Top 100 fantasy baseball prospects

Last year, I took my first crack at compiling a top 100 fantasy prospect list. While I was happy with the results, it was far from perfect. This list isn’t perfect either, but I’d like to think it is a massive step-up from my rookie effort.

To qualify as a prospect for this list, a position player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats in the majors, and a pitcher must not have thrown more than 50 innings, or made more than 30 relief appearances. In addition, I’ve adhered to Major League Baseball’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement rookie rules, meaning Yu Darvish and Yoenis Cespedes do not qualify (though Jorge Soler does). Soler is an omission because I am refraining from ranking until he signs with a club, not because he is lacking the talent or projection to land in the top 100.

When putting together this list I weighed ceiling, floor, minor league level, statistical performance, and scouting reports in varying degrees. I read through hundreds of scouting reports, and for most players, multiple scouting reports from different sources.

My primary scouting sources for information were Kevin Goldstein and Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus, John Sickels of Minor League Ball, Keith Law of ESPN, and the outstanding stable of writers/scouts from Baseball America. With scouting being such an inexact science, the reports sometimes varied wildly from source to source. Ultimately, I found myself needing to rely on my gut in some cases.

When using this as a cheat sheet, be sure to keep your league settings in mind. There is simply no way to cater to all possible league structures, and I didn’t have any specific league size or roster structure in mind when preparing it.

This article is only the first of many to look at the top 100 fantasy prospects. In the coming weeks, I will be following up with four separate posts of 25 prospects each which include write-ups. As such, I ask for you patience in asking detailed questions in the commentary section below about the individual featured prospects. Feel free to debate the merits of your favorite snubs, and lobby for players moving up and down the list. I also encourage readers to e-mail me with questions; I’m always happy to discuss baseball and answer questions.

Top 100 prospects:

Rank Organization Position First name Last name
1 Nationals OF Bryce Harper
2 Angels OF Mike Trout
3 Rays SP Matt Moore
4 Rangers SS Jurickson Profar
5 Mariners C Jesus Montero
6 Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado
7 Orioles SS Manny Machado
8 Reds C Devin Mesoraco
9 Blue Jays C Travis d’Arnaud
10 Royals OF Wil Myers
11 Yankees C Gary Sanchez
12 Twins 3B Miguel Sano
13 Diamondbacks SP Trevor Bauer
14 Braves SP Julio Teheran
15 Diamondbacks SP Tyler Skaggs
16 Cardinals SP Shelby Miller
17 Nationals 3B Anthony Rendon
18 Orioles SP Dylan Bundy
19 Red Sox C Ryan Lavarnway
20 Red Sox SS Xander Bogaerts
21 Angels SS Jean Segura
22 Pirates SP Jameson Taillon
23 Pirates SP Gerrit Cole
24 Athletics OF Michael Choice
25 Padres OF Rymer Liriano
26 Rays SS Hak-Ju Lee
27 Cardinals 2B Kolten Wong
28 Royals 3B Cheslor Cuthbert
29 Tigers SP Jacob Turner
30 Mariners SP Taijuan Walker
31 Royals OF Bubba Starling
32 Padres 3B Jedd Gyorko
33 Rangers SP Martin Perez
34 Yankees SP Manny Banuelos
35 Mariners SP Danny Hultzen
36 Rockies SP Drew Pomeranz
37 Cardinals SP Carlos Martinez
38 Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo
39 Blue Jays OF Jacob Marisnick
40 Pirates OF Josh Bell
41 Twins 2B/OF Eddie Rosario
42 Mets SP Zack Wheeler
43 Mariners SP James Paxton
44 Giants OF Gary Brown
45 Marlins OF Christian Yelich
46 Cubs OF Brett Jackson
47 Astros 1B Jonathan Singleton
48 Cardinals OF Oscar Taveras
49 Padres C Yasmani Grandal
50 Blue Jays OF Anthony Gose
51 Rangers 3B Mike Olt
52 Mets SP Matt Harvey
53 Athletics SP Jarrod Parker
54 Braves SP Randall Delgado
55 Athletics SP Brad Peacock
56 Phillies SP Trevor May
57 Braves SP/RP Arodys Vizcaino
58 Diamondbacks SP Archie Bradley
59 Royals SP Mike Montgomery
60 Padres 2B Cory Spangenberg
61 Reds SS Billy Hamilton
62 Astros OF George Springer
63 Cubs SS Javier Baez
64 Yankees 3B Dante Bichette Jr
65 Pirates OF Starling Marte
66 Mariners SS Nick Franklin
67 Twins OF Oswaldo Arcia
68 Tigers 3B Nick Castellanos
69 Padres SP Robbie Erlin
70 Athletics C Derek Norris
71 Athletics SP Sonny Gray
72 Padres 1B Yonder Alonso
73 Diamondbacks 3B Matt Davidson
74 White Sox RP Addison Reed
75 Pirates SP Luis Heredia
76 Red Sox 3B Will Middlebrooks
77 Athletics SP A.J. Cole
78 Orioles 2B/SS/3B Jonathan Schoop
79 Indians SS Francisco Lindor
80 Royals SP Jake Odorizzi
81 Dodgers SP Zach Lee
82 Rockies SP Chad Bettis
83 Blue Jays SP Daniel Norris
84 Red Sox OF Brandon Jacobs
85 Yankees OF Mason Williams
86 Red Sox OF Bryce Brentz
87 Rays OF Mikie Mahtook
88 Cardinals SP Tyrell Jenkins
89 Yankees SP Dellin Betances
90 Astros SP Jarred Cosart
91 Brewers SP Wily Peralta
92 Rays SP Enny Romero
93 Phillies SP Jesse Biddle
94 Blue Jays SP Justin Nicolino
95 Reds 2B/3B Henry Rodriguez
96 Rays SP Taylor Guerrieri
97 Giants C Tommy Joseph
98 Blue Jays SP Noah Syndergaard
99 Brewers SP Jed Bradley
100 Mets SP Jeurys Familia
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Comments

