So we’ve finished the Top 10s. At this point, it’s time to try put all these players into perspective and ask who is the best, which means a Top 100. The Top 100, however, will come a little later (Wednesday and Friday) this week. Today, we’ll look at some players who were outside of the Top 100 but have a chance to make a major jump in the rankings next year by answering some of the questions about them. They aren’t necessarily the ones 101-120, but they are generally the ones with the most potential to make huge strides in the coming year. Without further ado, the list follows in alphabetical order.
Matt Adams 1B (STL): Adams was 22 year old and raked in AA, but he’s a first baseman only and needs to continue to mash when he gets to AAA. Adams has plus to plus-plus power and an improving approach to go along with an above-average hit tool. Everything needs to go right, but he looks like a solid choice to man first base for the better part of this decade.
Oswaldo Arcia OF (MIN): Arcia has plenty of pop in his bat, but a quick promotion to High-A after 20 games in Low-A, Arcia had a rough go of things. He will be 21 relatively soon, so he wasn’t exactly young. But 59 games is a pretty small sample in itself. Arcia is locked into a corner and needs to hit, but the power is very enticing.
Jesse Biddle LHP (PHI): Biddle had a nice season in A-ball, but his fastball sits in the high-80s. There’s belief that there’s some projection there, however, and he’s hit the 90s before. Biddle also has some nice secondary pitches. If the fastball comes around, his stock goes up, but if it doesn’t, questions will remain about his stuff playing in the upper levels.
Jose Campos RHP (NY): His full-season debut couldn’t have gone much better, and it was clearly enough to catch the eye of the Yankees. Campos’ ceiling is clearly evident by the mid-90s or better fastball, but his lack of a second average or better pitch is a serious concern. A man cannot live on his fastball alone, and an improvement in his secondary pitches will send his stock soaring.
Michael Choice OF (OAK): He has massive power, the speed to steal some bases, and a year of excellent performance in High-A Stockton. The problem is that big offensive numbers are expected in the California League, and his season wasn’t really any better than the one Grant Green put up the season before. And all of that comes before a swing that had him strike out 134 times in 118 games. It’s a bad swing.
Kaleb Cowart 3B (LAA): A weak debut in the rookie Pioneer League put a serious damper on Cowart’s prospect status, but we have to be careful. High schoolers making the transition to pro ball don’t always make smooth transitions as they adjust to new expectations placed on them, and they can make significant rebounds in the next season. But you can’t simply ignore a debut below expectations.
Elier Hernandez OF (KC): Hernandez got the largest signing bonus from this past season’s crop of international free-agents, and he’s absolutely loaded with tools. But he’s a long, long way away and needs a lot of development. A dominating pro debut, however, will make him difficult to ignore.
Brandon Jacobs OF (BOS): Jacobs spent 2011 bashing A-ball pitchers, but as a corner outfielder/first baseman, he has to hit. There’s also the question of his speed, which allowed him to steal 30 bases in 2011. Scouts don’t think he’s that fast, and he’s not likely to keep stealing bases at this rate. That places more emphasis on the bat.
Tyler Matzek LHP (COL): The first half of his season was absolutely disastrous, and while the second half showed significant improvements, it still had some bumps. Along with the control problems, the stuff ticked down just a notch. Despite all that, his stuff is still so good that a solid season will put him right back up toward the top of the rankings.
Levi Michael SS (MIN): The big question is whether or not he can stick at short. If he can, the bat should be good enough to make him a solid regular and even an All-Star, but if he has to move to second, the expectations obviously shift downward. Shortstops are in short supply, so showing he can stay there could send his stock way up.
Daniel Norris LHP (TOR): Norris slid out of the first round due to signing demands, but the Blue Jays took a chance and nabbed the young lefty from Tennessee. He has plenty of stuff, and all he needs now is a successful debut.
Rougned Odor 2B (TEX): The stats weren’t particularly impressive, but once you realize he was only 17 and already playing in full-season ball, you’re a little more impressed. Odor is certainly a lottery ticket, but the Rangers put him in A-ball already for a reason. He’ll be 18 all next season, and if he can put up solid stats in High-A, the Rangers’ top prospects will be a terrific-looking double-play combination.
Joe Panik 2B/SS (SF): Panik isn’t the smoothest cat at short, and he’s likely to move to second, where he might not be a whole lot better. With that in mind, he needs to hit, which he did in his debut. If he can do that over a full season of High-A, he and Gary Brown will be an excellent up-the-middle combo at the top of their list.
Matt Purke LHP (WAS): The Rangers drafted him out of high school, but their financial crisis kept them from being able to sign him. Purke went off to TCU and had an amazing freshman season, but his sophomore year went the opposite. Arm injuries, a loss of stuff, and control problems caused his stock to drop from a Top 5 pick to concern that he wouldn’t be drafted at all. The Nationals, with their willingness to spend in the draft, took a chance on him. Now, we wait.
Yorman Rodriguez OF (CIN): Two years ago, Rodriguez was essentially what Hernandez is now, and while Rodriguez continues to show outstanding tools, he also had a less than overwhelming full-season debut. Then again, he was the equivalent of a high school senior, so no one’s too worried yet.
Edward Salcedo 3B (ATL): Essentially repeating Low-A, Salcedo didn’t exactly impress, but he was only 19 and scouts still saw a lot of promise. Salcedo, moving to High-A in 2012, will need to answer a couple questions. Can he stay at third? And can his bat take that leap forward that people expect? He has the ability to make that happen, and if he does, he could become one of the best prospects in the game. If he doesn’t, we’ll start to wonder if he’s just another flame-out.
Noah Syndergaard RHP (TOR): Syndergaard’s arm is about as big as his name, but he still has some questions. Will the secondary pitches continue to improve? Can he hold up over a full season? I wouldn’t be especially worried that he could reach those goals, but they are serious questions, nonetheless. I really like his chances.
Sebastian Valle C (PHI): Valle is likely to be an above-average defensive catcher, but his offense is what will keep him from starting. He has the tools to be better at the plate, but as he heads to AA, can he put it together like Travis d’Arnaud and Devin Mesoraco? 2012 could really swing in a lot of different directions.
Jonathan Villar SS (HOU): Villar has the tools to be one of the best shortstop prospects around, but his lack of refinement, despite having played in AA, is troubling on both sides of the ball. He’s only 20 (until May 2), and he could use a repeat attempt at AA. The Astros aren’t going anywhere in the near future, but if they develop Villar correctly, he could be a major part of turning the team around.
Allen Webster RHP (LAD): Webster has front-of-the-rotation stuff, but his ability to harness it will determine where he actually fits in a rotation, if he fits in one at all. The Dodgers need pitching, but they’d be best served by giving the soon-to-be 22-year old a full season in AAA, if not another attempt at AA.