2014′s Top 125 Prospects

It’s now my third year posting my top 125 prospect list here and I have learned a lot by doing so. A list like this can never be perfect (or close to it), but you have to just play the odds. Some top prospects will bust, and some lower-tier guys will blow up. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned, some thoughts on particularly interesting players, the way the list is formed, and the list itself.

The lesson that anybody who follows prospects learns over and over again is that of risk. There’s no such thing as a true “low” risk prospect, only “lower.” Baseball is different from any other sport in terms of development, and you can’t hang on to a draft label or signing bonus for too long. Players can hit a wall at higher levels of the minor leagues, or start to figure it all out – this happens on an individual basis and is hard to generalize.

Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 2.55.15 PMMy grading system for prospects is a takeaway from the traditional 20-80 scale, but one that I think is a pretty sensible way to compare and contrast prospects. I’m no professional scout, but by going through scouting reports, minor league stats, and reading several other prospect writers, I come up with a “ceiling” and “risk” grade for each player, with the grades on the right.

An “A” is reserved for one of the best players in the game, while an “A-” is also another truly elite grade. “B+” would point to a first-division starter or a #2 pitchers, but not a “star.” A “B” grade points to more of a solid-average player or a #3 starter. “B-” and “C+”‘s point towards an above replacement-value player, but really a second-division starter and not a true difference maker (i.e. #4 or 5 starter). A “C” player, who would never appear in the top 100+, is essentially replacement-value, offering no above-average skills.

The risk grade is pretty self-explanatory with a prospect getting a bump up in their overall grade if they are a lower risk, and moving a rung down if they are a higher risk. By adding the numerical values, the scale really wavers from 0-9. No player in my three years has received a 9, but two years ago both Mike Trout and Bryce Harper got 8s. Last year, Jurickson Profar, Wil Myers, and Dylan Bundy were the only prospects to receive 7s. This year, Byron Buxton, Javier Baez, Taijuan Walker, and Miguel Sano were the top tier and all got 7s – if Buxton stays on track he could very well be getting an 8 next year.

In the rankings, I want to stress that the focus is on the ceilings and risks rather than the individual ranks. The rankings are there for a reason, but the difference between players who have the same grade is pretty minimal in the end.

