By Andrew Hendriks
Canadian Baseball Network
Rivaled only by the evaluators, analysts, and insightful scribes at Baseball America, MLB Pipeline -- complete with its video analysis, scouting grades, draft tracker and overall projection system -- has become a one-stop shop for those who take an interest in following the development of some of baseball's most promising young talent.
In addition to posting detailed single-player content, Pipeline also ranks prospects by defensive position, team and Minor-League Baseball as a whole.
On Saturday, those behind the scenes at baseball's most complete prospecting website released their annual pre-season top 100 list.
The Angels' Shohei Ohtani grabbed top honors followed by the Braves' Ronald Acuna and the Blue Jays' Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Montreal, Que.), respectively.
List positioning is based off an array of individual factors including input from industry scouting directors, potential impact at the MLB level and standard 20-80 scouting grades, with 40 or under-representing below-average and 70-80 constituting an above-average rating.
In all, a total of three Blue Jays made the cut.
No. 47 Anthony Alford
(OF, Hit: 55 - Power: 50 - Run: 70 - Arm: 45 - Field: 60)
An impressive .325/.411/.455 start in double-A, coupled with a rash of untimely injuries in the Blue Jays' outfield helped earn Alford a call-up to the Bigs last May. Unfortunately, the 23-year-old product of Columbia, Missouri also fell victim to Toronto's bad luck and wound up on the disabled list himself with a broken hamate bone, diagnosed after appearing in only four major league games last May.
Having exhibited the raw tools scouts search tirelessly for during his high school career, the Blue Jays rolled the dice on Alford and, despite making known his strong desire to play NCAA football at Southern Mississippi, the team made Alford a third-round draft pick 2012. Since committing to baseball full-time in 2015, Alford has shown the ability to hit at every level Toronto has assigned him to. Entering 2018, the former gridiron standout boasts a minor league slash line of .274/.375/.401 in just over 300 affiliated contests.
Although he could certainly benefit from some more seasoning at the triple-A level, we can look for Alford to compete for a spot on the big league roster this spring.
No. 14 Bo Bichette
(INF, Hit: 70 - Power: 55 - Run: 50 - Arm: 55 - Field: 45)
After slashing .427/.451/.732 with four home runs and 36 RBI over just 92 Gulf Coast plate appearances in 2016, 19-year-old infielder Bo Bichette further asserted himself with a .362/.423/.565 line through 110 games split between low-A Lansing and high-A Dunedin last season.
Despite featuring unconventional mechanics at the dish, Toronto made the Orlando native a second-round draft pick out of high school in 2016. Their faith in the son of four-time All-Star slugger, Dante Bichette, paid off when, playing in only his second season of affiliated ball, Bichette led all minor league position players in batting average and placed second in on-base percentage to teammate Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in 2017.
With the intentions of developing him as a shortstop, Toronto will likely start Bichette at double-A New Hampshire this season. Barring any unforeseen injuries or trades, those in the industry expect him to be big league ready at some point during the 2019 campaign.
No. 3 Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Montreal, Que.)
(INF, Hit: 80 - Power: 65 - Run: 45 - Arm: 55 - Field: 45)
Like Bichette, Guerrero Jr. also split his playing time between Lansing and Dunedin in 2017. In all, the 18-year-old infielder slashed .323/.425/. 486 with 43 extra-base hits and 76 RBI across 527 plate appearances on the season.
The Montreal-born slugger was unquestionably the big haul out of 2015's international signing period, and it cost the Blue Jays two prospects, a total of three international bonus slots, and a $3.9M bonus to land the son of the 2004 American League Most Valuable Player.
Since making his professional debut in 2016, Guerrero Jr. has demonstrated the ability to power the ball to all fields while --walking more times than he's struck out (109/97)-- also showcasing a keen eye at the dish. Having transferred from the outfield over to third base, evaluators project that he should become an average defender who could develop into the type of offensive threat that can anchor the middle part of a big league lineup.
Recipient of MLB Pipeline's first ever 80-grade hit tool designation, Guerrero Jr. should begin the season at double-A and, barring any setbacks or health issues, has a strong chance to finish 2018 in Buffalo.
No. 94 Tyler O'Neill
(OF, Hit: 50 - Power: 60 - Run: 45 - Arm: 55 - Field: 50)
Traded from the Seattle Mariners to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Marco Gonzales last July, O'Neill slashed .246/.321/.499 with 31 home runs and an OPS of .820 across 557 plate appearances split between triple-A outposts Tacoma and Memphis in 2017.
No. 40 Cal Quantrill
(RHP - FB: 60 - SL: 50 - CB: 50 - CH: 65 - Control: 55)
In his second season of professional ball, Quantrill appeared with both high-A Lake Elsinore and double-A San Antonio, posting an ERA of 3.80 with 110 strikeouts over 22 starts.
No. 31 Mike Soroka
(RHP - FB: 60 - SL: 55 - CH: 55 - Control: 60)
Pitching to an ERA of 2.75 with 125 strikeouts against only 34 walks through 26 starts with double-A Mississippi, Soroka saw his stock rise once again in 2017.
Having received a non-roster invite to big league camp next month, the 6-foot-4 Calgary native checks in as one of the Braves' top prospects and could reach the show as early 2018.
These rankings are subject to change as the season progresses and in no way do they guarantee a player’s success in the big leagues. If anything, the list acts as a means of showing the reader where each prospect ranks amongst their peers while also providing a glimpse of what they may become.
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