2016 International League Top 20 Prospects
Championship Series Scranton/W-B (Yankees) 3 Gwinnett (Braves) 1
|Best Record Scranton/W-B (Yankees), 91-52 (.636)|
|Most Valuable Player Ben Gamel, of, Scranton/W-B (Yankees)|
|Pitcher OF The Year Jake Thompson, rhp, Lehigh Valley (Phillies)|
|Did Not Qualify Lucas Giolito, rhp, Syracuse (Nationals)|
See Also: 2016 League Top 20 Index
See Also: League Top 20 Prospects Historical Index
A bumper crop of prospects called the Triple-A International League home this season, including two of the last four Minor League Players of the Year: Rochester outfielder Byron Buxton and Durham lefthander Blake Snell.
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre went 91-52 during the regular season, posting the best winning percentage and most victories of any team in full-season ball. The RailRiders went on to win the Governors’ Cup, defeating Gwinnett in the finals.
They did so without most of their best prospects, including Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge, who were called up in August and helped the Yankees to a second-half revival.
1. Trea Turner, ss, Syracuse (Nationals) | Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 185. Drafted: North Carolina State, 2014 (1/Padres).
The 13th overall pick in 2014, Turner raced through the minors and made his big league debut last August, about 14 months after being drafted. He returned to Triple-A this season and was electric in the first half before rejoining the Nationals for good in July. League managers voted him the best hitter, fastest runner and most exciting player in Best Tools balloting.
Turner has long been known for his speed, which grades near the top of the scale, but he has developed into an excellent all-around hitter. He makes consistent hard contact and makes good use of his speed to get on base. He is an advanced basestealer who ranked fourth in the IL with 25 steals despite his time in the big leagues. His ability to consistently barrel the ball, combined with his wiry strength, gives him sneaky power, and he should consistently produce double-digit home runs.
Turner played primarily shortstop at Syracuse, but because the Nationals have Danny Espinosa, he began seeing time in center field before his callup. He also plays second base and is a solid defender at all three positions, though there is rawness to his outfield defense. He has the quickness, hands and arm strength to be an everyday shortstop or he could be a plus defender in center in time.
2. Byron Buxton of, Rochester (Twins) | Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 190. Drafted: HS—Baxley, Ga., 2012 (1).
After making his much-anticipated major league debut in 2015, Buxton entered the season ranked as the No. 2 prospect in baseball for the second year in a row. He had played just 13 games at Triple-A, so he started the year at Rochester. He again showed how dynamic he can be, though he struggled to make the ultimate jump to the big leagues during a couple mid-summer callups.
Buxton played the whole season as a 22-year old and continues to show five-tool potential. He generates tremendous bat speed and has the ability to drive the ball out to all fields. A disciplined hitter early in his career, he has proven susceptible to chasing offspeed stuff in the upper levels and his strikeout totals have climbed as a result.
Buxton is a top-of-the-scale runner and is a good basestealer. His speed also allows him to cover ground with ease in center field, which, along with his plus arm strength, makes him an elite defender. Buxton still needs to finish his transition to Minnesota, but his elite tools make his lofty ceiling still attainable.
3. Gary Sanchez c, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Yankees) | Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 230. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2009.
Sanchez hit .282 with plenty of power at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season, but he transformed into Barry Bonds in August when the Yankees summoned him to the majors. Before Sanchez became a key cog in New York, he performed on both sides of the ball in his first full season in the IL after getting a taste of Triple-A last year.
Sanchez stood out for his plus raw power even before mashing 11 home runs for the Yankees in August. He offers more at the plate than just raw power, however. He can use the whole field to hit, and he cut his strikeout rate this year.
Defensively, Sanchez has top-of-the-scale arm strength and developed into a solid receiver. He still has room for improvement, but he has already forced his way into the starting lineup in the Bronx, a spot he is unlikely to give up anytime soon
4. J.P. Crawford ss, Lehigh Valley (Phillies) | Age: 21. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 180. Drafted: HS—Lakewood, Calif., 2013 (1).
Crawford began the year at Double-A Reading before being promoted to Lehigh Valley in mid-May. He was the youngest player in the IL when the Phillies promoted him to Lehigh Valley in mid-May. He went through some growing pains against older competition.
While IL pitchers found ways to get Crawford out, he did not lose his disciplined approach at the plate. He has a compact lefthanded swing that enables him to make consistent contact. Power is not a big part of his game, but he projects to have average pop as he continues to physically mature. He is an average runner.
Crawford is a smooth defender, capable of making all the plays at shortstop. He has above-average arm strength and earns praise for his instincts.
