Law\'s Top 50 Prospects: Bregman Now At No. 1

If you're not going for it in today's MLB environment, you're -- well, let's not say "tanking" and just go with "developing." Teams that build from their farm system, through the draft, the international market and trades of veterans for prospects, keep reaching and winning the World Series. The Royals had the No. 1 farm system in baseball in 2011 and won two pennants, including a world championship in 2015. The Cubs hit the top five in 2013, ranked No. 1 in 2015 and won the World Series in 2016. The Astros had the No. 1 farm system in baseball in 2014 and won their first title in 2017.

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Leonard trade carries risk for Toronto

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Bregman shares ties to D.C. area

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Bagley, Jackson highlight top plays of NBA Summer League

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Best of Kawhi's career

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I don't think any of this is a big coincidence: Teams can't buy championships. They can buy a player or two to finish off a good roster, but the bulk of a pennant-winning roster comes from within, either through cheaper players the team developed from its farm system or veterans acquired by trading such prospects. This year's prospect-rankings package continues with the top 50 prospects in the minors. For the first half of the list, click here.

Editor's note: Age is the player's age as of July 1, 2018. Players with experience in foreign major leagues such as Japan's NPB or Korea's KBO, such as Shohei Ohtani, are ineligible for these rankings.


1. Ronald Acuna, CF, Atlanta Braves

Age: 20 (12/18/1997)

Bats: R | Throws: R

6 feet | 180 pounds

Top level: Triple-A | 2017 rank: 36

Acuna got off to a slow start in high-A in 2017 and didn't seem to be playing at full effort until Atlanta promoted him to Double-A in early May, after which he exploded, hitting .335/.384/.534 in 486 plate appearances for Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett. He even led the Arizona Fall League in homers with seven. And he did all of this at age 19, turning 20 well after the season ended.

Acuna's bat is electric. He's short and quick to the ball with exceptional hand strength providing average power already even though he's not particularly big. He's also a plus runner whose speed helps cover plenty of ground in center, although he's only the third-best defensive center fielder in Atlanta's system (counting Ender Inciarte).

What sets Acuna apart from most other prospects in the minors, beyond his youth, is his approach at the plate, including outstanding plate coverage and very good ball-strike recognition. He was the only teenage position player to play in Triple-A in 2017, and his average, OBP and slugging all ranked in the top five in the International League (minimum 141 at-bats).

If Acuna stays in center and maxes out his power, he's going to be among the best players in baseball, with a Mike Trout-ish profile. Even if Acuna hits "only" about 20 homers a year, it'll come with 40-50 doubles, huge contact rates and solid OBPs. The presence of Inciarte and Cristian Pache may push Acuna to a corner for Atlanta, but he could play center field for many clubs, and it's reasonable to think he'll be a plus defender in right field anyway. There's still a little variance in how the bat projects, but there's a higher probability of Acuna being an above-average regular for a long time than any other player in the minors.


2. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Toronto Blue Jays

Age: 19 (3/16/1999)

Bats: R | Throws: R

6-foot-1 | 200 pounds

Top level: high-A | 2017 rank: 48

The Baby Impaler -- no, wait, that doesn't sound right -- Baby Vlad has his father's face, but he's already more physical than his dad ever was, and he's showing something his father never did in pro ball: exceptional patience. It was a great year for teenage hitting prospects in the minors, and Guerrero's rampage through low-A and high-A was among the highlights.

No one in the Florida State League came close to Guerrero's .450 OBP, and he walked more than he struck out both there and in low-A. In fact, his 76 walks on the season would have been the second-highest number of Vlad Sr.'s entire pro career. And Vlad Jr. can hit -- he has his dad's loose, whippy wrists, great plate coverage and plus raw power, although in games he shortens up and gives back some power for contact.

He's playable at third right now, but given his size, there's a good chance he ends up at another position, possibly first base. With huge OBP skills already and 40-homer potential, it's not going to matter much where he plays.


3. Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, San Diego Padres

Age: 19 (1/2/1999)

Bats: R | Throws R

6-foot-3 | 185 pounds

Top level: Double-A | 2017 rank: 47

The Padres have spent far and wide in the international free-agent market, signing players from all over Latin America for six- and seven-figure bonuses, with a couple of those million-dollar bonus babies already on this top 100. Their best prospect is also Latin American, and signed for six figures as an amateur ... with the White Sox, who traded Tatis Jr. (for James Shields) to San Diego before he played a professional game, only to have him turn the scouting world on its head after the deal.

Tatis looks like Manny Machado did at age 18 and has similar gifts at the plate. His approach is very advanced -- he led the Midwest League in walks and OBP even though he was promoted out to Double-A in August -- and he already has above-average raw power, projecting comfortably to 30 homers in the big leagues. His swing is simple but explosive with good loft for that power to translate into homers. He has plenty of arm for the left side of the infield, and right now his hands and footwork are fine for shortstop.

The only question about Tatis is his position; he's more than adequate at shortstop now, but he's going to be a big kid, even just based on his current frame, and if he bulks up like his father did, he'll end up at another position sooner rather than later. I would still give him even money to stay at short, but third base or even right field are possibilities and factor into estimates of his future value. He's still a star even in an outfield corner, but on the dirt he could be an MVP candidate.


4. Victor Robles, CF, Washington Nationals

Age: 21 (5/19/1997)

Bats: R | Throws: R

6 feet | 185 pounds

Top level: MLB | 2017 rank: 8

Signed in 2013 for $225,000, Robles has raced through the Nationals' farm system, reaching the majors briefly last year at age 20. The five-tool prospect has performed from his first pro game, providing high contact rates and stellar defense. His power is still rising, as he set career bests in doubles and homers in 2017.

Robles has a very balanced stance and swing with some loft in his finish for power that is likely to increase as he gets stronger and makes harder contact. He's a 70 runner and plus defender in center with a plus arm. He could easily step in to the Nats' outfield right now and provide value with his glove, but after only 37 games in Double-A and a September cup of coffee in the majors, Robles might benefit from more reps facing high-minors pitching before he comes to the majors for good. Michael Taylor is a fine stopgap, but that role should belong to Robles for the next six years.


5. Gleyber Torres, SS, New York Yankees

Age: 21 (12/13/1996)

Bats: R | Throws: R

6-foot-1 | 175 pounds

Top level: Triple-A | 2017 rank: 4

Torres came to the Bronx in the July 2016 trade that sent Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs, one of several trades the Yankees made that month that helped turn the team's farm system into one of the best in baseball. Originally signed for $1.7 million in 2013, he raced up to Triple-A in his first full season in the Yankees' system, hitting .287/.383/.480 at two levels before his season ended in late June because of an elbow injury.

Torres' swing is very direct, and he has excellent bat control, with a willingness to use the whole field and -- dare I say it? -- a Jeter-esque approach with two strikes. He's willing to run deep counts and take his walks, projecting to high OBPs, but probably just 10-15 homers a year. Torres is a below-average runner, but his hands and instincts are so good that he's still an above-average to plus defender at short, although the Yankees have indicated they will look at him at third or second.

Torres was on track for a promotion to the majors when he suffered a freak injury to his non-throwing elbow on June 17; the injury required Tommy John surgery, ending his season. He's expected to be ready for spring training and could compete for a job there, although he'd probably benefit from a month in Triple-A to shake off any rust and to get more exposure to that level of pitching before he reaches the Bronx for good. He should stay in the middle infield for the long term, and a high batting average and OBP could make him a potential All-Star.


