by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
While second base doesn’t necessarily have the “gaudy” prospects as other spots, there is one truly elite name sitting atop the rankings and a few other intriguing ones behind him. Who has the highest upside? Who could emerge as stars? Let’s take a look at how our rankings currently look:
1) Yoan Moncada – Boston Red Sox
#1 ranked prospect for Red Sox
Grade – A
One of the most hyped imports ever, it took Moncada a bit of time to adjust to the minor leagues. Once he did, though, he took it by storm. The 20-year old spent the season at Single-A (306 AB) hitting .278 with 8 HR, 38 RBI, 61 R and 49 SB. The switch hitter had 45 SB in his final 56 games and should also add power as he gets older and matures (as it is he had 19 doubles and 3 triples). A few other impressive tidbits:
- He was caught stealing just 3 times
- He posted an 11.6% walk rate
We’d like to see him cut down the strikeout rate (22.9%), but once he arrives he could produce scary numbers.
2) Jose Peraza – Cincinnati Reds
#2 prospect for Reds
Grade – B+
Had the Reds been able to jettison Brandon Phillips, Peraza would’ve seamlessly stepped in as the starting second baseman. Now there’s question as to what role he’ll fill, but he has little left to prove in the minors after hitting .293 with 33 SB at Triple-A last season. You can argue that he needs to do a better job of drawing walks, but he also consistently makes contact (K% // BB%) which he showed for two different Triple-A teams:
- Braves – 8.2% // 3.5%
- Dodgers – 10.6% // 2.1%
There isn’t going to be power, but he stole 60+ bases in back-to-back seasons (2013 & 2014) and could profile as an ideal #2 hitter behind Billy Hamilton.
3) Forrest Wall – Colorado Rockies
#6 prospect for Rockies
Grade – B+
The 35th overall selection in 2014 spent the bulk of the season at Single-A, hitting .280 with 7 HR and 23 SB over 361 AB. He showed a good approach at the plate, especially as a 19-year old (he turned 20 in November), with a 17.3% strikeout rate and 9.9% walk rate. When coupled with his speed, which should annually yield 25-30 SB (if not more), the potential is going to be there to routinely hit .290+.
While he hasn’t shown much power, yet, he did add 16 doubles and 10 triples and should add a little bit here as well. The fact that he’s slated to call Coors Field home only adds to that appeal with 10+ HR a realistic expectation.
4) Ian Happ – Chicago Cubs
#4 prospect for Cubs
Grade – B
A switch hitter, Happ hit .259 with 9 HR and 10 SB over 251 AB last season while splitting time between two levels of Single-A. The strikeouts were a bit of a concern (21.5%/23.6%), though he showed a solid eye (17.7%/10.3% walk rates) and there is the potential for his power to develop (17 doubles, 4 triples). He needs to improve his contact rate, but he clearly has the skillset to be a 20/10 outfielder.
5) Micah Johnson – Los Angeles Dodgers
#6 prospect for Dodgers
Grade – B
Johnson broke camp with the White Sox in 2015, but struggled and ultimately was exiled back to the minors. His potential value comes from his legs and batting average, as he’s stolen as many as 84 bases in a minor league season and is a career .301 hitter (.296 at Triple-A, .317 at Double-A). There are questions about his defense, which is something that will have to be answered, but the upside is there. With Chase Utley all that’s standing between him and a regular role, it’s hard to envision him not getting a lengthy opportunity in ’16.
6) Alen Hanson – Pittsburgh Pirates
#6 prospect for Pirates
Grade – B-
Hanson spent the season at Triple-A in ’15, hitting .263 with 6 HR and 35 SB. While the power did take a step backwards (11 HR at Double-A in ’14), he did add 17 doubles and 12 triples. He clearly isn’t going to have a high power ceiling, he should kick in 7-10 annually (with a few more in a good year). He has shown an ability to make consistent contact, even against advanced pitching, with strikeout rates of 16.7% and 17.2% over the past two seasons. When coupled with his speed that gives him the potential to post a strong average as well, despite the unimpressive mark this past season (.311 BABIP, a number he should be able to improve upon given his speed).
7) Wilmer Difo – Washington Nationals
#6 prospect for Nationals
Grade – B-
Difo made his MLB debut in ’15, jumping straight from Double-A, but only saw a handful of opportunities (15 PA). While he brings elite speed to the table, there are questions about his ability to get on base and utilize it:
- Single-A (2014) – 6.1% walk rate over 559 PA
- Double-A (2015) – 3.1% walk rate over 359 PA
8) Rob Refsnyder – New York Yankees
#6 prospect for Yankees
Grade – B-
It was a bit odd that the Yankees didn’t give Refsnyder an opportunity in ’15, given their need at the position. That said he continued to show strong numbers at Triple-A, hitting .271 with 9 HR and 12 SB over 450 AB. His most impressive skills may be his approach, with a 14.0% strikeout rate and 10.7% walk rate. With no standout skill in the counting stat department (home run/stolen bases) it’s easy to overlook him, but he could routinely go 10/10 with a strong average.
9) Darnell Sweeney – Philadelphia Phillies
#9 prospect for Phillies
Grade – B-
His ranking in the Phillies’ organization speaks to how deep the team has become (in large part thanks to a lot of wheeling and dealing). Sweeney was acquired from the Dodgers in ’15 and has shown the potential to be a potential 10/30 type player (with even more home runs playing in Philadelphia). As it is he produced 53 extra base hits at Double-A in ’14 (34 doubles, 5 triples, 14 home runs) and 43 at Triple-A in ’15 (30 doubles, 4 triples, 9 home runs) prior to joining the Phillies late in the year. The big question is going to be his strikeout rate:
- Double-A – 20.0%
- Triple-A – 22.2%
If he can keep that in check the potential is there to really develop.
10) Tony Kemp – Houston Astros
Outside of Astros Top 10 prospects
Grade – B-
The Astros are loaded with young players, especially in the infield, so figuring out where he fits is the question. He has seen time in the outfield, though time will tell if he can fit there. What’s clear is that he has speed (41 SB in ’14, 35 in ’15) and a great approach at the plate:
- Double-A (230 PA) – 12.2% strikeout rate, 15.2% walk rate
- Triple-A (311 PA) – 11.9% strikeout rate, 6.8% walk rate
He’s not going to hit many home runs, but with his speed could push .300 with ample stolen bases.
Sources – MILB.com, Fangraphs
Grading System (still in development):
Grade A – Elite Prospects (aka potential future perennial All-Stars)
Grade B – Above Average Prospects (aka above average Major Leaguers, could develop into a potential All-Star)
Grade C – Average Prospects (aka solid, though unspectacular)
Grade D – Nothing More Than Roster Filler
Grade F – Move On
Make sure to check out all of our Top 10 Prospect Lists: