The last two MLB seasons have seen an unprecedented flood of rookie talent reach the majors -- and, as such, a flood of top prospects high on fantasy baseball draft cheat sheets.
The Cubs won the World Series with a lineup that featured several rookies and second-year players.SophomoreKris Bryant won the NL MVP and first-year player Corey Seager placed third.Across the majors, teams have become more and more aggressive in promoting their top prospects as they realize the value of getting big league production from young players before they reach free agency. That strategy also applies to fantasy owners in dynasty and keeper leagues.
This year should see another wave of rookie talent, including more than half the players in this rankingof the top 50 MLB prospects.Many of them, including Andrew Benintendi, Dansby Swanson, and Josh Bell, have already tasted big league success.Some will compete for jobs in spring training, while others will start the season in the high minors and hope for a mid-season call-up.
As usual, my list reflects a bias for established talent over high-upside long-shots.Very few teenage outfielders with power-speed potential actually become big league center fielders, and most young pitchers with big fastballs and developing secondary stuff turn out to be low-leverage relievers or worse.On the other hand, the future is usually brighter for more experienced pitchers who have proven that they can throw strikes against advanced hitters and for position players who have learned to control the strike zone and handle the advanced off-speed that is featured in the high minors.
In addition to the elite players listed below, there are also several dozen other prospects who could have an impact in 2017.I’ll cover some of these guys in a series of preseason position-by-position rookie preview reports, and then, as usual, I’ll travel to both Florida and Arizona to get a first-hand look at the prospects competing for jobs in big league spring training camps.
Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Top MLB prospects
1. Yoan Moncada, 2B/3B, Chicago White Sox.Moncada struggled in a brief September call-up with Boston, but, after an offseason trade to the White Sox, he should make his way to the majors for good sometime in 2017. The switch-hitting Cuban is an electric talent with plus speed and the ability to make consistent hard contact from both sides of the plate.His approach is still a bit raw, but he makes in-game adjustments and has all the tools to handle advanced pitching once he gains more experience. A flat swing path limits his in-game power but his plus physical strength means that he has some present over-the-fence pop.His elite foot speed allows him to beat out infield hits and steal plenty of bags (49 in 2015; 45 in 2016).Only 21, Moncada will probably open the 2017 season in the minors; however, given his elite tools, eventually he’ll be a guy who hits for average with 15-20 home runs and 30-plusstolen bases.If it all comes together he could even develop into a bigger, faster version of Jose Altuve.
2. Andrew Benintendi, OF, Boston.Benintendi raced through the minors in 2016 and finished the season by slashing .295/.359/.476 in 34 games with the Red Sox.Shorter than his listed height of 5-10, Benintendi has plus bat speed and generates above-average power via great balance and an excellent swing plane.A polished, cerebral hitter despite his age, Benintendi shows good plate discipline and the ability to make adjustments from at-bat to at-bat.He should open the season in Boston’s starting lineup and projects to hit for average, get on base, stroke 15-20 home runs and log 80-plus runs and RBIs over a full season.
3. Dansby Swanson, SS, Atlanta.Swanson posted a .302 average in a 38-game late-season call-up with Atlanta and has seemingly solidified his standing as the Braves’ starting shortstop heading into 2017.Swanson has loose hands and good bat speed, whichallow him to make solid contact to all fields.He doesn’t have the leverage in his swing to hit for power right now, but he is strong and athletic enough to develop more pop as he matures and gains experience. In the meantime, he should hit for average while posting double-digit home run and steals totals over a full season.
4. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pittsburgh.Injuries and wildness limited Glasnow’s effectiveness during a brief stint with the Pirates last season, but when he was healthy and throwing strikes he looked like a future No. 1 starter.The 6-8 Glasnow has a plus mid-90s fastball and an excellent curve.He delivers both pitches with good downward plane, which generates lots of swinging strikes.He’ll need to improve his changeup and tighten his command to reach his potential as a front-line starter.Glasnow will compete for a rotation spot in the spring, and, if he can become more consistent with his delivery and release point, he’ll quickly give the Pirates another top-flight power arm.
