Inbox: Biggest steals of the past 5 Drafts

January 4th, 2018

To answer a question I get every day: We'll reveal the new MLB Pipeline Top 100 Prospects list on Saturday, Jan. 27, with our annual special on MLB Network (8 p.m. ET) that also will be simulcast on We'll lead up to the Top 100 with two weeks of Top 10s by position on our website, and we look to revamp all of our organizational Top 30s by the start of Spring Training.
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The 2013 answer is the easiest part of this question. Arizona high schooler fell to the Dodgers in the fourth round because he was a lanky, 6-foot-4, 180-pounder whose power was all projection. Los Angeles signed him away from an Oregon commitment for an over-slot $700,000, and four years later he set a National League rookie record with 39 homers.
The next three years are tougher calls. Right-hander didn't get scouted as heavily in 2014 at Walters State (Tenn.) CC as he would have at a four-year school, enabling the Rays to grab him in the supplemental second round. I'll give him a slight edge over Pirates right-hander Mitch Keller (second round), who made a huge leap as an Iowa high schooler and now ranks with Honeywell on the short list of baseball's top pitching prospects, and Phillies slugger (fifth round), a bat-only first baseman from a mid-major program (Sacramento State).
had a track record of hitting for average and power at Illinois State, but scouts questioned whether he'd make enough contact or if he had a position. The Cardinals snagged him in the fourth round in 2015, then watched him bash 25 homers in the Majors while playing an efficient shortstop last year. For now, he stands out a bit more than outfielder/second baseman , who led junior college players with 31 homers while at Yavapai (Ariz.) and has a higher offensive ceiling, but little value outside of the batter's box. The Dodgers drafted Calhoun in the fourth round and sent him to the Rangers in the trade last July.
Signability knocked Florida high school infielder Bo Bichette to the second round in 2016, but the Blue Jays' $1.1 million investment looks well worth it after he batted .362 in his first full pro season to become the Minors' first teenage batting champ in 54 years. He's the choice for his class, but cases also can be made for Orioles outfielder (the first 2016 draftee to reach the big leagues) and White Sox right-hander Alec Hansen (who topped the Minors with 191 strikeouts last summer). Hays had some of the best all-around tools in the college crop but got dinged a bit for playing at a mid-major at Jacksonville, while Hansen entered the year as a potential No. 1 overall pick but lasted until the second round after his control fell apart at Oklahoma.
It's too early to know who's the biggest steal from the 2017 Draft, but an early candidate is Sam Carlson. Based on talent, he should have gone in the middle of the first round. But the combination of him being a high school right-hander, hailing from a cold-weather state (Minnesota) and wanting first-round money allowed the Mariners to grab him in the second round for $2 million.

Alford gave up most of his first two full pro seasons while playing college football, and I've always been impressed at how quickly he made the transition back to baseball after losing so many at-bats. For more on the Blue Jays outfielder, check out the video at the top of this story.

Acquired from the Nationals, along with third baseman/shortstop , in exchange for and in July, Luzardo will get my vote when we update the Top 100 Prospects. He's a left-hander with a chance for three plus pitches in a fastball that reaches 98 mph with sink and command, one of the niftier changeups in the Minors and a curveball he can vary speeds with.
Luzardo had Tommy John surgery as a high school senior in 2016 and has worked just 43 1/3 innings as a pro, none above the short-season level. It's too early to rank him ahead of Puk, a lefty who has even more power in his arsenal and ranked third in the Minors with 184 strikeouts while reaching Double-A in his first full season. But Luzardo has more polish than Puk, despite being more than two years younger, and it wouldn't surprise me if he's a more effective big league starter in the long run.

Braves left-hander battled his control and got roughed up for a 5.92 ERA in Triple-A last year, but he threw more strikes in four September starts and was one of the best pitchers in the Arizona Fall League. He missed bats with both his 92-96 mph fastball and his sharp curveball, topping the AFL in strikeouts (32 in 26 innings) and opponent average among starters (.163). He's the best bet for 2018 big league success among non-Top 100 starters.
Fried is a former No. 7 overall pick and has made the Top 100 in the past. If you want a bigger sleeper, try Diamondbacks right-hander Taylor Clarke. Arizona has plenty of starting pitching depth, but his ability to mix four pitches for strikes could make him a pleasant surprise if he gets an opportunity.