MLBPipeline.com will unveil its 2016 Top 100 Prospects list on Friday on MLB.com. The Top 50 will be revealed during a one-hour show on MLB Network at 9 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.
For the third (and likely the last) time, this Top 10 -- the final by-position ranking unveiled prior to the Top 100 Prospects list -- is headed by the Twins' Byron Buxton. He may not have taken the world by storm during his big league debut, but neither did Mike Trout. And, let's face it, Buxton's tools across the board are unparalleled.
Top 10 Prospects by Position
Behind Buxton, there has been some change. Four from last year's list of outfield prospects have graduated, including All-Star Joc Pederson, and two others have dropped off. That's opened the door for some prospects, headlined by a pair of Rangers and a pair of Indians (one of whom was on the preseason list a year ago).
1. Byron Buxton, Twins
Yes, it seems like Buxton has been at the top of this and other lists forever. And yes, at 129 at-bats, he's going to graduate off soon. But Buxton still has the most exciting set of all-around tools among all prospects. There is a sense of "the time is now" for him, and he should get to prove himself with Aaron Hicks no longer in Minnesota.
2. Lewis Brinson, Rangers
Brinson has always had a tremendous power-speed combination, but what has allowed him to take a huge step forward has been a vast improvement in his approach at the plate. As he has cut down on his strikeouts and upped his walk rate, he's tapped into his hitting and power potential consistently, giving him true 30-30 potential.
3. Nomar Mazara, Rangers
Like Brinson, Mazara's improved approach at the plate has helped him take the next step as a prospect. He has the tools teams look for from the prototypical right fielder: a power arm and a power bat. Rangers fans should be excited about having Brinson and Mazara ready to make up two-thirds of the big league outfield in the near future.
4. Austin Meadows, Pirates
After a lost year in 2014 because of injury, Meadows' key focus was to stay healthy in 2015. He did just that, showing the plus hitting skills that made him a first-round pick in 2013. Meadows hits for average, he gets on base, he can run and he can play center field. The power is going to come, as he'll turn just 21 in May while showing what he can do in Double-A after a brief debut there late this past season.
5. Andrew Benintendi, Red Sox
Few, if any, 2015 draftees improved their stock more than Benintendi did as a Draft-eligible sophomore at Arkansas last year. He kept it going during his pro debut after the Red Sox took him No. 7 overall, hitting a combined .313/.416/.556 across two levels. Benintendi can do a lot of everything well and shouldn't take too long to be ready to impact Boston's big league outfield.
6. Bradley Zimmer, Indians
After dominating the Class A Advanced Carolina League during his full-season debut in 2015, Zimmer struggled a bit in Double-A. He deserves a mulligan, however, as it turns out he was playing with a hairline fracture in his foot. The University of San Francisco product's 44 steals last season were a bit of a surprise and there should be more power coming, so future 20-20 seasons seem entirely feasible.
7. Clint Frazier, Indians
The second of two Indians outfielders on this list, Frazier didn't join Zimmer in the climb to Double-A, but he certainly looked like he figured some things out in the second half of 2015. He's always had as much bat speed as just about any prospect, but an overly aggressive approach was often his downfall. Frazier started doing a better job of working the count and continued having success in the Arizona Fall League, setting him up for an exciting jump to the upper levels.
8. Aaron Judge, Yankees
The 2013 first-round pick out of Fresno State is officially knocking on the big league door. Judge hit well in Double-A in 2015 (.516 SLG, .866 OPS), earning a bump up to Triple-A. He scuffled there, but even though he profiles as a potential slugging run producer, he's also shown an ability in the past to make adjustments. Once Judge does that, he should be ready for his New York debut.
9. Brett Phillips, Brewers
Phillips broke out in 2014 with the Astros, then kept on raking in 2015 before being sent to the Brewers in the big Carlos Gomez deal at last year's Trade Deadline. He got banged up after the trade, but he did return to help Biloxi make it to the Southern League championship series. Phillips continued to hit well in the Fall League before heading to play for Team USA. He has a terrific combination of hitting, power and speed tools that shouldn't need too much more development.
10. Jesse Winker, Reds
Winker was staring at a .248/.352/.349 line at the end of the first half of his 2015 season. Instead of trying to do too much to get out of it, he stuck to his game plan and hit .316/.426/.516 in the second half. That's a much better representation of what Winker will be able to do at the highest level. There's no real roadblock in left field for Cincy, with Winker likely to be ready at some point in the near future.
Anthony Alford was splitting time between pro ball and college football, which certainly hampered his development. Now focused on baseball full-time, he's breaking out, with a .298/.398/.421 combined line in 2015, leaving many wondering just what he'd be doing if he hadn't missed so much time. Alford has shown more feel for the game as a future leadoff type than anticipated, leaving the Blue Jays very excited for what's to come.
For years, the Twins patiently waited for Max Kepler, their big international signing out of Germany in 2009, and his raw tools to start showing up in terms of game production. It all really started to click last year, as he hit for average, walked more than he struck out and stole some bases, all en route to making his big league debut. There's power to come from Kepler's left-handed swing as well.