There’s a lot more stratification in this list than some of the others I have posted. That starts right at the top where there are two generational talents that stand light years above the rest. The remainder of the list has more ceiling than certainty, but there should be some outstanding big leaguers out of this group.
1. Bryce Harper – Washington Nationals
2. Mike Trout – Los Angeles Angels
As I said in the opening, Harper and Trout are generational talents. I contemplated differentiating between Harper and Trout, simply because I consider Harper to be that impressive. His power, surprising aptitude for hitting and his plus right field defensive profile give him absolute superstar potential that is unmatched in the minor leagues. In the end, I left Trout in the same tier as Harper because he offers his own set of game-breaking tools that include elite speed, hitting ability and defense to go along with average power.
3. Will Myers – Kansas City Royals
It seems odd, but I think Myers belongs by himself here, ahead of a group of prospects that I believe carry more risk. Myers, despite his struggles in 2011, has the potential to be a plus Major Leaguer that hits for average, gets on base and plays adequate defense. There is some question about his power ceiling, but he should have at least average power in time.
4. Bubba Starling – Kansas City Royals
5. Yoenis Cespedes – Oakland Athletics
6. Michael Choice – Oakland Athletics
Each player in this tier offers an elevated risk profile. Starling was arguably the best overall athlete in the 2011 draft and some tag him as also having the highest pure ceiling in that draft class. That ceiling doesn’t come without concern over how everything will translate, as Starling is raw in every phase of the game and will require significant development time. Cespedes has been discussed at length this off-season and how he translates from the Cuban leagues to American professional baseball will be fascinating to watch. Choice may be the most likely player of this group to reach his ceiling. I’m a big fan of his power profile and if he fulfills that potential, the swing and miss in his game will be overlooked in favor of his robust power numbers.
7. Gary Brown – San Francisco Giants
8. Brett Jackson – Chicago Cubs
9. Christian Yelich – Miami Marlins
Brown and Jackson offer certainty in an otherwise uncertain post. Both players are rapidly approaching the big leagues and could get a shot in The Show this summer. Brown should play up the middle with 80-grade speed, plus defense and hitting ability, and more power than people give him credit for. Jackson has solid tools across the board and his overall game plays up because of the quality of his entire game. He may be stretched in center field but he has enough skills to handle a corner and be a solid regular. Yelich is much further away than Brown and Jackson but he has outstanding offensive potential and could move quickly after a breakout 2011 season.
10. Mason Williams – New York Yankees
Williams rounds out the Top 10 with his hitting ability and outstanding defensive play. He will face a stiff test during his full-season debut in 2012 but he has the potential to hit at the top of a big league lineup while playing very good defense.
Just Missed: Jake Marisnick – Toronto Blue Jays, Rymer Liriano – San Diego Padres, Oscar Taveras – St. Louis Cardinals, Grant Green – Oakland Athletics, Starling Marte – Pittsburgh Pirates