5. Lucas Giolito, RHP, Chicago White Sox.Giolito has electric stuff, featuring a mid-to-upper-90s fastball and a nasty 12-6 curve, but he experienced a rocky big league debut with the Nationals in late 2016 (6.75 ERA and only 11 strikeouts in 21.1 innings).Some mechanical tweaks that the Nats tried to impose on Giolito were probably the culprit for his 2016 struggles and shouldn’t be a cause for concern now that he is in the White Sox organization.The South Siders have one of the best pitching development staffs in baseball and should be able to right Giolito’s ship. He’ll probably begin the season in the minors, but a strong start at Triple-A could lead to a quick promotion given Chicago's weak starting rotation. If he can improve his command and refine his changeup, Giolito has the tools to be a front-line starter.
6. Gleyber Torres, SS, New York Yankees.Only 20, Torres was the centerpiece of the Aroldis Chapman deal and now looks like the Yankees shortstop of the future.Last year Torres had a solid season in High-A, then absolutely destroyed the Arizona Fall League (.403/.513/.645 with more walks than strikeouts in 62 at-bats) on his way to winning the AFL MVP award.An above-average defender with plus bat speed, emerging power, and good plate discipline, Torres has the potential to hit .280 with 15-plus home runs.
7. Amed Rosario, SS, New York Mets.Rosario doesn’t have an obvious path to big league playing time in 2017, but he looks close to big league ready after a breakout 2016 season when he hit .324 between High-A and Double-A.If one of the Mets starting infielders were to get injured, Rosario – a plus defender at shortstop – could quickly find himself in Flushing.At the plate, he has quick hands and a loose swing that generatehard line-drive contact to all fields.His flat bat path currently limits his power and he needs to tighten his plate discipline, but he has the bat speed and athleticism to eventually be a guy who hits close to .300 with 10-12 home runs.
8. Brendan Rodgers, SS, Colorado.Rodgers made solid progress in his second year as a pro (.281 batting average with 19 home runs in Low-A) and should open the 2017 season in High-A. Drafted third overall in 2015, Rodgers profiles as an elite offensive shortstop who should hit for average and power.With solid plate discipline and good pitch recognition, Rodgers is developing polish to go with his raw tools – plus bat speed, good raw power, and an ability to drive the ball to all fields.He’s probably still two years away from the majors, but he is on track to be a guy who hits .280 with 20-plushome runs.
9. Eloy Jimenez, OF, Chicago Cubs.Jimenez enjoyed a 2016 breakout season in Low-A, where he hit .329 with 40 doubles and 14 home runs.His approach is still raw, but his plus bat speed, excellent hand-eye coordination, and good lower body balance allow him to make consistent hard contact.He’ll need to tighten his plate discipline and prove he can handle advanced off-speed pitches, but Jimenez has the tools to eventually develop into a middle-of-the-order threat.
10. Rafael Devers, 3B, Boston. Devers struggled with his swing mechanics in early 2016, but he recovered his stroke to slash .282/.335/.443 with 18 stolen bases during a full season at High-A.At his best, Devers profiles as an above-average big league third baseman with plus bat speed, a short swing, and good pitch recognition.There aren’t any obvious holes in Devers’ game and he should arrive in Boston by early 2018.Long-term he’s a guy who projects to hit 20-25 home runs and post a solid batting average and on-base percentage.
11. J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadelphia.Crawford stalled at Triple-A in 2016 but he’s only 22 and has the tools to be an impact player on both sides of the ball.The rebuilding Phillies have no reason to rush him to the majorsbut a hot start could win Crawford a quick promotion.Crawford’s swing seemed out of sync (possibly due to some mechanical adjustments he was making) when I saw him in 2016, but his above-average bat speed, compact swing, and excellent plate discipline should allow him to hit for average once he irons things out.He is still learning how to turn on the ball, but eventually he should hit at least .280 with 10-15 home runs.
12. Ozzie Albies, SS/2B, Atlanta.Albies tore through Double-A to start the 2016 season then struggled in Triple-A and was sent back down.Barely 20, Albies will probably be given another season in the minors, especially now that the Braves have acquired Brandon Phillips.However, "Dat Dude" has been fragile of late and Albies is close to big league ready, so the future could come as early as this season for the switch-hitter from Curacao.At his best, Albies is an electric athlete with great contact ability from both sides of the plate and plus speed on the bases. Long-term he has the potential to be an elite leadoff hitter who hits for average and steals 20-plusbases.
