For the other nerds out there like me who love this stuff, here's my updated top 30.
First, the list, for those who aren't interested in having to scroll through my commentary on a bunch of guys who will probably never make the bigs.
1. Taijuan Walker
2. Danny Hultzen
3. DJ Peterson
4. James Paxton
5. Brandon Maurer
6. Edwin Diaz
7. Stefen Romero
8. Julio Morban
9. Austin Wilson
10. Luiz Gohara
11. Tyler Marlette
12. Victor Sanchez
13. Tyler Pike
14. James Jones
15. Chris Taylor
16 . Roenis Elias
17. Ji-Man Choi
18. Guillermo Pimentel
19. Carson Smith
20. Gabe Guerrero
21. Tyler O'Neill
22. Isaiah Yates
23. Dominic Leone
24. Ty Kelly
25. Chance Ruffin
26. Abraham Almonte
27. Phillips Castillo
28. John Hicks
29. Patrick Kivlehan
30. Stephen Landazuri
31. Carlos Triunfel
(Edited to add Tyler Pike)
Now, the list with commentary
Note: Didn't feel like changing all the rankings a second time so I put the Pike commentary in the the comments below. Just drop everyone one spot starting with James Jones at 13.
1. Taijuan Walker - Total stud. Top 5 prospect in the game for me. Will arrive in the M's rotation sometime between April and June next year, and won't be leaving for years.
2. Danny Hultzen - The arm issues concern me, but I'm expecting/hoping that he'll be back on the hill in the next couple of weeks. If he goes under the knife he obviously drops quite a bit.
3. DJ Peterson - Hasn't pulled a Zunino in Everett but that's not really fair to expect. Very solid start to his career, showing pop and contact. Plagued by a very low BABIP. As that comes up his numbers are going to look really good.
4. James Paxton - If the M's hadn't graduated so many prospects you'd see more of a drop for Paxton. I'm cooling on his chances of sticking as a starter quite a bit, but haven't given up completely. He's this high because his floor is very high (lights out reliever) and ceiling is pretty nice as well (#2 or 3 starter).
5. Brandon Maurer - He's a decent third pitch away from being a very solid big league starter for years. Hard to say if he'll be able to develop that pitch or not.
6. Edwin Diaz - Call me crazy, but I'm all in on this kid. Projectable kid already has a plus fastball, the makings of a plus slider, and is displaying lights out control compared to last season. This is easily the ranking I could regret the most, but I'm in total mancrush mode.
7. Stefen Romero - I don't think he's going to be a star, but he could be an average to slightly above average bat in an outfield corner while not being a total butcher defensively. High floor, moderate ceiling type. Not exciting, but a nice guy to have around, and every once in awhile these guys turn into Kyle Seager.
8. Julio Morban - Poor plate discipline. Awful health record. Why do I like him so much? The kid just rakes. Kind of the new Chris Snelling with a little less contact, a little more pop, and none of the Aussie badassery. I'm a sucker.
9. Austin Wilson - Tons of upside but he's a LONG way away. His BABIP is awful but given all the concerns about his swing I'm not sure how much I'm willing to regress it. Even if you do regress it he's not showing any ability to hit for power or take a walk yet. Obviously it's just 13 games and he could flip the switch tomorrow, but I have a feeling that's not going to happen. I sense a really ugly year in Clinton coming in 2014, before he starts to put things together. If and when that happens, he's the kind of guy who could be very underrated, as he's the kind of guy who could do everything well but not standout in anything. Of course, he could tap into that power and be a fan favorite too. Tons of possibilities for a kid with his great talent and lack of current skill.
10. Luiz Gohara - A little nervous about reports that his velocity is sitting in the high 80's, but the kid is missing bats like a fiend. 15 K's in 10.2 innings so far. As a 16 year old. And only 2 walks. Obviously he's got miles to go, but the upside is tremendous.
11. Tyler Marlette - If he can't stick behind the dish this ranking drops like a rock, but for now I'm a believer. Big fan of his bat, for a catcher. Really holding his own in a pitcher's league.
12. Victor Sanchez - Pretty big disappointment to me. I know his ERA is very nice for someone so young, but he's in a pitcher's league and just not showing the ability to miss many bats. The control is fantastic for his age, but without much projectability in his arm it's hard to be too excited at this point. Really needs to develop an out pitch against righties, as I think the changeup will eventually get the job done against lefties. OTOH, he's 18 years old in full season ball with a 32:6 K:BB ratio. Perhaps I'm being way too harsh?
13. James Jones - Really like the strides he's made in plate discipline and first half production. If the typical July-August explosion happens, he could shoot up the list. Probably a bit underrated by most.
