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Wil Myers is part of the haul going to TB
         Late Sunday night, the Rays and Royals agreed on a blockbuster trade that would send RHP James Shields, RHP Wade Davis, and a PTBNL (Player To Be Named Later) to Kansas City in exchange for BTP's 3rd overall prospect, OF Wil Myers, along with RHP Jake Odorizzi, LHP Mike Montgomery, and 3B Patrick Leonard. Every player going to the Royals has a minimum of six years of team control (at or around major league minimum) while Shields is expected to make $21 million for the next two years and Davis is expected to make 32.6 over the next five. For those that saw my continuous discussions with NJIT's own Robbie McClellan , you already know my feelings on this trade. For those that did not observe the aforementioned debate, needless to say I think that the Rays came out as the clear victors.

            In 2012, the Kansas City Royals finished 16 games behind the division leading Tigers with an overall record of 72-90. Collectively, the pitching staff managed to be near the bottom of many statistical categories including walks, hits, and runs allowed. The lowest ERA for a full time member of the rotation belonged to right-hander Luis Mendoza with an unsightly 4.23 ERA. There is no doubt at all that the Royals were in desperate need of pitching. They somewhat alleviated this problem by acquiring Ervin Santana from the Angels and resigning Jeremy Guthrie. I say somewhat because Guthrie and Santana own career ERA+ of 103 and 97, respectively. They basically are league average pitchers and only serve as modest improvements to last year's staff. Now, the Royals are acquiring a very solid pitcher in James Shields. Despite not being a true ace, as some proclaim, Shields still offers a ton of innings (over 200 innings every year since rookie season), strikes batters out (8.4 K/9 last three seasons), and limits free passes (career 2.1 BB/9).
         
           In addition, one would think he is as close to a sure bet to take the mound every fifth day, with his only injury history being a couple of leg contusions from a batted ball. But like prospects, pitchers are no sure thing either. Shields entered 2012 as one of 26 pitchers to have thrown 600 or more innings from 2009-2011. Some pitchers in that group include Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum, Jon Lester, Dan Haren, Chris Carpenter, and Ricky Romero. One year later, these "innings eaters" have certainly lost some of their luster. Halladay, Haren, and Carpenter all spent time on the DL while Lincecum, Lester, and Romero all suffered the worst seasons of their careers. While Shields is a very good pitcher and should immediately fill the void of a frontline starter, he cannot make up for the ineptitude for the rest of the starting rotation and team. Another quip on Shields is his disconcerting home/road splits. While pitching in pitcher-friendly Tropicana Field, Shields has pitched to the tune of a 4.54 ERA, .91 HR/9, and 1.29 WHIP. Away from the Trop, Shields becomes a much different pitcher. Owning 4.54 ERA, 1.40 HR/9, and 1.29 WHIP on the road, we would be remiss to say that Shields is as a good as his numbers suggest. This is not to discredit Shields as an excellent major league pitcher, but this just further stresses the fact that the Royals overpaid for a guy who really is more good than great.

            The other pitcher heading to America's heartland is Wade Davis. Davis spent all of 2012 as a reliever after spending his whole career as a starter.  As usually expected with starter to reliever transitions, Davis enjoyed his best season to date, with a 157 ERA+, 11.1 K/9 and 2.43 ERA. During his years as a starter, Davis had a 4.22 ERA, 92 ERA+, 5.9 K/9. As a reliever, Davis was more than solid and further cemented in my mind what role he should be fulfilling. Davis going to the rotation for the Royals is just going to stick them with another league average starter to complement their other league average starters.

            As for the Rays haul, I suppose your view on the trade depends on your view of crown jewel prospect, Wil Myers. My opinion of him is pretty favorable, as I had him as the third best prospect in baseball and think his bat has a chance to be pretty special. For those that do not know, Myers was Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year, which has had an extreme amount of success in predicting future big league stardom among position players:

1992: Tim Salmon
1993: Manny Ramirez
1994: Derek Jeter
1995: Andruw Jones
1996: Andruw Jones
1997: Paul Konerko
1998: Eric Chavez
2002: Rocco Baldelli
2003: Joe Mauer
2005: Delmon Young
2006: Alex Gordon
2007: Jay Bruce
2008: Matt Wieters
2009: Jason Heyward
2011: Mike Trout

            Pretty good company, eh? In addition to that, Myers is the first 21 yr old to hit 37 HRs in the high minors (AA and AAA) since 1963. He had a triple slash of .314/.387/.600 while playing against much older competition. Even the odds are on his side, as 61% of top twenty position player prospects succeed in the majors. For now, even just throw out the star potential for Myers and imagine if he was a replacement level player (0.0 WAR). Incumbent right fielder for the Royals is Jeff Francoeur, who had an all-time historically bad season with -2.7 WAR. Just by inserting the major league ready Myers into the Opening day lineup, it would be fairly reasonable to see a 3+ swing in the standings. Some even believe that marching Francoeur on the field instead of Myers could make acquiring Shields a complete wash. This trade really just represents a "rob Peter to pay Paul" scenario where the Royals are filling of position of need by stealing from another positional need. There's a reason the Royals have not made the playoffs in nearly 30 years and it has much more to do with this front office's ineptitude than failing prospects. The money now allotted to Shields ($21 million over 2 years) could have been used to sign a guy like Brandon McCarthy or Edwin Jackson while still being able to put Myers in RF. This could have solved both problems at hand rather than creating a problem to fix a problem. This is just not a smart baseball decision and frankly just is not common sense.

