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  • From Arizona to Washington, here's the top minor leaguer to know for every team going into this season—and when you can expect them to make an impact in the big leagues.
By Jay Jaffe
February 22, 2017

One of the pleasures of welcoming baseball back every year is sifting through the major prospect lists. Admittedly, they’re imperfect predictors of who will pan out and who will bust—prospect evaluation is an inexact science, and it’s not hard to find disagreements between evaluators—but the lists are fun to read. At this time of year they also offer cues about whom to keep an eye on early in spring training.

After scouring the lists of Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, ESPN and MLB Pipeline (MLB.com), what follows here is a look at each team’s top prospect—not necessarily someone who will help the big club in 2017, but someone whose name should become familiar. A few already are, thanks to major league bloodlines or inclusion in past blockbusters. Sometimes, there’s a strong consensus about who that player is, but sometimes it’s a split decision, because the hard-working folks behind these lists all vary in their philosophies and their views of each player’s tools.

For each player listed, I’ve identified the publication that ranked him the highest. The player ages are as of June 30, and the ETAs are, of course, estimates.

Matt York/AP

2017 Age: 23
Highest Prospect Ranking: 88 (BA)
MLB ETA: 2017

ESPN’s Keith Law called the Diamondbacks' system the game's worst; the BP staff added that it's "almost entirely devoid of impact talent;" and three of the four lists didn't include a single Arizona player in their rankings. Nonetheless, Banda is no lost cause. A 10th-round 2012 pick who was acquired from the Brewers in the '14 deadline trade for Gerardo Parra, he's improved steadily over the past two seasons and now offers a fastball that sits in the mid-90s, a curve that some see as a plus pitch (60 on the 20–80 scouting grade scale) and a changeup that's at least average and should help him counter righties. He's a potential third or fourth starter who should make his MLB debut sometime this year.

Brett Davis/AP

2017 Age: 23
Highest Prospect Ranking: 2 (BP, ESPN)
MLB ETA: Debuted 2016

The No. 1 pick of the 2015 draft and the centerpiece of last winter's Shelby Miller heist, Swanson played 38 games for the Braves last year, hitting .302/.361/.442 with three homers and three steals and falling one at-bat short (129) of exhausting his rookie status. On the offensive side, he's an ideal No. 2 hitter with an advanced approach at the plate and plus speed on the bases, but his strikeout rate is a bit high given that he only has gap power. Defensively, he's got exceptional range, an above-average arm and good hands. He'll not only stick at shortstop but also be a natural leader and a franchise player. 

Denis Poroy/Getty Images

2017 Age: 22
Highest Prospect Ranking: 57 (BA)
MLB ETA: 2018

With Matt Wieters departing via free agency, the O's have a long-term need for a catcher, but Sisco is not the second coming of his predecessor, who was a consensus No. 1 prospect circa 2009. A second-round 2013 draft pick, Sisco hit .320/.406/.422 with four homers in 479 plate appearances last year at Double A Bowie before getting a brief promotion to Triple A Norfolk. As that stat line suggests, he's got a plus hit tool but has yet to unlock the in-game power hinted at by an opposite-field homer at last summer's Futures Game at Petco Park. He's less advanced defensively, with a fringy arm, below-average pop times and game-calling skills that are a work in progress, though he projects to wind up as an average defender. Along with his offensive skills, that should make him an above-average player, but probably not a star. 

Michael Ivins/Getty Images

2017 Age: 22
Highest Prospect Ranking: 1 (BA, BP, ESPN)
MLB ETA: Debuted 2016

The seventh pick of the 2015 draft, Arkansas product Benintendi shot to the majors and the top of three of the four major lists in his first full professional season and hit .295/.359/.476 in 118 plate appearances with the Red Sox late last year. Though not a big guy (listed at 5'10" and 170 pounds), his compact and sometimes violent swing generates plus power thanks to quick hands and the loft in his swing; he figures to generate 20 homers and a ton of doubles per year. More special is his hit tool, generally considered plus-plus (70 grade), with Alex Speier reporting, "Multiple evaluators believe that Benintendi has a chance to be a perennial All-Star who competes for batting titles." His above-average speed plays up thanks to good instincts, and while he could cover centerfield, on the Red Sox he's slated for left, where his range could make him a Gold Glove contender.

Bruce Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

2017 Age: 20
Highest Prospect Ranking: 9 (BP)
MLB ETA: 2019

This strapping 6'4" Dominican—whom the Cubs signed for a $2.8 million bonus in 2013—tore up the A-level Midwest League as a 19-year-old (.329/.369/.532 with 14 homers). He's drawn comparisons to Giancarlo Stanton based on his size, bat speed and plus-plus power; perhaps not coincidentally, he homered off the third-level facade at last summer's Futures Game in Petco Park. His hit tool is a plus, as he uses the whole field well and doesn't sell out for power. On the downside, he could stand to walk more (just 25 free passes in 464 plate appearances in 2016) and is a below-average runner. Defensively, his arm has been called "fringy," though he's young enough that if he commits to improving his throwing accuracy, then rightfield could be his destination instead of left. He'll likely start the year in Class A.

