This year’s Top 100 Prospects list comes with a warning: This might be the thinest compilation of the top 100 players, in terms of future ceilings, since I’ve been writing about prospects (approximately 10 years).
Most teams are now more willing to save money by entrusting starting roles to rookies, rather than overpay for modest performances from established and overpaid (replacement level or worse) veterans. Although I don’t have specific numbers to back up the following comment, it seems as thought clubs, for the most part, are also more willing to aggressively push their top prospects (especially pitchers) through their systems — with players such as Jose Fernandez, Michael Wacha, Archie Bradley and Robert Stephenson as recent examples.
In the case of the pitchers, it could be a matter of front offices wanting to ensure the players’ most effective seasons occur at the big league level during cost-controlled years while also ensuring the club can closely monitor their investments in an effort to mitigate injuries. It’s also possible that more of the top pitching talents are rising through the minors with premium velocity, which allows them to better hold their own as inexpensive, replacement-level talents (ie. No. 4/5 starters), or better, while working on their secondary offerings and command/control at the big league level.
Click on the players’ names to see their player pages and full stats breakdown.
1. Byron Buxton, OF, Twins: Buxton combines plus athleticism, tools and projection with outstanding results at a young age to earn the distinction as the top prospect in all of baseball.
2. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox: Bogaerts gave baseball fans a glimpse of what makes him so special when he earned a promotion to the big leagues late last year at the age of 20. He also posted an OPS just short of .900 with a 18% walk rate in the playoffs.
3. Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals: An ankle injury was probably the only thing that kept Taveras from graduating from the top prospects list in 2013. If the Cardinals can find a spot for him in 2014 then he could be an impact contributor from the get-go.
4. Javier Baez, SS, Cubs: Baez’s defense is surrounded by question marks — as is his ability to make consistent contact — but you can’t find many players that consistently produce the kind of power that Baez does… Plus, he performed exceptionally well in Double-A considering his age and limited professional experience.
5. Archie Bradley, RHP, Diamondbacks: Bradley edges Walker for the best pitching prospect in baseball because he’s a little bit safe and, frankly, I’m more fond of his delivery. Bradley, at the age of 21, could probably hold his own in The Snakes’ rotation right now.
6. Kris Bryant, 3B, Cubs: If Baez can somehow stick at shortstop, the Cubs could have unreal power output from the left side of the infield beginning in about a year’s time. Bryant could (and perhaps should) have been the top pick in the 2013 amateur draft.
7. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Mariners: Walker could break camp with the Mariners in 2014 and should form a dominating 1-2 punch with current ace Felix Hernandez — although the rookie may face some ups and downs in his freshman campaign.
8. Addison Russell, SS, Athletics: Russell has a chance to develop into a threat on both sides of the ball. In his prime, he could be capable of producing a few 20-20 seasons. He performed well in the Arizona Fall League at the age of 19.
9. Carlos Correa, SS, Astros: Speaking of teenagers, Correa produced an .872 OPS in Low-A ball in 2013 — as an 18 year old. The former first overall selection in the 2012 draft has an advanced (and mature) approach that belies his age.
10. Miguel Sano, 3B, Twins: If anyone can claim to have more power than Baez, it might be Sano. The biggest concern with the Twins prospect is his elbow — which some fear might eventually require Tommy John surgery.
11. Robert Stephenson, RHP, Reds
12. Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians
13. Lucas Giolito, RHP, Nationals
14. George Springer, OF, Astros
15. Eddie Butler, RHP, Rockies
16. Jonathan Gray, RHP, Rockies
17. Gregory Polanco, OF, Pirates
18. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, Mets
19. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Orioles
20. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pirates
21. Albert Almora, OF, Cubs
22. Aaron Sanchez, RHP, Blue Jays
23. Alex Meyer, RHP, Twins
24. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Royals
25. Kevin Gausman, RHP, Orioles
26. Mark Appel, RHP, Astros
27. Maikel Franco, 3B/1B, Phillies
28. Corey Seager, 2B, Dodgers
29. Kyle Crick, RHP, Giants
30. Rougned Odor, 2B, Rangers
31. Andrew Heaney, LHP, Marlins
32. Kohl Stewart, RHP, Twins
33. Yordano Ventura, RHP, Royals
34. Austin Hedges, C, Padres
35. Jackie Bradley, OF, Red Sox
36. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP, Orioles
37. Nick Castellanos, 3B, Tigers
38. David Dahl, OF, Rockies
39. Travis d’Arnaud, C, Mets
40. Jesse Biddle, LHP, Phillies
41. Matt Wiser, RHP, Padres
42. Braden Shipley, RHP, Diamondbacks
43. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pirates
44. Gary Sanchez, C, Yankees
