- Keith Law, ESPN Insider
Welcome to ESPN Insider's 2014 ranking of the top 100 prospects in baseball.
This is my seventh such ranking for Insider, with a lot of movement within the list from last year's list but many of the same names still present. Six of last year's top 10 players are still on the list, and only 13 of last year's top 50 lost their eligibility for 2014. The list is heavy on position players up the middle, including shortstops near the top of the list and many potential everyday catchers further down. First base is extremely weak, and the pitching talent in the minors is still skewed heavily toward right-handed arms.
• The rankings are limited to players who still have rookie eligibility; that means they have yet to exceed 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the majors and have not yet spent 45 days on the active roster of a major league club, excluding call-ups during the roster expansion period after Sept. 1. That means St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez is ineligible, based on his days on the 25-man roster.
• Only players who have signed professional contracts are eligible.
• I do not consider players with professional experience in Japan or Korea "prospects" for the purposes of this exercise, which means no Masahiro Tanaka this year (among others). I've also excluded Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, as he's already 27 years old, too old for a list that by design is comprised of players who are almost all 22 and younger.
• When ranking players, I consider scouting reports on players -- usually my own, supplementing with conversations with other scouts and front-office executives as needed -- as well as performance, adjusted for age and context. I've made one adjustment in my ranking philosophy in recent years, favoring higher-upside prospects over lower-ceiling prospects who are closer to the majors. This better reflects how these players are valued now by front offices and scouting departments, and gives me a chance to deliver more information on prospects whose names or scouting reports might be new to you.
• I use the 20-80 grading scale in these comments to avoid saying "average" and "above average" thousands of times across the 100 player comments. On that scale, a grade of 50 equals major league average, 55 is above average, 60 is plus, 45 is fringy or below average and so on. Giancarlo Stanton has 80 raw power. David Ortiz has 20 speed. Carlos Gomez is an 80 defender. An average fastball for a right-hander is 90-92 mph, with 1-2 mph off for a lefty.
• I've included last year's rank for players who appeared in the top 100 in 2013. An "ineligible" player was still an amateur at this time last January, whereas an "unranked" player was eligible but didn't make the cut. I've also tagged players who were on last year's sleepers list or list of 10 players who just missed the cut.
1dKevin Van Valkenburg