RankNamePositionTeamCeilingRisk
1Byron BuxtonOFMINAHigh7
2Javier BaezSSCHCAHigh7
3Taijuan WalkerSPSEAAHigh7
4Miguel Sano3BMINAHigh7
5Oscar TaverasOFSTLB+Medium6
6Archie BradleySPARIAVery High6
7Xander BogaertsSSBOSB+Medium6
8Dylan BundySPBALA-High6
9Kris Bryant3BCHCAVery High6
10Kevin GausmanSPBALA-High6
11Addison RussellSSOAKA-High6
12Robert StephensonSPCINA-High6
13Noah SyndergaardSPNYMA-High6
14Jonathan GraySPCOLA-Very High5
15George SpringerOFHOUA-Very High5
16Carlos CorreaSSHOUB+High5
17Jameson TaillonSPPITA-Very High5
18Nick Castellanos3BDETB+High5
19Francisco LindorSSCLEB+High5
20Lucas GiolitoSPWSHAABSURD5
21Albert AlmoraOFCHCB+High5
22Clint FrazierOFCLEAABSURD5
23Travis D'ArnaudCNYMB+High5
24Aaron SanchezSPTORA-Very High5
25Jorge SolerOFCHCA-Very High5
26Gregory PolancoOFPITB+High5
27Kyle ZimmerSPKCA-Very High5
28Julio UriasSPLADAABSURD5
29Mark AppelSPHOUB+High5
30Yordano VenturaSPKCA-Very High5
31Garin Cecchini3BBOSBMedium5
32Eddie ButlerSPCOLA-Very High5
33Rougned Odor2BTEXB+High5
34Alex MeyerSPMINB+High5
35Kolten Wong2BSTLBMedium5
36Joc PedersonOFLADB+Very High4
37Kohl StewartSPMINA-ABSURD4
38Andrew HeaneySPMIAB+Very High4
39Marcus StromanSPTORB+Very High4
40Matt WislerSPSDBHigh4
41A.J. ColeSPWSHB+Very High4
42Austin HedgesCSDBHigh4
43Max FriedSPSDB+Very High4
44Brian GoodwinOFWSHB+Very High4
45Tyler GlasnowSPPITA-ABSURD4
46Raul MondesiSSKCB+Very High4
47Jonathan Singleton1BHOUB+Very High4
48Austin MeadowsOFPITA-ABSURD4
49David DahlOFCOLA-ABSURD4
50Rymer LirianoOFSDB+Very High4
51Corey SeagerSSLADB+Very High4
52Jackie Bradley Jr.OFBOSBHigh4
53C.J. EdwardsSPCHCB+Very High4
54Colin Moran3BMIABHigh4
55Alen Hanson2BPITBHigh4
56Maikel Franco3BPHIB+Very High4
57Kyle CrickSPSFB+Very High4
58Phillip ErvinOFCINB+Very High4
59Taylor GuerrieriSPTBA-ABSURD4
60Jorge AlfaroCTEXA-ABSURD4
61Henry OwensSPBOSB+Very High4
62Gary SanchezCNYYB+Very High4
63Lucas SimsSPATLB+Very High4
64Matt BarnesSPBOSBHigh4
65Lance McCullersSPHOUA-ABSURD4
66Carlos MartinezSPSTLB+Very High4
67Jake MarisnickOFMIABHigh4
68Danny HultzenSPSEABHigh4
69Delino DeShields2BHOUB+Very High4
70Jesse BiddleSPPHIB+Very High4
71Hunter HarveySPBALB+Very High4
72Jake OdorizziSPTBBHigh4
73Rosell HerreraSSCOLBHigh4
74Justin NicolinoSPMIABHigh4
75Zach LeeSPLADB+Very High4
76Josh BellOFPITB+Very High4
77Eddie Rosario2BMINBHigh4
78Stephen PiscottyOFSTLBHigh4
79Arismendy Alcantara2BCHCBHigh4
80Mookie Betts2BBOSBHigh4
81Jimmy NelsonSPMILB+Very High4
82Jose BerriosSPMINB+Very High4
83D.J. Peterson1BSEABHigh4
84Raimel TapiaOFCOLA-ABSURD4
85Blake SwihartCBOSBHigh4
86Rafael MonteroSPNYMB+Very High4
87Mike FoltynewiczSPHOUB+Very High4
88Nick WilliamsOFTEXB+Very High4
89Clayton BlackburnSPSFB+Very High4
90Dominic Smith1BNYMBHigh4
91Lewis ThorpeSPMINA-ABSURD4
92Sean ManaeaSPKCA-ABSURD4
93Chris OwingsSSARIB-High3
94Allen WebsterSPBOSB-High3
95Hunter RenfroeOFSDBVery High3
96Dan Vogelbach1BCHCBVery High3
97Braden ShipleySPARIBVery High3
98Anthony RanaudoSPBOSBVery High3
99Casey KellySPSDBVery High3
100JP CrawfordSSPHIB+ABSURD3
101Ryan McMahon3BCOLB+ABSURD3
102Mason WilliamsOFNYYBVery High3
103Taylor Lindsey2BLAAB-High3
104Luiz GoharaSPSEAB+ABSURD3
105Victor SanchezSPSEABVery High3
106Hunter DozierSSKCBVery High3
107Michael ChoiceOFTEXB-High3
108Bubba StarlingOFKCB+ABSURD3
109Daniel NorrisSPTORB+ABSURD3
110Jake ThompsonSPDETB+ABSURD3
111Cesar PuelloOFNYMBVery High3
112James PaxtonSPSEABVery High3
113Joey Gallo3BTEXBVery High3
114Marco GonzalesSPSTLB-High3
115Hak-Ju LeeSSTBB-High3
116Alex ColomeSPTBB-High3
117Michael YnoaSPOAKB+ABSURD3
118Lewis BrinsonOFTEXB+ABSURD3
119Alex GonzalezSPTEXBVery High3
120Erik JohnsonSPCHWBVery High3
121Josmil PintoCMINB-High3
122Cody AndersonSPCLEB-High3
123Eric Jagielo3BNYYBVery High3
124Cory Spangenberg2BSDB-High3
125Christian BethancourtCATLB-High3

