Welcome back to the 2015 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit as we enter the prospect portion of our tome. So while you wonder whether Max Scherzer deserved to start for the Nats on Opening Day, let’s kick off our top 70 prospects.
In this, our 11th annual list, we’ve again beefed things up things -– going 70 deep for the first time.
This season, we’ve dropped to 29 returnees from our 2014 rankings (down six from last year), while a robust 21 from last year’s Top 65 prospects graduated to the bigs (up from 18 grads last year).
The number of prospects that fell off the list this year soared from seven to 15. The upshot is a whopping 41 newcomers (compared to just 30 last year) -– surprising even with us expanding from 65 to 70 this season.
Graduating from last year’s top 65 list: Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox (2); Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals (4); Taijuan Walker, SP, Seattle Mariners (5); Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs (7); Kevin Gausman, SP, Baltimore Orioles (13); Nick Castellanos, 3B, Detroit Tigers (14); George Springer, OF, Houston Astros (17); Travis d’Arnaud, C, New York Mets (18); Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates (20); Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati Reds (24); Jackie Bradley Jr., OF, Boston Red Sox (28); Yordano Ventura, SP, Kansas City Royals (30); Carlos Martinez, RP, St. Louis Cardinals (31); Masahiro Tanaka, SP, New York Yankees (36); Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals (37); Jon Singleton, 1B, Houston Astros (39); Jake Odorizzi, SP, Tampa Bay Rays (40); Trevor Bauer, SP, Cleveland Indians (45); Jake Marisnick, OF, Miami Marlins/Houston Astros (55); Mike Olt, 3B, Chicago Cubs (62); and Rougned Odor, 2B, Texas Rangers (65).
Dropping off the list this season: Albert Almora, OF, Chicago Cubs (26); Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees (27); Kyle Crick, SP, San Francisco Giants (35); Austin Hedges, C, San Diego Padres (38); Max Fried, SP, San Diego Padres/Atlanta Braves (43); Alen Hanson, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates (44); Danny Hultzen, SP, Seattle Mariners (47); Clint Frazier, OF, Cleveland Indians (50); Bubba Starling, OF, Kansas City Royals (52); Mason Williams, OF, New York Yankees (53); Jesse Biddle, SP, Philadelphia Phillies (57); Matt Davidson, 3B, Chicago White Sox (59); Matt Barnes, SP, Boston Red Sox (60); Mike Foltynewicz, SP, Houston Astros/Atlanta Braves (61); and Colin Moran, 3B, Miami Marlins/Houston Astros.
Now go get yourself a huge ass coffee and then sit down to enjoy Part I of our tome of prospects.
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
70. Kyle Zimmer, Kansas City Royals, RHP (22): The Royals’ first round pick (fifth overall) in 2012 is still waiting to make his MLB debut, but injuries have dimmed his star the past couple of seasons. Still, we can’t wait to see how his 11 K/9 rate translates into the higher levels of the minors. Offseason shoulder surgery has limited him to bullpen sessions this spring and he’s not likely to make his season debut before mid-May, but man, this is a dude with one talented arm (see video below). Now if he can just stay healthy, we might finally get a chance to see it on a big league mound.
69. Alex Gonzalez, Texas Rangers, RHP (NR): “Chi Chi” rates high across the board, but what really caught our eye was the progress he made in 2014 in terms of limiting baserunners as he seems to be improving as he moves up the Ranger system. Last year, Gonzalez proved he can win at High-A and barely skipped a beat after moving to Double-A, recording a sparkling 2.70 ERA in 15 games (14 starts). He’s moving towards Texas very, very quickly.
68. Stephen Piscotty, St. Louis Cardinals, OF (NR): A supplemental first rounder (36th overall) in 2012, Piscotty is gifted with a great outfield arm, but is unlikely to provide more than low double-digit steals. Based on his Triple-A season last year, he’s ready for a chance, and it’s almost assuredly going to come this year. Piscotty is not a big time power hitter, but he has superb contact skills and knows how to get on base. We’re going to need to see a bit more pop out of him before we get truly excited, but he has a nicely rounded tool set as is — just not one of a future star.
67. Reynaldo Lopez, Washington Nationals, RHP (NR): This 21-year-old spent half the season at Low-A, dominating to the tune of a 0.75 ERA, before being promoted to Class-A, where he continued to flash elite command (39 K/11 BB in 47 1/3 IP). Looking for a kid that could be a top 15 prospect by season’s end? Lopez fits the bill.
