Here we are back again, for what I believe is our 15th Top Propsect List.
If you have been here before, you know the drill.
Each year I (this year with the assistance of the esteemed Lord Zola, Master of the Macro) run a series of formulas against the pool of minor leaguers to identify the players I see have the greatest opportunity to succeed as ballplayers. So, the formulas are indeed weighted to bring younger players to light. Additionally, the differential between players is miniscule. For example, though we are just finishing the scrub, double checking to ensure those who no longer qualify as rookies have been removed, just 4.25 points separate the top player from #250.
The formulas I use look essentially at strike zone discipline, power, and on-base totals, giving points to pitchers who can indeed whiff hitters while also keeping them off base, while the hitters get credit for getting on-base and hitting with power. And, as noted, the younger a player can do this, at the highest relative level, the greater the percentages continued success will follow.
As you might expect, analyzing like this does reveal the players we would imagine: Bryce Harper, Matt Moore, and Mike Trout, for example.
But, there are always a bunch of players on the list who were not already on the "must get" list of most fantasy, and especially Ultra owners allowing some alternatives in lieu of Harper, Moore, and Trout.
Worthy of further explanation is that Moore is surely the top pitching prospect in the majors without question going into 2012. And, Moore scored #200 on my list, but, in compartmentalizing this, note that the Rays fireballer will be 23-years old on Opening Day, while the top rated pitcher, Cody Buckel, will be just 20.
Is it a perfect system?
No, but again, as noted, the system does reveal players other rating systems miss. For example, our discovery of Albert Pujols as the #10 propsect on our 2000 list brought the slugger to the eyes of many months before the mainstream. A year later, it was Carlos Zambrano. On the other hand, we were never as generous with Jeremy Hermida or Brandon Wood, players who did score high elsewhere and largely disappointed.
A couple of other caveats. To qualify for a rating, players had to have played at least at Class-A. Pitchers had to have hurled a combined 70 innings, and batters logged 200 at-bats. Ages are based upon how old the player will be on Opening Day.
So, without further ado, here are Top 10 Mastersball Prospects for 2012. Platinum Subscribers get the entire sortable spreadsheet with our Top 250 prospects. For more information, go to the Platinum Page).
- Jurickson Profar (SS, Rangers, 19): In the spirit of Hensley Muelens and Andruw Jones, Profar hails from their common home of Curacao. Signed at 17, Profar went .250-4-23 over 288 at-bats in the Northwest League in 2010, and followed up in 2011 with .286-12-65 numbers over 430 at-bats with 37 doubles and eight triples. Profar walked 65 times while striking out just 63, an incredible stat for a player so young. And, when you think of the then 18-year old who logs in at 5'11" and just 165 pounds, it is pretty clear pitchers were likely not pitching around Profar. At least not to start. Who knows now?
- Bryce Harper (OF, Nationals, 19): Obviously Harper has caused more buzz than any minor league since his teammate, Stephen Strasburg, and Harper's arrival to the Show is just as anticipated. In fact, there is already pre-training camp buzz that Harper could make the Opening Day Roster if he holds his own this spring. For the archivists, last year hit .318-14-46 at Hagerstown before being promoted to Double-A Harrisburg, going .256-3-12 over 37 games to close out the season. That gave the then 18-year old--who is five months older than Profar--a 2011 line of .297-17-58 over 109 games and 387 at-bats, with 59 walks to 87 whiffs (.392 OBP).
- Cody Buckel (P, Rangers, 20): Texas second round selection in 2010, Buckel only tossed five scoreless innings in Arizona striking out nine, walking one, allowing a pair of hits before the season ended. He kept it up at Hickory of the Sally League last year, going 8-3, 2.61, over 96.2 innings. Buckel surrendered 83 hits and walked 27 (1.14 WHIP) while striking out 120.
- Taijuan Walker (P, Mariners, 20): A first-round pick of the M's in 2010 (#43 overall), out of Shreveport, Louisiana, Walker is tall (6'4"), and like Buckel appeared in four rookie games (1-1, 1.29) after being drafted. Last year Walker went 6-5, 2.89 over 96.2 innings and 18 starts for Clinton. Holding batters to just 69 hits and 39 walks (1.12 WHIP), the right hander knocked out 113 hitters on strikes.