  1. James said...

    Arenado jumps out to me as being much higher ranked on your list compared to other prospect lists I’ve seen this winter.  BA has him at 42.  Can you explain your reasoning and give an educated guess as to why he was ranked so low on other lists?

  2. Brad Johnson said...

    Keep in mind, this is not a vanilla top 100 prospect list. This list is specifically for fantasy purposes. Arenado could move into a full time role in a very friendly stadium this season at a position that is somewhat weak. That is why he’s drawing strong marks.

  3. James said...

    @Brad Yeah, I definitely understand the “may have an impact this season” argument for prospect lists like this.  But Arenado is sandwiched at #6 between guys like Profar (#4) and Machado (#7), who have high ceilings but are a long way from the show.  Is the Arenado ranking due to the feeling he could contribute this year?  Or is it due to his ceiling?

    Is it realistic to expect a guy who hasn’t seen AA yet to contribute this year?  We saw Trout in roughly the same situation last year, with stellar A numbers and then a call up after playing AA for a few months, but he didn’t exactly smash in the majors.  Isn’t it more realistic Arenado doesn’t see real action til 2013, after a full year of AA/AAA, and wouldn’t that poke a hole in the “will contribute this year” argument?

    I usually put prospects in groups like

    Future allstars starting the season in MLB: Moore, Montero

    Future allstars who will likely see MLB this year: Trout, Harper

    Future allstars who won’t see MLB this year: Machado, Profar, Sano

    Avergage to Above Average players who will be useful due to opportunity: Mesoraco, d’Arnaud, Bauer

    There are many reasons to be ranked on this list, but it’s important to note the difference between guys who are ranked due to opportunity and those who are ranked due to elite talent and expected ceiling.

    I was honestly surprised to see Arenado so low on other lists, I’m not saying they’re correct, but that gave me pause when it came to my notions of how far along and how elite of a prospect he is.  This ranking is mighty high in comparison and I’d just like to understand it more.

