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Quality arms define NL Central's top prospects

Quality arms define NL Central's top prospects

Quality arms define NL Central's top prospects
Who are the best prospects in each organization? Which Minor Leaguers should fans get the most excited about seeing on their favorite teams? Now it's just a click away, with the rankings of the Top 20 prospects for each organization being unveiled on Prospect Watch this week.

A new division will be featured each day through Saturday. But let's go one step further. Within the Top 20s in each division, who are the best prospects? MLB.com spoke to general managers from outside each division to get their thoughts on who the top future stars are within that division. Today, it's time to discuss the NL Central all-prospect team.

Starting pitchers
Shelby Miller (No. 5 on Top 100; Cardinals' No. 1)
Jameson Taillon (No. 8 on Top 100; Pirates' No. 1)
Gerrit Cole (No. 11 on Top 100; Pirates' No. 2)
Carlos Martinez (No. 30 on Top 100; Cardinals' No. 2)
Wily Peralta (No. 49 on Top 100; Brewers' No. 1)
There might not be a division with a better crop of starting pitching prospects from which to choose, and that's no disrespect to the NL East. All five of these pitchers are in the top 50, and choosing only five leaves out terrific prospects, like the Astros' Jarred Cosart and Brewers lefty Jed Bradley. When a guy with the stuff of Peralta is your No. 5, you're in pretty good shape.

Top 100 Prospects
NATIONAL LEAGUE
West Central East
AMERICAN LEAGUE
West Central East

Relief pitcher
Stetson Allie (Pirates' No. 5)
There are a number of starting pitchers who could end up in a bullpen, but the decision was to go with someone who is either there already or definitely headed there. Allie likes the bullpen role, throws 100 mph and could end up being a lights-out closer once he refines his command. The Cubs' Chris Carpenter or the Cardinals' Jordan Swagerty could have received the nod, but Allie's upside drew the slight edge.

The infield
1B: Jonathan Singleton (No. 44 on Top 100; Astros' No. 1)
While in most divisions it's been difficult to find one legitimate first-base prospect, the NL Central actually has two in the top 50. In the overall Top 100, the Cubs' Anthony Rizzo is ranked higher than Singleton, but the GM would rather have the Astros prospect on his team, with the length in Rizzo's swing a concern to some.

"We like them both but would take Singleton over Rizzo," the GM said.

2B: Kolten Wong (Cardinals' No. 6)
The GM wasn't a huge Wong fan and admitted to not having him rated as highly on his Draft boards as others did last June. But the combination of a lack of other legitimate second-base prospects -- there was discussion of finding a candidate to move to second who might go there eventually -- and the fact Wong really produced well in the full-season Midwest League during his summer debut made him the logical choice.

SS: Billy Hamilton (No. 34 on Top 100; Reds' No. 2)
Not everyone is convinced he'll stay at shortstop long term, but no one is moving him yet. And anyone who can start a team with a 100-steal leadoff type who plays up the middle is likely going to do that. The Cubs' Javier Baez (more on him in a bit) drew consideration for this spot as well.

3B: Zack Cox (Cardinals' No. 5)
This was a shallow pool from which to choose, with few top-flight third-base prospects at any level in this division. Cox was really the only choice, though the GM was not a big fan and not everyone is convinced he'll stay at third a long time. Many do feel that Baez, the Cubs' top pick in 2011, will end up at third, so he was considered. But because he hasn't really begun his pro career yet, it was a bit premature to move him ... for now.

"I might move Javier Baez over now," the GM said. "I think Baez might be an elite-level guy, so if there was a way to get him on there, I would [think about it]."

C: Devin Mesoraco (No. 14 on Top 100; Reds' No. 1)
This was the biggest no-brainer in the division. There are many general managers who would take Mesoraco first in any division when picking a catching prospect. There's a reason why he ranked No. 2 on the Top 10 catchers list.

"Mesoraco is one of the best you're going to find," the GM said.

The outfield
Brett Jackson (No. 33 on Top 100; Cubs' No. 2)
Starling Marte (No. 40 on Top 100; Pirates' No. 3)
George Springer (No. 84 on Top 100; Astros' No. 3)
There was agreement on the top two on the list, as both will be big leaguers, possibly in the near future. The debate started with the third outfield spot. The Cardinals' Oscar Taveras received some consideration, but in the end, it came between a pair of 2011 draftees: Springer and the Pirates' Josh Bell. Springer gets the nod for this year because he's closer to being big league ready. In the end, though, it might be Bell who is the better Major Leaguer and could easily supplant him on this roster a year from now.

"We had Bell more highly rated than Springer," the GM said. "That's the only direct comparison I can do. We tend to shoot for the moon, go for upside."

Final assessment
The NL Central would have a rotation to envy and an excellent backstop. After that, it's more good, than great.

"The pitching is very good," the GM said. "And Mesoraco is one of the best. The rest will be big leaguers, I just don't know what impact they will have."

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.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.

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