Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, Dodgers’ No. 1
Clay Bellinger’s son had a breakout season in 2015 when he led the California League in runs and RBIs and finished second in home runs. But given that it was in a hitter-friendly league and that his batting average took a big hit as his strikeout rate soared, people wanted to see what Bellinger would do at the upper levels. All he did was lower his K rate, raise his walk rate and still hit 26 homers in the regular season. Unranked on the Top 100 when the season started, he is currently No. 32.
Eloy Jimenez, OF, Cubs’ No. 2
The Cubs gave Jimenez $2.8 million back in the summer of 2013 during an international spending spree, and this year the 19-year-old outfielder really started showing what all of the fuss was about. Making his full-season debut, Jimenez topped the Midwest League in slugging percentage and OPS, finished second in total bases and third in batting average. He was also in the top 10 in home runs. Jimenez had his coming-out party on a national stage with his long home run and acrobatic catch in the Futures Game. He’s now No. 24 on the Top 100, after not even entering the conversation at the start of the season.
Eloy does everything in Futures
WLD@USA: Jimenez shows off skills in the Futures Game
Eloy Jimenez shows off his bat with a monster home run, and his great glove with an astonishing catch during the Futures Game
Amed Rosario, SS, Mets’ No. 1
Rosario was on the Top 100 at the start of the season, ranked No. 79 overall. Now he’s No. 12, and for good reason. Targeted by many as a prospect who could make a huge leap in 2016, he did just that and then some. The 20-year-old shortstop began the year in the Florida State League and earned a midseason promotion to Double-A, where he raked even more (.341 average). His combined .324 average placed him fourth in the Mets organization, while he topped the system with 155 hits. The Mets’ future at shortstop is coming quickly.
Francisco Mejia, C, Indians’ No. 4
Mejia wasn’t on the Top 100 and wasn’t ranked as one of the top 10 catching prospects in the game when the season started. Now he’s No. 3 on that list and is ranked No. 88 overall. Mejia made national headlines with a 50-game hitting streak that spanned across three months and two levels. His .342 combined average topped the Indians’ organization, as did his .514 slugging percentage. He also threw out more than 43 percent of would-be basestealers. More of that kind of performance, combined with Mejia continuing to hit in Double-A in 2017, could really vault him up the rankings.
Tyler O’Neill, OF, Mariners’ No. 2
Like Bellinger, O’Neill put up monster numbers in the California League in 2015, albeit with shaky strikeout/walk numbers. In 2016, he proved he’s for real, winning Double-A Southern League MVP honors in the process. O’Neill topped the Mariners’ organization in home runs (24) and RBIs (102) and was second in hits and slugging percentage. He didn’t slow down in the postseason, hitting three more homers and driving in eight over six games. There’s still swing-and-miss to O’Neill’s game, but his K rate dropped and his walk rate really improved, a good sign of things to come and a reason he’s now No. 62 on the Top 100.
Mitch Keller, RHP, Pirates’ No. 5
Keller began the season No. 14 on the Pirates’ Top 30. He’s currently No. 5 on that list and firmly on the Top 100 at No. 76. There’s a chance that Keller is still under-ranked. Making his full-season debut, the 20-year-old led the organization in WHIP, finished second in strikeouts and batting-average-against and third in ERA. A late promotion up to Bradenton resulted in a strong regular-season start and two postseason wins, the second of which came from tossing eight shutout innings. Keller could top the next wave of young Pirates pitching prospects making their way to Pittsburgh.
Top Prospects: Keller, PIT
Top Prospects: Mitch Keller, RHP, Pirates
2016 MLB.com Top Prospects: Mitch Keller is tall and projectable with a fastball that now sits in the 90-94 mph range
Michael Kopech, RHP, Red Sox’s No. 5
Kopech’s early history in the Red Sox organization has been spotty. It includes a 50-game suspension for a banned stimulant and missing a considerable chunk of the 2016 season because he broke his pitching hand in Spring Training during a fight with a teammate. Kopech put a lot of that behind him with outstanding performances once he returned, reportedly hitting 105 mph once and triple digits consistently. He struck out 14.7 per nine in 11 Carolina League starts and held hitters in that circuit to a .147 batting average. Next up for the No. 70 overall prospect: Double-A.
Reynaldo Lopez, RHP, Nationals’ No. 3
Lopez went from being just a $17,000 signee at age 18 out of the Dominican Republic in 2012 to perhaps a part of a postseason big league staff this season. While his time with Washington has been uneven, he has shown the ability to dominate. After a 2015 season in the Carolina League that was just OK, Lopez took off this season, going from Double-A Harrisburg to the big leagues, striking out 10.4 Minor Leaguers per nine along the way. That, along with a plus fastball and an outstanding curve, are reasons why Lopez skyrocketed up to No. 38 overall.
Lopez fans 11 over seven innings
WSH@ATL: Lopez strong in start, strikes out 11
Reynaldo Lopez puts together a great starting effort against the Braves as he strikes out 11 while allowing two runs
Triston McKenzie, RHP, Indians’ No. 6
At 6-foot-5, 165 pounds, McKenzie is about as projectable as they come, and the Indians figured they would have to be patient with the 2015 draftee’s development. It might be coming faster than expected. After giving up just three earned runs in 49 1/3 innings with Class A Short-Season Mahoning Valley, McKenzie was bumped up to full-season ball right after his 19th birthday. Combined, he struck out 11.2 and walked just 2.4 per nine, while hitters managed just a .195 average against him. McKenzie is at the back end of the Top 100, but with an arrow up.
Top Prospects: McKenzie, CLE
Top Prospects: Triston McKenzie, RHP, Indians
2016 MLB.com Top Prospects: Triston McKenzie will be 18 for most of next season and features a lot of potential
Yohander Mendez, LHP, Rangers’ No. 2
Signed back in 2011, the same summer the Rangers also inked Nomar Mazara, Mendez was handled carefully for much of the beginning of his pro career due to some elbow issues. He may have laid them to rest in 2016, serving almost exclusively as a starter all year, logging 111 Minor League innings and going from Class A Advanced ball to the big leagues in the process. Mendez can miss bats and find the strike zone consistently, evolving into one of the best left-handed pitching prospects in the game.
Top Prospects: Mendez, TEX
Top Prospects: Yohander Mendez, LHP, Rangers
2016 MLB.com Top Prospects: Yohander Mendez could develop into a mid-rotation starter if he can get stronger and stay healthy
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Source: Mets News / Rosario among prospects whose stock rose most in 2016