  4. Mark Himmelstein said...

    Being a Mets fan, the one guy I’ve still got my eye on (though don’t believe belongs on this list) is Reese Havens. He could be a pretty complete player if he ever managed to stay healthy—something like .280-20-10 out of second base with plenty of walks and doubles to help the counting numbers play up. He could even make an impact in mixed leagues this year and I’d probably be willing to take a flier on him in deeper NL-Only drafts.

  5. Brad Johnson said...

    James, I agree with what your saying and I can’t speak for Josh – he’ll have to answer those questions for you. If I were to rank Arenado 6th, it would be because of the explanation I gave above.

    FWIW, I have him as a potential target in the second round of an aux draft in one of my leagues. He’s probably the 4th or 5th guy on my list for that slot but the other guys might not be around (like Hultzen). That puts him somewhere around a #35 rank for me.

    In that league, proximity greatly outweighs upside as I like to completely re-draft my reserve every season. About 10 of the top 15 prospects have been kept on our mlb rosters or they will be drafted for $1 simply to pull them out of the aux draft.

  6. Josh Shepardson said...

    @ Kevin

    Good suggestion, I do have an ETA with each player in their write-ups.  I may be able to edit that in here when I have time.

  7. Josh Shepardson said...

    @ James

    Arenado’s ranking is a bit of a blend between ceiling and my belief he’ll be up late this year, and a contributor (though not star) next year.  He makes soooooo much contact, but isn’t a slap singles hitter by any means.  It would be inaccurate to say his power went up this year (his ISO actually went down slightly), but he began tapping into his home run power.  It was strange placement by me sandwiching him between Profar and Machado given that both are high upside shortstops.  As far as speaking to the other lists, my guess is part of the reason he ranks lower there is that his defense is only considered average-ish, and they don’t factor in ballpark into their rankings.

  8. Josh Shepardson said...

    @ Mark

    Havens is an interesting name.  He could be up as soon as this year to contribute if he stays healthy and rakes at Buffalo.  Staying healthy has been so tough for him.  I know John Sickels in particular thinks he’ll have a good OBP with power, but a lowish batting average.  The leagues you’ve outlined keeping tabs/flyers on him in sound reasonable t me.

  9. Mark Himmelstein said...

    @Josh

    Yeah, I’ve never understood why Sickels is so worried about his average. He’s a pretty neutral GB/FB hitter, he’s not a super high-k guy, and outside of 2009 he’s never had a BABIP issue. I don’t think he’ll be a .300 hitter, but I also don’t see him putting up painfully low averages.

    Health is his biggest issue, but supposedly he had surgery to have a bone in his rib cage shaved down or something that was thought to be central to a lot of the issues he’s had, and he’s healthy now, so I’m cautiously optimistic he can finally put the injury issues behind him. He could pretty quickly prove to be a better all around player than Daniel Murphy or Justin Turner, so the opportunity is there for him. The three pitching prospects you listed are superior prospects, but I’m willing to go out a limb and say Havens is going to be the most useful rookie the Mets turn up this season, both for themselves an fantasy owners, and it wouldn’t shock me if he winds up rivalling Wheeler and Harvey in long term value.

  10. chris said...

    I fail to see how Willin Rosario didn’t touch your top 100 prospects considering BP has him listed at 61 and BA has him at 87. Meanwhile some of your guys aren’t even ranked by one or both of BA or BP.

    What is your reason for removing him from your list? It’s not his AB’s (only 54), and it shouldn’t be because of his poor showing last year as he was recovering from injuries.

    I think you whiffed big time on this one.

  11. Josh Shepardson said...

    @ Chris

    Rosario had poor plate discipline pre-injury, and I was willing to overlook it in my first top-100 list back in September/October.  With up to date scouting reports for guys like Bogaerts, Liriano, Paxton, etc that didn’t qualify, Rosario got squeezed.  Keep in mind that BA’s and BP’s lists account for defense, as they are not fantasy prospect lists.  Being that he has a rocket arm, good pop times, and plays a premium position, he’s going to rank highly.  Rosario has power, but if the plate discipline doesn’t improve, he’ll have trouble being more than a one category (HR) guy at best.  I understand he was recovering from injury last year (and noted such when I initially gave him a pass), but his showing in the Dominican Winter League was an extension of his poor offensive showing during the minor league season. 

