Any discussion of baseball's top prospect begins and ends with Angels outfielder Mike Trout, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper and Rays lefthander Matt Moore. And that's the order I'd put them in.
But Moore staked his claim to the No. 1 ranking when he threw seven shutout innings in Game One of the American League Division Series against the Rangers. He struck out six and allowed just two hits, looking every bit as dominant as he did at the Futures Game in July.
You can make a solid argument for putting Trout, Harper and Moore in any order you choose. However, there's absolutely no question that Moore is the game's top pitching prospect.
The prospect duo that immediately came to mind for me was Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper and third baseman Anthony Rendon. Harper was the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft and is the best power-hitting prospect in draft history, while Rendon was the best talent in this year's draft but lasted six picks after an injury-plagued junior season.
The rest of my top five, in order:
The Orioles' last two first-rounders could blossom into a five-tool shortstop (Manny Machado) and a legitimate ace (Dylan Bundy) . . . Pirates righthanders Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole have as much upside as any prospect combination . . . Rays lefthander Matt Moore is hands down the best pitching prospect in baseball, but I see shortstop Hak-Ju Lee more as a good regular than a star . . . Jesus Montero isn't a full-time catcher, but he's another lethal bat for the Yankees lineup, and lefty Manny Banuelos should be able to help New York's rotation next year.
Other duos I considered: Diamondbacks (righty Trevor Bauer, lefty Tyler Skaggs), Rangers (shortstop Jurickson Profar, lefty Martin Perez), Braves (righties Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino), Cardinals (righties Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez), Mariners (lefty Danny Hultzen, righty Taijuan Walker).
The Astros had the No. 1 overall pick wrapped up for weeks, but a lot of the 2012 draft positioning came down to the final weekend. As always, ties are broken in favor of the team that had the worse record in the previous season.
The 2012 draft order for the first round:
|1. Astros (56-106)
2. Twins (63-99)
3. Mariners (67-95)
4. Orioles (69-93)
5. Royals (71-91)
6. Cubs (71-91)
7. Padres (71-91)
8. Pirates (72-90)
9. Marlins (72-90)
10. Rockies (73-89)
11. Athletics (74-88)
12. Mets (77-85)
13. White Sox (79-83)
14. Reds (79-83)
15. Indians (80-82)
16. Nationals (80-81)
17. Blue Jays (81-81)
18. Dodgers (82-79)
19. Angels (86-76)
20. Giants (86-76)
21. Braves (89-73)
21a. Blue Jays (for failure to sign 2011 first-rounder Tyler Beede)
22. Cardinals (90-72)
23. Red Sox (90-72)
24. Rays (91-71)
25. Diamondbacks (94-68)
26. Tigers (95-67)
27. Brewers (96-66)
28. Rangers (96-66)
29. Yankees (97-65)
30. Phillies (102-60)
The first-round order is subject to change based on the signings of Type A free agents, defined as players rated in the top 20 percent of their position group. If a team lands a Type A free agent who was offered arbitration, it must surrender its first-round pick to his former club.
However, teams that finish in the bottom half of the major league standings have their first-round choice protected from compensation (they lose their second-rounder instead). Consolation picks for failure to sign draftees from the previous year also can't change hands. If a club signs more than one Type A free agent, the team that lost the higher-rated player gets the better pick.
Perez's bat came on in the second half of the 2011 season, when he hit .318/.343/.432 at high Class A Wilmington. When J.J. Cooper wrote his scouting report in the 2011 Prospect Handbook, he described Perez as the best defensive catcher in the Royals system, as well as a contact hitter with gap power but an aversion to drawing walks.
That report remains accurate. I'd be lying if I said we envisioned that Perez would hit .331 in the 148 big league at-bats this year, though at the same time I'd be lying if I said anyone thought he was going to have that kind of bat going forward. Perez still profiles as a useful regular, providing quality defense while hitting for a solid average with a little pop but a mediocre OBP.
The Top 100 list focuses on long-term worth and not immediate value, so it's not going to identify every successful rookie, plus there are surprises every year. In addition to Perez, several other players had nice 2011 rookie seasons without making the Top 100, including Josh Collmenter, Lucas Duda, Ivan Nova, Mark Trumbo, Jordan Walden, Jemile Weeks and Vance Worley.