As we continue to celebrate the release of the Top 101 Prospects, our ongoing coverage starts with a simple question: Who was not on this year’s list (or the just missed group we’ll dive into later this week) that you think will make the cut in 2017?
Christian Arroyo, SS, San Francisco Giants
Unexpectedly popped by the Giants in the first round back in 2013, Arroyo has developed into a two-way player who can impact the game on both sides of the ball. He’s put on muscle since draft day, and combined with the loft he’s added to his swing, he should have at least 40 power at the big league level. That’s significant for a player who has always made a habit of hard contact. He has plus bat speed, and if he can tame his approach a bit, he could develop into a .300 hitter. Arroyo is not a burner, but his quick first step, strong instincts, solid hands, and an above-average throwing arm should help him stay at short for the time being. There’s certainly risk in the profile: any loss in foot speed pushes him to second or third, and at present, advanced arms will exploit his willingness to swing early in counts and his tendency to expand the zone. Ultimately though, Arroyo could have a plus hit tool, and as a 21-year-old who will spend next season in Double-A, he’s made a lot of progress in his time in pro ball. If he holds his own, he’s a shoo-in for the top 101 next year. —Brendan Gawlowski
Luis Alexander Basabe, OF, Boston Red Sox
Knowing little of Basabe—or his twin brother, Luis Alejandro—entering the 2015 season, I quickly became enamored with his raw ability. A physical, premium athlete, Basabe flashes impressive ability on both sides of the ball. Offensively, Basabe demonstrates a keen knowledge of the strike zone, and blossoming ability to recognize pitches, giving his above-average raw power a strong chance to manifest in games as he moves to higher levels. Complementing his offensive potential, he can show as a plus runner at times, but more consistently as an above-average runner down the line. Though his instincts remain raw, Basabe’s speed helps him make plays in center field and his odds of sticking up the middle improved throughout the 2015 season as he showed more comfort and confidence. Basabe’s entire package of tools is tantalizing and he is impossible to ignore on the field. There is a breakout in his future, and given the potential to become an impact everyday player that contributes with all five tools, any hint of that breakout in 2016 and he will be shooting up prospect lists and onto the national scene. —Mark Anderson
Derek Fisher, OF, Houston Astros
The toolsy outfielder who nearly went to the Phillies in the Ken Giles trade likely would have made the list this year, if not for defensive struggles during a year that saw him hit 24 home runs and steal 34 bases across three leagues (including the AFL). Those defensive struggles were rooted in Fisher not being able to use his plus speed to make up for his first step—which was too often in the wrong direction. Given that he already has a fringy arm at best, his routes need to be crisp in order for him to have a chance to stay in center (where Houston let him explore more than half the season).
Realistically, Fisher is a left fielder who relies on his bat to provide value—and fortunately, there’s enough there to warrant the optimism. He’s still yet to fully tap into his plus power, and he’ll likely always have a little too much swing-and-miss to hit more than around .260-.270; however, he’ll likely spend most of the 2016 season in Double-A where a step forward with the bat would do wonders for his stock. A step forward with the glove wouldn’t hurt either. —Bret Sayre
Wilkerman Garcia, SS, New York Yankees
There were 19 shortstops on the 2016 Top 101, so betting on a young, toolsy one isn't exactly going way off the board, despite Garcia's very limited professional experience. He is the complete package up the middle, with some of the smoothest hands you'll see from an 17-year-old, and the arm and range to stick at short for the long haul. Garcia is still raw at the plate, but he's a switch-hitter with some feel for the barrel from both sides. That is a nice little top-prospect starter kit. The one thing he is lacking right now is a track record outside of the complex, something he will remedy this season. A strong showing in the New York-Penn League as an 18-year-old (where he will be facing a lot of college arms) would thrust him into the national conversation as one of the better shortstop prospects in baseball. I'll put my chips down on that square. —Jeffrey Paternostro
Josh Hader, LHP, Milwaukee Brewers
The acquisition of Hader (and other top Astros prospects) in last summer’s trade with Houston may have been smartest thing the Brewers have done in a long while. Hader came to the Brewers in the midst of a stellar season in the Texas League with Corpus Christi and ended it in the same fashion with Biloxi in the Southern League. His season totals were spectacular: a 3.03 ERA over 104 innings, while allowing 87 hits and striking out 119 batters—and he continued his domination in the Arizona Fall League, giving up only one run in 16 innings pitched.
The numbers are impressive, but it is Hader’s consistency and approach for his age that make him so intriguing. Still on the young side of 21, Hader shows the intelligence and makeup of a seasoned veteran. Mechanically he is quite unorthodox, with a dramatic across-the-body delivery. However, this delivery seems to be very natural for him, creating phenomenal deception and action on his pitches, especially his fastball. Hitters have a hard time seeing the ball out of his hand and were consistently late with their swings in the few times I observed him. His fastball will sit 87-91 mph with a 92 or 93 mixed in, but the delivery makes it harder to pick up, as indicated by the poor timing of opposing hitters. In my initial viewing of him, his delivery caused me to wonder how viable he would be as a starter, suggesting he’d be better suited for the bullpen.
The more I watch Hader work, the more I’m sold on him on being a quality starter at the higher levels and a potential Top 101 prospect. As with many young pitchers, his off-speed repertoire could use some polish, but what he lacks in changeup command he makes up for with deception. He’s the type of pitcher who doesn’t need to work the corners and can use a lot of the plate while being effective. In 2016, I expect him to be a more physical presence on the mound and have his arsenal tightened up. Don’t be surprised if he moves fast this year. —Colin Young
Tyler Jay, LHP, Minnesota Twins
It’s rare that a college reliever becomes a professional starter, especially one with the chance to make the Top 101 the year after he was drafted. At Illinois, Tyler Jay closed games for a highly competitive Illini team, compiling 76 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings with only seven walks, and earning B1G Pitcher of the Year honors. After the draft, the Twins kept him in the bullpen, though that was reportedly to protect his arm after the rigors of a collegiate season.
