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Jonathan Mayo

Inbox: Who is the early favorite to be top prospect in 2017?

Jonathan Mayo answers fans' questions about baseball's future stars

Inbox: Who is the early favorite to be top prospect in 2017?

There's nothing like real baseball to get the questions flowing.

Now that the 2016 big league season is in full swing and the Minor League season began on Thursday, we can all actually watch prospects in action. That alone has clearly gotten fans thinking about the future and what might transpire in the Pipeline world this year. Here's a smattering of what you were thinking about, from the Minor Leagues to the amateur scene.

The 2016 season has barely started, and already you want to know who will be No. 1 a year from now? Sheesh. OK, we'll play along. The first order of business is to figure out who will likely graduate off the list and no longer be available for consideration. Byron Buxton is already gone, and current No. 1 Corey Seager will surpass the 130-at bat threshold in the very near future. If I had to guess, Nationals prospect Lucas Giolito will see enough time in Washington in the second half to amass enough innings or service time to be off the board. I could see the same being true for Julio Urias of the Dodgers.

If either of those arms are still eligible, that's the direction I'd head. After that, J.P. Crawford could be a good candidate, again, only if he doesn't hit his way into the Phillies' lineup in the second half. I could see Yoan Moncada, currently No. 6, ascending to the spot, perhaps with Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson right on his heels.

That's likely going to depend on need at the big league level. It's impossible to predict injuries, obviously, so let's first take a look at the depth of the Nationals' and Twins' big league rotations. The Nats have a very solid starting five, though you don't know exactly what to expect from Tanner Roark or Joe Ross. The back end of the Twins' rotation feels less stable, with Tommy Milone and Ricky Nolasco as the Nos. 4 and 5 starters there (the top three don't strike fear in the heart, do they?). So that edge probably goes to Berrios. While neither right-hander is currently on a 40-man roster, it should be noted that Berrios made 12 very good starts in Triple-A a year ago and was seriously considered as a callup late in the season. Conversely, Giolito made eight starts in Double-A in 2015 and topped 100 innings for the first time as the organization proceeded with extreme caution following his 2012 Tommy John surgery. I still like Giolito's long-term upside more, but I think Berrios will beat him to the bigs.

First, let me commend you on your self-awareness as it pertains to Cubs Nation getting excited about prospects. To be fair, Cubs fans aren't alone in occasionally overhyping, but they might be the best at it. That said, there have been a lot of exciting Cubs prospects of late to get hyped up about, and there's no doubt Cease has a ton of potential. Because of him needing Tommy John surgery right out of the gate, he's kind of flown under the radar. The way Cease threw in the Rookie-level Arizona League upon his return last summer, however, put him more firmly on the map.

Of course, the Cubs hoped they were getting a top-of-the-rotation arm in Cease when they gave him seven figures to sign out of the sixth round. It's too early to tell for sure if he can reach that ceiling, but the ingredients are there, including a plus fastball and breaking ball. Assuming Cease's changeup continues to improve and he repeats his delivery well enough to throw strikes consistently, he certainly has the potential to make Cubs fans' praise not overdone.

Funny you should ask. We're in the process of working on our new Draft Top 100 (coming in the next couple of weeks). Jim Callis and I are still in the fact-finding phase, so it's a tad premature to roll out a top 10 right now. But here's what I'm going to do: The following is an alphabetical list of players who could receive consideration for our top 10. You'll have to check back for when we launch the Top 100 to see how it all shakes out.

Ian Anderson, RHP, Shenendehowa HS (Clifton Park, N.Y.)
Jason Groome, LHP, Barnegat (N.J.) HS
Dakota Hudson, RHP, Mississippi State
Connor Jones, RHP, Virginia
Kyle Lewis, OF, Mercer
Mickey Moniak, OF, La Costa Canyon HS (Carlsbad, Calif)
Delvin Perez, SS, Colegio Hector Urdaneta (Ceiba, P.R.)
Riley Pint, RHP, St. Thomas Aquinas HS (Overland Park, Kan.)
A.J. Puk, LHP, Florida
Corey Ray, OF, Louisville
Buddy Reed, OF, Florida
Brian Reynolds, OF, Vanderbilt
Blake Rutherford, OF, Chaminade Prep (Canoga Park, Calif.)
Nick Senzel, 3B, Tennessee
Jordan Sheffield, RHP, Vanderbilt

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.