6. Eloy Jimenez, OF, Chicago White Sox

Age: 21 (11/27/1996)

Bats: R | Throws: R

6-foot-4 | 205 pounds

Top level: Double-A | 2017 rank: 5

Signed by the Cubs in the same international class as Gleyber Torres, Jimenez ended up crossing town last summer in the trade that sent Jose Quintana to the North Side, giving the White Sox -- whose farm system was already among the game's strongest -- another top-flight prospect.

Jimenez is huge, and he hits like you'd expect him to hit: often and far. The right fielder also rarely swings and misses, thanks to a swing that is quick and short to the ball, so he can let the ball travel deep before committing.

He has already shown some patience at the plate as well, giving hope that he'll be a well-rounded hitter who gets on base while also hitting for big power. Jimenez is a solid-average defender in right field, a below-average runner who gets decent jumps and has plenty of arm.

He's a middle-of-the-order bat, maybe a full year away from becoming a big league regular, and can be part of what looks to be a very potent 2020 White Sox roster.


7. Francisco Mejia, C/3B, Cleveland Indians

Age: 22 (10/27/1995)

Bats: S | Throws: R

5-foot-10 | 180 pounds

Top level: MLB | 2017 rank: 18

Mejia has raked for two solid years across three levels in Cleveland's system, posting a .321/.365/.503 line from low-A through Double-A along with just a 14 percent strikeout rate, which would make him an elite prospect at almost any position. When you consider that he's a switch-hitting catcher, you can see why he's in the top 10 and why people in the industry talk about his MVP upside.

He is a true switch-hitter but better from the right side, where he stays more upright through contact and shows better bat control. His hand-eye coordination is excellent and he's able to put a lot of pitches in play that would get past most hitters, even when he's batting left-handed. He tends to get low from that side, which limits his ability to drive the ball compared to what he does right-handed.

Mejia's hit tool is far enough ahead of his defense that it might behoove Cleveland, which already has Yan Gomes behind the plate, to try him at another position to get his bat into the lineup sooner. He played a handful of games at third base in the Arizona Fall League and at least has the arm for the position. He has improved on defense as a catcher, however. He has always had that 70 arm, but his receiving has come a long way since he signed, and he has been better at working with pitchers as well. Wherever he plays, he should be worth a couple of wins with his bat alone.


8. Forrest Whitley, RHP, Houston Astros

Age: 20 ( 9/15/1997)

Bats: R | Throws: R

6-foot-7 | 195 pounds

Top level: Double-A | 2017 rank: 78

Whitley is the best pitching prospect in the minors right now, less than two years after the Astros took the San Antonio right-hander with the 16th pick in the 2016 draft. A soft-bodied kid with arm strength as a junior in high school, Whitley got his body in tremendous shape before his senior season started, showing a plus fastball, power breaking ball and improved command, although the general industry bias against high school right-handers -- especially those from Texas -- probably kept him out of the top 10.

Now 6-foot-7 and closer to 240 or so pounds than his listed weight, Whitley can flash four above-average pitches, with a plus fastball up to 97, helping him punch out 38 percent of batters he faced across three levels in his first full pro season. His changeup has progressed to the point that he was even better against lefties than against righties last year.

He turned 20 in September and has the risk that all young arms bring, especially those who throw this hard, but otherwise looks like an ace in the making.


9. Nick Senzel, 3B, Cincinnati Reds

Age: 23 (6/29/1995)

Bats: R | Throws: R

6-foot-1 | 205 pounds

Top level: Double-A | 2017 rank: 15

Senzel continues to hit, now boasting a .315/.393/.514 line across 187 games and four levels, including a strong finish in 2017 at Double-A, and he's probably going to finish the upcoming year somewhere in Cincinnati's lineup.

The No. 2 overall pick in 2016, Senzel has a no-load swing with tremendous hand acceleration, so he still makes hard contact despite being exceptionally short to the ball; it's not a swing that is likely to produce much power, but he could end up with 15-20 homers just on the basis of how hard he hits the ball. Once a below-average defender at any position, Senzel has worked to become above average at third, and he is even a bit of a base-stealing threat despite being an average or slightly above-average runner.

The Reds have talked about trying Senzel at other positions, given the presence of Eugenio Suarez at third, but I think moving him again entails needless risk given how far Senzel has come defensively since his sophomore year at Tennessee. He's a player you build your lineup around, and if that means moving Suarez back to his natural position of shortstop, so be it.


10. J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadelphia Phillies

Age: 23 (1/11/1995)

Bats: L | Throws: R

6-foot-2 | 180 pounds

Top level: MLB | 2017 rank: 5

Crawford's 2017 season started out miserably, as he wasn't hitting, running or fielding well, and he entered July with a .203/.321/.276 line in Triple-A. Something lit a fire under him after that, however, and he started to play like his old self again, hitting .285/.385/.544 in the next two months with much improved defense at short, earning a call-up to the majors, where he shifted to third and flashed even better defense despite being new to the position. This is the player the Phillies thought they were getting in the first round in 2013.

Crawford has long been a disciplined hitter, working deep counts and showing comfort hitting with two strikes. He posted high OBPs his first three years in pro ball before a slight dip to .349 in 2016. His power surge of a career-best 15 homers in Triple-A this year was a small surprise, but his rangy defense and sure hands were as advertised. I've seen Crawford run plus, but he doesn't show it regularly and probably won't be a big stolen-base threat in the majors.

Only three MLB shortstops qualified for the batting title in 2017 and posted an OBP above .350, so even if Crawford is just a 10-12 homer guy in the majors, he's still a well-above-average regular because of how much he projects to get on base. And if the newfound power sticks around, he'll be a player worth 5-6 wins for a long time.


11. Michael Kopech, RHP, Chicago White Sox

Age: 22 (4/30/1996)

Bats: R | Throws: R

6-foot-3 | 205 pounds

Top level: Triple-A | 2017 rank: 7

Kopech came to the White Sox in the Chris Sale deal, along with Yoan Moncada (since graduated), Luis Basabe (still very young), and Victor Diaz (who missed most of 2017 because of a sore shoulder). He was the best prospect in the trade at the time and remains a potential No. 1 overall starter -- boasting size, athleticism, a solid delivery and enormous raw stuff.

He pitches comfortably at 94-99 mph and regularly hits 100 or more even as a starter, while his slider is frequently plus and his changeup can flash above average, although neither off-speed pitch is very consistent just yet.

Kopech has been wild for most of his pro career and early last season was spinning off his front heel when he landed, leading to a 15 percent walk rate in the first half. After the White Sox helped him correct the delivery flaw, he went on a tear to finish the season, walking just 12 men over nine starts for a 5.5 percent rate.

He's an intense guy and a hard worker, modeling himself after Noah Syndergaard -- another tall, athletic, power right-hander from Texas who had a lot of development to do when he was drafted. He picked a pretty good guy to emulate.


12. Walker Buehler, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

Age: 23 (7/28/1994)

Bats: R | Throws: R

6-foot-2 | 175 pounds

Top level: MLB | 2017 rank: 40

Buehler was drafted in 2015, came back from Tommy John surgery in July 2016, threw five innings in games that entire season, and debuted in the majors this past September with all of 93 career pro innings under his belt.

Buehler struggled in his cup of coffee after some members of the Dodgers' staff tried to change his approach, but as a starter in the minors he was electric, touching 98 mph with a plus breaking ball and above-average to plus changeup.

