It’s always interesting to see who is tabbed as the game’s next great prospect. Some make it, others don’t, but the number one prospect tag remains a nice prize for a pre-MLB player. There’s no clear candidate for that lofty position heading into the 2017 season, so it’s particularly interesting to see where the MLBTR readership sees things heading.
Prospect eligibility is an essentially arbitrary matter, but we’ll draw the line at 100 plate appearances or 50 innings pitched. That takes players like Trea Turner, Andrew Benintendi, Julio Urias, Dansby Swanson, Alex Bregman, Orlando Arcia, Joey Gallo, Jose Berrios, and David Dahl out of consideration for our purposes. Many or all of them have largely earned MLB spots for 2017 regardless.
As a guide in putting together a list of candidates, I’ve drawn from the most recent rankings of MLB.com, Baseball America, and Baseball Prospectus. There’s a range of opinion, and they also haven’t been updated to reflect late-season observations.
It may be a shade premature to assess the top prospect, so you can consider this something of a predictive undertaking — which is what prospects are all about anyway. Here are the candidates for the poll:
- Yoan Moncada, INF, Red Sox — Moncada has all the tools, and had a highly impressive year in the minors in 2016. He draws walks, but also has plenty of swing and miss — which was on display in his brief MLB cameo (12 strikeouts in 20 plate appearances).
- J.P. Crawford, SS, Phillies — A premium defender at shortstop and reputedly polished hitter, Crawford holds out the promise of being an everyday mainstay in Philly even though he doesn’t figure to post massive home run or stolen base tallies. Crawford still needs to master Triple-A and is coming off of a minor knee surgery.
- Lucas Giolito, SP, Nationals — There have been some ups and downs for the big righty, who struggled rather notably in 21 1/3 major league frames last year. But he’s just 22, turned in 115 1/3 innings of 2.97 ERA pitching with 9.1 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in the minors last year, and has the kind of arsenal that leaves prospect hounds tabbing him for a limitless ceiling.
- Brendan Rodgers, SS, Rockies — The least-experienced players in this stratosphere, Rodgers showed immense potential at the Class A level last year in his first full season of pro ball. The 20-year-old slashed .281/.342/.480 with 19 home runs over 491 plate appearances.
- Alex Reyes, SP, Cardinals — Reyes didn’t produce great results at Triple-A last year, continuing to mix high strikeout rates with high walk rates, but exploded in 46 MLB frames. He continued to show questionable command, but racked up 52 strikeouts and allowed just eight earned runs on 33 hits.
- Tyler Glasnow, SP, Pirates — Another power starter whose command is the major question, Glasnow was unhittable in the upper minors (69 knocks in 116 2/3 innings). He showed both the good and the bad in 23 1/3 big league innings, with 11 earned runs crossing and a 24:13 K/BB ratio.
- Austin Meadows, OF, Pirates — The 21-year-old stalled out a bit at the highest level of the minors after dominating at Double-A, but delivered 48 extra-base hits over 352 plate appearances on the year. Just 21 years old, Meadows could soon push the Bucs to make some difficult decisions in their outfield.
- Amed Rosario, SS, Mets — Rosario reached Double-A in the middle of 2016 at just 20 years of age, and delivered a .341/.392/.481 slash over 237 plate appearances — though his .433 BABIP indicated both hard contact and some good fortune. Like Crawford, he probably won’t ever wow with counting stats, but projects as a strong defender at a premium position who can provide useful offensive production when he reaches the majors.
- Victor Robles, OF, Nationals — Just 19, Robles is considered a true five-tool prospect with the makeup to match. He has shot up prospect charts while climbing the system, though a hand injury slowed him and he cooled off at the High-A level. While his upside is tremendous, Robles still has yet to grow into his power potential and has yet to face polished pitching in the upper minors.
- Other — There are a host of others who could conceivably enter the discussion. Brewers outfielder Lewis Brinson has a monster ceiling, Braves infielder Ozzie Albies could provide immense all-around value, and Padres righty Anderson Espinoza has shown huge gifts for his age — just to name a few.
Weigh in here: who’s the single best prospect in the game as 2017 beckons? (Link for app users; responses are randomized.)