Top 100 trends: OF, MLB-ready prospects rule

Outfielders dominate rankings; nearly half of players on list expected to reach MLB this year

Top 100 trends: OF, MLB-ready prospects rule

Saturday brought the unveiling of MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, culminating a two-week stretch during which we broke down the Top 10 prospects at every position.

While our Top 100 list is constructed to offer a comprehensive look at baseball's future stars, it also serves as a valuable tool for identifying trends currently affecting the landscape of the game.

Several trends jump out following a review of this year's list, including the continued surplus of elite shortstops, a decline in the number of pitchers in the top half of the list, and an increase in the number of outfielders. Perhaps most notable, though, is the fact that nearly half (47) of the players on the list are expected to reach the Major Leagues this year.

Aces are low

No trend is more significant than the apparent decline in high-end pitching prospects throughout the Minors.

After peaking with 14 pitchers ranked within the Top 30 in 2012 -- the year MLB.com expanded its Top Prospects list from 50 to 100 -- somewhere between 12 and 16 hurlers appeared in the Top 30 during the next three years before plummeting to nine in 2016.

Correspondingly, the number of pitchers ranked in last year's Top 50 also fell off considerably from the previous year, dropping to 16 from 25.

That decline has continued in 2017, as just six hurlers appear in the Top 30 of our recently released Top 100 Prospects list, and 15 in the Top 50. That being said, the Nos. 1-3 ranked pitchers from last year, Lucas Giolito, Tyler Glasnow and Alex Reyes, are still held in the same high regard although their ordering on this year's list has changed.

Meanwhile, exactly a quarter of all players and 14 of the 42 pitching prospects in our Top 100 already have been traded in their young careers, a group that includes righties Giolito (No. 13), Michael Kopech (No. 16) and Reynaldo Lopez (No. 45), whom the White Sox acquired from the Red Sox and Nationals on back-to-back days during the Winter Meetings in December.

Other big names to have been traded this offseason are No. 2 overall prospect Yoan Moncada, whom Boston dealt to the White Sox along with Kopech and two other prospects in the Chris Sale deal, teenage flamethrower Anderson Espinoza (No. 25) and right-hander Jose De Leon (No. 33), the Rays' prized return from the Dodgers in last week's Logan Forsythe trade.

Outfielders in abundance

As far as positional talent goes, shortstops comprised one-fifth of our Top 100 Prospects list a year ago, with 13 of them ranking inside the Top 50 and 11 inside the Top 30. While those numbers are down a bit (14 in the Top 100; nine in the Top 50 and six in the Top 30), shortstops do account for four of the top seven players on the list, and one-third of the Top 15.

But while there may be more elite shortstops at the top of this year's list, it's the outfielders that have a dominant majority this time around.

Led by No. 1 overall prospect Andrew Benintendi, Victor Robles (No. 8) and Austin Meadows (No. 10), outfielders hold 11 spots in the Top 30 heading into 2017, with another five ranking within the Top 50 and a total of 25 in the Top 100.

The impact of the 2016 Draft class has had on inflating those totals can't be overstated, as No. 1 overall pick Mickey Moniak (No. 19) as well as fellow first-rounders Kyle Lewis (No. 29), Corey Ray (No. 30) and Blake Rutherford (No. 37) all rank in the top half of this year's list heading into their first full seasons in pro ball.

In total, 16 players from the 2016 Draft made our Top 100 Prospects list.

Estimated time of arrivals: Soon

Another major trend to emerge from this year's Top 100 Prospects list is that there are 24 players in the Top 100 who have already received a taste of the big leagues, and nearly that many are expected to arrive at some point during the 2017 season. Although the odds are against that happening, it does highlight that this year's list is teeming with upper-level prospects capable of contributing in the near future.

Of players with an ETA of 2017, 17 will begin the season ranked among the Top 30 prospects in baseball. Some of them are considered early Rookie of the Year favorites in their respective leagues, too, such as Benintendi, Dansby Swanson (No. 4) and Reyes, each of whom impressed in 2016 following late-season call-ups and are expected to begin the upcoming season in the Majors.

Beyond the aforementioned crop of talent, outfielders Manuel Margot (No. 23), Josh Bell (No. 27), Hunter Renfroe (No. 42) and Aaron Judge (No. 46) all will compete for spots on their respective Opening Day rosters during Spring Training, while right-handers Glasnow (No. 9), De Leon and Jeff Hoffman (No. 44) make bids for rotation spots with the Pirates, Rays and Rockies, respectively.

Of course, the fact that many prospects are likely to exhaust their rookie eligibility in 2017 means that our latest Top 100 list will have an unusually high turnover rate, with a slew of new names likely to be added as the season unfolds.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.