            In addition to Myers, the Rays acquired Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery, and Patrick Leonard. Odorizzi spent time most of the minors in double A and triple A and projects as a solid middle of the rotation piece with good control despite his mediocre stuff. He was ranked as #31 in my prospect countdown. Montgomery represents a bit of a lottery ticket as he completely fell of the rails in 2012, posting a hideous 6.07 ERA and 5-12 record. His stuff is quite good for a lefty, with a plus fastball and an elite changeup but has been killed for his complete lack of control and command. In my opinion, the most realistic scenario for Montgomery is as a situational lefty to neutralize the left-handed opposition. Leonard posted solid numbers in rookie ball with a .251/.340/.494 triple slash and flashed polished defense at the hot corner. He remains a long ways away from reaching his potential, but has a ceiling of an above average third basemen.

First Impressions:

Winner: Rays. Rays dealt from a position of strength and while they certainly will feel the loss of Shields, their talented arms should minimize this shortfall. Additionally, the Rays can use the money saved from Shields and reinvest it into improving the club. Lastly, the Rays added four quality minor league talents with one having a legitimate shot a major league stardom. Even if Myers doesn't reach his potential, just becoming a solid major leaguer should push this trade in favor of the Rays

Loser: Royals. Royals traded a major haul of talent for a pitcher that will minimally improve the team as a whole. Shields is a very good pitcher and should help the Royals improve for 2013. However, for a team with a ton of other needs, Shields alone is not going to make up a 20 win swing in the standings and make the Royals a contender. If the Royals were one good starting pitcher away from contending, this trade could be justified. But the current circumstances of the team does not justify mortgaging away the future success for 2013 mediocrity.

 By: Aidan Flynn


 
 
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             An offseason in which the Nationals' major goal was to find a center fielder and leadoff hitter, the Nats killed two birds with one stone by acquiring outfielder Denard Span. On Thursday, the Minnesota Twins reached an agreement to send Span to the Washington Nationals  for minor league pitcher Alex Meyer. Span is signed through 2014 and has a $9 million club option for 2015.

                Denard Span will be moving from a rebuilding Minnesota Twins ball club to a Washington Nationals team who is expected to be amongst the best in the game again in 2013.  Span absolutely strengthens this team as he will provide some solid production from the outfield.  Expected to slot in as Washington’s leadoff hitter, Span has hit .284/.357/.389 throughout his 5 year career.  In this aspect, Span should certainly be an upgrade, as National leadoff hitters only hit a collective .276/.325/.419 for 2012. Span is also coming off a successful 2012 season in which he batted .283/.342/.395 and had a career high in WAR (4.8). In addition, Span provides above average speed as he stole 17 bases in 2012 and has shown the ability to steal 20-25 bags in the past.  To complete his all around package, Span is a terrific defensive center fielder who had 20 defensive runs saved and the highest dWAR (2.4) among outfielders in 2012. Span is a perfect match for a team in need of a center fielder and his deal is short enough that it should not block minor leaguer Brian Goodwin when he is ready. 

-Nick Rabasco

                Heading to the Twin Cities (or at least AA affiliate New Britain, CT) is 6'9", 220 lb man-child, Alex Meyer. Meyer finished the season in High A Potomac with a 2.86 ERA, 129 innings, 139 strikeouts, and a superb 6.7 H/9. Meyer's repertoire includes a high 90's fastball and a plus, wipeout slider that sits in the low-mid 80's. His changeup remains a work in progress. In addition to his changeup questions, his height has given him problems repeating his delivery. An inability to control and repeat one's delivery leads to ineffective and erratic command. And an inability to command one's stuff often results in being delegated to relief. If Meyer were to go in relief, his command issues could be minimized while his stuff could play up in shorter durations. Throughout the year, Meyer battled bouts of wildness, but showed improved command of his pitches (3.1 BB/9) compared to his time at the University of Kentucky. In reality, if Meyer can maintain this ability to throw strikes, there is a good bet he can remain a starter, a position in which more value lies (see Chapman piece on the value of innings). Minnesota acquired an uber-talented arm with front of the rotation potential. However, for Minnesota to claim victory on this trade, it hinges on Meyer's ability to start at the big league level. For additional information on Alex Meyer, check out the scouting report released during our prospect ranking countdown.