Honorable Mentions (In Alphabetical Order): Aaron Judge, Bobby Wahl, Chad Bettis, Chris Anderson, D.J. Davis, Devon Travis, Edwin Escobar, Enny Romero, Franklin Barreto, Jesse Winker, Jonathan Schoop, J.R. Graham, Kyle Parker, Luis Sardinas, Matt Purke, Mike Olt, Rafael De Paula, Reese McGuire Richie Shaffer, Tim Anderson, Trey Ball, Tyler Austin, Tyrone Taylor, Victor Roache, Yorman Rodriguez

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Is somebody missing?? Ah, yes. The famous Billy Hamilton was basically impossible for me to slot into the rankings, so I wanted to dedicate a quick write-up here to him (my colleague Greg Jewett had a great and more detailed write-up here).

What makes Hamilton hard to grade is the varying degrees of risk and ceiling between all of his tools. His speed, as we all know, is off the charts with no risk of changing. His hit tool, however, is another story. I’m pretty pessimistic about his hit tool and .256 mark in Triple-A last year, and am personally going to be letting other people draft him in nearly any fantasy draft. That said, his fantasy upside is immense and he could singlehandedly destroy the player rater.

A couple other quick hits on players I’m pretty bold on in comparison to other writers and rankings:

  • Javier Baez at #2 may seem a tad high, but I just have absolute faith in his bat. His bat speed is elite, his production has been awesome, and every scout who has seen him raves.
  • Dylan Bundy remains in my top 10 – I was extremely high on him before, and Tommy John only changes his risk, not his ceiling.
  • Lucas Giolito at #20 is somebody that I’m really rooting for. His arm is electric, and he could easily be in the top 5 next year.
  • Some players who haven’t received much hype yet, but will, include: Raimel Tapia, Lewis Thorpe, Sean Manaea, and Ryan McMahon. They could each rocket up the list with strong performances this year and more exposure.

Matt Cott is the co-founder of RotoAnalysis. Comment below or Tweet @KidCotti21 or @RotoAnalysis with any questions or comments about the list! 

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19 Responses to 2014′s Top 125 Prospects

  1. Brian March 4, 2014 at 23:17 #

    Great list! Huge fantasy baseball fan and I keep an eye out for prospects for my dynasty league. Few prospects that I am fairly high on that I did not see are Miguel Almonte, Chris Stratton, and Jake Marsnick. Also at 3rd overall, is Walker’s ceiling really a #1 SPer? Not counting Tanaka, Walker/Bradley seem like the consensus 1-2 pitching prospects but more of a Stephenson, Syndergaad, and Heaney fan than Walker.

    Thanks for the several new names to add to my watch list!

  2. Michael January 30, 2014 at 11:47 #

    Really surprised not to see PIerce Johnson on your list??? He seems to project as at least a #3 starter and seems to pitch well in big games.

    • Matt Cott January 31, 2014 at 16:27 #

      He put up some good stats last year, but pitching as a 22 year old in low A ball isn’t all that impressive. He was also good in high A, but his control weakened. The real test will come this year in my opinion

  3. Jeff January 22, 2014 at 22:47 #

    I love the idea behind this type of list. This will be really helpful for me in one of my dynasty leagues which has few prospect slots and therefore the ceiling ranking is something I will be factoring in.

  4. Chris January 22, 2014 at 12:28 #

    Great list- thanks!

    I’m surprised that you gave Urias an “A” ceiling. I know how young he is and how impressive his stats were in low A, but I don’t think he has the physical projection or stuff to be a #1 starter.