13. Anderson Espinoza, RHP, San Diego.Espinoza struggled in 2016, but his stuff is electric and he won’t turn 19 until March.With three plus pitches, including a fastball that sits in the mid-90s, a devastating change, and sharp curve, Espinoza has the tools to be a front-line starter.Espinoza doesn’t have much plane on his fastball, but the pitch has great life and he commands it well.He’ll need to learn how to set up his pitches and more consistently attack hitters early in the count; however, mostly he just needs more experience to reach his potential as a No. 1 starter.
14. Victor Robles, OF, Washington.Robles dominated in Low-A last season but then struggled due to injuries and inconsistency after a promotion to High-A.However, his electric combination of tools is hard to miss.A plus runner who will steal plenty of bags, Robles has the defensive chops to be a big league center fielder.At the plate, his outstanding bat speed and good plate discipline should allow him to hit for both average and power.He’s still very inconsistent, but he has the ability to be a dynamic top-of-the-order force.
15. Alex Reyes, RHP, St. Louis.Reyes would have been near the very top of this list, but the news that he’ll miss the 2017 season due to Tommy John surgery knocks him down a few notches. While TJ recovery is usually a 15-18 month process, command often takes longer to return and, for a pitcher like Reyes, who already has command issues, the prospect of surgery is a little more worrisome.Reyes had missed half of last season due to a 50-game suspension, but he made up for lost time by fanning 93 batters in 65.1 Triple-A innings before posting a 1.57 ERA in 46 frames with the Cardinals.When healthy Reyes has electric stuff, including an overpowering high-90s fastball, a hammer curve, and an improved change that flashes plus.Assuming he returns to health sometime in 2018, he could compete for a big league rotation spot and eventually reach his potential as a front-of-the-rotation starter.
16. Michael Kopech, RHP, Chicago White Sox.Off-field issues (a suspension and a broken hand suffered in an altercation with a teammate) have slowed Kopech’s development.However, there’s no doubting his talent – triple-digit heat, a plus slider, and a quality changeup. A dominant showing in High-A (2.25 ERA and 82/29 K/BB in 52 innings) followed by an impressive stint in the Arizona Fall League (2.01 ERA and 26/8 K/BB in 22.1 innings) bode well for the future.His command still needs some work, but he has a smooth delivery and the pure stuff worthy of a No. 1 starter.
17. Austin Meadows, OF, Pittsburgh.Injuries slowed Meadows in 2016 but when he’s healthy he has one of the smoothest lefty swings in the minors.He’s blocked in Pittsburgh by the Bucs’ trio of elite outfielders, but Meadows is close to big league ready and could force the issue with a hot start in 2017.Meadows has plus bat speed and excellent plate discipline, which allow him to hit for average. His power is still developing, but he should eventually be a 20-20 guy who flirts with .300 in the bigs.
18. Jason Groome, LHP, Boston. Groome was a potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft, but off-field concerns resulted in him falling to the Red Sox at pick No. 12. On the field, Groome has all the makings of a future ace. Only 18, Groome already has tremendous polish with a smooth, repeatable delivery, and solid command.His low-to-mid-90s fastball is a plus pitch, but his breaking ball is a put-away offering that is virtually unhittable when it’s on.He’ll need to improve his change and show that he can succeed against advanced hitters, but he has all the tools to be a front-line starter in the bigs.
19. Francisco Mejia, C, Cleveland.Mejia opened eyes with a 50-game hitting streak during a season in which he batted .342 and slugged .514 between Low-A and High-A.Mejia has the defensive tools to stick at catcher and the offensive ability to be an above-average regular.A switch-hitter with slightly more pop from the right side, Mejia has good bat speed and excellent hand-eye coordination that allow him to make hard contact from both sides of the plate.Only 21, he’s still a year or two away from the majors, but eventually he should hit for average and slug 10-plus home runs a year in the bigs.
20. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP, Chicago White Sox.Lopez pitched adequately in a late 2016 call-up with the Nationals (4.91 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 44 innings) and an off-season trade to the White Sox gives him a chance to win a big league rotation spot in 2017. At his best, Lopez pitches off a mid-90’s fastball that can reach triple digits.His above-average mid-70’s curveball is a solid second offering, and his high-80’s change flashes plus with good sink and arm-side fade. Lopez will probably begin the season in the minors, but could see a quick promotion if he performs well at Triple-A.If he can improve his command he has the stuff to be a No. 2 starter.