His arm is incredibly fast, and between that and his slight frame, there's some question about his durability as a starter, and he hasn't been tested at any point with workloads that would even be light for a starter in our current twice-through-the-order environment. But he does have a full starter's arsenal and an arm action he can repeat, with what should be at least solid-average command. If he holds up, he could be a No. 1 starter, with a very good chance he's a quality No. 2.


13. A.J. Puk, LHP, Oakland Athletics

Age: 23 (4/25/1995)

Bats: L | Throws: L

6-foot-7 | 220 pounds

Top level: high-A | 2017 rank: 93

Puk was a potential No. 1 overall pick in 2016, had a good but not great junior year for Florida, and ended up going No. 6 to the A's, who were surprised to get him there after assuming all spring he'd be gone before their pick. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good: Puk very quietly had one of the best years of any pitcher in the minors, with improved stuff and mechanics that back up the performance.

He finished third in the minors in strikeouts with 184 (the two guys ahead of him are also in the top 100) and gets a ton of swings and misses on his plus fastball thanks to deception in his delivery provided by his 6-foot-7 frame. His curveball is plus and has long been a weapon for him, while his changeup, lightly used in college, has improved to the point where it's occasionally above average and good enough that he showed almost no platoon split this year.

Puk is huge, not terribly athletic and has some stiffness to the delivery, but he has been very durable and is around the plate enough that it shouldn't be a problem for him in the long term. He may not have No. 1-starter upside, as he probably won't have the command for it, but he's a comfortable No. 2 and should be among the best southpaws in the game at his peak.


14. MacKenzie Gore, LHP, San Diego Padres

Age: 19 (2/24/1999)

Bats: L | Throws: L

6-foot-3 | 180 pounds

Top level: Rookie | 2017 rank: Not eligible

Gore had the most meteoric rise of any draft prospect last spring, going from first-round consideration to the third overall pick in the draft.

The left-hander comes from Whiteville, North Carolina -- population 5,394 -- so he wasn't widely seen before his senior year and didn't face any great competition, but scouts loved his combination of athleticism, feel for pitching and stuff.

Gore will pitch at 90-93 mph now and has plenty of projection to gain some velocity in time. His curveball is a mid-70s hammer with very tight rotation that is already a plus pitch, and he shows an average changeup around 80-81 mph.

Gore's athleticism is elite, and while his delivery is unorthodox -- he has a very high, abrupt leg kick -- he repeats it and finishes well out over his front side to help his stuff play up. High school pitchers are a risky class overall, and Gore might progress slowly as the Padres try to keep him healthy, but his stuff and command would otherwise put him on the fast track to Double-A. There's midrotation floor here and substantial ceiling beyond that if his velocity and/or changeup improve.


15. Brent Honeywell, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays

Age: 23 (3/31/1995)

Bats: R | Throws: R

6-foot-2 | 180 pounds

Top level: Triple-A | 2017 rank: 54

Honeywell is "the screwball guy" in both senses of the term, although as a pitcher he has become much more than that and doesn't rely on the novelty pitch much at all at this point. Taken in the second round in 2014, Honeywell has flashed plus stuff since he signed, but 2017 was the year he put it together enough with command and a pitching plan for success on the field. He finished the season with 172 punchouts, among the top five in the minors in the category last year.

Honeywell will work at 92-95 mph, and his out pitch now is his changeup, which is at least plus and probably better than that. He also throws a hard slider/cutter and will indeed flash that screwball a few times a game, even if it's just to mess with hitters' heads.

After a minor injury scare in 2016, Honeywell stayed healthy all year and could have helped the Rays in September if the team had been in the playoff hunt. He's a different sort of character and was even suspended briefly in late August by the team (not the league) for undisclosed reasons, although the Rays universally praise his competitiveness and work ethic.

He's a good No. 4 starter right now, but there are plenty of ways for him to exceed that, from tightening the slider to improving his command, and now that he's fully healthy, I expect him to get to that No. 2-3 starter range in time.


16. Justus Sheffield, LHP, New York Yankees

Age: 22 (5/13/1996)

Bats: L | Throws: L

5-foot-11 | 200 pounds

Top level: Double-A | 2017 rank: 88

The Yankees have a Giving Tree in their farm system, except this Giving Tree gives their prospects an extra grade or two of velocity. Sheffield was at 92-94 mph with a good changeup and fringy breaking ball when New York acquired him in the 2016 Andrew Miller trade with Cleveland, and he was at about the same velocity early in 2017 before missing almost three months because of an oblique injury. When he returned for one late-season start for Trenton and then went to the Arizona Fall League, he was a new man, hitting 94-96 with a wipeout slider at 86-87 and still had that above-average changeup at 86-89.

He's very athletic and his arm has always worked well, but everything was just faster for him after his return. Replacing the curveball with this new power slider changes his profile and upside, and now the one remaining question is how good his control will be -- whether he was working out of the zone before because he lacked a viable breaking ball, or he just hasn't gotten the command yet to put the ball where he wants it. Given his athleticism and delivery, I'm willing to bet on the latter and have Sheffield among the best left-handed pitching prospects in the minors.


17. Bo Bichette, SS, Toronto Blue Jays

Age: 20 (3/5/1998)

Bats: R | Throws: R

6-foot | 200 pounds

Top level: high-A | 2017 rank: Unranked

Toronto took Bichette, son of Dante, in the second round in 2016, and all he has done since then is rake, posting a .372/.427/.591 slash line in 132 pro games from the Gulf Coast League to high-A, and he still has yet to strike out 100 times in his career. (He's at 98, with a 16.6 percent rate of strikeouts per plate appearance.) Bichette has an unusual, noisy approach, but he has insanely good hand-eye coordination and excellent bat speed from his quick hands so he can get the bat to the ball on time consistently and with enough angle to drive it to the gaps. He's also very athletic, an above-average runner who might be a tick better underway, adding value on the bases.

The Blue Jays have primarily played Bichette at his natural position of shortstop, but it's more likely he'll move to second base at some point and be an above-average defender there. To stay at short, he'll have to really improve his footwork and slow himself down on routine plays.

He's a very hard worker and plays as if his hair is on fire, which might help him if he ever slumps ... which so far he hasn't. He's going to hit for enough average and OBP to be an above-average regular anywhere, probably with 15-20 homers at his peak; if he stays at short or works himself into plus defense at second, he's a superstar.


18. Mitch Keller, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates

Age: 22 (4/4/1996)

Bats: R | Throws: R

6-foot-3 | 195 pounds

Top level: Double-A | 2017 rank: 16

Keller followed up his breakout 2016 season with a 2017 campaign that was almost as impressive, spending most of the year in high-A and finishing in Double-A without any drop in performance.

He will run his fastball up to 98 mph, and it sits at 94-95. He also has a curveball that ranges from a grade 60 to 70, coming in at 79-83 mph with tight rotation, and he throws both pitches for strikes. His arm is extremely quick, and while his delivery is compact for a starter, he gets to his landing spot on time with some extension over his front side. He can lose his release point on occasion, and his fastball command is still a tick below average.

The biggest knock on Keller is his lack of a true changeup. He throws what amounts to a BP fastball now, too hard and straight at 90-91 mph, so hitters get to time his fastball after a few looks. It may also be a problem for him against left-handed batters, although he showed no platoon split this year.

