The minor league season has entered its' final weeks, and with that I always like to start taking a look back at how my rankings went during the preseason. Let's finish up the last of the defensive positions with a look at the top 25 preseason outfield prospect list. Since it's a pretty big list, I'll look at the top 10 today and the next 15 on Wednesday.
The (Brief) State of the Position
Outfield has seen some change at the top this season, as Mike Trout has struggled this year in the second half slightly, and we've seen this year's top player at the position become Bryce Harper. It's not like Trout has been bad by any stretch, or even only good, but just not at the same other worldly level that he generally operates in. He's still the 10th ranked player overall in Yahoo, but now is the #4 outfielder behind Harper, Nelson Cruz, and A.J. Pollock. We've seen struggles from preseason top 10 options like Carlos Gomez, Yasiel Puig, and Jacoby Ellsbury, while also having key options like Giancarlo Stanton, Corey Dickerson, and George Springer all miss significant time due to injuries.
In terms of prospects, we've seen the top tier of players at the position graduate this year (4 of last year's top 6), and with it the next group has emerged as top-tier options. There will be probably five or six of the next group after last year's top 10 who will move into the top 10, and not just because of these graduations. Prospects like Nomar Mazara, Aaron Judge, and Manuel Margot have shown excellent development this year, and are on the cusp of being contributors in their own right. Add in top draftees like Andrew Benintendi, Kyle Tucker, Daz Cameron, and Ian Happ that can all potentially be top 100 options in the offseason, and it remains a position of strength in terms of potential future production.
Preseason Top 15 with Current Level
1. Byron Buxton - Twins (MLB - Graduate)
The Twins called up Buxton in mid June, but he was injured in his 11th game and ended up missing nearly two months. The potential remains for a 20 home run, 50 stolen base provider with a high batting average, and hopefully the Twins make the plan for Buxton to be the everyday center fielder in 2016.
2. David Dahl - Rockies (AA)
It was a strange season for Dahl, who hit well at AA before a collision had appeared to end his season (and end up with his spleen being removed). He returned after a month, and is hitting .292/.318/.481 with three home runs and eight steals in 29 games. The walk rate is a bit concerning (3.6% versus 24% strikeout rate), but he's a high contact hitter that could be a true five-category contributor.
3. Jorge Soler - Cubs (MLB - Graduate)
Soler has hit the disabled list twice this year (including currently), which is too bad as he was heating up in August with a .284/.372/.388, along with a 17:9 strikeout to walk rate. Soler still has immense raw power, and potentially could still provide 25-30+ a year. Hopefully he will be back from the oblique injury before the end of the season.
4. Joc Pederson - Dodgers (MLB - Graduate)
Pederson got off to a great start, although he has not been playing regularly as his batting average has become a concern as the Dodgers try to keep Enrique Hernandez in the lineup after acquiring Chase Utley. He's hit for power (23 HR), and drawn a ton of walks (80), but it's not clear that he'll get the majority of starts going forward.
5. Clint Frazier - Indians (A+)
Frazier has hit well in the Carolina League this year, with a .280 batting average, 15 HR, 13 SB, and an 11% walk rate in 125 games. The numbers don't tell the whole story there either, as he's hit even better since July 1st, with a .325/.409/.526 slash line, 7 home runs, and 6 stolen bases. I still believe he can be an elite fantasy option, but he's been passed for now by Bradley Zimmer, who could debut in 2016.
6. Kyle Schwarber - Cubs (MLB - Graduate)
We ranked Schwarber at both catcher and outfield, and realistically his ranking in the outfield is looking low right now. He's hit 12 home runs in just 44 games, and while he's not likely to be a 45+ home run hitter as his pace would translate to, he should still be a 30+ provider with a high batting average and excellent on-base percentage.
7. Raimel Tapia - Rockies (A+)
Tapia is hitting .311/.341/.471 with 11 home runs and 26 stolen bases in the California League. The home run total is likely to stay in 8-10 range based on the profile, but he can be a top of the order hitter providing an elite batting average and high stolen base totals, although it may not be until 2018.
8. Alex Jackson - Mariners (A)
The Mariners sent Jackson to full season Low-A to start the year, but after hitting .157/.240/.213 in 28 games, was put on the disabled list for a month before being sent out to short-season ball. He's finally hitting for power in August with six home runs, but it's been essentially a lost year of development for the former #6 pick.
9. Hunter Renfroe - Padres (AAA)
Renfroe spent most of the season at AA, and has been destroying the ball since his promotion two weeks ago to AAA El Paso. In 11 games, he's hitting .348/.340/.674 with four home runs and 11 RBI. He's going to drop out of the top 10 at the position in the offseason primarily because of other players advancing their potential, but Renfroe is still a potential 25+ home run hitter
I'll take a look at the rest of the preseason top 25 on Wednesday, but I am anticipating the following prospects from the second half of the list moving into the top 10 during the offseason:
In addition, there was one other prospect in my midseason top 100 that is likely to be in the top 10 among outfield prospects this offseason who was outside the preseason top 25:
Bradley Zimmer - Indians - Zimmer has filled up the stat sheet between High-A and AA, hitting .288 with 16 home runs and 42 stolen bases in 118 games. He's likely to be the starting center fielder for the Indians by 2017, and could be a top 10 outfielder providing five category contributions when he does.