21. Josh Bell, 1B/OF, Pittsburgh.Bell appears to have won a big league lineup spot with a late-season cameo in which he hit .273 and walked more than he struck out in 45 big league games.The switch-hitting Bell hasn’t shown the in-game power expected from a big league first baseman and his right-handed swing is still a little stiff, but his plus bat speed and raw strength should eventually translate into 20-plushome run pop.Bell has plus plate discipline and good hand-eye coordination, which should allow him to hit for average and get on base at a high clip. Long-term he has the tools to hit about .275 and slug 20-plushome runs in the majors.
22. Francis Martes, RHP, Houston.Martes started slowly in Double-A last season but put together a dominant second half to finish with a 3.30 ERA and 131/47 K/BB in 125 innings.He followed up with a solid showing in the Arizona Fall League and now looks to be on the cusp of a big league rotation spot.Martes pitches off a plus fastball that shows good movement despite a relatively flat plane.His breaking ball also flashes plus, and his change is becoming a solid third weapon.His delivery has some effort and he occasionally over-rotates his lower half and loses command, but his stuff is good enough to pitch in the majors right now.Long-term he has the potential to be a No. 2 starter.
23. Yadier Alvarez, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers.Alvarez improved his command in a breakout 2016 campaign that saw him post a 81/21 K/BB ratio in 59.1 innings between rookie ball and Low-A.Alvarez has a loose arm and athletic delivery that produces high-90’s heat.His breaking ball flashes plus and he’s working on a changeup.Despite his youth he has good command and locates well down in the zone. He’ll turn 21 in March and is a long way from the majors, but he has the stuff to be a No. 1 starter if his secondary offerings can become more consistent.
24. Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers.Bellinger has shot up prospect lists this winter after a breakout 2016 season in which he hit .263/.359/.484 with 23 home runs in 399 Double-A at bats before posting a .981 OPS in the Arizona Fall League. Bellinger has true plus power that comes from explosive hips, good core strength, and a bat path with good loft. However, he also tends to pop up on his front side, which means his bat doesn’t always stay on plane with the pitch, leading to some swings-and-misses. On the positive side, he has good plate discipline and hits left-handers well.He’ll begin the season in Triple-A and could get a look in LA before the season is over.Long term he’s a threat to hit 30-plushome runs over a full major league season.
25. Amir Garrett, LHP, Cincinnati. A former college basketball player who is still developing as a pitcher, Garrett should compete for a rotation spot this spring. The athletic left-hander has a plus low-90’s fastball, a slider that he’ll use in any count, and a solid changeup.His command and pitch execution are inconsistent, but his stuff is hard to square up (only 99 hits allowed in 144.2 innings between Double-A and Triple-A last season) and he generates lots of ground-ball outs.Right now he looks like a mid-rotation guy, but if he improves his command and executes his pitches more consistently he has the stuff to be a No. 2 starter.
26. Manny Margot, OF, San Diego.Margot should compete for a starting outfield job in spring training after an outstanding 2016 campaign at Triple-A where he hit .304 with 98 runs and 30 SBs in 124 games. Margot is a plus defender and performed adequately in a brief late-season call-up.He doesn’t have the strength or swing plane to hit for power and he isn’t exceptionally patient at the plate, but his quick hands and ability to use the whole field mean that he should hit for average as a big leaguer.On the bases he’s a plus runner who should steal 25-plusbags and score lots of runs as a dynamic top-of-the-order table-setter.
27. Nick Senzel, 3B, Cincinnati.Senzel was selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 amateur draft and quickly justified the Reds’ confidence with an impressive pro debut at Low-A (.329/.415/.567 with sevenhome runs and 15 stolen bases in 210 at-bats).An advanced college hitter with good bat speed, excellent lower-body balance, and a compact swing, Senzel can flat-out hit and should continue to do so as he moves up levels.An average defender at third, Senzel runs well and should swipe a few bags even as he matures.Long-term Senzel has the tools to hit 20-plushome runs while maintaining a .280 average and high on-base percentage.All he needs is more experience against advanced pitching and he should arrive in Cincinnati for good sometime in 2018.