5. Tyler Glasnow rhp, Indianapolis (Pirates) | Age: 23. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-8. Wt.: 225. Drafted: HS—Santa Clarita, Calif., 2011 (5).
Glasnow turned in another outstanding minor league season and made his big league debut on July 7, scuttling a chance to start the Triple-A all-star game. He fell short of qualifying for the ERA title, but had his 110.2 innings been enough, his 1.87 mark would have been the best in the IL. After his second start for the Pirates, he spent a month on the disabled list with discomfort in his right shoulder.
Listed at 6-foot-8, Glasnow has power stuff and uses his size to his advantage. His fastball sits in the mid-90s, and he can run it into the upper 90s with sinking action. He complements his fastball with a power curveball and a hard changeup. His curveball can be a wipeout pitch, but he struggles at times to land it for strikes. His changeup has been clocked up to 89 mph and grades as an average offering.
Glasnow, like many tall, young power pitchers, has struggled with his control throughout his career. He walked 5.0 per nine innings at Triple-A this season, and he’ll have to throw more strikes to reach his ceiling as a top-of-the-rotation starter.
6. Blake Snell lhp, Durham (Rays) | Age: 23. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 180. Drafted: HS—Shoreline, Wash., 2011 (1s).
Snell ended his whirlwind 2015 Minor League Player of the Year campaign at Durham, and returned to the Bulls to start this season. He picked up where he left off on the mound and made his major league debut with a spot start in April. By mid-June, he had taken over a spot in the Rays’ rotation.
Snell uses a four-pitch mix to attack hitters. His fastball sits in the mid-90s, peaking at 97 mph. His curveball has surpassed his slider as his primary (and more effective) breaking ball. His plus changeup continues to be his most effective secondary offering.
Snell worked to refine his fastball command this year and, though his walk rate rose in Tampa Bay, he made important progress. He is the Rays’ latest homegrown pitching prospect to graduate, and his overall package is good enough to keep him in their strong rotation.
7. Austin Meadows of, Indianapolis (Pirates) | Age: 21. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 200. Drafted: HS—Loganville, Ga., 2013 (1).
Meadows suffered an orbital fracture in his right eye during spring training, which sidelined him for the first three weeks of the season. He got back on the field at Double-A Altoona and earned a promotion to Indianapolis in mid-June and a spot in the Futures Game. He hit just .214 with a high strikeout rate after joining Indianapolis, in part due to a hamstring injury that cost him nearly another month of action.
When Meadows is healthy he shows the tools that make him an elite prospect, even as he adjusts to older competition. He has a smooth swing and consistently makes hard contact. He is learning how to turn his raw power into production, while still using the whole field to hit.
Meadows is an above-average runner who improved his reads off the bat this season. He has the tools to handle center field, though he should hit enough to profile in left field, where his average arm would play.
8. Jameson Taillon rhp, Indianapolis (Pirates)| Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 240. Drafted: HS—The Woodlands, Texas, 2010 (1).
After missing the last two seasons with injuries, Taillon returned from Tommy John surgery and hernia surgery to log a healthy season. He quickly shook off the rust and got back to being the pitcher the Pirates envisioned when they drafted him No. 2 overall in 2010. After two months with Indianapolis, Taillon made his major league debut and spent the rest of the season in the Pittsburgh rotation.
While Taillon still has a lot of the elements that made him a prototypical power pitcher early in his career, his profile has changed since the Pirates encouraged him to throw his two-seam fastball more often. He can still run his four-seamer up to 98 mph, but his sinker has become his primary pitch. As a result, he is no longer missing bats as often as he did early in his career and instead has produced a groundball rate above 50 percent. His best secondary pitch remains his hard curveball, and he also mixes in a changeup.
Taillon pounds the strike zone with fastballs, and he walked just 0.9 per nine innings at Indianapolis. Now that he doesn’t miss as many bats, he looks more like a mid-rotation starter, a role he has effectively handled this year.
9. Tim Anderson SS, Charlotte (White Sox) | Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 185. Drafted: East Central (Miss.) CC, 2013 (1).
The No. 1 prospect in the White Sox system heading into the season, Anderson began the year at Charlotte for his first taste of Triple-A. He handled the level with aplomb, and Chicago called him up in early June. He immediately took over as everyday shortstop and didn’t look back.
Anderson’s exceptional athleticism and well above-average speed make him an exciting player. His swing is geared to hit line drives and ground balls, allowing him to use his speed to leg out infield hits and get on base. While he won’t hit many home runs because of his swing, he has good bat speed and pounds the ball into the gaps for extra-base hits.An aggressive hitter, Anderson rarely walks and has struggled against advanced breaking balls.
Anderson is a solid defender at shortstop who continues to improve his efficiency. He shows plenty of range and good hands. His arm strength has improved, giving him the tools to be an everyday shortstop.
