifshitz: He got BABIPed in his first start (10 hits in 6 IP), but he has 13-1 K/BB in 18 IP in high A as a guy who just turned 19, and his last two starts have been QS. Not sure I’d say he’s “getting worked.” Plus, the stat line doesn’t really matter that much in an 18 IP sample. I guess we’ll find out if his build is more RP or highly successful small RHP early next year. I’m betting on the high 90’s FB and good control. I understand your skepticism, but I’m pretty bullish on Sixto.

Geoff
Ralph Lifshitz
Reply to  Brad Havens
4 years ago

@Brad Havens: This is the point of my opening paragraph. It’s not skepticism as much as I like other guys more. I watched his first start. He got hit. All my work is based around observation and critical thinking, I’m not a fangraphs jockey. I assumed people who read my work would see that.

Do the guys ahead of him not have control, good stuff and results at a young age? Whitley isn’t on the list and has all that + the build. I ranked Sixto just outside the top 50 in my top 100. Don’t try to put the “down on Sixto” shit on me. I like him, I prefer other guys more.

Do you think he’s better than Kolby Allard who’s spent most of his age 19 season in AA?

Brad Havens
Brad Havens
Reply to  Ralph Lifshitz
4 years ago

@Ralph Lifshitz: Man, I was just giving you my opinion. I don’t think I was accusing you of being “down on Sixto.” You ranked 10 guys out of the 14,000 pitching prospects in affiliated ball, so of course there will be lots of interesting guys outside of anyone’s top 10. I wasn’t saying your list was stupid or wrong, just saying I like Sixto more than some guys on your list.

I am a little puzzled that you say Sixto doesn’t have the build but you have a guy who actually has the nickname “Sticks” at #5, but I understand that specific rankings come down to personal preference and are pretty fluid, especially within a tier.

Brad Havens
Brad Havens
Reply to  Geoff
4 years ago

@Ralph Lifshitz: And some short, slight righties have proven to be pretty durable as well.

Anyhow, I don’t want to you to think I’m dissing your list. You always bring solid lists, ranks, updates. Prospecting should lead to differences in opinion, as these guys have such a wide range of outcomes.

apox
apox
Reply to  Brad Havens
4 years ago

@Brad Havens: this times infinity.

apox
apox
Reply to  Ralph Lifshitz
4 years ago

@Ralph Lifshitz: “getting worked” is your “expert” opinion after 18 IP?

apox
apox
Reply to  Geoff
4 years ago

@Ralph Lifshitz: ummmm, no. Young, repeatable delivery who’s dominated everywhere he’s been. @Ralph Lifshitz: chill your sorry ass out, idiot. Someone’s calling someone a bitch ass when they know fuck all about prospects.

LOL. keep click baiting. You litter this site with your idiocy.

apox
apox
Reply to  Geoff
4 years ago

@Ralph Lifshitz:

more importantly, you should STOP writing. you really know fuck all about prospects.

OddBall Herrera
OddBall Herrera
4 years ago

Thoughts on our chances of seeing Senzel in September? Seems like it goes down every day Cozart isn’t traded :(

Think he can pull off a 2018 roughly like the Bregman 2017? Or do you think he’s more a 2019 and beyond guy.

Geoff
Ralph Lifshitz
Reply to  OddBall Herrera
4 years ago

@OddBall Herrera: There’s a chance. I really think we could see him.

b the esq.
b the esq.
4 years ago

Great stuff! Thanks for the info.

Looks like Flaherty might be up Saturday.

Like him more than Weaver in that rotation?

Either or both of them in the rotation opening day next year?

Better RoS – Weaver, Flaherty or Tailon?

Better keeper value next year – Weaver – last round (26th), Flaherty – last round, Tailon 19th?

Thanks for the insight!

Geoff
Ralph Lifshitz
Reply to  b the esq.
4 years ago

@b the esq.: That would be awesome if he is called up.

I like Weaver more if he can stay healthy.

Weaver is a rotation piece opening day for me.

Weaver for all.

Dave Weinnstein
Dave Weinnstein
4 years ago

What do you think of Tyler Mahle? he seems to succeed at every level

Geoff
Ralph Lifshitz
Reply to  Dave Weinnstein
4 years ago

@Dave Weinnstein: great real life prospect seems like he’ll have his years very much a ratio play, not sure I see him missing enough bats to be a fantasy stud. Could be wrong.

malamoney
4 years ago

Great stuff. You see any of these guys being in the Majors on Opening Day?

malamoney
Reply to  Geoff
4 years ago

@Ralph Lifshitz: Bigger fantasy impact in 2018. Buehler, Brendan Rodgers, Senzel or Brinson?

Rob
Rob
4 years ago

I know he’s a ways away from the majors but how much consideration did you give Forrest Whitley?

apox
apox
Reply to  Geoff
4 years ago

@Ralph Lifshitz: ummmm, no.

Drexel Hill Dragons
Drexel Hill Dragons
Reply to  Rob
4 years ago

@Rob: Yeah, I was going to ask if Whitley was the first name that didn’t make the cut. Sounds that way.

Brett Moore
Brett Moore
4 years ago

one of my league mates wants me to trade him Kingery plus something extra for Maitan. I’m thinking Kingery is worth more than Maitan. what say you? thanks.
{roto 5×5 12 team dynasty league}

Brett Moore
Brett Moore
Reply to  Geoff
4 years ago

@Ralph Lifshitz:

thanks. Halp and you have been a great help to my 2 dynasty teams the last couple years.

Geoff
Ralph Lifshitz
Reply to  Brett Moore
4 years ago

@Brett Moore: and many more to come!

Grey
Admin
4 years ago

Sorry, this is such a Herb question, but if Glasnow had eligibility would he replace Keller?

Grey
Admin
Reply to  Geoff
4 years ago

Thanks, Endorphin!