14. Chris Taylor - Draws raves for his defense, has far exceeded expectations with the bat thus far. I'm afraid his Jackson ISO might be more in line with reality (.100) and don't expect him to hit for much pop, but the plate discipline is real and it appears the contact ability is too. A plus defender at SS who can hit .280 with a .360 OBP doesn't have to have power to have value. Even with a .100 ISO that's a .380 SLG for a .740 OPS. I'll take that anyday from a plus defender up the middle. Starting to believe.
15 . Roenis Elias - Old pitchers are always hard for me to rank, especially ones who don't have Paxton's stuff. Elias seems destined to get the crafty lefty label, and perhaps for good reason. His command isn't impeccable, but he misses more bats than you'd expect, does a decent job of keeping the ball on the ground, and just continues to get people out as he rises up the ladder. Triple A will be a very good test for him - if he can keep PCL offenses at bay I'll really start to believe. Right now, I'm leaning towards buying in. I would expect him to be in Tacoma within the next two to three weeks with Erasmo's likely promotion to Seattle.
16. Ji-Man Choi - Scouts don't seem to believe, but all he does is hit at every level. At some point people will start to buy in. His BABIP since the promotion to Jackson isn't pretty, but everything else is there - ISO over .200, drawing enough walks, not striking out much. Will probably remain under the radar thanks to that .217 BABIP. Don't be fooled, Choi can rake.
17. Guillermo Pimentel - Where do you a put a guy who could be in the top 3 of this list one day or fall out of the top 30 completely? Total boom or bust guy, oozes power, can't make contact. Kind of Carlos Peguero with presumably better mobility. Feels like he's been around for forever but still just 20 years old. Will probably mash at High Desert and sky up everyone's lists before struggling again at Jackson.
18. Carson Smith - I am not big on relief pitching prospects, but Smith seems like a great one. Misses bats, solid control, and keeps the ball on the ground extremely well. I might have him too low.
19. Gabe Guerrero - This is the one where I'm deferring to the experts a bit. Both Rick Randall and Jason Churchill slate Guerrero at #14 on their lists. Truthfully, I might not have ranked him at all if they weren't so optimistic. I see a corner OF without much defensive value who won't take a walk and isn't hitting for any pop. The caveat, of course, is that he's 19 in the MWL, and obviously scouts like something which is I'm sure why Rick and Jason like him so much. I probably lean too heavily towards current skills, but right now Guerrero doesn't have any. Hopefully he'll develop some. The one thing I'll say for him is that his K rate of 22% is poor but not awful, especially for a "You Don't Walk Off The Island"er in his first full season in the States.
20. Tyler O'Neill - I'm pretty excited about the M's third round pick this year. He's a bat only prospect but scouts rated him fairly highly coming into the draft and the early results in Arizona are positive. Everyone thinks he'll hit for power, and I believe he'll hit for average. Interesting kid.
21. Isaiah Yates - My favorite deep sleeper in the system. Looks like a future league average CF or well above average 4th OF to me. Still just 18 years old, flashing well above average contact ability with decent plate discipline. Not hitting for much pop but showed some in the AZL last year. I think he was a steal in the 17th round last year.
22. Dominic Leone - See Carson Smith. Dominant reliever, could be on the fast track. Doesn't have Smith's imposing presence, or his GB tendencies, but seems to be impressing people with his stuff.
23. Ty Kelly - May not have a defensive position higher than "utility infielder", but great plate discipline and decent hit tool. Seems like a solid big league bench guy.
24. Chance Ruffin - Might not deserve to be this high, but something about him as a starter intrigues me. I think he'll spend some time in a big league rotation, though almost assuredly not with the M's.
25. Abraham Almonte - Protoypical 4th OF. Will probably be the M's 4th OF next season.
26. Phillips Castillo - Like Pimentel only further away, right handed, and slightly worse in every category across the board. Another big bonus IFA hitter who has failed to figure out how to make contact with professional pitching. If he ever figures it out, look out...but don't count on it.
27. John Hicks - No plate discipline whatsoever. So so pop. But supposedly a stud defensive catcher. Probably destined to be Zunino's backup for a few years, at least.
28. Patrick Kivlehan - Taken a real step forward in his ability to make contact, but his power numbers have dropped considerably. Still very raw for his age after just one year of college baseball. Probably never makes it, but very high ceiling for someone this low on the list. Lottery ticket type.
29. Stephen Landazuri - Maybe the best of the non-big name A ball arms (it's either him or Hujier). Performing very well in High Desert, which is a serious accomplishment. Reminds me a bit of Maurer when he was at that level, though more so performance than projectability. Just 6'0", probably won't ever start in the bigs but might find a role as a reliever somewhere.
30. Carlos Triunfel - For old time's sake, if nothing else. First go of it in the bigs was painful but I still think he can be a utility infielder for somebody. It's not what anyone expected when he was signed or first started out, but it's something.
Love to hear everyone's thoughts.