    I think that Lindor, Almora, Cecchini, Odor, and Wong are too high.

    I also think that Alfaro and Tapia are too low considering their crazy high ceilings. I am surprised by how low Carlos Martinez is ranked, and I think Vogelbach and Harvey should be significantly higher.

    • Matt Cott January 24, 2014 at 18:40 #

      Thanks for the input Chris! I talked to a few of my friends and other writers about Urias and knew the A ceiling would be controversial. I just thought that doing what he did at age 16 is ridiculous and that it’d be silly to put a cap on his potential from a production standpoint. That said, all reports I read pegged him as more of a 2 and realistically he won’t reach that A ceiling. However, it was an easy way to move him up the list and I’m just a huge fan of his talent.

  5. Mark January 22, 2014 at 00:51 #

    Cool system of ranking, but how is Carlos correa a B+ and outside the top 10?? He’s a pure A in my opinion. Good work though.

    • Matt Cott January 24, 2014 at 18:34 #

      At #16 I definitely like Correa, but I don’t LOVE him. He, Addison Russell, and Francisco Lindor were all very close and Correa was right on the border of B+/A- as a ceiling (that’s why he was one of the top rated 5′s). In terms of his tools, his power is still a question mark for me. The Astros have a lot to look forward to with him and the rest of their system.

  6. Bryce Krispie Treats January 21, 2014 at 22:54 #

    First off, I suspect the initial rank solely based on success at whatever level they are at in the minors. I like the handicapping effect but I think the system and scoring need to be reset based on the absence of low risk and the low numbers of Medium. I suppose you could call a Tanaka rookie type player a low risk, but I’d rather establish a guideline for why a handicap is set at low med or high. Say a highly successful pitcher playing he PCL would get a bump or something….. if data could be genericized to represent risk factors across pitchers and hitter, you could be on to something (he says while waiting for Logan Morrison to return some bloody value on some other 5 star rating I bought into). I think if anyone in the business of baseball did a retrospective meta-study on data points which could be success indicators it could prove interesting.

    • Matt Cott January 24, 2014 at 18:25 #

      Bryce, you make some really good points. With some players, risk will be very different across each of their tools. Going even deeper into the tools would definitely be a better way to accurately portray and then track their development. It’s just a big undertaking and going through the entire minor leagues would be impossible without making it your full time job.

      I try to limit the low and medium risk grades just so I don’t get burned. In reality, the “high” grade means I think that prospect has a pretty damn good shot at reaching their potential. Thanks for the feedback (and good luck with LoMo…)!

  7. Peter D January 21, 2014 at 18:59 #

    I’ve noticed that Marcus Semien has been excluded from most of these lists, however I don’t understand how a 22 year old second baseman/Shortstop coming off a season with 21 home runs, 26 stolen bases and 100 bb’s over three levels including the majors is not rated higher?

    • Matt Cott January 24, 2014 at 18:18 #

      While production like that definitely does have to be respected (the fact that he walked more than he struck out is also very impressive), reports on him were pretty negative. He lacks a “plus” tool from scouts and could end up carving out a solid little career, but would have a B- or so ceiling in my book.

  8. John Darby January 21, 2014 at 18:57 #

    Raimel Tapia new to me. I’ll have to looking him up. Great list, reasoning’s and explanations. One thing perhaps I noticed is I’d flip Max Fried and Kyle Crick in at #57 & #43… Just believe Crick has more upside, be there sooner and with less risk. Other than that, OUTSTANDING!

    • Matt Cott January 24, 2014 at 18:14 #

      Thanks John! Those are two interesting arms, and since they both ended up getting 4′s I think that they’re definitely very close in stock.

      That said, Crick’s command is a bigger concern than anything Fried has showed so far. Fried threw a lot of innings for a 19 year old and really struggled towards the end of the year (5.2 K/9 in August & September). I read some very encouraging reports on him and he was one of my favorite guys coming out of the draft last year. Both will be interesting to watch this year and both could end up in the top 20-25 for next year’s list.

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