Today, we continue our look at the Top 10 prospects for 2017 in each of the six leagues. The lists have been created by blending potential playing time, MLB-readiness and overall skill to take a stab at predicting the most valuable rookies for the coming season. Recently, we reviewed the NL East, the NL West, the NL Central, and the AL West.
Top 10 Prospects for 2017: AL East
1. Andrew Benintendi, OF, Boston: Benintendi has already received a lot of press and is easily the favorite for AL Rookie of the Year. He already has 34 games of big league experience under his belt and has yet to look fazed. He’s hit well and shown promise in the field. Benintendi is not a huge guy but he’s shown extra base pop and could eventually threaten 20 homers to go along with his 30-40 doubles in a full season. He should also regularly come close to producing a .400 on-base percentage with his ability to hit for average and tendency to walk more than he strikes out. He’s going to be a beast and reminds me of Mike Greenwell in his prime.
2. Aaron Judge, OF, New York: Judge is not the well-rounded player that Benintendi is but he has Giancarlo Stanton-esque (legendary) power potential. Like any big-time slugger, the rookie will have swing and miss to his game and it could approach a 30% K-rate — at least early in his career — which will drag down his overall batting average. A patient approach, though, (along with a general fear of the 6-7, 275 pound beast in the batter’s box) will ensure that he still produces a good on-base average. With fellow young sluggers Greg Bird and Gary Sanchez also in the lineup, the Yankees could be very dangerous to play — and very fun to watch — for many years to come.
3. Trey Mancini, 1B/OF, Baltimore: Mancini, for me, could be the most underrated young player in the AL East. It doesn’t help him, though, that his best position is first base and he plays on a team that already has Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo — as well as Pedro Alvarez in the minors. Mancini will get time in the outfield to get his bat into the lineup more consistently. He has absolutely mashed everywhere that he’s played in the minors and he was a monster in the spring, too. He has the ability to hit for both average and power and is doing a better job of getting on base consistently.
4. Jake Bauers, OF/1B, Tampa Bay: Bauers is basically Tampa Bay’s Trey Mancini, albeit with a little less power. He’s a first baseman who can really hit but will likely split time between the outfield and first base. Any struggles from big league first baseman Logan Morrison could help vault the rookie into The Show sooner rather than later. He has a chance to hit very well for average and flirt with a .400 on-base average due to a great eye that could eventually have him walk more than he strikes out at the big league level. He might top out at 15-18 home runs in his prime but does enough well to project as an everyday guy for the Rays. Bauers’ playing time could be threatened by fellow first base rookie Casey Gillaspie.
5. Sam Travis, 1B, Boston: Travis sits in the five hole on this list but it’s not due to a lack of talent. It’s due more to the lack of clear path to playing time with Hanley Ramirez at DH and Mitch Moreland at first base. Travis isn’t the prototypical mashing first baseman but the game is getting away from that stereotype a little bit so a guy that can flirt with .300, produce lots of doubles, slug 12-15 home runs and get on base consistently is more than welcomed at the position. He’s athletic enough that Boston might want to consider hitting him in the No. 2 hole as he won’t clog the bases (He’s not fast but he runs the bases well). If either Ramirez or Moreland gets hurt, I could see the Sox going very quickly to Travis.
6. Jose De Leon, RHP, Tampa Bay: The right-hander was acquired from the Dodgers in the offseason and immediately became one of the top arms in the system. He has four games of big league experience under his belt but he opened 2017 in the minors and has been dealing with a minor arm injury. The Rays starting rotation is set for now but the club is always looking for ways to save money so Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, or Alex Cobb could be on the way out of town around mid-season if the club isn’t in serious contention. De Leon, 24, has above-average control and he misses a lot of bats so he has at least mid-rotation potential.
7. Jordan Montgomery, LHP, New York: Most of the hype in New York these days is around the impressive young lineup that’s beginning to form but the club also has some intriguing, near-MLB-ready arms led by Montgomery. The funky delivery and solid stuff gives him a chance to develop into at least a mid-rotation starter. He’s shown an ability to keep the ball in the park, which should serve him well in the AL East. With quite a few health questions marks on the Yankees staff — and an overall lack of experienced depth — Montgomery should get a shot sooner rather than later, although he’ll also battle the likes of Chad Green, Bryan Mitchell, and Adam Warren for starts.
8. Rowdy Tellez, 1B, Toronto: The legend of Rowdy continues to grow in Toronto. He impressed management in the spring and fans are already taking to the message boards to call for his promotion, while simultaneously bemoaning the (questionable) Justin Smoak extension from last year. Tellez’s power numbers were probably boosted a bit by a favorable home park in 2016 at double-A but he has a good eye, average-or-better power and a chance to also hit for average. If Tellez gets off to a quick start to the year at triple-A, it will be hard for Toronto to justify keeping him in the minors. The aging lineup could use a spark.
9. Willy Adames, SS, Tampa Bay: The Rays brought in Duffy last season from San Francisco in an attempt to stabilize the shortstop position but he opens the 2017 season on the disabled list. Former top prospect Tim Beckham will man shortstop for the immediate future but his offensive and defensive ceilings are limited so if Duffy suffers any kind of setback in his recovery the Rays may be tempted to go to Adames. Just 21, the young middle infielder is already in triple-A after spending all of ’16 in double-A where he had a breakout year. He’s still growing into his power but Adames does a little bit of everything and his makeup is said to be off the charts, which suggests he’ll get everything he can out of his impressive tools.
10. Chandler Shepherd, RHP, Boston: I had three names I was considering for this spot, as the AL East is absolutely stacked with impressive potential freshmen. Along with Shepherd, I considered Chris Lee of Baltimore and Casey Gillaspie of Tampa Bay. But Shepherd gets the nod after impressing the club in the spring. The late-bloomer opens the year in triple-A and could be the first reliever recalled in the event of an injury to one of the more established arms. He’s not overpowering but he has a solid fastball, a four-pitch repertoire and good control. He also goes right after hitters and doesn’t look overmatched on the mound. He could chew up some innings for the playoff caliber Red Sox this season.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.