There's a new prospect rankings out on MLBPipeline.com. Please, go take a look at the 2015 Top 100 Prospects now. It will undoubtedly elicit opinions and critiques.
That's why the list is created, after all -- to get people talking and debating about who is and who isn't on the list. It might even start with the No. 1 guy on the list, Byron Buxton. He was a no-brainer a year ago, but after an injury-filled campaign in 2014, there are some who worry about his ability to stay healthy. MLBPipeline.com isn't concerned, and neither are the Twins.
"There have not been any changes in Byron's skill set since the end of 2013," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. "Unfortunately, he had an injury-riddled season in 2014 that hindered his ability to showcase his talent. He will bounce back; his ability, makeup, work ethic and desire … will ultimately allow him to become a Major Leaguer in the near future and for years to come."
Buxton and the other 99 on the list are eligible for the Top 100 because they still have rookie eligibility. To qualify for rookie status, a player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues or have accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club(s) during the 25-player-limit period, excluding time on the disabled list or in military service.
International signees such as Rusney Castillo and Yasmany Tomas, in case you were wondering, were not considered. The rankings follow the guidelines laid out by the new Collective Bargaining Agreement in terms of who falls under the international pool money rules: Players who are at least 23 years old and have played in leagues deemed to be professional (Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Cuba) are not eligible.
With that framework, the Top 100 is put together by myself and Jim Callis, with help from the rest of the MLBPipeline team and input from industry sources, including scouts and front-office executives. It is based on analysis of players' upsides, tools and potential Major League impact.
There were 27 graduates to the big leagues from last year's preseason list. Right at the top, four of the top 10 have moved on to the highest level, led by last year's No. 2 prospect, Xander Bogaerts of the Red Sox. Several Rookie of the Year Award candidates were on the list: National League runner-up Billy Hamilton of the Reds was ranked No. 37 at the start of the 2014 season. The Cardinals' Kolten Wong, who was ranked at No. 58, finished third in the NL voting. The Royals' Yordano Ventura (No. 35), Nick Castellanos of the Tigers (No. 15), the Rays' Jake Odorizzi (No. 56) and Astros outfielder George Springer (No. 21) all received American League Rookie of the Year Award votes.
Excluding the members of the 2014 Draft class (more on them later), there are 34 names on this list that were not on the Top 100 at this time a year ago. Some were added over the course of the '14 season or during our summer re-rank. There have been some big jumps onto the list among the newbies -- none larger than Blue Jays lefty Daniel Norris, who has shot up to No. 17 thanks to a season in which he played at three levels in the Minors and finished the year in Toronto. There are seven other prospects who weren't on the '14 list who are now in the Top 50: No. 21 J.P. Crawford (Phillies), No. 23 Luis Severino (Yankees), No. 26 Jesse Winker (Reds), No. 38 Jose Peraza (Braves), No. 39 Hunter Harvey (Orioles), No. 42 Michael Taylor (Nationals) and No. 48 Hunter Renfroe (Padres).
Moving up, down and off
Movement -- both up, down and off the list -- is common from year to year on the Top 100. Let's start with the positive. Of the 50 hold-overs from the 2014 list, half have made positive gains up the rankings. Joey Gallo made a jump as long as his tape-measure home runs, going from No. 92 at the start of 2014 to No. 9, an 83-spot climb. The Twins' Jose Berrios (58 spots) and Dodgers lefty Julio Urias (56 places) are the other two who improved their standing 50 or more places in the rankings.
On the flip side of that coin are the sliders. No one dropped more than 50 spots, but Giants right-hander Kyle Crick slid 47, from No. 32 to No. 79, as some see him as a future reliever. Cubs outfielder Albert Almora, (39 spots, from 18 to 57), Braves right-hander Lucas Sims (34 spots) and Royals righty Kyle Zimmer (33 spots) are the other players who had drops of 30 or more who remained on the list.
Then there are the players who were on the Top 100 a year ago but aren't back on the list in this latest edition. Sometimes it's performance-related, sometimes injuries are the culprit. And sometimes it's just because other prospects who have jumped on to the list were simply better. A total of 22 prospects who were Top 100 guys in 2014 are not in '15. The highest-ranked prospect who dropped off is Braves left-hander Max Fried. He was at No. 43 a year ago, when he was a Padres farmhand, and it would surprise no one should he jump back on the list when he gets back from Tommy John surgery. Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez is the other former Top 50 prospect (No. 47) who will have to earn his way back onto the Top 100.
Handing out grades
Scouting grades have been a staple on Prospect Watch for the past couple years. All players are given future grades for each individual tool, along with an overall grade, on a 20-80 scale: 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average. The most important grade is the future overall grade, as this number signifies what each player is projected to ultimately be in the big leagues.
A score of 65 or better is a player who could develop into a future impact Major Leaguer, perhaps an All-Star-caliber standout. This year's list has 11 players with a 65 or higher, including three -- Buxton, Kris Bryant and Carlos Correa -- who have an overall 70 grade.
All 30 teams are represented on this year's list. The Tigers, Brewers, Giants and Cardinals have one prospect each, and there are eight organizations with two representatives. At the other end are the Pirates, who top all systems with seven prospects on the Top 100. The Twins and Cubs are next with six, and there are five organizations with five prospects each: the Rangers, Mets, Royals, D-backs and Red Sox.
Having a large number of prospects on the list is great, but it doesn't automatically mean that an organization has the best farm system in baseball. It might be a sign of impact talent on the way, but it doesn't speak to the depth an organization might have, or how close its top talent is to reaching the big leagues. We've used a weighted scoring system to determine which system has the most impact or elite talent. After awarding 100 points to the team with the No. 1 prospect, 99 to No. 2 and so on, it turns out the team with the most prospects on the list does not rank atop the "prospect points" standings.
That honor belongs to the Twins, with 464 points. That's because all six of their Top 100 prospects are actually in the top 40. The Cubs are next with 424 points, then come the Pirates (354). The Dodgers (281 points with four Top 100 prospects) and the Rockies (234 points, four prospects) round out the top five.
As usual, pitching rules the day. Last year's list had 58 pitchers. This year isn't quite that arm-heavy, but there are still 46 pitchers in the Top 100. Thirty-five are right-handed. Outfielders are next, with 20 representatives. Shortstops (14), catchers (nine), third basemen (seven), first basemen (two) and second basemen (one) round out the breakdown.
Feeling the Draft
This year's Top 100 is typically Draft heavy, with 79 of the 100 coming from the June event. Fourteen of them come via the 2014 First-Year Player Draft -- all from the first round. Carlos Rodon leads the list of the Class of '14, coming in at No. 14 on the list.
Not surprisingly, most of the former draftees come from the first round. There are 35 other first-round picks joining the 2014 guys on the list.
There were 21 international non-drafted free agents on the list, with six countries represented. The Dominican Republic wins easily, with 13 players on the list (Steven Moya was actually born in Puerto Rico, but moved to the Dominican and signed out of the D.R.). Venezuela is next, with four. Mexico, Cuba, Colombia and Panama each have one representative. While Puerto Rico is counted as international for things like the Futures Game, Correa and Berrios (from Puerto Rico) and Francisco Lindor (born there, but went to high school in Florida) were all draftees.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.