Keller's arm health has been fine, but he missed a month last year with a back injury, and his 2015 season was cut very short by another back problem.

Keller has the two plus pitches and control to be a No. 1 or 2 starter, but at the moment he's more of a No. 4 because of the lack of a third pitch and the gap between his control and his command.


19. Triston McKenzie, RHP, Cleveland Indians

Age: 20 (8/2/1997)

Bats: R | Throws: R

6-foot-5 | 165 pounds

Top level: high-A | 2017 rank: 85

Hitters simply don't see the ball out of McKenzie's hand. It's kind of a marvel to watch. He'll pitch at 88-92 mph, and hitters will cut through it, under it and around it like they have holes in their bats.

McKenzie finished second in the minors in strikeouts in 2017 despite averaging fewer than six innings per start as Cleveland worked to keep the now-20-year-old pitcher healthy. He's still slight, but it hasn't held him back yet, and he gets such great extension from his delivery and 6-foot-5 frame that right-handed hitters must think the ball is coming from behind their left ears.

He can really spin the ball, with an 11-5 curveball at 78-79 mph that he can control and bury as needed. His changeup is still below average, 82-86 mph and too firm. I could see him turn the pitch over when I saw him in July, which could be a tip to hitters as well. He destroyed right-handed batters in 2017 (.175/.235/.259, 39 percent strikeout rate), but the lack of an average changeup meant lefties got to him a bit (.239/.305/.400, 25 percent strikeout rate), so the development of his changeup is key going forward.

He'll pitch at 20 this year, still has barely begun to fill out and is athletic and flexible enough that you can safely project quite a bit of improvement. He doesn't need to add much velocity to be effective, although if he does, he'll be in the discussion for the top pitching prospect in the minors. McKenzie is probably a fourth starter right now, a worst-case scenario other than injury, but you can really dream based on his package of athleticism, stuff and deception.


20. Willy Adames, SS, Tampa Bay Rays

Age: 22 (9/2/1995)

Bats: R | Throws: R

6-foot | 200 pounds

Top level: Triple-A | 2017 rank: 43

Adames continued his steady march to the majors last year with a solid season in Triple-A at age 21, making him the fourth-youngest regular in the International League.

Acquired what feels like a half-century ago in the deal that sent David Price to Detroit, he is a wide-shouldered shortstop with an advanced feel for the bat, and he has shown consistent patience throughout the minors, even though he has always been young for the levels he has been at.

Given his frame and the angle of his follow-through, it looks like he should have power, but so far it has manifested itself in doubles rather than home runs. He may still come into 20-25 homer power as he fills out and catches up with the age of his opponents.

In the field, he's still almost exclusively a shortstop, and the Rays believe Adames has the hands and instincts for the position, but he looks like someone who'll eventually be bumped to another position by a plus defender who can offer more range and agility -- especially if he fills out as expected.

If he stays at short, he has All-Star upside with the bat, and if he packs on too much muscle to stay there, he may end up a 30-homer third baseman with OBP skills and an above-average glove instead.


21. Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston Astros

Age: 21 (1/17/1997)

Bats: L | Throws: R

6-foot-4 | 190 pounds

Top level: Double-A |?2017 rank: 57

Tucker was the Astros' second first-round pick in 2015, taken three picks after Alex Bregman, and has already had success in Double-A before his 21st birthday. Tucker was seen as a top-10 talent in his draft class because of his bat, both in his potential to hit for average and for power, which so far has not disappointed -- he hit 25 bombs across two levels in 2017, with a .379 OBP in high-A and a strikeout rate just a shade over 20 percent for the year.

His power output is surprising given how little Tucker has filled out his frame -- he looks as if he's still less than 200 pounds. He has excellent strength in his hands, which lets him drive the ball to all fields despite loading his hands well away from his body.

Tucker has played all over the outfield for the Astros and has made himself playable in center, showing more range in the Arizona Fall League than he ever had as an amateur. It still seems more likely he'll be pushed to a corner by a truly plus defender in center, but even in right field, he might still be a star because he projects to hit for average and power, get on base and have value on defense.


22. Hunter Greene, RHP, Cincinnati Reds

Age: 18 (8/6/1999)

Bats: R | Throws: R

6-foot-4 | 197 pounds

Top level: Rookie | 2017 rank: Not eligible

The second overall pick in the June 2017 draft, Greene was a two-way player at Notre Dame HS in Sherman Oaks, California, also the alma mater of reigning NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton. Greene played shortstop with plus defense and a strong arm, but his future was always going to be on the mound, where he regularly hit triple-digit velocity as a starter -- even touching 102 mph in a scrimmage -- before he was shut down to preserve his arm after five starts and 28 innings.

Greene was one of the youngest players in the draft, as he didn't turn 18 until November. His velocity comes without visible effort, but his secondary stuff lags behind his fastball. In high school, he threw a curveball and slider which ran together, but the Reds have had him put the curveball away to focus on throwing the slider harder, and it ticked up to the 88-90 mph range during instructional league.

Greene's fastball can also be straight, and he will have to improve his command, although scouts believe he will because he's so athletic. He's high-risk as top prospects go -- he could get hurt, fail to develop the slider, never develop enough command and so on -- but he has top-of-the-rotation ceiling if he stays healthy and the Reds are patient enough.


23. Sixto Sanchez, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies

Age: 20 (7/29/1998)

Bats: R | Throws: R

6-foot | 185 pounds

Top level: high-A | 2017 rank: Unranked

Sanchez is unassuming to look at on the mound, standing about 5-foot-10 or so and 175-180 pounds, but once he starts throwing, he'll get your attention.

With what looks like zero effort, Sanchez can hit 100 mph even as a starter; I saw him do it six times in 65 pitches one night in June, with nothing under 95. He throws it for strikes, too -- he didn't issue his 10th walk last year until mid-August, by which point he had thrown 77 innings on the season.

His secondary stuff isn't that far along yet, with a changeup that's solid-average now and a curveball that he can flip in for strikes but that isn't very tight or hard; he might be a candidate to try a slider at some point just because his arm is so fast. His fastball command isn't quite where his control is, but he's still only 19 and won't turn 20 until July.

The main task for the Phillies in the short term is keeping Sanchez healthy, and they've done so with a very conservative plan for building up his innings. If he develops as expected and somewhere along the way finds an above-average or better breaking pitch, he'll be a No. 1 starter. At worst, as long as he stays healthy, he looks like a solid No. 2 in the making.


24. Corbin Burnes, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers

Age: 23 (10/22/1994)

Bats: R | Throws: R

6-foot-3 | 205 pounds

Top level: Double-A | 2017 rank: Unranked

Burnes was the Brewers' fourth-round pick in 2016, taken 111th overall, but he'd probably go about a hundred spots higher if we redid the draft today after a full-season debut split between high-A and Double-A and featuring 140 strikeouts, 36 walks and a 1.67 ERA over 145 2/3 innings total in 2017.

He has the command of a finesse guy, but the stuff of a No. 2 starter. He has shown five different pitches, including a four-seamer up to 97 mph, a plus changeup at 88-90 and an above-average slider. His low-90s two-seamer has helped him keep his ground ball rate around 50 percent in Class A and Double-A.

Burnes is competitive and aggressive on the mound, filling up the strike zone and rarely giving in to hitters. He repeats his delivery well, with a three-quarter slot and very quick arm acceleration as his front foot lands.