Ron Vesely/Getty Images

2017 Age: 22
Highest Prospect Ranking: 2 (BA, MLB)
MLB ETA: Debuted 2016

The Red Sox thought so highly of the 6'2", 205-pound Moncada that they paid a 100% tax on a $31.5 million bonus upon signing him out of Cuba in February 2015. He finished at .294/.407/.511 in 2016 with 15 homers and 45 steals after continuing to hit well at Double A Portland, but an ugly September showing with the Red Sox (12 strikeouts in 19 at-bats and a base-running gaffe that buried him on the bench) dimmed his luster after he’d topped the BA and MLB midseason prospect lists. On Dec. 6, he was dealt to the White Sox as the centerpiece of the Chris Sale return.

Still, there’s plenty to love about the switch-hitting, athletic second baseman, who has tremendous bat speed and offers plus power from both sides of the plate. He's drawn comparisons to Robinson Cano from the left side but has more speed and arm than Cano—both tools have been graded as high as plus-plus—though his play at second base has been described as "stiff." He looked more natural in a late-season trial at third base, and some scouts have suggested he belongs in centerfield, but for now he's staying at the keystone and will likely spend most of the season at Triple A.

Getty Images

2017 Age: 22
Highest Prospect Ranking: 9 (BA)
MLB ETA: 2017/18

The No. 2 pick out of Tennessee in 2016, Senzel was considered the draft's best college bat and got off to a strong professional start at Class A Dayton (.329/.415/.567 with seven homers and 15 steals in 58 games). All five of his tools grade between average and plus, which makes him a very safe bet in the long run rather than a perennial All-Star. With good bat speed, advanced pitch recognition and plus raw power, he's a potential middle-of-the-order bat, one whose speed and instincts make him a base-stealing threat as well. Defensively, he's got a strong, accurate arm with good hands and range. Though he'll likely start the year at high A, he could get a September look and should compete for a major league job next year.

Denis Poroy/Getty Images

2017 Age: 21
Highest Prospect Ranking: 18 (ESPN)
MLB ETA: 2018

This undersized  (5'10", 175 pounds) switch-hitting catcher reeled off a 50-game hitting streak last summer, the minors' longest since 1954, and finished with a .342/.382/.514 line with 11 homers at two Class A stops. He's got an aggressive approach and makes hard contact from both sides with a surprising amount of pop, with the potential for 15–20 homers. Defensively, his arm drew an 80 grade from Baseball America; the rest of his receiving skills lag behind, but he has the potential to be at least average behind the plate. Summarized Law, his top proponent: "[I]f Mejia catches, he might be MVP-worthy, like Joe Mauer, but with a better build for the position."

Ron Antonelli/MLB/Getty Images

2017 Age: 21
Highest Prospect Ranking: 11 (BP)
MLB ETA: 2019

The No. 3 pick of the 2015 draft behind Dansby Swanson and Alex Bregman—college players who are already in the majors—Rogers hit 281/.342/.480 with 19 homers at low A ball in 2016. He's got elite bat speed, strength and a polished approach, with hit and power tools that project to be either above-average or plus. He's got a plus arm and great hands, but some see him as a bit stiff at shortstop; he could wind up at second or third depending upon whether he maintains his range and where the Rockies have openings once he's ready. He'll put up big numbers at hitter-friendly Class A Lancaster, but he's got a ways to go. 

Icon Sportswire

2017 Age: 19
Highest Prospect Ranking: 61 (BA)
MLB ETA: 2020

The lone Tigers prospect on three of the four lists, Manning was the ninth pick of last year's draft out of a Sacramento high school; the 6'6" righty is the son of former NBA player Rich Manning. He's barely gotten his feet wet professionally, but he struck out 46 of the 88 hitters he faced in 29 1/3 innings in the Gulf Coast League last year. Manning's fastball sits 96–97 mph and plays up thanks to his extension and steep downhill plane. He's got a power curve, too, of which the BP team says, "What impresses most is that he can locate the deuce for strikes at the bottom of the zone or bury it to finish off batters." His changeup has the potential to be average or above-average, and he gets high marks for his makeup. In all, he has the potential to be a frontline starter.

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

2017 Age: 21
Highest Prospect Ranking: 15 (BA)
MLB ETA: 2017

Acquired from the Marlins in a 2014 deadline swap centered around Jarred Cosart, the Dominican-born Martes draw Johnny Cueto comparisons for his burly stature (6'1" and 225 pounds) and future frontline potential. In 2016 at Double A Corpus Christi, he posted a tidy 3.30 ERA with 9.4 strikeouts per nine in 125 1/3 innings, allowing just four homers. His fastball and curve are both plus-plus pitches: The heater sits in the low 90s with sink, but he can gas it up to 98–99 mph, and his hard curve "comes in at slider speed with tight rotation and late 11–5 break, and he has shown capable of working it in zone to steal strikes or taking it below as a potent chase pitch," according to BP. His changeup gets plus grades from some but lacks consistency, and he's experimented with a cutter against righties. Martes will start the year in Triple A and should see the majors at some point this year. 