66. Brandon Finnegan, Kansas City Royals, LHP (NR): KC’s first rounder last year spent little time whipping through the minors (13 appearances including five starts at High-A and Double-A) before arriving in the bigs, where he looked untouchable as a reliever. The Royals want Finnegan to be a starter, so he’s been sent back to the minors to begin this season. This kid needs to be ownED in any keeper format as he has a very bright future.
65. Tim Anderson, Chicago White Sox, SS (NR): Anderson is highly touted, but he clearly needs to work on his batting eye before being major league ready. Still, last year he hit nearly .300 at High-A and then .364 at Double-A (albeit, in just 45 at-bats). Could he be one of those types that can succeed at higher levels without a keen batting eye? We’ll know a lot more by this time next year.
64. Sean Newcomb, Los Angeles Angels, LHP (NR): Newcomb, a 21-year-old lefty taken 15th overall by the Angels last year, looked decent in a couple starts in the Rookie league after signing. However, despite excellent command, Newcomb didn’t fare well after moving up to Class-A for four starts to wrap up his 2014 campaign. The first University of Hartford player ever selected in the first round has a ways to go before being big-league ready, but he’s already caught the eye of Manager Mike Scioscia thanks to a smooth and easy pitching motion, a big-time heater and solid curve and changeup offerings. Newcomb reminds some of a young Jon Lester because of his size.
63. Nomar Mazara, Texas Rangers, OF (NR): For our money, Mazara is the fourth-best prospect in a rich Texas system. This beanpole (6’5″, 200) will begin the season at Double-A despite the fact he won’t be 20 until later this month. Mazara has been compared to both Wily Mo Pena and Miguel Cabrera — two very extreme outcomes. Let’s hope he’s more Miggy than Wily, but that all depends on how well his bat develops. The power will be there, either way, but how much of a chance he’ll get to display that pop will vary based on how quickly he improves his overall approach at the plate.
62. Steven Matz, New York Mets, RHP (NR): Soon to be 24-year-old lefty Matz was the Mets’ second round pick in 2009, and it looks like he’s finally on the cusp of reaching the bigs. Last year, he was a wee wild at High-A, but took a big step up after being promoted to Double-A, where he proved he can win. Matz has enjoyed solid numbers at every stop, but last year by reaching double digits in wins, he really arrived on the prospect map. He pitched more innings than ever last year, and managed nearly a K per frame. Matz is considered quite mature for his age, so if the Mets decide to push him quickly again this year, he’ll likely be able to handle it.
61. Jesse Winker, Cincinnati Reds, OF (NR): Despite a wrist injury, Winker put himself on the prospect map last year after dominating at High-A. He hit extremely well (65-for-205) with power (.580 slugging), great patience (40 walks in 53 games) and a splendid batting eye (just 46 strikeouts against 40 walks). Promoted to Double-A, Winker struggled to adjust, yet still scored 15 runs in just 21 games before having his season cut short. The Reds’ 2013 Minor League Hitter of the Year smacked a combined 15 homers in just 74 games last year, hinting at some serious power potential. This 2012 compensation first round pick has a chance to win a batting title in the minors if he can stay healthy.
60. Manuel Margot, Boston Red Sox, OF (NR): Seeking a prospect that can bring some serious speed to your team? Margot’s your man. Last year, he swiped 39 bags in 99 games at Class-A before being promoted to High-A, where he hit .340 in 16 games. Margot was the 17th best prospect on the BoSox heading into 2014, but now he’s No. 5 in what’s become a very deep organization. The 20-year-old is also one of the top defensive centre fielders in the minors and his passion for the game will make him a fan favourite at Fenway in the near future.
59. Kohl Stewart, Minnesota Twins, RHP (48): It’s clear the Twins aren’t rushing their first round pick from 2013, so consider his slipping in the ranking more of a reflection of his anticipated arrival date rather than his performance. Last year, Stewart made his debut at full season ball and he pitched much better than his record would indicate. His hit rate was solid and his ERA was stellar. MLB.com ranks Stewart No. 6 among Twins’ prospects, and that’s an assessment we concur with. Judging by his FIP of 3.71 last year, the fourth overall pick may need some time to adjust to High-A ball, where he’s likely ticketed for to begin the season.
58. Aaron Judge, New York Yankees, OF (NR): Judge has worked his way into the Yankees’ plans, both long-term and short-term. Some believe he’ll be manning RF at Yankee Stadium before the season is over. Sure, Yankee prospects tend to be overhyped, but the team’s 2013 first rounder sure impressed in his first professional season, split between Class-A and High-A. He showed impressive power at Class-A (15 doubles and nine homers in 65 games), and amazing patience in High-A (50 walks in 66 games). All told, Judge scored 80 times and recorded a superb 905 OPS in his first season with wooden bats. For our money, he’s the top positional prospect on the Yankees.
