7/27/2014 9:00 P.M. ET
Change is the name of the game in latest Top 100
Eleven 2014 draftees among those cracking list of best prospects
By Jim Callis / MLB.com
It's not even close to Christmas, but nevertheless teams are making their lists and checking them twice.
Clubs are constantly reevaluating prospects -- their own and those in other organizations -- so they'll be ready when it's time to talk trade. That time is now, with the non-waiver Trade Deadline fast approaching on Thursday at 4 p.m. ET.
At MLBPipeline.com, we're fine-tuning our lists, as well. Since we last overhauled Prospect Watch in March, much has changed. Various phenoms have improved, regressed, graduated to the big leagues or gotten hurt -- while the 2014 First-Year Player Draft provided some new names with bright futures.
As a result, we've revamped our Top 100 Prospects list, as well as our Top 20s for each individual club. Teddy Cahill, Jonathan Mayo and I put together all of our rankings and reports. We see many of these players in person, consult with several front-office officials and scouts, and factor in performance, tools and long-term potential.
Twins outfielder Byron Buxton still ranks as the game's No. 1 prospect. Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras, Astros shortstop Carlos Correa, Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, Cubs shortstop Javier Baez, Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker and Twins third baseman Miguel Sano retain their Top 10 status.
But there are plenty of changes within the Top 100, now that we've passed the season's midpoint. Let's take a look:
Moving up or out
Twenty members of the Top 100 from the start of the year have exhausted their rookie eligibility by exceeding 130 at-bats, 50 innings or 45 days of pre-September service time, and are thus no longer are eligible for our list. That group includes prospects ranked as high as No. 2 (Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts) and as low as No. 77 (D-backs shortstop Chris Owings).
Astros outfielder George Springer (No. 21), Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton (No. 37), Rays right-hander Jake Odorizzi (No. 56) and Indians righty Trevor Bauer (No. 73) have moved on from the Top 100 to become some of the best rookie performers in the Majors. What about White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu and Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka? They never qualified for the list because they didn't count against international bonus pools when they signed, having established themselves in foreign professional leagues.
There are an additional 19 players who have disappeared from the last Top 100 -- and not for the reasons they wanted. Instead of going to the big leagues, they've either struggled on the diamond or fallen prey to injuries. Phillies left-hander Jesse Biddle (No. 53), Dodgers righty Zach Lee (No. 63) and Astros outfielder Delino DeShields Jr. (No. 68) had the highest preseason rankings among this group.
Feeling the Draft
Eleven players who signed out of the 2014 Draft immediately cracked the new Top 100. Left-hander Carlos Rodon, drafted third overall by the White Sox, leads the way at No. 23, followed by Marlins righty Tyler Kolek (second overall pick, No. 27), Mariners outfielder Alex Jackson (sixth overall, No. 39) and Twins shortstop Nick Gordon (fifth overall, No. 42).
The latest-drafted player to make the list was Angels left-hander Sean Newcomb (No. 90), the 15th overall selection. Had the Astros signed No. 1 overall choice Brady Aiken, the lefty would have checked in at No. 22, between Reds righty Robert Stephenson and Marlins southpaw Andrew Heaney.
In addition to the draftees, there are 28 other new names who were eligible for the last Top 100 but didn't make the cut. Headlining that group is Blue Jays left-hander Daniel Norris, who soared to No. 29 after learning to harness his formidable stuff.
Two first-round picks from the 2013 Draft, Orioles right-hander Hunter Harvey and Phillies shortstop J.P. Crawford, vaulted from off the list to Nos. 35 and 36. Sweet-swinging Reds outfielder Jesse Winker also crashed into the Top 50 at No. 45.
Risers and fallers
Nobody in the Minor Leagues has more raw power than Rangers third baseman Joey Gallo, and no one made as huge a jump after making our previous Top 100. No. 92 on that incarnation of the list, Gallo has ridden his prodigious pop and his improved plate discipline all the way up to No. 9.
Red Sox second baseman Mookie Betts (No. 14, up from No. 62) and Dodgers left-hander Julio Urias (No. 18, up from No. 64) also made moves from the bottom half of the last list to the current Top 20. Cubs second baseman Arismendy Alcantara (No. 37, up from No. 89) and Twins righty Jose Berrios (No. 38, up from No. 90) made dramatic leaps, as well.
Subpar performances or injury issues contributed to a few players dropping dramatically while staying in the Top 100. Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco had the biggest fall while remaining on the list, from No. 26 down to No. 61. Astros right-handers Lance McCullers Jr. (No. 83, down from No. 52) and Mark Appel (No. 46, down from No. 17), Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez (No. 76, down from No. 47) and Royals righty Kyle Zimmer (No. 52, down from No. 25) also experienced sizeable tumbles.
As a method of measuring the strength of farm systems, we devised "prospect points." The No. 1 prospect (Buxton) is valued at 100 points, No. 2 (Taveras) at 99 and so on, down to No. 100 (Rangers right-hander Alex Gonzalez) at one, and then the totals are tallied by team. It's not the most scientific method, but it's a quick and efficient way to see which organizations are loaded with young blue-chip talent.
The Cubs lead all teams with eight Top 100 prospects and 520 prospect points. Chicago has three of the game's seven-best prospects in Bryant (No. 4), Baez (No. 6) and Addison Russell (No. 7). Led by Buxton and Sano, the Twins come in second with 459 prospect points, followed by the Pirates (345), Red Sox (332) and Astros (254).
The biggest increase in prospect points was also recorded by the Cubs, an even more impressive accomplishment considering they ranked third in the offseason with 393. They've added 127 since then, thanks primarily to acquiring Russell in a trade with the Athletics. They also benefited from Alcantara's rise and got catcher Kyle Schwarber (No. 79) in the Draft.
Even with Buxton missing most of the season to this point with wrist injuries and Sano sidelined the entire year after Tommy John surgery, the Twins nearly matched the Cubs with a 117-point surge. Ranked fifth in the preseason, Minnesota has seen right-handers Berrios and Kohl Stewart (No. 40 to No. 25) improve while adding Gordon via the Draft.