28. Willy Adames, SS, Tampa.Adames solidified his status as the Rays’ best prospect with an impressive showing at Double-A (.274/.372/.430 with 11 HR and 13 SB in 486 at-bats).He improved his contact rate, boosted his walks, showed better power, and started to dispel doubts about his ability to stick at shortstop.With excellent hand-eye coordination, good pitch recognition, and a compact swing that is starting to generate some over-the-fence pop, Adames is now looking like a guy who will hit for average and moderate power in the bigs.He’ll open the season in Triple-A, but he might find himself in Tampa before 2017 is over.
29. Lewis Brinson, OF, Milwaukee.Brinson is an electric athlete with power, speed, and the defensive ability to stick in center field.However, he’s still raw at the plate and is now blocked in Milwaukee by Keon Broxton.Brinson has plus bat speed and excellent raw power, but he’ll need to improve his pitch recognition and plate discipline in order to reach his 20-20 potential.Brinson will probably open the season in Triple-A, and if he shows he can handle advanced pitching he’ll soon get a shot in Milwaukee.
30. Mitch Keller, RHP, Pittsburgh.Keller posted an eye-popping 131/18 K/BB while only allowing 96 hits in 124 innings at Low-A in 2016.Injuries derailed Keller’s 2015 season, so the fact that he stayed healthy and made 24 starts last year was an additional plus.Armed with an electric mid-90s fastball, an effective breaking ball, and a change that flashes plus, Keller has the tools to be a No. 2 starter in the majors.He’ll open the season in the minors and won’t turn 21 until April, but his combination of plus command and outstanding stuff mean that he could move quickly.
31. Brent Honeywell, RHP, Tampa Bay.Honeywell has gone from a screwball-tossing oddity to a legitimate prospect after a breakout 2016 season in which he posted a 2.34 ERA and a 117/25 K/BB in 115.1 innings split between High-A and Double-A.Honeywell’s smooth mechanics result in above-average command of four pitches.His plus screwball is his best pitch, but his low-90s fastball and above-average changeup are also effective weapons.He won’t open the season in the Rays’ rotation, but he should get a chance at some point in 2017. His polish, command, and competitiveness make him a good bet to be a No. 3 starter.If his velocity continues to tick up as he matures, he could be even better than that.
32. Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston.Only 20, Tucker has an advanced bat and projects as an above-average big league right fielder.Tucker shows a compact stroke despite his lanky frame and uses his quick hands to drive the ball to all fields.He also displays good plate discipline and doesn’t exhibit any weaknesses against lefthanders.He is still learning how to drive the ball but his bat speed, balance, and swing plane should allow him to hit 20-plushome runs a year once he matures.He’s at least a year or two away from the majors, but he could move fast given his polish.
33. Franklin Barreto, SS, Oakland.Barreto continued to hit during a solid 2016 campaign (.281/.340/.414, 10HR, 30SB in 119 games) at Double-A but then regressed a bit in the Arizona Fall League due to poor plate discipline. Barreto has solid hitting tools including plus bat speed, good raw strength and an ability to use the whole field. Despite gaudy minor league steal totals, he’s already lost a step on the bases and probably won’t swipe more than a few bags as a big leaguer.Barreto will need to improve his plate discipline to reach his potential as an above-average starting shortstop, but he’s only 21and the A’s will give him time to develop.
34. Raimel Tapia, OF, Colorado.Tapia is blocked in a crowded Rockies outfield, but he played well in a late-season call-up and has little left to prove in the minors.The athletic lefthanded hitter has a loose swing and plus bat speed that generates good raw power.His conservative, contact-oriented approach limits his in-game power, but Tapia should develop more over-the-fence pop as he matures.Tapia is a relatively polished hitter, but he still has room to improve and could develop into a 20-20 guy who hits for a decent average in the bigs.
35. Jose De Leon, RHP, Tampa. De Leon dominated Triple-A hitters in 2016 (111/20 K/BB in 86.1 innings) before faltering in a late-season call-up with the Dodgers (6.35 ERA in 4 starts).An offseason trade to the Rays probably means he returns to Triple-A in 2017.At his best, De Leon has above-average command of a low-to-mid-90s fastball, a plus changeup, and a solid slider. His velocity was down in his big league stint and he may simply have been fatigued after a long season. He'll need to locate more consistently down in the zone to make his fastball-change combo effective against big league hitters, but he’s close to a finished product who profiles as a solid No. 2 or No. 3 starter.
