Ben reviewed each MLB organization’s top 10 prospects in November and December, then also reviewed the top 125 prospects in the game in January. Throughout spring training, he’s also been contributing scouting reports on players that are part of his top 25 prospects in the game.
Each slide will feature two players with a brief write up, then one final slide with a prospect who is not in the top 10, but very possibly could find his way into the top 5 with an impressive 2017 campaign due the player’s high upside.
Luis Urias, San Diego Padres
Finally busting out offensively in 2016, Urias took steps forward to being the player that the Padres saw when they signed him originally out of Mexico.
Urias has always hit for good average, but in 2016, he hit 26 doubles, 5 triples, and 6 home runs, which meant he hit 37 of his career 50 extra base hits in the 2016 season.
With that level of hard contact to go with already present excellent hands at second base and quality strike zone judgement, it’s easy to dream on Urias becoming a very solid contributor up the middle.
While he has good hands defensively, his range at short is not what you’d want from a starter at the position. He’s also had a struggle with refining his instincts on the base paths, with less than a 50% success rate stealing bases in his minor league career.
Travis Demeritte, Atlanta Braves
Braves general manager John Coppolella has spun some impressive trades the last few years as part of the Atlanta rebuild, but in the end, moving two guys the Braves signed off the scrap heap in May for a quality player like Demeritte in July could end up one of his best.
Travis Demeritte was originally drafted in the 1st round of the 2013 draft out of high school in Georgia by the Texas Rangers, and he showed big time offensive statistics out of the gate with an equally big strikeout rate.
After a suspension for using a performance-enhancing drug, Demeritte returned to the field and showed in 2016 that his power and speed were still present without substances.
Many noted the home run production for Demeritte dropped off significantly for Demeritte after he moved to the Braves, but then he continued to hit similar to how he hit with the Braves’ high-A affiliate in the Arizona Fall League.
If you tally in his AFL stats to his regular season stats, Demeritte hit .265/.356/.548 with 34 doubles, 13 triples, 32 home runs, 20 stolen bases, a 12.28% walk rate, and a 31.5% strikeout rate.
Jorge Mateo, New York Yankees
Once the Yankees acquired Gleyber Torres from the Chicago Cubs in midseason, it cemented the idea of something many had suggested for some time, which was moving Mateo to second base on a more permanent basis.
Mateo is a legit burner, with true 80-grade speed. He seemed to struggled to use that elite speed well on defense, but on the bases, that’s never been a problem for him.
I’m not sure that you’ll see Mateo as a legit offensive threat beyond his speed as he moves up the line, but like Billy Hamilton, when your speed gets to a certain point, you can be a productive player without adding a ton offensively.
Mateo in his time at second was quite impressive in his comfort at the position with his relative little time at the position. He threw well from the position, something many players struggle with in the transition.
Willie Calhoun, Los Angeles Dodgers
For a guy who is generously listed at 5’8″ tall, Calhoun is able to generate impressive game power, but his batting practice displays are even more impressive.
Calhoun is listed at 187 pounds, and he’s likely filled out to roughly 200 pounds at this point, and his frame is such that he’s likely going to fill out with bad weight as he ages fairly easy (think Pablo Sandoval‘s frame).
Calhoun was a 4th round draft pick out of small Yavapai College in Prescott, Arizona in 2015, and he finished 2015 having played 20 games in high-A, impressing many scouts and certainly impressing the Dodgers.
He played the entire 2016 season with AA Tulsa, and his line was impressive – .254/.318/.469, 25 doubles, 27 home runs, 8.04% walk rate, and 11.61% strikeout rate. For a guy to have power like Calhoun has and be able to keep his strikeout rate as low as he has is incredibly impressive.
Yoan Moncada, Chicago White Sox
Considered a generational talent when he came over from Cuba, the Red Sox certainly paid Moncada like a once-a-generation guy. After two amazing seasons in their minor league system, however, the Red Sox chose to use Moncada as the primary piece to acquire the ace they needed when they acquired Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox.
Moncada has ridiculous speed and impressive raw power, the latter of which you’d expect in seeing Moncada’s extremely cut 6’2, 205-pound frame.
In 2016, Moncada opened in high-A before moving to AA and eventually to the majors for a stint before an injury ended that for him. He posted a .294/.407/.511 line in the minors with 31 doubles, 6 triples, 15 home runs, 45 stolen bases, 14.66% walk rate, and 25.25% strikeout rate.
There are some questions on Moncada’s defense at second base, though in my viewings on him in Salem, he handled second very well before the Red Sox attempted to shift him to third bse, and he’s working to re-adjust back to second again this spring with Chicago.
Ian Happ, Chicago Cubs
Happ was selected 9th overall in the 2015 draft out of the University of Cincinnati. His position was uncertain, which led to some teams viewing him more as an outfielder than a legit infielder.
In his first season, Happ played well with the short-season A-ball team in Eugene and the Midwest League affiliate in South Bend. He continued that production in 2016 with high-A Myrtle Beatch and AA Tennessee before finishing his season with time in the Arizona Fall League.
Happ hit .279/.365/.445 with 30 doubles, 15 home runs, and 16 stolen bases on the season with an 11.99% walk rate and 22.75% strikeout rate.