Jason Hanna/Getty Images

2017 Age: 25
Highest Prospect Ranking: None
MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016

The Royals didn't land a single prospect on any top-100 list, and three different players have topped the team lists of BA, BP and ESPN; MLB has yet to issue theirs, but Dozier topped last year's in-season list, so he breaks the tie. The eighth pick of the 2013 draft out of Stephen F. Austin State, he hit a combined .296/.366/.533 with 15 homers split between Double and Triple A before a September look with Kansas City. He's old for a prospect, and both his hit and power tools get average-to-above-average ratings, with more concerns about the latter given the likelihood that he'll wind up in an outfield corner because he's a fringe-average defender at third base. 

AP

2017 Age: 19
Highest Prospect Ranking: 78 (BP)
MLB ETA: 2020

The Angels' system is one of the majors' worst, and Jones, a second-round 2015 pick, made only two of the four lists, but at his age, that's still not a bad thing. Jones got a taste of the Midwest League after hitting .321/.404/.459 with three homers and 19 steals in 48 games of Rookie ball. An all-state wide receiver in Georgia, he's athletic but raw, with speed his lone plus tool but all five grading out at least average. He gets high marks for his makeup and baseball IQ, but he's a ways from helping the big club.

Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

2017 Age: 21
Highest Prospect Ranking: 6 (ESPN)
MLB ETA: 2017

If the son of former Yankees utilityman Clay Bellinger doesn't outdo his old man, something will have gone very wrong, because the 6'4" lefty is among the top dozen prospects on three of the four lists and is a star in the making. A fourth-round 2013 pick out of an Arizona high school, he's drawing acclaim for his rapid adjustments; in '16, he hit .263/.359/.484 with 23 homers at Double A Tulsa, with three more knocks in three games at Triple A Oklahoma City. Bellinger has plus-plus power and has been successful at shortening his swing to cut down on strikeouts. Thanks to his size and mobility, his defense grades out as plus-plus as well; he could be a Gold Glove contender at first base and can play the outfield as well, even spotting in centerfield. With Adrian Gonzalez signed through 2018, Bellinger is the heir apparent and could help the Dodgers down the stretch later this year.

Icon Sportswire

2017 Age: 19
Highest Prospect Ranking: 42 (ESPN)
MLB ETA: 2020

The Marlins have a bottom-tier system at the moment—the second-worst, via ESPN—but Braxton, the seventh pick of the 2016 draft out of an Alabama high school, was considered the second-best high school southpaw in the draft; he didn't pitch beyond the instructional league after signing. Garrett has a low-90s fastball with late life, and scouts envision him adding velocity as he fills out his 6'3", 190-pound frame. His best pitch is a plus curve "regarded by scouts to be among the best in the 2016 Draft class," per MLB Pipeline; his changeup should be average or better, and his command is advanced. He could jump directly to full-season ball but is a ways off from his ceiling as a No. 2 starter.

Getty Images

2017 Age: 22
Highest Prospect Ranking: 12 (BP)
MLB ETA: 2017

The centerpiece of the Brewers' return from the Rangers in the Jonathan Lucroy trade, Brinson hit a combined .268/.305/.468 with 15 homers and 17 steals at Double and Triple A, with a brief detour to Rookie ball to rehab a left (non-throwing) shoulder strain that cost him three weeks. Baseball America gives him 60 grades on all but his defense (55), but his production has yet to come around, and he's done a lot of tinkering. He has the speed to be an outstanding centerfielder, but both his routes and throwing accuracy need work. Likewise, while he has great bat speed and impressive raw power, he's still undisciplined and vulnerable to chasing breaking balls out of the zone. If he can make enough contact, he's got All-Star potential. 

Bruce Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

2017 Age: 21
Highest Prospect Ranking: 48 (BP)
MLB ETA: 2018/19

The son of former All-Star reliever Tom Gordon and half-brother of the Marlins' Dee Gordon, Nick was the fifth pick of the 2014 draft. He spent 2016 in high A ball, where he hit .291/.335/.386 with three homers and 19 steals. The lefty swinger has a plus hit tool with a whole field approach but has struggled against lefties thus far and has little power (30 grade, ouch) and just average speed, which can seem like a disappointment when the family tree has a two-time stolen base champ. Most impressive about Gordon is his plus arm, which combined with his average range, good hands and great instincts suggests an above-average defender at shortstop. He'll start at Double A in 2017.

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

2017 Age: 21
Highest Prospect Ranking: 3 (ESPN)
MLB ETA: 2017

You’d have to go all the way back to 2003 to find a Mets position-player prospect who rates as highly as Rosario: four-time All-Star Jose Reyes, though the shapes of the two Dominican shortstops’ games are different. Rosario, who hit a combined .324/.374/.459 with five homers and 19 steals at Class A and Double A, has outstanding bat speed and contact abilities; his hit tool is a plus, and while most see below-average power, there's the potential for more as he fills out his 6'2", 170-pound frame. His speed grades out as at least a plus, but his defensive ability is his real selling point; BA graded him as plus-plus and called him "a true impact defender" thanks to his range and arm strength. In short, there's All-Star and Gold Glove potential here, and he could see the majors this year and become the starting shortstop in 2018.