The Brewers will have a dilemma this spring with Burnes, as he pitched too well in Double-A to return him there, but their Triple-A affiliate, high-altitude Colorado Springs, is one of the worst pitching environments in the minors. While they don't need him right now, he's not that far off from a big league rotation spot.


25. Royce Lewis, SS, Minnesota Twins

Age: 19 (6/5/1999)

Bats: R | Throws: R

6-foot-2 | 188 pounds

Top level: Class A | 2017 rank: Not eligible

Lewis was the first player taken in the 2017 draft and hit very well for an 18-year-old in the Gulf Coast League. The Twins challenged him with a promotion to low-A Cedar Rapids, where he continued to get on base and make far more contact than you'd expect from a kid who was barely two months out of high school.

A 70 runner with a quick bat, Lewis projects to come into above-average power as he fills out. He was a well-below-average defender at shortstop in high school, although the Twins were pleased enough with what they saw from him this summer that they'll try to develop him at the position, with center field always there as a backup option given his speed.

Lewis earned raves from scouts before the draft for his makeup, including his aptitude for the game, and the Twins indicated that was part of why they were comfortable taking him with the first pick. His bat may be even more advanced than it looked last spring, in which case he could move quickly through the low minors.

If he stays at shortstop, he has superstar upside with his speed and on-base skills; even in center field, he wouldn't lose much value because he's likely to be such a good defender out there.


26. Kyle Wright, RHP, Atlanta Braves

Age: 22 (10/2/1995)

Bats: R | Throws: R

6-foot-4 | 200 pounds

Top level: high-A | 2017 rank: Not eligible

Wright was the best pure college pitcher in the draft class last year and went fifth overall to Atlanta, one pick behind Golden Spikes winner and two-way player Brendan McKay. He had a rough start to his junior year at Vanderbilt but turned his season around in early April, starting with a complete game, 13-strikeout performance against Florida.

Wright is typically throwing at 92-94 mph but can run it up to 96, and his slider is his out pitch, reaching 86 with bite and tilt. He'll use that slider against both right- and left-handed hitters, even in typical changeup counts. He has a change that he didn't use much in college, which should be a developmental priority for him in pro ball.

While his arm swing is sound, his arm can be late relative to his front leg when he's too quick off the rubber. Wright looks built for innings, and if the changeup is even an average pitch for him, he should be a solid midrotation starter with No. 2 upside thanks to the effectiveness of his slider.


27. Alex Reyes, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

Age: 23 (8/29/1994)

Bats: R | Throws: R

6-foot-3 | 175 pounds

Top level: MLB | 2017 rank: 10

Reyes missed all of 2017 after Tommy John surgery but is expected to return sometime in May and could end up in the Cardinals' big league rotation this summer.

Before the surgery, Reyes worked at 94-98 as a starter and touched triple-digits in shorter outings, showing a grade-70 changeup with good arm speed and an average curveball that looks hard but plays down because he casts the breaking ball instead of finishing it out in front of his delivery.

Reyes has always had a shorter stride with a stiff landing on his front leg, which gave him a higher release point and more stress on his arm. He missed a chunk of 2015 with a sore shoulder, and then blew out his elbow before last season.

That delivery also meant his fastball could come in flat, without much downhill plane, which could be an issue in today's homer-happy environment. But it is frontline stuff if he can stay healthy, making Reyes a potential No. 1 or 2 starter or, at worst, a high K-rate reliever.


28. Brendan McKay, LHP/1B, Tampa Bay Rays

Age: 22 (12/18/1995)

Bats: L | Throws: L

6-foot-2 | 212 pounds

Top level: Class A (Short) | 2017 rank: Not eligible

He's a floor wax *and* a dessert topping! McKay won the 2017 Golden Spikes Award after completing one of the greatest two-way seasons in college baseball history, and the Rays, after taking him with the fourth overall pick, seem inclined to let him both pitch and hit as he starts out in pro ball. His future truly could come either way, although I think the path of least resistance has him on the mound.

As a pitcher, McKay will show three average or better pitches with solid present command. He has had days when his curveball is better and days when his changeup is his best pitch, and he throws all three for strikes. He was better early in the season in 2017 but seemed to wear down by the end of the spring, perhaps from handling a full starter's workload while also hitting whenever he wasn't on the mound.

There were scouts who saw McKay as the best pure bat in the draft class, and others who liked his power more than his hit tool. He seems as if he could go either way as a hitter, becoming a high average/OBP guy or a 30-plus homer guy, but perhaps not both. He's an above-average defender at first with, obviously, a plus arm.

McKay could benefit from picking one path, but he has enough potential either way that the Rays plan to let him pitch on a regular rotation and hit on some of his days off to see if one becomes the clearly superior option. He could be an above-average starting pitcher in the majors or a middle-of-the-order bat at first base. My money is very slightly on the former.


29. Brendan Rodgers, SS, Colorado Rockies

Age: 21 (8/9/1996)

Bats: R | Throws: R

6 feet | 180 pounds

Top level: Double-A | 2017 rank: 19

Rodgers was the third overall pick in the 2015 draft and the first high school player taken, having shown as an amateur that he could hit the best prep pitching the country could throw at him.

The Rockies' top prospect has great feel to hit, with a smooth, balanced right-handed swing that also provides some pull power. He has a good eye at the plate but has yet to walk much or show he can work deep counts, perhaps in part because he had so much success in the low minors before a July promotion to Double-A.

Rodgers has hit at every level so far in pro ball, but his first three stops were all in good hitters' parks -- he hit .461/.488/.809 at Lancaster last year -- so his return to Double-A Hartford this year will tell us more about how advanced he is at the plate and whether there's more than average power there.

Rodgers is a 40 runner with some stiffness in his hips, so there's some question whether he'll have the lateral quickness to have above-average range at shortstop. His hands work well, his instincts at the position are good, and he has a plus arm, but there's a longstanding bias in the industry against below-average runners at short. The Rockies have played him a little at second base, but they'll likely exhaust the shortstop possibility before considering a switch.

He also needs to stay healthy for a full season, with just 199 games played over the past two years around a bunch of minor nicks and cuts.

He could be anything from a solid-average regular at second base who makes a lot of contact with average power to a fringe star at shortstop who hits 20-some homers without hurting anyone on defense.


30. Jay Groome, LHP, Boston Red Sox

Age: 19 (8/23/1998)

Bats: L | Throws: L

Top level: Class A | 2017 rank: 20

Groome's season couldn't have gone much worse. He started out hurt, tried to pitch through it, gave up a nine-spot in his first start of the year and then went on the shelf for two months. When he did reach the mound, the results were inconsistent, but his stuff has already started to justify his pre-draft projections.

The 2016 first-rounder worked at 92-95 as a starter last year and still has a grade-70 curveball as a put-away pitch that he can throw for strikes and even for swings and misses in the zone. He has been working on his changeup -- during some outings it would flash above average and in others it was a nonfactor for him. He also may eventually be a candidate for a cutter, especially if the change doesn't come along all the way.

Groome is a lean 6-foot-6 and should put on more muscle as he gets into his 20s, but the priority for him now is conditioning rather than weight training, so he can have a full, healthy 2018 and continue to work on his control and changeup. Few starter prospects can boast a breaking ball like Groome's, and despite all of the missed time, his arm is still healthy, so his upside of a No. 2 starter remains intact.


