We kick off prospect season with our annual rankings of the talent in every affiliated minor league. And because that’s just not enough, we also give you a rundown of the top talent to come through independent baseball this season as well.
Like our organization lists our rankings place more weight on a player’s potential than on his performance this season, and should not be viewed as all-star teams. Unlike our organization lists, which are from more of a scouting perspective, the minor league lists more significantly reflect the views of minor league managers, who give more weight to what a player does on the field.
We think both perspectives are useful, so we give you both even though they don’t always match up. (Also unlike our organization lists, players can make the league lists even if they exhausted their rookie eligibility this year, as long as they were rookie-eligible coming into the season.)
For a player to qualify for a league prospect list, he must have spent at least one-third of the season in a league. We equate that to one plate appearance per team game for hitters, one-third of an inning per team game for starting pitchers, and 20 appearances (10 for short-season leagues) for relief pitchers. Listed below are our star ratings for each league, rating the relative strength of each minor league’s crop of talent this year:
The talent craters quickly after trio of Matt Harvey, Starling Marte and Chris Archer at the top. For a Triple-A league, there’s a glaring lack of future starting major league position players.
Pacific Coast League * * * *
PCL featured a mix of athletic defenders, potential impact arms and profile players at key positions.
Eastern League * * *
Orioles shortstop of the present and future Manny Machado tops the last prospect list he’ll ever qualify for. Outfielders dominated the rest of the EL crop.
Southern League * * * *
Pitchers from Mobile (Diamondbacks) and Jackson (Mariners) had to fend off the minors’ best crop of shortstops, including Pensacola stolen-base master Billy Hamilton.
Texas League * * * * *
The TL had our Minor League Player of the Year (Northwest Arkansas’ Wil Myers), the top position player prospect at midseason (Frisco’s Jurickson Profar) and the minors’ purest bat (Springfield’s Oscar Taveras), not to mention plenty of talent behind them.
HIGH CLASS A
Billy Hamilton started his legendary season here with Bakersfield. The surprising lack of pitching prospects isn’t just an illusion owing to Cal League’s hitter-friendly ballparks.
Carolina League * *
With an eight-team league, the CL usually rates toward the bottom of our scale. But Orioles phenom Dylan Bundy helps it avoid a one-star season almost by himself.
Florida State League * * * *
Epic battle for the top spot among three of the top pitchers from the 2010-2011 drafts in cover boy Jose Fernandez and Pirates righthanders Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon.
LOW CLASS A
Midwest League * * * *
Top of the list features three of the minors’ best prospects on the left side of the infield in Miguel Sano, Javier Baez and Francisco Lindor. (For more on that, see Page 10.)
South Atlantic League * * *
SAL has plenty of depth and high-upside players. It’s more a deep group of future solid regulars, with few prospects who figure to crack the top half of the Top 100.
Just three first-round picks from the 2012 draft made the Top 20, and the league had few impact teens break through.
Northwest League * *
Not much to see here other than Mike Zunino, the No. 1 prospect, and some high-risk, high-reward teenagers.
Appalachian League * * * *
Top-heavy with athletic outfielders, the Appy League featured more talent than recent iterations thanks to the earlier signing deadline.
Arizona League * * *
Power bats such as record-setting Joey Gallo, $30 million Cuban defector Jorge Soler couldn’t match shortstop Addison Russell’s all-around ability; pitching was thin.
Gulf Coast League * * *
Top two picks from 2012 draft buoyed the league, supplementing its usual array of international talent.
Pioneer League * * *
One of the minors’ youngest players (Adalberto Mondesi) couldn’t surpass the blistering debut of Rockies outfielder David Dahl.