Jonathan Mayo has been a senior writer for MLB.com and MLBPipeline.com, the prospects branch of the league’s web site, since April 1999. Mayo was part of the first broadcasted Major League Baseball Draft back in 2007 with ESPN and is now a fixture on MLB Network.
He fronts the league’s official Top 100 prospects list in Spring Training—and a second one around the Trade Deadline—every season as well as a Top 30 prospect list by organization, a Top 200 draft eligible list and a peak at the Top 30 international prospects. He knows how to navigate the cavernous taverns and unpredictable waters that is the Minor League Baseball terrain.
I asked Mayo about some young players who improved their stock in 2016, and about potential impact prospects in this year’s postseason, who could be poised to crack his top 100 for 2017 and more.
Prospects whose value rose in 2016
“There were a number who really do stand out. If I had to pick one hitter I’d probably pick Eloy Jimenez of the Cubs. He was a big international signing back in 2013, took him a tiny bit longer than say, Gleyber Torres, to really establish himself in full season ball. This year he was absolutely unbelievable, best in the Midwest League in slugging percentage and OPS. He hit the long home run in the Futures Game with the catch over the railing. Then they moved him up to the (High-A) Carolina League for the Playoffs. He probably more than anybody, jumped off the map the most.
“Pitching wise I’d go with the Pirates’ Mitch Keller. He started the year outside the top 100, made his full-season debut, now he’s in the 70’s and the top five of the Pirates list, and he may be under ranked. He had an unbelievable year. Then he moved up to (High-A) Bradenton and finished off the year with eight shutout innings to help Bradenton win the Florida State League championship. He’s a guy to watch, I think he still has some growing and improvement to come.”
“Raul Mondesi has graduated off (the MLB.Com Top 100 List), but he’s one of those guys we always ranked highly. He has tremendous tools but the performance hasn’t been there. Now he’s in the Big Leagues so he’s graduated off, in some ways we’re kind of glad we don’t have to worry about ranking him because he’s such a hard guy to figure out what to do with.
“In terms of a pitcher, maybe Archie Bradley. He’s kind of established himself as a big league starter. Another guy who has graduated off the list but certainly hasn’t lived up to the expectation, especially command wise, that I thought we’d think we all see.”
A player I get a lot of questions about is Joey Gallo. What is your take?
“Joey Gallo, as we talk, is stuck on 129 career at-bats. He needs two at-bats to graduate off our prospect list. Here’s the thing with Joey Gallo. In a lot of ways, the year he had this year is what he is. Even though the batting average was lower, he still drew walks, he still struck out a lot and he still hit a lot of homers. I think in a lot of ways, he’s the same guy that he was maybe just not quite as effective.
“He hasn’t hit in the big leagues, but he also hasn’t played every day. I think he needs to play every day and if he does maybe he’ll strike out 200 times but he might hit 40 or 50 homers.
“It might need to happen just because where’s he gonna play? If Adrian Beltre is going to play third base until he’s 75 years old which it seems like he can and might then the options are letting him play left regularly or first base. There was a stretch of time earlier this year where I thought Gallo might be the answer at first. You could move him around but he needs to be in the lineup everyday to see what he is.
“He’s one of the two guys with all these trades that they’ve made that they resisted trading. Now his trade value probably isn’t as quite high as it was because this year is perceived to not be a very good one. Keep in mind he played all year at Triple-A at age 22. I think a scenery change would be good only to free him up to play everyday. I don’t think he needs a change because he’s not listening to management or coaches or anything like that. I think the Rangers have a decision this off-season, let him play or trade him.”
What about Dillon Tate?
“Tate had a bad year, I’m not sure what happened with him. Maybe the fresh start with the Yankees will help him. Maybe they need to shorten him up and put him in the bullpen and he can get to the big leagues in a hurry because the power stuff will play up that way. But after a really, really promising start the wheels kind of came off command wise more than anything else. I’m interested to see what happens with him in year two.
Potential Postseason Impact Prospects
“Trea Turner is a guy that comes to mind first just because of that speed factor. He’s proven to be a very good all-around offensive player but in those short series, having a guy who can steal a base or take that every base, be aggressive on the base paths, I think that he could have a very large impact.
“Wilson Contreras of the Cubs is another guy that comes to mind. A midseason call-up that has started to settle in behind the plate for the Cubs.
“Those are the two that jump to mind first. I don’t know what the Red Sox are going to do with Andrew Benintendi. I think he is a guy who could also really impact things in the American League.”
Is Turner’s power legit?
“I think it’s fairly legitimate. Could he hit 15-20 homers? Yeah, I think so. Keep in mind that he’s gonna turn many singles into doubles and many doubles into triples, so speed is going to help the extra base ability. He has more than enough strength to hit the gaps and then use his legs to his advantage. The key thing with someone like that who’s a speed guy, you want to make sure at the very least he’s strong enough so the bat is not gonna get knocked out of his hands. I think it’s one of the problems withBilly Hamilton, other than the swing and miss, is the lack of strength hurts.
“Turner has deceptive strength. Realistically, maybe he’s a a 12-15 homer guy but he may be a 30 double/15 triple kind of guy with all those stolen bases. Even if he singles or walks, he’s gonna end up on second or third a lot of time.”
Prospects who could crack your MLB.Com top 100 in 2017
“Even right now we’re replacing guys as they graduate off based on that rookie stats number. Guys likeTriston McKenzie (Indians),Isan Diaz (Brewers),Dylan Cease (Cubs),Tyler Beede (Giants) and Jeimer Candelario (Cubs) have all been added recently. Those were all guys who were all kind of on the cusp. German Marquez of the Rockies, Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. of the Blue Jays. Jack Flaherty (Cardinals) who’s been on the Top 100, I could see him making a big jump.
“I’ll throw one name who’s interesting to me: Franklyn Kilome of the Phillies. Big right-hander, a lot of good stuff, took a nice step forward this year. I think he may explode where he may become one of the better right-handed pitchers in baseball. I’ll add Joey Wentz, who the Braves drafted last year out of High School with one of their extra picks. He’s a guy who if he throws well in his full season will jump off the list.”
The baseball world is obviously in mourning over Jose Fernandez. Do you have a story from when he was coming up?
“The story I have is actually more recent. I saw him in Spring Training, we bounce around to every camp and do prospect related coverage. I was just standing outside waiting to talk to the MLB Network guys for a prospect segment. He came out and was jokingly giving me grief that I had him ranked too low when he was being drafted and I never ranked him high enough as a prospect. Totally jokingly. But the fact that he even remembered who I was, I think speaks volumes about who he was.
“This is a tragedy that touched everybody. People who maybe who’d only crossed paths with him briefly and people who only watched him pitch because I think he played the game the way everybody remembers playing the game when they were kids or wishes the game was always played. I hope that example continues and rubs off on more people who come to the game because that’s the way it should be played.”
“Wow. I’ll have to say that whoever picks number two in that draft is luckier. I’d probably pick Correa only because of a slightly stronger belief of his ability to stay at shortstop long-term and play good defense there. And that is very, very, very slight. Maybe the speed element he runs a little bit better than Seager. But I’d be more than happy to have either of them starting a ball club.”