-Aidan Flynn  

First Impressions

Winners: Nationals, Twins;  
              
               Both teams acquired players that will suit their short term and long term needs. The Nationals further augmented a team that won the most games in the junior circuit, and Span's extremely reasonable contract should give the team financial flexibility to make additional moves (Adam LaRoche?). 
              The Twins are clearly a team in rebuild mode and improved the farm system with one of the most talented arms in the minors. If Meyer would have to transition to reliever, this trade would swing in favor of Washington, but I have enough confidence in Meyer's ability that this trade should work out well for both parties involved.


 
 
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Jurickson Profar, Dylan Bundy, and Wil Myers top Aidan's Top Prospect List.
At last, here are the top 3 prospects in baseball, with statistics and advanced scouting reports on each player. Hope you enjoyed the rankings as much as I did, and I will certainly try to include some prospect pieces in the near future. Later today, I will put up my top 100 prospects (without scouting reports) and my top farm systems in the game. Enjoy


3.     
Wil Myers , OF, Kansas City Royals, ETA: 2013:

2012 Levels: AA Northwest Arkansas (35 games), AAA Omaha (99 games)

2012 Numbers: Batted combined .314/.387/.600, with 26 2Bs, 37 HRs, 109 RBI

            Baseball America's Player of the Year, Wil Myers broke out in a big way in 2012. After batting .254/.353/..393 in an injury plagued 2011, Myers showcased his power bat across the top two levels in the Royals minor league system. Myers has a strong body that generates easy plus power and also shows an advanced hitting ability that produces frequent loud contact. After being drafted as a catcher, Myers has transitioned well to the outfield, seeing time in both center field and right field. His strong arm, along with average range and jumps, should push him to right field within the next year or two. Currently, Jeff Francoeur is blocking Myers, but he should not stop the Royals from having Myers as their opening day right fielder.  

 

2.      Dylan Bundy , SP, Baltimore Orioles, ETA: 2013:

2012 Levels: A Delmarva (30 innings), High-A Frederick (57 innings), AA Bowie (16.2 innings), MLB Baltimore (1.2 innings)

2012 Numbers (Minors): 103.2 innings pitched, 2.08 ERA, 28 BB (2.4 BB/9), 119 K (10.3 K/9)

            Bundy is a scout's dream for a pitcher. One of the most polished prep pitchers in recent memory and one of the best work ethics in the minors, Bundy more than lived up to the lofty expectations placed on him by dominating in his first professional season. Just during his stint with low-A Delmarva (30 innings), he struck out 40, walked two, allowed only 5!!! hits, and did not concede a single earned run.  Bundy's repertoire includes a big time fastball that sits in the mid 90's while occasionally touching triple digits and also features good movement and sink. Additionally, he features a plus-plus curve (just ask Orlando Calixte), and potential plus changeup that is extremely advanced for his age. As if he could not be any better, he has very good control while his command inside the strike zone is still improving. Also, he has put up these numbers despite the Orioles refusing to let him throw his best pitch, the cutter. He will probably start the year in the minors, but should certainly see time in the big leagues at some point during the season. Bundy is the real deal and believe the hype.

 

1.   Jurickson Profar , SS/2B, Texas Rangers, ETA: 2013:

2012 Levels: AA Frisco (126 games), MLB Texas (9 games)

2012 Numbers: Batted combined .278/.366/.455, 28 2Bs, 15 HRs, and 16 SBs

             And the number one prospect in baseball is… Rangers shortstop, Jurickson Profar. A Little League World Series hero for his native Curacao, Profar was initially desired as a pitcher but the Rangers conceded and let him play his preferred position of shortstop. Just as Bundy is the ideal pitcher, Profar is about as good as it gets for a shortstop. Profar, a switch hitter, combines a plus hitting ability from both sides of the plate (although he is stronger with his more natural right side) and has a mature approach at the plate. He uses the entire field and has a line drive stroke that should allow him to hit for a high average and could be an eventual 70 or elite tool. Although he currently has only modest power, he could eventually grow into 20-25+ HR power with at least plenty of 2Bs. 
         Defensively, he  makes the most of his strong arm (clocked as high as 95 mph off the mound) with tremendous accuracy to boot. In addition, he has very good range despite his average speed and his baseball instincts rank among the best in the minors. His makeup is off-the-charts as he is extremely mature, confident, and maximizes his talents. Just surviving against much older competition in double-A would have been considered a success, but ended up being the league's best shortstop and prospect. Considering Profar's near readiness for the majors, the Rangers have an interesting problem on their hands. All Star shortstop and Profar's idol, Elvis Andrus, is currently blocking him, and second basemen Ian Kinsler just signed an extension earlier this year. One possible solution is to let free agent Josh Hamilton walk, and move the brittle Ian Kinsler to the outfield and implant Profar as the starting second baseman. Whatever the decision, Profar should be in the majors at some point in 2013, and could be the game's best shortstop by 2015. 