10. Josh Bell 1b, Indianapolis (Pirates) | Age: 24. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 245. Drafted: HS—Dallas, 2011 (2).
Bell anchored Indianapolis’ prospect-laden lineup throughout the season, providing thump in the middle of the order. He made his major league debut during a brief stint with the Pirates in July and then came up for good in late August.
Bell, a switch-hitter, has learned to better get to his power, and he set a career high this season with 14 home runs at Indianapolis. He did so without compromising his high contact rate. Bell is more productive batting lefthanded, but he does a good job of sticking with his mature approach from both sides and knows how to work a walk
Bell has worked hard to improve defensively since moving to first base but still has a lot of work to do at his new position.
11. Ozzie Albies, ss/2b, Gwinnett (Braves) Age: 19. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 5-9. Wt.: 160. Signed: Curacao, 2013.
Albies began the season with Double-A Mississippi and was promoted to Gwinnett at the end of April. He had been the youngest player in the Southern League on Opening Day and struggled in the more advanced IL. After two months with Gwinnett, he returned to Mississippi at the end of June to team with Dansby Swanson.
Though his production dipped during his stint at Gwinnett, Albies’ upside was still readily apparent. He makes a lot of contact thanks to his quick swing, excellent hand-eye coordination and feel for the barrel. He is an aggressive hitter, but his contact skills and plus speed make him a threat at the top of the order. Power will never be a big part of his game, but he drives the gaps well for extra-base hits.
Albies has good infield actions, soft hands and above-average arm strength. He split his time this season between shortstop and second base, and is a solid defender at both position.
12. Bradley Zimmer, of, Columbus (Indians) | Age: 23. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 185. Drafted: San Francisco, 2014 (1).
After a breakout 2015 in which he reached Double-A in his first full season, Zimmer returned to Akron to begin 2016. The Indians promoted him to Columbus in late July, and he struggled to adjust offensively to the new level, much as he did a year ago in the Eastern League.
At his best, Zimmer has five-tool potential and impacts the game in a variety of ways. He does a good job of using the whole field to hit and produces plenty of bat speed. He has above-average power but didn’t get to it much with Columbus, in part because he struggled to make as much contact as he had in the past. He whiffed in more than a third of his plate appearances with Columbus.
Zimmer is a plus runner and his speed plays well both on the bases and in the outfield. He covers ground in center field and has above-average arm strength.
13. Nick Williams, of, Lehigh Valley (Phillies) | Age: 23. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 195. Drafted: HS—Galveston, Texas, 2012 (2/Rangers).
Williams was finishing off a breakout 2015 season when the Rangers traded him to the Phillies at the deadline as a part of their return for Cole Hamels. He started his first full season in his new organization well, but faded badly in the second half. Williams was pulled from multiple games for not hustling and denied a September callup by the Phillies.
Williams has standout raw tools but is still learning to become a consistent, everyday player. He has a quick, explosive, lefthanded swing that generates well above-average bat speed and plus raw power. His pitch recognition has been a problem throughout his career, leading to high strikeout totals and minimal walks. After improving both his strikeout and walk rate last year, Williams regressed in his first taste of Triple-A and whiffed 25.8 percent of the time.
The Phillies played Williams in all three outfield spots this season. He’s a solid defender with above-average speed and arm strength.
14. Mike Clevinger, rhp, Columbus (Indians) | Age: 25. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 210. Drafted: Seminole State JC (Fla.), 2011 (4/Angels).
The Indians acquired Clevinger from the Angels in August 2014, and he revived his career with Cleveland last season. He built on that success this season. He excelled in the IL, headlining the Columbus rotation and tying for the league lead with 11 wins. He made his major league debut in May and took on a larger role down the stretch as the Indians dealt with injuries.
Clevinger throws his fastball in the mid-90s and can run the pitch up to 97 mph. He has a hard slider that can be a swing-and-miss offering but also often creates groundballs. His changeup is a solid offering, and he also occasionally mixes in a curveball.
Clevinger’s control has been problematic since his junior-college days, but the Indians helped him make mechanical adjustments that have helped him throw more strikes. His command probably won’t ever be exemplary, but he has a full starter’s arsenal and is now throwing enough strikes to stick in a big league rotation.
15. Jose Berrios, rhp, Rochester (Twins) | Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 185. Drafted: HS—Bayamon, P.R., 2012 (1s).
While Berrios’ year with Rochester was a continuation of his strong performance throughout the minors, his time in the big leagues has been dismal. He had one of the best statistical seasons of any IL pitcher, but he struggled mightily to make the final jump when called up to the Twins.