57. Brandon Nimmo, New York Mets, OF (NR): This 21-year-old flyhawk has good height (6’3″) and despite his tender age is well developed at 205 pounds. Nimmo is a better offensive talent than a defensive one and he has untapped power potential given his build. Last year, he flashed nice extra-base pop at High-A and decent speed at Double-A. Some believe Nimmo should rank lower; we’re hedging our bets until we get a better sense of what he’s capable of in a full year at Double-A.
56. Steven Souza, Tampa Bay Rays, OF (NR): Souza is vulnerable to offspeed pitches, and that’s something he’ll need to address to live up to his potential, but we love the power he flashed at Triple-A. His mastery of the higher levels of the minors portends some nice big league success. Just don’t go too overboard here, as Souza has a chance to be exposed by big league pitching. His ability to make adjustments will dictate how big a star he’ll be, but it’s hard not to be tantalized by what he did at Double- and Triple-A
55. Hunter Renfroe, San Diego Padres, OF (NR): The well-built (6’1″, 215) Renfroe’s path to the majors hit a curve this winter when the Padres completely rebuilt their outfield at the major league level. Still, many things can happen between now and when this kid is ready. Renfroe is even keeled and while he brings tremendous power potential to the table, he might be a slightly below average baserunner. He’ll need to work on his swing mechanics a tad before he’s ready to tackle higher levels.
54. Sean Manaea, Kansas City Royals, LHP (NR): A supplemental first rounder (34th overall) in 2013, Manaea is an Indiana State product who averaged almost a strikeout per inning as a freshman in 2011. The southpaw had a hip problem that delayed the start of his professional career. But once healthy, he made a seamless transition to pro ball last year, going straight to High-A and doing a superb job of limiting long balls while averaging 10.8 Ks/9. Manaea was particularly dominant in the second half, recording a 1.96 ERA, and it’s not inconceivable that he’ll be in a position to help the Royals by the second half of 2015.
53. Eduardo Rodriguez, Boston Red Sox, LHP (NR): This Venezuelan lefty is ticketed for Triple-A, and could see his MLB debut at some point in the second half — especially after being added to the 40-man roster this offseason. Formerly one of the top prospects in the Baltimore system, he was dealt to Boston at the deadline for Andrew Miller. Rodriguez has a special fastball, a very strong changeup and a decent slider, so for now Boston will see if he can cut it as a starter, but if it needs left-handed relief help, he could get the call as a reliever. He took his game to a new level after the trade, giving up just 30 hits in 39 1/3 IP after yielding 90 hits in 82 2/3 IP beforehand. That run, combined with a strong spring, ensured Rodriguez a spot at Triple-A this year.
52. Dalton Pompey, Toronto Blue Jays, OF (NR): After the Brett Lawrie experiment failed, can homegrown talent Pompey finally give the Jays a Canadian-born star to cheer? Judging by Pompey’s surge last year through the system all the way to the bigs, where he held his own despite being just 21, we think he can give the people what they want. Batting ninth, he’s unlikely to score a lot of runs as a rook, but he will be able to help you in steals.
51. Aaron Blair, Arizona Diamondbacks, RHP (NR): Arizona’s current rotation is a mess, but by season’s end Blair could be ready to help the staff. This bull (6’5″, 230) of a righty was a supplemental first rounder (36th overall) in 2013. Last year, Blair started the season at Class-A, giving up just 25 hits in 35 1/3 IP, before moving to High-A, where his ERA rose slightly to 4.35. Promoted to Double-A, Blair really turned it on, holding opponents to 30 hits in 46 1/3 IP (.185 BAA), proving that he’s nearly ready for a shot at the bigs.
50. D.J. Peterson, Seattle Mariners, 3B (NR): Seattle’s first round pick in 2013, Peterson’s raw power projections are exciting, but don’t expect more than a token steal here or there. He’s not quite ready to be a major leaguer, so was reassigned to the minor league camp. It’s difficult to see Peterson sticking at third base, but his power (.615 slugging in 65 games at High-A) will play at first base. He didn’t get on base nearly as often after a promotion to Double-A, but continued to pound long balls.
49. Jake Thompson, Texas Rangers, RHP (NR): Detroit’s 2012 second rounder began last season at High-A, flashing nice hit rates to earn a promotion to Double-A, where he continued to put up solid hit rates in a couple of starts. Then, he was sent to Texas in the Joakim Soria deal, and thanks to a slightly higher BABIP, Thompson’s results weren’t quite as sparkling after moving to the Texas League. Still, Thompson adds to an already stacked Texas minor league system and he’s likely to make his big league debut at some point in 2015.