 
 
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1.      Jurickson Profar, SS/2B, Texas Rangers

2.      Dylan Bundy, SP, Baltimore Orioles

3.      Wil Myers, OF, Kansas City Royals

4.      Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals

5.      Taijuan Walker, SP, Seattle Mariners

6.      Gerrit Cole, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates

7.      Xander Bogaerts, SS/3B/RF, Boston Red Sox

8.      Zack Wheeler, SP, New York Mets

9.      Mike Zunino, C, Seattle Mariners

10.  Trevor Bauer, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks

11.  Jose Fernandez, SP, Miami Marlins (top picture)

12.  Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians

13.  Tyler Skaggs, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks

14.  Miguel Sano, 3B/RF, Minnesota Twins

15.  Javier Baez, SS/3B, Chicago Cubs

16.  Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros (middle picture)

17.  Shelby Miller, SP, St. Louis Cardinals

18.  Nick Castellanos, 3B/RF, Detroit Tigers

19.  Jameson Taillon, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates

20.  Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins

21.  Mike Olt, 3B, Texas Rangers

22.  Travis D'Arnaud, C, Toronto Blue Jays

23.  Christian Yelich, OF, Miami Marlins (bottom picture)

24.  Anthony Rendon, 3B, Washington Nationals

25.  Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Houston Astros

26.  Julio Teheran, SP, Atlanta Braves

27.  Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies

28.  Billy Hamilton, CF, Cincinnati Reds

29.  Danny Hultzen, SP, Seattle Mariners

30.  Matt Barnes, SP, Boston Red Sox

31.  Jake Odorizzi, SP, Kansas City Royals

32.  Carlos Martinez, SP, St. Louis Cardinals

33.  Aaron Sanchez, SP, Toronto Blue Jays

34.  Archie Bradley, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks

35.  Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

36.  Jackie Bradley, CF, Boston Red Sox

37.  Rymer Liriano, OF, San Diego Padres

38.  Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees

39.  Nick Franklin, 2B, Seattle Mariners

40.  Alen Hanson, SS/2B, Pittsburgh Pirates

41.  Jedd Gyorko, 3B/2B, San Diego Padres

42.  Alex Meyer, SP, Washington Nationals

43.  Taylor Guerrieri, SP, Tampa Bay Rays

44.  Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs

45.  Mason Williams, CF, New York Yankees

46.  Robert Stephenson, SP, Cincinnati Reds

47.  Trevor Story, SS/3B, Colorado Rockies

48.  Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

49.  Austin Hedges, C, San Diego Padres

50.   Casey Kelly, SP, San Diego Padres


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51.  Noah Syndergaard, P, Toronto Blue Jays (top picture)

52. Kolton Wong , 2B, St. Louis Cardinals

53.  David Dahl, OF, Colorado Rockies

54.  Kevin Gausman, SP, Baltimore Orioles

55.  Kyle Zimmer, SP, Kansas City Royals 

56.  Albert Almora, OF, Chicago Cubs

57.  Matt Davidson, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks

58.  Dan Straily, SP, Oakland A's:

59.  Trevor Rosenthal, SP/RP, St. Louis Cardinals

60.  Brian Goodwin, OF, Washington Nationals

61.  Courtney Hawkins, OF, Chicago White Sox (middle picture)

62.  Tony Cingrani, SP/RP, Cincinnati Reds

63.  George Springer, OF, Houston Astros

64.  Allen Webster, SP, Boston Red Sox

65.  Addison Russell, SS/3B, Oakland Athletics 

66.  Eddie Rosario, 2B, Minnesota Twins

67.  Adam Eaton, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks (bottom picture)

68.  Aaron Hicks, OF, Minnesota Twins

69.  A.J. Cole , SP, Oakland Athletics

70.  Wilmer Flores, Inf, New York Mets

71.  Max Fried, SP, San Diego Padres

72.  Daniel Corcino, SP, Cincinnati Reds

73.  Zach Lee, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

74.  Chris Archer, SP/RP, Tampa Bay Rays

75.  Hak-Ju Lee, SS, Tampa Bay Rays

76.  Brett Jackson, OF, Chicago Cubs


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77.  James Paxton, SP, Seattle Mariners

78.  Clayton Blackburn, SP, San Francisco Giants

79.  Yasal Puig, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

80.  Jesse Biddle, SP, Philadelphia Phillies

81.  Delino DeShields, 2B, Houston Astros

82.  Michael Wacha, P, St. Louis Cardinals

83.  Luis Heredia, P, Pittsburgh Pirates

84.  Tyler Austin, OF, New York Yankees

85.  Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (top picture)

