1. Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola
With one of the best curveballs in the league, Nola pitched like an ace before he suddenly lost his control and went down with a UCL sprain in his throwing arm in July 2016. He still finished the season with 121 strikeouts and a 3.12 FIP–a statistic similar to ERA, but solely focusing on outcomes that the pitcher has the most control over, such as strikeouts and homeruns. Barring another injury, expect him to develop into a household name by the end of 2017.
2. Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman
Bregman rapidly progressed through the Astros’ minor league system before making his big-league debut during the second half of last season. He started off 1-for-34 but eventually displayed his excellent contact ability and well-rounded skill set. A 2017 All-Star game appearance is a legitimate possibility for him.
3. Boston Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi
Benintendi is currently viewed as the best prospect in the league. His swing is flawless and he will contribute in all phases of the game. After hitting .295 during his brief stint with the Red Sox last season, he will start in left field to begin 2017. He should win AL Rookie of the Year.
4. Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Zach Davies
While Davies will never be mistaken for Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, he could become this season’s version of Cubs SP Kyle Hendricks. His underrated changeup and elite command demonstrated by his league leading 3.5 per cent Called Strikes Above Average (CSAA)–a proxy for command developed by Baseball Prospectus–should allow him to thrive in 2016.
5. Minnesota Twins outfielder Byron Buxton
Buxton was widely considered to be the top prospect of 2015. He possesses five above-average tools, including premier base-stealing speed. His struggles with making contact resulted in multiple minor league stints last season, but his nine homers and .287 batting average with the Twins in September indicate that he may have turned the corner.
6. Chicago Cubs second baseman Javier Baez
While his versatility helped the Cubs end their championship drought, Baez must learn to limit mistakes in the field before earning an everyday role at second base. However, during the postseason, he displayed superstar potential with his premium bat speed and power.
7. Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Kevin Gausman
Gausman’s strong finish last season should give Orioles fans confidence that he can establish himself as one of the top pitchers in the American League. While his fastball velocity can reach the upper 90s, increased confidence in his breaking pitches was the main reason he posted a 2.83 ERA after Aug. 1. In order to take the next step, he needs to do a better job of preventing home runs.
8. Minnesota Twins outfielder Miguel Sano
Sano possesses jaw-dropping power and impressive plate discipline. On the other hand, he is prone to strikeouts, which could prevent him from attaining his All-Star ceiling. If his contact rate improves, he could finish 2017 at the top of the home run leaderboard.
9. Cincinnati Reds second baseman Jose Peraza
Cincinnati traded 2B Brandon Phillips to the Braves last month knowing that Peraza is ready to become the starting second baseman. He lacks power and needs to work on his plate discipline, but this athletic infielder should make contact at an above-average rate, steal more than 40 bases, and play decent defence.
10. Chicago White Sox second baseman Yoan Moncada
Moncada was acquired from Boston during the offseason in the Chris Sale deal and likely will start the season in Triple-A to work on handling breaking balls. Regardless, he is one of the most physically gifted players in the majors and could be this year’s version of Gary Sanchez.