36. Clint Frazier, OF, New York Yankees.Frazier went to the Yankees in the mid-season trade that sent relief ace Andrew Miller to Cleveland, but expectations seemed toget the best of him, as he struck out in 30 percentof his Triple-A at bats. Frazier has tremendous strength, which helps him generate some of the best bat speed in the minors.He has no trouble catching up to elite fastballs and can drive the ball to all fields.Frazier also runs well and plays a serviceable center field, although he probably will end up in an outfield corner.While some prospect lists have Frazier ranked much higher, I’m cautious about his ability to recognize pitches and control the strike zone.There’s a lot of upside in his profile, but he’s still got some work to do to reach his ceiling as a 25-plushome run guy in the bigs.
37. Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, Toronto.An under-the-radar guy, Reid-Foley tweaked his delivery in 2016 and dramatically improved his command. Armed with four solid pitches, including a low-to-mid-90’s fastball, Reid-Foley has the stuff to be a No. 2 or No. 3 guy in the bigs.He’ll need to show that he can succeed against advanced hitters in the upper minors and stay healthy over a full season, but, if he can, he should compete for a rotation spot in Toronto no later than early 2018.
38. Kyle Lewis, OF, Seattle.Lewis’ small-school college background depressed his stock, but the Mariners drafted him 11th overall in the 2016 amateur draft and he immediately made an impact by posting a .299/.385/.530 line in 117 short-season at-bats.Unfortunately, a torn ACL ended his season and raised doubts about his future defensive home.Lewis has electric bat speed, solid plate discipline, and great leverage in his swing.He’ll probably need to smooth out his pre-pitch movement to handle advanced off-speed, but, if he can recover fully from his knee injury, Lewis has a chance to be a big league center fielder with 20-25 home run pop.
39. Chance Sisco, C, Baltimore.Sisco is close to big league ready and could get a call-up in 2017.The former second-round pick has a smooth, simple swing that produces hard line drives to all fields.He doesn’t currently have the leverage or swing path to hit for power, but he has enough size and bat speed to eventually develop double-digit home run pop.Sisco also struggles against lefties, but since most catchers don’t play every day anyway, he could avoid same-side pitchers and be successful even if he never improves in this area.Sisco’s future value will be determined by whether he can remain behind the plate.If he can, he profiles as a guy who will hit for average, draw plenty of walks, and show occasional over-the-fence power.
40. Ian Happ, 2B, Chicago Cubs.The switch-hitting Happ is a pure hitter with good plate discipline and moderate power from both sides of the plate.He struggled a bit versus lefthanders after a mid-season promotion to Double-A, but his bat speed and advanced approach should allow him to adjust.Blocked in Chicago by the Cubs’ collection of young stars, Happ may end up as trade bait before the year is over.If he does change organizations he could end up in the majors as soon as this year.Long-term he profiles to hit .270 with 15-20 home runs over a full season.
41. Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., 3B, Toronto.Guerrero won’t turn 18 until March and he’s a long way from the majors, but he makes the Top 50 on the basis of his impressive U.S. debut (.271/.359/.449 with eight HR and 15 SB in 236 at-bats in Rookie ball), his outstanding plate discipline and pitch recognition (33 BB and only 35 K), and his big league pedigree (he’s the son of the soon-to-be Hall of Famer of the same name).He’ll need to improve his defense to stick at third, but he has the tools to hit for plus power and a solid average as a big leaguer.
42. Aaron Judge, OF, New York Yankees.Judge struggled mightily in a late-season call-up, but he’s initially faltered then eventually adjusted every time he’s moved a up a level.During his stint in New York he was particularly vexed by a steady diet of off-speed pitches out of the strike zone which led to frequent swings-and-misses.Judge has traditionally exhibited good plate discipline, and the toned-down leg kick he’s showing heading into spring training should help him adjust to off-speed pitches.If he can produce this spring he’ll get another chance in New York, and he has the bat speed and strength to be a solid corner outfielder. He’ll never hit for a high average, but if can continue to shorten his swing and improve his pitch recognition, he could hit 25-plus home runs in a full season.