86.  Brad Peacock, P, Oakland Athletics

87.  Kyle Crick, SP, San Francisco Giants


88.  Gary Brown, San Francisco Giants

89.  Cody Buckel, SP, Texas Rangers

90.  
Slade Heathcott, OF, New York Yankees

91.  Arodys Vizcaino, RP, Chicago Cubs

92.  Bubba Starling, OF, Kansas City Royals

93.  Yordano Ventura, SP, Kansas City Royals

94.  Jorge Alfaro, C, Texas Rangers (middle picture)

95.  Brad Miller, SS, Seattle Mariners

96.  Bruce Rondon, RP, Detroit Tigers (bottom picture)

97. Max Kepler, OF, Minnesota Twins

98.  Tyler Thornburg, P, Milwaukee Brewers

99.  Miles Head, 1B/3B, Oakland A's

100.  Robbie Erlin, SP, San Diego Padres


 
 
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Taijuan Walker is the next power arm in the Mariners system.
       Today, part of the top ten prospects are unveiled. Tomorrow, I will cover the top three prospects (in my opinion) in the game with a more detailed and advanced scouting report. Again, if you have any issues with the list, feel free to leave comments and I'll address my thinking for each selection. Additionally, in the forum section, we welcome any prospect lists of your own and any debate that ensues. Enjoy

10.    
Trevor Bauer, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks, ETA: 2013: Out of college, Bauer had the better numbers than teammate Gerrit Cole but has taken his lumps as a pro. Dominated in Mobile and Reno (2.42 ERA, 10.8 K/9) but still nibbles too much and does not always trust his stuff. Could front a potentially scary rotation of Archie Bradley, Tyler Skaggs, and himself.

9.      Mike Zunino, C, Seattle Mariners, ETA: 2013: The 2012 Golden Spikes winner out of Florida, Zunino demolished low A and AA pitching with a combined 1.137 OPS. Matches offensive prowess with incredible leadership skills and above average defense from behind the plate. Comparisons include Jason Varitek with a better batting ability.

8.      Zack Wheeler, SP, New York Mets, ETA: 2013/2014: The Mets' prize for Carlos Beltran,  Wheeler has big-time stuff and has decreased his walk totals each of the past two years. He has a fastball that can touch the high 90's and a strong curve ball. Consistency is only the key from unlocking Wheeler's big potential.

7.       Xander Bogaerts, SS/3B/RF, Boston Red Sox, ETA: 2014: Batted .307/.373/.523 across two levels in 2012, Bogaerts is another member of the top 10 with a special bat. Although he currently is solid at shortstop, it is likely that he will need to move off due to his continued growth. He could profile at third, but a move to right field is more likely with Will Middlebrooks now at third base.

6.      Gerrit Cole, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates, ETA: 2013: 2011 number 1 overall pick, Cole has some of the best pure stuff from any right-hander in the game. He possesses a heavy, mid-90's fastball, a true 70 slider, and a developing change. He additionally suffered some bad luck including a .315 BABIP and a poor 67 % strand rate (league avg around  70-72%) indicating he was better than his numbers showed. However, as the case with most young pitchers, Cole needs additional refinement with his control before coming an ace. 

5.      Taijuan Walker, SP, Seattle Mariners, ETA: 2014: Scouts rave about his pure stuff and athleticism, as he had a chance to be a Division I basketball player. Possesses a mid 90's fastball, hammer breaking pitch, and flashes plus circle change-up. He has improved his walk rate every year and is still learning the intricacies of pitching as he only began pitching as a junior in high school. 

4.       Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals, ETA: 2013: Arguably best pure hitter in the minors (.321 AVG, 23 HR), Taveras has an uncanny ability to square up baseballs on a routine basis. Despite playing against much older competition in double-A, he managed to increase his power rate (8 HR to 23 HR) and cut down on his strike outs. His strong arm profiles well in right field and he could make an impact for the Cardinals sometime in 2013.


 
 
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Promising Cardinal RHP, Shelby Miller
Today's edition of prospects includes numbers 20-11. The top 7 will be released tomorrow (Friday) with more advanced write ups on the top three for Saturday. Enjoy.

20.      
Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins, ETA: 2016: Extremely toolsy outfielder that has as much raw potential as anybody on this list. Wiry body that has more tools than tangible skills at the moment, but has monster potential as a true five-tool talent. Currently possesses plus speed, good defense ability, and a line drive stroke that could grow into more power as he matures.

19.      Jameson Taillon, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates, ETA: 2014:  One of the power arms in the Buc's system, Taillon possesses an excellent fastball with solid sink and a plus curve. He possesses a good pitcher's body and should be able to withhold a big workload. One knock is that he has been hit harder than expected, with additional polish and command needed for future success.