    He’d make the top 150, and probably the top 125, but not the top 100.  Further hurting his stock is the presence of Ramon Hernandez.  Hernandez is signed to a two year deal, and while Rosario will dispatch of him at some point (if his poor approach doesn’t undo him at the plate), he’s not going to make an immediate splash.

  12. chris said...

    He’s very young at only 23 and while he may never have top notch BB rates he looks to have the floor of Bengie Molina who put up decent numbers for a fantasy catcher. Walks and power are typically dubbed ‘old man skills’, and I’m sure that he’ll develop more patience in time.

    Currently he’s slated to be Hernandez’s backup this year and possibly take the majority of playing time in 2013, while I don’t like the idea of the Rockies starting his arbitration clock early by having him as a backup right now (not to mention taking the bat out of his hands for most of the week), having Hernandez there to mentor him along with guys like Helton and Tulo could help out a lot in helping him get mentally prepared.

    Even if he does start in AAA though he’s bound to get a good long look in the majors this year, either as a September call up or because Hernandez is going to be 36 years old this season and hasn’t played over 100 games since 2008 and could easily break down at some point in the season if he’s used too frequently. This would open the door for the AB’s that Bill James and Rotochamp are calling for which have him at a .734 and .778 OPS respectively. That would have placed him at 16th and 13th among catchers last year (min 200 AB’s). Considering how many leagues use two catchers, or are deeper than 12 teams, or are NL only, that gives Rosario some solid fantasy value.

  13. Josh Shepardson said...

    @ chris

    The two catcher leagues point you bring up is a great one.  He definitely should get a nudge up in those formats.  I didn’t have a specific format in mind when making this list.  I just gave scarce position players a slight boost in their ranking. 

    Your time table is highly realistic.  I just wonder if he’d be better served getting more playing time in the majors.  Learning from Hernandez could be quite beneficial, but seeing more pitches and working on recognizing breaking balls, laying off balls out of the strike zone, etc wouldn’t be more beneficial.  He certainly has a chance to be valuable, and a top-150 or top-125 ranking I think would be reflective that I do believe he has value.  It really doesn’t feel like we’re that far off in our assessments.  Out of curiosity, where would you have him ranked?  I’d like to see just how far off our valuation of him is.

  14. SIDA! said...

    As an arenado owner, I hope you guys are right. I think you are being a touch optimistic but concur with the assessment that he has the potential to contribute this season.

  15. Chris said...

    @Josh I think I would have had him ranked in the 80’s as he has a good opportunity in the next year or so to get enough AB’s to be useful and he seems easily projected. Most of the guys 80 and below on your list either have serious warts combined with playing time issues (NY has recently said that they want to keep Betances in AAA, Henry Rodriguez is significantly blocked as other prospects are ahead of him along with Rolen, and even Lindor is more of a defensive whiz and his bat hasn’t developed much yet and he’s at least 3 years away).

    For me, a line of .240/.280/.450 isn’t unreasonable to expect from Rosario next year, along with 10-15 HR, 45 RBI, and 35 runs. Add in that he’s got a howitzer for an arm (receiving and game calling are question marks but those are things that are learned, his arm is natural God given talent)and you know he’s going to stick around at a premium position. He makes for a solid back up this year on a fantasy team or an OK 2nd catcher in two catcher leagues. This is a guy that should be owned in all deep leagues (20+ teams) and NL only leagues and should be watched closely in all others.

    I can easily see this guy in his prime hitting .260/.300/.500 with 25-30 HR a season, if his floor is Bengie Molina though, he’s still ownable in most leagues.

  16. ecp said...

    Arenado has yet to take an at bat above A ball; why are you so certain he will be in the majors this year?  Very few guys not named Trout or Harper or Griffey or Kaline or the like make that big of a jump.  Benefit of the doubt, even if he does it will be late and he will have virtually no fantasy relevance this year.

  17. Josh Shepardson said...

    @ WI-FBBR

    I’ll post the ETA’s in the commentary sometime after I get home from work or this weekend.