45. Clint Frazier, OF, Indians
46. Raul Mondesi, SS, Royals
47. A.J. Cole, RHP, Nationals
48. Austin Meadows, OF, Pirates
49. Jorge Soler, OF, Cubs
50. J.P. Crawford, SS, Phillies
51. Garin Cecchini, 3B, Red Sox
52. Arismendy Alcantara, SS/2B, Cubs
53. Lucas Sims, RHP, Braves
54. Jorge Alfaro, C, Rangers
55. Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Astros
56. Marcus Stroman, RHP, Blue Jays
57. Mike Foltynewicz, RHP, Astros
58. Joc Pederson, OF, Dodgers
59. Mookie Betts, 2B, Red Sox
60. Billy Hamilton, OF, Reds
61. Max Fried, LHP, Padres
62. Matt Davidson, 3B, White Sox
63. Justin Nicolino, LHP, Marlins
64. Chris Owings, SS, Diamondbacks
65. Colin Moran, 3B, Marlins
66. Blake Swihart, C, Red Sox
67. Vincent Velasquez, RHP, Astros
68. Jonathan Schoop, 2B, Orioles
69. Jake Marisnick, OF, Marlins
70. D.J. Peterson, 1B, Mariners
71. Zach Lee, RHP, Dodgers
72. Henry Owens, LHP, Red Sox
73. Julio Urias, LHP, Dodgers
74. Alen Hanson, SS, Pirates
75. Nick Kingham, RHP, Pirates
76. Eddie Rosario, 2B/OF, Twins
77. Pierce Johnson, RHP, Cubs
78. C.J. Edwards, RHP, Cubs
79. Dominic Smith, 1B, Mets
80. Kolten Wong, 2B, Cardinals
81. Phillip Ervin, OF, Reds
82. Hunter Harvey, RHP, Orioles
83. Jorge Bonifacio, OF, Royals
84. Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Rays
85. Christian Bethancourt, C, Braves
86. Alex Colome, RHP, Rays
87. Stephen Piscotty, OF, Cardinals
88. Enny Romero, LHP, Rays
89. Taylor Guerrieri, RHP, Rays
90. Reese McGuire, C, Pirates
91. Jimmy Nelson, RHP, Brewers
92. Hak-Ju Lee, SS, Rays
93. Jose Berrios, RHP, Twins
94. Rafael Montero, RHP, Mets
95. Miguel Almonte, RHP, Royals
96. Brian Goodwin, OF, Nationals
97. Luis Sardinas, SS, Rangers
98. Matt Barnes, RHP, Red Sox
99. Erik Johnson, RHP, White Sox
100. Mitch Nay, 3B, Blue Jays
Notes: The Mets’ d’Arnaud is the only catcher on the list that figures to receive significant playing time at the big league level in 2014. With that said, if the Padres’ incumbent catcher, Yasmani Grandal, struggles to rebound from knee surgery, Hedges could become an intriguing freshman to watch during the coming season. With Brian McCann now in the Bronx, Sanchez could become tantalizing trade bait should the Yankees need to fill a hole in the roster later this year.
Notes: First basemen are few and far between on the Top 100 list with both Peterson and Smith making the list as 2013 first round draft picks with high offensive ceilings. Singleton continues to be the best first base prospect in the game for a second straight season despite his struggles both off and on the field in 2013.
Notes: Like with first basemen, it’s not easy to impress the fickle prospect ranking crowd if you’re a second baseman. Only four players made the cut in 2014 — the exact same number as in 2013. Both Schoop and Wong were on last year’s list while Odor and Betts are newcomers and have quite the momentum building for their young careers.
Notes: Anthony Rendon and Jedd Gyorko moved positions (both to second base interestingly enough) and graduated from the ’13 list. Frankly, it’s a much stronger list this season than last. Nay is probably the biggest surprise in the entire Top 100 (you probably won’t find him on anyone else’s list) but I’m going out on a limb with him much like I did with Michael Wacha last year and that worked out pretty well. Nay has a chance to be something very special with the bat and should hold his own defensively.
Notes: A whopping 13 shortstops made the Top 100 list in 2014 and the Top 5 have the potential to be superstars — much like the impressive wave of shortstop talents when the likes of Nomar Garciaparra, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter all came into the league in and around 1995. Bogaerts has a chance to be the best all-around player of the quintet (but don’t count out Correa) while Lindor could have the slickest glove and Baez the most potent offense.
Notes: The second tier of shortstops begins with Seager, who will likely move to third base, and Mondesi, who needs a little more polish to his game — but you can hardly blame him considering he’s just 18 with two pro seasons already under his belt. Lee could be the one player that really surprises the general baseball fan base; outside of his below-average power he features four potentially plus tools if he rebounds from serious knee surgery.
Notes: For me, the top tier of outfielders includes the five names above with Buxton as the clear, undisputed No. 1. The Top 4 names could all reach the Majors in 2014 at various times throughout the season with Taveras being the most MLB ready.
Notes: After Mitch Nay, Dahl could be the second most shocking ranking. Despite the 2013 injury and makeup concerns (which I believe are somewhat overblown considering he’s a teenager and teens do stupid things) his tools are impressive and he has an advanced hitting approach for his age. Both Frazier and Meadows could be big movers on this list within a year’s time.
Notes: Piscotty is probably the one outfielder that I’m most uncomfortable with in terms of where he ended up in the ranking — He might be too low. However, I’m just not sold that he’s going to hit with enough authority to develop into a premium corner outfielder.