43. Tyler O’Neill, OF, Seattle.O’Neill produced a breakout season at Double-A in 2016 (.293/.374/.508 with 24 HR) as he tightened his plate discipline without losing his impressive over-the-fence pop.O’Neill is shorter than his listed 5-11,but he has impressive raw strength and excellent bat speed that produce plus raw power to all fields.He’ll need to continue to improve his plate discipline and pitch recognition to be more than an average hitter in the bigs, but his mammoth power gives him huge upside as a 25-30 home-run right-fielder.O’Neill will likely begin the season at Triple-A, but a hot start could quickly land him in Seattle.
44. James Kaprielian, RHP, New York Yankees.Kaprielian’s injury history (he missed most of 2016 with a forearm strain) depresses his prospect value, but when healthy he has the polish and repertoire to be a No. 3 starter in the bigs.Kaprielian has solid command of four quality pitches, including a plus mid-90’s fastball.He’ll certainly open the 2017 campaign in the minors, but if he can stay healthy he’ll move quickly and could find himself in the Bronx in the latter half of the season.
45. Kevin Newman, SS, Pittsburgh.Newman doesn’t have flashy tools, but he has hit at every level and had more walks (43) than strikeouts (36) last year during a campaign split between High-A and Double-A.Newman is a serviceable shortstop, though his glove profiles better at second.However, regardless of where he plays, his excellent hand-eye coordination, great pitch recognition, and quick hands mean that he should hit for average, post a high on base percentage, and slug an occasional home run.Newman will probably begin the season in the minors, but he should finish 2017 in the Pirates lineup.
46. David Paulino, RHP, Houston.Paulino is no lock to reach his potential, but his high ceiling makes him an attractive prospect.At his best, Paulino shows a mid-90s fastball, a plus curve, and a solid change.He throws strikes and gets good downhill plane from his 6-7 frame.At his worst he loses his release point and his stuff flattens out.Paulino will probably begin the season in the minors, but could get the call to Houston in early 2017 if he can show more consistency.If it all comes together, Paulino has the potential to be a No. 2 in the bigs.Even with his current level of command he’s no worse than a mid-rotation guy or a late-inning reliever.
47. Jeff Hoffman, RHP, Colorado.Hoffman had an inconsistent major league debut in 2016 (4.88 ERA and 22/17 K/BB in 31.1 innings) and has been more hittable than he should be given his plus stuff (mid-90s fastball, above-average curve, solid changeup).Hoffman will compete for a rotation spot in spring training, but he needs to refine his command and locate better in the bottom part of the strike zone in order to reach his potential as a No. 3 starter.
48. Gavin Cecchini, 2B/SS, New York Mets.Cecchini gets overlooked on most prospect lists, but he’s a plus hitter who profiles well at second base.The Mets have a crowded infield depth chart, leaving Cecchini no clear path to playing time in 2017, but his bat is big league ready and he’s merely another Neil Walker injury away from a starting gig in Flushing.Cecchini doesn’t have much speed or power, but he makes lots of hard contact (.325 in Triple-A last season), works counts, and rarely strikes out (48 BB and only 55 K’s in 2016). With a compact stroke, excellent plate discipline, and outstanding hand-eye coordination, Cecchini profiles as a guy who will hit .280-.290 with a high OBP. He could develop 10-home run power as he matures.
49. Jorge Alfaro, C, Philadelphia.Alfaro has bounced on and off Top 50 prospect lists for several years.His tantalizing raw power and improved defensive ability lead scouts to dream on him as a 20-HR backstop in the majors.However, his free-swinging ways (105/22 K/BB in 404 Double-A at bats) raise questions about whether he’ll make enough contact to play regularly in the majors.The Phillies would love to hand him the starting job sometime in 2017, and a hot start at Triple-A could quickly get him a call to Philadelphia.He’s a high-risk, high-reward guy, but the certainty that he’ll stick at catcher, his plus power potential, and his .285 batting average at Double-A all are reasons for optimism.
50. Hunter Renfroe, OF, San Diego. Renfroe destroyed Triple-A pitching last season (.306/.336/.557 with 30 HR) and then made a blistering first impression in San Diego (.371 average and four HRs in only 35 big league at-bats). He enters 2017 as the Padres’ likely starting right fielder and will quickly be tested by big league pitchers who will try to exploit his aggressiveness. If Renfroe can be more selective and learn to only swing at pitches he can handle, he should post good numbers even as a rookie. There’s 30-HR pop in his bat, but in 2017 he’ll probably hit more like 20 bombs and post a .250 batting average.