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 and the NL Central.
Top 10 Prospects for 2017: AL West
1. Jharel Cotton, RHP, Oakland: Acquired from the Dodgers last year as part of the return for Josh Reddick, Cotton has made huge development leaps since the beginning of 2016. After bouncing between the bullpen and starting rotation in the Dodgers system, Cotton has settled into the rotation with the A’s and looks like a steal. He has a low-to-mid-90s fastball and backs it up with a plus changeup. If he can improve his breaking ball and continue to show good control, he has a chance to really thrive in his big home ballpark (He got tagged for 24 homers in ’16). After throwing 165 innings last year, he could be good for 180+ although the club will want to be cautious with the modestly-built pitcher.
2. Francis Martes, RHP, Houston: The Astros took a lottery ticket flyer on Martes when they ask for him from the Marlins back in 2014 as part of a trade that saw Jarred Cosart go to Miami — and it’s really paid off. The young hurler is now one of the top arms in the minors. He’ll open the year in triple-A and should see the majors by the middle of the year if all goes well. Martes, 21, can hit the upper 90s with his heater and also flashes a plus curveball. He shows above-average control at times and with a little more consistency he could be a top-of-the-rotation arm for Houston.
3. Mitch Haniger, OF, Seattle: The Mariners have almost completely remade their outfield (and defensive philosophy) for 2017. Haniger has the defensive acumen that the club covets and he’s retooled his swing to give himself a better chance to succeed in the majors. He hit more than .300 while producing lots of power (34 doubles, 25 homers) and showing a knack for getting on base in 2016 so he’s not a glove-only guy. Haniger, 26, has the promising Tyler O’Neill (see below) breathing down his neck if he stumbles.
4. Frankie Montas, RHP, Oakland: At 24, Montas is already with his fourth organization but it’s because his power arm has been highly sought after in recent years. He’ll open the year in the bullpen after spending much of his career as a starter because he has the fastball-slider combination to be almost unhittable in short stints. Montas lost development time last year due to injury but if he can consistently throw strikes for the A’s he could take over the closer’s role by the end of the season. He has the potential to produce triple-digit strikeouts in a full season as a reliever.
5. Tyler O’Neill, OF, Seattle: The Mariners went out this winter and filled up their outfield with speedy, defence-first fielders which is basically the opposite of what O’Neill is. The young outfielder is a decent fielder with a strong arm but his ticket to stardom is his bat. He has plus power and slugged 24 home runs in 130 double-A games in ’16. He also significantly increased his walk rate. He hit .294 last year but his average won’t be that high in the majors if he continues to strike out 140-150 times a year. A Canadian, O’Neill was promising but raw when he signed but has made significant strides each year so expect further growing in ’17.
6. Yohander Mendez, LHP, Texas: The Rangers can hit. Unfortunately, beyond Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish, the starting rotation is weak, which could open up a lot of opportunities to the young hurlers in the system. Mendez got his feet wet in The Show in ’16 and could be one of the first arms recalled to help out. The southpaw isn’t overpowering but his stuff is firm and he has a four-pitch repertoire. He also does a solid job of throwing strikes. Once he commands his secondary stuff better, he could develop into a No. 3 starter.
7. Franklin Barreto, IF, Oakland: Shortstop Marcus Semien is coming off a season in which he hit 27 home runs and is still cheap to employee so he should be around Oakland for a while. However, the tightly-budgeted A’s are in a constant state of flux so the likes of Trevor Plouffe and Jed Lowrie could be on the move at any point. Barreto, a natural shortstop is considered more of a future second baseman — or even possibly a center-fielder. There are few questions about his bat, though, and the diminutive hitter has a bit of Jose Altuve in him. He’s a little too aggressive at 21 years of age but he can run and has surprising pop. Barreto has also had a lot of success while constantly being one of the youngest hitters in the league.
8. Jandel Gustave, RHP, Houston: The Astros have their fair share of hard-throwing relievers and you can add Gustave’s name to the list. He was almost lost to the club last spring when he was selected in the Rule 5 draft (by the Red Sox) but he was too raw to stick at that point. The right-hander needs to polish his secondary stuff, as well as his command, before he’ll truly start to rack up the strikeouts. Guys that can hit 100 mph with decent control are hard to come by and the solid showing last September suggests Gustave is ready for at least a low-leverage role in the majors.
9. Chase De Jong, RHP, Seattle: The Mariners lost key offseason acquisition Drew Smyly to injury and the bottom of the starting rotation is thin with the likes of Angel Miranda and Yovani Gallardo. That lack of depth bodes well for De Jong, who has already been recalled to The Show to help out in the ‘pen. The right-hander has just an average fastball but he has a promising curveball and good control. If he gets a shot at sticking in the majors, De Jong could bounce between the roles and be similarly valuable to the Mariners like Chris Devenski was to the Astros in 2016.
10. Matt Chapman, 3B, Oakland: The A’s signed long-time Twins player Trevor Plouffee to man the third base position in 2017 (along with sophomore Ryon Healy). The veteran infielder can be best described as “solid but unspectacular” and should be one of the first players jettisoned if/when the A’s fall out of contention. Waiting in the wings is Chapman, who is a plus-plus defender at the hot corner — with plus power potential (He hit 36 homers in 135 games in 2016). He’ll also take quite a few walks but has a lot of swing and miss to his game so he’ll likely never produce a great batting average.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.