18.      Nick Castellanos, 3B/RF, Detroit Tigers, ETA 2013/2014: : Extremely talented hitter with ability to frequent make solid contact. Another player that has been associated as a future batting champ, Castellanos batted .405 for high A Lakeland before his promotion to double A. However, he only had 36 walks in 134 games and needs to improve his plate discipline. With Miguel Cabrera entrenched at third, Castellanos moved to RF this year and should be an average defender as he continues to progress defensively.

17.      Shelby Miller, SP, St. Louis Cardinals, ETA: 2013: Big time fastball with solid movement to go along with mid-90's heat. Suffered a bit of bad luck in AAA Memphis as he had a 4.74 ERA, but had an elevated .322 BABIP and actually pitched better in terms of K's (10.54 K/9) and limiting free passes (3.29 BB/9) compared to his pre-2012 rates. Although he needs to further improve his command, Miller has a chance to replace free agent Kyle Lohse in big league rotation in April.

16.      Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros, ETA: 2016: 2012's number 1 overall pick, Correa boasts above-average to plus scores across. A solid defender, equipped with strong arm, good hitting skills, and a 70 power potential, Correa has it all. Should continue to fill out physically and a move to third is possible. Does have a big risk component, because of his age and the time that it will take him to reach the majors.

15.     Javier Baez, SS/3B, Chicago Cubs: Baez has a unique ability of barreling up balls in the batter's box and has a chance to hit 30+ home runs at the major league level. Plate discipline needs improving in order to have success at higher levels (only 14 walks in 80 games). Further growth could push him off shortstop, where he currently profiles as above average with a great arm and solid range.

14.      Miguel Sano, 3B/RF, Minnesota Twins, ETA: 2015: HUGE power, Sano combines true 80 power with superb plate discipline and big strikeout totals. Could be the next Adam Dunn in terms of HR/BB/K (Sano went 28/80/144 in 2012). Move to RF is in order after an abysmal season at 3B (42 errors). Has a chance to be a very special bat.

13.      Tyler Skaggs, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks, ETA: 2013: The major piece of the Dan Haren trade with LAA, Skaggs is tops among southpaw prospects for his quality stuff and solid command. He probably has best left-handed curve in the minors, that features excellent 12-6 break and good control (Kershaw-esque curve). Could be an excellent number 2 in the rotation and could occupy a spot in the major league rotation as soon as next year.

12.      Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians, ETA: 2014: Lindor is an extremely fluid shortstop that has showed surprising ability with the stick against much older competition. His glove and very good plate discipline should at least make him a starting shortstop at big league level, while the bat could make him a star. 

11.        Jose Fernandez, SP, Miami Marlins, ETA: 2014: The 2011 first rounder has a power arm that reaches the mid-90's and has a wipeout slider. He is a big kid that needs to stay on top of conditioning to reach his potential of a very good #2 starter. Absolutely dominated in 2012, with a 1.75 ERA, 10.61 K/9, and pinpoint control (2.35 BB/9). 

 
 
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Reds prospect Billy Hamilton stole a record 155 bases in 2012
   The next installment of the top prospects in baseball, from #30-#21.

30.      Matt Barnes, SP, Boston Red Sox, ETA: 2013/2014: UConn product performed well during first professional season (2.86 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 10.0 K/9). Power arm that needs further refinement with secondary pitches, Barnes should begin 2013 in AA Portland with a chance at the majors later in the year.

29.     Danny Hultzen, SP, Seattle Mariners, ETA: 2013: Selected 2nd overall in 2011, Hultzen was viewed as very polished and nearly big league ready pitcher with front of the rotation potential. In 2012, his command fell apart (5.4 BB/9!!!) resulting in very poor and surprising results for someone who had excellent control in college. His tuff is still there, but control improvement is key for any sort of big league success.

28.      Billy Hamilton, CF, Cincinnati Reds, ETA: 2014: 155 steals say a lot about Hamilton's speed but he also has an excellent approach at the plate. However, questions remain about his ability to make contact against higher quality pitchers at higher levels. Also, he recently transitioned to CF after playing SS most of 2012 and his speed could make him among the game's best defenders if he continues to develop his outfield skills.

27.      Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies, ETA: 2013: Had a setback compared to his excellent '11 season as power and on base numbers decreased. Arenado is an average defender at the hot corner and has a line drive swing that should generate plenty of doubles but ultimately, his potential will be determined on how many of those doubles become home runs.

26.      Julio Teheran, SP, Atlanta Braves, ETA: 2013: Arguably top RHP prospect coming into the year, Teheran struggled with lack of breaking pitch and was simply more hittable (7.7 H/9 in 2011, 10.0 in 2012). Still has one of the best changeups in minors but command in fastball and regained confidence is needed for success beyond Triple-A.

25.      Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Houston Astros, ETA: 2013: Part of Astros haul for Hunter Pence, Singleton has plus power to all fields and is not afraid to take a walk at the plate. Talented bat could see some time this year as 1B/DH as the Astros move to the AL West.