Archie Bradley, Diamondbacks
Taijuan Walker, Mariners
Robert Stephenson, Reds
Lucas Giolito, Nationals
Eddie Butler, Rockies
Jonathan Gray, Rockies
Noah Syndergaard, Mets
Dylan Bundy, Orioles
Jameson Taillon, Pirates
Aaron Sanchez, Blue Jays
Notes: The Top 10 is loaded with potential No. 1 and 2 starters. And about seven of those arms could graduate to the Majors in 2014 (excluding Giolito, Bundy, and Sanchez). The Rockies could have a nasty 1-2 punch in Butler and Gray, and I can only assume they don’t get more press because everyone expects them to falter due to the elevation. For me, Butler has a greater chance to succeed at home in Colorado because of his impressive ground-ball tendencies, whereas Gray is more of a fly-ball pitcher which doesn’t bode well for his splits. Out of the Top 10 arms, Taillon continues to be the most underrated but you really have to dig into the Pirates’ organizational philosophies to fully understand why his numbers aren’t quite as eye-popping as you might expect from someone with his stuff.
Alex Meyer, Twins
Kyle Zimmer, Royals
Kevin Gausman, Orioles
Mark Appel, Astros
Kyle Crick, Giants
Andrew Heaney, Marlins
Kohl Stewart, Twins
Yordano Ventura, Royals
Eduardo Rodriguez, Orioles
Jesse Biddle, Phillies
Notes: For me, the three names that could really come on strong in 2014 and see their prospect values skyrocket are Zimmer, Stewart and Rodriguez. The Royals prospect almost got pushed further up the list but I decided to temper my enthusiasm — for now. The majority of these arms have a shot at graduating to the Majors in the coming season.
Matt Wisler, Padres
Braden Shipley, Diamondbacks
Tyler Glasnow, Pirates
A.J. Cole, Nationals
Lucas Sims, Braves
Marcus Stroman, Blue Jays
Mike Foltynewicz, Astros
Max Fried, Padres
Justin Nicolino, Marlins
Vincent Velasquez, Astros
Notes: In a year from now, Foltynewicz’s ranking could seem low… Wisler, Shipley and Glasnow are three guys that I’m excited to follow in 2014. Both Wisler and Glasnow had breakout campaigns in ’13 while Shipley is a first round draft pick who is fairly new to full-time pitching and has crazy athleticism. Stroman’s lower-than-expected ranking is due to my continued expectation that he’s not long for starting (although I fully expect Toronto thinks he can remain a starter long term).
Zach Lee, Dodgers
Henry Owens, Red Sox
Julio Urias, Dodgers
Nick Kingham, Pirates
Pierce Johnson, Cubs
C.J. Edwards, Cubs
Hunter Harvey, Orioles
Jake Odorizzi, Rays
Alex Colome, Rays
Enny Romero, Rays
Notes: It just so happened that I went on a run of four Rays pitchers in a row and Colome is an underrated arm. I might be light in my rankings on both Urias and Edwards but neither pitcher has much project ability left due to their respective frames. Owens, Kingham and Harvey have solid chances to see their values drastically increase in 2014.
Notes: Guerrieri would be much higher if not for his surgery and makeup concerns (much more troubling than Dahl’s). I like Nelson’s chances to be a significant contributor to the Brewers’ starting rotation over the next five or six years more so than sophomores Wily Peralta and Tyler Thornburg. Berrios and Almonte could be two pitchers to watch in 2014.
Teams With the Most Top 100 Prospects
1t. Red Sox (7)
1t. Cubs (7)
1t. Pirates (7)
4t. Twins (6)
4t. Astros (6)
6t. Rays (5)
6t. Orioles (5)
6t. Royals (5)
Teams With the Fewest Top 100 Prospects
30: Angels (0)
29t: Yankees (1)
29t: Tigers (1)
29t: Athletics (1)
29t: Brewers (1)
29t: Giants (1)
24t: Indians (2)
24t: White Sox (2)
24t: Mariners (2)
24t: Braves (2)
Teams with the Most Pitching Prospects
1t. Rays (4)
1t. Orioles (4)
3t. Royals (3)
3t. Twins (3)
3t. Astros (3)
3t. Pirates (3)
Teams with the Most Hitting Prospects
1t. Red Sox (5)
1t. Cubs (5)
3. Pirates (4)
4t. Twins (3)
4t. Astros (3)
4t. Rangers (3)
4t. Cardinals (3)
Most Prospects by Division
1t. AL East (21)
1t. NL Central (21)
3. NL West (17)
4t. NL East (16)
4t. AL Central (16)
6. AL West (12)
Below are links to all the lists that have been published to date. Click on the names to follow a link to each individual list.
Atlanta Braves–still to come
Washington Nationals–still to come
St. Louis Cardinals–up next
Pittsburgh Pirates–still to come
Los Angeles Dodgers–still to come
Boston Red Sox–still to come
Detroit Tigers–still to come
Oakland Athletics–still to come
Texas Rangers–still to come
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.