31. Ryan McMahon, 3B/2B/1B, Colorado Rockies

Age: 23 (12/14/1994)

Bats: L | Throws: R

6-foot-2 | 185 pounds

Top level: MLB | 2017 rank: Unranked

McMahon made the top 100 at No. 62 before the 2016 season but dropped off last year after a tough Double-A debut in a season when Hartford had no home games because of stadium construction delays. He returned to Hartford to start 2017, destroyed the level, then moved up to Triple-A Albuquerque -- likely the best hitters' park above Class A with an elevation of 5,312 feet -- and hit .374/.411/.612 there, earning a September call-up to Denver.

While his stat line was inflated by his environment, McMahon made some real adjustments to his swing coming into 2017 by getting rid of some loop length he'd developed that the year before while also using the opposite-field gap more frequently.

He is a good enough athlete to handle third base, but he's not unseating the Rockies' incumbent there, so he played more first base than anywhere else in 2017 while also starting 35 games at second base, where he's a work in progress.

The bat should play even at first, where he should be a high-average hitter with plus power and adequate on-base skills. If he manages to become playable on defense at second, he could be a Jeff Kent type of player -- without the motorcycle antics.


32. Lewis Brinson, OF, Miami Marlins

Age: 24 (5/8/1994)

Bats: R | Throws: R

6-foot-3 | 195 pounds

Top level: MLB | 2017 rank: 38

Brinson has huge upside and showed flashes of it again in 2017 -- when he was able to get on the field. A first-round pick by Texas in 2012, Brinson shows 70 defense in center and 80 raw power that is starting to show up more in games. What isn't showing up more in games is Brinson himself: He played in 97 games in the regular season, and the last time he played in at least 105 games was 2012.

He seems to have made progress in cutting down on his swing when he falls behind in the count, but he needs more reps to show if this is true and/or to develop further if it's an artifact of playing in a hitter's haven.

His glove would play right now in the majors, and even if he doesn't make more contact, he has the power to be a low-average, 25-homer regular. There's just so much potential here if he can get a full season or two of at-bats to continue his development.


33. Scott Kingery, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies

Age: 24 (4/29/1994)

Bats: R | Throws: R

5-foot-10 | 180 pounds

Top level: Triple-A | 2017 rank: Unranked

Kingery hit five home runs in a full season in 2016, splitting time between high-A and Double-A, but a small change in where he starts his hands led to a power explosion: 26 bombs between Double-A and Triple-A in 2017, which took him from an isolated power figure of .107 in 2016 to .226.

He was already a prospect because he's a 70 runner and a plus defender at second base, and he had bat speed with high contact rates, although he rarely walked because he would attack early in the count. If he's even a 20-homer guy in the majors, his defense, speed, and ability to hit for average would make him an above-average regular who'll make some All-Star teams. I can't project more power than that, but then again, I didn't even think his 2017 output was possible before it happened.


34. Jesus Sanchez, OF, Tampa Bay Rays

Age: 20 (10/7/1997)

Bats: L | Throws: R

6-foot-3 | 210 pounds

Top level: Class A | 2017 rank: Unranked

Sanchez, who signed in the same July 2 class as fellow Rays minor leaguer Adrian Rondon, finished in the top five in the Midwest League in doubles and homers this year as a 19-year-old while striking out fewer than 100 times in a full season at the level.

A good bad-ball hitter who elicits frequent comparisons to the late Oscar Taveras, Sanchez has very fast hands, allowing him to cover more of the strike zone and pitches beyond the zone than most hitters do. He'll show plus raw power that started to show up more in games this year. He has 25-30 homers very much within his reach as he fills out.

The Rays moved Sanchez out of center this year, mostly playing him in left field, which is his most likely position. He has the athleticism and arm to play anywhere, but his reads and instincts are still below average. Even in left, he profiles as an above-average regular who hits for a high contact rate and power, and there's still hope that his defense can improve with reps and better coaching as he approaches the majors.


35. Keston Hiura, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers

Age: 21 (8/2/1996)

Bats: R | Throws: R

5-foot-11 | 190 pounds

Top level: Class A | 2017 rank: Unranked

Hiura was the No. 9 overall pick in the 2017 draft, and many scouts and teams viewed him as the best pure hitter in the class. He didn't play the field this spring for UC Irvine because of an elbow injury that many teams believed would require surgery, but the Brewers believe he can rehab it and avoid the knife, even giving him a few games at his natural position of second base in low-A Wisconsin last summer.

Hiura can hit and didn't miss a beat in pro ball, hitting .333/.374/.476 with 11 doubles in his 27 games during his month in the Midwest League. He loads his hands a little deep, but his path to the ball is extremely consistent, and he should come into 10-15 homers of power given his hand strength and weight transfer from his lower half.

The biggest question on Hiura is in the field. He has never had a great arm or glove and hasn't played defense much in the past calendar year, so the Brewers are hoping he can just play an adequate second base and rake his way to the majors. It's not an easy profile -- Dustin Ackley was supposed to be that kind of player -- but Hiura has such a long track record of hitting that he seems like as good a bet as any prospect to pull it off.


36. Alex Verdugo, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

Age: 22 (5/15/1996)

Bats: L | Throws: L

Top level: MLB | 2017 rank: 31

Verdugo was the youngest regular in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League and hit .314/.389/.436 even though Oklahoma City isn't one of the circuit's many extreme hitter's parks.

He has great hand-eye coordination to go with his selectivity, which showed in the stat line as he walked more than he struck out last year and was one of only two PCL regulars to pull off the feat. He is an average runner who can handle center field but will probably be bumped by a superior defender; he has also played quite a bit of right field in pro ball, where his range is above average and his 80 arm helps as well.

He has been dinged in the past for immaturity, but it hasn't affected his play on the field, and there's going to be above-average power down the road, given his swing angle and habit of making hard contact.

He looks like a solid regular in right field who could be more if he exceeds power expectations or shows such great patience that he ends up a .400 OBP guy, either of which is at least in play for him.


37. Nick Gordon, SS/2B, Minnesota Twins

Age: 22 (10/24/1995)

Bats: L | Throws: R

6 feet | 160 pounds

Top level: Double-A | 2017 rank: 53

Gordon is nearly ready to step into a big league lineup somewhere, just needing to get stronger so he can hold up for the longer major league season before the Twins can commit to him as an everyday player.

The son of Flash Gordon, Nick was the fifth overall pick in the 2014 draft out of an Orlando-area high school. He was a two-way prospect who would regularly hit 90-91 mph off the mound, but his future was always with the bat, as he showed an advanced feel for all aspects of the game and projected to a plus hit tool with good on-base skills. He has a compact swing with very good hand-eye coordination that has led to high contact rates everywhere he played until last year. He spent 2017 in Double-A and went into the major league All-Star break hitting .297/.366/.455, but wore down physically and hit just .222/.297/.328 the rest of the way.

Gordon could stick at shortstop if the Twins needed him to -- he has great instincts, good hands and an arm that flashes plus (although it's usually more above average now, as he rarely lets it fly). Because he's a below-average runner, he has always been a candidate to move to second base, and if Royce Lewis -- the Twins' first pick in last year's draft -- moves quickly while staying at short, that could also influence a move for Gordon to another position.

His value would be higher at short, of course, but with Brian Dozier an impending free agent after 2018, Gordon's quickest path to playing time might be at second, and he projects as no worse than an average regular there, with more upside if he becomes the .300 AVG/.400 OBP player that he has the skills to be.