24.    Anthony Rendon, 3B, Washington Nationals, ETA: 2013: Rendon is another player who excels on both sides of the ball. He has an advanced approach at the plate and has ability to consistently drive balls with authority. Durability is a major concern, as he only played in 43 games due to an ankle injury that required surgery.

23.        Christian Yelich, OF, Miami Marlins, ETA: 2014: Very talented hitter (.329 Avg in 2012) with line drive stroke that has some scouts saying batting titles are in his future. Additionally, he has solid outfield range although weak arm should force him to left if he cannot handle center field.

22.      Travis d'Arnaud, C, Toronto Blue Jays, ETA: 2013: D'Arnaud flashes a special bat behind the plate, but lacks defensive polish. He has the ability to hit for average and power  albeit his numbers were enhanced playing in hitter friendly Las Vegas. D'Arnaud does have durability concerns after missing time with back, hand, and leg injuries over the past several years ( and playing catcher only augments these concerns).

21.      Mike Olt, 3B, Texas Rangers, ETA: 2013: Another possible 2013 contributer that has a power bat and plus glove that profiles best at third base. Might struggle making contact, but walks and power (28 HRs in AA) should make up for it. Possible move to 1B or RF with Adrian Beltre entrenched in Arlington.


 
 
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Jackie Bradley, Boston Red Sox
     Continuing with my countdown of the top 50 best prospects in baseball, here is today's list, from 40-31.

40.  
Alen Hanson, SS/2B, Pittsburgh Pirates, ETA: 2015: Hanson had a breakout year in high A West Virginia, as he hit .309/.381/.528. He sprays the ball to all fields and maximizes his plus speed with the occasional bunt or slap infield single. Fringy arm should eventually force him to 2B, but should be a very good offensive talent at either up-the-middle position.

39.     Nick Franklin, 2B, Seattle Mariners, ETA: 2013: Franklin does a little bit of everything with no standout tool. With a decent ability to hit for average and power, Franklin's bat should provide some punch to the hapless Mariner offense. Defensively he lacked a ton of range and the strong arm necessary for shortstop so a move to 2B is in order.

38.      Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees, ETA: 2014: Huge potential with the bat that includes plus power, Sanchez could be seen as the second coming of former Yankee prospect Jesus Montero. Like Montero, Sanchez is a work in progress behind the plate, with 16 errors and 18 passed balls in 91 games behind the plate. The Yankees will give him all the time necessary to develop defensively to better maximize his bat.
37.      Rymer Liriano, OF, San Diego Padres, ETA: 2014: Incredibly gifted player that drives the ball consistently and could hit 20+ home runs as he learns to turn on pitches. Also has a very strong arm and plus speed that could lead him either CF or RF at the major league level. True five tool talent with surprisingly solid approach at  the plate adds up to a monstrous ceiling for the Dominican product.

36.     Jackie Bradley, CF, Boston Red Sox, ETA: 2013: Otherworldly defender in CF with amazing range, Bradley has shown the ability with the stick as well. Batted .315/.430/.482 in two levels in 2012, Bradley has an excellent approach at the plate and sprays line drives all over the field. Should replace Ellsbury in Boston by as soon as 2013.

 35.    Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, ETA: 2014: Switch hitter that has solid pop and patience at the plate, Cowart has the 3B starter kit. Also possesses a strong arm that almost led him to be drafted as a pitcher and should be a good defender there as well.

34.      Archie Bradley,  SP, Arizona Diamondbacks, ETA: 2015: Another arm with power stuff in the Diamondbacks system, but still lacks consistency in pitches and control. Control must improve after walking 5.6 BB/9, although he will occasionally go on streaks of strike thowing. Front of the rotation potential but years away from maximizing his talent.
 
33.      Aaron Sanchez, SP, Toronto Blue Jays, ETA: 2015: Has as much potential as any pitcher in the minors. Plus-plus fastball and strong curve. Will occasionally throw a plus changeup, but it still lacks feel and consistency in addition to his currently subpar control. Regardless, his fastball alone should take him to the bigs, sitting in the mid-90's with good sink and run. If everything clicks, Sanchez could be an impact arm for the Jays.

32.      Carlos Martinez, SP, St. Louis Cardinals, ETA: 2014: Dominant fastball with severe run and sits in the mid-high 90's. Also has a well above average change but a fringe average curve. Has good command but durability is a concern given his smaller stature (6'0", 165 lbs). If starting does not work, he could be an asset in the 'pen.

31.      Jake Odorizzi, SP, Kansas City Royals, ETA: 2013: Prize of the initial Greinke trade, Odorizzi has no dominant pitches but balances a good arsenal with a low 90's sinking fastball and above average curve. Has a shot to begin 2013 in the big leagues and profiles as a middle of the rotation starter.