48. Nick Gordon, Minnesota Twins, SS (NR): Tom’s son and Dee’s baby bro is going to need to improve his contact rates as he moves up the ladder, but as part of one of the top minor league systems in the majors, he won’t be rushed. Gordon has some serious upside, especially as a hitter and with his in-game power. The fifth overall pick from 2014 already is blessed with a strong throwing arm. His pro debut was cut short by a broken finger, but from a young age, Gordon has been ticketed for stardom and over the next couple of years, we’re going to finally find out whether he lives up to his legacy.
47. Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates, 1B/OF (NR): It was no surprise Bell slipped to the second round of the draft in 2011 considering his signability issues, so it was a huge shock that the Pirates did convince him to ink a deal to play pro ball. Last year, he flashed sweet power at High-A, earning a late promotion to Double-A, where his power didn’t follow him. A swich-hitter, Bell will bring some major pop to the Bucco outfielder, but given the current presence of Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh can let Bell completely mature in the minors and be a finished product upon arrival.
46. Kevin Plawecki, New York Mets, C (NR): A first round compensation pick (35th overall) in 2012, Plawecki has moved through the Mets’ system very quickly. Two years ago, he was a top 20 prospect for the Mets, but now he’s probably their best minor league position player. A tremendous half season at Double-A last year forced a promotion to Triple-A, where he continued to flash nice pop and strong on-base skills, albeit in a hitter’s paradise in Las Vegas. We especially love that his walk rate returned after the promotion. If Plawecki were up right now, he could probably produce average offensive numbers for a catcher, but there is plenty of upside still — not to mention that he’s currently blocked by Travis d’Arnaud.
45. Alex Meyer, Minnesota Twins, RHP (34): Meyer slipped in the rankings this year as he still hasn’t made his MLB debut, but that may be coming very soon — especially in light of Ervin Santana’s suspension. Meyer didn’t dominate at Triple-A the way he has at other levels, but he logged plenty of innings and managed to whiff nearly 10.6 batters per nine. We’re surprised Minny has been easing him along so slowly considering he’s already 25, another reason why we lowered him slightly this season.
44. C.J. Edwards, Chicago Cubs, RHP (64): Acquired in the Matt Garza trade, Edwards dealt with some injury issues last year, but given how unhittable he looked in his first taste of Double-A, we bumped him up the rankings this year. It’s hard to believe Edwards was Texas’ 48th round pick in 2011 considering how good he’s looked at every stop (1.86 career ERA in 50 games and 49 starts). He’s expected to be the ace of the Cubs’ Double-A rotation this season after impressing in his brief time with the big team during exhibition play.
43. Tyler Kolek, Miami Marlins, RHP (NR): Kolek is built like CC Sabathia and the big man — Miami’s first rounder last year — is probably going to be moved along conservatively. Kolek can bring the heat, but he has plenty of work to do on his other pitches, hence the likely methodical approach to advancing him. Last year, he pitched at Rookie ball, putting up nice groundball rates, but benefiting from a low BABIP. There are those that don’t even consider Kolek a top 100 prospect yet, but for our money, he needs to be grabbed now in Dynasty leagues before the cat’s out of the bag. Hence his rather high ranking despite almost no pro track record.
42. Jorge Alfaro, Texas Rangers, C (54): After showing solid power at High-A and then looking even stronger after a promotion to Double-A, Alfaro gets himself a nice boost in our rankings this year. He was rewarded by being added to the 40-man roster after the season and was brought to major league camp this spring. Alfaro improved his contact rates last year, but there’s still room for more growth in this department and he’ll need to make that adjustment before sticking in the bigs.
41. Eddie Butler, Colorado Rockies, RHP (58): Butler was actually moved along quicker than expected last season, and that — more than his performance — is what prompted a bump in his rankings. He’s going to need to address his long ball issues, but that 1.11 career WHIP in the minors is what intrigues us the most. Butler’s never going to be a big strikeout pitcher, but if he can duplicate his minor league ratios and fan, say, 6.5/9, he’ll be a fine asset.
40. Matthew Wisler, Atlanta Braves, RHP (NR): Recently dealt to the Braves in the Craig Kimbrel trade, Wisler has a nice pitcher’s build (6’3″, 175) and a chance to be a staple in the Braves’ rotation for years. Last year, he dominated at Double-A (35 Ks in 30 IP) before being promoted to Triple-A, where he kept winning despite having to make some adjustments to the higher level. Wisler should be ready to reach his prime years just as the Braves are ready to compete again — in two or three years.