38. Luis Urias, SS/2B, San Diego Padres

Age: 20 (6/3/1997)

Bats: R | Throws: R

5-foot-9 | 160 pounds

Top level: Double-A | 2017 rank: Unranked

Height doesn't measure the hit tool. Urias is listed at just 5-foot-9, 160 pounds, but all the Mexican-born middle infielder has done since entering pro ball is hit, including a standout 2017 season when he hit .296/.398/.380 and walked more than he struck out as a 20-year-old in the Double-A Texas League. That on-base percentage led the league, even though he was the circuit's youngest regular, and he had the fourth-best OBP in all of Double-A, behind three first basemen, aged 23, 25 and 28.

Though Urias is small, he is fierce with a compact, quick swing that should continue to produce contact even as the pitching he faces improves. He doesn't project to hit for much power, but there's enough strength in his hands and arms to hit for average with plenty of doubles power.

In the field, Urias split time in 2017 between short and second. He's probably an average defender at short, but above-average at second, and most organizations will have or want a rangier shortstop to slide him to another position anyway.

His approach is so good that he profiles as at least a solid regular at either spot, perhaps not an All-Star in name but a player who's that valuable because of his on-base skills and position.


39. Jorge Mateo, SS, Oakland Athletics

Age: 23 (6/23/1995)

Bats: R | Throws: R

6 feet | 190 pounds

Top level: Double-A | 2017 rank: Unranked

Mateo went from out-of-favor prospect to major trade piece in the span of about a month, going to Oakland in the Sonny Gray deal after 30 great games in Double-A. The irony is that Mateo had done nothing to earn the promotion; he moped in high-A Tampa, spending time at the level for the third straight year, and was hitting .240/.288/.400 when the Yankees bumped him up to Double-A Trenton, where he went off, hitting .300/.381/.525, running better, playing better defense and driving the ball for the first time in his pro career.

A 70 runner who can show you 80 at times -- again, it can depend on his effort level -- Mateo has the feet and arm for shortstop, but needs to work on his consistency on routine plays, although he was better in Double-A than he had been at the level below. Quality of contact had been an issue for him in the low minors as well, but Mateo has gained some hand strength and even hit a career-best 12 homers on the season.

He could still end up in center field if he doesn't improve enough defensively at shortstop, but he has a good chance to stay at short for now and projects as a high-average hitter with 50-plus steals and 10-15 homers a year at his peak, which should profile as a good everyday player at either position.


40. Yordan Alvarez, 1B, Houston Astros

Age: 21 (6/27/1997)

Bats: L | Throws: L

6-foot-5 | 225 pounds

Top level: high-A | 2017 rank: Unranked

Alvarez was originally signed by the Dodgers as an international free agent, but they traded him to Houston before he ever played a game in their system. Alvarez made his U.S. debut in 2017 in the Midwest League at age 20, hit .360/.468/.658 there before a late-June move up to high-A, where he continued to hit for some average after a brief adjustment period but didn't show the same power.

Alvarez is a big man with a fairly short swing for his size, showing more raw power in BP than in games. He can get long sometimes and wrap his bat, but most of the time, his game swings are shorter and more direct, without the huge finish he'll show in pregame. He has had no trouble at all with left-handed pitching so far at either level, and even when he wasn't hitting as well for Buies Creek he still rarely struck out. At 6-5, 225 pounds, he's big for anywhere but first base, but the Astros have tried him in left field in an attempt to add some versatility for whenever he's ready for the majors.

The swing and the plate discipline are already solid for a 20-year-old who hadn't played regularly in two years before last May, but it's the power upside that makes him a top-100 prospect.


41. Taylor Trammell, OF, Cincinnati Reds

Age: 20 (9/13/1997)

Bats: L | Throws: L

6-foot-2 | 195 pounds

Top level: Class A | 2017 Rank: Not ranked

Trammell was a two-sport player at a Georgia high school when the Reds took him with the 35th overall pick in the 2016 draft, but has proven to be more advanced as a baseball player than the stereotypical football/baseball athlete.

Playing in the full-season low-A Midwest League at age 19, Trammell finished second in the circuit in walks and in triples, 11th in homers, and in the top ten in both OBP and slugging among qualifying batters.

Trammell has a broad mix of tools with a lot of grade 55s, with more hit tool than power, above-average running speed, and very good instincts in the outfield and on the bases. He shows some raw power in BP but in games is more of a contact/line drive hitter with a good swing he can repeat and an excellent approach for such a young player.

He may be a one-level-per-year prospect for the next few seasons and is more likely to end up in left field than center in the long term, but there's the potential here for a 6 bat with average power and good defense.


42. Juan Soto, OF, Washington Nationals

Age: 19 (10/25/1998)

Bats: L | Throws: L

6-foot-1 | 185 pounds

Top level: Class A | 2017 rank: Just missed/No. 101

Soto went to low-A Hagerstown to start the year at age 18, hit like Mike Trout for a month ... and then he got hurt. Repeatedly. First, he fractured an ankle sliding into home plate. Then he broke a hamate bone while coming back from the first injury. He got into some Gulf Coast League games to rehab, and then pulled his hamstring. An anvil fell on him, and after that, he stepped on a rake ... It was just a tough year for the Nats' No. 2 prospect, who did at least end the season with a 5-for-5 day in the last game of the GCL season.

When healthy, which he's supposed to be heading into spring training, Soto has good bat speed and exceptional bat control for his age along with an advanced approach way beyond what most 18-year-olds show. He'll flash plus raw power now and projects to 25-plus homers at his peak.

He's a 45 runner with an average arm and will almost certainly be a right fielder in the long term, but that shouldn't be a problem for his profile given his on-base skills and power upside. Let's see him get a full healthy season in him before we get too chummy, but Soto could be a global top-20 prospect if he rakes in 2018 the way he did before he got hurt.


43. Jack Flaherty, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

Age: 22 (10/15/1995)

Bats: R | Throws: R

6-foot-4 | 205 pounds

Top level: MLB | 2017 rank: 89

Flaherty has made steady progress through the Cardinals' system since they took him with the 34th overall pick in the 2014 draft. He started out as a command/control right-hander with athleticism and projection before showing some expected growth in stuff last year.

His fastball sits at 92-94 mph now and can reach 96, working together with an above-average slider, fringe curve, and a too-firm changeup that he'll have to improve to get lefties out in the majors.

Flaherty is athletic and really repeats his delivery without much effort, giving cause to believe he'll continue to improve his off-speed stuff with repetition. If his fastball has maxed out, he's a solid league-average starter with the chance for more if his slider and/or changeup improve. And at 22 for all of 2018, he could still find a little more velocity before he's done.


44. Anthony Alford, OF, Toronto Blue Jays

Age: 23 (7/20/1994)

Bats: R | Throws: R

6-foot-4 | 205 pounds

Top level: MLB | 2017 rank: 55

Alford turned 23 in July, but in baseball terms, he's much younger than that because of how little he has played. A former college quarterback, Alford has pluses all over his scouting report, including speed, raw power and plate discipline, and he has shown a consistent ability to get on base and put the ball in play when he has been on the field. That last point is crucial. Alford has only played 100 games in one regular season since he signed in 2012, missing time while he was playing college football, then suffering injuries in each of the past two seasons that cut into his playing time.