 
 
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Reds RHP, Robert Stephenson
     Over the coming days, I will begin to unveil my Top 50 prospects in baseball. I will release ten players each day until I get to the Top 10 prospects. Each player has a small scouting report that describes his skills and shortcomings. After releasing the Top 50, I will post a full list of my Top 100 prospects (albeit without scouting reports) as well as my current farm system rankings for each MLB Franchise. This is not a science, and not all prospects listed here will make the major leagues. However, these players were selected for both their overall potential and their likelihood of reaching it, as seen in my choices. Furthermore, here are some terms you should be familiar with before reviewing the upcoming lists.

20-80 scouting scale: Scale used to judge a player and his "tools" or attributes. 50 is major league average, 60 is above average or "plus", 70 is well above average or "plus-plus", and 80 is reserved for the absolutely best tools or players in the game (elite)
Ceiling: Refers to a player's maximum potential; Although highly desired in prospects, ceilings are very rarely achieved and often fall short for a number of things.
ETA: Estimated Time of Arrival
Feel: Ability for a pitcher to throw a pitch with ease and be able to locate it frequently.
Life: Action on a particular pitch, usually describing a fastball's late movement
Makeup: Broad term that includes leadership ability, baseball IQ, work ethic, and ability to respond and adjust to failure (it will happen!)
Rawness: A term used to describe a player who lacks consistency and has yet to fully develop his talents
Run: Armside movement on a particular pitch
Tools: A player's set of skills; describe a player's ability to hit, hit for power, run, throw, and field

    Any other scouting terms you may be unfamiliar with, just contact me and I add them to this page or the glossary. Additionally, if you are confused about why a particular prospect is ranked higher than another, I will be more than happy to explain my reasoning to you. So, without further delay, here are my 50-41 best prospects in Major League Baseball...

50.       Casey Kelly , SP, San Diego Padres, ETA: 2013: Former Red Sox prospect experienced some injuries in 2012, but that did not stop him from making his ML debut. Kelly's repertoire includes a good sinker and change up that he can command frequently, a skill set that could lead him to being a traditional middle of the rotation workhouse 

49.     Austin Hedges , C, San Diego Padres, ETA: 2015: Arguably the best defensive catcher already in the minors, Hedges combines his defensive chops with surprising ability with the bat. He could be a .270-.275 hitter with 15 HRs annually and be similar to the pre-2011 Yadier Molina. Also possesses a strong leadership ability and is lauded for his makeup from behind the plate.

48.       Gregory Polanco , OF, Pittsburgh Pirates, ETA: 2015: Talented outfielder that showed ability to hit for average, power, run, throw, and field in his breakout season. Still raw in most parts of the game, but his potential is salivating to a team that has had  20 consecutive losing seasons.

47.      Trevor Story , SS/3B, Colorado Rockies, ETA: 2015: Rockie farmhand has solid tools all around, which will play up if he stays at shortstop. Good hit tool, decent power, and average defense should play at ML level, even if a move to third is deemed necessary (Tulowitzki roadblock in Colorado).

46.      Robert Stephenson , SP, Cincinnati Reds, ETA: 2015: 2011 first round pick that flashed his huge potential with a monster fastball and advanced change up. Stephenson also showed the ability to throw strikes a solid rate and has a high baseball IQ. Has a very promising future but rawness could take some time to iron out.

45.     Mason Williams , OF, New York Yankees, ETA: 2015: Toolsy outfielder has the ability to hit for average and play good defense in CF. As he continues to mature his approach at the plate, he could tap into some more power (only 8 HRs in 2012) and add to his already promising offensive repertoire.



44.      Jorge Soler , OF, Chicago Cubs, ETA: 2015: The other Cuban import has as much talent as his countryman (Yoenis Cespedes) but is more raw. Soler has huge power potential and his plus plus bat speed provides drives to all fields. He also has an excellent arm that could make him a prototypical rightfielder.

43.      Taylor Guerrieri , SP, Tampa Bay Rays, ETA: 2015: The latest power arm to come through the Rays system is Guerrieri with the potential to have four above average pitches (fastball, curve, change, and cutter) along with plus plus control. Only reason he is this low is because he was pitched cautiously (only 52 innings) and plenty can still go wrong from short season ball to the majors.

42.      Alex Meyer , SP, Washington Nationals, ETA: 2014: Nasty stuff comes from the Kentucky product's right arm, but his inconsistent delivery (influenced by his 6'9" frame) can lead to occasional bouts of wildness. Power fastball with good sink and a sharp breaking ball should at least take him to the majors as a dominant reliever.

41.      Jedd Gyorko , 3B/2B, San Diego Padres, ETA: 2013: Simply, Gyorko is a hitter first, everything else second. Gyorko consistently barrels up ball and is a true plus plus hitter. Lack of a defensive home with a current roadblock at 3B (Chase Headley), Gyorko could profile as an all bat/no glove second baseman (a la Dan Uggla).

 

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