Berrios has been known for his control and polish, and that showed again this year. He pounded the strike zone with his three-pitch mix and recorded 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings at Rochester. But his command abandoned him in the big leagues, and he became susceptible to the long ball, possibly in part because his fastball lacks plane.
Despite his struggles, Berrios’ stuff remains solid. His fastball sits around 93 mph and touches 98. His changeup and curveball are both above-average offerings and, when he’s right, he throws them all for strikes. If Berrios can find his command and confidence, his upside remains considerable.
16. Amir Garrett, lhp, Louisville (Reds) | Age: 24. B-T: R-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 210. Drafted: HS—Henderson, Nev., 2011 (22).
Garrett, a former college basketball player, reached Louisville in June after a strong start to the season at Double-A Pensacola. He threw two hitless innings in the Futures Game and is close to becoming the latest young starter to reach the majors with the Reds.
Listed at 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, Garrett has a long, athletic frame. He throws his fastball in the mid-90s, mixing it effectively with an above-average slider. His changeup made strides this year, but still lags behind his other offerings.
Garrett’s command improved after he focused on baseball full time, but his walk rate crept up to 4.1 per nine innings at Louisville. The Reds have done a good job of developing his raw talent, and with some further refinement of his command, he could be a solid starter.
17. Jose Peraza, ss, Louisville (Reds) | Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 180. Signed: Venezuela, 2010 (Braves).
Peraza ranked No. 14 on this list a year ago, but that came for his performance with Gwinnett as a member of the Braves organization. He has been traded twice since then, first going to the Dodgers at the 2015 deadline and then to the Reds in the offseason. He began 2016 back in the IL and put together a solid campaign.
Peraza stands out for his hitting ability and speed. His short swing and hand-eye coordination give him a knack for putting the bat on the ball. He doesn’t lift the ball much, instead hitting mostly line drives and groundballs that allow him to make the most of his plus speed. He is still learning the art of basestealing, but his speed makes him a stolen-base threat.
Peraza played primarily shortstop at Louisville, a return to his original position, but he also saw time at second base and in center field. He has the range and hands for shortstop, but his average arm strength and throwing mechanics hamper him. He is a good defender at second base and has shown promise in the outfield.
18. Cody Reed, lhp, Louisville (Reds) | Age: 23. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 225. Drafted: Northwest Mississippi CC, 2013 (2/Royals).
The Reds acquired Reed last July as a part of the trade that sent Johnny Cueto to the Royals. Reed reached the majors in his first full year with his new organization, debuting in June. After a strong start to the season with Louisville, he struggled in Cincinnati and finished the season in the Reds’ bullpen.
Reed’s fastball sits 93-94 mph with late life. He throws from a three-quarters arm slot that makes him especially tough on lefthanded hitters. His slider is a swing-and-miss offering that earns plus grades. While he relies on his fastball-slider combination, he will also mix in an adequate changeup.
During his time with the Reds, Reed’s pitches seemingly lacked some of the sharpness they had in the minors. He worked on a mechanical change to get better extension and take advantage of his 6-foot-5 frame. If that fix works, he has the size, stuff and control to be a solid starter.
19. Aaron Judge, of, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Yankees) | Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-7. Wt.: 275. Drafted: Fresno State, 2013 (1).
Judge reached Triple-A last year and recorded a .681 OPS in half a season, which was his worst showing at any professional stop. He returned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to start this season and fared much better. He made his major league debut in mid-August, though he again struggled to adjust to a new level.
Listed at 6-foot-7, 275 pounds, Judge is an imposing figure in the batter’s box and has the plus power to match. He’s more than just a masher, however, and has discipline at the plate. But his size makes his swing long, and more advanced pitchers have been able to exploit some of his holes. Judge fits the right-field profile. He moves well in the outfield and has plus arm strength.
20. A.J. Cole, rhp, Syracuse (Nationals) Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 215. Drafted: HS—Oviedo, Fla., 2010 (4).
Cole made his major league debut last year, but with the Nationals’ crowded rotation, he returned to Syracuse again this season. He had an up-and-down year, but he came on strong in the second half and pitched capably for the Nationals in September.
Cole doesn’t throw quite as hard as he did earlier in his career, with his fastball now sitting in the low 90s. He has more velocity when he needs it, however, and he does a good job of locating the pitch. His changeup was long his most reliable offspeed pitch, but his slider has made strides this year and gives him a third average-or-better offering. He also can work in a curveball, giving him a deep arsenal.
Cole’s pitchability also has improved, and he more effectively uses his improved arsenal to attack hitters.
Fantasy Greats Between The All-Star Breaks
Before embarking on the second half we pause to review the fantasy standouts between all-star breaks.