With the midseason re-ranking of MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list, I assembled my own Top 10 from my scouting perspective, which was a very difficult task.
I always find it difficult to compare infielders with outfielders, position players with pitchers, and so forth. Each role requires different skills. Each skill has to be evaluated within that player's position.
The criteria used for the list included the following:
- The player's skill set
- The player's upside and potential
- The player's development track and closeness to Major League promotion
- The player's potential impact on his parent team
Given those standards, here is my list of Top 10 Prospects:
1. Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals (age 21)
An ankle injury in May derailed Taveras' path to the Major Leagues. He reinjured the ankle in June and was shut down for more rest. He began a rehabilitation assignment in mid-July that was halted once again.
Last season, Taveras was a mighty force for the Cardinals' Double-A Springfield team. He hit .321 with 23 homers and 94 RBIs.
At the 2012 Futures Game in Kansas City, I watched as Taveras hit the batter's eye in dead center field during batting practice.
That type of electric power is game-changing. At 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, Taveras presents a strong, broad-shouldered presence with a dangerous bat.
Once fully healthy, Taveras will bring havoc to the opposition from the middle of the Cardinals' batting order. This just happened to be a lost season on a journey to eventual stardom.
2. Byron Buxton, OF, Twins (age 19)
Buxton has the rare combination of power, speed, agility and balance bound together in one very well proportioned 6-foot-2, 189-pound athletic body.
Over two classifications this season, at Class A and Class A Advanced, Buxton has hit 11 home runs, driven in 68 runs and stolen 37 bases.
Buxton does everything well and projects well above the Major League average in each of his five special tools.
Watching Buxton hit at this year's Futures Game in New York, I saw a barrel-of-the-bat hitter with advanced pitch recognition and very good plate coverage.
Buxton is one of those special players who could add energy and life to a team. He makes things happen. His presence will make the other players better. He knows how to play the game.
I would like to see Buxton take pitchers deeper into counts and walk a bit more. But other than that, he has every quality to be the top-rated prospect in baseball. But not just yet.
3. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox (age 20)
Currently playing primarily shortstop for Triple-A Pawtucket, Bogaerts will outgrow the position and eventually move to third base or left field.
Bogaerts has a career Minor League batting average of .296 in parts of four seasons. He has always been able to hit.
With a strong and powerful upper body, the 6-foot-3, 185-pound Bogaerts has the ability to break open a game with one swing of the bat. I can only imagine the damage he will inflict at Fenway Park.
4. Miguel Sano, 3B, Twins (age 20)
Imagine an organization with not just one but two players in the Top 10. It is happening to the Minnesota Twins.
Sano is a well-proportioned, strong third baseman. He may also become a household name and a star.
He is the power-hitting prospect the Twins need to help change the fortunes of the franchise. He and Buxton form an almost lethal combination of offensive prowess.
This year alone, Sano has hit a combined 26 home runs between his stints at Class A Advanced Fort Myers (16) and Double-A New Britain (10) in 387 plate appearances.
Sano has the ability to drive in runs as well as steal a base if needed.
5. Carlos Correa, SS, Astros (age 18)
When I first saw Correa at the Futures Game in New York earlier this month, I was taken aback by his size and stature. He is a very big and well-conditioned 6-foot-4, 190 pounds.
I completely understand why the Astros are thrilled with Correa. I may even have him a bit too low at the fifth position on this list.
Correa has the type of athletic ability that jumps off the charts. He is very smooth, very agile, very strong and very good.
Correa is playing at Class A Quad Cities. It will be difficult for the Astros to resist the temptation to rush him to the next level. That is how good he is.
Correa is hitting .315 with seven homers and 55 RBIs in 360 plate appearances.
Not unlike Boegerts, Correa could outgrow his role as a shortstop and move to third base or the outfield.
The first overall selection of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, Correa is a gifted athlete. His upside will allow the Astros the opportunity to use his tools as a cornerstone franchise player.
6. Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins (age 21)
Injuries have plagued the Marlins outfielder this season, as Yelich dealt with plantar fasciitis and a strained abdomen. But he now appears healthy and is off to a very solid start after his recent promotion to Miami.
A left-handed hitter, Yelich is a master at driving the ball to the center of the field. He hits the ball up the middle in the manner we were all taught as kids.
Yelich already has power, but more will come. For now, he and his team will enjoy the line-drive blasts to both the right- and left-field gaps.
Yelich can run the bases well, but I do not look for him to be the stolen-base threat he was earlier in his career, when he stole 32 bases at Class A Greensboro in 2011.
7. Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians (age 19)
The switch-hitting Lindor is developing into one of baseball's finest prospects.
He is not very big, at 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, but he is very athletic.
Lindor has outstanding first-step quickness at shortstop that allows for superb range. His arm is strong and accurate. He is the type of player who makes his club strong up the middle.
As well as Lindor plays defense, he is also capable of high-quality offense. His power will emerge as he matures.
Lindor has flown through the Indians' Minor League system. In just his third season, Lindor is assigned to Double-A Akron. He hit .441 in his first 10 games, covering 45 plate appearances.
Lindor may easily develop into a triple threat of power, batting average and stolen-base prowess. And he is still only 19.
8. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Mariners (age 20)
Originally, three Mariners pitching prospects were lumped together on the lips and minds of scouts. They included Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Walker. I always felt Walker was the least celebrated.
He has the potential for an outstanding future as a top-of-the-rotation starter for Seattle.
A very large presence on the mound at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, the right-hander can dominate a game by pitching downhill and getting sink on his fastball.
Walker is pitching in Triple-A at Tacoma. He has worked his way through the Mariners' system as a starter at each of the club's classifications.
The pitcher-friendly ballpark in Seattle should be a welcome environment for a pitcher like Walker.
9. Archie Bradley, RHP, D-backs (age 20)
Of all the Arizona Diamondbacks pitchers we read about, hear about and scout, Bradley may have the biggest upside.
He is a huge presence on the mound, at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds. Pitching downhill, like Walker and Noah Syndergaard, Bradley looks like he has 10-foot arms coming at the hitter.
He has to refine his command, as he is walking about four hitters a game at Double-A Mobile. But he has swing-and-miss stuff, striking out almost nine hitters every nine innings.
Bradley's assignment at Mobile allows him to avoid the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League ballparks. That will give him confidence and allow the D-backs to evaluate him in good hitter/pitcher environments. Eventually, he will probably get an assignment to Triple-A Reno.
10. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, Mets (age 20)
A first-round Draft pick by the Blue Jays in 2010, this may be the one who got away from them.
After a trade, Syndergaard has the ability to join Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler in forming a dynamic top-of-the-rotation trio with the ability to keep the Mets in every game in which one of them starts.
Syndergaard is a huge man at 6-foot-6, 240 pounds. He uses his size and strength to throw a fastball-first repertoire with very good control and command. He does throw lots of pitches. That may be because he strikes out more than 11 batters every nine innings in Double-A Binghamton.
Syndergaard has been effective in virtually every one of his four seasons as a professional. In fact, he has never had a complete season with an ERA higher than 2.70. Between Binghamton and St. Lucie, he is at 2.88 with half a season remaining.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.