Some people find great pleasure in creating prospect lists. Others prefer not to. I am among the former group. While ranking players of such different skillsets and circumstances is difficult, it helps in the organization of thoughts. And while it often leaves the ranker vulnerable to criticism when the rankings look horrible in several years, the "art" of prospecting isn't exactly one of booming success. Those having opinions on a prospect will tend to be wrong unless they expect future failure. Still, for some, that isn't a deterrent. Having made previous lists, I can tell you I have had some awful rankings and opinions and I will in the future have some awful rankings and opinions. If I am lucky, maybe an occasional ranking will later receive acclaim. By making a list, I can re-visit it and (hopefully) learn from my mistakes.
This list is as good of a guess as any other average fan out there. If it were anything more, I would place it on the front pate. But something so subjective and probably incorrect is better suited for the sidebar.
Besides for Oscar Hernandez and Jose Mujica, I have seen every single prospect on this list play either live or on video. I have watched all the prospects from AAA Durham to SS Hudson Valley play games this year, with most of that coming from Milb TV (highly recommend). This is something I could not say in the past, and something I am proud of. Actually seeing the guys play is much preferred over just reading reports on the players and offers a different take and perspective.
Since I am no scout and the amount of games I have seen (besides for Durham) is limited, I only make observations and notes from watching the games.
The scouting information I use is primarily from Baseball America. They tend to be the most "fair" and correct from my experience. Most of their work is also pulled from scouts, so it tends to reflect the consensus.
I also use Keith Law's, Kevin Goldstein's, Frankie Piliere's, and John Sickel's work. But for the most part, I use Baseball America's, since I trust it the most. Reading the differing opinions of the other "experts" often gives a different perspective though, an undeniable benefit.
As far as my actual rankings go, I tend favor upside more than probability. A proper mix of the two factors is needed; however, finding the perfect combination is a fruitless pursuit.
The main factors in the rankings are tools, projection, potential, production, probability, and intangibles.
1. Chris Archer: Archer is the choice for the first spot. While guys like Guerrieri and Romero have a ton of upside, Archer provides more probability.
2. Hak-Ju Lee: If I was convinced Lee could hit, he would easily be #1. It will take a larger sample size to determine if Lee's recent hot streak is him turning the corner or just a simple hot streak.
3. Taylor Guerrieri: He has the most upside of the bunch, and reports of the improved changeup are very encouraging. Not too many guys have three plus pitches a year out of high school. If the shoulder issue is not severe and he has a very strong year, he could be #1 by the end of the season.
4. Enny Romero: Statistically speaking, Romero has been more solid than good this year. His upside is tantalizing though. Only three LHP starters in the majors average more than 93 mph on the fastball, something he did in his last start. I have also been alluded that Romero is underrated by multiple credible sources, so I'm keeping a keen eye on his progress.
5. Richie Shaffer (assuming he signs): Shaffer was considered by many to be a top 15 player in this past draft class. I am slightly concerned he is overrated because of the weak offensive college crop, but only time will tell. If he can play RF, he can be very valuable. If he moves to 1B, he should be more average than anything.
6. Alex Colome: Colome has the upside of a #2 starter, but profiles more as a 3-4 starter due to mediocre command. His ERA this year has been unimpressive, but he is striking out many batters.
7. Josh Sale: While I have seen Sale higher on other lists gaining plenty of adulation, I'm hesitant to rank him above any of the previous six. It is pure speculation on my part, but given how he has performed poorly recently and has received more than a typical amount of rest days, I think the injury he suffered is still bothering him.
8. Drew Vettleson: Vettleson is a tough guy to rank. Defensively, he plays a strong RF. However, there are questions over how good his bat may actually be. Some scouts love his hit tool while others note he isn't a standout hitter.
9. Mikie Mahtook: Given how well he hit in the AFL (albeit the fact that everyone hits there), I was somewhat surprised when Mahtook has delivered an okay performance so far. Similarily regarded players such as Jackie Bradley and Kolten Wong have been terrific, yet Mahtook has only managed a mid-.700 OPS. If he can stick in CF (I think he can), he has the chance to be an above average regular. If he doesn't stick in center field, his bat will have to be better.
10. Ryan Brett: Performance-wise, Brett has been terrific this year. Someone of his stature has to perform well though, because there is not much to project.
11. Tim Beckham: On my first rendition of this list, I ranked Beckham 15th. After reconsidering it, I moved him up. I don't see an impact player in Beckham, but he should be a player comparable to Sean Rodriguez (prior to this year and statistically, not physically). His defense at SS is questionable and his bat will certainly not carry him barring an extreme breakout.
12. Oscar Hernandez: I'm not sure if this ranking is on par, higher, or lower than consensus. Baseball America has really started to hint of serious potential for Hernandez, and John Sickels displayed a similar attitude. Hernandez is a catcher who shows promise and ability both with the bat and the glove, something rare among catchers.
13. Tyler Goeddel: This spot was really just a coin toss between Hager and Goeddel. But in the end, I sided with Goeddel because he presents more upside. A promising athlete, Goeddel is still transforming his tools into skills. After a hot start, he has really slumped at the plate.
14. Jake Hager: Unlike Goeddel, Hager emerged the past two months after a dreadful April. He should be able to stick at shortstop, and coupled with his knack for hitting, he can develop into an above average shortstop.
15. Derek Dietrich: I don't doubt Dietrich's power, but I do question if it comes at the expense of his contact abilities. Dietrich is a strong guy, but it is a slightly long and immensely powerful swing that really generates his power. If he can learn to cut back on some tough pitches, he should become a more complete player at the plate. Interestingly enough, he looked quite good defensively at 2B when I saw him.
16. Felipe Rivero: Rivero doesn't have the limitless upside of Romero or Guerrieri, but he offers a definite polish atypical among young arms with potential. His ability to locate his fastball helps him dominate competition in the lower levels. He profiles as a 2-4 starter.
17. Blake Snell: The question for Snell at the time of the draft last year was about his projectability. Some thought, because of his thin and tall frame, that he was projectable. Others pointed out his narrow shoulders and questioned how much projection he had. The Rays clearly saw the potential in him, selecting him in the first round. So far, that might be paying off. Early reports indicate his velocity is in the low 90s and that his curve has taken a step forward.
18. Brandon Martin: Martin is off to a quick start this year for Princeton. If he continues to hit well, he could move into the top 10.
19. Parker Markel: For a guy with as good of stuff as Markel, the low strikeout rate is a serious concern. The fastball velocity is great, but it just tends to be more "hittable" than it should be. If he can't strike more batters out, he will probably end up as a reliever.
20. Granden Goetzman: A bit of a forgotten man from the 2011 draft, Goetzman offers power potential. He is a high upside and high risk player, so we just need to wait and see how he develops.
21. Jeff Malm
22. Luke Bailey
23. Jeff Ames
24. Justin O'Conner
25. Brandon Guyer
26. Alex Torres
27. Andrew Toles
28. Stephen Vogt
29. James Harris
30: Jose Mujica
Honorable Mentions: Kes Carter, Henry Wrigley, and CJ Riefenhauser.
My overall impression of the system is that is has plenty of depth, but has a dearth of elite talent. Guerrieri, Lee, and some of the other high upside players can fill that gap, but until then, the system will be more renowned for its large supply of B type prospects.
The list is a bit incomplete, since reports on progress within the season are rare. I also am ambivalent in my rankings, frequently changing my opinion and view of a player after hearing a compelling argument.
Thoughts? Any critique is welcome.