- Mike Trout (OF, Angels, 20): Ok, first issue: Is Trout still a rookie, with 123 at-bats, and 38 days of active service on the major league roster? The answer is yes (check here should you wonder). Not much we don't know about him. .326-11-38 totals at Double-A Arkansas last year, with 13 triples, 18 doubles, and 33 swipes. Over half (41) of Trout's hits in the Texas League went for extra bases. True, he was pushed to the majors quickly as his .220-5-16 numbers for the Angels suggest. Then again, he was just 19.
- Oscar Taveras (OF, Cardinals, 20): Signed as a 17-year old out of Puerto Rico, Taveras has already played in 208 minor league games, with a stat line of .322-17-149. The youngster has 54 doubles and 16 triples to go along with 73 walks to 134 strikeouts, good for a .381 minor league OBP. Last year, as a 19-year old in the Midwest League, Taveras went ,386-8-62 with 27 doubles over just 78 games and 346 at-bats.
- David Holmberg (P, Diamondbacks, 21): Drafted by the White Sox in the second round of the 2009 draft, the southpaw worked it out at the Rookie Level through 2010, assembling 4-7, 4.36 totals. But, the big news during that time was Holmberg was swapped to Arizona along with Daniel Hudson for Edwin Jackson, in what could prove to be one of the more lopsided "arms deals" in recent memory. Starting 2011 at the Midwest League, Holmberg went a strong 8-3, 2.39 over 14 starts and 83 innings (65 hits, 81 whiffs, and just 13 walks) before moving to the High-A bat friendly California League. At Visalia Holmberg went 4-6, 4.67, over 13 more starts, tossing 71.1 innings, allowing 73 hits, 35 walks, but 76 strikeouts. 2012 will likely show whether Holmberg is for real or not, but for now 157 strikeouts over 154.1 minor league innings in 2011 puts him right here.
- Ronald Torreyes (2B, Cubs, 20): A diminuative (5'9", 140 pounds) keystone player from Venezuela, Torreyes does indeed put the ball in play. Last year at Dayton, the second sacker went a torrid .356-3-41 over 278 at-bats, walking just 14 times, while striking out just 19. Torreyes knocked 99 hits, though--only 17 for extra bases--but he does make contact, as his 38 strikeouts to 38 walks as a pro indicates. Not to mention a minor league OPS of .935. Torreyes was swapped to the Cubs last December as part of the Sean Marshall swap.
- Jameson Taillon (P, Pirates,20): Talk about your "prototypical big pitcher," Taillon is a 6'6", 220 pounder the Bucs selected as the #2 pick overall in 2010. Emphasis of Taillon's dominance shines through when we look at the youngster's 2011--his only pro campaign so far--numbers at West Virginia last year. The right hander notched 92.2 innings over 23 starts, and though his won/loss was just 2-3, and ERA 3.98, Taillon whiffed 97 while allowing 89 hits and only 22 walks (1.19 ratio). The Bucs have been trying to reinvent themselves now for over a decade, and the selection of Taillon, and then Gerrit Cole last year (#1 overall) potentially gives them a one-two pitching punch that could indeed smooth that path.
- A.J. Cole (P, Athletics, 20): Another Cole, A.J. is ideally part of another renaissance: that of the Nationals, who if nothing else are stacked with prospects (of course, as indicated, the challenge is if the picks are the real deal). This Cole was a fourth round pick of the Nats in 2010, and though he made a cursory appearance (one game, one inning at the New York/Penn League) in 2010, the lanky righty (6'4", 180 pounds) spent a full 2011 at Hagerstown of the Sally League. Like Taillon we have to look below the surface stats of 4-7, 4.04 over 18 starts and 89 innings. Cole held hits to 87, walks to just 22 (1.25 WHIP), and an excellent 108 strikeouts. Cole will have to step it up (as will some of his mates on this list) in 2012 to prove he belongs. I am betting he will. (Note that Cole was swapped to the Athletics in December as part of the Gio Gonzalez deal. Thanks to reader Whipsaw for keeping us honest!)