At almost any other program, Jay would have spent 2015 in the rotation, showing off his four-pitch arsenal, plus command, and clean delivery for a wide variety of scouts and evaluators. His best two pitches are his fastball and slider, legitimate plus offerings accompanied by a curveball and change he can also throw for strikes. In relief, Jay’s fastball sat between 94 and 96, made more effective by his ability to put it wherever he wanted it. His slider, which usually sat in the mid-to-high 80s, had big horizontal movement, and he showed the ability to backfoot it to righties and fade it to lefties. In college, he reportedly was working on the changeup and curveball, but due to his role and the quality of his fastball and slider, he didn’t need to use them much.
As a professional, the big questions for Jay to answer are: can he handle the rigors of a starting role (if given one), and can his arsenal stand up to the better bats of affiliated hitters? In 18 1/3 innings of High-A relief, Jay allowed eight runs, eight walks, and struck out 22 batters, mostly positive signs for the second question. The first can only be answered in time. —Kate Morrison
Tyler Kolek, RHP, Miami Marlins
Make no mistake, Kolek was not good in 2015, and you could argue he was the most disappointing pitching prospect in all of baseball last summer. Still, it's difficult to forget just how impressive this profile was just a few years ago. There's still elite arm strength that is capable of getting his fastball into the high 90s, and the slider will flash plus with hard downward tilt. The command is nowhere close to where it needs it to be, and the same can be said of his change. This is the type of profile that a guy like Jim Benedict—the newly acquired Vice President of pitching from Pittsburgh—should thrive with, however, and it'd be surprising if he didn't see his stock resurface in 2016. —Christopher Crawford
Trey Michalczewski, 3B, Chicago White Sox
While a number of the other guys on this Ten Pack are tooled-up projection types, Mee-how-chess-key is decidedly more refined but still offers some pretty appealing upside. He’s a fringy runner but handles third base well with soft hands and strong pre-reception footwork. His raw arm strength is above average, and while his arm action is fluid on urgent throws, he’s much more deliberate and rigid when he has plenty of time, mechanically presetting his arm in the high cocked position and guiding the ball over to first. This little tick is likely a side effect of the former high school shortstop not quite yet adjusting to the post-reception footwork of a third baseman. It’s more of a peculiarity than an actual impediment but it’s nonetheless an aspect of Michalczewski’s game that will require attention going forward.
One’s overall assessment of Michalczewski is heavily dependent on the perception of his hit tool and more broadly, his hitting ability. With excellent balance and command of the batter’s box, he produces a low effort, fluid swing from both sides of the plate. From the right side, he shows more bat speed and a steeper, more direct bat path, while from the left, his swing is a bit more circuitous, creating an uphill, loft-inducing path to contact. The ingredients are there for above-average hit and average power but at the moment, he’s lacking the swing violence he’ll need to fully tap in. Even for very talented hitters, adding a bit of intent (a.k.a. swing aggression) can go a long way, allowing one to really let loose on drive-able pitches in favorable counts. Michalczewski will need to figure out how to strike an optimal balance between the mature, discerning approach he’s shown thus far as a pro and the desire to maximize damage on the pitches he offers at.
There’s above-average-regular talent here, with a profile driven by doubles power, on-base ability, and above-average defense at third. A big test at Double-A is on the horizon, and with another strong year, Michalczewski has a good chance to jump into next year’s Top 101, while also entering the mix for his first taste of major-league action. —Ezra Wise
Antonio Senzatela, RHP, Colorado Rockies
It's not his fault he's a pitcher in the Rockies organization. Senzatela's electric fastball carved up the California League last summer despite his age and lack of secondary development. The mid-90s gas was some of the easiest velocity I saw last year, and it played up on account of a deceptive delivery that generated outsized plane from a high three-quarters arm slot. I didn’t love any of his supporting pitches last year—his slider lacked tight rotation, as a long arm action left him struggling to get over the top of it and snap off a two-planer consistently. His change lacked fade and he showed a raw feel for it, leaving it in the zone too frequently for my taste.
All of that said, it’s important to reiterate that he posted league-best ERA, WHIP, and batting average-against numbers in High-A as a 20-year-old, and he didn’t do it on the strength of lady luck. While not a swing-and-miss pitch, the change showed enough velocity separation and vertical drop to stay off barrels and induce grounders, which he’ll need to do a lot of if he does one day call Coors home. I got reports that he made strides commanding the pitch in the second half, making my earlier-season concerns about its ultimate utility less concerning. Another step forward with the secondary development and a season of holding his own (or better) at Double-A, and he’ll easily force his way into Top 101 territory. —Wilson Karaman
Duane Underwood, RHP, Chicago Cubs
Underwood has shown glimpses of top-of-the-rotation ability since being drafted in the second round back in 2012, but 2015 was the first year where he showed the quality stuff on a (relatively) consistent basis. He's 93-96 mph with his fastball, and it plays up close to plus-plus because the life on it is so late. He'll throw a quality curveball with the necessary spin and depth to get swings and misses, but it's very rarely in the strike zone. The best off-speed offering is the change, a pitch that has late fade and that he has excellent feel for. The biggest issue is throwing strikes, but Underwood's command took a big jump forward in 2015, and another one in 2016 will see him sit among the best right-handed pitching prospects in baseball. —Christopher Crawford