The other question about Alford is when and if the plus raw power he shows in BP will show up in games; His season high in homers is nine, and he hasn't even been a big doubles hitter so far. His physical age says he should be coming into more power by now; his limited baseball experience -- 308 regular-season games across six calendar years -- says to be patient. He looks like a sure regular, but some power could make him a star. Let's just hope Alford makes his plea to the baseball gods for a healthy season.


45. Leody Taveras, OF, Texas Rangers

Age: 19 (9/8/1998)

Bats: S | Throws: R

6-foot-1 | 170 pounds

Top level: Class A | 2017 rank: 35

Taveras spent all of 2017 in the full-season Sally League even though he didn't turn 19 until a few days after his last regular-season game with Hickory. He's already an above-average defender in center with the instincts and speed to develop into a future 70 glove.

At the plate, he has already shown good strike-zone awareness for his age and can put the ball in play, but doesn't yet have the strength to translate that into medium-quality contact. His .249/.312/.360 line for Hickory is more an indication that he was physically overmatched than that he lacked the approach or swing to hit there.

The Rangers typically push their top teenage position-player prospects aggressively; Nomar Mazara played in Hickory at age 18 too, hitting a very similar .236/.310/.382 and repeating the level at 19. Taveras doesn't have Mazara's power upside, but his superior defensive profile and contact skills make him a comparable prospect in future value. His glove will get him to the majors, and his role will depend largely on how much strength he adds for harder contact and whether he can get the raw power he displays in batting practice to translate to games.


46. Luis Robert, OF, Chicago White Sox

Age: 20 (8/3/1997)

Bats: R | Throws: R

6-foot-3 | 185 pounds

Top level: Rookie | 2017 rank: Not eligible

The White Sox signed the Cuban Robert (pronounced like the English name) for $26 million as an unrestricted free agent in May, shortly before new rules came into effect that would have classified Robert as an amateur and capped his bonus at about one-tenth of what he got.

He's a big wild-card among prospects, boasting some huge tools with major questions about his hit tool. Robert shows 65 speed and 70 raw power with a quick bat and great athleticism on both sides of the ball. But he has a dead-hands start to his swing without a load and doesn't use his lower half well, so scouts had concerns about his ability to get to hard stuff in or up in the zone. In the field, he has the speed and range for center, but his arm might push him to left field, as teams saw some below-average throws from him in workouts.

The history of Cuban free agents is not great, so Robert is in a high-risk category overall. That said, betting on athleticism and raw tools is generally a good way to go when you don't have data to support your decision, and there is certainly a chance that Robert -- who played very well against younger competition in the Dominican Summer League -- beats scouts' expectations and shows more of a hit tool, at which point he'd have an overall grade 60/All-Star kind of upside.


47. Fernando Romero, RHP, Minnesota Twins

Age: 23 (12/24/1994)

Bats: R | Throws: R

6 feet | 215 pounds

Top level: Double-A | 2017 rank: 65

Romero signed in November 2011, threw 88 innings in parts of three seasons, and then blew out his elbow, missing most of 2014 and all of 2015 while hurt and then rehabbing. His 2016 season was a successful return, as he threw 90 innings without a setback and showed all of his preinjury stuff and more. His 2017 season was yet another step forward for the six-foot right-hander, who can show two plus pitches now with the makings of a third.

He has hit 99 mph and pitches with a grade 60 fastball and plus sink, generating ground ball rates over 50 percent in every full-season league he has pitched. He pairs it with a hammer slider that's plus when he hits it and generates swings and misses. His changeup is behind the other two pitches, but projects to be plus in time.

Romero is on the smaller side, and he did miss two starts at the end of the year with a minor shoulder injury, so durability will be a concern. But the upside here is exciting, and he doesn't have a ton of ground to cover to be at least a mid-rotation starter in the majors.


48. Ian Anderson, RHP, Atlanta Braves

Age: 19 (5/2/1998)

Bats: R | Throws: R

6-foot-3 | 170 pounds

Top level: Class A | 2017 rank: 52

Anderson was the third overall pick in 2016 out of a high school in upstate New York, so he came into pro ball without that much pitching experience and even today is still a projection right-hander. He can touch 94 mph but sits more 90-91 as he works deeper into games, showing an above-average changeup and average curveball.

He has a lot of room on his frame to grow, both for future velocity and durability, but scouts like his athleticism and arm action as harbingers for improved control and command. There's still a lot of unrealized potential here with Anderson, who won't turn 20 until May 2. He'll have to fill out and show he can hold his velocity deeper into games, build up his innings total to be a full-season starter, get more power on his curveball, and work on his feel for using all three weapons to get hitters out.

His range of outcomes is still very wide as he has the three pitches to eventually start, but could be anywhere from a below-average big league starter to a solid No. 2 depending on how he develops physically and as a pitcher.


49. Alec Hansen, RHP, Chicago White Sox

Age: 23 (10/10/1994)

Bats: R | Throws: R

6-foot-7 | 235 pounds

Top level: Double-A | 2017 rank: Unranked

Hansen led all of minor league baseball in strikeouts this year with 191, dominating low-A as a 22-year-old college product then continuing to rack up strikeouts after a midseason promotion to high-A, where his walk and home run rates crept up a bit.

He had such a bad junior year at the University of Oklahoma that he fell from top-10 consideration to the second round of the 2016 draft, so the White Sox have handled him conservatively to try to rebuild his confidence and work with him on maintaining a consistent delivery. He's staying over the rubber better now and is working on separating his hands a little sooner so that his arm can be on time when his front leg strikes.

When he syncs up, he can look like a future No. 2 starter or better thanks to a huge fastball that misses bats at the top of the zone and two above-average breaking balls. His command isn't there yet, but it's worlds improved from where it was when the White Sox selected him.

Hansen finished the year with two starts in Double-A, striking out 17 of 48 batters he faced, and should be able to start 2018 at that level, with a big league call-up at least a possibility for later this year. His range of outcomes remains really wide, given his variable control and command, but you can see the ingredients of an above-average starter who handles 200 innings a year.


50. Luiz Gohara, LHP, Atlanta Braves

Age: 21 (7/31/1996)

Bats: L | Throws: L

6-foot-3 | 210 pounds

Top level: MLB | 2017 rank: 77

Gohara came to Atlanta in a relatively minor trade that sent Mallex Smith to Seattle last offseason, as a result of the Mariners seeming to sour on the Brazilian lefty's makeup and conditioning. Atlanta looks to have come out ahead in this deal, as Gohara posted huge strikeout rates at three levels before a September MLB debut when he showed huge velocity and a wipeout slider to go with iffy control.

Gohara is huge, earning body comparisons to CC Sabathia -- and that's Sabathia now, not when he was Gohara's age -- and can sniff triple-digits with a fastball that averaged 96 mph in the majors. He threw a curveball when the Mariners first signed him in 2012 but has shifted to a tight mid-80s slider instead -- hitters swung and missed at a quarter of the sliders he threw in the big leagues. His changeup is below average, as he hasn't thrown it much in pro ball, and the lack of that third average pitch led to a wide platoon split in the majors.

He has always lagged a bit behind other international players his age because of his limited amateur pitching experience and big frame, so there might still be quite a bit more development here, especially in command. If he gets to even 45 command and the changeup becomes just good enough to keep right-handed batters off his fastball, he has No. 2-starter upside -- though it's more likely he becomes an average starter with a lot of volatility to his performance.

This news has been published by title Law\'s Top 50 Prospects: Bregman Now At No. 1

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