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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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