    @ ecp

    As I said above, I don’t think he’ll make an impact in fantasy until next year, but I do think we’ll see him late in the year (more on that when his write-up is published with other top-25 prospects Friday).

  18. kevin said...

    An “ETA” column would be a great addition here. It makes it easier to sort through the list based on league settings, and I’m sure you have the info handy since you helpfully included ETA in your first rankings list.

  19. Brad Johnson said...

    In a re-draft league, the list should start with Moore and Montero and then continue as listed. Being at the MLB level with huge performance expectations is extremely valuable in fantasy.

    As someone who watches the Phillies system very closely, any Phillies on this list are over-ranked.

  20. e said...

    Gary Sanchez, c nyy, is higher on this list than most i’ve seen, particularly since he’s still a few years off.  Does this imply that his ceiling is a #1 prospect ranking in a year or two?

  21. Nick Fleder said...

    Wil Myers strikes me as high; he’ll be a good player, but he doesn’t have a ton of power and speed.

  22. Josh Shepardson said...

    @ e

    That is in fact his ceiling.  There will be more specifics about him when the top 25 player’s write-ups roll out this week.  In short, though, he’s a catcher that projects to hit in the heart of an order, sign me up for that.

  23. Josh Shepardson said...

    @ joseph

    Thanks for reading and commenting.  Everyone has been really respectful thus far, and any disagreements have been fair.  No complaints from me, differing opinions come with the prospect territory.  You are correct in assuming I haven’t seen most of these players (save for some youtube video here and there), but I am excited that I should be able to see more minor league games this year.  My work schedule will be more conducive to catching some games.  I’ll be able to catch New York-Penn League games in Auburn, International League games in Syracuse, possibly Rochester and Buffalo as well, and Eastern League games in Binghamton.  All that said, I’m not a scout, so the live watching experience may not add much to my prospect analysis.

  24. Josh Shepardson said...

    @ SIDA

    I may be a bit optimistic.  More than anything, I’m a sucker for his contact rate, ballpark, and the fact he’s already tapping into his power.  Hopefully the prospect write-ups will give a better indication of why I chose to rank players where I did.

  25. Josh Shepardson said...

    @ Chris

    Fair ranking range for Rosario, but I think he has as many warts as the others rounding out the list.  You cite Bengie Molina as a floor, but I think that’s a bit optimistic.  Like Bengie, Rosario is a free swinger and doesn’t walk much.  Unlike Bengie, Rosario strikes out significantly more.  He’s young enough to figure it out, but it’s not a given. 
    Betances was a tough player to rank.  I’m not a huge fan.  I think he’ll end up in the bullpen eventually (spotty control/command being the reason) but his stuff is good enough he could close post-Mo.  One thing that is clear with him is that he can miss bats.

  26. Josh Shepardson said...

    @ Nick

    You might be surprised about the power projection.  It’s not uniformly accepted, but I’ve read a number of scouting reports that peg him for plus power (25-30 home runs even).  Even if he only hits 20-25 home runs with a handful of stolen bases, a .300 average, while slotting in the heart of an order, wouldn’t that make him a slightly better version of Billy Butler with OF eligibility?  I’d think that would be a pretty awesome fantasy player.  His floor seems pretty high, and he’s not far from reaching the bigs either.  Those things helped him in ranking highly as well.

  27. Nick Fleder said...

    I guess I was putting too much stock in minor league numbers, but they look pretty unimpressive to me.

  28. gabe said...

    i dont see how you ranked shelby miller so low hes a fireballer with control as good as any with two plus pitches and an above average changeup. Its not like he hasnt dominated everywhere he’s ever been ever.

  29. Josh Shepardson said...

    @ gabe

    He’s the fourth ranked pitcher, and a top-20 prospect, not sure how that can be construed as low.  Where have you read his change-up is above average?  I’ve read that it could become a plus pitch, and that it’s inconsistent currently.  I haven’t even read anywhere that it is currently an average offering.  His fastball and curveball are both definite plus pitches according to all outlets, though, and he should be up this year.  His “low,” ranking is a product of being a pitcher, and the depth associated with pitching (both current, and prospect).

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