Much of what we do at MLBPipeline.com involves projecting the future, evaluating prospects and determining how good they will eventually be on the big league stage.A year ago, we attempted to predict baseball's 10 best prospects at the conclusion of the 2017 season. How'd we do? Better than we would
Much of what we do at MLBPipeline.com involves projecting the future, evaluating prospects and determining how good they will eventually be on the big league stage.
A year ago, we attempted to predict baseball's 10 best prospects at the conclusion of the 2017 season. How'd we do? Better than we would have suspected.
We nailed four of the prospects who will occupy the first six spots on MLBPipeline's Top 100: Yankees infielder Gleyber Torres, Nationals outfielder Victor Robles, White Sox outfielder Eloy Jimenez and Rockies infielder Brendan Rodgers. We also tabbed Mets shortstop Amed Rosario, who currently ranks No. 1 but will lose his prospect status in the last three weeks of the regular season, and rookie sensations Cody Bellinger (Dodgers) and Rafael Devers (Red Sox).
Our only three whiffs were Pirates outfielder Austin Meadows, Phillies outfielder Mickey Moniak and Braves shortstop Kevin Maitan. Injuries hampered Meadows once again this season, while Moniak and Maitan showed promise, but not dominance as two of the younger players in their leagues.
Buoyed by our success, let's take another look 12 months ahead.
In the previous four years, every player who finished one season ranked among the Top 10 did so again the next, provided he didn't graduate or get hurt. Once Rosario exceeds 130 at-bats with New York, the 2017 season-ending Top 10 will line up like this: Torres, Robles, Blue Jays third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Jimenez, Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna, Rodgers, Astros outfielder Kyle Tucker, Reds third baseman Nick Senzel, White Sox right-hander Michael Kopech and Dodgers righty Walker Buehler. (Keep in mind that we haven't reordered the prospects since mid-July; we simply move prospects up when others' rookie eligibility expires.)
Erring on the side of many of baseball's brightest young talents continuing to ascend to the big leagues faster than expected, our assumption is that Torres, Guerrero and Rodgers will be the only 2018 holdovers from that group. If Torres wasn't recovering from Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing elbow and Colorado had a vacancy in its infield, Guerrero might be the lone repeater.
Based on recent history, prospects who end the previous year ranked from 11-25 will grab most of the vacated Top 10 spots. The remainder usually are filled by a couple of players in the 26-50 range, and one from the bottom half of the Top 100 or completely off the list. Given those parameters, here's our prognostication for the final 2018 Top 10 (projected end-of-2017 ranking in parentheses):
1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Blue Jays (No. 3)
Inherited his father's offensive prowess and has more plate discipline, which could make him the next Jose Cabrera.
2. Gleyber Torres, INF, Yankees (No. 1)
If not for his elbow injury, his pure hitting ability might have made him New York's starting third baseman at age 20.
3. Luis Robert, OF, White Sox (No. 22)
An outfield version of Yoan Moncada, he signed for a $26 million bonus (and a matching tax penalty) in May.
4. Bo Bichette, SS/2B, Blue Jays (No. 25)
Dante's son hit .362 in his first full season to become Minors' first teenaged batting champion in 54 years.
5. Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, Padres (No. 51)
More bloodlines, and at age 18, he hit 22 homers and stole 32 bases while reaching Double-A.
6. Brendan Rodgers, SS/2B, Rockies (No. 6)
More offensive upside than DJ LeMahieu or Trevor Story, but he may have to wait until 2019 to challenge for their jobs.
7. MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Padres (No. 24)
Third overall selection in 2017 Draft is a southpaw with four plus pitches and the control to match.
8. Hunter Greene, RHP, Reds (No. 17)
No. 2 overall pick in June generates triple-digit velocity more easily than any prep pitcher ever.
9. Forrest Whitley, RHP, Astros (No. 35)
Averaged 13.9 strikeouts per nine innings while reaching Double-A in his first season out of high school.
10. Juan Soto, OF, Nationals (No. 36)
An ankle injury marred his 2017 season, but it couldn't hide his huge offensive ceiling; some scouts say he's better than Robles.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.