39. Hunter Harvey, Baltimore Orioles, RHP (NR): Baltimore’s first rounder in 2013 has now joined Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy as future anchors in what’s shaping up like a very strong Oriole rotation. Last year, Harvey proved he can win at full-season ball, doing a solid job of keeping the ball in the yard. He’s expected to start the season at High-A, and if he can avoid health issues he’s a candidate to be at Double-A before the end of the 2015 campaign.
38. Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies, RHP (NR): After a dominant season at LSU, Nola’s draft stock soared and the Phils took him in the first round last year. Because he was so polished, he was challenged by Philadelphia, starting out at High-A, where he flashed off the charts command, prompting a promotion to Double-A. Although Nola’s hit rates rose at the higher level, he enjoyed better bottom line results. He’s pretty much major league ready at this point, but the rebuilding Phils will likely wait a little while before starting the seventh overall pick’s service clock.
37. Aaron Sanchez, Toronto Blue Jays, RHP (29): One of six rookies on the Toronto roster as the team broke Spring Training, Sanchez fell a tad in our rankings given his control problems at Double-A last year. Regardless, he was promoted to Triple-A, where he failed to taste the sweet elixir of victory. Sanchez then finished the season in the Toronto bullpen, blowing people away with significantly improved control. He was so good out of the pen, in fact, that many believed he would be better as a closer than a starter. However, the Jays are wisely going to use him in their rotation this season. We’d rather see a pitcher flame out as a starter before any thought is given to converting him into a reliever.
36. Jose Peraza, Atlanta Braves, 2B/SS (NR): Speed merchant Peraza is likely at least a year away from the bigs. Don’t expect much power from him, but he will deliver a bit more than he’s shown so far. Atlanta’s second baseman of the future has flashed great contact rates and superb base-stealing skills. All Peraza did at High-A was steal 35 bases in 66 games; upon moving to Double-A, he added 25 more in just 44 games while scoring 35 times. This kid could be an exciting difference maker in Atlanta very soon.
35. Jameson Taillon, Pittsburgh Pirates, RHP (10): It feels like we’ve been waiting on this dude forever, and really, it has been a while, hence Taillon’s significant drop in this year’s rankings. Of course, missing all of 2014 in the wake of Tommy John surgery didn’t help his cause. Taillon now finds himself lagging behind some of the top pitching prospects in the game, but don’t you dare forget about him. Depending on how long it takes him to shake off the post-surgery rust, it’s reasonable to expect to see him in the bigs in the second half.
34. Luis Severino, New York Yankees, RHP (NR): Severino is armed with a mid-90s four-seam fastball, a slider and a changeup and has perhaps the best arm in the Yankees’ system. However, his mechanics are a bit inconsistent right now and that could ultimately lead him to the bullpen — especially given that he’s a small righty. Severino has time to change that diagnosis, and with the Yanks desperate for starters, he’ll be given every single opportunity to do just that. Opinions are really divided on this kid’s long-term future, so why don’t we sit back and see what he does during a full year at Double-A before passing judgment?
33. Raul Mondesi, Kansas City Royals, SS (49): Mondesi gets a bump up the list this year after advancing to High-A, however, he was slowed by some injuries. We just love his upside, so are willing to give him a mulligan for 2014 and that poor OPS of 610. Mondesi has major speed, but he needs to learn patience to fully take advantage of his wheels. By this time next year, we’ll know whether this kid is a legitimate budding star or not.
32. Braden Shipley, Arizona Diamondbacks, RHP (NR): Arizona’s first rounder (15th overall) in 2013, Shipley’s draft stock really soared in the year leading up the draft. After all, he didn’t start pitching until his sophomore season at college, and then would up being drafted after his junior season. That really speaks to Shipley’s athletic ability. Ultimately, his changeup will be his best offering, although his fastball and curveball won’t lag far behind. A potential future No. 2 starter, Shipley could see his first taste of the bigs some time in 2015.
31. Andrew Heaney, Los Angeles Angels, LHP (41): Heaney took a big step forward last year, hence his bump 10 slots up the rankings. The former Marlin prospect returned to Double-A to begin the season, earning a promotion after dominating to the tune of a 2.35 ERA in nine games. Moved to Triple-A, Heaney proved he can win there as well, so was summoned to the bigs. While he failed to win any of his five starts for the Fish. he did chalk up a fair amount of Ks. Dealt to the Dodgers and then flipped to the Angels in the Howie Kendrick trade, Heaney has made no secret that he’s upset he didn’t break camp with the big league team. But chances are (assuming he continues to handle Triple-A hitters), he’ll be back soon.
Stay tuned for the next part of our series as we count down the remaining 30 prospects.
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below which prospects you have your eyes on this season.